We all have little things that make us happy, for me its getting to make something from scratch, sometimes from wood, sometimes from steel or leather, when I cant do those I am equally at home in the kitchen, so when I get a chance to combine all of that,I’m really happy, and if there is an opportunity for a fire them I’m away.
Most of what I make is one offs, I never seem to have someone else’s design to work too, its usually my own work, for whatever reason, so for me part of the process is the pleasure of thinking a design through, starting with a concept and see where it takes me, which brings me to this weeks project.
Let me see if I can spell out the thought process and you can see where I am going with this. For sometime I have been wanting to try casting steel, after all how hard can it be. Now that’s not as stupid as it sounds I have to say in my defence I have been blacksmithing for many years so that is just a progression, I need to make a few new tools and a furnace, but in principle it must be possible, but we will gloss over that for a moment. My reason for wanting to cast metal is that last year I hammered out a frying pan, which has given me hours of pleasure, you can see where I am going.
The second strand of this is I enjoy cooking in the Garden, I have already made a smoker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLV1KHZimSg in which I proudly cook Christmas dinner every year. I have a wood fired bread oven https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCcGtEqZX9E even if everyone wants me to cook pizza in it just to wind me up, but I don’t have a griddle.
The last part is, I am working on a series of Cooking videos, more of which in future posts, but the essence of which is if you control as much of the process as possible then you get a better end result. That includes the cookware. A bit far fetched? possibly but its great fun trying.
As part of the research I had read several articles about the difference between cast iron and aluminium frying pans. The opinion seems to be that aluminium is by far the best transmitter of heat, it spreads the heat evenly, whereas the cast iron retains the heat in hot spots. Cast Iron enthusiasts claim that Cast iron then radiates the retained heat upwards cooking into the centre of a piece of meat rather than just burning the outside as with aluminium. Now I have never been able to bring myself to part with the cash for a cast iron pan, so its time for an experiment, and so the Garden Grill was born.
I wanted a hot plate that I could use in the garden, at a height that was comfortable to cook at, operating on a variety of fuels, wood or charcoal, on which I could griddle meat just like a barbecue, or cook in a pan, so that’s what I have made this weekend. Its amazing what you can do with a bit of steel, a welder, and some time. The big design difference between anything I have seen in the shops is the replaceable top, that’s there for a reason which I will reveal later once I have built the alternatives. The one in the picture is made from 12mm solid steel rods at 10mm spacing that’s a lot of steel for a barbecue top.
In practice so much steel should work the same way as a cast iron pan, retaining heat and then radiating it upwards into the food. I finished building the Garden Grill on Saturday afternoon and have tried it twice now once with charcoal, and once with wood from an old pallet so nothing fancy as the fuel. The end result is very promising, the meat on both occasions was well cooked through, with colour on the outside but without burning, in the frying pan we cooked potatoes and onions, and as an afterthought we roasted carrots by wrapping them in tin foil which were a revelation, and I am convinced that the food retained its heat on the plate for longer which bears out the research. maybe physics does work, so for me the perfect project. The next stage is too do something with the replaceable top, there is a plan, but for know lets just enjoy this one.