Why Griddles Are The Most Essential Kitchen Tool: Ali Slagle’s Guide

A baking sheet probably isn’t the most exciting tool in your kitchen. It’s not as flashy as a new espresso machine with all the bells and whistles, not as cute as a leaf- or flower-printed donabe, and not as lauded as an Instant Pot or celebrated as an air fryer. air. It is, however, probably one of the most useful items in your kitchen arsenal.

“Griddle is a marketing term that someone who worked on the internet came up with, but a griddle just optimizes roasting or cooking, which has been around since the dawn of time,” says Ali Slagle, recipe developer and proud home cook. Slagle’s culinary philosophy – which involves “low effort, high reward” recipes – is at the heart of his first cookbook, I dream of having dinner (so you don’t have to)and naturally, the sheets are heavily involved.

What are the best (and worst) things to cook in a baking sheet?

Although using a griddle seems relatively simple, Slagle has a few tips to optimize the experience. For starters, not all ingredients cook at the same speed. To ensure even cooking, Slagle suggests cutting back on ingredients that take longer to cook.

“One thing I always think about is, ‘What’s non-negotiable in terms of cooking time?’ Usually it’s the protein,” says Slagle. So if a chicken leg takes about 35 minutes to cook, Slagle makes root vegetables, like a sweet potato, cut into pieces that will take the same amount of time. “The way you cut the ingredients really affects things.” Some ingredients roasted longer than intended, like a potato, can be surprisingly delicious. Others, however, like overcooked shrimp, can ruin the meal. The timing and size are everything.

Additionally, it’s important to consider which flavors will pair well in one pan. “The worst plate meals that hurt are the ones where things don’t really mix well,” says Slagle. Consider seasonality and natural flavor pairings when preparing your griddle meal. Tomatoes and garlic are a classic combination, while squash, sweet potatoes and carrots could make a wonderful fall protein base.

Finally, make sure you are using a baking sheet and not a pan designed for baking Swiss rolls. “The problem with these pans is that the darkness of the metal causes things to cook faster, so things burn before they’re done,” says Slagle. “And also they’re not as big.” So really, you only need one baking sheet in your life and it can be like the restaurant kitchen supply you can get online.

What else can you use a baking sheet for?

Besides being a container for easy baking in the oven, the baking sheet also has other useful functions. Slagle, who lived down the road while the recipe was being developed, always keeps a pan in his van.

“If I test a recipe, I use it to organize my ingredients, like a storage platform,” she explains. Along the same lines, the baking sheet can also be used as a serving tray which, of course, may not look as good as a decorated tray, but it is humble and gets the job done.

Additionally, Slagle uses the pan as a lid. “A lot of pans don’t have a lid, so you can just put a plate upside down on it and it covers things really well,” she explains.

Finally, baking sheets shouldn’t just be used for savory dinners. There are griddle pancakes and other desserts that make preparing food for a crowd simple.

Why buy a baking sheet

“One of my favorite things is its surface area – it actually gives you plenty of room to cook things as opposed to a pan,” says Slagle. Due to the large surface area, vegetables can be roasted alongside potatoes and protein, resulting in a fully meaty meal that only requires a single hob and oven. The results are delicious, effective, and require simple cleanup.

“If you mix things that taste good together, you’re actually creating flavor without really having to do anything yourself,” says Slagle. She likes to incorporate what she describes as “leaky” ingredients into her griddle recipes – cherry tomatoes, sausages with milky white fat granules or chicken with schmaltz. “Letting those ingredients mix with anything around it, like a potato or a carrot, automatically flavors that vegetable.”

Slagle has two griddle recipes that she’s, in her own words, “embarrassingly proud” of: a sausage and spiced squash dish and a rosemary-garlic roast chicken with shelf-stable gnocchi dressed. Somehow she figured out how to roast a squash in 45 minutes – by cutting it into a manageable size – which then softens in the spicy melted fat of the sausage. The gnocchi, likewise, are roasted in chicken fat and brightened with lemon. Thanks to the baking tray, everything can be done in one go.

Her upcoming cookbook, which will be released on April 12, 2022, also features an exciting assortment of new dinner recipes, including those on the plate. “My recipes are for people who are just trying to feed themselves, which is everyone, even if you don’t consider yourself a home cook,” says Slagle. “I champion home cooking because knowing how to cook for yourself is such a powerful thing – it gives you so much autonomy.”

Recipe for chicken and potatoes with lemon and pepper

Yield: For 4 people

Ingredients:

  • Lemons
  • Fennel seeds
  • Thighs with bone and skin
  • chicken stock
  • Potatoes

Directions:

1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Zest 4 lemons in a medium bowl. Crush 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds under a cup or pan or in a spice grinder. Grind 1 whole tablespoon of pepper. Stir the fennel seeds and pepper into the lemon zest, along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Dry 2 pounds bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs, then transfer them to the bowl and toss to coat.
2. On a baking sheet, combine ½ cup lemon juice, ½ cup chicken broth or water, ⅓ cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon salt. Peel 3 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6). Cut each potato into 8 pieces by halving them crosswise, then quartering each half. Toss the potatoes into the liquid on the baking sheet, then spread out in an even layer. Add the chicken skin side up over the potatoes, along with the seeds and oil to the bowl.
3. Roast until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are golden brown and tender, 60 to 65 minutes. Season to taste with S&P.

*To make cleaning easier, line the pan (including the sides) with aluminum foil.
*Instead of or in addition to the chicken, you can reheat slices of feta or halloumi by adding potatoes in the last 15 minutes of roasting. Or just make the potatoes (or Greek Lemon Potatoes).

Reprinted from I Dream of Dinner. Copyright © 2022 by Alexandra Slagle. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Mark Weinberg. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

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