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Why Use a Grill or Bacon Press?
Weight equals less wait
We’ve all seen the sculpted metal weights, most typically used for bacon so they often picture a pig in some form. The question is, are they cutesy or do they provide an actual function? We know they show up in restaurants, and like most things in a commercial kitchen, they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t work. With the advent of smash burgers and smashed potatoes, there’s even been a resurgence of use in kitchens, and showing up on food shows. These presses are so popular that we conducted a complete testing to see how they compared to each other.
Coking on any hot surface is based on the food contacting the surface causing heat transfer through that contact. Result; cooked food. Adding weight on top creates more thorough contact accelerating the process. The added weight will also give you more thorough browning and color in general. Add in liberal use of oil, or something like bacon that renders out its own oil, and you get brown and crisp as we all appreciate.
While on the topic of aesthetics, the only way to get those very flat pieces of bacon is to use a grill press. Understanding that your cooking time has been drastically decreased, as opposed to having the bacon sit on the surface, you can also get flat strips that look bigger and have more even coloration. Taking the press off for the last minute or so will allow for a little natural curl and let you watch for a doneness to your liking.
Other foods prone to rippling up, causing uneven coloration, will also benefit from the use of a press. Just thinking of a breakfast menu, you have ham slices, chicken fried steak (don’t even think about deep frying these you heathen), sausage patties, or even hash browns looking to be extra crispy. Used judiciously, all of these items will be given a better look by having the press applied during part of their cooking.
Need more speed
You might see the line cook with a well-seasoned flat top grill stretching off in the distance and a couple of grill presses hanging out on the sides right there on their grill. Using a pre-heated, or even just warmed press, will significantly reduce your cook time. It’s a pretty easy look at physics. Additional heat from the top and better heat transfer from the bottom is bound to speed things up.
This will also be a workable process to speed up grilled sandwiches. Beware that you need to us bread or rolls that have a firm enough texture that they will not be flattened completely by the weight of the press. For making Cubanos or other grilled sandwiches, using a press will definitely step up your game.
Burgers with a Grill Press
Smash burgers have become a thing, and for good reason. Fried burgers (as opposed to broiled) are still an incredibly tasty food item. The trend toward taking a ball of ground beef and flattening it right onto the cooking surface is a great way to go. Making homemade patties can have the challenge of not getting pressed together well enough to hold shape and cohesion during cooking. Smashing them on to a hot surface and leaving the weight on while they cook alleviates all that.
Here’s your classic diner approach, think patty melt deluxe with bacon. Using two presses, start with a decent onion slice pressed to the grill. Bring out a couple slices of bacon under the other press. Flip the onion and set it aside on the heat. Smash your burger patty to the thinness you desire and cook under the press from the onion. Meanwhile take two buttered bread slices, butter side down, with Swiss cheese on top. Flip the burger and press again, take the press from the bacon for a couple minutes and put it back on the onion. Pull the bread, add sauce and build it up…a classic!
Bacon with a Grill Press
There is a reason many presses have the pig picture in their design. They really do excel at cooking bacon, evenly and more quickly than without a press. As mentioned, leaving them on for the entire process may not be the best way to go. You end up with perfectly flat, almost unnatural bacon when all is said and done. Giving the bacon some time to finish without a press will often allow the curl to resume giving a more natural look.
A grill press is also great if you pre-cook your bacon for future use, a common restaurant trick. Give it a shot. Using a sheet pan lined with parchment (easier clean up) bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes depending upon how thick your bacon is. The goal is to pull it when it just begins to color slightly. You can then freeze it for long term storage, or refrigerate it for use during the next 6 days. What you get is bacon that will cook up under a press in about five minutes, with an extra minute to relax without being pressed. Consistent and quick, the same reasons you would use a press at all.
Care and cleaning for presses
Most presses are cast iron, so they do need similar care and treatment. Lots of folks make a bigger deal out of caring for cast iron than it may need to be. First off you do need to season it. If it is all metal, a light coat of oil and 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven and you are good. Most of them have a wooden handle though, so you need a different approach, but the same idea. Brush or spray the contact surface with a light coat of oil and place it on your preheated metal cooking surface for 20-30 minutes. In both cases, remove from the heat and let cool. Apply a very thin coat of oil, wiping off any extra with a paper towel, then you can store your grill press.
After use you can wash with hot water and a brush. You can also use a very light soapy wash water if you feel you have too much oil residue. Either way, dry thoroughly, same process with a light coat of oil wiping away any excess, and allow to dry completely before storing.