I love watching movies. Sometime during the past year, I realized with pleasure that the “hangout movie” is a thing. Plot is not paramount, but hanging out with your onscreen pals and having a good time is. Think of classics like The Big Lebowski or Jackie Brown. Dazed and Confused and … almost anything else by Richard Linklater, for that matter. You are made happier and perhaps even enriched by time spent with those characters.
In that vein, I just spent several weeks cooking on what I came to think of as a “hangout griddle.” Known simply as the Weber Griddle, it’s 504 square inches for the three-burner version I tested—which provides plenty of space to cook for six to eight people—or 756 square inches for the four-burner model. For the right person, they can feel like a giant canvas to paint or play on. Last year I reviewed a Cuisinart griddle that was only a mediocre performer, though I still loved cooking on it. My sister, an accomplished natural cook, took one look at that Cuisinart and declared that she wanted to cover it in a pound of bacon. This summer we inaugurated the Weber with two pounds. What carnivore wouldn’t want to hang out with us?
As a quick explainer, Weber’s griddle is like taking one of the company’s three-burner gas grills and removing the grates (and lid) and replacing them with a giant, flat cast-iron surface. Ignite the burners, heat that surface, and cook. You give up some classic gas-grill abilities, but you get a lot in exchange, most notably that the flat cooking surface is like an enormous cast-iron pan made for cooking a ton of food at once.
Nowhere are its wonderful capabilities better on display than at breakfast, where you could have your home fries, sausages, and eggs all cooking at different temperatures and come out at the same time. If you’ve ever had dreams of becoming a short-order breakfast cook, a griddle like this is your key to fulfillment.
This particular griddle made me curious, because it’s made by Weber, a company famous for the quality and value of its charcoal and gas grills. Weber is often excellent at nailing the basics, and I wanted to see how something new from the big-name company would do in an emerging category.
For those three weeks at my folks’ place in New Hampshire this year, we typically had between five and eight big eaters and centered our cooking around it, really appreciating how much it could churn out in a hurry. Sticking with breakfasts, I developed a frequent habit of turning it on for whatever the main course would be, then tossing some sliced onion cross sections on and letting them cook slowly while I prepped everything else. Fried eggs are a lot of fun here since there’s no pan wall in the way; just slide your spatula in horizontally and flip. Those little egg rings are particularly enjoyable to use, helping you create Egg McMuffin-style eggs. Previously, I thought of griddled tomato slices only as something for a proper English breakfast, but I’ll be making these beauties, occasionally with a few bread crumbs sprinkled over them, as much as possible from now until I die.