There is a reason why the traditional griddles and bakestones that we make at Oakden are some of the most consistently brilliant cookware items in terms of baking on; they are simple, but sturdy – heavy, but flat – hot, but the heat is sustainable and radiates perfectly – all things a baker needs to bake perfect recipes. Take a little care and these griddles and bakestones will literally last a lifetime.
There really is no substitute to using a traditional thick baking-plate like the ones we make … thin modern cookware (frying-pans, skillets etc.) using light-weight materials always buckle, blacken and bend. They have hot/cold spots that tend to burn the recipes, as the heat is just not consistent enough, and importantly the chemical ‘non-stick’ surface they use eventually comes off, ending up in the food. In essence they just cannot bake foods in the same unique way as a traditional griddle or bakestone.
As with most cookware items found in the kitchen, the same basic principles of care apply here too.
1 Never leave an empty bakestone/griddle unattended on a heat source as this may cause damage.
2. As with all cooking utensils be careful of the heat, always use an oven glove to move the griddle, or it’s handle, as it will also get hot.
3. The traditional griddles and bakestones we make are heavy items, be sure you can grip it tightly before moving it. Do not drop it, the griddle will probably be all right, but not what you drop it on!
4. Avoid using metal utensils that can gouge. However, flat metal scrapers and flippers etc. should cause no harm, we use a wide paint scraper!
5. Always allow the griddles to cool before cleaning in hot soapy water.
6. Do not use scourers or abrasive cleaners. Gently clean the baking plates after use in warm soapy water. It could go in a dish washer, but then you might have to re-season it.
7. Ensure the bakestones/griddles are thoroughly dry before storing away – this can be done by warming in the oven.
8. Some griddle surfaces may need to be conditioned with a little vegetable oil, thinly wiped over, once washed in detergent and rinsed in clean water. This is good advice if the griddle is to be left for a while.
9. If left unused for a while, and rust has bloomed over the surface of the griddle, there is no real problem, just use a metal scourer to clean the plate back down to the bare metal. Wash it. Then re-season.
10. Ensure your griddle or bakestone is the correct material / size / weight for the hob you are cooking on.
11. If your cooker or stove is of a ‘flat’ induction or radient heat variety (ceramic etc.) you might be better off with a griddle that has a handle on it for ease of movement, a flat Welsh bakestone might be a bit awkward to move around on the perfectly flat hob top.
HOW TO SEASON A GRIDDLE
1. Once you have received one of our hand-made bakestones or griddles take it out of its packaging and clean the protective oil off the cooking surface thoroughly. Use an abrasive type soap pad to do this. The bakestone/griddle is then ready to be seasoned.
2. Heat the bakestone and when quite hot, carefully rub a small mix of fat or vegetable oil and salt thoroughly onto the surface. Use an oven glove to protect your hand from the heat and a thick cotton cloth for the rub, not a cloth from man-made fibres.
3. The fat and salt will burn onto the steel and after about 20 minutes there will be a smooth coating on the bakestone. Rub the fat and salt mix it all over the baking surface. Keep adding a little more fat and more salt, (only about a tablespoon at a time) rub it in, allow it to ‘burn’ on and blacken.
– Note: The fat can run off the edge of the griddle if you use too much in one go. It will also smoke, so have your extractor fan on full and/or the kitchen windows open – or season the bakestone / griddle outside on a BBQ or portable stove.
4. It is actually the salt which burns into the metal as well as the fats, which creates the attractive black coating, so don’t forget to use plenty in the rub, and add a sprinkle over every so often as well.
5. Allow the bakestone to cool naturally, then wash with warm water to remove the salt. From now on do not clean with any abrasive cleaning material as this will remove the smooth coating and the bakestone will have to be seasoned again.
6. When you are ready to cook, wipe a little fat or oil onto the surface and cook on a low to moderate heat.
7. After use, wash with warm soapy water, dry and store in a dry place. This is to stop rust marks appearing but if after a long storage they do, just clean off the bloom of rust and re-season if it needs it.
WHAT IS ‘SEASONING’?
Seasoning is a natural non-stick coating. To season (or blacken) a bakestone or griddle is to prepare it for its first use as a baking plate, you only need to do this once, subsequent (normal) use of a bakestone will add to this layer of seasoning.
There are two ways of seasoning a bakestone or griddle, one is effective, and quick, the other not so much. Trying to season a bakestone or griddle placed in an oven is not as good or as complete as seasoning it on the cooker top, where you can control everything. You might disagree, but we discuss how to season it the best way … the way it was done for hundreds of years, on the cooker top, over a heat source.
The most common type of metal bakestone or griddle (before the late 1800s) was made from cast iron, then later (after the late 1800s) mild steel. Both of these metals, if not treated, will rust if left to the air (oxidation) and both of these micro-porous metals, if not treated, will make any foods stick to them if cooked on. However, by applying a seasoning of fats and salts you both protect the metal from oxidation and make it non-stick.
Once seasoned a bakestone or griddle is a joy to cook and bake on: if you want to cook traditional recipes then you really should use a bakestone: even the best modern, non-stick, heavy based frying pans or skillet are not really up to the task – particularly in baking the authentic heavier doughs, of flat breads, cakes, drop scones and biscuits etc.
A bakestone or griddle heats up quickly, radiates heat more evenly, and can sustain that heat at a constant temperature better than anything else in the modern kitchen.
The above photo shows how the bakestone will arrive to you, (on the left) and how it will look after you have seasoned it (on the right). The natural ‘blackening’ or ‘seasoning’ of a bakestone gives it its tradtitional colour. Doing so will make the bakestone attractive, and almost indistinguishable from an antique bakstone made of cast iron.
NOTE: The seasoning does not add a ‘burnt’ or ‘salty’ taste to the cooking, far from it. Just like a sour-dough starter for bread, which has been kept for many generations, the seasoning on a bakestone improves with age, and anything baked on it draws some of its unique flavour into it. You can season it traditionally with lard, or if you are a vegetarian you can use vegetable oils.
IMPORTANT SAFETY POINTS TO REMEMBER
Please remember in purchasing and using a bakestone you are stepping back in time. To season a bakestone you need to know two things: first, you will be burning lard (or vegetable oil) and salt into the metal at a high temperature, this creates some smoke; second, you will only need to do this once (before you use it for the first time) and it takes about 20 minutes. You can do this inside the kitchen with the windows open / the extractor fan on, or season the bakestone outside on a BBQ or portable camping stove.
The bakestone gets hot when you season it, therefore you need to wear an oven glove on both hands, one hand to hold the bakestone by the handle to stop it moving, (unless it is the heavier Welsh Bakestone) while the other hand to rubs the fat and salt into the hot plate. Seasoning a bakestone is not difficult, neither is it particularly dangerous, if you take care and take your time. People have been doing this for centuries.
Use a clean, thick, cotton cloth to rub the lard or vegetable oil and salt into the metal – not a cloth of man made fibres as they will melt, ruining the seasoning you are applying. By folding the thick cloth over several times it will also help insulate your hand (in the oven glove) against the heat.
Some of the oil or fat can drip off the bakestone on to the top of the oven, which will need cleaning off once you have finished, it cleans easily if cleaned off at once. However to avoid this you can either be careful to avoid spillage, by only using a little oil at a time, or season the bakestone outside on a BBQ or on a portable camping stove where any mess is not such of a problem.
UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF THE PRODUCT
The traditional cookware items sold by Oakden, like our griddles and bakestones, are based on very old designs and they exhibit the characteristics outlined in (a) and (b) below. For hundreds of years people have used these very same designs to bake on, without issue, and with the proper care taken they are great products to use. However they do need to be used with care.
(a) Many of the griddles and bakestones we make are of a traditional heavy nature. Therefore, they need care in handling and when in use, due to their weight, do not drop them.
(b) A heavy based steel object like a griddle or bakestone conducts heat very efficiently. As these bakeplates are designed to bake on, over a heat source, they can become very hot. The metal handles and any other conductive areas also get hot. Take care in handling them – allow to cool or use an oven glove.