Cooking in Southwest France: How Do You Cook with a Plancha?
Traveling to a new country isn't just about meeting the locals and discovering their cuisine. It's also about learning different ways to cook your food in a fun environment. For one, during our cooking vacation, "Chateau Cooking Béarn," visitors get a chance to have picnic in the stunning Pyrénées with help of a portable plancha.
What is a Plancha?
In general, a plancha resembles a flattop grill or hot griddle, but it can also be a simple metal plate. Planchas can be used over grills, but portable planchas also exist, and these gadgets have their own heat source so that building a fire isn't required to start "barbecuing." While typically found mostly in Spain, planchas also available in other European countries, including southwestern France where our Béarn trip is located.
How is a Plancha Different From Grilling?
Plancha grills often heat up very quickly, within minutes, unlike charcoal grills, and as such, they make it easy to control the temperature. The surface of the plancha also gives cooks more freedom to cook smaller or more delicate foods, like shrimp and fruits. The surface also makes it easier to sear food, and the grease is typically collected on a grease drip tray, rather than dropping into the grill fire.
Like many of our cooking vacations, you can apply what you learn once you return home. In the case of a plancha, you can make your own version of this "grill top" by purchasing an untreated square slate tile at a home-improvement store.
By Liz Hall