The Epic Outdoor Griddle; Smashed; Blackstone Griddling; And The Ultimate Big Green Egg
Resident Book Guru
So I’m here today to offer a mea culpa (per Webster’s Dictionary, mea culpa – a formal acknowledgment of personal fault or error). I was wrong.
OK, now I feel much better having that off my back.
What’s that? You want to know what I’m ‘fessing up to? Well, OK, I may as well come clean.
A few editions ago I wrote a review on a book that covered griddle cooking and was naturally geared toward the new Blackstone griddle. At the time, I praised the book but dismissed the need for a Blackstone, saying a $40 Lodge griddle on top of your cooking appliance of choice would work just as well and is much cheaper. I was wrong. And its all my kids fault.
Last November, Blackstone put a four-burner griddle on the Black Friday sale for about half price and my kids thoughtfully chose to get that for me for Christmas. It sat in its box for over a month and it was early February when I finally assembled it. I did the usual cheesesteak on it and it turned out really good. Then I tried smash burgers and they were great. I even put a steak on it – something I thought I’d NEVER do – and it was outstanding. Fast forward to now and I am cooking on the Blackstone every chance I get. I feel pretty certain there are many of you who also got one for some special occasion so today I am reviewing three books on griddle cooking in order to help you find the resources you’ll need when you get tired of the familiar rotation of cheesesteaks/smash burgers/fried rice/about anything related to breakfast.
The first two books come from an author duo who also have one of the most popular YouTube channels dedicated to the griddle cooking. Identical twins Adam and Brett Walton are known as The Waltwins and they currently have just under 150,000 YouTube subscribers. They have dozens of well-produced videos and shorts so it is no surprise that their first book, “The Epic Outdoor Griddle Cookbook: Amazing Recipes for Griddles and Flattops” ($22.99, Harvard Common Press, 176 pp.) would be equally as well done.
Following a short introduction that included useful information on using a griddle and the tools that go with it, the book has seven chapters of recipes – Sizzling Breakfasts; Appetizers, Sides & Sweet Treats; Chicken Every Which Way; Bodacious Burgers; For Beef Lovers; Pork & Sausage; and Fresh Fish & Seafood. From those chapters they offer recipes like Grilled Cheese Breakfast Burritos, Cheesesteak Egg Rolls, Buffalo Chicken Dip Sliders, Carne Asada Street Tacos, Glazed Pork Belly, Bang Bang Shrimp and more. At 176 pages it is not a big book nor are there pictures of every dish but there is a ton of content packed within, most certainly enough to provide new ideas for your own griddling adventures.
The Waltwins second book, “Smashed: 60 Epic Smash Burgers & Sandwiches for Dinner, for Lunch and Even for Breakfast” ($22.99, Harvard Common Press, 144 pp.) is of the same quality as the first book but this time they focus on just sandwiches, starting with the rapidly famous smash burger (or smashburger, I don’t think the AP Stylebook has set the standard for either usage yet). I’d really like to know some more about the history of this dish. My own understanding is the smash burger may have originated from the Oklahoma Onion Smash Burger, which is a layer of very thinly sliced onion on the griddle topped by a smashed down burger patty and then cooked until the onions reach an other-worldly level of carmelization. Flip once, top it with cheese, dill pickles and mustard and you have a special treat. The Waltwins acknowledge the Oklahoma Onion Smash Burger by making it the second recipe in the book, after the Rocky Mountain Smash Burger, which originated in their hometown of Provo, Utah.
You are going to love some of the smash burgers they offer in the book – Surf’n’Turf Smash Burgers (burger with shrimp; the notes on it explicitly say “don’t know it until you try it”), Hawaiian Pineapple Smash Burger, Peanut Butter Smash Burger (originally the Goober Burger at long-gone The Wheel Inn in Sedalia, Mo.), and Chicken Cordon Bleu Smash Burger. There’s a chapter on paninis with recipes for Classic Italian Panini and Cuban Pressed Sandwich. The chapter on breakfast sandwiches may be short but give it extra credit for originality with The Hungry Hussey’s Mashed Potato Cakes among others.
So, two books in and two really good books for the Waltwins. You probably want to add both to your bookshelf.
As much as I like the Waltwins and their multimedia approach, Josh Hunt is likely in their class as well. Hunt has 62,000 followers on Instagram and another 5,000 on Tik Tok. He also has authored his first book, “Blackstone Griddling: The Ultimate Guide to Show-Stopping Recipes on Your Outdoor Gas Griddle” ($23.99, Page Street Publishing, 168 pp.). Hunt’s book also includes a back cover blurb saying “The Only Griddle Cookbook You’ll Ever Need”. Well now, that’s quite the ultimatum!
Hunt’s “Blackstone Griddling” really makes a run at being that one-to-have book. While he generally constructs his book similar to the Waltwins with a handy introduction followed by chapters of recipes, Hunt probably take it a few steps further. For instance, he has chapters solely dedicated to tacos, pastas, pizzas, stir fries and desserts. There are recipes like Beef Birria Tacos, Reverse Seared NY Strip Steaks, Chicken Fried Steaks & Bacon Gravy, Perfect Pulled Pork Pizza, Smashed Cinnamon Rolls with Pecan Icing and much more.
Which of the three would I choose? Hmmmm…why chance a mistake? Get all three.
I really like my Blackstone Griddle a lot. But I truly love cooking on my Big Green Egg! It’s just so versatile and you get rewarded for creativity with it. There have been several great books about cooking on a Big Green Egg and now there’s one more – Chris Sussman’s “The Ultimate Big Green Egg Cookbook: 100 Master Recipes for Perfect Smoking, Grilling and Baking” ($29.99, Page Street Publishing, 216 pp.).
If you’ve read this space before then you already know about my aversion to hyperbolic terms like ultimate, epic, best-ever, etc. I understand why so many books now make use of those terms on their covers (to get your attention) but it seems to me that the majority don’t come close to living up to the brag. Sussman’s book is really very good, right there in the ballpark with Big Green Egg books I’ve previously reviewed, so I won’t hold “ultimate” against it. There’s a chapter titled “Can You Really Do That?” that I loved. It included recipes for General Tso’s Smofried Ribs and Wok and Rolled Fried Chicken. The chapter “The convEGGtor Is the Way” is an outstanding collection of baking and roasting recipes. Those two are the highlights of seven chapters of high-quality content. This is a book for those well beyond the beginner stage and it will be a lot of fun to cook from for the accomplished Egger. You will really enjoy this one.
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