Cooking on a Plancha: Griddled Delights of South America

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I. Introduction

What is a Plancha?

A plancha is a flat surface, usually made of cast iron or steel, used for cooking. It’s similar to a griddle but is typically thicker and heavier, which allows it to retain heat more effectively. The word ‘plancha’ means ‘iron’ in Spanish, and this cooking method is popular throughout Spain and South America.

The Origins of Plancha Cooking

While the exact origins of plancha cooking are unclear, it is believed to have been influenced by both Indigenous and Spanish cooking traditions. The indigenous peoples of South America have been cooking on flat stones for thousands of years, and the Spanish colonizers brought with them the tradition of cooking on flat metal surfaces.

II. The Plancha in South America

Popular Dishes

Plancha cooking is incredibly versatile and can be used to cook a wide variety of foods, from meats and seafood to vegetables and even desserts. Some popular dishes that are commonly cooked on a plancha in South America include steak, chorizo, shrimp, and vegetables.

Regional Variations

While the basic concept of plancha cooking is the same throughout South America, there are regional variations in terms of the ingredients used and the way the food is prepared. For example, in Argentina, it is common to cook meats with chimichurri sauce, while in Peru, seafood is often marinated in a mixture of lime juice and spices before being cooked on the plancha.

III. The Art of Cooking on a Plancha

Heat Control

One of the keys to successful plancha cooking is heat control. The plancha needs to be preheated to the right temperature before cooking, and the heat must be adjusted as needed during the cooking process. It’s important to remember that the plancha retains heat very well, so it’s better to start at a lower temperature and gradually increase the heat if necessary.

Essential Tools and Ingredients

In addition to the plancha itself, there are a few essential tools and ingredients needed for successful plancha cooking. A good quality oil, such as olive oil or grapeseed oil, is necessary to prevent the food from sticking to the plancha. A spatula or tongs are also essential for flipping and moving the food as it cooks.

IV. Plancha vs Grill

Similarities and Differences

At first glance, plancha cooking may seem similar to grilling, as both methods involve cooking food on a hot surface. However, there are some key differences. A grill has grates, which allow the fat to drip away from the food, while a plancha has a flat surface, which allows the food to cook in its own juices. This results in a different texture and flavor.

Advantages of Plancha Cooking

There are several advantages to cooking on a plancha. First, it allows for even cooking, as the entire surface of the food is in contact with the plancha. This results in a nice crust on the outside of the food while keeping the inside moist and juicy. Second, it allows for better heat control, as the temperature can be easily adjusted. Finally, it is a healthier cooking method, as it requires less oil than frying and doesn’t produce the harmful compounds that can form when food is grilled.

V. Traditional Plancha Recipes

Lomo a la Plancha

Lomo a la plancha is a popular dish in Argentina, made with beef tenderloin cooked on the plancha. To make this dish, season the beef with salt and pepper, and cook it on a preheated plancha with a little bit of oil. Cook the beef to your desired level of doneness, and serve it with chimichurri sauce and a side of roasted potatoes.

Vegetales a la Plancha

Vegetales a la plancha is a simple and delicious vegetarian dish that can be found throughout South America. To make this dish, cut your favorite vegetables into thick slices, season them with salt and pepper, and cook them on a preheated plancha with a little bit of oil. Cook the vegetables until they are tender and lightly charred, and serve them with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.

VI. Tips for Successful Plancha Cooking

Preheating the Plancha

It is essential to preheat the plancha before cooking. Preheating the plancha ensures that the food cooks evenly and develops a nice crust. To preheat the plancha, place it over medium heat and let it heat up for about 10-15 minutes. You can test if the plancha is ready by sprinkling a few drops of water on the surface. If the water sizzles and evaporates quickly, the plancha is ready for cooking.

Oil Selection

The type of oil used for plancha cooking is important, as it affects the flavor and texture of the food. It is best to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed oil or canola oil, as it can withstand the high temperatures of the plancha without burning. Olive oil can also be used, but it has a lower smoke point, so it is best to use it at a lower temperature.

VII. Modern Twists on Plancha Cooking

Fusion Cuisine

Plancha cooking is not limited to traditional South American dishes. Chefs around the world are using the plancha to create innovative fusion dishes that combine elements of different cuisines. For example, you could cook a piece of salmon on the plancha and serve it with a soy-ginger glaze and a side of sautéed bok choy.

Healthy Cooking

Plancha cooking is a healthy cooking method, as it requires less oil than frying and doesn’t produce the harmful compounds that can form when food is grilled. To make your plancha-cooked meals even healthier, try using lean proteins, such as chicken breast or fish, and cooking them with plenty of vegetables.

VIII. Conclusion

Plancha cooking is a traditional South American cooking method that has been embraced by chefs around the world. With its ability to produce evenly cooked, flavorful, and healthy dishes, it’s no wonder that the plancha is becoming increasingly popular. Whether you’re cooking traditional South American dishes or experimenting with new flavors, the plancha is a versatile and valuable tool to have in your kitchen.


  1. Can I use a regular griddle instead of a plancha? While a regular griddle can be used for plancha cooking, it may not produce the same results as a true plancha. A plancha is typically thicker and heavier than a griddle, which allows it to retain heat more effectively and cook the food more evenly.
  2. Do I need to season my plancha before using it? It is recommended to season your plancha before using it for the first time. Seasoning the plancha creates a non-stick surface and protects it from rust. To season your plancha, coat the surface with a thin layer of oil and heat it over medium heat until the oil begins to smoke. Repeat this process a few times until the surface is dark and shiny.
  3. Can I cook multiple foods at once on the plancha? Yes, you can cook multiple foods at once on the plancha. Just be sure to adjust the heat as needed for each food and keep in mind that some foods may cook faster than others.
  4. How do I clean my plancha? To clean your plancha, scrape off any excess food with a spatula or grill brush while the plancha is still warm. Then, wipe the surface with a damp cloth or paper towel. If the plancha is very dirty, you can use a mild soap and water, but be sure to rinse it well and re-season it before using it again.
  5. Can I use my plancha indoors? Yes, you can use your plancha indoors, as long as you have a heat source that can accommodate it. Just be sure to use it in a well-ventilated area and follow all safety precautions.


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