The Secret Method to Using Your Smoker for Baking
Warning: We'll do anything to make a great meal even better!
Like most people, we're always looking for ways to create great food with lots of flavor. That often leads to us trying alternative methods. And if we can reduce cooking times in the process, we consider that a win.
Because we often use our smokers for baking, we’ve experimented with ways to achieve even more control over high heat cooking zones when we're not using the Yoder Smokers Wood Fired Oven attachment. We learned that we can add flavor and improve the texture of our food by simply adding a Yoder Smoker's Cast Iron Griddle to the second shelf of the grill, above the grill zone.
This simple hack helps us make crusty breads and crispier chicken and veggies. For today’s blog post, we walk through why it works. We’ll also report on our experiment of making smashed potatoes with and without the griddle in place. The results and recipe are below.
Setting Up the Grill
Pro Tip: This article describes the setup for a Yoder Smokers YS640 or YS480 pellet grill. However, this cooking technique works with any grill or smoker with a second shelf. Chef Tom used a similar technique to make Queso Fundido on a Napoleon Gas Grill.
In our tests, we learned this method works best at temperatures of 350 degrees and above. Start by setting the grill at 450 degrees with the diffuser in place and the access door closed. The Variable Displacement Damper (VDD) should be pushed in 6" from the outer right setting. The full-depth second shelf should be in place as well.
Preheat The Griddle
As the grill comes up to temperature, preheat the griddle by placing it on top of the grates on the lower shelf directly over the firebox. Note: Place the griddle in sideways so the door can close correctly.
When the grill is ready to bake, carefully move the hot cast iron griddle up to the top shelf. Place the griddle sideways with smooth side down. The left edge should be 2 inches from the left edge of your top shelf so that it won't interfere with the door closing. The back edge should be pushed against the back of the cooking chamber. This will direct airflow and heat from the firebox back down onto your food.
Cook your food on the lower shelf directly under the griddle.
Pro Tip: If you’re cooking with a pan or skillet, you can get even more browning by using a cast iron skillet to lift the food closer to the griddle above. Just make sure to leave room so the food doesn't touch the bottom of the second shelf.
How Does This Work?
By redirecting the airflow back down onto the food and using the thermal mass of the cast iron griddle above your food to create more downward radiant heat, your grill is acting more like a modern kitchen oven. This allows for reduced cooking times and better browning. You are also adding the wood-fired flavor of your smoker.
We tested this technique by cooking two pans of smashed potatoes, one with the griddle on the second shelf during the cook and one without. The difference in flavor and texture was noticeable. The pan of smashed potatoes cooked with the griddle above had a crispier texture and the deeper flavor.
We're all about creating new ways to experience the versatility of our grills and we hope you can find some interesting ways to use this alternative technique to help make your meals more creative as well. Try it for yourself with the easy recipe below.
Easy Smashed Potatoes
2 lbs of fresh small to medium potatoes (we used red potatoes)
Cattleman's Grill Tuscan Steak Seasoning
Place griddle on lower shelf and preheat grill and griddle to 450 degrees.
While the grill heats, cut potatoes in half and boil them in water until a fork can easily penetrate the potato.
Coat the bottom of a pan (we used a metal sheet tray) with avocado oil.
Remove potatoes from the water and spread them onto the oiled pan. Using the bottom of a glass or a potato masher, smash down once onto each potato, flattening the centers. The edges of the potatoes should break up into crumbles providing nice edges for future browning.
Drizzle oil over the potatoes and season to taste with Cattleman's Grill Tuscan Steak Seasoning.
Remove griddle from the lower shelf of the grill and place sideways on top shelf, pushing the griddle against the left edge and back of the grill.
Place pan of potatoes under griddle and bake about 30-45 minutes until you see golden edges on the top of the potatoes and the bottom is crispy as well. You can also place a cast iron pan upside down under the pan of potatoes to raise food closer to the bottom of the griddle for even more browning.