Pros: easy to use/clean up; two handles; comes with trivet; pre-seasoned
Cons: it's a little heavy but hey, it's cast iron!
My husband is a creature of habit. Everytime we eat out at a Mexican restaurant he has fajitas. Always. So I thought I'd start making them at home so maybe he'd be more inclined to try something new. But to do that, I'd need a fajita pan, to recreate that restaurant "sizzlin'" plate experience that make fajitas so fun to get in the first place. My choice was The Original Sizzle Plate with Trivet from Emerilware.
What attracted me to this particular fajita pan (or sizzle plate as Emeril calls his) was that it was cast iron, with two handles, came with a trivet, wasn't too small, and of course, was reasonably priced. I literally drove all around town that day on my search for the perfect pan, passing up one pan that was cast iron, but too small and another that a good size, but not cast iron, and didn't come with a handy trivet (and was twice as expensive). I was about to give up on my search until I found this one at Dilliards for under $30.
The top of his oval pan is about is about 11 inches by 8.5 inches at its widest parts. It has very gently sloping sides, so the bottom measures slightly smaller: 10 inches by 6 inches. Its handles extend out another 1.5 inches on either side. These handles are cast iron, too, so they will get HOT and need to be handled with care. Some single-handled fajita pans come with a nifty handle cover but this sizzle plate does not. Always use hot pads or mitts when removing from hot stove or oven.
The beauty of two handles is that it makes The Original Sizzle Plate very easy to move. Like all cast iron cookware it's heavy. This small pan weighs in at just under 4 and a half pounds. Distributed over two handles, it's a lot easier to carry than a single-handled pan of the same size.
Like a lot of the cast iron cookware available nowadays, it comes pre-seasoned. That saves you the step of coating your pan with a thin layer of oil and then heating at high heat to form a carbonized layer that protects the pan from rust. This is nice and certainly makes it a lot more convenient for folks not familiar with cast iron. What surprised me, however, was that Emeril didn't include any cleaning instructions. Cast iron shouldn't be washed in soap, and in most instances, can simply be wiped clean. If you do need to scrub, take care not to use a sharp scouring pad (an old dull one works best) that would scrap away the protective seasoning layer.
The trivet is made out of raw birch with a carved grove in which the sizzle plate fits securely. It protects your counter and table top from the high heat of the pan as well as being an attractive accompaniment with the sizzle plate as it lends to an authentic down-home feeling.
Included with the sizzle plate are three recipe cards from Emeril. Well, actually, I got only two as two of them were duplicates. Mine included Crispy Herb Roast Chicken and Fiery Steak Fajitas. Although I plan to use this primarily for fajitas, his recipe card for the chicken showed that this pan has other uses, especially when it comes to giving your foods a nice crispy finish when roasting. If you like a nice sizzling sound when serving you can pop it under the broiler for a few minutes and then drizzle a little oil on it before serving your food.
Usage and results
Making fajitas with the Original Sizzle Plate yields wonderful results, as good as my favorite Mexican restaurant. I first pre-heat on medium high for about two minutes until the vegetable oil gets nice and hot (some cast iron purists insist on animal fat such as lard but I never have, never will cook with it). I cook my seasoned chicken until all the pink is gone, but not too long, as I don't want it to get dry. After removing it I add the veggies and cook until crisp, add a dash more oil, then mix in cooked chicken, and quickly serve. The plate is nice and sizzling hot, and keeps on sizzlin' for a few more minutes after serving. It keeps the chicken and veggies hot while we nosh on our fajitas.
The size of this plate is perfect for two people. If you cook for a larger crowd, you might want to consider investing in two of them. Typically I make fajitas on the weeknight for just my husband and me but if my kids start wanting them more too, I may be heading back to the store for another.
Clean up is a breeze. After the plate is cooled off, I move it to the sink and rinse out with hot water and wipe out with an old dish rag. Nothing could be easier.
The Original Sizzle Plate is a handy little cast iron pan to have if you love fajitas as much as we do. I'm not sure if it'll get my husband to stop ordering them in restaurants, but at least now I can make cooking them at home a lot easier and better. Even my kids, who normally aren't big on fajitas because of the onions and bell peppers, are asking for them now (or at least the chicken)! 5 stars.
Another great piece of cast-iron cookware:
Lodge 12-inch skillet