Grills are one of the most iconic American cooking instruments that are practically a requirement for outdoor get-togethers. Most people are more familiar with griddles at diners and restaurants where the flat surface sizzles and sears in the background all day long rather than a tool for cooking up some steaks at the next holiday barbecue. But a griddle can unlock opportunities to prepare a wide variety of food items with an easy-to-clean cooking surface.
What's Better: A Grill or a Griddle?
A good griddle is better than a bad grill, but all things equal, the two cooking tools are significantly different and it's difficult to say which is actually better. Cooking on a grill and a griddle is a different experience, too. You'll use different techniques and tools to get the kinds of results you hope for from a griddle versus a gas or charcoal grill. If you are thinking about picking up a griddle, we'll walk through some of the things you should look for and how a griddle can improve your cooking experiences.
Some people will find that they prefer cooking on a griddle over a grill while others find the smell and flavor of a charcoal grill to be an essential part of the cooking process. Comparing the two cooking tools isn't easy to do because of the significant differences in materials, cooking fuels, and results.
Do You Need a Grill if You Have a Griddle?
Because the two cooking instruments are so different, you'll probably want both a grill and a griddle to get the cooking results you want. With a griddle, you won't get direct exposure to flame that allows for the surface of your meat to get a beautiful sear, but instead you'll have a more uniform surface. This is because of the design and construction of a griddle.
What is a Griddle?
A griddle is defined primarily by the use of a heavy-gauge metal plate that acts as the cooking surface. Most griddles are heated using natural gas while some are also heated by electricity. Typical outdoor freestanding griddles use propane that is commonly stored in portable tanks. A griddle can also be plumbed to use natural gas from the house supply.
A griddle will typically have a trough around at least one edge to catch excess oil and grease that then flows into a catch can for easier cleanup. In order for a griddle to work well, the cooking surface must be seasoned and maintained, which can take a bit of effort and time, but it's essential for producing a non-stick surface that is healthy and clean to cook food on.
How a Grill is Different from a Griddle
The main difference between a grill and a griddle is the cooking surface. A grill uses metal grates that are typically spread about a half inch apart. This allows the heat from the flame to cook the food directly while the grease drips to the tray without making a mess or starting a fire. A griddle is a heated, flat surface with evenly distributed heat that allows for even cooking of thinner foods that should be cooked quickly (like eggs or fried rice). Charcoal grills are popular for barbecue cooking because of the extra flavor that comes from the smoke of the burning wood. Gas grills are a convenient alternative that makes lighting and cooking on the grill faster and easier at the expense of some of the natural smoke flavor.
Lower-priced grills often use chromed steel for the metal grates. Higher-cost options use cast iron or porcelain enameled steel for the grills. You'll also find solid grills that are similar to a griddle but usually have ridges to allow for grease to drain away while leaving beautiful sear marks on the meat.
The Type of Metal Makes a Difference
One of the key factors in how well a griddle works is the type of metal used to construct the cooking surface. The most common material for home-use grills is cold rolled steel. Thicker griddle surfaces retain heat better and are more even, but they are also heavy, making moving a griddle around somewhat of a challenge. Professional griddles like you find in a restaurant are typically much heavier duty than their home-use counterparts as they are expected to be used daily.
If you think of a griddle surface like a cast iron pan, you will understand why thicker and smoother metal surfaces are ideal. Seasoning a griddle is a very similar process to that of seasoning a cast iron skillet and you'll get similar results when you correctly season a griddle.
Cleaning and Seasoning a Griddle vs a Grill
When your grill is used, you typically will burn off the little bits of meat stuck to the grill grates, then use a scouring pad or a wire brush and dish soap to clean the remainder of the stuck-on stuff. When it comes to cleaning a griddle, you'll have to use different tools and techniques to prevent damage and to ensure you have a good surface for cooking that is free of burnt grease.
When you have a brand-new griddle, you will need to season the surface before you can use it. There are several ways to season the surface and a few products specially-designed to make the process easier. At a minimum, you'll need paper towels or a lint-free rag and an oil with a high smoke point. Avocado oil, grapeseed oil, and peanut oil are good choices. There are also products designed for seasoning a griddle. One of our favorites is the seasoning oil from Blackstone. It works great, doesn't leave an odor, and produces a durable finish that makes griddle cooking easier.
Eventually, you'll need to re-season a griddle, particularly when the surface begins to blister or crack. The way seasoning works is that oil is burned into the surface of the metal and builds a layer that protects the metal and provides a nonstick surface. There are lots of ways the seasoning can have problems from overheating items on the griddle to scratches from using metal tools. The good news is that cleaning and seasoning a griddle is fairly easy to do.
Cleaning a Griddle to Apply New Seasoning Oil
Getting the surface of the griddle cleaned of old seasoning doesn't have to be a hard process. Sometimes, you'll be able to use a paint scraper to get loose bits of seasoning removed. A grinder with a wire wheel or a sander with heavy-duty sanding pads makes the cleanup quick and easy, if not a little on the messy side. Once the griddle surface is cleaned, you'll have to go through the seasoning process again.
Cleaning a grill may be a simpler process, but it can also be just as time-consuming and messy. We've found that once a griddle is well-seasoned, it is substantially easier to keep clean than a charcoal grill.
What Kind of Food is Appropriate for Cooking on Each?
Most of the things you'll cook on a grill can also be cooked on a griddle, but not the other way around. For instance, frying eggs and making pancakes is easy on a griddle, but it's not going to happen on a grill. We like to use the grill when we are making steaks because of the added smoke flavor, but cooking a steak on a griddle is just as easy as cooking one in a cast iron frying pan on the stove top.
In particular, a griddle makes for a fun and efficient way to make larger meals. We love using our Blackstone Griddle for breakfast foods because you can sizzle bacon, fry eggs, crisp hash browns, and cook pancakes all at once. A griddle is an epic way to make some of the best hamburgers you'll ever try and you can use neat accessories like a burger press to get excellent results easily.
One of the best reasons to have a griddle is if you like to eat fish. Flaky, tender fish is notoriously problematic on a grill -the fish tends to fall apart and end up in the burners rather than on your plate. A griddle solves the problem since the fish can flake apart when it is fully cooked without worrying about losing the best parts. We even have a post here where we share some of our favorite recipes for cooking on the Blackstone Griddle.
Some things we like to use the grill over the griddle for include hot dogs that benefit from the direct heat and smoke, vegetables, and cuts of meat that need to sear a little for the perfect texture and final results. A grill is the best way to get perfect grill marks on meat, veggies, and fish. Pan searing and grill searing are similar, but the results are noticeably different. A griddle makes an all-over sear rather than grill marks.
Differences in Cooking Temperature
A grill can offer a little more flexibility in the temperature you are cooking at over a griddle. Most often, a griddle is going to be hot – as hot as the gas burner will get it – when you cook. It is more of a challenge to get an indirect heat source with a griddle as the metal tends to retain heat and there is no way to prevent heat from soaking into your cooking area.
Griddle vs. Grill: Cooking Surface Sizes
Most grills offer a decent amount of real estate for cooking. Griddles like our Blackstone Griddle offer an excellent, large cooking surface ideal for cooking up a big meal. Because of the flat surfaces, you have more freedom to get different kinds of food going at once while keeping everything from overcooking and falling through the grill grates. A traditional grill isn't nearly as versatile as a griddle for outdoor cooking.
Why We Like Blackstone Griddles
There are lots of brands on the market that offer different designs, sizes, and styles of griddles at lots of different price points. We choose Blackstone over other brands for a couple, key reasons. The first one is a big deal – Blackstone Griddles offer a heavy-gauge rolled steel surface that is durable and will last practically forever with the appropriate care. Inferior products may rust, chip, or even crack over time. We also like the fact that Blackstone Griddles have tons of excellent accessories available to really amp up the cooking experience. We think these are the finest quality griddles out there.
The differences between grills and griddles are extensive. Not only are they used differently, but you'll find that you get different results cooking on one surface over another. Having an excellent griddle is like having a great big frying pan that you can cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner on without hassle. The different cooking surfaces between grills and griddles also present opportunities for different flavors. A charcoal grill in particular is going to be a better choice if you want smokey, fire-cooked flavor, while a griddle is going to offer you the opportunity to make fried eggs on the patio, something that is nearly impossible on a grill.
The ease of cleaning and maintenance you'll get with a Blackstone Griddle makes it one of our favorite options for cooking large meals for our friends and family, and we think that you'll enjoy using your griddle so much, you'll find all sorts of excuses to fire it up all year long!