The grill has been a staple of the backyard barbecue for a very long time. Families and friends getting together to socialize or celebrate with delicious food. Over the last decade, the rise of the outdoor griddle has really taken off with more and more people purchasing them every year.
Many people have replaced their grill with a griddle and that’s their go to device when cooking out. The key difference between a griddle and a grill is the cooking surface.
A griddle has a solid flat cooking surface and grills utilize grates which are parallel metal bars with space in between. Each can have advantages and disadvantages compared to the other which we’ll get into below.
Griddles and grills are both using fire and metal to cook your food however they do so differently. They both offer some advantages or disadvantages compared to the other when it comes to what you can or can’t cook or how the taste and texture of the food comes out.
When cooking on a griddle the food is not exposed directly to the heat source so all the heat must be transferred from the heating element through the metal cooking surface to the food.
Griddle cooking temperatures will in general be lower in comparison to grilling temperatures. For the majority of foods, you’ll find cooking around 350°F is the sweet spot with cooking temperatures topping out at around 400°F.
One perk to griddle cooking is there are no fire flare ups, since the food is not exposed directly to the heat source like it is on a grill.
Any oil or grease stays on the cook top rather than falling though the grates like it would on a grill. Any excess can also be scraped into a grease trap.
Griddles are great for sautéing foods like vegetables and mushrooms. Cooking with sauces is another excellent ability of the griddle because the food cooks in the sauce which is perfect for things like stir fry.
Foods cooked on the griddle can have a more fried taste to them and result in a nice crisp texture. Many people are learning more and more about griddles and the types of delicious food they can create. They offer a different spin on a traditional grill and make for some tasty results.
Unlike a griddle, the open grates of a grill means heat is being transferred to the food from the hot metal cooking surface and also directly from the heat source itself. Grills also come with a lid that can be closed which can really kick up the temperatures by creating an oven effect.
Because of these factors cooking temperatures start low around 250°F-300°F but can reach 600°F or higher. This is very helpful for cooking certain types of foods that require higher temperatures or need to take advantage of the oven ability.
Food cooked on a grill will have more of a char or smoky flavor (especially when using charcoal) because of the smoke created by dripping oil or grease falling through the grates into the fire. You also can get nice grill marks which can provide an excellent taste and texture to foods.
With a grill, you do have to deal with fire flare ups because the flames can come in contact with dripping oil or grease. I’ve definitely burned a few steaks over the years because of this. Grills aren’t going anywhere and with good reason. They cook up some delicious food with their own brand of taste and texture added to the dishes.
What to Cook?
Griddles and grills can cook many of the same types of food however depending on what you’re cooking, one may yield a better result than the other. For a handful of certain foods, a griddle won’t be an ideal choice and for other foods a grill won’t be an ideal choice.
Here’s some examples of foods that are better suited for the griddle or grill as well as some you can cook equally well on either.
Because of the flat cooking surface, lower cooking temperatures and lack of a lid, griddles excel at cooking smaller/thinner foods and foods that are runny or start as a liquid like pancakes. The griddle is a master of breakfast allowing you to easily cook up eggs, pancakes, bacon, hash browns, toast and more all at the same time on the same cooking surface.
Trying to cook these items on a grill would be much more difficult and require you to use a pan or foil to prevent foods from falling through the grates immediately. (Good luck cooking a pancake or egg directly on a grill grate.)
What about lunch and dinner? Sandwiches like grilled cheese or a cheese steak are perfect for cooking on a griddle. Other great options include sautéed vegetables, quesadillas and fried rice. These would all be difficult to do on a grill however there’s a ton that can be cooked on either with great success.
This includes (but not limited to) smash burgers, sausages, pork chops, fish, shrimp, mushrooms and vegetables. Fortunately, there’s very few foods that can’t be cooked on a griddle however there are a handful you’ll be better off cooking on a grill.
Some foods are not a good fit being prepared on a griddle and grills are the better option. A grill is better suited for larger foods, thicker cuts of meat and uncut vegetables.
Examples of foods better suited for grilling are whole chickens, thick cuts of meat like steak or pork tenderloin, ribs, chicken breasts, and corn on the cob, just to name a few.
Trying to cook these on a griddle may be possible but will likely prove more difficult, take longer, and not come out very well. In some cases it just won’t work and you’ll end up with food that’s cooked on the outside and raw in the middle.
Utilizing the grill’s lid allows you to create an oven, which helps to cook the food to its desired internal temperature without burning the outside. Of course grills are still great for cooking up many of the same foods you can cook on a griddle. Burgers, hot dogs, fish and vegetables can be cooked on either and come out great.
Cleaning and maintaining your griddle or grill is very important to ensure not only the quality of the food, but for safety and the longevity of the device. Regular cleaning and maintenance is important to prevent rust and other deterioration from occurring.
Griddles tend to be a bit easier to clean and maintain due to the flat top cooking surface because you don’t have food bits and grease dropping down and getting all over the heating elements. You just need to clean the griddle surface properly.
When finished cooking, cleaning consists of scraping the cleaning surface with a scraper or spatula to get any remaining food or grease off. This will be collected in a the grease trap of the griddle which you’ll also need to clean out. I like to use a disposable foil container in the grease trap to make cleaning that out much faster and with much less mess.
Once the griddle cook top is clear of excess food and oil you’ll need to wipe it down with a paper towel. If you have any extra tough food stuck on the griddle you can pour hot water on the griddle and this will help boil/steam the remaining residue off.
Ultimately you want to ensure you’ve cleaned to cook top thoroughly and you’ll also want to keep it protected when not in use. If the griddle should be covered to protect it from any outdoor elements like rain or dust.
This will prevent things like rust from and extend the life of the griddle. I recommend purchasing a griddle cover or if possible wheel it into a covered area like a garage or shed when not in use.
Overall grills tend to be a bit more work as bits of food and grease fall through the grates while cooking and collects down below covering the heating elements and base of the grill.
Cleaning between cooking sessions can be done using a grill brush and damp paper towels to keep the grill grates clean. If using a charcoal grill you’ll need to remove the ash or coal remaining after each cooking session. If using a gas grill, you’ll eventually need to do a more thorough cleaning which consists of taking apart the components of the grill.
This is definitely time consuming and can be quite messy. There’s going to be lots of thick grease and cooked on food that has collected on the various parts of the grill below the grates.
Over the past few years I’ve begun hiring a grill cleaning service because of how big a hassle it is and how messy it is.
They come and take apart all the components of the grill and clean it using a special steaming device he tows with the back of his truck. He does a great job and the grill looks good as new when he’s done but it costs about $175 so it’s not a cheap service. You can obviously tackle this yourself but it’ll take some time and you’ll need to have a degreasing product, paper towels and gloves.
At the end of the day both griddles and grills are excellent cooking methods allowing you to create amazing dishes that can serve small or large groups of people. I’ve found myself using my griddle more and more frequently over my grill these days. I love the variety of dishes I can cook on it as well as the taste of the food it creates.
I still use my grill for certain foods like a thick NY strip steaks or ribs but if I can cook it on the griddle I usually do. If choosing between purchasing a griddle or grill it comes down to personal preference based on the factors we covered above. You can also look at a grill/griddle combo device if you don’t want to be forced to choose between them.
You may already have a grill as many people do and are looking at adding a griddle into the mix. You can’t go wrong with either but I also think you’ll be amazed at what a griddle will do for your outdoor cooking experience.