Griddle vs. Grill is a question many people are curious about. 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 gas griddle (also known as a flat top grill) has really taken off, with 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 traditional grills utilize grates which are parallel metal bars with space in between. Ultimately, they are both grills, so there is a lot of overlap in their capabilities. There are also some things one can do the other cannot, so let’s start the comparison.
Griddles and grills both use fire and metal to cook your food, but they accomplish this differently. Both offer advantages and disadvantages compared to the other regarding what you can or can’t cook or the resulting taste and texture of the food. Let’s take a look at griddles vs. grills with regards to cooking differences.
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 most foods, you’ll find cooking around 350°F is the sweet spot. For foods like eggs, you’ll cook at a lower temperature around 275°F, but you can also crank it up to 500°F if you’re trying to put a nice sear on a steak.
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 cooktop rather than falling through the grates like it would on a traditional grill. Any excess can also be scraped into the built-in grease trap.
Griddles are great because you can sauté foods like vegetables and mushrooms. This is something you can’t accomplish on a traditional grill. Also, foods cooked on the griddle can have a more fried taste and 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. In our next section, we’ll cover some of the ideal foods for cooking on a flat top grill.
Unlike a griddle, the open grates of a grill mean heat is being transferred to the food from the hot metal cooking surface and directly from the heat source as well. 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 helps cook certain types of foods that require higher temperatures or need to take advantage of the lid’s oven cooking effect.
Food cooked on a grill will have more 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.
Unlike a flat top grill/griddle, you have to deal with fire flare-ups with a grill because the flames can contact 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 food types; 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.
We’ll provide examples of foods that are better suited for the griddle or better suited for the grill. Additionally, we’ll mention some foods you can 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 or runny foods that start as a liquid, such as pancakes. The griddle is a master of breakfast, allowing you to easily cook up eggs, pancakes, bacon, hash browns, French toast, and more simultaneously 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 immediately prevent foods from falling through the grates. (Good luck cooking a pancake or egg directly on a grill grate.)
What about lunch and dinner? Sandwiches like grilled cheese or a cheesesteak are perfect for cooking on a griddle. Other great options include sautéed vegetables, quesadillas, and stir-fried items like fried rice. These would all be difficult to do on a grill.
Smash burgers are one of the most popular griddle-cooked items amongst griddle cooks. Unlike a regular hamburger, the burger is “smashed” down onto the cooktop using a press that provides a delicious brown crust. This is not possible on a traditional grill as the meat would fall right through the grates.
There’s a ton that can be cooked on either with great success. This includes (but is not limited to) sausages, steaks, pork chops, fish, mushrooms, and vegetables. Fortunately, there are very few foods that can’t be cooked on a griddle; however, there is a handful you’ll be better off cooking on a grill.
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, 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 wouldn’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 effect, 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.
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 need to clean the griddle surface properly each time you cook on it.
When finished cooking, cleaning consists of scraping the cooktop surface with a scraper or spatula to remove any remaining food or grease. This will be collected in the grease trap of the griddle, which you’ll also need to empty and clean. I like to use a disposable foil liner in the grease trap to make cleaning the trap much easier and with a lot less mess.
Once the griddle cooktop is clear of excess food and oil, you’ll need to wipe it down with paper towels. If you have any extra tough food stuck on the griddle, you apply a dash of water on the griddle. The steam generated will help loosen the remaining food bits.
Ultimately you want to ensure you’ve cleaned to cooktop thoroughly, and you’ll also want to keep it protected when not in use. The griddle should be covered to protect it from any outdoor elements like rain or dust.
This will prevent things like rust from occurring and extend the life of your flat top grill. I highly recommend purchasing a soft cover for the griddle at minimum and a hard cover too if possible. If you can, you should wheel your griddle into a covered area like a garage or shed when not in use, but this is not a requirement.
Overall, grills tend to be a bit more work as bits of food and grease fall through the grates while cooking and collecting down below, covering the grill’s heating elements and base.
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 consisting of taking apart the grill components.
This is definitely time-consuming and can be quite messy. There will be lots of thick greases and cooked food 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 is and how messy it is.
They come and take apart all the grill components and clean them using a special steaming device he tows behind his pickup 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 and the taste of the food it creates.
I still use my grill for certain foods like thick NY strip steaks or beer can chicken. That being said, if I can cook something on my flat top grill, I typically do.
If choosing between purchasing a griddle or grill, it comes down to personal preference based on the factors we’ve covered in this article. 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. If you love cooking outdoors, you want to have it’s great to have different cooking methods at your disposal. I have a griddle, grill, and a smoker in my backyard and love cooking on all of them.
When it comes to a griddle vs. a grill, they’re both great! If you’re intrigued by getting a gas griddle, I highly recommend it because of the variety of foods you can cook on it and the amazing dishes you can create. For more information on flat top grills, read through our gas griddle buyers guide and check our expert griddle reviews.