Here at Smart Design Living, we’re all about exploring the finer things in life to help you live a more fulfilled life, a smart life, an absolutely phenomenal life! And how can you have a phenomenal life without talking about summer time grilling on a flat top grill? Yes, a flat top grill!
Like this air-fry equipped model from Blackstone. You can whip up a quick meal with smash burgers on the griddle top and extra crispy fries in the air-fry.
If you are a food lover and want to cook a variety of meals at home and you hate the smell that lingers in your home after a successful cook, then a flat top grill is a must-have appliance.
A flat top grill is an extremely versatile cooking tool that allows you to cook a range of dishes, from burgers and steaks to pancakes and eggs. Best of all, it can be done outside, whether you have limited space, or if you have a mega outdoor kitchen, you can’t go wrong with one of these.
In this article, we will take a comprehensive look at flat top grills and provide you with all the information you need to know about these amazing cooking appliances so that you can make a smart purchasing decision and elevate your life.
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Griddles and grills are often used interchangeably but refer to different cooking surfaces. The main difference between a griddle and a grill is the cooking surface; a griddle is a cooking device with a flat surface. It is also referred to as a flat-top grill, the cooking surface receives heat from underneath, and food is cooked on it directly. A grill is, however, different as it uses dry heat, exposing the food to an open flame. Grills are also characterized by slated grates spread apart over the heat source.
In short, a griddle is a type of grill, while not all grills are griddles.
Other terms you may have seen for a griddle is a flat-top grill or plancha, which is literally Spanish for “a flat metal plate”.
Flat top grills can be powered by a variety of heat sources, including gas, electricity, and charcoal. They come in a range of sizes, from small portable models that are perfect for camping trips to large commercial-grade models that are ideal for restaurants or large outdoor events.
How Does a Flat Top Grill Work?
A flat top grill works by heating up the cooking surface to a high temperature (sometimes over 600°F), which allows you to cook food quickly and evenly. The heat source, whether it’s gas or electricity, is typically located beneath the cooking surface.
Benefits of a Flat Top Grill vs Others?
There are several benefits of using a flat top grill, including:
Flat top grills are typically made of cast iron, which can be seasoned and made non-stick through the cooking process. This is typically seen as blackening of the surface (patina), giving it an oily shine. The seasoned, smooth, flat surface makes it easy to clean and maintain by simply wiping with a dry paper towel. Re-seasoning is done quickly by evenly spreading fresh oil over the warm cooking surface with a clean paper towel.
Convenience & Versatility
A flat top grill is incredibly versatile and can be used to cook a variety of dishes. You can use it to cook everything from breakfast foods like pancakes and eggs to lunch and dinner items like burgers and steaks. They are extremely easy to use so any home chef, regardless of experience, can quickly whip up some delicious dishes for the entire family! From simple breakfast foods to something crazy like what Todd Toven did with his Blackstone griddle – he cooked 24 lbs of bacon!
Durable & Easy to Use
Since flat top grills are essential a giant metal surface sitting over a heat source, the design is extremely simple with very few parts. This makes these grilles very hardy and should last you a lifetime with proper care. The cooking surface can take a lot of abuse, and unlike nonstick pots and pans, you can scrape these surface with metal utensils. Even if you neglect them for prolonged periods of time, the cooking surface (for the most part) can be cleaned and re-seasoned again for use.
Cooks Evenly & Good Searing
A quality flat top grill provides even heat distribution, which means that your food will cook evenly across the entire cooking surface. This ensures that your food is cooked perfectly every time. Due to nature of the material of the cook surface, the grill can also retain high heat for a very long time giving a consistent sear via the Maillard (pronounced “my-yar”) reaction.
Another great benefit is ability to cook healthier by easily controlling the oil and grease you need to use. A well seasoned flat top grill will have a non-stick cooking surface. The oil used to season the grill is minimal, and excess oils can be easily pushed away using your utensils leaving behind food that is no only mouth watering, but healthier as well.
Choosing the Right Flat Top Grill for You
Gas Powered Flat Top Grills
The gas griddle is an excellent choice for an outdoor cooking space. They heat up very quickly and temperatures can rise well beyond 600+ degrees Fahrenheit. These flat top grills are heated by a gas burner system, distributed beneath the cooking surface through a U-shaped burner elements. They are powered by propane or natural gas. There are going the most common types that most people will have in their kitchens.
We personally use the Blackstone two burner model with a built-in air fryer. This has made such a huge difference in terms of keeping our house smelling fresh since we can literally cook everything we need to outside in the backyard.
Quick note: on the 1962 model (this is not the year it was made, just the model number), the air fryer is the basket on the left. The right basket is only for warming, which happens by residual heat from the left basket. There was an older model dubbed 1785 where the warming basket has its own heating element above. We have the 1785 model, and we are quite pleased. Blackstone should have kept that feature in the 1962 model and provided to button to turn the warmer on or off.
One of the newcomers is the Traeger Flatrock, and although Traeger isn’t new in the grilling business, the Flatrock is their first entry into the griddle business. Although we do not have personal experience with this particular flat top grill, there are many user reviews online that have nothing but great things to say about this cooker.
Electric Flat Top Grills
Electric flat top grills tend to be much smaller in scale, and as mentioned previously, take longer to heat up and also may not get as hot as the gas counterparts. They are very portable and convenient to use inside the home since you just need to plug them in without any other fuel source. They are powered by electric coils that sit beneath the cooking surface which also allows for even cooking.
A popular model that is very affordable is the Bella XL ceramic titanium griddle. This extra-large griddle features a 1500 watt heating system and a huge 12″x22″ non-stick cooking surface.
Another model from an extremely reputable brand is the Zojirushi EA-DCC10, a very capable electric flat top grill that is well worth the investment. Zojirushi is a Japanese brand known for very high quality kitchen appliances such as rice cookers, water kettles, and croc-pots.
Portable Flat Top Grills
Obviously electric flat top grills are very portable, but if you are going camping out in the wilderness, you may not have the luxury of an electric outlet. This category is reserved for gas powered flat top grills that you can take with you anywhere. The operate just like the bigger gas powered analogs, but on a smaller scale.
Blackstone once again comes in with a top notch product – the Blackstone table top 1666 model flat top grill. It comes in 17″ or 22″ sizes offering 24,000 BTUs of heat, which is very powerful for a cooker of this size. Even with it’s small size it is still packed with features as well as Blackstone’s innovative grease management system.
A slightly more affordable option, but just as capable is the Pit Boss PB336GS two burner portable flat top grill. This cooker offers 18,000 BTUs of cooking power (9,000 from each burner) with a smaller cooking area than the Blackstone.
Specifically, we recommend the Camp Chef PRO60X two burner stove, which fires up 30,000 BTUs of cooking power over a 14″x32″ surface area. It can easily be folded up and transported with you on your next adventure yet still capable enough to cook up an amazing meal while you enjoy the stars with the family.
Pair this stove with a Camp Chef flat top griddle and you will have one of the most versatile cooking machines to help you conquer the wilderness.
Built-in Flat Top Grills
The built-in flat top grills are for the home cook looking build out their outdoor kitchen. These cookers tend to be the best in terms of quality of material and construction. They burn strong and are powered by the home’s natural gas line so you don’t need to deal with constantly replacing tanks of propane. They also tend to be the most expensive so get your wallets ready, because these flat top grills pack a punch!
We’ll start with Le Griddle, a name synonymous with high quality outdoor built-in griddles. They have griddles ranging from the mini 17″ all the way to massive 60″ cook tops. For many consumers, the 30″ GFE75 model is a great balance between cooking power & surface area vs. cost & needs. The GFE75 is also known as the “Ranch Hand”, and is a 2-burner packing 18,000 BTUs of cooking power per burner. Crafted from 304 stainless steel, this built-in flat top grill is definitely premium and comes with a premium price tag as well.
If you don’t like the look of the Le Griddle, then feast your eyes on the Blaze 30″ 2-burner built-in flat top grill. This grill also packs a total of 36,000 BTUs two it’s twin burners and has a very sleek design.
Lastly, just for a bit of variety in case anyone would prefer to have their flat top as the center piece of their outdoor kitchen, you can opt for a rounded design like the EVO Affinity 30G series built-in flat top grill.
Here’s an example of an outdoor kitchen space with the EVO Affinity 30G as the center piece. Looks quite handsome!
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Flat Top Grill
A) Size of the Flat Top Grilling Surface
Standard griddle sizes range from 17 to 72 inches wide and 24 to 36 inches deep. Therefore, it is very critical for you to first decide what size is suitable for your cooking needs.
Knowing if you’re going to have a built-in, or a free-standing, or simply a smaller table top griddle will depend on your cooking habits. If you are like us and prefer to keep the inside of the home free of greasy smells, then going with an outdoor flat top grill would be the most ideal.
With outdoor models, the size will most likely be depending on your cooking needs and your budget. Bigger family requires a bigger cooking surface, however bigger grills tend to come with bigger price tags.
B) Number of Burners
The number of burners can directly impact the cooking capability of your flat top grill. Not all burners are created equal so it is also very important that you stick with name brands that have trusted experience in the marketplace.
We are also aware that new companies do deserve a chance to create a name for themselves, but when it comes to fire, we simply rather err on the side of safety than take any unnecessary risks.
C) Material of the Griddle
Most griddles are made of cast iron, chrome, carbon steel, and aluminum. Cast iron and stainless steel are the preferred surfaces for flat-top griddle grills. They are an excellent choice due to their durability and availability.
We strongly recommend cast iron griddles as they can hold a lot of heat, which is essential in cooking meals faster and more evenly. The downside to cast iron is it requires much more maintenance and can be tougher to clean if not maintained properly.
There are even some cooking surfaces today that are enamel coating giving a glass like finish. This type of cooking surface was designed for easy cleanup and does not require any seasoning at all.
At the end of the day, we are still recommending going with cast iron and learning how to properly maintain it. With cast iron, you’ll be able to get the best bang for the buck, and when properly cared for, should last you a lifetime.
D) Heat Distribution
Heat distribution is essential in cooking. Therefore, this is also an important factor when it comes to choosing the griddle for you and your family. This isn’t as straight forward a matter to tackle, because there are 3 variables in this equation.
First is the cooking surface, second the burners themselves, and third is software. Cooking surface we’ve already discussed, so let’s just assume you already made your decision on the cooking surface. Honestly, no matter which material you choose, all the different metals will distribute heat pretty evenly, otherwise manufacturers wouldn’t choose those materials to begin with.
The burners are probably the most critical element here. Their shape, the number of perforations for flame delivery, their ability to channel gas evenly will all affect their performance. When looking at burners, you want to make sure you know the BTUs each burner is capable of producing as well as how evenly distributed the perforations are. Avoid burner designs that lack coverage across the entire cooking surface. It will cause uneasy heat distribution across your cook top.
Lastly, is software. Appliances are getting smarter and smarter today, and grills are no exception. Many grills have software to create and control cooking zones across the surface. This can be very beneficial for being able to sear a steak on one side while keeping vegetables warm on the other side.
If budget is not a concern, we recommend you look for flat top grills that do have this level of zone control.
E) Grease Management System
Some of the best griddle grills have a front or rear grease tray, allowing excess oils to slide down and ensuring you do not intake a lot of fats. We strongly recommend you do spend a little more to find a system with a great grease management system. The grease port should be easily accessible yet not cause you to lose your food on accident. It should be designed in such a way that hot oils don’t spill on you as you are trying to move it around.
Rear facing ports are highly recommended from our experience since you push hot dirty oils away from you, rather than towards you. Even though front trays can be more convenient, we like the rear grease trays better.
We hope you found value in this article and that it has helped you answer some questions you may have had about the flat top grill. It is truly a versatile cooking appliance featuring a flat cooking surface, typically made of steel or chrome.
Unlike traditional grills, the flat top grill offers even heat distribution and precise temperature control, making it ideal for a variety of cooking styles, such as grilling, searing, sautéing, and more.
Flat top grills are available in gas or electric versions and come in various sizes and styles to fit any outdoor space. They are easy to use, easy to clean, and offer features like multiple burners, side shelves, and built-in thermometers, making them a popular choice for smart cooks.
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