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Griddle vs. Grill: The Good and The Bad

June 23, 2020 9 min read

Griddle vs. Grill: The Good and The Bad

Griddling vs grilling. Grills vs griddles. These are cooking terms that you'll hear being thrown around any kitchen, but what do they actually mean? Griddles and grills are two types of cooking equipment that are indispensable to chefs, but despite their somewhat confusing names and seemingly similar cooking methods, they couldn't be more different!

For starters, griddles are flat, and grills are ridged, but there's so much more to it than this. In this article, we decided to unravel the mystery behind griddles and grills, as we ask the ultimate question, which is better: griddle or grill?

What exactly is a griddle?

Let's keep things simple and start by answering the obvious questions first. What exactly is a griddle?

The easiest thing to remember is that a griddle is flat. A griddle is a large, flat cooking surface that's ordinarily rectangular in shape. The flat surface is made from metal, either cast iron or stainless steel. The metal cooking surface is heated from below, which produces a dry heat that cooks the food in its own juices, or in the oil that's on top of the griddle.

The griddle can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but the most commonly recognized type of griddle will be found in restaurants. It's often called a 'hot plate', rather than a griddle, and it's where you'll see burgers, sandwiches, and other tasty goodies being fried up using the classic griddle cooking method that fills the food with flavor!

Outdoor BBQs or cookers might have a griddle plate that can be attached. The principle is the same. The coal or gas-powered flames heat up the metal plate, allowing you to griddle your food on it.

Griddle pans are also a wonderful invention to have in your home kitchen. These smaller griddles are a great substitute for the large hotplates you find in restaurants, allowing you to cook up restaurant-worthy burgers in the comfort of your own kitchen. Griddle pans can be used on your stovetop and can be directly heated using either gas or electricity.

What's the best temperature for a griddle?

The optimum temperature for a griddle is 350°F, which allows food to cook gently, rather than being seared.

There are so many delicious things to make on a griddle, and the cooking process is often seen as fairly healthy because you cook the food in its own juices with just a dash of added oil. In fact, the food is essentially baked in these juices, which really helps to hold in all that delicious flavor, especially if you're cooking some sumptuous burgers or sizzling sausages.

Key griddle takeaways

Let's quickly summarize the key points that make a griddle a griddle:

  • Griddles are flat.
  • Griddles have a metal cooking surface.
  • Griddles are often rectangular.
  • Griddles use dry heat and help to cook food in their own fat.
  • Commonly used to cook pancakes or breakfast items such as fried eggs, sausages, or hash browns.
  • Optimum cooking temperature of 350°F.

What exactly is a grill?

A grill is a metal cooking surface that is composed primarily of raised ridges. These ridges are designed to funnel oils and fats away from the food itself, and allow a more direct heat to be applied to the food, which sits on top of the ridges.

Grills can come in the form of a grill plate or a grill pan, but you'll most likely know them from large outdoor BBQs. They are commonly used for cooking in backyards and can be gas, electric, or goal powered. Outdoor grills make a lot of smoke, which is why food that is grilled will have that smoky flavor and charcoal texture to it.

Outdoor grills can't be used inside, though, as they just make too much smoke for them to be safe. They need a lot of ventilation, and you just can't get that in a kitchen. Grill pans are the best way to replicate that outdoor flavor indoors, as these and have raised ridges and can be used on a stovetop.

Grill pans collect the juices and oils in the bottom of the pan, where they continue to sizzle and cook and can still add to the flavor of the food.

Grills are perfect for cooking meats, vegetables, and seafood in a healthy way, as much of the oil and fats drain off. You can marinate the food too, for an extra burst of flavor. Grilled chicken, grilled salmon, grilled shrimp, grilled sausages; these are all popular items that cook well on a grill!

What's the best temperature for a grill?

The optimum temperature for cooking on a grill is 400°F or above, which allows you to sear those meats and vegetables at a high temperature and to give them those delicious charcoal-like scorch marks.

Key grill takeaways

Let's quickly summarize the key points that make a grill a grill:

  • Grills have raised ridges that act as the cooking surface.
  • Grills have a metal cooking surface, that's not flat.
  • Grills are often large and used outdoors.
  • Oil drips off between the ridges of a griddle.
  • Commonly used to BBQ meats and vegetables.
  • Dark, stripey scorch marks are a common sign that your food has been grilled!
  • Optimum cooking temperature of 400°F.

What's the difference between a grill and a griddle?

There are a lot of similarities between griddles and grills, and we aren't just talking about their names (although some might argue that a griddle is just a grill with a flat top!).

But there are also lots of key differences to consider when you're looking at griddle vs grill. It's really the differences that we are most concerned about here, as it's the differences that help to cook your food in a specific way and leave it with specific flavors and tastes.

Griddles are flat; grills are not flat!

The biggest difference is the most obvious difference. Griddles are flat, and grills are not flat. A griddle has a smooth cooking surface, while a grill has raised ridges. The ridges allow the juices and oils to fall between the gaps in the grill plate.

Now, if you are using a BBQ style cooker outdoors, then a grill plate might have gaps that allow the flames to directly cook the food. This can give your food that traditional, smoky flavor. You don't get this with a griddle plate, even if you're cooking over coals. On the flip side, though, a griddle plate allows you to keep more of the flavor that comes from the juices in, as the flat cooking surface helps the food to cook in its own juices.

A grill pan is sort of a combination of the two because the oils and fat drip down between the raised ridges but are caught in the bottom of the pan, where they can continue to add flavor. Grill pans are great for using indoors if you don't have access to an outdoor grill. This can really help if you're deciding between an outdoor griddle vs grill!

Grilling gives meat and vegetables that scorched, charcoal look, whereas griddling doesn't. The raised ridges allow you to apply a short burst of high heat directly onto the food, which leaves those trademark scorch marks behind. Griddles tend to be used at slightly lower cooking temperatures, at medium heat, while grills are best used at a higher temperature.

The end products can be totally different. Using a griddle will cook your food slower (more like baking or roasting), while using a grill will cook your food faster, at a higher temperature (think of flame grilling or searing a steak). Griddles retain more of the original flavor of the food, while grilling will give the food a smokier flavor.

So there are a lot of differences, even if they can be subtle. The great thing is though if you can't decide between a flat top vs grill, then you can get a cast iron reversible griddle. These days, many griddle pans come with grills on the other side, allowing you to seamlessly switch between the two styles of cooking. It's flat on one side, with raised ridges on the other.

Equally, many outdoor BBQs and cookers will also have removable and interchangeable grill plates and griddle plates, which you can switch around as you please. Cook burgers on the griddle, then switch out to cook up some chicken breasts on your grill plate.

Key differences between griddle vs grill

There's a few major, and many more subtle differences between griddles and grills, here's a quick summary:

  • Griddles are flat, grills have raised ridges.
  • Grills cook at a higher heat than griddles.
  • Griddles 'bake' food whereas grills sear and scorch.
  • Griddles are more commonly found inside, grills outside.
  • Grills give food a smoky, BBQ flavor outside. Griddles do not.
  • Griddles work for pancakes; grills do not work for pancakes!

Food: what are griddles used for?

Okay, so we've looked at the physical differences between griddles and grills, but what exactly can you cook on a griddle that you can't cook on a grill?

A lot of things it turns out.

Griddles are flat, so that makes them perfect for pancakes and eggs. These are two items you can't cook on a grill, because the surface won't be flat!

Griddles are also great for cooking juicy burgers, and while you're flipping your meat patties, you can also brown your burger buns and melt your cheese.

Food: what are grills used for?

Grills are traditionally used for grilling up meat for the summer BBQ, but they cook vegetables and seafood wonderfully as well.

You can cook burgers and sausages on a grill, although we always prefer our burgers on a griddle rather than on a grill. Grilled chicken breasts are delicious, while all sorts of vegetables, including mushrooms and bell peppers, are absolutely delicious when cooked on a grill.

Seared steaks, cooked at high temperatures, or often flame-grilled, are a classic way to cook up meat on the grill top.

Outdoor griddle vs grill

Outdoor griddles aren't quite as common as indoor griddles, but they work really well. Likewise, outdoor grills are usually more common than indoor grills.

Grills create a whole lot of heat and smoke, especially if you're cooking BBQ style, so you really need a large backyard or a rooftop where you can safely grill.

While outdoor grills and griddles are great for cooking, they aren't the most practical. If you don't have space or ventilation, they aren't easy to make use of.

Griddle pans vs grill pans

A fantastic solution for anyone who doesn't have room for a large, heavy outdoor grill or outdoor griddle, is a much more practical and compact griddle pan or grill pan.

Often made from durable cast iron, these pans are perfect for bringing the grill indoors. You can replicate the outdoor, smoky flavors and scorch marks by using high temperatures and smoky spices such as paprika.

Indoor pans are fantastic backups too, just in case it starts raining and you can't host that garden party because of the weather!

Griddle vs grill FAQ

Which is easier to clean?

Most chefs or kitchen hands will quickly tell you that a griddle is much easier to clean than a grill. They aren't wrong, and the flat smooth surface of a griddle is so much easier to wipe down than the raised ridges of a grill.

Grills can be much greasier and much more oily to clean up because all of the juices and fats that pool as they drip off the food that's cooking.

Do griddles and grills need seasoning?

This really depends on the griddle or grill you are using. Many grill and griddle pans come preseasoned, but you can also keep the seasoning topped up by heating oil in the pans.

Seasoning can add a new level of flavor to your pans, too, particularly if they are made from cast iron. The seasoning retains many of the flavors that drip off the food you're cooking, for instance.

Can you grill on a griddle?

You might find that you need to grill food on a griddle. If that's the case, then it's not too difficult. You can reach the same high temperatures as on a grill; you just can't achieve those scorch marks easily.

Many of the foods that you grill, you can also cook on a griddle.

Can you griddle on a grill?

The other way around, though, isn't quite so easy. It's much more difficult to griddle on a grill. The simple physics behind this is that a grill has those raised edges.

Yes, you can cook burgers and sausages on a grill, but you can't cook them in the same way, baking in their own juices. You definitely can't grill eggs or pancakes!

Which is healthier?

The answer to this question depends on what you're cooking and how healthy your ingredients are. A double cheeseburger dripping in grease is never going to be healthier than grilled salmon with asparagus.

If you are cooking up really greasy or fatty foods, then grilling them will help to remove a lot of that excess fat as it drips down the raised ridges rather than baking the food itself, as happens when you use a griddle.

If you're not using too much oil, though, then you can cook up healthy food on a griddle too.

Is a griddle better than a grill?

You don't necessarily need to choose! You can always get yourself a grill pan with a reversible grill, or you can invest in different grill and griddle plates for your outside cookers.

The reality is that neither is better than the other. For many chefs, it's a matter of personal choice, and the biggest factor will be the sort of flavoring and cooking style you're trying to achieve.

For some items, such as pancakes, a griddle is better than a grill. But for many more items, it's down to choice!

Griddles and grills might sound the same and be easily confused, but the reality is that they couldn't be more different. They both cook food in their own unique way, and both griddles and grills both have their own advantages and uses. Why not bookmark our guide to grill vs griddle, for future reference?

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