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You might not have been expecting to learn about griddles on a BBQ website, but we wanted to make sure you thought of every possibility for your outdoor kitchen. This handy guide should help educate you on all your options.
Flat top grills can be used for a lot of different cooking techniques, and they actually pair really well with built-in gas grills. Keep reading to see what you should look for in a griddle if you want to make your outdoor kitchen even more versatile.
Like the other types of grills, you'll need to decide what configuration makes the most sense for your flat top grill. As we mentioned above, flat tops pair well with other types of grills so it may be helpful to think about what features your current grill has and how you can supplement those with a griddle
A built-in gas griddle is an aesthetically pleasing way to add versatility to your outdoor cooking space, and your guests will love watching you work. Hibachi, anyone? It is harder to clean a built-in griddle than other configurations, so you should keep that in mind as well.
Freestanding gas griddles put on wheeled carts give you the freedom to move around that a built-in flat top can’t give you. They’re easy to move, which also makes them easier to clean and easier to move to storage when not in use. When you start considering fuel type, please keep in mind that most freestanding griddles use propane, but there are units that can use natural gas as well. Of course, if you go with natural gas, you’re going to be much more limited in moving your griddle around.
Gas griddles are great companions for camping, road trips, and tailgating. If you want the flexibility to cook on the go, a portable gas griddle might be for you. Just make sure you choose a lightweight one if you plan to be transporting it a lot!
As we briefly touched on above, the type of fuel your griddle takes is going to affect mobility, but you’ll also have to consider things like the installation process and how you’ll take care of refueling. Let us break down the two fuel types below so you can decide if propane or natural gas makes the most sense for you.
Again, propane is the most common fuel type associated with flat top gas grills. A benefit to using a propane tank is you have more flexibility to move around the yard, instead of being stuck wherever the natural gas line is. If you don’t already have a natural gas line, you’ll need a professional to install one, and that can get pretty pricey. On the flip side, propane tanks can be safely connected without a professional’s help. That said, you’ll always have to be aware of how much fuel you have on hand, because no one likes to run out halfway through meal prep! Luckily, it’s easy for you to exchange or refill tanks at hardware stores, even though it does require a bit of a time commitment.
If you do already have a natural gas line, it might make more sense to just use that with your griddle. You will need a professional to set up the connection, but after that you won’t have to worry about running out of fuel (nor the hassle of transporting tanks to the hardware store to get them exchanged or refilled). Again, you’re not going to have that mobility factor if you’re tied to a natural gas line, but if you were planning on getting a built-in unit, you won’t really need to worry about that.
The next consideration you should make is what size griddle best matches your needs. As with any grill, you’ll want to consider how many people you usually cook for, the maximum number you’d cook for, and how often you’d cook for each of those groups of people. Remember, you don’t have to use the whole cooking space all the time, but you can’t make more cooking space magically appear later, so you might want to err on the larger side. The plus of doing that is you’ll have more cooking zones available to you on a bigger flat top, but you should know that cooking zones typically aren’t all that pronounced on griddles anyway.
A small griddle is going to have a cooking surface that is a maximum 26 inches wide with either one or two burners. If you’re measuring in 4-inch pancakes, you should be able to prepare about 9-16 of them at one time. So, this size makes sense for smaller families. As a side note: you should also keep in mind that just because a griddle is smaller, does not mean it’s not as powerful as a larger model, so no need to fret about performance.
Most models are going to fall in the medium category with a cooking surface between 27 and 33 inches wide and one to four burners (most have two). In terms of pancakes, you can expect to prepare around 18 to 33 at a time - so medium is perfect for a larger family or a very small group of friends.
Large flat top grills are not as easy to find, but they’re out there if you need them. These have cooking surfaces between 34 and 42 inches wide with up to six burners. That’s enough room for about 40 pancakes at once. If you’re always hosting brunch for larger groups of people, this might be the size for you.
We’ve broken flat tops up into three different categories - Luxury, Premium, and Practical - based on features available, quality of the product, and overall performance. Keep reading to see which classification makes the most sense for your needs.
Luxury flat tops are the best of the best with the best features and constructed from the highest quality of materials. If for some reason anything happens, most of them have a lifetime warranty. Performance-wise, griddles in this class will have the widest temperature ranges but also be able to maintain consistency better than other classes.
Griddles in the Premium class are not top-of-the-line, but they’re still high quality, made of durable materials like 304, commercial-grade stainless steel. They come with great warranties, some of which are lifetime warranties. These are going to be dependable, even, and consistent, and you’ll still have the chance to add plenty of accessories to the models in this classification.
Your bank account is going to love the griddles in the Practical category, but they’re not as high of quality as the other classes. These models are still going to be decently reliable and consistent, but there are more limitations in terms of extra features and variations in size. They’ll still do a decent job retaining heat, with an adequate temperature range. However, they’ll be constructed from lower quality materials - usually painted and stainless steel - and warranties are much shorter, usually not lasting more than 10 years.
We highly recommend having a griddle lid to keep your cooking surface clean and protect it from damage. What’s the fun in a cooktop you can’t use?! Some brands include lids with the flat top itself, but other ones it may be an additional cost for you. On rare occasions, you can find vinyl coverings for griddles.
Remember when we mentioned hibachi? Accessories you’ll need to get a proper hibachi experience include squeeze bottles and long-handled spatulas. The squeeze bottles will make it easier to avoid burns from dancing liquids when you oil the cooking surface. The spatulas will make it so you can prepare the food from a farther (and safer) distance.
Another great accessory is a melting dome. Not only can you use this to quickly melt cheese over a burger, but you can also steam food on your griddle with it!
The last thing you should think about investing in is a good set of cookware. This will give you the opportunity to use even more food preparation techniques. However, make sure your cookware is made of stainless steel. If it’s cast iron, your steel cooktop is going to get scratched over time, with iron deposits that will rust and destroy your griddle in the process.
We know we’ve given you a lot to think about for your next flat top gas griddle, but if you still have questions, our experts are all ears! Please feel free to reach out if you still need help deciding what griddle is going to be right for you. We’d be happy to talk you through the process.