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Griddle vs Grill: Both Are Winners for Your Outdoor Kitchen

You’re ready to upgrade your outdoor cooking space and buy a new grill…but maybe you need a griddle instead? Many people are aware of the different types of grills and maybe even smokers, but they haven’t even heard about outdoor griddles. This is really a shame because some may end up using a griddle just as much or more than an outdoor grill.

Griddle vs Grill

Griddle vs Grill – What’s the difference?

It’s probably safe to say that most all consumers are familiar with the concept of a grill: It’s essentially a metal grate that sits over an open flame heat source where food is cooked. From that basic definition, the types, styles and prices vary widely.

Grills are great for adding the sought-after smoky taste to foods cooked outdoors. They are the top choice for cooking meats and poultry because fats and liquids fall through the grate and help sear the surface of the meat for optimum browning. Grills are also very versatile because they can be heated to very high temperatures so they mark meats with the iconic seared stripes and are hot enough to cook pizza. At the same time, they can be used at lower temperatures for roasting and smoking.

A griddle, on the other hand, is a big flat metal surface that sits over a heat source, with no slats or gaps. It’s basically like a giant frying pan outdoors, and, just as in your regular kitchen, you can cook almost anything on a griddle.

Which One Do I Need?

Opting for an outdoor griddle comes down to what you like to cook. With their large, flat cooking surface, griddles are most often used to prepare things you can’t cook on a traditional grill: Breakfast foods like eggs and pancakes, dishes like stir-frys, fried rice, vegetables and Mexican dishes are just a few examples. That said, you can still cook burgers, hot dogs and steaks and got sandwiches on a griddle. Just think about diners – they cook everything on one.

So which one should you choose? Actually, most consumers buy a griddle to go with a grill so that they can cook all sort of meals outside and enjoy the outdoors at breakfast, lunch and dinner time.

Types of Griddles

Just as with grills, there are several different types and ranges of price points that work for all types of budgets.

Dedicated griddles

Dedicated griddles are much like grills: They can be built-in, but the most common types are free-standing, come with their own cart and usually have wheels. These are typically the largest in size with the biggest cooking surface, making them ideal for those who regularly cook for a crowd. Have a big family? Imagine being able to do breakfast for the entire crew out on the deck or patio every weekend instead of messing up the kitchen. For entertaining, griddles can be ideal because you can easily grill meats and prepare other dishes on the griddle at the same time. Of the types of griddles available on the market, these will be the most expensive because of their size and construction – and any bells and whistles you may choose to have.

Portable gas griddles

For more modest cooking needs or a tighter budget, a smaller portable gas griddle is a great option. These are perfect for people who don’t use a griddle very often or want to be able to take it along on camping trips, or picnic outings or use them for tailgating. A portable gas griddle is also a good choice for a couple or small family. Some gas griddles are small enough to use on a table top and many models are fueled by small propane tanks.

Griddle insert

The most inexpensive and space-conscious choice is a griddle insert. This is actually a griddle surface that is purchased separately and used atop an existing grill. An insert may be the best choice for a small space where storage is an issue or for a limited budget. It’s also a good option for cooks who want the option but probably won’t use it very often. The insert can be used on a gas grill or a charcoal/wood fire.

Griddle Features to Consider

Size

Size was already mentioned with regard to the types of griddles available, but this factor should be a major driver of what type of griddle you buy. If you regularly cook for a crowd and purchase a small portable griddle or an insert, you’ll likely be unhappy with how long it takes you to cook enough food. ON the other hand, if you’re empty nesters who regularly cook for just two or four people, a big built-in or freestanding griddle may be overkill and cost more than you need to spend. Big families or people who entertain large groups will want to choose a griddle with about 5oo inches of cooking surface while small families can do with a more modest 300 square inches.

Number of burners

Just like grills, dedicated and portable griddles will have a number of burners under the cooking surface that create the heat. In general, the larger the cooking surface, the more burners you want to have to give you more even temperature control and help avoid cold spots. A higher number of burners also means that the griddle will heat up faster. The bottom line is that you want as much of the griddle’s cooking surface to heat as possible.

Quality construction

With regard to choosing a griddle, the material and construction considerations will be similar to those in choosing a grill: The better the quality of the materials, the longer the griddle will last. In general, chrome and stainless steel are the optimum choices for durability because they’re rust-resistant. Of course, these are also the most expensive types of griddle materials. More budget-friendly options may be coated aluminum or steel.

Extra Add-ons

 Some of the add-ons you’ll want to consider for a dedicated of are, again, similar to those you find on a gas grill: A shelf in the cart for added storage and hooks for hanging utensils are common and helpful extras. A cover will be key in helping to keep your griddle in good condition and last longer. Finally, there are griddle accessories for cooking that you might want to consider such as larger spatulas, grill or bacon press or a basting dome for meats.

Cost

It’s important to know what you want and need before you purchase a gas griddle because prices can range from affordable to expensive. For a general ballpark idea of price ranges, a small portable gas griddle typically runs about $100 to $200. Large freestanding dedicated models can cost as much as $500. And, at the top of the range, larger and built-in style griddles can cost into the thousands.

Ready to shop for a griddle? Here are a couple of options – one that’s a Cadillac version and a second that gives you lots of outdoor griddling bang for your buck.

Camp Chef 600 4-Burner Flat Top Propane Gas Grill – FTG600

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This is an ideal budget-friendly option for the outdoor cooking enthusiast with a good-sized family or who loves to entertain. Camp Chef’s 600 modes has a very large cooking surface of 604 square inches – enough to tackle a big family breakfast or a backyard party. It’s made from seasoned cold-rolled steel featuring a splash guard around the edge to help keep food on the surface.

The griddle heat evenly thanks to the four 12,000-BTU stainless steel burners, all contained in a powder-coated steel burner box. Each. Burners are individually controlled by a knob on the front, providing complete control of temperature regulation and throughout the cooking process. The edge of the griddle top has a grease tray, which funnels the drippings from food into the grease catch bucket. Moreover, the griddle surface will always be perfectly level because it has micro-adjust griddle levelers and the legs of the cabinet have levels that can be adjusted as well.

In addition to the main griddle surface, the cart includes two folding side shelves that are also made from powder-coated steel and give you plenty of extra room for prep or to hold items you need while cooking.

Last but certainly not least, the Camp Chef 600 comes with a full set of grill grates below the griddle plate so that you can switch to grilling up meats with those gorgeous grill marks that many people hunger for. A hose, regulator, and holding bracket are included for a 20-pound propane tank, which is not included. This griddle can also be changed to use natural gas by a licensed professional

Pros:

  • With 80+ percent five star reviews, buyers love the versatility of this griddle and praise how well the food comes out.
  • Many say this is the ideal companion to a smoker or kettle-style grill.

Cons:

  • The griddle must be removed in order to use the grill grates beneath. They cannot be used at the same time.
  • The griddle has no lid but a cover can be purchased separately.
  • A few people mentioned it would be nice if the grease drain hole was large enough to accept scrapings from the griddle top

Blaze Premium LTE 30-Inch Propane Gas Griddle With Lights

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With a lifetime warranty, you can’t go wrong with the Blaze Premium LTE 30-Inch Propane Gas Griddle With Lights. This freestanding griddle is versatile enough that you can cook just about anything for your family, from veggies to meats and everything in between.

The size is just right for a family, with its 495 square inches of cooking surface crafted from stainless steel. Underneath, the heat is powered by two commercial quality, U-shaped stainless steel burners, each of which puts out 18,000 BTUs. Starting up is a breeze too, because the griddle has a push and turn flame-thrower primary ignition with a backup flash tube secondary ignition. The built-in grease trough has a center hole that channels all the grease to the drip tray. And, when the sun goes down, Blaze’s signature SRL LED control knob illumination looks stylish and makes it easy to see the controls.

Made entirely from heavy-duty 304-grade stainless steel, the durable griddle comes on a cart that has two drawers for storing accessories and one large door to hide away a 20-pound propane tank. To help keep everything handy, the bottom drawer has a tray with seven removable containers for veggies or condiments. The drawer’s also insulated, so you can fill it with ice to keep food chilled and at the ready. When you’re finished, the drawer has a built-in drain for easy removal. Finally, the cart has heavy-duty casters that let you move the griddle at will.

Pros:

  • A heavy-duty lid makes it easy to protect the griddle.
  • Stainless steel construction means durability and many years of use.
  • Extras like the insulated drawer with drain and LED lighted knobs are nice.

Cons:

  • This grill is a high-end model.
  • At just under 500 square inches of cooking surface, it’s enough for a family but not as large as some other models.

Outdoor Built-In Grills

If you want to have a fully functional outdoor kitchen, a built-in grill is something to consider, especially if you want to have a griddle too. A built-in model is typically a bigger investment because they need to be installed into the proper type of outdoor counter – typically made from stone or concrete.

Why Choose a Built-in Grill?

Besides being the most stylish option for an outdoor kitchen, a built-in grill takes up less space than a freestanding grill. The more compact design means that you can probably fit one into a yard or patio that is too small for a full-size freestanding model. Built-in grills are made using the same high-quality materials as good, freestanding grills because they need to last. Finally, with built-in grills, there’s no cart to worry about or need to wheel anything around.

How to Choose an Outdoor Built-In Grill

A built-in gas grill is integrated into your outdoor kitchen whether it’s a modest size space or a large, top-of-the-line set-up. The nicest thing about a built-in outdoor kitchen is that it is very aesthetically pleasing and adds a luxurious element to your outdoor living space. Of course, this requires a larger budget and there are some things to consider when choosing a built-in grill for your new outdoor kitchen.

Size Matters

Whether your grill is a built-in style or not, size is the first consideration. When discussing size, this is the grill’s actual cooking area. You’ll never be happy with a grill that’s too small to accommodate the amount of food you typically cook.

Typically, the standard size of a gas grill – not the small portable kind —  will be somewhere between 400 and 500 square inches. This should serve the needs of the average size family and be fine for small get-togethers, Large families or people who entertain guests often will probably want to opt for something larger — at least 600 square inches.

In the case of a built-in grill, the overall size is also very important because it has to fit into a defined space. If you already have an outdoor kitchen and are just replacing the grill, the size dimensions will be predetermined. If you’re just designing your outdoor kitchen, ideally you want to have counter space on at least one side of the grill to set down food, platters and grilling necessities. Another detail to keep in mind is the weight of the grill you will be installing: The island construction. Has to be strong enough to support it safely.

Number of Burners

How many burners a grill has is important for any style, built-in or not. Because the burners provide all the heat, the BTU’s they put out will determine how high it can heat and the number of burners will determine how much control you have over the heat and how evenly the grill will cook. A large surface area with few burners means that you will have cold spots where the heat will not be high enough. More burners also mean that if you have a big grill but only want to cook a couple of things, you can use just a couple of the burners and not heat the entire huge grill.

Bells and Whistles

Today’s grills have loads of extras that are either automatically included in a particular model or that can be purchased as add-ons. Here, the only limitation is your budget. Some extras make cooking more fun while others are designed to make grilling easier and error-free. Some grills have LED-lighted control knobs or integrated lighting so that you can more easily grill after dark. Large, easy-to-see external temperature gauges make it simple to keep an eye on the cooking temperature, while smart probes that you control from your smart phone can free you up from hovering around the grill. Again, these aren’t necessities, but they sure are nice to have.

Lion Stainless Steel Built-In Natural Gas Grill

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With 647 square inches of cooking area, the Lion L75000 natural gas grill offers up a gourmet grilling experience that’s easy and reliable. This built-in grill is constructed from commercial grade stainless steel and will provide years of grilling pleasure. Its super-durable double layer, seamless welded steel grill head features polished edges for good looks as well as longevity.

Five Lion Quick Lite valves mean that you’ll have a fast, steady flame to start up, which is simple to do with the push-to-turn knob design. Inside, the grill has four cast stainless steel burners that create 60,000 BTUs of heat on the grilling surface. There’s also a 15,000-BTU infrared rotisserie burner. No matter what you’re cooking, you can easily monitor the temperature with a large external temperature gauge. This Lion grill includes plenty of nice extras too, such as the two interior lights that let you cook well after dark. It also includes rotisserie, cover, smoker box, griddle and griddle remover. With this one, you’ll have absolutely everything you need to lavishly feed family and friends.

Pros:

  • Buyers love the ease of use.
  • The grill includes some nice extras and even more upgrades are available for purchase separately.

Cons:

  • The grill starter is electric and needs wiring.
  • It’s very heavy and requires two people to put it in place.

Napoleon Prestige 500 Built-in Natural Gas Grill with Infrared Rear Burner

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For consistently exceptional cooking, the Napoleon Prestige PRO 500 has what you need. This built-in grill boasts 500 square inches of cooking area and an additional 260 square inches in the warming area, totaling 760 square inches of cooking area. The heat of the grill comes from the four stainless steel burners that put out up to 48,000 BTUs. All that power can be had at the touch of a button thanks to the flame ignition that quickly and easily starts it up.

All the grates are stainless steel and the dual-level self-cleaning sear plates vaporize the drippings, help control flare-ups and keep food moist. This particular grill also has an 18,000 BTU infrared burner in the back so that you can cook slowly using the rotisserie kit. Inside the hood, there’s an Accu-Probe temperature gauge, and the stainless steel end caps retain heat so it can perform like an oven too. Little extras that enhance your grilling experience include LED Spectrum Night Light control knobs that have color options and glow red when a burner is being used. Two interior lights illuminate the cooking surface making after-dark cooking much easier. Finally, there’s a full-width drip pan that makes clean up easy.

Pros:

  • The lid is hinged near the middle and when open it adds hardly any depth to the back of the grill
  • The stainless steel sear plates also help protect the burners and reduce flare-ups
  • Major components have a lifetime guarantee and other parts are warranted for 15 years.

Cons

  • Not entirely made from stainless steel.
  • Cannot be converted to natural gas.

When it comes to griddle versus grill, it’s hard to say which one wins out but it’s likely that you might want some form of both. If you’re planning the ultimate backyard kitchen consider complementing your choice grill with a griddle so you can enjoy all your meals in the great outdoors.