Are You a Grill Master, or a Griddle Guy?
If you’re trying to define the differences between the two, let me handle that for you.
The main difference between grills and griddles is the way that heat is dispersed, and how it cooks the food. Grills generally use direct heat (charcoal and gas fire), while griddle use indirect heat (hot metal with no direct heat source).
I wish it were that simple, but it’s not. Let’s go over all the details.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of grill vs. griddle, we got you covered:
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The Disparity in Temperature Ranges
Griddles just aren’t as powerful as grills. A griddle is an electric, plug-in appliance that can maybe, maybe get up to about 425° F, and it’s different from an electric grill, which can hit about 500° F if you get a top-tier model.
But griddles just don’t have that kind of power behind them, and that’s okay. They’re designed for smaller tasks. You’re not going to get a serious set of grill marks from a griddle.
Temperature Control Zones
It’s easier to control the temperature on a griddle than it is on a grill.
Griddles are like gas grills and electric grills in the sense that you just turn a knob, and voila, the heat is down.
Because griddles use indirect heat instead of direct heat, the metal flat top takes a little while to actually cool down when you lower the temperature, but it gets the job done all the same.
When it Comes to Cleaning
In this instance, I would rather clean a griddle than a grill. Griddles use non-stick surfaces, which are either made of some kind of teflon or a stronger material.
Teflon is bad, first and foremost. There’s a reason why you don’t see much of it anymore.
Griddles are easy to clean because the non-stick surface does its best to repel food waste and grease. It’s like the griddle does part of the work for you.
You can pour water on a hot griddle to clear up most of the grease for you, which is pretty convenient. Everything drips into a grease trap, and while they’re easy to overfill, some diligence will ensure this doesn’t happen.
With grills, you have grates to clean. You have to bring a brush up and down each grate, and work to get all the soot and gunk off of the lid’s interior, the basin, and you have an ash bin to empty.
If you don’t have an ash bin, then you have burners that ended up getting grease on them. It’s a lot more to clean, and there’s no grease trap to put it all. It’s up to you.
With any non-stick surface, you have to be more careful than with a cast iron grill grate. You can’t use a wire brush and just scrape it clean.
Griddles also limit the types of utensils you’re allowed to use. Ideally, you will be using plastic or silicone tools with your griddle to easily get food up, and prevent scratching the surface.
Grills? You can just scrape them repeatedly, unless you have a porcelain-enameled grate, that is.
Even then, they’re still easy to clean with a bit of force, but with griddles and non-stick surfaces, you have to be a lot more careful.
Griddle Plates for Your Grill
Hybrid time. You can get a griddle plate, and drop it on the grate of your charcoal, gas, pellet or Kamado grill.
It’s basically just a big metal disc that transfers the direct heat into indirect heat, by raising the temperature of the metal until it’s ready to be cooked on.
Griddle plates are excellent if you’re like me, and you look for an excuse to grill everything.
You can grill eggs without worrying about them sticking too much, diced vegetables, hash browns; anything loose that would slip through the grates on your standard grill rack.
Be careful if the grill is already on and the fire is roaring, but keep in mind that you can use non-stick olive oil or coconut oil sprays with your griddle plate if you’re making something messy.
Griddle plates are excellent for versatile cooking, they’re just a pain to get up again.
Most griddle plates are just drop-and-go—you pop them on the grate, and you have to wait for it to cool down again before you can remove it.
There are no handles.
You could probably wedge a grill fork underneath the edge and prop it up, but it’s better to just let it cool down on its own.
What Should You Exclusively Cook on a Griddle?
Breakfast foods are best served on the griddle, like pancakes.
It’s very difficult to make pancakes come off of a charcoal grill without them tasting quite awful. A griddle isn’t going to add smoke to the otherwise sweet flavor of pancake batter.
Fried dough is another tough one to make on the grill outside.
Possible, but not worth the extra hassle since the edges can burn very easily. I wouldn’t cook a panini or a grilled cheese on the grill outside, since it’s best to have consistent golden brown toasty marks on the outside of the bread.
I like how inconsistent the grill can be when it comes to the aesthetics of food, but it’s just not the best course of action for every dish on the planet.
I will say that when it comes to just browning some ground beef, a griddle actually works wonders.
The grease trap will capture all of the runoff, and it’s simple to clean up/drain. On a grill, even if you make a food shield or you use a cast iron pan, you’re running a big risk of a grease fire.
That means more flare-ups, and a higher chance of burning the rest of the food that you’re cooking as well.
What Should You Exclusively Cook on a Grill?
Meats and fish. Griddles will make fish soggy, and while your chicken might still be nice and moist, it’s going to taste awfully unflavored.
The grill is the best place to cook these because it allows just enough moisture to be sapped out, and doesn’t leave food feeling saturated.
You couldn’t pay me to ruin a good steak by cooking it on the griddle, either.
The natural sugars and carbohydrates found in steak is what creates that nice, crispy crust on the outside when you sear it. That’s completely lost on a griddle; you won’t be able to do it the same way.
Grills allow the temperature to be up to high that the rapid melting of fat and change of the carbohydrates allows the exterior to get that tantalizing color and flavor.
I’m not a fan of vegetables off the griddle.
There’s just something bland about them, especially if you used any kind of oil or marinade to soak them in.
When they come off the grill, you’re able to remove a lot of the moisture in tougher vegetables, like asparagus and cauliflower, which would otherwise ruin the dish.
Nobody’s mouth ever waters for soggy vegetables, you know?
With a griddle plate, you can still cook plenty of things, like bacon and eggs or a good hash. Griddles almost do a good job at those things, but they end up feeling a bit lackluster.
After having bacon off the grill, even though it’s only on there for a few minutes, I can’t even pan fry it anymore. It just doesn’t come out anywhere near as good.
Which One Will Work Best for Me?
Now, that’s a tough one to say. I prefer the grill, but it depends on the person.
You can ask yourself these questions to see which one is best suited for your needs.
- Do you enjoy cooking indoors more than you enjoy cooking outside?
- Are sear marks something you actually enjoy seeing on your food?
- Do you eat meat three or more times a week?
- Are you a big breakfast person?
- Do you have the time (or money) to start up a charcoal grill?
- Do you have the ability to keep propane tanks constantly filled(*)?
The short version: griddles are convenient and don’t require you to go outside, but don’t work well on a wide variety of meats. Grills can take a little more time to get set up, more money for fuel, but create better flavors for meat and vegetables.
It’s Time to Decide
Grills are the obvious choice in my book, but griddles definitely have their place.
If it’s raining out and you don’t like grilling in crappy weather, then a griddle is a good way to emulate grilling while being indoors. At least, as best as you can.