Are Outdoor Griddles Really Worth It?

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With the warm weather returning and the pandemic hopefully ending, many people are grilling food outside. Should you get a grill, or is a griddle a better idea? In fact, with all the hype out there, is a Blackstone griddle really worth it?

A griddle is not the same as a grill and is a better choice for many types of food. Which is better depends on what food you want to cook and whether you prefer the taste of grilled food. A griddle is not one-sidedly better – if you know the differences, you might go with a grill after all.

TLDR: Yes! An outdoor griddle is definitely worth it. Between cooking surface real-estate, heat zones, and versatility of food options, an outdoor griddle is worth your time and money as it delivers excellent value to the backyard chef.

What is a griddle?

While a grill has bars with space between them, a griddle has a solid metal plate to cook your food on. A griddle is similar to a frying pan or a large hotplate. There is a heat source directly under the metal plate, and you cook your food on top of it.

Unlike frying pans or hotplates, griddles are usually rectangular. Many griddles are exclusively for outdoor use. Others are large, stationary, and for restaurants, or are small, electric, and for indoor use.

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Griddles come in all different shapes and sizes. Outdoor griddles usually use gas or charcoal, but there are also electric griddles. A low-quality griddle may use thin metal that will warp because of the heat and stop being level.

What is a grill?

A grill does not use a flat metal surface as a griddle does. Some grills have bars with spaces between them. Other grills use a solid metal surface that is ridged rather than flat. Most outdoor barbeque grills use bars with spaces between them, sometimes exposing the food to flames.

Open grills that expose the food to flame can cook very tasty food. Other people do not like flame-licked food and prefer to indirectly heat the metal and the food with no direct contact.

The spots where the hot metal touches the food are burned black and add to the food’s flavor. No one wants to eat badly burned food, but if you burn only a small amount of it, it has a distinctive barbecue taste. Your house will fill up with smoke if you try to use an outdoor grill inside. Restaurants have plenty of air vents to clear the smoke away.

Grill VS griddle: what are the differences between the two?

The single biggest difference is that the griddle uses a flat surface. Grills never have a closed, flat surface. Another difference is that the flame sometimes touches the food with a grill.

This is never true with griddles, where the flame only heats the metal and cooks the food indirectly. Griddles do not always use flames – some do, but others use electricity to heat the plate.

Griddles heat the food evenly. This can either be better or worse, depending on what you prefer. Sometimes, the uneven heat of a grill gives the food a richer taste. The grease does not drain away with a griddle as it does with a grill, as the surface is too flat.

Is either of the two healthier?

Many people consider grilling to be healthier because the grease drains away if you grill your food. This is not necessarily true. The idea that meat and fat are bad for you is at least mostly false and is less and less supported by doctors.

Keeping the grease and fat with your food can make it tastier, and it probably isn’t bad for your health either. Some people may prefer the taste of less greasy food, but not others.

Is a griddle better if you want to cook for many people?

Yes, a griddle is usually better in this situation. Electric griddles are also perfectly fine to use indoors. Cooking indoors is convenient if you want to cook for many friends. It is also easier to find a griddle with a large surface area.

Get a griddle if you want to cook holiday meals and have enough real-estate to cook for the entire crowd.

Which one is easier to clean?

A griddle, with its flat surface, is easier. Cleaning a griddle is only as hard as cleaning a frying pan; cleaning a grill takes longer. If you spray a griddle before you use it, the food won’t stick, and it will be even easier to clean than a frying pan.

Do some people prefer food from a grill to food from a griddle?

It depends on everyone’s different tastes, and it depends on what kind of food you are cooking. If you cook large pieces of meat or vegetables such as corn, a grill is a good idea.

The grill will cook the food unevenly, turning some of it brown or black and giving the food a varied flavor. When people think of outdoor barbecues, they usually think of food cooked on grills and not griddles. Food from a grill has a more distinctive barbecue flavor.

Can food from a griddle also be tastier?

Absolutely! It doesn’t taste like what people expect from barbecued food, but it can taste even better. You can also cook many things on a griddle that you would never cook on a grill.

You can use an outdoor griddle to make delicious pancakes, for example, that you could never make with a grill. You can also use a griddle for cooking eggs at an outdoor barbecue. Keeping the grease close to the food rather than letting it drip into the fire can also improve the flavor.

What can you cook on outdoor griddles?

Griddles are great for breakfast food in general. You can make hash browns, french toast, bacon, and stuffed bread dishes on a griddle. There are countless breakfast dishes from all over the world that you can cook on a griddle.

You can cook anything from a simple grilled cheese sandwich to more complex Japanese Teppanyaki dishes on a griddle.

Griddles are better for smaller pieces of meat and smaller vegetables. While a grill can make steak or corn taste better, a griddle is better for burgers and other vegetables.

You can also use a griddle to heat up buns and bread for burgers and sandwiches. You can heat up both the meat and the bread at the same time.

What types of metal are better for griddles and grills?

Less expensive griddles are cast iron. More expensive griddles are made of stainless steel and use thicker metal. A good griddle should be stainless steel and about 3/4s of an inch thick.

Such griddles are relatively heavy, but they last for a long time. The stainless steel won’t rust, and it won’t warp either. Stainless steel also holds the heat very well. Don’t get a thinner griddle because it is lighter or cheaper – it won’t last as long.

Some electric griddles also use metal coated in porcelain. Porcelain-coated griddles are easier to clean than others as it is a stick-resistant coating. If you get a griddle made of plain cast iron or non-stainless steel, take precautions to prevent rust. Coat your griddle in vegetable oil after you use and clean it, and it won’t rust for a long time.

What is the mallard reaction?

The mallard reaction is the scientific term for meat turning brown when it is exposed to flame. It is a chemical reaction involving sugars and amino acids already in the food, which won’t happen unless the food gets hot enough.

All kinds of food will turn brown when heated. Bread, cookies, marshmallows, bacon, steaks – it is all the same. The mallard reaction does not always occur when food is cooked.

If food is cooked slowly, it may not turn brown. If you cook food slowly at 250 degrees, it may not turn brown the way it will if you cook it quickly at 400 degrees. You can cook food thoroughly and even overcook food without turning it brown.

The mallard reaction can make your food tastier. Searing meat at a high temperature can make the outside tasty and crispy. The trick is to brown the food without burning it too much.

While a grill requires a higher minimum temperature than a griddle, it is not necessarily better for browning food. You can make a griddle very hot as well, more than hot enough for the mallard reaction to occur. Any one of grilling, baking, frying, or roasting may cause this reaction.

What is caramelization?

Caramelization is what happens to sugar when it is heated. If you heat up sugar, its chemical makeup changes, and it becomes brown caramel, which is tastier than simple sugar.

This is not the same as the mallard reaction, which can happen to meat and other sugar-free foods. If you cook onions on a griddle, both the mallard reaction and caramelization happens.

Griddle pros and cons

Pros:

  • Can cook many foods that you could never cook with a grill
  • Easier to clean than a grill
  • Safer than a grill because there is no risk of flare-ups
  • Many people find food from a griddle tastier
  • Somewhat easier to use than a grill

Cons:

  • Some people prefer the taste of grilled food
  • Grilled food is what people expect at a barbecue
  • The metal can warp if the griddle is of low quality
  • The grease doesn’t drain away

Grill and griddle safety Tips

If you are using a grill with an open flame, a grill is more dangerous than a griddle. The biggest risk is fire. Barbecues lead to several thousand house fires every year.

Barbecues are nowhere near dangerous enough that people should avoid them. However, you have to take safety seriously. The open flames are more dangerous than people think.

1) Don’t use an outdoor grill on your patio

A patio doesn’t count as outside! It may keep the smoke out of your house, but it isn’t safe. Don’t use grills in courtyards, patios, or balconies.

2) Don’t leave your grill unattended

When your grill is lit, make sure someone is always near it. Make sure kids know that a grill is a fire hazard and that they must not knock it over when playing.

3) Don’t let your grill tip over

It may be convenient to move a grill when it is burning, but don’t do it. Make sure the grill is in the right spot before you light it. Never move a lit grill.

Also, make sure your grill is on flat ground. A grill on sloped grass can fall over when you least expect it.

4) Wear appropriate clothing

Don’t wear long, loose sleeves when using a grill. People are injured every year when their sleeve catches fire at a barbecue. A loose sleeve will droop into the flame.

5) Have safety equipment with you

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, and make sure your fire extinguisher will work. Check your fire extinguisher before the barbecue.

Water is not a good idea if you are putting out a barbecue fire. The grease will float on top of the water, and you can spread the flames if you pour water on it. Have a fire extinguisher, and maybe also a container of baking soda or a bucket of sand.

6) Check for leaks

This might be the most important tip. Nothing in barbecuing is more dangerous than a gas leak. Outdoor cooking causes more than 8000 reported fires every year.

Safety tips for griddles

While griddles are safer, gas griddles are still a safety hazard. Make sure you check your griddle for gas leaks and make sure you have a fire extinguisher with you, more on Griddle gases and safety here.

Use proper oven mitts when cooking with a griddle. Oil drops can sting you, and you can touch the hot metal. Remember that the whole griddle will get hot – not only the surface but also the sides.

When you are cleaning a griddle, remember that the griddle will stay hot for quite a while after you stop using it. Check the temperature first. Be careful with grease. If you are using a griddle on top of a stove element, grease can spill off and cause a fire, but be careful.

Electric griddles are the safest choice because there is so little risk of a fire. With an electric griddle, only the hot cooking surface can hurt you.