Why you should buy a flat-top grill over a traditional model. These units can cook steaks, burgers, hot dogs, and many other proteins. It can cook vegetables with ease and so much more! But what else can they do?
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- What can a Flat Top Grill Do?
- What to look for in a Flat Top Grill?
- Stainless vs Rolled Steel vs Cast Iron
- Best Tabletop Griddles
- Grilled Inserts
- Best Inexpensive Flat Top Grills
- Best Mid-Range Flat Top Grills
- Best High-End Flat Top Grills
- About Me
- Affiliate Disclosure
What about breakfast? Stir-fry? Little things? Runny things? Here’s where the limitations come in. Now, most people will say that they purchased their standard backyard grill to cook big meaty roasts, not for smaller every day dishes. But, there are times when both are needed. For this reason, many grill companies offer griddle accessories as part of the total package. Some gas grills even come standard with a griddle area. This might sound like a great option, except, these additions (and accessories) tend to be small. Clearly, the need resulted in the ultimate solution; a flat top griddle unit.
There is no arguing that flat-top grills have grown in popularity. These full griddle units represent a completely different approach to outdoor cooking, namely greater versatility. They can still cook a steak or grill burgers, but they can easily make pancakes, fry eggs, and provide the perfect space for small delicate items like shrimp and flaky fish. Buyers of these grills are looking for this functionality or something more specific, like traditional Teppanyaki cooking. Either way, these gas-powered griddles are here to stay.
Aftermarket griddles are available for those who don’t want a new outdoor cooker. Tabletop griddles are an excellent choice for those who need something small. There are inexpensive flat-top griddles, and then there are deluxe models with heavy stainless steel construction. Some are rectangular-shaped and have side and back walls to keep food on the cooking surface. Others are round and open. At this point, you might be wondering which one fits your needs. Let’s dig in and find out more about these grills.
What Can a Flat Top Grill Do?
As mentioned above, these outdoor griddles are capable of many things. While many balk at the loss of open-grate cooking, these units can perform similar grilling tasks. If your model has a lid, you can add smoke flavor to your food. What makes this style of grill stand out is that they perform tasks that traditional units don’t. Many consumers purchase flat-top grills because they can use them to cook non-barbecue items. Conversely, the standard backyard grill is fired up twelve times a year.
In the mood for breakfast? Eggs, pancakes, bacon, hash browns, you name it. A flat top grill will cook all of these items with ease. In fact, cooking times are faster and easier than a stovetop full of skillets. Full-sized flat-top griddles have a large working space and high heat capabilities. They are also designed to drain grease away, making fatty foods like bacon, a bit leaner.
Have you marveled at the Teppanyaki table grills at Japanese restaurants? That magical experience where your food is cooked skillfully at the table. You can do that (minus the fancy table). It might take some practice, but you can find incredible tutorials on YouTube to get you started. In no time, you will be building onion volcanos, cooking fried rice, steak and shrimp, and all the extras!
And yes, you can cook burgers and steaks on these units. After all, most of your favorite burger joints use flat-top grills. You will find is that you can add more variety to your burgers. Throw diced onions on the cooking surface. Place a ball of ground meat on top and squish it all together. Now you have an Oklahoma Onion Smash Burger!
What to look for in a Flat Top Grill?
The most important part of a flat-top grill is the cooking surface. More specifically, the weight of it. These grills are gas-powered, and while the controls are responsive, it is the mass that holds the heat. In fact, many of these grills have a heavier cooking surface than the rest of the grill combined. The cooking surface should be smooth, and must be seasoned before use. This is an essential part of maintaining a flat-top grill. Always follow the seasoning instructions exactly.
For freestanding flat-top grills, look for quality construction. The cart should be solid. These tend to be top-heavy cookers, and the legs must be strong and wide. For larger units, you want at least two burners, as this provides for heat variation. After all, you might need a hot zone and a cooler zone for the dishes you prepare. Try to avoid grills with too many burners since this becomes redundant. Most people will need at least two cooking zones. I recommend two to four burners. No more and no less.
Stainless vs. Rolled Steel vs. Cast Iron
When it comes to the cooking surface, you have some options. Most models out there have a rolled steel surface, and this is perfect. Rolled steel refers to a thick plate of polished steel. It is important that the cooking surface is smooth to prevent food from sticking. Rolled steel, however, will rust if improperly seasoned and exposed to the elements. Purchase a cover for your flat-top grill. Some models come with them, but if they don’t, then buy the cover for the grill. Properly treated, rolled steel can be kept outdoors and will remain in perfect condition for several years.
Stainless steel is a good option but a much more expensive metal. For this reason, stainless steel cooktops tend to be thinner. That means that they don’t hold as much heat. Heat retention is critical to this style of cooking. If you throw a large amount of cold food on a hot cooking surface and the temperature drops dramatically, the results won’t be ideal. Typically, you will find stainless steel griddle accessories for gas or charcoal grills. I have selected the best of them below.
When it comes to cast iron, be cautious. Many of the larger grill companies have perfect-fit griddles. These are swapped out for the standard cooking grates in the grill. The problem with them is that they are generally limited in space. Moreover, cast iron doesn’t have as smooth a surface and won’t allow for the same kind of cooking. Some cast iron griddles are porcelain coated. When done well, it is a good surface. When done poorly, it will chip away, exposing the metal below and leaving porcelain chips in your food.
Best Tabletop Griddles
Tabletop Griddles are portable units that can be stored away from the elements. These smaller units typically run off of disposable propane bottles but can be adapted to 20-pound propane tanks. The advantage of these over the griddles that fit in your grill is that they generate higher cooking temperatures. Also, they are less expensive than freestanding flat-top grills. The models I have chosen are all under $250. All have grease drainage and two burners.
Blackstone 22-Inch Portable Gas Griddle
With 330 inches of cooking space and 24,000 BTUs from two burners, the Blackstone 22-inch Griddle is quite powerful. Many portable gas griddles can’t generate this kind of power. Add the heavy rolled steel cooking surface, and this little model is as powerful as a full-sized flat-top grill. Most of the 32 pounds of this unit are in that cooktop. It balances weight with portability but doesn’t skimp on the power. Look to spend around $150USD for this portable griddle.
Camp Chef Versatop 2X Portable Gas Griddle
>Two gas burners producing a total of 16,000 BTUs heat the 425 square inch griddle space of the Camp Chef Versatop 2X. While this model doesn’t have the power of the Blackstone above, it still performs very well, and the additional space is a plus. The steel cooktop weighs 26 pounds, and the whole unit comes in at 39 pounds. Camp Chef is known for their modular designs, and this griddle can be fitted with a grill box or oven unit. So, it really can do it all. The Camp Chef VersaTop 2X sells for $240USD.
Royal Gourmet 18-Inch Portable Griddle
The least expensive portable griddle that I will recommend is this Model from Royal Gourmet. It has 221 square inches of cooking space and 12,000 BTUs, which gives it enough power. At 24 pounds in weight, this unit is probably the most portable of these three. On the one hand, I wouldn’t expect this unit to last for very long. On the other hand, at around $90USD it is the least expensive.
Many aftermarket griddles can be added to your grill. Generally, they are cast iron, and most of them are porcelain coated. You can check the manufacturer’s website to see if they offer this kind of accessory. A good example of this is the Griddle that Weber makes for the line of Genesis Gas Grills. You can also find similar products for Napoleon grills as well as nearly all of the higher-end grill makers. These griddles are suitable for cooking small food items or even putting the sear on a steak. However, they lack the size to do serious griddle cooking that the larger units can.
There is one product that I recommend as a grill accessory. The Little Griddle. These stainless steel griddles have plenty of space and are boxed in on the back and sides. They make great additions to an existing grill, and they are easy to clean and maintain. Remember to measure your grill before purchasing.
Little Griddle Stainless
The smallest and least expensive of the Lil’ Griddle products, this unit has an 18 by 13-inch cooking surface. Made from high-quality stainless and with a front grease tray, this unit is perfect for small gas grills.
With heavier construction and easy lift handles, this 14 by 16 inch Lil’ Griddle is a step up from the model above. While still limited in size, this one will fit most gas or charcoal grills.
Little Griddle Professional
At 25 by 16 inches, this model will convert most gas or large charcoal grills into a flat top. Make sure it fits before you buy, but if this is the route you want to go, this is the model for you.
Little Griddle Kettle
Specifically designed for kettle-style grills, this griddle has an 18-inch diameter, so you can put it on any size of the ever-popular Weber Kettle. And yes, you can use a griddle over charcoal.
Best Inexpensive Flat Top Grills
It doesn’t take a big investment to buy a good Flat Top Grill. I recommend keeping it simple in this price range. These models come in under $300 and have two burners and rolled steel cooktops.
The 470 square inches of cooking space on the Black Stone 28-inch are heated by two 15,000 BTU burners. It provides up to 30,000 total BTUs and plenty for high-temperature cooking. With side and back rims and front grease drainage, you get restaurant-style cooking. Blackstone makes larger flat-top grills, but this one is large enough for most families. It is also hard to argue with the price. At around $250, you won’t be making a considerable investment, so this makes a good flat-top starter grill. Yes, this is a beautiful grill to look at, but it does the job.
Cuisinart 360° Griddle Cooking Center
With this product, Cuisinart takes the Flat Top Grill in a new direction. Similar to the high-end Evo (see below), the 360 Griddle Cooking Center is round and can be approached from any direction. It makes cooking on it very convenient. You can actually walk around the grill while you cook, or several people can cook at the same time. The 22-inch diameter rolled steel cooking surface has 380 square inches of cooking surface heated by two 15,000 BTU stainless steel burners. This model has no raised walls to keep food on it, but a tray runs around the edge, so nothing falls on the ground. If this seems too small, consider the Cuisinart 360 XL for around $400.
Royal Gourmet 2-Burner
The Royal Gourmet Flat Top is an inexpensive choice in outdoor griddles, and it shows. With 486 square inches of cooking space heated by two 13,000 BTU burners, this unit gets hot and does what it should. This is a somewhat stripped-down unit, but it gets the job done. I do recommend keeping it clean and covered. In truth, there isn’t much to say about this grill except that it is a great price.
Best Mid-Range Flat Top Grills
Larger does not mean better, but for those who need a bigger cooking surface, there are several flat-top grills to choose from. Moreover, there are differences in styles and features. These mid-range flat-top grills have different elements to offer. While the cooking style remains the same, look for more burners and other extras. I have tried to keep this price range between $400 and $1,000, and you can see that there is a good deal of variety here.
Blackstone 36-Inch Griddle with Hard Top
The flat-top grill market has been dominated by Blackstone, and this new model keeps the basics and adds a few little things to make it better. The hardcover lid helps keep the griddle clean while maintaining the low profile. This is still the same basic design that gave Blackstone industry domination. The four-burner, 60,000 BTU configuration means power and versatility. The Blackstone Pro 36-inch has a huge 769 square inches of cooking space.
Weber Griddle 36″
Yes, they are again late to the game, but this is Weber. With the best-known name in the industry, Weber has finally introduced their full-sized, free-standing gas-powered flat-top grill. Built with parts from their popular gas grills, this flat-top is in almost every way a knock-off of the most popular size of the Blackstone grill (the one above). This griddle has 60,000 BTUs under 756 square inches of cooking surface. You even get the same lid and side table space. The difference? About $130 in price. Yes, Weber is banking on their name to push this product at a considerably higher price than the competition.
And along with Weber comes this flat-top griddle from Traeger. It has all the look and accessory potential of Traeger’s newest pellet grills. The big question is, how does the Traeger Flatrock (Traeger’s first gas-powered appliance) stand up to the Blackstone (or its nearly identical imitator, the Weber Griddle)? The Traeger is smaller. With 594 square inches of cooking area, it’s more than 20% smaller. Under the carbon steel cooking surface are three U-type burners that can put out up to 43,500 BTUs. That’s nearly 30% less.
The issue with the Traeger is the price. At $899, it is double the price of the larger Blackstone (and more than $300 more than the Weber). Traeger trusts that its brand name is going to convince people to turn over a lot more money for a small and less powerful flat-top grill. Again, Traeger is pushing up prices and trying to position itself as a luxury brand. That’s a hard sell for me.
Camp Chef 600 4-Burner Flat Top Grill
The Camp Chef 600 remains a simple flat-top grill. With its four-burner design, the biggest advantage here is that it offers a lot of space for a comparatively inexpensive price. This Camp Chef Griddle also has four burners producing a total of 48,000 BTUs under 604 square inches of cold-rolled steel. The Camp Chef 600 is a simple griddle that balances price with functionality.
Best High-End Flat Top Grills
By the time we get to the High-End Flat Top Grill market, we see stainless steel construction, powerful heating capabilities, and attractive designs. With these, we are looking at prices ranging from around $3,000 to $4,000. All of the grills listed are available stand-alone or built into a custom enclosure. So you have options here. Any one of them will do a great job, but personally, I prefer the grill from Evo.
Evo Professional Classic Flat Top Grill
The Evo Professional was one of the first serious grills of this style built for the backyard. It is the result of masterful engineering. It has 650 square inches of cooking space with more than 40,000 BTUs that come from 2 high-quality stainless steel burners. Simple yet elegant, it is difficult to express just how good this grill really is. If you have the money, buy it. You won’t regret it.
Read the Full Review of the Evo Professional Classic Flattop Grill.
Le Griddle 30-Inch Flat Top Grill
France-based Le Griddle makes griddles. It is what they do. They build residential and commercial flat-top grills made of high-quality materials. With its traditional configuration, this 30-inch flat top has two burners heating nearly 500 square inches of its heavy stainless steel cooking surface. The 18,000 BTU heat output might not sound impressive, but the enclosed design puts all the heat right where it counts.
Blaze LTE 30-Inch Gas Griddle
The Blaze LTE Gas Griddle is similar to the Le Griddle above in almost every way. However, it uses twice as many BTUs. This is due to its lighter-weight construction and the desire for increased power. Don’t get me wrong; it is a great choice. It has attractive styling and two large side tables (unless you get the built-in version).
Flat-top grilling is truly a unique cooking style. There are no pans to toss, and food can be spread out over a large area. For this reason, you will need some specialized tools. Chief among these is a pair of long-blade, bent spatulas. The food must keep moving, and this makes it easy. Also, you will need a scraper to clean the cooktop and a couple of squeeze bottles, one for water (steam) and another for oil (lubrication). Some flat-top grills include these, but generally only on the higher end. Below are a pair of options that include everything you will need. The first option is around $20, and the other is closer to $50.
POLIGO Professional Spatula Set
Jordigamo Professional Stainless Steel Griddle Accessories Cooking Kit
I have been writing about Barbecue & Grilling for 25 years. I have cooked on almost every grill or smoker ever built. In that time, I have endeavored to match people with the grill or smoker that is right for them. I believe that the right product is the one that you find easy to use and capable of doing everything you want reliably and with enough durability to make it worth your investment. If you have a good first experience, you will be back for more. In this way, we grow barbecue for the next generation. I want you to make memories that your children will cherish.
This article and the website it appears on use sales affiliates to cover the cost of operation. If you choose to purchase a product through the links provided, a portion of that sale will go to me. It helps me create content so I can help you and others have the best barbecue experience. I am grateful to all my readers over the years who have been so kind as to assist me in my exploration of outdoor cooking. Thank you.