A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
In some ways, griddles and skillets are used for the same types of cooking, so it can be hard to tell when you’re supposed to use one or the other. And, to be fair, in a lot of cases it doesn’t really matter.
So maybe the best thing to do starting off is to answer the simplest question: what’s the difference between a skillet and a griddle?
Skillets are your most versatile kitchen tool, and you may be more familiar with them by another name: the frying pan.
The humble frying pan is a piece of equipment even the most beginner cook should know the ins and outs of. It’s made of some kind of metal (typically stainless steel or cast iron to be considered a skillet, so there is SOME kind of minor technical difference there that generally doesn’t matter), it has sloped sides to keep liquids from sloshing about, and a single handle on the end for manipulating the skillet to do whatever you want.
A skillet is your friend. If you own no other pieces of kitchen equipment you should own a skillet and a spatula. Those two tools can combine together to cook almost any meal you’d care to make, from the simplest dishes like scrambled eggs to the most complex mostly dry meals out there. I am not joking when I say you could survive your entire life with just a skillet: they are that versatile.
That versatility is their greatest strength, and that versatility is upped even more for cast iron skillets, which up the ante by adding an entire new dimension to their cooking ability: baking.
A cast iron skillet is the perfect vehicle for making cornbread, potato hash, and all sorts of rough casseroles that can round out your diet even more. I wouldn’t use one for more delicate stuff, but if all I had in the house was a cast iron skillet I’d probably give it the old college try to make a cake as well, just to see how it would turn out.
Skillets are also fairly small (though come in multiple sizes, the largest typically being about 12 inches across) and can be stored easily within most cabinets. And your usual skillet is fairly affordable, though as with anything high end options can be quite expensive.
So, to recap: a skillet is small, easily maneuvered, usually affordable, extremely versatile, and can be stored away with ease.
So, given all that, why buy a griddle at all?
In some ways, a griddle is very similar to a skillet. Most griddles are made of cast iron, and rarely stainless steel, making a cast iron skillet and a griddle much alike in terms of their care and maintenance, since they both need to be seasoned as well as kept clean and dry when not in use.
Griddles are larger and harder to maneuver, as they take a completely different form. Rather than being round, like most skillets, a griddle is typically flat with no sloped sides (save for griddle pans, which are a whole different ball game). They are long and rectangular, easily capable of taking up most of a countertop. They can be unwieldy and hard to clean due to their sheer size, and are often quite expensive.
But that’s just the bad things, and ignores all the reasons you’d want to put up with those quirks.
A good griddle enhances your kitchen, it will never replace a skillet, in my eyes, but can never be replaced entirely BY one either.
Griddles are perfect for all sorts of breakfast foods, particularly pancakes which are much easier to clip when on an open, flat surface with no sides to get in the way. Things also tend to stick less to a good griddle so long as you grease it properly before using it.
But one of the griddles most important features is that a reasonably sized one can be used on a grill, and it opens up a whole new world of grilling. Taking a griddle with you when camping changes your idea of what “campfire food” can be immensely, making the aforementioned pancakes an option over an open fire or small grill. Fried eggs and similar foods become a possibility also; anything that would normally fall through the grates of your grill.
Essentially, a good griddle can turn your grill into your primary work surface, and if you so chose you could never touch your stove again.
And any food you care to mention has a different flavor on a grill. Even the slight infusion of smoke brings out an entirely different flavor profile. People know this about meat, as a general rule; a steak cooked on a grill rather than seared in a pan simply tastes different. Not necessarily worse when cooked in a skillet, but certainly DIFFERENT.
But this applies to vegetables and other foods as well. I love asparagus from a skillet, but I equally love asparagus cooked on the grill with a little butter in my smaller griddle; the smokiness brings out an entirely new dimension of flavor compared to pan fried and seared foods.
Read more: Learn about the store-bought meats.
What About Electric?
If you’re looking for a clear slam dunk win for either side, look no further than electric griddles vs electric skillets. I have one of each, and while I think both are fine, the convenience offered by an electric griddle is an entirely new dimension as compared to that offered by an electric skillet.
If I had more room in my home for a larger wok, I’d probably never use the electric skillet at all, to tell the truth, so griddles are the clear winner in this arena, and I highly recommend considering one for your own home.
So Which Should I buy: Griddle or Skillet?
But if you had to twist my arm, I’d say buy the skillet. At the very least, buy a skillet FIRST. This is for a few simple reasons. The first is that buying a good skillet is a lot cheaper than buying a good griddle, on average; unless, again, you’re trying to shell out for the best of the best (I have never seen a griddle cost as much as a high end stainless steel skillet).
Second is that versatility I mentioned. Everything you can do with a griddle, you can do with a skillet. The same cannot be said for the reverse.
Oh, it’s true enough that a skillet cannot serve a griddle’s purpose as well as a griddle can, but it can get the job done satisfactorily, albeit with more effort and time on your part. But I would never try to sauté onions or make scrambled eggs on a griddle unless I had literally no other option; it’s simply not going to turn out very well.
Still, I’ll stick by what I said before. If you have the room to store a griddle, and ANY sort of use for it: buy both. Just make sure you have a good skillet first.
Speaking of, why don’t we take a quick gander at some of the best skillets and the best griddles around, to give you a good starting place?
And there you have it! Hopefully this helps clear things up a bit for people who weren’t sure what to do about outfitting their kitchen. Cooking can seem complex at first, and has an overwhelming amount of choices to make, so I hope this was able to make that process a bit easier for some people, while providing a quick list of stuff to help get you started!
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