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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.
When determining whether you want to use a grill or a griddle, it might first be helpful to define your terms; what kind of griddle are you thinking of, and what kind of grill?
Both are means of cooking that come in sizes both large and small, and there are variants of either that can be used either indoor or out.
In this case, what we’ll mostly be talking about are the options which are usable under their own power. That means electric and gas griddles vs any kind of grill, really. The only real disqualified options here are “grills” like the George Foreman grill, which are an interesting option that acts as sort of a middle ground between the two types of cooktop.
Let’s start with the griddle side of things.
Overview of Grills and Griddles Products
Griddles are primarily characterized by being flat topped cooking devices. Griddles are amazing for all sorts of cooking needs, especially when they provide their own power rather than being a flat top you need to use with some other kind of cooking surface.
The main advantage of a griddle is they can be used to cook pretty much anything that doesn’t need to be cooked in a pot (like a stew or roast).
The flat surface is versatile and easy to use, hence why it’s a favorite of a lot of diners. As you might expect from that, griddles excel at making breakfast foods, whether it be a simple spread of bacon, eggs, and toast or something a bit more complex like pancakes or hash browns.
However, only using your griddle to make breakfast is thinking a bit too small. They’re excellent for a lot of things your grill particularly might struggle with, like hamburgers. It’s easy to cook a perfect hamburger on a grill and flip it when needed, where generally if you want to do so on your grill, you’d buy a griddle top or just resign yourself to the fact that most of the juice is going to run off into the bottom and require some messy cleanup.
The main advantage in a nutshell of a griddle is that it is completely discrete. Where on a stove you’d need to add a skillet or something and then start cooking, you can throw your food directly onto a griddle It will cook perfectly so long as you keep an eye on it, and this makes cleanup a snap; you just have a single large surface to clean off instead of the variety of dishes you might otherwise have used during your prep and cooking phases.
Griddles typically come in either electric or gas varieties, and I’ve seen little difference in the performance levels of either, though you’ll be hard pressed to find a LARGE electric griddle, as that’s usually reserved for the small tabletop griddle variety.
That does mean that there is one issue with a griddle, if you can call it that: you won’t get a nice smoky flavor like you might from a grill.
Read more: Cooking Tips & Guide Using Griddle.
Grills are good for a few things, but chief among them as most people know is barbeque.
Great barbeque comes from a grill and smoker, first and foremost, and that means that one of the primary things that sets a grill and griddle apart is smoke.
You might think that means I’m dismissing gas and electric grills out of hand, but I am not. Gas and electric grills can be quite good and convenient, and if all you want to do is sear a steak or some chicken or something like that, it works just fine. However it works just as well on a griddle, so if we’re talking about advantages a grill might have over a griddle, electric and gas grills simply are not going to cut it; you’ll get pretty much the same results from either, but you can use a grill for a lot less than you can a griddle.
That means if you’re looking at getting a grill for its unique advantages, you want to look into wood and charcoal grills and smokers. These burn charcoal and wood, which creates smoke, which creates that rich and smoky flavor people associate so deeply with barbeque.
That is the main selling point of a grill, at least in my opinion: the uniqueness of it. You can cook all kinds of things on a griddle…but at the end of the day a griddle is just a big stovetop. A grill, especially a charcoal or wood fired grill, allows you to make things you cannot make satisfactorily in any other way.
There’s also a few interesting little tricks with a grill that comes from it having one very simple feature: a lid. Lids trap heat, and trapped heat creates hot air. The same conditions found inside your oven are what causes yo0ur food to cook evenly on a grill, with only small differences. That means you can create surprisingly tasty baked goods on a grill surface that you would not otherwise be able to make; grilled pizza in particular is a unique experience you should try some time.
When it comes to which option is more versatile, the griddle hands down wins it. You could cheat a little bit and say that a grill could do everything with an added griddle top…but you can also turn things right around and say a griddle can do just as well as a gas or electric with a grill top…and you’d be right.
However, when it comes to unique qualities, there’s no contest. A grill, particularly a charcoal or wood fired grill, can make foods you simply cannot make on a griddle or in any other way. You can try to replicate grilling condition in an oven, but it just won’t be the same no matter how hard you try.
It’s a bit difficult to nail down, in that case, which is “better” as both bring a lot to the table. Honestly the best result I’d say is to buy both, with the caveat that unless you plan to use your griddle as a primary cooking surface (instead of a stive, for the most part), it’s likely best to buy a large grill and then a small tabletop griddle.
This gives you the best of both worlds in a lot of ways. You can make the unique, delicious foods that only a grill can make on your grill, and everything else you might want to make on a griddle.
If you were to have to pick one though: I’d say pick the grill.
At the end of the day everything a griddle does can be done by a good frying pan on your stove. It won’t necessarily be as good (pancakes in particular become a whole lot easier to make on a griddle), but it can be done. If you’re not buying both because you need to save money in particular, it’s better to make the small sacrifice of buying the thing that lets you do something you otherwise could not (the grill) rather than buying the thing that makes something you could already do a bit easier (the griddle).
Now that’s settled, why don’t we take a quick look at some great examples of both? That way we can give you some starting options to choose from
Hopefully this helps clear up some confusion and give you a lot to think about. As a quick recap, griddles are great, and extremely versatile, but their one fatal flaw is that they primarily exist to make it easier to cook things you can already cook on a stove. A grill on the other hand provides a unique cooking experience and results, so if you’re choosing between one or the other, the grill is likely to be the better value.