When a single skillet just won't do.
By Hannah Howard | Published Jun 28, 2021 6:48 AM
Anyone who’s ever made breakfast for a crowd knows that there’s strength in numbers—namely, the number of pancakes you can get off the burner and onto the table in one fell swoop. To do it successfully, you’ll need to shelve your regular frying pan and go all-in on a griddle. “They’re breakfast warriors, perfect for making bacon, hash browns, and pancakes,” says James Hines, owner of Cookshop Plus in West Hartford, Connecticut. “Once you have one, you’ll wonder how you lived without it.”
But beyond the most important meal of the day, griddles are kitchen powerhouses that prove incredibly useful. Like supercharged skillets, they provide precise heat control and more space for efficient batch-style preparation, as well as a totally flat surface to ensure even cooking. There’s also nothing they can’t handle: The best griddles can sear burgers and steaks like the grill you wish you had and brown quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches to crispy perfection. Here are our picks for the best griddles, no matter how you use them.
Vincent Olivieri, the research and development chef at Long Island grocery chain Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace, likes large rectangular griddles that span two stovetop burners. “I can set the two burners at different temperatures to sear over really high heat, then finish cooking over low heat,” he says. And it’s a great way to feed a crowd. “You can cook an entire breakfast on one griddle—bacon or sausage patties on higher heat and pancakes on lower heat.”
If space is at a premium, or you usually cook for just one or two, a smaller model might be more practical. Another option is a standalone electric griddle that provides its own heat source. “An electric grill is great because you can use it somewhere else besides your stovetop,” Hines explains. “But then the downside is storage.”
When it comes to material, you have a few options. Hard-anodized aluminum heats up quickly and evenly and is scratch-resistant, so it can take a bit of a beating. Cast iron takes more time to heat up but distributes and retains heat beautifully. Olivieri suggests an enamel-coated cast iron griddle, which is easier to clean than traditional cast iron and doesn’t require seasoning. “It’s more durable and will look nicer over time,” but still has those great cast iron benefits of getting and staying super-hot, he explains. Hines recommends “nonstick all the way. It’s perfect for the griddle standbys like pancakes and grilled cheese and will make your life easier.”
A drip tray allows fat and oils to drain from food. Hines suggests this is an especially useful feature if you plan on doing a lot of broiling with your griddle.
Don’t be fooled by the utilitarian looks. Made in France, Staub’s signature black-matte griddle makes elegant work of everything from pork chops to French toast. Olivieri loves the way it sustains heat during the entire cooking process, and its raised sides prevent fat and juices from running off the pan, helping meat stay tender. Bonus: The enameled cast iron surface is easy to clean and doesn’t require seasoning, and the long handles make for easy maneuvering.
When it comes to bang for your buck, the Camp Chef Griddle offers great quality at a reasonable price. The pre-seasoned steel griddle’s high sides and built-in grease drain make both cooking and cleaning a breeze, and it has a diffuser plate that distributes heat evenly and minimizes hot spots for precision cooking. Thanks to the pan’s heavy-duty construction, this is an incredibly durable piece of equipment that can stand up to many years of use.
Measuring 12.5 by 19 inches, Zojirushi’s Gourmet Sizzler has a luxuriously large cooking surface yet is simple to break down and store (don’t worry if counter space is in short supply: the extra-long power cord makes it easy to get breakfast going anywhere). The Japanese-made electric griddle comes apart and snaps back together in three pieces: the plastic bottom tray, the heating element, and the titanium-enhanced nonstick ceramic cooktop, which gives pancakes a lovely golden exterior. Plus, it heats up quickly and even has a warm setting, making coordinating timing a cinch.
It’s hard to go wrong with a Nordic Ware pan. The family-owned company has been crafting kitchen equipment in the USA—Minneapolis to be exact—since 1946. This nonstick griddle is no exception. It spans two burners and checks off all the griddle essentials: The PFOA-free nonstick surface makes for clean cooking, the high sides give you great leverage for flipping, and it provides even, effective heat transfer thanks to its durable, die-cast aluminum construction. The pan even sits at a slight angle, causing grease to flow into a drainage channel rather than pool under your food.
This griddle was originally designed to be used with a Weber charcoal grill, but enthusiastic reviewers praised it for cooking on all kinds of outside grills, as well as indoor stovetops. It also received high marks for its versatility with more than just foods of the carnivorous variety, including eggs, hash browns, and even tortillas—but no one can deny that it gives steaks and burgers a gorgeous sear. The Weber griddle’s other commendable attributes? It heats up quickly and evenly, its porcelain enamel finish ensures that food won’t stick, and the clean-up is painless.
Life is all about choices—and so is this option by American standard bearer Lodge. With a smooth plane on one side and a ridged cooking surface on the other, it’s equal parts griddle and grill pan. The lighter-than-usual cast iron is ergonomically designed with more comfortable handles and side walls for easier cooking and less mess, and it comes pre-seasoned for a natural finish that improves with use. You’ll get excellent, even heat retention whether you use it on the stove, in the broiler, on the grill, or over a campfire.
If the thought of finding another place to store specialty cookware has you in a panic, consider this nonstick one-burner griddle, which is sized for just one or two and heats rapidly and evenly, thanks to its aluminum construction. Lightweight and easy to take along, this is a great griddle for your outdoor adventures—the uncoated natural backside makes for a durable surface that can be used directly on a grill or over a camping stove—although it’s also top-notch at home on a gas or electric stove (it won’t work over an induction burner).
We have two words for you: dishwasher safe. The cleanup couldn’t be easier for this half griddle, half pan sized for two. But that’s not all that’s good about OXO’s affordable contender. It’s free of PFOA (a toxic chemical linked to a slew of adverse health outcomes), and has a three-layer, German-engineered nonstick coating that makes it effortless to cook without much—or any—oil. And its comfortable stainless-steel handles feel good in your hand, which is always a plus.
Most stovetop griddles require some low-key TLC. Both Olivieri and Hines recommend light scrubbing with Bar Keepers Friend, or a similar gentle, non-abrasive cleaning product to protect the griddle’s surface. Some electric griddles come with removable cooking surfaces for easier cleaning; if not, you’ll have to maneuver the whole appliance under the faucet to wash it thoroughly. “If you’re using traditional cast iron, just rinse it with hot water,” Olivieri says. “Then every so often, scrub it with steel wool and re-season.”
“Soaking, soaking, soaking,” suggests Hines. If stubborn residue persists, Olivieri rubs baking soda and water on the griddle, then puts it over high heat to dislodge debris.
The answer to this one is a resounding no. Electric griddles are specifically designed for cooking directly on their surface, so no need to break out a pan.
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