What's the Difference Between a Griddle and Grill?

Beef steak grilled on a charcoal barbecue
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Stovetop or countertop grills and griddles are often referred to interchangeably, but griddles and grills are actually two different cooking surfaces and are designed for different types of cooking. A griddle is similar to a flat frying pan, while a grill has ridges to simulate the cooking surface of an outdoor barbecue grill. Beyond that, grills and griddles are sold in several different versions for indoor use.

What Is a Griddle?

It's easy to identify a griddle by its smooth, flat surface, which makes it perfect for your breakfast menu, including bacon, sausages, pancakes, home fries, french toast, and eggs. You can also make grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, and anything else that you would usually cook on a frying pan. But what makes a griddle better than a frying pan is its large size. Most stovetop or electric griddles are also rectangular, giving you, even more, cooking space compared to a standard round pan.

What Is a Grill?

A grill, on the other hand, has distinctively raised ridges, which leave beautiful "grill marks" on anything you cook. As with outdoor barbecues, indoor grills are great for hamburgers, steaks, chops, sandwiches, and all kinds of vegetables. The grill ridges also keep the cooking food separated from its grease to reduce the overall fat content of the food. Most grills include a recessed area that collects fat during the cooking process.

Reversible Grill/Griddle

If you can't decide whether to get a grill or a griddle, the answer is simple: a reversible grill/griddle. It has a grill surface on one side and a griddle on the other. Reversible grill/griddles for stovetops are commonly available in cast iron and nonstick versions.

Grill and Griddle Appliances

While simple grill and griddle pans are designed for cooking over your gas or electric cooktop burners, electric grills and griddles are countertop appliances that can be used anywhere in your kitchen.

There are a few different types of these appliances. A basic electric griddle is just a large, open griddle surface great for making lots of pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches at once. A reversible grill/griddle has both types of cooking surfaces. And a contact grill/griddle, sometimes called a panini press, has both upper and lower grill or griddle surfaces for cooking food on both sides at once.

Small contact grill/griddles typically are designed for cooking one or two sandwiches or other foods in the press-style of cooking. Large contact grill/griddles typically can cook press-style, or they can fold flat to create two face-up cooking surfaces. These also usually include reversible plates for both grill and griddle cooking. Some also have waffle plates for making waffles.

Choosing a Grill or Griddle

Choose your cooking surface or appliance based on the available space in your kitchen and the kind of cooking you do most. A stovetop grill or griddle conveniently stores in a drawer or tall cabinet and can be pulled out whenever you need a large surface for cooking for a hungry group. It usually makes the most sense to get a reversible grill/griddle to get twice the versatility in one piece.

If you need the cooking space on a stovetop grill/griddle but don't want to tie up the stovetop for big meals, you're probably in the market for a classic electric grill/griddle. Simple versions are lightweight enough to move in and out of storage.

If you commonly cook for one or two people, a small contact grill/griddle might be the perfect thing. These can stay on your countertop but are small enough to stash in a cabinet or drawer. A large contact grill/griddle is the ultimate in versatility but is a sizable countertop appliance that will most likely stay parked on the counter.