Stovetop or countertop grills and griddles are often referred to interchangeably, but griddles and grills are two different cooking surfaces designed for various types of cooking. At its core, 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 versions for indoor use.
The Difference Between a Griddle and a Grill
It's easy to identify a griddle by its smooth and flat surface, which makes it perfect for a breakfast menu involving bacon, sausages, pancakes, home fries, french toast, and eggs. You can also use a griddle to make grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, and anything else that you would usually cook on a frying pan. In fact, what makes a griddle better than a frying pan is its large size. Most stovetop or electric griddles are rectangular, giving you even more cooking space, compared to a standard round pan.
Separate from a griddle, a grill 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 cooked food separated from its grease, which reduces the overall fat content of the food. Additionally, most grills include a recessed area that collects fat during the cooking process.
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. For example, a basic electric griddle is just a large, open griddle surface great for making pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches at once. A reversible grill/griddle, however, has both types of cooking surfaces. Finally, 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 are typically designed for cooking one or two sandwiches (or other foods in the press-style of cooking). Large contact grill/griddles often 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, and some even have waffle plates for making waffles.
Choosing a Grill or Griddle
If you can't decide on getting 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. Those made for stovetops are commonly available in cast iron and nonstick versions.
Choose your cooking surface or appliance based on the available space in your kitchen and the kind of cooking you do most. For instance, a stovetop grill or griddle conveniently stores in a drawer or tall cabinet, which can easily be pulled out whenever you need a large surface (like when cooking for a large and hungry group).
Most often, it makes the most sense to get a reversible grill/griddle to get twice the versatility in one piece. If you need the cooking space of a stovetop grill/griddle, but don't want to tie up the stovetop for big meals, you're in the market for a classic electric grill/griddle. Plus, simple versions are lightweight enough to move in and out of storage.
When you commonly cook for one or two people, a small contact grill/griddle is perfect. 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 it's a sizable countertop appliance that will most likely stay parked on the counter.