The Difference Between a Grill and Griddle

Which cooking surface is best for your needs?

Beef steak grilled on a charcoal barbecue

Photostock Israel / Getty Images

Luckily for fans of barbecued foods—and for those who would rather not head to a diner for a fresh batch of pancakes and bacon—grills and griddles are sold in several versions for indoor use.

Stovetop or countertop grills and griddles are often considered interchangeable, but they are two distinct cooking surfaces that are designed for different types of cooking.

Features and Uses of a Grill

A grill has distinctively raised ridges which leave "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.

Features and Uses of a Griddle

A griddle has a smooth and flat surface, perfect for cooking breakfast foods like 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. Most stovetop or electric griddles are rectangular, giving you more cooking space than a standard round pan.

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 that's great for making batches of foods like pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches simultaneously. 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 press-style foods) at a time. Large contact grill/griddles 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, and some even feature waffle plates for making waffles.

Choosing Between a Grill and a Griddle

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).

If you can't decide whether to purchase a grill or a griddle, a reversible grill/griddle may be the wisest choice in terms of versatility and efficiency. 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.

If, however, you need the cooking space of a stovetop grill/griddle, but don't want to tie up the stovetop for big meals, then a classic electric grill/griddle makes the most sense. 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 there.