In this ultimate flat top grills and griddles buyers guide, I’m going to be giving you everything you need to know for buying the best flat top grill and griddle. A Grilling Life guide to buying flat top grills and griddles.
Flat-top grills and griddles are absolute cooking powerhouses. They pack versatility, cooking space, and high-temperature ranges into one easy-to-use package.
It’s no wonder then that you’ll find a flat top in just about every restaurant out there — they’re great for cooking a variety of foods, fast.
More home cooks than ever are bringing that power into their own backyards by adding a flat-top grill or griddle to their outdoor kitchens.
If you’ve never purchased a flat top before or even cooked on one, it can seem a bit overwhelming. After all, they’re a lot different than your standard backyard grill. So, where should you start?
Here, with our Ultimate Flat top Grills and Griddles Buyers Guide!
In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about flat top grills and griddles, from what exactly they are, how they work, the different types available to fit your outdoor space and budget, and more.
We’ll also share our recommendations for what to look for from a quality model grill, and what accessories we suggest you buy along with it to get the most out of your flat top or griddle cooking experience.
Our aim here is to help you walk away knowing a ton more about flat-top grills and griddles than you did when you started reading. So much more, in fact, that you’ll be able to confidently go out and buy your own perfect flat top to start grilling and griddling up some delicious meals.
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
Click a topic below to be taken directly to that section.
What You Can Expect From This Flat Top Grills & Griddles Buyers Guide
In our flat top grills and griddles buyers guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about flat tops before you set out to buy your own, even if you don’t have any background knowledge to start with!
You’ll come away from this guide with an understanding of why you’ll want to invest in your own flat top, the different models available, what to look for in a quality flat top, accessories you’ll want to pick up while shopping, and more.
We’ll also offer tips to help you narrow down your search depending on your cooking preferences, how you like to entertain, the size of your outdoor space, and your budget.
Ready to get started?
What Are Flat Top Grills & Griddles?
A flat-top grill or griddle, much like the name implies, is a cooking appliance that uses a flat, smooth metal surface with a heat source directly under it to cook the food directly on the surface.
Why Buy a Flat Top Grill or Griddle?
There are tons of benefits to buying a flat-top grill or griddle, including highly versatile cooking, easy cleaning, less smoke, evenly distributed heat, being able to cook with less oil, and the ability to cook way more types of food at once.
For a more in-depth look at the benefits of flat-top grills & griddles, check out my guide The Benefits of Flat Top Grills and Griddles
What Is the Difference Between a Flat Top Grill & a Griddle?
The terms flat top grill and griddle are used pretty interchangeably, but it ultimately comes down to size. Griddles are usually smaller and can handle small items like skewers or a few pancakes, while flat-top grills can take on full meals and even heat up cookware.
The second difference between a flattop grill and a griddle is how their heating elements are arranged. A flat-top grill has multiple round heating elements radiating heat across the cooking surface, while a griddle is heated with straight elements that run lengthwise below the surface.
Now let’s look at the things to consider when buying a flat-top grill or griddle.
Choose Your Gas Flat Top Grill Configuration
The first step to buying your own gas flat-top grill or griddle is to choose which configuration will work best for you and your outdoor space.
The three choices to consider are:
Freestanding Gas Flat Top Griddles
Freestanding gas flat tops are typically mounted on wheeled carts, making them easy to move around your yard. That means they’re easier to clean since none of their sides are obstructed and storing them for winter is as easy as rolling them into the garage or shed.
Freestanding models will usually use propane gas as fuel, although you might find the occasional model that can use natural gas.
Built-in Gas Flat Top Griddles
Built-in flat tops are a more permanent, high-end choice if you have an outdoor kitchen or BBQ island you’re looking to upgrade. Installing a flat top into a counter or bar does make them a little more challenging to clean, but the sleek, upscale look is totally worth it.
Portable Gas Flat Top Griddles
If you want to take your griddle game on the go, a portable option is for you. These models are smaller, making them easy to transport to tailgates, camping trips, weekends at the cabin, beach outings, and more.
Choose Your Flat Top Griddle Fuel Type
Like gas grills, there are two primary fuel types to choose from for your flat top: propane and natural gas. There are a few things to consider before choosing which one will be the best fit for your future flat-top grill.
Propane Flat Top Grills & Griddles
Propane is usually the smart choice if your home doesn’t already have natural gas lines installed. Using propane tanks can save you money since you won’t need a professional to come out and install gas lines or get your grill set up. Plus, they allow for more portability since you aren’t physically tethered to a gas line.
The only downside is needing to exchange and refill your tanks, but if you already have a gas grill, you’re probably used to that.
Natural Gas Flat Top Grills & Griddles
If you already have a natural gas hookup and don’t plan on moving your flat top around, we suggest opting for natural gas.
There will be an initial cost upfront to have a professional connect your grill or griddle, but after that, you won’t need to worry about paying to refill propane tanks or running out of fuel in the middle of a cookout.
Large Flat Top Gas Grills
If you have some serious cooking in mind, hunt down a large flat-top grill with a cooking surface between 34 and 42 inches wide. These grills come with six burners and can handle cooking for a crowd — think upwards of 40 pancakes or burgers at a time. And with multiple burners, you can cook in zones at different temperatures.
Medium Flat Top Gas Grills
Most of the flat top models you’ll find on the market fall into this category, with a cooking surface between 27 and 33 inches wide. These grills will have anywhere between one and four burners, but most come with two. That’s just the right amount of firepower to cook for a large family while still letting you utilize zone cooking benefits.
Small Flat Top Gas Grills
If you have a smaller family or will just be cooking for yourself, opt for a small flat top. These will still pack a punch when it comes to heat; they just won’t take up as much space as some of the larger models on the market since they usually clock in under 26 inches wide.
Choose Your Flat Top Grill & Griddle Class
Once you’ve decided the size of flat top grill you need, it’s time to narrow the field down further by the class (build quality, features, etc.) of grill that’s the best fit for you.
This is broken down into three categories below.
Luxury Flat Top Gas Grills
Luxury flat-top gas grills will be made from the highest-quality materials possible, with cutting-edge features, wide temperature ranges, incredibly consistent cooking, and a lifetime warranty to boot.
They’ll also be the most aesthetically pleasing flat tops on the market, which is important to keep in mind if you’re concerned about it blending in well with the look of your outdoor kitchen.
All these phenomenal features come with a higher price tag — the smallest luxury flat-top grill will still cost you well over $1,000, with the finest models costing well over $5,000.
Practical Flat Top Gas Grills
Practical flat-top gas grills are more budget-friendly than the other options since they’re typically made from a mix of painted and stainless steel instead of commercial-grade materials.
You’ll usually find these flat tops with warranties of up to 10 years, with decent reliability, heat retention, cooking evenness, and temperature range. You won’t have quite as much cooking flexibility with a practical model as you would a higher-end flat-top grill, but they’ll still get the job done and be fun to use!
Practical flat-top grills will usually cost between $400 and $800 for a decent, sturdy model.
What to Look for When Buying Flat Top Grills and Griddles
Surface Material | Drainage System | Look for Multiple Burners | Versatile & Multi-Functional Features | Secure Footing | Reliable Ignition | Cooking Plate Thickness | Griddle Burner BTUs | Griddle Controls
So now you know exactly the size and type of flat-top grill you’re looking for. But there are a few things we recommend you look for to make sure you’re making a quality purchase.
The material your flat top is made from will directly impact how evenly and quickly it heats up, so choose wisely.
Stainless steel is a durable option since it resists rust, is weatherproof, and is easy to clean. This is the best choice in our opinion. Cast iron is known for its excellent heat retention, but it’s heavy and needs to have a porcelain enamel or ceramic coating on it to avoid rust. Finally, there’s carbon steel, which is lightweight and inexpensive if you’re looking for something easy on the wallet.
A Solid Drainage System
In order for your food to turn out crispy instead of soggy with oil, make sure your flat top of choice has large drainage holes or gives you the ability to easily push it away into a grease trap.
Having a proper drainage system will help prevent oil from burning causing unwanted smoke and helps make cleanup easier.
Look for Multiple Burners to Cook on Two Zones
Zone cooking is what will help you cook up a full meal at one time using your flat top. Foods requiring high heat can cook away on one side while things that just need to be warmed can sit on the other. Having a safe zone when cooking is always a huge advantage.
In order to do that, you’ll need multiple burners you can control individually, so look for a grill that has two, three, or four burners to fully harness the power of zone cooking.
Versatile & Multi-Functional Features
If you plan on using your flat-top grill to create full meals at once, you’ll need a grill that can keep up with that. Choose a model that has multi-functional features like multiple burners and a large enough size to handle a variety of foods.
Your flat-top grill should be able to handle multiple foods at once so cooking steaks and vegetables come out tasting great.
Secure Footing & Caster Wheels
If you’re looking into a freestanding flat top, make sure the model you’re looking at has secure footing, so it doesn’t move when you don’t want it to. On that same note, if you plan on moving the grill around, make sure it has sturdy caster wheels, so it’s easy to maneuver when it’s time to relocate it.
You don’t want to spend any time messing with the ignition while your family is waiting for pancakes — check out online reviews to make sure the flat top you pick has a reliable, easy-to-use push-button or burner knob ignition.
Just keep in mind, a continuous spark ignition will require batteries that will need to be replaced from time to time, while a single spark (piezoelectric starter) does not require any external power source.
Cooking Plate Thickness
You’ll also want to consider the thickness of your flat top’s cooking surface when buying. A thinner plate will heat up faster and cost less, but thicker plates are more durable, resistant to warping, and better at heating up consistently across the surface. Thicker plates are also best at retaining that heat.
Griddle Burner BTUs
BTUs or “British Thermal Units” measures the amount of heat that your flat top can generate. A burner with higher BTUs will be hotter and heat back up faster after you’ve added more food, which means cooking faster.
If you’re looking for a budget flat top, you’ll likely find burners that create around 20,000 BTUs per hour, while your premium and luxury models will produce 30,000 or more BTUs per burner each hour or higher. Keep in mind, the higher the BTU, the more gas you will use as well. The trade-off is worth it in most cases.
If you’re just starting out with flat tops or outdoor cooking in general, you’ll probably want to look for a flat-top griddle with manual controls. These controls let you adjust the intensity of each burner from low to high, a lot like a traditional stove. You usually only see settings like low, medium, and high in a manually controlled griddle
If you consider yourself a more professional cook and know exactly what temperature your food needs to reach, try a griddle with thermostatic controls. These allow for precise settings based on the exact temperature you’re trying to reach. Thermostatic controls allow you to set the heat at a specific temperature and easily maintain that temp.
Additional Things to Consider Before Buying Flat Top Grills & Griddles
Lid Options | Flat Top Griddle Accessories | Cooking Surface Area Depth & Width | Mobility | Maintenance & Cleaning | Side Shelves & Storage Options | Pre-Seasoned | Safe Operations | Pricing Considerations
Before you head to the store or click buy now, there are a few more things to keep in mind to find your perfect flat-top grill or griddle.
Lids for Gas Griddles & Flat Top Grills
You’re putting a lot of thought into buying your new flat top, so go the extra mile and look for a model that comes with a lid that helps with the cooking process and protects it from the elements.
Flat Top Griddle Accessories
A flat top is a powerful cooking tool on its own, but there are a few must-have accessories that we think take the cooking experience to the next level.
We suggest investing in squeeze bottles to easily (and safely) oil up your flat top, as well as a long-handled spatula so you can flip food without getting burned.
If you plan on cooking up cheeseburgers or steaming food, melting domes will also come in handy.
Whatever accessories you invest in, be sure to avoid those made from cast iron since they can scratch up a stainless-steel cooktop.
Cooking Surface Area Depth & Width
We’ve talked a bit about the flat top’s size in terms of cooking plate width, but depth is also important to consider depending on the type of space you have and how much food you plan on cooking at one time.
Most flat tops will clock in between 20 to 30 inches deep, so use that as a base measurement plus some clearance space to protect the griddle’s surroundings from the heat.
Really think about where you plan on cooking with your flat top before you buy. Are you positive that you’ll stay on your back patio, or will you catch the travel bug and want to take your flat top with you camping?
If you think you’ll want to take your flat-top grilling show on the road, be sure to pick a model that’s freestanding, lightweight, and has sturdy wheels, or look for a tabletop model.
Convenient to Maintain & Clean
Because they don’t have the grates of a traditional grill, flat tops are incredibly easy to clean and maintain. You’ll still want to keep an eye out for a robust and easy-to-clean grease management system, to help drain excess oil away from the food as it cooks.
Side Shelves & Storage Options
Side shelves and other storage options are important features to look for in your future flat top if your grill isn’t located in an outdoor kitchen that already has counter space. Shelves and other storage features are great for storing ingredients, holding food while you finish cooking and generally keeping things safely out of the way.
Is It Pre-Seasoned?
Most flat-top grills and griddles will come pre-seasoned, which means they already have a layer of oil baked into the cooking surface, and they’re ready to use right away.
If your flat top of choice isn’t pre-seasoned, don’t worry. You’ll just need to complete the extra steps of heating your grill to high heat, applying a thin layer of cooking oil, and letting it cook into the surface for 30 minutes. After that, you’ll be ready to cook.
Look for a griddle that has a grease collector, which will help avoid any potential flare-ups. It’s also smart to look for a model that has a built-in thermometer to help ensure its overall temperature never goes over its limit.
Make sure the base, legs, or casters are sturdy, so your grill won’t move or tip while cooking.
Be sure to have a budget in mind before you get to set on a certain flat-top grill or griddle. While these grills are an investment you shouldn’t cheap out on, you should be able to find a perfect food flat top that meets both your cooking needs and your budget.
Final Steps Before Making an Outdoor Flat Top Grills & Griddles Purchase
You’re just about ready to invest in your own flat-top grill or griddle — there are just a few more steps to take to ensure you’re making the best choice for your outdoor space and cooking preferences.
Check Current Owner’s Feedback & Opinions
Nobody will be able to give you an idea of what it’s like to own and use a flat-top grill quite like the people who currently own and use that model. Look online for honest reviews, criticism, and questions from current owners to help guide your final decision.
Good Customer Support Matters
If you have a question or issue with your flat-top grill, you’ll want to know that the manufacturer has a team of people ready to help out.
Look online to see previous customers’ reviews of the manufacturer’s customer service — things like response time, helpfulness, and how they handle issues or malfunctions under warranty.
Get To Know the Warranty Options Before You Buy
A great flat-top manufacturer should have solid warranty options in place if they believe in the quality and longevity of their product.
Take the time to research the warranties of the flat tops and griddles you’re considering, including their length and everything that’s covered, such as smaller parts. The longer and more comprehensive the warranty, the better chance you’re opting for a manufacturer with a quality product and outstanding customer service.
Flat Top Grills & Griddle Tools & Accessory Must Haves
Squeeze Bottle Set | Bench Scraper | Stainless Steel Spatulas | Stainless Steel Cooking Tongs | Melting Dome & Wire Rack System | Instant Read Thermometer | Infrared Temperature Gun | Flat Top Grill Cover
A quality flat-top grill is just one part of the equation for a great outdoor cooking experience. To get the most out of your new purchase, we suggest picking up these handy accessories.
Squeeze Bottle Set
Squeeze bottles will be your new best friend when you start using your flat top. You can use them to squirt water onto your cooking surface to clean it, safely add oil before or during cooking, drizzle sauces and marinades, and more.
Squeeze bottles also give you the benefit of precision, so you can control exactly where and how much oil or sauce you’re adding without the risk of it becoming soggy or spreading to other food that’s cooking at the same time.
We like this squeeze bottle set from Blackstone
A scraper or chopper is another versatile tool that has tons of applications on the flat top.
Use it to scrape the cooking surface clean, chop up foods as they cook, or act like a spatula and turn or flip food. However you use your scraper, once you start using it, you’ll never want to be without it when you cook.
We really love this stainless-steel metal griddle scraper and chopper from Anmarko
Stainless Steel Spatulas
This probably goes without saying, but a sturdy spatula is a must to flip foods on your flat top or griddle. It’s a smart idea to buy two different spatulas: a long, rounded one and a shorter one with a sharper tip.
The longer, more flexible spatula is great for gently turning foods, stirring large amounts of food, whisking away grease, and quickly dishing out portions straight from the grill. The shorter spatula will help you get leverage under caramelized items like burgers and steaks, apply pressure on smash burgers, scrape up melted cheese, and more.
We recommend this complete stainless-steel spatula set from Anmarko
Stainless Steel Cooking Tongs
In addition to spatulas, stainless steel cooking tongs will be one of your go-to tools for using your flat-top grill or griddle.
You probably don’t need us to tell you what tongs do, but just in case — these will come in handy for putting food on the grill, flipping it, moving it around, and most importantly, taking it off the flat top to serve.
You can’t go wrong with these stainless-steel cooking tongs from Blackstone
Melting Dome & Wire Rack System
You can up the versatility of your flat top with two basic tools: the melting dome and the wire rack system.
The melting dome, as its name implies, is used to melt cheese on things like burgers, cheesesteaks, breakfast scrambles, and more.
With a wire rack, you can keep food that’s finished cooking warm or even warm up items like buns and tortillas so they’re soft and ready to handle the food you’re cooking once it’s off the flat top.
Our favorite ones are the Cuisinart Bonus, 12.25″ Melting Dome, and Wire Rack
Instant Read Thermometer
The only surefire way to know when your food is cooked to a safe temperature is with an instant read thermometer. We recommend having one even for your standard gas or charcoal grill, but they’re a must-have here, too, for checking the temp on steaks, chicken, pork chops, and more.
Our favorite is the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE Digital Meat Thermometer
Infrared Temperature Gun
Knowing the temperature of your flat top is essential before starting to cook. That’s where an infrared temperature gun comes in handy — just aim it at your cooking surface, pull the trigger, and the grill’s temp will appear on the screen. Helpful and fun to use!
Our choice is the Etekcity Infrared Thermometer
Flat Top Grill Cover
Your flat-top grill is an investment that you’ll want to protect. We recommend taking the extra step and purchasing a cover to help keep out the elements, debris, rust, and critters.
You cand some great flat-top grill cover options for almost every size here
Where Is the Best Place to Shop for Flat Top Grills & Griddles?
Like just about everything, there is a great variety of flat-top grills & griddles available online! We’re fans of BBQGuys offerings of flat-top grills & griddles since ordering is simple, and they’re incredibly knowledgeable about all things outdoor cooking. They have a wide selection of awesome flat top and griddle brands and models.
They even have agents on standby 24/7 to answer all your questions with a simple chat feature.
Final Thoughts on Our Flat Top Grills & Griddles Buyers Guide
We hope this buyer’s guide has shown you that flat-top grills and griddles are so much more than just the appliance of choice for your local greasy spoon.
They’re an incredible addition to any outdoor cooking setup or kitchen. And with so many different sizes, configurations, and classes available, there’s a flat top or griddle out there for everybody.
Ideally, the information shared in this guide has given you a solid idea of the type of flat top or griddle you’re looking for (and the accessories to add to your shopping list, of course).
Now that the hard work is done, all you need to do is pick out your grill and start thinking about what you’re going to cook first. A full breakfast feast with pancakes, bacon, and eggs? Smash burgers? Tacos? Steaks?
No matter what you choose, we know you’re going to absolutely love the flexibility your new flat top gives you. Pretty soon, you’ll probably wonder why you ever cooked outside without one!
Whether your flat top is going to be installed into your dream luxury outdoor kitchen or piled in the back of the car for your next camping adventure, it’s going to fit right in and deliver many a delicious meal for years to come.
Now It’s Your Turn
I want to hear from you:
Have you ever purchased a Flat Top Grill or Griddle before?
Do you have any tips on buying Flat Top Grill or Griddle or have any feedback on a particular brand or model to share?
What features do you typically like to see in a flat top or griddle?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.
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