Grills and griddles are both cooking surfaces used for fast, hot cooking. Grills are typically open grates that allow heat and flames to come into direct contact with food, creating rich, smoky flavors. Griddles are flat cooking surfaces usually made of materials that hold heat efficiently, such as cast iron or stainless steel. A grill is a more primal cooking method, best for simple cooking, especially meat-based recipes. Griddles are more versatile and forgiving, distributing heat more evenly and preempting the challenge of preventing food from falling through the grates. The choice between cooking with a grill or griddle depends on the type of flavor you wish to achieve and the degree of attention you're able to pay.
Grilled vs. Griddled Flavor
Although grilling and griddling both use higher heat than gentler cooking methods such as braising and sautéing, grilling involves higher heat than griddling. A grill's open grates allow direct contact with fire, while griddling places a thick, solid cooking surface between the food and the flame. This direct flame contact gives grilled foods a charred, smoky taste that enhances the flavor of foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs. However, the flatness of a griddle can add a different type of flavor, catching fats and juices that a grill would lose by allowing them to drip into the fire.
Grilling vs. Griddling Techniques
Skillful grilling involves keeping a close eye on time, color and cues such as smell to keep ingredients from overcooking and drying out in the intense heat of a direct flame. Effective grilling also depends on nurturing and maintaining a flame that in neither too high to burn the food nor too low to insufficiently cook it. Griddling similarly requires careful attention to heat levels, although this cooking technique is more likely to involve ongoing stirring or flipping with a spatula to prevent burning. Both grilling and griddling techniques can also take advantage of differences in heat on different part of the grill or griddle, moving ingredients to slow down or speed up cooking times.
Grilling vs. Griddling Ingredients
Meats lend themselves especially well to grilling, caramelizing in the high heat. Vegetables also take on an appealing smokiness on the grill. Both meat and vegetables for grilling should be cut into pieces small enough to cook in the time you have available but large enough to not fall through the grill's slats. Skewers are useful for cooking small pieces of meat or vegetables on a grill, holding them in place so you do not lose them to the flames. Griddled ingredients can be cut smaller because a griddle surface is flat and you will not lose them unless they fall off the edge.
Grilling vs. Gridding Equipment
A grill can be as simple as a slatted metal grate positioned over a cavity that holds fire or as carefully engineered as a professional foodservice grill. A griddle is usually a flat cooking appliance designed to rest on a cooking burner. Some residential stoves include a removable insert between the regular burner that you can remove and replace with a griddle. A grill pan is actually a griddle with dips and elevated bars that create char marks similar to the marks created by an actual grill.
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Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.