Beloved in Many Cuisines, The Griddle is Making a Comeback on Stovetops Everywhere
What we now know as a griddle made from metal is actually called a "girdle" in Scotland, a "bakestone" or "planc" in Wales, a "teppan" in Japan, a "comal" in Mexico and Central America, and "plancha" in Spain. In the U.K., the griddle is used for stovetop baking of scones, breads, crumpets, and pancakes, but in other parts of the world they are used for cooking seafood, meat, vegetables, and even tortillas.
Whatever you want to call them, Will Copenhaver, the VP at Smithey, a premium cast-iron cookware company, says griddles are "having a moment" right now. Ideal for cooking breakfast foods such as pancakes, sausages, bacon, eggs, hash browns, and French toast, they are also a great choice for burgers, grilled sandwiches, and fajitas. Griddles have a long and storied history. They evolved from a time before ovens were common in homes, when cooks in practically every culture used flat top grills from brick, stone, or clay.
Says Copenhaver, "A big part of their popularity is that people are simply cooking more at home due to coronavirus restrictions and they're rediscovering the versatility of a classic griddle. Rather than ordering a grilled cheese at the local lunch spot or pancakes at the diner, they're cooking these items at home, and griddles are an incredibly useful tool for any home kitchen and frankly a tool that may not have been a standard item in many peoples' cookware sets."
What Is a Griddle?
A griddle is a large, flat cooking surface, and they are typically square or rectangular in shape, although many of the more traditional ones are round. Unlike a skillet, which has higher sides, a griddle is shallow, so it is easier for flipping food such as pancakes, eggs, or burgers.
There are many different types of griddles, from inexpensive nonstick griddle pans costing less than $20 to large, reversible French-made cast-iron griddles that are priced at a few hundred dollars. Griddles are available in ceramic, nonstick aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel, and cast iron.
Choosing a Griddle
When choosing a griddle be sure to consider the size you need and can store, as well as the weight—large cast-iron griddles can be very heavy. While a lightweight nonstick griddle may be appealing, it isn't as sturdy as cast iron and cannot be used with extremely high heat. When well-seasoned, cast iron is virtually nonstick. Rachael Narins, chef, food writer, and author of Cast-Iron Cooking ($8.39 amazon.com) is a strong advocate for cast-iron griddles. "They are so beautiful and elevate any kitchen, but more importantly, they're functional. A cast-iron griddle will have more than double the surface area of your high-sided skillets, so you can cook more at once. That's helpful and practical."
The most basic griddle is a flat plate that can be built in to a range or placed on top of a burner. Most griddles fit over two burners on a standard cooktop. If you're making pancakes for four people or more, it's convenient to be able to prepare them simultaneously and not have to use several pans or skillets at the same time. They have an advantage in that they can be used on a stove or on a campfire or outdoor grill. Many griddles are reversible and have a grill with raised ridges rather than a flat surface, on the opposite side.
A griddle pan or grill pan fits over one burner; according to Narins, this is the perfect option for smaller meals. It can be easier to store in space-challenged kitchens and a good choice for smaller households. Another benefit is versatility, says Copenhaver. "A griddle pan gives you more versatility in the kitchen. For example, you may want to sear a steak on the stovetop and then transfer the pan to the oven to finish heating–a classic technique. The handle on the griddle pan makes transferring the pan between stovetop and oven much more convenient."
Electric griddles are stand-alone appliances that often come apart for easier storage and cleaning. They also conduct heat more evenly than a pan or griddle placed over burners on a stove and can be used on a table or counter.
How to Care for and Clean Your Griddle
The key to maintaining cast-iron cookware like a griddle is to keep it clean and seasoned. Says Narins, "The more you use cast-iron the happier it is. When you cook, it keeps the seasoning fresh and that stick-resistance at its peak." Because they offer a non-stick surface, whether you're making breakfast or fajitas to feed a crowd or making a single burger, griddles often needs nothing more than a quick wipe or rinse to keep clean, yet another reason to invest in one.