Heading to the deck or patio to fire up the grill is one of the greatest pleasures of warm weather, but the type of grill can limit the foods you can prepare outdoors. The slatted grates of standard grills are a fine cooking surface for dense meats such as steak and chicken. But smaller items or runny things, like eggs and pancakes, will slip through the grates and into the catch basin below.
Flat-top grills solve this problem by pairing the same heating function of a standard grill with a flat cooking surface. This way, foods like chopped vegetables, eggs, pancakes, and pizza can sizzle on a grill just like burgers and steaks.
The best flat-top grill will run on electricity or gas and should be big enough to hold enough food for the number of people being served. We set out to find the top flat-top griddles by putting the following models through rigorous testing to gauge their performance. Read on to learn what we discovered and why these grills are the best flat tops on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Cuisinart CGG-0028 Professional Propane Gas Grill
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Presto 07055 Cool-Touch Electric Griddle 20 Inch
- UPGRADE PICK: Blackstone 1554 36-Inch Flat Top Griddle
- BEST ELECTRIC: Presto 07061 22-Inch Electric Griddle With Handles
- BEST TABLETOP: Royal Gourmet PD1301S 24-Inch 3-Burner Gas Grill
- BEST SMOKELESS: HomeLabs Smokeless Indoor Electric Grill
- BEST ROUND: Cuisinart CGG-888 Grill Stainless Steel Lid 22 Inch
- BEST PORTABLE: Pit Boss PB336GS 2 Burner Table Top Gas Griddle
Types of Flat-Top Grills
When shoppers are starting a search for the best flat-top grill, they ought to first decide whether an electric or gas-powered model is right for their situation. A big part of their decision will be whether they’ll want to use the grill indoors and outdoors, or outside only.
Electric flat-top grills, typically smaller than standard models, primarily serve as tabletop appliances. Generally smokeless, they produce the usual steam that comes from cooking. Electric grills can be used indoors as well as outdoors.
While electric grills are less powerful than gas models, which achieve higher temperatures, they distribute even heat across the cooking area. Electric grills generally come cheaper than their gas counterparts.
Gas-powered flat-top grills usually run on propane and bring the same high heat potential as any other outdoor grill. They produce carbon monoxide, however, so they can only run safely outdoors. Unsafe to inhale, this chemical byproduct quickly becomes a danger in enclosed areas.
Portable gas-powered grills make great companions for camping, picnics, and other outdoor activities since they don’t require electricity. Larger freestanding models dominate for backyard cooking. At any size, grills left outside need a cover when not in use to protect against the elements.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Flat-Top Grill
Several important factors should guide the search for the best flat-top grill. Shoppers will want to think about how much cooking area they need, whether they want a grill-griddle combo, how much heat output they’ll require, and the construction materials they want. They might also consider whether they want a freestanding or tabletop model, as well as portability and any extra features.
Some flat-top grills feature a smooth griddle surface on one side—ideal for initially runny foods, like eggs or pancakes—and grill grates on the other. Cooks simply flip the plate to the desired surface before use. Another setup features two separate cooking plates—one flat and one with grates—and grill masters alternate between the two. Other combinations have a wide cooking area that’s split into griddle and grill grate sections. This way, different foods can sizzle on both surfaces at the same time. Steak and eggs, anyone?
Manufacturers measure the cooking surface of a flat-top grill in square inches: length multiplied by width. Small– to medium-size flat-top grills, with cooking surface areas that range from 150 to 300 square inches, tend to be tabletop models. Larger models offer cook surfaces upwards of 300 square inches.
If cooks are planning to prepare meals for two to four people, they will want to consider a grill with at least 200 to 400 square inches of cooking space. For groups of four to six, a freestanding grill with a 400-square-inch cook surface will get the job done. Grillers who regularly host big backyard bashes ought to look at large freestanding grills that offer 500 to 750 square inches of cooking surface.
Keep in mind that a griddle-and-grill combo may include several cooking plates of different sizes. A meal that may fit on one cooking plate may not fit on the other.
Cooking Surface Material
The cooking surface is the most important part of a flat-top grill. It typically comes in two types: rolled steel and aluminum with a nonstick ceramic coating.
- Rolled Steel: Very strong and durable, rolled steel is the ideal cooking surface for outdoor flat-top grills. When properly seasoned, rolled steel creates a nonstick surface that conducts heat well and won’t warp even at extreme temperatures. Rolled steel must be seasoned periodically to keep the surface nonstick and prevent rust from forming. The seasoning process involves applying oil to the cooking surface and heating it to an extreme temperature so that it binds to the surface, then repeating the process several times.
- Ceramic: Indoor griddles and some portable gas griddles have a cooking surface made of aluminum with a nonstick ceramic coating. While this type of surface is easy to clean, doesn’t require seasoning, and won’t allow food to stick, it’s not as durable as rolled steel.
Heat Output and Control
The metric for heat output depends on the grill’s power supply. The specs on an electric model cite heat output in watts. Gas models display heat output in British thermal units (BTUs). While most electric griddles run on about 1,200 watts, larger models need as much as 1,500 watts, which is the maximum power output of a standard 115-volt outlet.
Heat output for gas flat tops varies significantly depending on size. Smaller propane griddles with two burners put out around 20,000 BTUs of heat, while larger restaurant-grade flat-top grills with four or more burners can put out close to 60,000 BTUs.
Electric grill masters control heat output via an analog dial with temperature readings that typically range from 200 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Gas flat-top grills include knobs that allow the cook to control the flame height, similar to a gas range or grill.
Small flat-top grills weigh between 1 and 20 pounds. Full-size gas-fueled grills often exceed 100 pounds. Even tabletop grills can get heavy. Depending on weight, buyers may want one with built-in handles for more comfortable carrying. Some freestanding grills have collapsible legs, so they’re easier to stow away in a garage or the back of the car.
Those who envision moving a large freestanding grill from, say, one side of the patio to another should consider a model with at least one handle and wheels. Some grills have two legs on one side and two wheels on the other. Users must tilt the grill wheelbarrow style to move it from place to place. Others have a wheel on each leg that users can lock to keep the grill firmly in place while in use.
Many flat-top grills have add-on features that make the grill easier and more enjoyable to use. These extras include storage space for grilling tools, side tables, shelves, and protective covers.
- Automatic ignition is a standard feature on many gas griddles. It either consists of a piezo lighter that creates a spark when pressure is applied to a crystal placed between two metal plates inside of it, or a battery-powered lighter that creates an electrical spark when the ignition is pressed.
- Grease management typically consists of a small hole on the griddle surface that funnels grease into a removable drip pan underneath the grill top.
- Grill-tool storage might be as simple as a built-in hook to hang tongs or a grill brush, or it can mean a fully enclosed area to corral utensils, even when the grill is not in use.
- Side tables and shelves provide extra space for food, condiments, utensils, plates, drinks, and other items that are convenient to have within easy reach while the grill is fired up.
- Grill covers protect the equipment from the elements. Covers integrate a soft heat-resistant side that won’t scratch the grill and a waterproof exterior to shelter the grill from bad weather.
Our Top Picks
The products on this lineup of the best flat-top grills get high marks for efficacy and overall value; they also deliver on the important shopping considerations mentioned above. Those on the hunt for a new flat-top grill should consider these recommendations for their grilling needs.
An ample rolled-steel cooking surface, two-heat-zone design, and foldable legs for surprising portability make this Cuisinart the best all-around flat-top grill we tested.
Assembling the Cuisinart was fairly easy given its size: We had it assembled in about 30 minutes (the seasoning process crucial to most rolled-steel models added about 45 minutes before the grill was up and running). The electric ignition is a nice plus, making the grill much easier to light than those that use cheaper piezo ignition.
Once properly seasoned, the Cuisinart’s cooking surface was impressive. It reached temps upwards of 600 degrees Fahrenheit, ideal for our test food of steak and chicken fajitas with peppers and onions. The high top temp made it easy to sear a nice char on our skirt steak. We also liked having two cooking zones, which provided a hot side for cooking meat and veggies and a cool side to push food to as it finished. This was nice for fajitas, which require cooking each food type individually before mixing them at the end.
While the Cuisinart also performed well for cooking standard breakfast fare like pancakes, bacon, and eggs, it proved necessary to drop the heat to near minimum temps to avoid overcooking the eggs or burning the pancakes. But after a test pancake or two, we had the timing and temp down, and the flapjacks were coming on and off the griddle in short order.
The side table is helpful for food prep and can be mounted to either side, but we found ourselves wishing Cuisinart had just included two shelves—one for each side. Cleaning a flat-top grill should be comparatively easier than cleaning standard grill grates, and the Cuisinart is, thanks to two large drain holes in the surface beneath— each of which are easy-to-remove mug-style grease cups.
The Cuinsart Professional is one of the only full-size griddles we came across that folds up. It measures some 28 inches long and 17.5 inches high when in its most compact state. While cooks will probably need help lifting and carrying this 50-pound model, transporting it in the trunk of a car is certainly doable, making the grill an option for large tailgating events or a family reunion at the park. If nothing else, its foldability makes it easier to store in a shed or garage, which is ideal for those who may want to add a flat top to their outdoor cooking arsenal but don’t have enough room on their deck or patio to give it a permanent home.
- Type: Gas
- Cooking surface size: 644 square inches
- Max heat: 600 degrees Fahrenheit
- Large rolled-steel cooking surface
- Somewhat portable and storable
- Easy to clean
- 2 cooking zones
- Smaller cooking surface than other full-size flat-top grills
Get the Cuisinart Propane flat-top grill on Amazon or Wayfair.
What sets the Presto Cool-Touch apart from other electric griddles on the market is its surface, which has a silver ceramic nonstick coating. While all electric griddles have a nonstick cooking surface, we found Presto’s Cool-Touch to be superior. Even when using very little oil, pancakes, eggs, bacon, and burgers simply won’t stick to its slick silver surface.
It’s also easy to cook on thanks to its even heating. During our testing, it heated very evenly, staying within 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit of the set temperature across the surface. A good electric griddle should offer more space than a standard frying pan, and the Presto does with 210 square inches of cooking surface. This large area supported a full contingent of pancakes and bacon while preventing food juices from mingling. Yet while the Cool-Touch proved awesome for breakfast foods and grilled sandwiches, its inability to reach the high temperatures needed to really sear meat mean it’s not ideal for cooking burgers.
A plastic rim that surrounds the entire cooking surface—hence the “cool-touch” name—creates a nice buffer from the hot surface. Presto uses a drip tray that sits under a small hole in the cooking surface to catch grease. While it isn’t as effective as electric griddles that are equipped with larger openings for grease—we found ourselves pushing grease and food bits to the hole—the tray is easy to remove and dump. After cooking, as we expected, the slick nonstick surface proved a snap to clean, especially since the entire griddle can be held under a faucet.
- Type: Electric
- Cooking surface size: 210 square inches
- Max heat: 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Silver nonstick surface
- Cool-touch plastic frame around cooking surface
- Cleans easily
- Small hole for grease drippings
Get the Presto Cool-Touch flat-top grill on Amazon or at Walmart.
Blackstone bills this flat-top griddle as restaurant grade, and its cooktop and performance in testing supports that claim. While its rolled-steel cooktop isn’t a unique feature, the quality of the Blackstone’s cooking surface just seemed to be a notch higher than the other models we tested. It was easier to season, reached higher temperatures, and cooked more evenly than any griddle we tested. That pro feel extended to its cooking performance.
Its four burners created a scorching-hot surface that was frankly difficult at times to stand over due to the heat. We recorded surface temps well above 600 degrees Fahrenheit over a broad swath of the flat top. And while those four 15,000-BTU burners may guzzle propane, meat sizzled on that hot surface, making it easy for us to sear a nice crust on our burgers and steak. With its four heat zones, setting up the grill to hit scorching hot temps for meat on one side and low temps for toasting buns on the other was a breeze.
Blackstone positions its grease drain hole at the middle rear of the griddle. Although the hole isn’t huge, its location made it easy to scrape food bits and excess fat into the drippings tray between rounds of food. It also made post-grilling cleanup fairly easy for such a large grill.
While the Blackstone performs at a high level, it’s important to keep its large size in mind: It’s more than 5 feet long and boasts some 5 square feet of cooking surface, which is not ideal for those with limited deck or patio space. The Blackstone Professional does come equipped with beefy casters, which helps with rolling it into a corner when not in use, but the side tables, though helpful for prep, don’t fold down. Still, for those who can afford its higher price tag and have space for its larger size, the Blackstone is a great choice.
- Type: Gas
- Cooking surface size: 720 square inches
- Max heat: 650 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pro-grade rolled-steel cooktop
- Vast cooking surface
- Sturdy wheels make it easy to roll
- 4 burners for multiple heat zones
- Side tables don’t fold down
Get the Blackstone flat-top grill on Amazon or at Walmart.
Indoor griddles provide more cooking space than a standard stovetop frying pan can offer. A large 12-inch frying pan has some 110 square inches of cooking surface, while this Presto 22-inch electric griddle boasts a whopping 231 inches. We were able to load the Presto with eight pancakes and six strips of bacon, with plenty of buffer between the two to keep bacon grease from finding its way to the pancakes. We even found space to squeeze in a few eggs to boot.
Despite its large size, this Presto gave fairly even temperatures in testing, ranging between 375 and about 400 degrees Fahrenheit when set to 400 on the dial. That heat was high enough to get our cooking oil to just the right temperature for pancake perfection.
The Presto certainly had room for plenty of burger patties, yet while it cooked them capably, its lower top temperature didn’t create the crust achievable on an outdoor gas-powered model. Without the benefit of a range hood, the smoke and splatter also made for a smoky kitchen.
The Presto’s pebbled nonstick cooking surface kept whatever we threw on it from sticking, and the entire surface heated nicely. While most flat-top grills have a small hole, which grease may or may not find its way to, the Presto boasts a wide slot that takes up about a third of the length of the pan for easier, more thorough grease collection.
Though the larger size made it a little awkward to hold the Presto under the faucet of our single-basin sink for cleanup, the nonstick surface shed food and grease easily. We also liked the ability to remove the feet for easier cleanup and storage.
- Type: Electric
- Cooking surface size: 231 square inches
- Max heat: 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Ample cooking surface
- Good nonstick surface
- Removable feet for tidier storage
- Heats fairly evenly, despite large size
- Pebbled cooking surface not as smooth as other indoor flat tops
Get the Presto 22-inch flat-top grill on Amazon or at Walmart.
Few tabletop flat-top griddles offer the versatility that Royal Gourmet’s 24-inch gas-powered model does. Out of the box, it comes nearly fully assembled, save for the feet, which we had to screw into the bottom. Unfortunately, our test model got dented during shipping, but that cosmetic issue didn’t impact the grill’s functionality.
Though piezo ignition can take multiple button pushes to light, this grill started up fairly easily. But the ceramic-coated cooktop, as opposed to rolled steel, produced mixed results. While it’s low maintenance, as it requires no seasoning, the coating did not prove to be as nonstick as we hoped. It cooked food well enough with minimal sticking, but the bacon grease left a stubborn residue that clung to the surface despite our best effort to scrub it off. This was particularly disappointing considering that easy cleaning is supposed to be a prime asset of a flat-top grill.
We appreciated the three burners, which, combined with its 316 square inches of cooking surface, enabled preparing multiple types of foods at once: a few strips of bacon, several pancakes, and a couple of fried eggs in our test, which is impressive for a tabletop flat-top grill. The Royal Gourmet also reached high enough heat with its 25,500 BTU output to sear burgers. These qualities coupled with an affordable price help to outweigh the shortcomings of its cooking surface.
- Type: Gas
- Cooking surface size: 316 square inches
- Max heat: 550 degrees Fahrenheit
- 3 cooking zones
- Reaches high heat
- No seasoning needed
- Some foods stick, making it hard to clean
- Cheaper piezo ignition
Get the Royal Gourmet flat-top grill on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
Grilling indoors typically results in a smoke-filled kitchen as meat juices come into contact with hot burners. Smokeless grills purport to solve the problem through a unique design that incorporates water and a fan to absorb the smoke. For the most part, the HomeLabs Smokeless grill proved that the concept works.
This indoor grill has a cooking surface that sits about an inch below the top of the cooker. A row of vents surround the entire surface. Beneath the cooking surface is a tray that users fill with water before they start cooking. During cooking, a fan inside the cooker draws any smoke coming off the griddle or grill surface through the vents and sends it to the water, which absorbs the smoke.
This relatively simple design is surprisingly effective. We grilled bacon and fat-laden burgers on the grill and the vent system did an excellent job of sucking up the majority of the smoke. Closing the lid during cooking completely eliminated the smoke (technically roasting, not grilling, however).
The HomeLabs grill comes with two plates for either griddling or grilling, making it more versatile than a standard indoor flat-top griddle. Heating controls located on the side are easy to use, though they only allow setting the temperature in increments of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, making it impossible to hit a medium-high heat level of 375 degrees Fahrenheit or medium-low temp of 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
And while it’s relatively easy to give the HomeLabs a thorough cleaning, it does require disassembly of its many removable parts—including the grill or griddle plate, the burner, the water tray and the drip tray—so it’s a bit tedious to clean. Aside from these minor gripes, the HomeLabs electric grill is a great option for those who want to grill indoors without smoke.
- Type: Electric
- Cooking surface size: 108 square inches
- Max heat: 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- Eliminates smoke
- Easy-to-use controls
- Can grill and griddle
- Temperature can only be set in 50-degree-Fahrenheit increments
Get the HomeLabs flat-top grill on Amazon or at Walmart.
This flat-top grill from Cuisinart bucks the trend of rectangular flat tops by going with a round shape. This gives it a smaller footprint to suit those who haven’t the room for a standard full-size flat top. And in our tests, it provided a mostly positive cooking experience.
It took about 45 minutes to assemble this Cuisinart, and then we got cooking. Though we’re not big fans of piezo-style ignition, the one on this grill is located on one of the burner knobs. Turn the knob from the off position and it engages the igniter, which lights the burner—a design that actually worked nicely without having to turn the knob on and off repeatedly.
In testing, we really appreciated the Cuisinart’s edgeless design, which has several advantages. Instead of a drain system that requires pushing the grease to one or two holes on the cooking surface, the Cuisnart’s tray surrounds the entire circular cook surface, so grease can run off in any direction. There’s no need to pool grease in the corners or push grease to a trap. The edgeless design also makes it easy to plate food by simply pushing it off the cooking surface. We found this particularly useful while whipping up hibachi-style shrimp.
The Cuisinart’s two burners effectively cut the circular surface in half to create two separate heat zones. We also liked the included lid, which is not something often found on flat-top grills. Other notable features are a foldable side table and multiple hooks for grill tools.
There are a few downsides to the circular design. Its 380 square inches of cooking surface is significantly smaller than the 600-plus square inches found on standard full-size square flat-top grills. The round surface is also vented around the entire cooking circumference, which releases a fair amount of heat—this makes it almost uncomfortably hot to work around when set to higher temperatures.
Aside from those minor complaints, the Cuisinart round flat-top grill performed admirably, making it a great option for those who have limited space for a stand-alone flat-top grill.
- Type: Gas
- Cooking surface size: 380 square inches
- Max heat: 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- Compact size for stand-alone flat-top grill
- Edgeless design makes it easy to plate food
- Lid included
- Releases a lot of heat outside the edges of the grill
Get the Cuisinart CGG-888 flat-top grill on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
The Pit Boss is essentially a pint-size version of a full-size flat-top grill. Unlike other portable tabletop flat-top grills that use a nonstick ceramic cooking surface, the Pit Boss uses the same rolled steel found on full-size models. And while that may make it a bit heavy for a portable grill at nearly 25 pounds, it cooks exceptionally well.
The Pit Boss comes almost fully assembled (all we had to do was screw the feet on) and preseasoned, so there was no hour-long seasoning process before getting the grill up and running. Similar to other flat-top grills, Pit Boss uses a piezo-ignition system that engages as users turn the burners, which are powered by a 1-pound propane canister, to the “on” position.
Once lit, its two 9,000-BTU burners produced enough heat to get our burgers sizzling while still having a low enough range to cook French toast without burning. Though the overall grill is compact, it has nearly 300 square inches of cooking surface—enough to cook six strips of bacon and six pieces of French toast simultaneously without crowding the cooktop.
The screw-in feet made it fairly easy to set the cooking surface so that the oil would run to the grease drain hole. Though this eliminated the need to push excess fat to the drain, we didn’t like that grease drips into a chute that leads to the drip cup. We found that particles of food would get stuck on that chute, forcing us to wipe them out post cooking, adding an extra step to cleanup. Aside from this minor complaint, the Pit Boss performed well overall, making it the top portable outdoor flat-top grill we tested.
- Type: Gas
- Cooking surface size: 289 square inches
- Max heat: 550 degrees Fahrenheit
- High-quality rolled-steel cooktop
- Comes preseasoned and almost completely assembled
- 2 heat zones
- Large cooking surface for a portable grill
- Grease-management system a little harder to clean
Get the Pit Boss flat-top grill on Amazon or at Walmart.
With its rolled-steel top, even heat output, and collapsible design, the Cuisinart Propane flat-top grill is the best overall flat-top grill we tested. For those who have the space and budget for it, the professional feel and performance of the Blackstone flat-top grill is hard to beat.
How We Tested the Best Flat-Top Grills
We put our flat-top grills through a variety of tests to arrive at this lineup of top models. The quality of the cooking surface is crucial when it comes to a flat-top grill. Grill surfaces had to hold up to intense heat without warping and to metal cooking tools without scratching, and if they caused food to stick, they didn’t make the cut.
To find out, we exposed the flat-top griddles to extreme heat and used standard flat-top grill tools. We grilled a range of food: burgers, eggs, pancakes, fajitas, and more. We also tested the controls to determine how well they could maintain lower temperatures suitable for scrambling eggs while also reaching heats for searing meats. Since a flat-top grill should be able to cook different types of food simultaneously, we leaned toward those with multiple heat zones for our outdoor models.
Flat-top griddles are touted as being easier to clean than a standard grill. We examined how well each grill’s grease-management system worked, then cleaned them to see if that was a hassle or a snap. We also sought out a range of griddles to suit a variety of needs, including small electric indoor models as well as portable and full-size propane-gas grills.
Flat-top grills can make a great addition to any household. Anyone who still wants more intel about the best flat-top griddle should read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these popular cookers.
Q. What is the difference between a grill and a griddle?
Griddles and grills differ primarily by the sizes and textures of their cooking surfaces. Grills typically offer large grated cooking surfaces that allow the juices and oils from the food to fall between the gaps and into the grill.
Griddles are usually smaller than grills, though many are akin in size to portable grills. Griddles have flat, smooth cooking surfaces appropriate for sautéing or frying small or runny foods, such as eggs and mushrooms.
Q. Is a griddle healthier than a grill?
A griddle isn’t any healthier than a grill. In fact, a griddle often accumulates grease on its cooking surface, while a grill allows the grease to fall down into the catch basin. How healthy a griddled or grilled meal is has more to do with the type of food, not the cooking method. If the goal is healthier eating, consider grilling more veggies and less fatty meat.
Q. What is the best way to clean my flat-top grill?
Grill masters should perform basic cleaning after every use to keep the food tasting great and the grill working properly. Use a grill brush to remove stuck-on food, sauce, spices, and other burned items. It’s also a good idea to empty out the grease tray after every use so that it doesn’t overflow and cause a mess.
For more robust cleaning, put away the grill tools and break out the grill cleaner and an abrasive scrubbing pad. Remove each piece from the interior of the grill, including grates, griddles, burner protectors, and the entire catch basin at the bottom of the grill, and carefully clean it with a grill cleaner before rinsing, drying, and returning it to its position inside the grill.
Q. How do you take care of a grill?
To care for your grill and extend its lifespan, follow these simple steps:
- Regularly check the gas or electrical connection to ensure that there are no tears, breaks, or leaks.
- Properly cover the grill when it isn’t in use to avoid damage from the elements.
- Clean the grill after every use. Depending on how frequently the grill is used, deep clean it with a grill cleaner semi-regularly to help ensure that it lasts for years.