Stepping outdoors to fire up the grill is one of the greatest pleasures that comes with warm weather, but the type of grill can greatly limit the type of food you can prepare outdoors. The slatted grates of standard grills make a great cook surface for dense meats such as steak, burgers, and chicken. But, smaller foods or runny things, like eggs or pancakes, will slip through the grates and into the catch basin below.
Flat top grills solve this fall-through problem by pairing the same heating function that a typical grill has 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 food for your whole family. This guide will walk you through all the important factors to consider when you set out to choose the best flat top grill and then detail the specs of some of the best choices on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Royal Gourmet GD401 Portable Propane Gas Grill Combo
- BEST BUDGET: Presto 07055 Cool-Touch Electric Griddle 20″
- UPGRADE PICK: Royal Gourmet PD1301S 24-Inch 3-Burner Gas Grill
- BEST ELECTRIC: Presto 07061 22-inch Electric Griddle With Handles
- BEST TABLETOP: Royal Gourmet PD1301S 24-Inch 3-Burner Gas Grill
- BEST PORTABLE: Cuisinart CGG-501 Gourmet Gas Griddle Two-Burner
- BEST ROUND: Cuisinart CGG-888 Grill Stainless Steel Lid 22-Inch
- BEST COMPACT: PIT BOSS PB336GS 2 Burner Table Top LP Gas Griddle
Types of Flat Top Grills
When you start your search for the best flat top grill, you must first decide whether an electric or gas-powered model will work best for you. You can then narrow down your options from there.
Electric flat top grills, typically smaller than standard grills, primarily serve as tabletop appliances. Generally smokeless, they produce the usual steam that comes from cooking. Electric grills work indoors and outdoors, but gas models for outdoor use offer larger, more powerful options.
While electric grills can’t reach the same temperatures as gas models, they distribute even heat across the cooking area. Electric grills generally come cheaper than their gas counterparts as well.
Gas-powered flat top grills usually run on propane and bring the same high heat potential as any other outdoor grill. But, because they produce carbon monoxide, they can only run safely outdoors. Unsafe to inhale, this chemical byproduct quickly becomes a danger in enclosed areas.
Small gas-powered grills make great companions for camping, picnics, and other outdoor activities, since they don’t require electricity. Larger freestanding models dominate at 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 for the patio, deck or even the kitchen. Think about how much cooking area you need; whether you want a grill-griddle combo; the construction materials; whether you want a freestanding or tabletop grill, heat output, portability, and extra features.
Griddle and Grill Combinations
A flat top grill gives the user a smooth cooking surface for foods that don’t hold their shape well, like eggs or pancakes. But, of course, some food just tastes better cooked on the grill. For this reason, some flat top grills include both griddle and grill cooking surfaces.
Some combination grills come with a cooking plate with a smooth griddle surface on one side and grill grates on the other. Grillers simply flip the plate to the desired surface before cooking. Another setup features two separate cooking plates: one flat top and one grated. Grillmasters may alternate between the two.
Other combination grills have a wide cooking area 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. That’s the length multiplied by the width. Small and midsize 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 you plan to prepare meals for two to four people, go for a grill with at least 200 to 400 square inches of cooking space. For families of four to six, a freestanding grill with a 400-square-inch cook surface will get the job done. Grillers who regularly host backyard barbecue bashes should 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.
The best flat top grills typically come in one of four major materials: stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron, or ceramic. These materials vary in durability, performance, and aesthetics.
- Stainless steel: Rust- and corrosion-resistant, stainless steel makes a great choice for indoor or outdoor use. One of the more attractive finishes for appliances, a stainless steel grill will bring style to the patio or kitchen and compliment existing appliances of the same material.
- Aluminum: Cast aluminum creates a sturdy base that’s heavy enough to keep the griddle stable and in place while cooking. Not as eye-catching as stainless steel, aluminum tends to comprise flat top grills that cooks store when not in use. The lightest option, aluminum makes an ideal material for portable grills.
- Cast iron: Durable cast iron provides a solid base that won’t warp under high heat. It also transfers heat directly, an ideal feature for searing foods. But, this heavy material may not be easy to move and succumbs to rust more easily than other materials.
- Ceramic: Heavy ceramic flat top grills retain heat quite well. However, this crack- and chip-prone materials requires more TLC than more rugged materials.
Heat Output and Control
The metric for heat output depends on the grill’s power supply. The specs on an electric model cite the heat output in watts. Gas models display their 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 50,000 BTUs.
Electric grill masters control heat output with an analog dial with specific temperature readings that typically range from 200 to 450 degrees. Gas flat top grills include knobs that allow the operator 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 the weight, you 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 grill chefs 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 grill covers. You might want to look for some of the following options:
- Automatic ignition is a standard feature on many gas griddles. It consists of a piezo lighter that uses a AAA battery to create a spark that ignites the stainless steel burners with the push of a button.
- Grease management 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 keep the grill tools corralled, even when the grill is not in use.
- Side tables and shelves provide extra space for food, condiments, utensils, plates, grill tools, drinks, and other items that are convenient to have within easy reach while the grill is fired up.
- Grill covers protect the equipment from rain, snow, and ice. 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 list of the best flat top grills get high marks for efficacy and overall value and deliver on the important shopping considerations mentioned above. Those on the hunt for a new flat top grill should consider these recommended products for their grilling needs.
Designed with versatility and ease of use in mind, Royal Gourmet’s GD401 flat top grill has four 12,000 BTU burners and an automatic ignition system. Its two grilling surfaces create a total cooking surface of over 580 square inches. The two sides will operate simultaneously or independently. A griddle side offers a great surface for sautéing vegetables, frying eggs, or making pancakes. A grill side takes on steaks, burgers, and chicken.
Two side shelves on either side offer a spot for buns, plates, and other items grill masters might like to keep within easy reach. Hanging hooks on a towel bar provide a convenient spot for grilling tools. This model weighs just under 107 pounds and moves around on four sturdy lockable wheels. Sleek water-resistant stainless steel looks great on the deck or patio. To maintain this great style and function, be sure to cover the grill when not in use.
For those who wish to expand their indoor cooking surface from a standard frying pan, this griddle from Presto provides an excellent, affordable solution. Measuring 22 inches long and 11 inches wide, Presto’s Cool-Touch provides 210 square inches of non-stick cooking surface, which makes it suitable for cooking a family’s worth of pancakes or hamburger patties. A cast iron frame creates a sturdy base while non-skid pads under the feet keep the griddle in place while the chef works.
An analog dial with easy-to-read temperatures maintains the proper surface temperature for griddle cooking. A hole in the middle of the griddle catches excess grease and conveniently funnels it into a removable drip tray. With its low profile, this griddle makes a great addition to a buffet. Safe to submerge in water, this griddle won’t leave the cook with a tough cleanup job.
This stainless steel and cast-iron flat top grill from Pit Boss is compact, but it’s only suitable for outdoor use. While its 21-inch by 17-inch by 11-inch dimensions makes it small enough to sit on a kitchen table or a countertop, the grill runs on propane and will produce fumes that are harmful in an enclosed area.
The Pit Boss PB336GS is easy to operate, with a push-button ignition and two burners that can be set to different temperatures. Its removable, flat cooking surface measures 289 square inches, so there’s ample space on which to prepare campout meals. Among the grill’s thoughtful features are its four sturdy, nonslip legs and a small grease trap that can be removed, dumped, and cleaned out without having to move the grill.
With its broad nonstick surface and easy-to-use controls, Presto’s electric griddle represents one of the best electric options on the market. Its 231 square inches of cooktop offer one of the larger surfaces available on an indoor griddle.
A cast aluminum base gives the griddle enough heft that it won’t slide around while the grill chef flips fried eggs, flapjacks, or hamburger patties on the cooking surface. An easy-to-read analog temperature dial allows for micro-adjustments without putting down the spatula.
Drippings flow into a wide removable drip tray at the bottom of the pan. After the meal, the temperature control slides out and the handles detach, so the cleanup crew can completely submerge the top for a thorough cleaning.
With its three burners and ample cooking space, this gas grill makes a great table-top griddle choice for cooking outdoors. A push-button igniter makes it easy to light the griddle, which runs on a standard 20-pound propane tank. This griddle packs 25,500 BTUs of cooking power into a spacious 316 square inches of cooking space.
Three burner controls allow grill masters to create three separate heat zones for versatility. The tray’s large rim keeps juices from escaping the tray, while a hole in the lower right corner funnels grease into a drippings cup.
Large feet create a sturdy base from which to operate the griddle. The griddle top detaches from the base for easy cleaning. With its stainless steel control panel, this griddle represents one of the more attractive models on the market.
Weighing in at a manageable 30 pounds and measuring 20 by 20 inches, this gas griddle makes a great roadie for camping trips and tailgate parties. Two large handles fold out from the sides for lifting the griddle and carrying it from the car to the picnic table. With its black and stainless steel features, it makes for a good-looking centerpiece.
The griddle runs on a standard 20-pound gas tank, which connects via a built-in hose. Two knobs control the griddle’s burners, which fire up with a twist ignition. Its durable cold-rolled steel cooktop provides a 285-square-inch cooking surface with a tall lip to keep food contained and a hole in one corner to funnel grease into a removable tray. The cooktop detaches for easy cleanup.
Cuisinart’s super cool round flat top grill comes in a unique circular shape, with a 22-inch-diameter cooking surface atop a 360-degree grease pan. An elegant stainless steel lid (that looks like it came straight out of room service!) includes an adjustable vent so the grill can roast, steam, bake, or smoke, as well as grill and fry.
Cuisinart’s CGG-888 has two independently controlled 15,000-BTU burners that reach a maximum temperature of 550 degrees Fahrenheit. The grill’s base offers a spot to hide the 20-pound propane tank out of sight.
A fold-down side table allows for easy access to cooking tools, utensils, and condiments, as well as a handy paper towel holder. Four lockable wheels make it easy to steer this 60-pound grill around a patio or a deck.
Pit Boss’s stainless steel and cast-iron flat top grill makes a big impact in a small footprint. Its 21 by 17 by 11-inch frame may suggest it belongs on a kitchen countertop, but this propane-powered grill is safe for outdoor use only. Set it up on a patio table then tuck the 27-pound appliance in the garage or shed after the meal.
Easy to operate, this grill’s two burners light with the push of a button. Separate knobs allow outdoor chefs to set each burner to a different temperature. Its removable, flat cooking surface measures 289 square inches, which provides ample space to prepare outdoor meals. Four sturdy, non-slip legs keep the grill firmly in its place. A small removable grease trap means the grill master can dump and clean it without moving the grill.
FAQs About Flat Top Grills
Flat top grills are a great addition to any household, but you may still have some concerns about how they are used as well as questions about the differences between grills and other cooking devices. Read on to find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the best flat top grill.
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 have large cooking surfaces with cooking grates 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 resemble portable grills. Griddles have flat cooking surfaces without holes or gaps and are 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 food is has more to do with the type of food, not the cooking method. If the goal is healthier eating, consider choosing grilled veggies over a porterhouse steak.
Q. What is the best way to clean my flat top grill?
Basic cleaning should be done before and after every use to keep the food tasting great and the grill working properly. To clean the grill, use the grill brush to remove stuck-on pieces of food, sauce, spices, and other burned food items. It’s also a good idea to empty out the grease tray 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. Each piece from the interior of the grill, including grates, griddles, burner protectors, and the entire catch basin at the bottom of the grill, should be removed and carefully cleaned with a grill cleaner before being rinsed, dried, and returned to its position inside the grill.
The exterior of the grill should also be cleaned on a semi-regular basis. Using a grill cleaner with water-resistant qualities will help protect the grill and keep it looking great.
Q. How do you take care of a grill?
To properly take care of a grill, follow these simple steps:
- Regularly check the gas or electrical connection to ensure that there are no tears, breaks, or leaks.
- Make sure the grill is properly covered when it isn’t in use to avoid damage from rain, snow, and ice.
- Before and after every use, the grill should be cleaned. Depending on how frequently the grill is used, it should be deep cleaned with a grill cleaner semi-regularly to help ensure that it lasts for years.
Flat top grills make a great addition to an indoor or outdoor kitchen. They offer substantially more cooking surface than a standard frying pan or even many grills. Since flat top grills come in a broad range of sizes as well as electric and gas types, consider how you plan to use the grill when shopping for one.
Look for a large gas-powered flat top grill for big backyard barbecues, a smaller electric model for Sunday morning pancake breakfasts with the family, or tabletop gas grills for camping trips and tailgate parties.