If I have said it once, I have said it a million times, I love outdoor cooking! My newest outdoor cooking apparatus that I have added to my collection is my flat top griddle. What is a flat top griddle? It depends on who you ask, but traditionally, a flat top grill is basically a large, flat griddle with no lid or cover. However, I have seen the words “grill” and “griddle” used interchangeably when used to describe this appliance.
A griddle has an uninterrupted, flat heated surface, with no holes or openings in it. Things cooked on a griddle sit in their own oil and grease and require some type of fat to cook with. Griddles will work best when used at temperatures a bit under 400° Fahrenheit. It produces an even heat and will cook foods evenly and quickly. Very fatty or highly marinated meats may prove tricky on a flat top grill because there are no grates for the fat or marinade to drip into, but are not impossible. The perk is that the marinade or fat won’t drip into an open flame and cause flare ups. If you really like the smoky taste of a grill or the look of grill marks on your protein, a flat top grill is not for you. You unfortunately won't achieve either with this type of grill.
No matter what you cook, be sure to clean the grill well when you are done and leave the flat surface with a coating of oil to keep it seasoned.
There are grill/griddle combos out there which are nice because the griddle appliance doesn’t take up precious real estate on the main grill, so you’ll still have use of the entire grilling grid to cook steaks, burgers, chicken, or whatever your protein choice for a crowd, while simultaneously sautéing the onions and mushrooms, veggies, or other sides on the griddle. Using the gas griddle appliance in tandem with a gas grill, kamado, pellet grill, or smoker allows you to cook foods at different temperatures at the same time. If you’re indirect-cooking or low-and-slow smoking on the main grill, you can still sear over high heat on the griddle. It is nice having a whole outdoor arsenal of appliances! I love cooking and not having to clean my kitchen during the summer. It keeps grease splatters out of the kitchen and cooking odors out of the house. With the large surface area of the flat top, griddle meals can be done in minutes!
There are so many recipes you can use a flattop griddle for; here are a few of my favorite uses:
- Pancakes, French toast, eggs any which way, bacon, sausage, omelets, benedicts, corned beef hash, tofu scrambles, and other breakfast foods are so good on the grill.
- There’s even a holiday dedicated to them – Barbecue Your Breakfast Day!
- Making breakfast on the grill can become a fun weekend family tradition, a cool outdoor brunch party with friends, or just a good excuse to have breakfast for dinner!
- Grilled cheese, Reubens, Monte Cristo, croque monsieur, patty melts, Cuban sandwich, cheesesteaks, and the Jersey diner classic – pork roll, egg and cheese – are awesome hot-off-the-griddle-grill.
- Making homemade English muffins, naan, chapati, tortillas, pita bread, or other flat breads is great for the amount of surface area a griddle provides or even just toasting ready made bread to accompany your meal.
- Fried Rice: Use cooked white, brown or cauliflower rice, add chopped leftover veggies, edamame, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Crack an egg over the top and scramble it in. It's the perfect way to utilize leftovers!
- You can use a griddle to make any kind of stir fries or have a full blown teppanyaki party and perfect your “onion volcano.”
- Try hash browns, sautéed potatoes with peppers and onions, potato pancakes, and yes, even tater tots! I also like griddling potato gnocchi with a mixture of vegetables in butter and once the butter browns and crisps up the gnocchi I deglaze with vinegar and stock.
- Succotash with corn-off-the-cob, peas, sautéed greens by themselves but can be even better with bacon, broccoli and cauliflower florets, string beans, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and lots of other veggies that wouldn’t stand a chance on a slatted grilling grid, are yummy when prepared on a grilling griddle.
- Beyond vegetables, think vegetarian proteins like tofu “steaks,” tempeh, seitan, veggie burgers, bean burgers, meatless meatballs and more.
- Quesadillas, fajitas, crunch wraps, burritos, and tacos also turn out really great on a griddle. Honestly, anything that uses a tortilla is amazing crisped up on a griddle. I made birria tacos just the other day!
- Grilling fish on a regular grill can be daunting, because it sticks or it falls through the slats, and it can be hard to flip. With a griddle you can get a really great sear then just cover with a lid or even a metal bowl to complete the cooking. Crab cakes, shrimp, scallops are perfect cooked on the griddle.
Perfectly grilled duck is very difficult to achieve on a normal grill. I find that the fat just doesn’t render properly on the grill grates, but on a flat top they come out perfectly!
All of the above suggestions are pretty traditional uses for your flattop griddle but half the fun of having this kind of cooking surface is experimenting. So, I came up with this recipe for “stir fried” tortellini. It can be completely customizable to use what you have in your refrigerator and can be served hot or room temperature. One thing to note about cooking on a flat top griddle is that everything cooks very fast! Always make sure you have everything prepped and ready to go before starting this recipe because it will go super quick.
Stir Fried Tortellini
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 bag tortellini, fresh not frozen, tossed with oil
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1/2 red onion, julienned
1 bell pepper, julienned
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup artichoke hearts, quartered and drained
2 cups baby spinach, rough chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 oz goat cheese
1. Preheat the griddle to the highest setting. Add an even amount of high smoke point oil, like canola over the surface of the griddle.
2. Place the bulk Italian sausage carefully onto the griddle. Smash the ground meat into the griddle to create a thin and even shape and season with salt and pepper. This will create a great crust. Once the top side of the meat starts to turn slightly grey but not cooked through, start “cutting” into the meat with metal spatulas or bench scraper, until small pieces are achieved.
3. Add the red onions and pepper next to the meat and sauté for a few minutes until softened. Break up the sausage mixture into smaller pieces.
4. Stir all together for about 3-5 minutes, to meld the flavors and season with salt and pepper.
5. In a separate area of the griddle, spread out the tortellini in a flat layer and slightly separated from each other (do not stir!) if they are not sizzling then add a bit more oil. I wanted one side to get a bit golden brown and crisp.
6. Once the tortellini have browned, add the artichokes, tomato and the balsamic vinegar, quickly cover with a lid or an upside-down bowl to create steam for 3 minutes.
7. Uncover, taste and adjust the seasonings, take the stir-fried tortellini off of the griddle and place into a serving bowl and fold in the spinach and goat cheese. These will melt into the pasta to create a creamy sauce. If it looks dry add a splash of water or more vinegar.
In summary, a griddle’s solid surface is ideal for grilling delicate foods like fish fillets and tofu, and prevents runaway shrimp, scallops, asparagus, and other small foods from falling through the cracks of the grill grate. A griddle turns a grill into a restaurant flattop to make diner faves, or a teppanyaki grill for hibachi-style dinners. And, even if you prefer sticking to tried-and-true grill fare, a griddle creates an exceptional crust on steaks, chops and burgers. The beauty of an outdoor griddle is its versatility combined with its consistency. You can cook an entire meal on one surface while enjoying time outdoors. If you like cooking outdoors as much as I do, check out our class calendar for all of our grilling classes!