After months of seeing Blackstones and other flat-top griddles shown off on social media, I finally got one for myself. What’s more, instead of replacing my run-down grill, I opted for the full-featured Traeger Flatrock instead. While I’m generally happy with my decision, there are some things I wish I knew beforehand.
Compared to a regular grill with grates, flat-top griddles have a uniform steel surface for even cooking. The plate is an ideal surface for preparing foods like smash burgers, pancakes, fried eggs and stir fry. Large griddles usually offer controllable cooking zones, so you can cook different foods at their proper temperatures simultaneously, too.
There are trade-offs with a flat-top griddle compared to the best grills or other outdoor cooking appliances, though. For one, maintenance is a priority if you want your griddle to work properly and last a long time. You might need to adapt your cooking methods to use the griddle effectively as well.
So, if you plan to hop the flat-top griddle trend, here are five things you should know about before buying based on my experience.
Seasoning is non-negotiable
I’ve seasoned many cast iron skillets before, but never one the size of the 71-inch-wide Traeger Flatrock. Given, the Flatrock is fairly large for a flat-top griddle. There are smaller and even portable griddles you could buy, though all will have more surface area to take care of than your average skillet.
Seasoning a griddle requires a repetitive process of smoking off a neutral oil until the surface turns from matte grey to shiny black. Different manufacturers suggest different seasoning methods, but I found that four rounds of avocado oil resulted in the desired appearance.
With each taking at least 10 minutes to burn off, the initial process took about an hour. Luckily, I had no other plans the day I unboxed the griddle, so I could sit around and watch oil smoke. I hadn’t thought to set that time aside beforehand, though.
You can’t skip cleaning
Griddle maintenance doesn’t stop after the first seasoning. After you finish cooking, you’ll want to clean off your griddle before it completely cools down. This is the easiest way to remove the grease and burnt food bits from the surface (pro tip: a little water helps lift all the stuck morsels).
Unlike a regular grill, where all the grease and crumbs burn off in the flames, griddle cleaning is more involved. Leaving it dirty could impact the surface’s longevity and make it more difficult to clean for your next use.
I found it worked best for me to quickly scrape down the griddle right after I finished cooking. I might not be able to sit down to dinner immediately, but at least there’s less work for me to do when I’m done eating.
Accessories are a must
I didn’t realize how many accessories are needed to make the most of a flat-top griddle. To my surprise, my existing grill tools didn’t cut it for cooking on my Flatrock. I quickly found that griddle cooking is easiest with a combination of griddle spatulas and tongs, which can be purchased individually or in a convenient bundle like I bought on Amazon for $37.
Other tools you might want include squirt bottles for oil, a scrub brush for lifting built-up grease, and scraper for pushing grease and discarded food into your griddle’s oil trap. If you plan on making smash burgers, you’ll also want to get a cast-iron burger press and melting dome with a handle. I found this bundle on Amazon for $39.
A lot oil and butter get involved
I’ve already been stringent about limiting my oil and butter use while cooking. But when experimenting with the griddle, I found myself being generous with both out of fear of my food sticking to the surface. While seasoning the griddle helps with its non-stick properties, added fat makes food prep more forgiving.
At first, I felt like I had to completely oil down the surface before cooking based on videos I watched online. After gaining experience from cooking a variety of food items on the griddle, I think I’ve realized that added butter and oil certainly helps with the taste, but neither are needed in excess. It might take some trial-and-error for you to figure out what non-stick aids work best for your griddle and cooking style.
It can’t totally replace a grill
I have no regrets about ditching my regular grill, but I can't say it was truly replaced by a flat-top griddle. As a meat-lover, I haven't managed to get a perfect cook on my skirt steak or filets. Neither benefit from sitting in grease, and I do miss the char of the grill grates.
If you have a Weber grill, check whether it's compatible with one of the company's griddle accessories. The inserts range from $199 to $299 depending on the model. In other words, you can turn your grill into a flat-top griddle instead of buying a whole separate appliance.