If grill marks on your food is not a necessity, you can get a lot of use out of a versatile flat griddle -- especially if you're a fan a pancakes, French toast, bacon or hash browns. Still, there's more to griddles than breakfast. You can also use them to cook flatbreads, sautŽ vegetables, cook burgers, warm tortillas, or cook seafood. You can even press (get it?) your griddle into work as a panini maker by using a handheld panini press or a brick wrapped in tin foil as a weight.
All that open space is one of the biggest benefits of using griddles; it allows you to cook pancakes for a crowd or to cook your entire breakfast -- pancakes, eggs and bacon -- all at once. However, keep in mind that griddles large enough to handle all that food also come with a correspondingly large footprint. You'll need to think about how and where your griddle will be stored when it's not in use.
If you're serious about your griddling you should definitely consider the Broilking Professional Griddle PCG-10 (Est. $140). This substantial griddle will last for years and draws rave reviews from a prominent professional test kitchen for achieving the holy grail of griddle performance: Consistent, accurate heat and plenty of surface area. Owners say the non-stick surface cleans up easily. The PCG-10 includes a removable backsplash to guard against spatter, but it's also available without a backsplash as the Broilking Professional Griddle PCG-5 (Est. $120). However, the PCG-5 gets much poorer reviews than the PCG-10, with several complaints of uneven heating that we did not see for the PCG-10, even though they are essentially the same griddle.
If you don't want to spend quite that much for an electric griddle, we recommend you take a look at Presto. This ubiquitous line of griddles is incredibly popular with owners, although one test kitchen panned a Presto model for a thin surface that caused uneven heating. Still, even if Presto griddles aren't quite on the level of the Broilking in terms of consistency, they still get a lot of love -- and repeat buys -- from happy consumers.
Users are particularly enamored of the Presto Big Griddle Tilt 'n Drain 07046 (Est. $55), thanks to its large 18-1/2 by 15-inch cooking surface (big enough to cook up a dozen pancakes or pieces of French toast at once) and a heavy cast aluminum base that helps maintain consistent heating. A raised lip around the surface of the griddle helps contain drips, and a cool-touch border around the front and sides of the griddle helps protect you against accidental burns.
Customers also love this Presto griddle's tilt-to-clean feature: The griddle sits flat to cook, but when you pull out the handles it tilts forward for easy grease disposal. Push the handles back in to adjust the griddle back to a flat cooking surface. The 07046 and all the other Presto models we evaluate are also dishwasher safe once you remove the heat control.
If the jumbo-size Presto 07046 is too much for you, consider down-sizing to the Presto 07045 (Est. $45), which works the same as the 07046, right down to the cool touch border and tilting handle feature. Still too much? The Presto 07047's (Est. $30) 10-1/2 by16-inch cooking surface can cook up to half a dozen pancakes at once, still has the same, effective non-slip coating you'll find on the bigger models, and remains dishwasher safe. No tilt-to-clean handles, though. And although it's much easier to tuck the 07047 into a cabinet than the larger models, some users point out that they actually like having their griddle front and center because they're more likely to use it.