Electric griddles are a popular fixture in American kitchens for breakfast, but there's more to them than just French toast and pancakes. You can also use them to cook flatbreads, sauté 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; they allow 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. Don't forget 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). The Broilking PCG-10 draws rave reviews from a professional test kitchen for achieving the holy grail of griddle performance: Consistent, accurate heat and plenty of surface area for cooking eight pancakes or pieces of French toast, or almost a dozen pieces of bacon at one time. Owners say the BroilKing's ceramic non-stick surface cleans up easily, and they like its removable grease tray.
Users especially like how thick and sturdy this griddle feels when compared to other models, although with a 21 by 12 inch cooking surface, you do need plenty of storage space. This heavy-duty griddle should last for years, even with frequent use, but if there's any one thing that might go wrong with it, users say that's the temperature control; if you treat it carefully and make sure not to get it wet, it's more likely to last.
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. Both Broilking griddles are covered by a limited two-year warranty, which the manufacturer extends up to a maximum of 30 months if the griddle was given as a gift.
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 or build quality, they still get a lot of love -- and repeat buys -- from happy consumers.
Users are particularly enamored of the Presto 07030 Cool Touch (Est. $40) electric griddle for its great return on value. They recognize that a griddle in this price range will have plenty of room for improvement, but still love this appliance's generous 10.5 by 20.5 inch cooking surface that can accommodate four to six pancakes or eight slices of bacon at once. Other pluses include quick heating and an easy-to-clean design -- as long you remove the temperature control module first, this Presto griddle is fully submersible and dishwasher safe (if it fits).
The Presto 07030 Cool Touch griddle does have a few quirks, but most of them are easily remedied. Those customers who complain about food sticking to the griddle surface usually didn't read the instruction manual and see the directive to season (oil) the griddle before the first use. If you do that, owners say, food almost never sticks. If your food sticks even after following all the directions, you might also be cooking with the griddle too hot.
Users also say that the griddle's feet tend to slide around on the kitchen counter. We're surprised Presto hasn't fixed this, since it's been a known issue for at least six years. But again, many owners say they just put a light towel underneath the griddle or purchase a set of rubber feet at the local hardware store for a couple of dollars -- problem solved. Meanwhile, those low-profile feet make it much easier to store the griddle in a cupboard. The Presto is backed by a limited one-year warranty -- pretty good, considering its price -- and we found many reviews from users who say their Presto 07030 is still going strong after at least a couple of years in spite of its lightweight construction.
If you can't quite commit to either a grill or a griddle, consider our runner-up in this category, the Cuisinart Griddle GR-4N (Est. $100); it can do anything and everything you want. And we do mean everything: the GR-4N is a contact grill that's safe to use indoors and gets hot enough to grill thick hamburgers and large cuts of meat quickly, but also has a floating hinge that allows it to excel as a panini press. You can even flip the nonstick cooking plates over (one side is ridged for grilling, the other is smooth) and swing the two halves open so they lie flat: Voila, your grill has become a flat-surface griddle.
The GR-4N's cooking plates are dishwasher safe, and owners say the drawer-like grease catchers are easy to pull out and clean. This little machine is also great for small kitchens or small cupboard spaces, because its flip-open design has a very small footprint, but still delivers approximately 13 inches by 11 inches of usable cooking area.
The biggest complaint we found about this grill was that the retaining clips that hold the grill/griddle plates in place were, bizarrely, made of plastic -- but newer models now come with metal retaining clips. It's also noteworthy that the entire unit gets quite hot while in use, so keep it out of reach of small children. The GR-4N is covered by an impressive three-year warranty and at 13 pounds, it's portable enough to easily carry from inside to outside (or vice versa), or to take on the road for a tailgating party.