Posted: Nov 19, 2012
Shopping for a griddle can be a tumultuous process, and the complexity of the options can take many folks are unaware. Fortunately, once the main differences and available options are known, the process becomes significantly easier. First let’s take a second to examine the different varieties of griddles on the market, and then we will look at some important factors to examine when shopping.
Gas Griddles: Gas griddles are the most common griddles found in commercial kitchens. Gas griddles are produced in a tremendous number of sizes, ranging from 12” to 72” and higher, and can come setup to run on natural gas or liquid propane. This gives gas ranges an advantageous flexibility, as there are some instances (like on a food truck, for example) where natural gas lines are inaccessible. Often times griddles will come natural gas standard from the factory but will come with a field conversion kit at no additional charge. These griddles have burners that rest under the griddle plate which are designed in a U-shape to more evenly heat the cooking surface. Traditionally a burner is placed every 12”, but the spacing of burners is different for every manufacturer.
Electric Griddles: Standard electric griddles operate similarly to gas griddles. The two are built incredibly similar, but electric griddles have electric heating elements in lieu of standard gas burners. These heating elements are often (not always) placed inside the griddle plate at spacing similar to that of gas burners. This decreases the time it takes to initially heat the griddle, and lowers recovery time, though electric griddles still have larger heat latencies than gas griddles. As of late, a few companies have started producing induction griddles. These induction griddles operate similar to induction cooktops, but have a steel plate instead of the standard glass-ceramic cover that goes on a standard induction range. The griddle plate reacts like a piece of induction cookware would in the presence of the magnetic field; it heats incredibly rapidly, and most have top of the line heat recovery. Additionally, these induction griddles are a great way save energy, and have pinpoint accurate thermostats.
Range Griddles: Anyone that has worked in a commercial kitchen before is aware that space is constantly a concern. Often times, when a griddle is necessary but it isn’t convenient for it to take up counter space, business owners will purchase a range with a griddle. These ranges come in a wide variety of sizes and combinations, and come in both electric and gas models. Additionally, some range manufacturers offer the option of a raised griddle; a feature that not only makes it easier to utilize the entire griddle surface, but also reduces potential grease fire hazards by putting space between burners and the griddle top.
Teppanyaki Griddles: Teppanyaki is traditional style of Japanese cooking that utilizes an incredibly hot flat griddle to cook meats and vegetables. There are griddle specific made for this, called Teppanyaki grills (or griddles), which are different than standard griddles. Teppanyaki griddles do not have an outer splash guard, but most have a thin channel around the edge to catch grease or oil runoff. Traditionally Teppanyaki grills are placed in the front-of-the-house so guest can enjoy watching their food being cooked by a skilled chef. They are the center piece of tables in the dining room, and are a way to not only create an interactive dining experience, but also provide customers with the hottest and freshest food possible. There are both electric and gas Teppanyaki grills available on the market.
Tips For Shopping:
- Size – It is important to pick the right size griddle for your operation. It needs to be able to fit in a spot that is easy to cook on (since cooks on the griddle get little time away from it), and it must be able to accommodate the expected volume. For instance, a diner that serves a hefty amount of pancakes and eggs would do well to get a large griddle, as during a rush period (let’s say Sunday brunch time) the entire griddle surface may be constantly covered with food for throughout entirety of the rush. It is better to have more griddle space than not enough. Extra burners can be turned off when not in use, but you can’t manifest more griddle space until food is taken off.
- Griddle Plate – Varying manufacturers and models of griddles will have different griddle plates. The griddle plate of a griddle is incredibly important for a number or reasons. Firstly, each series of griddle will have a different standard thickness for the griddle plate. A thicker griddle plate is more durable, and will retain heat better than a thinner plate. It should be noted, however, that electric griddles have thinner griddle plates than gas in order to reduce heat transfer time. Secondly, companies use different materials to manufacture their griddle plates. Stainless steel griddle plates are the most common, though a number of companies have started to add an aluminum core to their griddle plates to help distribute heat more evenly and reduce hot spots. Carbon steel griddle plates are still on the market, though they have a higher reactivity level with cooked foods (which leads to product sticking to the surface) and often produce hot spots where burners are placed. Many companies also offer a chrome coated griddle plate as an upgrade on many of their griddles. Chrome griddles are non-reactive, so there are fewer issues with flavor transfer and product sticking than with steel or alloy surfaces. Additionally, mirrored chrome actually loses less heat to the environment than its counterparts, which means less energy is needed to cook food and for heat recovery. Chrome griddle plates usually have the added benefit of having an extended warranty as well.
- Thermostat – There are a handful of thermostats available to control your prospective griddle. The first, which is only available gas griddles, is a manual control. A manual controlled griddle constantly supplies gas to the burners (almost like a range or gas hot plate would), and must be monitored by a cook constantly. Manual griddles can heat up past temperatures used for cooking if not properly maintained, which could burn food, damage the griddle, or become a fire hazard. Many cooks prefer manual griddles, however, because of the control they have over the temperature of the heating surface. Manual thermostats are the only ones that do not actually have temperature settings on the dial, however, so they must be maintained by someone who knows how to cook on one / knows how to gauge the temperature. Solid state thermostats are the second of the three main varieties of thermostats, and are available on both gas and electric griddles. Solid state thermostats have sensors embedded in the grill plate, and automatically sense when the surface temperature drops. When the surface drops below the preset temperature, the thermostat sets the burner to appropriately reheat the surface. They are incredibly accurate, and usually keep the griddle surface within 5° F of the temperature they are set to. The third primary control found on commercial griddles is known as a snap action thermostats. Snap action griddles work similar to solid state thermostats, but they do not regulate the burners levels. A snap action thermostat will either turn a burner on or off, which will save energy (since burners are not constantly running), but they are less accurate than solid states. Their burners only have one level of heating, and typically, a snap action griddle will keep the griddle surface anywhere from 15°F to 25° F within the set temperature of the griddle.
- Power Source – It is important to know the differences between electric and gas griddles listed above, but it is especially important to know the number of hours your griddle will be running. There are some all-night style diners that hardly (if ever) turn their griddles off, and the costs of local utilities will dictate which is more appropriate, cost wise. Additionally, the harder a griddle is worked the more stress that is placed on its parts. Since manual gas griddles tend to have few parts, and often can go longer without maintenance or parts issues than electric griddles or griddles with electric thermostats.
- Use – Lastly, it is important to know how you will be using your griddle before purchasing one. For instance, in the all-night diner mentioned above, a large manual gas griddle would probably be the best way to go. Should that diner be shopping for a new griddle, they may even consider a chrome surface. Since chrome surfaces lose less heat, they will cost less to run, and will be easier to clean since less food will stick onto the surface. Conversely, a food truck that sells wraps may opt for a liquid propane range with a griddle to maximize space and maximize their fuel usage (as a large electric range will no doubt be a drain on their mobile energy supply). Different operations call for different griddles, and it is important to note the necessities and preferences that are important to yours.