With the prospect of getting together with friends and entertaining this summer, there has been a spike in interest in grills. If you’ve started researching grills, you’ve noticed—like we have—the rising popularity of the flat top grill. You probably have questions, like “Should I consider one of these?” or “Is a flat top grill right for me?” or even, “What is a flat top grill?”.
To help answer those questions, we’ve drawn on our decades of grill-testing experience, and selected a list of recommendations to consider.
What You Need to Know About Flat Top Grills
Now, to answer that last question: What is a flat top grill? It depends on who you ask, but traditionally, a flat top grill is basically a large, flat griddle with no lid or cover. However, we often see “grill” and “griddle” used interchangeably. And, when searching “flat top grills,” we find both griddles and grills—which look very similar—lumped in the same category. Which one is best for you all depends on what you plan to cook. While a lot of things can be prepared on both, there are differences.
A griddle is an uninterrupted, flat heated surface, with no holes or openings in it. Things cooked on a griddle sit in their own oil and grease—or require some type of oil or grease, if the food on the griddle doesn’t have any of its own. Griddles will work best when used at temperatures a bit under 400 degrees Fahrenheit, for food like eggs, bacon, pancakes, French toast, cheesesteaks, grilled cheese, and other hot sandwiches. Plus, there are a lot more advanced culinary options like stir fry, fajitas, and tacos. And, yes, burgers—White Castle has been doing them this way for a century now.
A grill either has a grate made from metal rods, or a cast metal plate with ridges and perforations—in either case, the surface allows oil and grease to drip away from the food being cooked. Grills will work best in most cases over 400˚F, especially when searing meat is desired. Typical foods cooked on grills include burgers, chicken, ribs, bratwurst, chops, steaks, and vegetables.
Flat top grills can have either griddle or grill cooking surfaces and share some common characteristics. They’re rectangular in shape, have two or more gas burners, and they don’t have a cover or lid—they’re completely open. (Although some griddles may have three low sides to prevent food and grease splatter from escaping over the edge.) With nothing to cover the cooking surface, flat top grills won’t be good for low and slow cooking—or smoking.
Flat top grills do, however, provide a fully accessible cooking surface. Traditional grills with a flip-up lid often have warming racks in addition to solid sides that can make accessing all of the cooking area difficult at times—particularly when there is a lot of food on the grill.
Choosing a Flat Top Grill
Picking which surface to get on a flat top grill depends on what you typically cook on a grill, or what you would like to cook on a grill. Some flat top grill models come with both grill and griddle cooking surfaces, eliminating the decision if you can’t make up your mind. Size is the last consideration and that depends on the size of the meals—or how many people you’ll be preparing food for. Two-burner grills will work for most small families, while four-burner grills would be better for larger families or small cookouts with friends. If you plan on entertaining larger parties, five or more burners may be in order.
Most flat top grills are propane-fueled, so you’ll want to consider how many BTUs of cooking power a grill offers. Expect extras such as folding-side serving shelves, a wide storage shelf underneath, hooks for grilling tools, and removable grease buckets, along with wheels, often with locking castors. Most—but not all—are powder-coated to prevent rust; those that don’t will need to be stored inside or covered. Finally, some flat top grills feature folding legs for storage or portability.
How We Selected
When selecting our flat top grill recommendations, we relied on knowledge from our extensive grill testing, as well as our experience with brands we know and trust. To be sure we had options for everyone, we selected grills across a wide size and price range, as well as including portable options. Lastly, our selections are backed up with thousands of positive ratings made by owners of these models.
Every flat top grill featured below has an average rating of at least four stars, and several rate 4.5 stars and up. Our selection includes options in a range of sizes, and grills that span multiple price points, from value-packed to splurgeworthy. We compared features mentioned above across the board and weighed them against overall cost.