If you have a flat top grill, you’re probably not making the most of it. That’s not a personal jab – just an observation. After studying thousands of flat top grill owners, we’ve discovered that most have yet to master it.
Don’t worry – this article will show you how.
Tip #1: Understand Your Flat Top Grill
Flat top grills aren’t necessarily a new invention, but they have surged in popularity over the past few years.
Flat top grills, which some also refer to as griddles, are precisely what they sound like. They’re grill appliances that feature a large, flat cooking surface instead of the standard grates that are present on most grills. In most cases, flat top grills are heated from beneath by a gas burner. (Having said that, some will use pellets or charcoal.) The big difference between a flat top grill and a standard gas grill is that the food never actually comes into direct contact with the flame. This allows you to cook a variety of foods that might not otherwise be good suitors for a gas or charcoal grill.
Because the cooking surface is solid, all of the grease that would usually drip down between the grates remains on the surface. This prevents flare ups and adds flavor to the food.
While the term “flat top grill” is used as a sort of catch-all term, there are a variety of different types with different features. The most common is the free-standing flat top grill that looks like a traditional gas grill with the top removed. Then there are compact tabletop flat top grills that are often used for small spaces and/or camping or tailgating.
Some flat top grills have one cooking zone, while others have multiple zones that can be controlled independently.
“If you plan to cook a variety of food on your flat top. Having separately controlled cooking zones will be incredibly helpful,” RTA Outdoor Living mentions. “And don’t overlook size! The more you host, the larger you’ll want your outdoor flat top grill to be.”
Regardless of the type of flat top grill you have, you need to learn how to use it. Every grill has its own unique tendencies and quirks. Learning to master your grill means using it a lot.
Tip #2: Master Heat Distribution
Heat distribution might be the most important concept for effective flat top grilling. Unlike a traditional grill where the flames directly cook the food, a flat top grill relies on conduction cooking.
When cooking, always preheat the grill to allow the surface to reach the desired temperature for consistent cooking. Depending on what you’re cooking, you may want to set up different heat zones so that you can simultaneously cook a variety of foods (or have the ability to shift between higher and lower temperatures).
It’s also helpful to understand how to use lids and domes to create “mini ovens.” this is especially helpful when you want to cook food more evenly or retain moisture.
Tip #3: Season and Maintain Your Grill
One of the things that makes a flat top grill so unique is the surface, which acts like a cast iron skillet and can actually develop a unique seasoning over time. This seasoning creates a layer of rich, smoky flavor in your food.
While you want to use a brush or scraper to remove food particles after every use, avoid using soap and other harsh chemicals that could strip away the seasoning layer.
Tip #4: Try Out Different Foods
Your flat top grill is incredibly versatile, letting you cook any number of foods to perfection. This includes meats, vegetables, seafood, and even breakfast favorites. But you can’t use the same cooking techniques for everything. There are some nuances involved with each meal.
- Meats. For steaks, use high heat to sear steaks and lock in the juices, then move to a lower heat zone to finish cooking to the desired doneness. Burgers can be cooked over medium-high heat, flipping only once to retain moisture.
- Vegetables. Use medium heat and a little oil or butter to sauté vegetables until tender and slightly caramelized. For corn, brush with butter, season, and grill over medium heat, turning occasionally, until charred and tender.
- Seafood. Cook shrimp quickly over medium-high heat to avoid overcooking. Marinating or basting can add extra flavor. Fish like salmon or tilapia should be cooked over medium heat.
- Breakfast items. For pancakes, pour batter onto a medium-hot, lightly greased surface and cook until bubbles form on the surface, then flip.
Master Your Flat Top Grill
Your flat top grill is a versatile cooking tool that can be used for all three meals of the day. By learning how it works, you can master the intricacies and end up with perfectly cooked meals every single time you fire it up.