Griddles are fairly basic: a thick steel plate is heated from below, allowing you to grill and sauté on a big flat surface. Side and rear splashguards, grease troughs and drops to catch pans or drawers were added to corral grease. Early refinements in griddle design focused on plate thickness, surface treatment and the zoning and control of surface temperatures. Infrared burner technology was introduced to improve gas efficiency.
Today, most large griddles are gas heated, but there are plenty of electric models and hybrids (these generate and use steam to heat the cooking surface).
Upgraded controls: Gas controls have advanced from manual valves, to electro-mechanical thermostats, to solid-state thermostat controls with sensors in the griddle plate for more precision and faster reaction to temperature change. PC technology allows individual zone and even daypart programming. Most manufacturers offer zoned heating via separate controls for each section of griddle width.
Plate surface treatment: Griddle plates are typically fabricated from either mild or stainless steel that is machined and polished, and some manufacturers offer a chrome plated cook surface. Mild steel transfers heat a bit better than stainless, but isn’t as easy to clean. Chrome-plated griddles have low porosity and are easy to clean but require care to avoid scratching that mirror finish. Some griddles have grooved surfaces, which offers the ability to brand meats and seafood with grill marks.
Sizing it up: Most countertop and floor model griddles are available in 24-, 36-, 48-, 60- and 72-inch wide models, but some manufacturers offer additional widths, including 18, 30 and 84 inches. Griddle plate depth varies from 18-inches for countertop models to 24, 28 or even 30 inches for floor models.
Old World griddles make news: Specialty griddles from Europe and Asia are finding their way into the equipment mix. With the popularity of sandwiches, the Italian panini griddle offers rapid two-side heating, plus marking or branding. The Japanese steakhouse has brought us the teppanyaki griddle—a large drop-in model conducive to communal dining. And from central Asia comes an assortment of Mongolian griddles, designed for display kitchens to work in the round and produce stir-fry to order.