When cooking for a crowd, a good electric griddle can be a timesaver.
How We Tested
Electric griddles have a reputation for being, well, a bit retro. A June 1955 issue of Good Housekeeping stated that a “thermostatically controlled” electric griddle was the solution if you “turn out leathery pancakes.”
However, a good electric griddle still has the same appeal today; it allows you to cook a big batch of something without having to divide a recipe into as many batches—or perhaps any batches at all. And unlike a stovetop griddle, an electric griddle frees up your burners for other tasks when you’re cooking for a crowd.
All the electric griddles we previously recommended, including our previous winner by BroilKing, were discontinued or redesigned, so it was time to retest. We selected six models, including the updated version of the BroilKing, all with nonstick surfaces and priced from about $30 to just under $100. We used each one to make our Best Buttermilk Pancakes, our Extra-Crisp French Toast, and hamburgers.
The Best Griddles Heat Evenly
Electric griddles get their heat from an electric coil on the underside of the cooking surface. As with ovens, the heat cycles on and off to maintain the temperature you set on the control panel. Most of the griddles in our lineup have indicator lights that tell you when the unit reaches the desired temperature.
When our griddles signaled that they’d reached 350 degrees, we tested the surface temperatures in several locations. The results were all over the map. Most had hot and cold spots on their surfaces, and we saw this in the food we cooked, too; pancakes were both raw and overcooked in the same batch. The worst model varied by 80 degrees across its cooking surface: It was 319 degrees in one corner and 399 degrees in another. The best varied by less than 10 degrees, giving us pancakes that were uniformly browned and fluffy.
In general, griddles that were the most inconsistent in temperature were the quickest to heat up. The worst model indicated it was ready in just 4 minutes, while the most consistent griddle—the one that varied just 10 degrees—took more than 10 minutes. But time didn’t tell the whole story. Even when we gave that bad model more time to heat and cooked a second batch of food, we saw the same inconsistent heating patterns. In this griddle and others, we could actually see the outline of the heating coil charred into the pancakes, and in one particularly inconsistent model, half the pancakes burned within 3 minutes, while the other half of the batch was only partially cooked.
To understand these differences in heating, we examined the material and thickness of each griddle. We discovered that our top two griddles were both made of nonstick cast aluminum, while lower-ranking models were constructed of nonstick-coated thin metal sheets. The best performer had the thickest cooking surface, at about ½ inch—more than four times thicker than any of the others.
Bridget Smyser, mechanical engineer and associate teaching professor at Northeastern University, explained that thickness is key. “Something that is really thick is going to take longer to heat up,” Smyser said, “and because of this the mass of material is going to stay hot.” By contrast, heat passes quickly through thin metal, creating hot spots.
All the griddles we tested, except for the lowest-ranking one, had nonstick coatings. While some boasted that their coatings were made of ceramic nonstick, which is marketed as a greener alternative to traditional nonstick, we didn’t notice any differences in nonstick performance during testing.
The Size of the Cooking Surface Matters
Still, the real advantage of a griddle is space: We want the cooktop to be large enough so that we can easily cook for a crowd. One model was truly inadequate. It appeared to have a spacious cooking surface, but in fact, only a small area in the center, measuring 12.5 by 8 inches (100 square inches), heated up. This griddle fit just four pancakes, while all the other models, which had at least 190 square inches of usable space, accommodated eight or more pancakes.
But bigger was even better, and cooktops that had at least 230 square inches of usable cooking space were the most versatile. While slightly smaller griddles had no trouble holding eight pancakes or burgers, they couldn’t fit a full recipe’s worth of French toast (eight pieces) without some slices hanging off the edge. The two largest griddles held entire batches with room to spare, giving us plenty of space to maneuver our spatula when flipping.
Good Grease Drainage Equals Easy Cleanup
While grease isn’t an issue with pancakes or French toast, it can be with fatty foods such as burgers or bacon. When we cooked burgers, many of the griddles didn’t drain grease despite having roomy grease traps. That’s because most had completely flat cooking surfaces with no slope to facilitate fat draining; the grease pooled on the surface and occasionally sputtered dangerously. Our favorite griddles offered a solution: a flat cooktop with back legs that can be propped up at an angle, when needed, to drain grease. We used this feature when cooking burgers, and grease funneled right into the traps, making for safer cooking and easier cleanup.
Another feature that aided cleanup was a detachable power cord. This allowed us to wash griddles in the sink without fear of damaging their electronics. We had to be much more careful when cleaning models that had permanently attached power cords.
Two Great Griddles
In the end, we found two griddles we liked, each with minor innovations that improve upon this classic appliance. Our Best Buy, the Presto 19-Inch Electric Tilt-n-Fold Griddle, at just under $45, offers the roomiest cooking surface, which makes it a good pick if you’re cooking for an extra-large crowd. However, it took the longest (13 minutes) to heat and the cooking wasn’t quite as consistent as on our favorite griddle.
The BroilKing Professional Griddle with Backsplash, the new version of our previous winner, is our top choice; it costs just under $100. The company told us that it changed this model’s nonstick coating and made some improvements to heat retention, but otherwise the design is the same as when we last tested. It was the only griddle that varied less than 10 degrees from the set temperature at any place on the surface. We loved its removable splash guard, which contained grease and ensured that no pancakes went toppling over the edge. It consistently produced golden-brown pancakes, crispy French toast, and evenly seared burgers.
We purchased six electric griddles, priced from about $30 to just under $100, and used them to cook Best Buttermilk Pancakes, Extra-Crispy French Toast, and hamburgers. We took the temperature of each cooking surface at 2-minute intervals and timed how long each griddle took to come up to temperature. We washed each griddle three times by hand and scratched the surface 10 times with a metal spatula. We measured the capacity of the grease trap, the overall dimensions, and the dimensions of the cooking surface, as well as the placement and size of the heating elements located on the undersides of the griddles. Results were averaged, and products appear below in order of preference.