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Envious of diner-style cooking, is a stovetop griddle worth it?

My neighborhood diner turns out some fine fried eggs, hash browns, chop steak and fried onions on their ancient carbon steel griddle. Watching the cook efficiently take orders and sling hash is like poetry in motion. I want to get good at this style of cooking so I ask, is it worth it to get a steel stovetop griddle or should I just stick to practicing with my cast iron pan?

Pros of the griddle that I can think of include: more space to flip eggs and pancakes, smoother surface means less sticking, and cooking for a crowd is much easier. Also you can have two heat zones with a hot burner and a warm burner.

Pros of sticking with the pan: I already have the pan.

So i guess I am talking myself into it. Anyone with a stovetop griddle care to weigh in with pros and cons, and buying recommendations?

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  1. I think what makes that diner griddle work so well is the even heat source underneath. When I use my large griddle it sits on top of two burners so there are two big hot spots meaning some things cook too fast, others too slow. A heavy electric griddle, on the other hand, can give you good even heat.

    1. I think what makes "diner-style" cooking diner-style is the layers and layers of bacon (or whatever) grease that have collected on the griddle have years of use -- sort of like seasoning a CI pan.

      1. We have a griddle and love it. If you preheat in advance, the heat gets conducted relatively evenly, so there is no problem with hot spots. It's large enough to cook 6 slices of French Toast or 6 grilled cheese sandwiches at a time and the lack of any side wall makes it way easier to turn things with a spatula, than when cooking in a skillet. And, unlike a lot of specialty cookware, because it's a flat item, it can be stored on its side in cabinet with the cutting boards, so it takes up virtually no space when not in use.

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        1. re: masha

          Our griddle is made by Chef's Design. It's aluminum (anodized?) with a nonstick surface. We've had it for almost 25 years.

        2. At my old house there was a built in cast iron griddle, I loved that thing. It was so convenient. The stove top versions do not compare unless you have an even heat source. I've been trying to find a plug in version for a reasonable price but no go. The cheapest I can find is 600 dollars and that is more than I'm willing to pay for this.

          I do use a stove top griddle now, but it's a round griswold cast iron pan. What I want is a nice large griddle I cook on for multiple people at once.

          1. I've always wanted to channel my "inner-diner cook" and have the room to install one of these:

            http://www.webstaurantstore.com/star-...

            If you have the space and want the diner experience, maybe you can get one of these griddles. I have to rely on my trusty carbon steel skillets to get that same taste to my eggs and pancakes, etc. In fact, it's because I wanted to cook this way I searched for the carbon steel.

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