Kitchn Love Letters

The Best Backyard Grill Doesn’t Actually Have ANY Grates

published Jul 1, 2021
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Zucchini Potato Pancakes And Vegetables On A Plancha Grill
Credit: Ina Peters | Stocksy

A couple of years ago, I had never used a flat-top grill. I thought they were reserved for restaurant chefs and fast-food kitchens. I didn’t realize you could get one to use at home. And then, I was tasked with reviewing home units for America’s Test Kitchen. And that’s when my whole grilling world opened up.

You see, a flat-top grill is like a very large griddle mixed with a gas grill. Instead of grill grates, it has a long, wide sheet of carbon steel. And while you can’t achieve grill marks or smoke foods, you can get an epic sear on steak or salmon fillets and employ its griddle surface to cook things that aren’t typically grilled, like pancakes, bacon, eggs, grilled cheese, smashed burgers, fried rice, and sliced veggies (without having to worry about things falling through the grill grates!). And because a flat-top grill has multiple burners, you can create distinct cooking zones, allowing you to make things that require lower heat (like pancakes) and those that require higher heat (like bacon) at the same time.

Now, not all flat-top grills are great (or, should I say grate — wink, wink). There are round models, which lack sides, so ingredients tend to careen off of them with an errant flick of a spatula. And there are grills that have teeny, tiny holes for drainage, which makes them a pain to clean (more on that below).

I have a flat-top grill from Blackstone, which is one of the biggest names in the flat-top grill business. It’s pretty perfect, in my opinion. It has tall walls that are helpful for containing and flipping food, a large cooking surface, and a wide drainage area at the back that leads to a grease cup. When you’re finished cooking, you can simply scrape any food remnants back and into the grease cup, which makes cleanup easy. I also love that this flat-top grill has two side tables that I can place sheet pans of to-be-cooked and cooked goods on. It has wheels, too, for patio cleaning and grill relocating.

Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Excuse the dirty grill shelf — it's peak pollen season in Massachusetts!

Any flat-top grill, including the one I have, requires maintenance. Like a carbon steel pan, a thin layer of oil needs to be applied to the grill’s griddle top after cleaning to prevent rusting. And, for storing and protecting it from the elements, I recommend buying a grill cover. If it’s not being used for a long period of time, the grill should also be placed in a cool, dry place. However, if it does get rusty, a flat-top grill can be reasoned, just like a cast iron or carbon steel skillet! (Check the grill’s manual or the manufacturer’s website — most provide seasoning and re-seasoning instructions!)

If you keep all of this in mind and treat it right, you’ll be super happy with your flat-top grill. I never tire of making breakfast, lunch, or dinner on mine. To me, it’s outdoor cooking at its finest and funnest.

Do you have a flat-top grill? Tell us about it in the comments!