A griddle is a specialized piece of cookware with a flat cooking area and a nonstick or carbonized surface. They are often placed over two heating elements of a range, sold as a separate electric unit, or installed as part of a commercial grill in restaurant kitchens. Griddles are usually used to cook pancakes, eggs, grilled sandwiches and other dishes requiring a large, flat cooking area.
Many foods traditionally cooked in a frying pan or electric skillet can also be prepared on a griddle. Professional cooks typically like them because they cook evenly and are accessible. Turning a pancake or grilled sandwich in a standard frying pan can be awkward, but cooks can easily slip a spatula under the food item on the large and flat surface of a griddle. It's even heating temperature allows for better presentation and consistent quality.
Certain foods such as pancakes and french toast respond much better in a griddle. Traditional cookware creates hot and cold spots, plus the sides of a frying pan can trap unwanted convection heat. A griddle allows food to brown evenly and release excess heat into the surrounding area. Frying pans may crowd food such as fried eggs, and the oil tends to pool around the food as it cooks. A good nonstick griddle does not require additional cooking oil, and food can be placed anywhere on the cooking surface to avoid crowding.
A quality griddle should feel sturdy, with a solid metal base for even heating. A nonstick coating is preferable for most applications, so examine the surface for any sign of poor coating application. Nonstick surfaces such as Teflon® or SilverStone® are generally high quality brand names. Non-electric versions should fit over the stove top heating elements completely and securely. Electric units should allow for various heat settings and also feature a nonstick cooking surface. Griddles without nonstick coatings may have to be seasoned with oil, much like new cast-iron cookware. Those without a nonstick coating should develop a carbonized (blackened through use) surface which will reduce sticking. A few sprays of food oil such as Pam cooking spray should also help a griddle become seasoned.