Knowing what type of equipment the customer is referring to will determine which type to use in food preparation. As any other cooking utensils, the best rice cooker, microwaves, ovens, are some things really important for your daily cooking.
As a utensil, the griddle is still with us–a round or rectangular plate of metal with edges curled up slightly–designed to be used over a heat source. Its purpose is much like that of a frying pan, except that only enough oil is used to lightly coat the surface of the metal. There is usually a groove running around the edge of the plate to collect fat and juices which run out of the cooking food, unlike the frying pan which cooks food in its own fats and juices.
As an appliance, the griddle is a large, flat metal plate mounted in a metal frame or attached to the top of a range. It’s heated by either gas or electricity. The surface of the plate may be either smooth or ridged. There is a grease trough, also called a gutter. Some griddles have grease troughs on all four sides; others may have only a front trough or a side groove to catch oil, juices, and residues. Troughs generally run into some type of collection tray.
That’s the basic griddle. Heat is applied to the bottom of the plate, either from gas burners or electric elements, the top surface is wiped with grease, and food is cooked.
Griddle or Grill?
Originally a grill was a grate of bars or metal fastened together to support food over a fire. Thus, a charcoal or char glow broiler could also be called a charcoal grill–and often is. However, somewhere in the history of foodservice, the name grill began to be used interchangeably with griddle for the appliance which has a large, flat sheet of metal heated from below.
As a result, some manufacturers call their equipment griddles, while the others call the same thing a grill! Throughout this guide, the term griddle will be used to describe the appliance used by foodservice operators to make pancakes, hamburgers, fried eggs–and to fry meats, hash brown potatoes, etc.
Types of Griddles
There are three main types of griddles. The basic griddle is, as we’ve described, a flat plate of metal heated from below. It is referred to as a griddle. The second type is similar to the basic griddle, except that it also has a swing down plate which applies heat to the top of the food when it is used in conjunction with the bottom griddle. This is called a top griddle, and the smaller units, designed to brown both sides of a sandwich evenly, are called sandwich griddles (or grills).
The third type is a bottom griddle with the plate ribbed or grooved. This is used primarily for cooking such items as hamburgers or steaks. The ribbing pattern leaves a browned pattern on the meat, similar to that provided by the charcoal broiler grate. This type of griddle is known as a grooved griddle.
Griddles also come in three different models. There are counter models, either free-standing or part of a line of equipment. There are models which are floor mounted, either free-standing or part of a line of equipment mounted together. And there are griddles which are mounted on top of ranges, usually to one side of the range top burners or elements.
Griddles may be heated by gas or electricity. Most griddles have thermostats built into them to insure that the temperature of the frying surface stays within about five to eight degrees above or below the temperature shown on the burner or element knob. The burner should extend from the front working edge of the griddle to the back, in order to provide heating for the full depth of the griddle.
Some manufacturers still provide manual control gas griddles. While these are less expensive than thermostatically controlled types, they suffer from one major fault. The thermostat permits increasing the burner flow to overcome “load drop” in temperature, caused when a large quantity of cold food is placed on the griddle for cooking. The manual models, on the other hand, since the burner is set, take much longer to recover from the heat loss of a large load of food. Suggest to the operator that the extra cost of the thermostat control is well repaid by the more reliable operation of the automatic griddle.
Electric griddles have electrical heating elements clipped to the underside of the griddle plate. These elements are thermostatically controlled. It is necessary to study the “specs” when you are selling a griddle. Be sure the specifications state the heating source output. In gas and electric models, the more the better!
The same thing is true of electric griddles. The same size, a 36-inch wide unit, 24 inches deep, might be obtained in 15,000 watts to 18,000 watts. Again, the larger unit has the potential for more rapid recovery from a heat drop than the smaller unit. Yet, often the price of the two models will be very similar. By knowing the completion and its specifications, you can show the operator how a larger output unit can provide better production. The higher wattage unit might actually be more economical of energy than the smaller output model, which takes longer to catch up with the load.
Just a few years ago, almost all griddle plates were ground smooth and that was it. The amount of grinding and the smoothness varied greatly from one maker to another. In some, the swirling marks of the grinder were visible. In others, the manufacturer had ground the top of the plate so smoothly there were no marks visible at all. But practically none were really “polished.”
Today that’s different. Not only are most griddles polished, but there are some which are actually chrome-plated to reduce porosity. That reflects a different concept than once existed. Originally, a griddle surface was expected to be somewhat porous. Oil was placed upon the surface and the griddle was heated up to “season” it. To clean off burned-on residue and sticky, overheated grease, the plate surface was burnished with a griddle brick or stone. A plated surface should never be burnished, nor should one which has a “mirror” finish.
The thickness of a griddle plate directly affects the performance–and the price. The thicker the plate is, the more it costs. A thick plate heats more evenly over its surface than a thinner one. For the operator, the thicker plate offers a lesser chance of having “hot spots” on the surface, and the effects of a temperature drop from a heavy food load will not be as severe, since the thicker plate holds a greater temperature “reserve.”
The size of a griddle is generally expressed in the number of inches of the equipment’s width. You will hear that an operator likes a 36-inch griddle better than a 48-inch griddle. In actual fact, the size of the griddle plate may be substantially less than the width of the equipment. In some models, where there is a grease trough on both sides of the griddle plate, the width of a plate on a 36-inch griddle may be 32 inches or less.
Sandwich griddles are small, countertop griddles with a top griddle plate to swing down and brown the top of a sandwich at the same time the bottom is being browned on the main griddle plate. They can range in size from about 10 by 10 inches (space for four sandwiches at a time) to as large as 13 by 14 inches (nine sandwiches). This is the actual cooking surface of the bottom grill; overall sizes will be two or more inches larger in each dimension.
Some sandwich griddles have sufficient wattage to grill ham, bacon and steaks. For sandwich use about 1200 to 1650 watts is generally sufficient, depending upon the grill surface. For grilling meats, however, a higher wattage is necessary. Some models develop as much as 6,000 watts. Sandwich griddles intended for light duty (sandwiches and eggs, for example), usually have griddle plates of aluminum. Some are available with Teflon coating to prevent sticking. On the other hand, griddles intended to be used both for sandwiches and to grill meats generally are equipped with griddle plates of cast iron.
An attachment is available for use on regular griddles which gives the “over and under” effect of a sandwich griddle. It fits on most standard electric grills by slipping over the rear or side splash guard. As an attachment, it is designed to plug into a 120 volt outlet. Wattage is only 1250, but it is thermostatically controlled and when not in use, it will remain in an upright position out of the way of the fry cook.
A combination griddle and top unit with an infrared quartz element is another specialty griddle. Available in 24-inch, 36-inch, and 48-inch models, the electric grill is a standard 24 inches deep with 18,000 to 30,000 watts, depending upon size. When both the griddle and the quartz hood are used together, some typical times for cooking are 1 1/2 minutes for a load of 16 1/4-lb. hamburger patties, 4 1/2 minutes for a 3/4-inch to 1 1/4-inch steak, medium, or 1 1/2 minutes for a grilled cheese or Reuben sandwich, according to the manufacturer.
Roller grills are another specialty item. Designed to both grill and display sausages and hot dogs, roller grills consist of tubular rollers placed side by side. Used primarily in food stands or on cafeteria lines, roller grills are a highly specialized item.