Which Is Best Griddle? Cast Iron Griddle or a Gas Griddle?

Gas griddles have become incredibly popular in recent years. What once started out as a convenient camp grill and tailgating arsenal has now evolved into a versatile way to cook a vast array of foods on your deck or patio.

This probably even has you tempted to invest in one. Though what if you already have a functioning gas grill?

Is it worth it to invest in an outdoor gas griddle or can you do all the same stuff with a Cast Iron Griddle on a gas grill?

To help you understand if it’s worth the plunge, we’re going to have to take a closer look at what makes gas griddles special, what you need to look for in a gas griddle, and ways you might be able to improvise with good old-fashioned Cast Iron.

What Can You Make On an Outdoor Griddle?

An outdoor gas griddle is great for making traditional burgers, and brats, as well as traditional breakfast foods like bacon, scrambled eggs, and pancakes. Though this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the things that you can cook on a gas griddle or cast iron griddle on a gas grill.

  • Steaks
  • Chops
  • Brats
  • Bacon
  • Eggs
  • Sauteed Vegetables
  • Pancakes
  • French Toast
  • Quesadillas
  • Flatbread Pizzas
  • Pressed Cinnamon Rolls
  • And more

What Is An Outdoor Gas Griddle?

An outdoor gas griddle is very much like a gas grill. In fact, some gas grill manufacturers will even repurpose some of their more popular traditional grills. Then simply swap the grates for a griddle top.

This gives you a flat-top griddle that’s roughly the same size as the grill grates. All with the same BTU output. Some of these manufacturers will even make the griddle top removable, allowing you to add grates to boost the versatility.

What to Look For in a Gas Griddle

In all honesty, some gas grill manufacturers get it right when they repurpose a gas grill as an outdoor griddle, and then there are those who take shortcuts and get it wrong.

Regardless of whether or not you are thinking about buying a gas grill repurposed as an outdoor griddle, or a newly engineered model, there are a few key things to look for, to make sure you’re getting a model deserving of your hard-earned money.

Burner BTUs

With a gas griddle, the flame of each burner element has to first heat the metal of the griddle top. If it doesn’t have enough thermal output the griddle top will take a frustratingly long amount of time to preheat. It will also struggle to rebound quickly if you add cold meats and frozen foods to the griddle top.

Gas burner thermal output is measured in BTUs per hour. The ballpark figure, you want around 80 to 100 BTUs per square inch of griddle top. Anything less than 75 BTUs per square inch and you’ll probably be frustrated by the long preheating time and weak searing capabilities.

A Grease Management System

One of the biggest failures you find with gas grills that are repurposed as griddles is in the grease Management system. Some don’t even have a grease management system, and they simply expect you to scrape off grease as needed into a cup or an old soup can.

Ideally, you want to see an outdoor gas griddle that has a large grease port built into the griddle top. You want it to be big enough that griddle debris won’t clog it in the middle of a Cookout.

Then you also want to see that grease diverted into a receptacle that’s large enough to make it through at least a 15 to 20-minute grill session without overflowing.

If you read reviews and it mentions anything about the grease cup being too small for the grease from a pound of bacon, the grease management reservoir is probably going to make a mess out of your deck.

The Griddle Top Material

By far the most important thing to look for in an outdoor gas griddle that’s worth the money is the material the griddle top is made out of.

Cold Rolled Steel

Cold-rolled steel is a popular material for an outdoor griddle top. With proper care, it will develop a nonstick seasoning layer that will also enhance the flavor of the food you cook on it.

Cast Iron

Cast Iron used to be a common griddle material, for its heat-absorbing properties. Though on its own, Cast Iron needs an intensive degree of seasoning to protect the metal from excessive and unappealing rusting problems.

Porcelain Coated Griddle Tops

One way to eliminate rusting problems on cold rolled steel and Cast Iron griddle tops is to apply a special Porcelain coating. This is a thin non-stick layer that’s very easy to clean and maintain.

However, the tradeoff here is that you can’t really develop any sort of seasoning layer to enhance the flavor of the meat. A lot of experienced griddle masters will scoff at the lack of a seasoning layer.

If you’re relatively new to outdoor griddle cooking, chances are you won’t notice the minimal enhancement missing from a Porcelain coated griddle top. Though there will certainly be times when you appreciate the quick, easy cleanup!

A Lid or a Hood

Roughly half of all the outdoor griddles on the market either don’t have a lid/cover or an upgraded model costs extra. The problem is that a lot of grill manufacturers raise the price of a lidded model by $75 to $150. This seems a little too much for a curved piece of metal, with a handle and two hinges.

Especially since a lot of the lids aren’t really waterproof. So, they don’t really protect vulnerable seasoning layers from the rain if you want to leave your outdoor griddle on your deck or patio.

A hood or lid does come in handy for times when you want to melt a slice of cheese, or you need to enclose the heat on the griddle top for thick, or bone-in pieces of meat.

The best way to save yourself some money, but still be able to quickly melt a slice on a cheeseburger is to invest in a cheap steam dome. You can place it over the meat when needed at a cost of around $20 rather than paying an extra $100 for a hinged lid.

A Waterproof Cover

A waterproof cover is absolutely critical for protecting the griddle top metal as well as the internal firebox components. Even if you plan to keep your griddle under a pergola roof or wheel it into your garage a cover will go a long way toward preventing dust, pollen, and other particles from sticking to the griddle’s seasoning layer.

The problem is that a lot of outdoor griddles don’t come with a cover, and you have to pony up an extra $50 to $75 with the initial purchase. So, if you see one for sale with a free cover included in the purchase, it definitely adds to the value.

What To Look for in a Cast Iron Griddle to Use on a Gas Grill

Let’s say you have a traditional gas grill, and you want to get in on the outdoor griddle revolution without having to purchase a whole new grill. In a scenario like this, a cast iron griddle can let you in on a lot of the outdoor griddle flavor. Though not all accessory griddles are created equal, there are some important details to keep in mind.

Grease Management Trough

Grease management is one of the biggest challenges when taking a griddle top out to your gas grill. Ideally, you want a griddle with a deep trough to catch the grease and prevent a horrendous grease fire.

Still, chances are good that you won’t be able to make an entire pound of bacon at one time. You’ll have to work in batches. Then extract the grease runoff before you lay down new slices.

The Thickness of the Griddle

Ideally, you want the griddle to be around 1 to 1.5 inches thick in the main part of the cast iron cooking surface. Any thinner than this and you risk singing the meat you’re trying to cook before the interior is fully cooked. Anything thicker than 1.5 inches and it will take a very long time to fully heat up to the ideal cooking temperature for the food you want to cook.

Which Is Better Porcelain Coated or Bare Cast Iron?

Here again, if you go with a Porcelain Coated Cast Iron Griddle you won’t be able to develop a seasoning layer, but you’ll have much easier cleanup and storage. You’ll also have an easier time releasing lean cuts of meat and sticky things like pancakes or scrambled eggs.

Most people who opt for a cast Iron Griddle on a gas grill find it’s easier to work with a porcelain-coated version.

A Steamer Lid

Melting slices of cheese can be a challenge when you use a cast iron griddle on a gas grill. However, most gas grills have a lid that you can close to melt slices of cheese or reverse sear a thick piece of meat in a reasonable amount of time.

This can be a considerable savings over the cost of a gas griddle with a built-in lid. Though it’s not much of a factor if you already have a steam dome lid.

Safety Considerations

Fire safety is one of the biggest concerns when using a cast iron griddle on a gas grill. The most obvious is the risk of a major grease fire. Rendered fat and hot oil get very close to the edge of the griddle. If it gets hot enough, or the flames and grease meet the fire can be swift and immense. This will happen at least once!

So, be sure to keep a fire extinguisher nearby when using a Cast Iron Griddle on a gas grill.

You also have to keep in mind that the Cast Iron will hold a dangerous amount of heat energy for an hour or more after the grill burners are turned off. It’s often too hot to move with welding gloves, and too heavy to move with grill tools. So, plan to leave the griddle in place throughout the entire grill session.

Cast Iron Griddle Storage

Even if you opt for a porcelain Coated Cast Iron griddle you will still need to store it in a waterproof container after it cools down. If you just slip it into the cabinet base of your gas grill you’ll likely end up with dust and pollen casing to the surface.

Which Is Right For Me, a Gas Griddle or Cast Iron?

Choosing between the major investment in a new outdoor gas griddle or a Cast Iron accessory griddle often comes down to how often you’ll use it.

If you will be cooking burgers, brats, steaks, chops, and bacon at least two to three times a week, then a new outdoor gas griddle is probably worth it. Just be sure that no matter what type of griddle top you get, you also invest in a waterproof cover.

If you just need to occasionally make some bacon for your cheeseburgers or saute vegetables at the grill side for fajitas, then an accessory Cast Iron Griddle on your current gas grill makes more sense. You could even bring it with you camping to make breakfast on your camp stove.

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