How we tested
Nonstick skillets are perfect for smaller breakfasts, but if you need to feed a crowd (and feed them quickly), a griddle that can span two burners is the way to go. Setting goals of perfectly crisp bacon and golden-brown pancakes every time, we gathered eight models priced under $100 and headed to the stove.
The capabilities of each griddle soon became clear, with the results for both bacon and pancakes nothing short of extreme: raw to incinerated. Only two models provided consistent, even heat across the entire griddle, with no hot spots, producing golden pancakes and crispy bacon. Why did the other models produce such extreme results?
Heat distribution was the important factor. Anodized aluminum griddles heated the most quickly and evenly over the entire surface of the griddle, which translated into more evenly cooked food. Griddles made from cast iron started slowly, but then rapidly became uncontrollably hot (reaching well over 500 degrees), causing food to burn severely. Griddles made from ceramic or cast aluminum were less able to maintain a consistent heat level and produced unevenly cooked food. Lighter griddles made from anodized aluminum had the fastest cool-down time, and heavy pans made from cast iron were the slowest.
We also found other features that separated the pack. Handles matter—a lot! Flat handles made it hard to move the griddles on and off the stove and took longer to cool down. Metal handles became too hot to hold after just a few minutes of cooking. Overall, we prefer heat-resistant loop handles that remained cool throughout cooking.
Other important features included weight —griddles ranged in weight from 3 to 14 pounds, and testers found the lighter models much easier to handle. We had also assumed that a grease well would help drain off bacon fat, but we found that most grease wells were too shallow, and on one model grease overflowed, causing a dangerous fire. Finally, models with pour spouts won extra points, as did those with nonstick coatings.
We tested 8 stovetop griddles and evaluated them according to the criteria listed below:
We cooked both pancakes and bacon across the entire surface of the griddle, looking for consistent results for each cake and bacon strip. For a maximum rating, each pancake had to be evenly shaped and uniformly golden-brown and each bacon strip had to crisp quickly and easily, finishing at the same time.
To measure how quickly the heat traveled across the entire griddle surface, we recorded temperatures at 1-, 3-, and 5-minute intervals at three different spots on every griddle, with only one burner set to medium. We also measured the time it took griddles to cool down to 100 degrees (cool enough to handle).
HANDLE HEAT RESISTANCE:
We asked testers whether they could comfortably hold the handles, without protection, during the entire cooking period.
Models with certain design features were rated more highly: The griddle should be light enough to easily handle; Grease wells should be deep enough not to overflow; Pour spouts needed to work efficiently; The griddle had a nonstick coating.