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Stovetop Griddles

Published June 2008

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.

Methodology

We tested 8 stovetop griddles and evaluated them according to the criteria listed below:

PERFORMANCE:

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.

HEAT DISTRIBUTION:

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.

DESIGN:

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.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*
Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB