2002 [updated March 2003]
By Candy Townsend with Jennifer Hicks
Honing Your Approach To Griddles
There’s more to
spec’ing gas griddles than meets the eye. Anybody know how
many burner options are out there? How about thermostat
sensors—know where they go? Read on.
up now; don’t turn this page, thinking you already know
pretty much all you need to know about griddles.
They may be found in
nearly every operation, and their straightforward
functionality may not turn heads, but what griddles lack in
pizzazz they far exceed in versatility. Eggs, hash, burgers,
tortillas, veggies—you can griddle it all, and much more.
More importantly, there’s more to understand when you’re
spec’ing griddles than you might suspect. Sure, you can buy
an off-the-shelf model with, say, a 1” polished steel plate
and thermostatic control. But do you know most suppliers
offer either a 1” or a 3/4” plate, and do you know why? And
how many types of thermostatic control are there, anyway?
That’s where this story comes in, and we’ll get to those
finer details in a moment. The typical griddle comes in gas
or electric, of course, but here we’ve focused on gas units
alone. (Electric griddles will get their turn in the
spotlight in a future story.)
And whether you’re looking for freestanding or countertop
gas models, there’s a huge field of suppliers. We found 20
U.S. manufacturers of the gas versions and listed them all
in the “For More Information” box at the end of the story.
But practical matters forced us to pare specs and photos to
15 of the leading lines.
So our supplier lineup for this story includes,
alphabetically, American Range, Anetsberger Bros., APW Wyott
Foodservice Equipment, Bakers Pride, Garland Group, Imperial
Commercial Cooking Equipment, Keating of Chicago, Lang Mfg.,
Montague Co., Rankin-Delux, Southbend, Star Mfg.,
Vulcan-Hart Co., Wells Mfg. and Wolf Range Co. We feature
photos and specs for all, although the story itself only
covers the basic spec issues. We also briefly review two
unique griddle alternatives that generate steam to cook.
You’ll find steam griddles from AccuTemp Products and
Thermodyne Foodservice Products referenced on page 36.
If you’re purchasing replacement griddles, you’ve already
got a good idea of what size units you need for your stores.
If not, keep in mind that griddles typically come in widths
of 24”, 36”, 48”, 60” and 72”, and even 84”, and that size
plays a part in determining price. You can expect to pay
anywhere from $700 to $1,100—that’s actual street price—for
a freestanding 24” basic griddle sporting manual heat
control. Countertop models will cost a bit less.
Meanwhile, upgrades, such as a chrome-plated surface or
thermostatic controls, and options—griddle stand, extra-deep
troughs, cutting boards, plate shelves, belly bars and any
customization—will run you extra. Thus a fully loaded 72”
model might run in the $4,000 to $5,000 range.
Two Foot, Three Foot, Blue Foot
size griddle should you be looking for? That’s a tough one,
and you’ll need more than Seussian computations to figure
the answer. Start by identifying your peak business hour.
During that period, what volume of menu items do you have to
produce? If you want to go after this like a mad scientist,
you can get into some very complicated calculations,
figuring ratios of pancakes to bacon, burgers and so on, and
figuring cook cycles per hour for each.
Or you can do a rough estimate. Here’s one foodservice
consultant’s rule-of-thumb formula: Take whichever product
you’ll be cooking most. Estimate how many per hour you’ll
need at peak. Then figure out how many cook cycles per hour
for that item, which will tell you how many loads you can
produce per hour. Once you know how many pieces and how many
loads, you’ll know how big each load has to be. Then just
figure out how much space that load will require, and you’ve
got a rough answer.
For example, say your most-commonly needed griddled item is
the time-honored hamburger. In round numbers, say you’ll
need 300 per hour, at an average cook time of maybe five
minutes, including load and unload.
Doing the math, that works out to 12 loads per hour of 25
burgers each. If each burger is 4” in diameter, that’s nine
per square foot (if you space them perfectly, which won’t
happen). So 25 burgers divided by nine per square foot is
2.77 sq. ft. Add in a margin for error, so make it a minimum
of 3 sq. ft., maybe a little more. A 24” model that’s 22” or
24” deep should do it. If your stores feature more
complicated and varied menus, your supplier should be able
to guide you through the spec process.
Bone Up On
sizing question settled, turn your focus to burner type and
placement, as well as heat controls. Griddle burners come in
two broad categories, atmospheric and infrared. Ordinarily
burners are placed one per foot of griddle surface. The
atmospheric burner is by far the most common type sold, and
this style can be made of cast iron, aluminized steel or
While cast iron is the cheapest material in the bunch, its
weight makes it the least used metal for griddle burners.
Aluminized steel, which costs more than cast iron, appears
in most standard, off-the-shelf griddles in the form of
U-shaped burners. Finally, stainless steel burners usually
come custom ordered in a straight burner style. (Note: The
exception to this rule, American Range, offers stainless U
And why would you opt for a customized straight burner
style? By design, a single straight burner provides heat for
half the area that a U-shaped burner does. Your standard 24”
griddle will offer two U-shaped burners, or one burner every
12”, while your customized 24” griddle will boast four
straight burners. The advantage? Four straight burners give
you four independently controlled heat zones for more
precise targeting of different surface areas for different
food products. Hence the higher price.
Meanwhile, the up-and-coming infrared burner is designed so
that combustion takes place within a ceramic housing, so you
only see a red glow, not a flame. Infrareds offer energy
advantages, and there’s another plus as well: By eliminating
the flame from burning up against the bottom of the griddle
plate, you’ll put the kibosh on carbonizing, a culprit in
diminished plate efficiency.
Burner Btu options vary by manufacturer, of course. Going
back to a basic 24” model with U-shaped burners, you can
find Btu ranges from 20,000 to 30,000 per burner. How much
you’ll need is determined in part by what you’re cooking.
Tossing frozen product on the griddle plate, for example,
will kill your surface temp regardless of Btu rating, but
all other things being equal, more Btu power should help cut
your recovery time.
Up The Heat?
comes to controlling heat, you’ve got several options. You
can start, of course, with basic manual control, which
allows you to adjust your flame and heat within an infinite
range of temperatures as you work. Manual control is ideal
for ops that need immediate control over the flame—for
example, in Mexican restaurants where light grilling of
tortillas and veggies requires careful monitoring.
If you want consistent heat and you don’t want to worry
about monitoring it yourself, spring for thermostatic
control. Thermostats can be more complicated than we’re
detailing here, but these are the basics:
First, there’s the hydraulic modulating thermostat. You set
your temp at a certain level—say, 350ºF—and
the thermostat monitors the griddle plate temps and adjusts
the burner flame to maintain 350ºF within ±15ºF to ±20 ºF.
Moving on up, there’s the snap-action thermostat, which is
an electronic analog thermostat. The thermostat turns on and
maintains the flame, but within an even smaller variance,
perhaps ±7ºF to ±10ºF. This is where the term “snap action”
comes into play, as this type snaps into action more quickly
than the hydraulic modulating thermostat.
Beyond that, there’s the more expensive solid-state
thermostat, which maintains within ±2º;F
to ±5 ºF, on average.
Now, thermostats need sensors to do their jobs, so think
about sensor placement. The basic thermostat’s sensors
typically rest within V-shaped plates that are mounted to
the underside of the griddle plate. Thus with this design
the sensors do not touch the griddle plate but do sense heat
coming off of it.
Snap-action griddles feature machined channels running
through the plate itself. These channels house sensors that
are placed so they can be easily removed if necessary. This
design places the sensors up higher than those nestled below
in V plates. Thus, when cold products hit the plate and
temps drop from the top down, the sensors within the plate
will be able to react more quickly than the sensors mounted
beneath the plate.
Also, look into the number of thermostats your supplier
offers compared with the number of burners in the griddle.
For example, you might see one 48” griddle sold with four
standard thermostats, one per foot of griddle, while another
48” model sells three standard thermostats with a paid
option to add a fourth. A ratio of one thermostat per burner
will give you the best sensor coverage and thus the best
Surfaces That Make Sense
you’ll need to think about your griddle plate. Since plates
typically come in 3/4” and 1” thicknesses, you’d be right to
ask how thick your griddling surface actually needs to be.
The thicker the plate, the more heat it retains, providing
more consistent heat over the whole surface. So plates that
are 1” thick hold heat well and thus are better able to
efficiently handle frozen product. But 1” plates also take
longer to heat up in the first place, and they take longer
to get back up to temperature.
More than half the suppliers here offer a 1”-thick plate as
standard, while the others offer a standard 3/4” plate and a
1” as optional. Among griddles for more snack-oriented
menus, you may even find plates of 1/2” thickness, but
you’ll likely encounter greater temp fluctuations with these
Perhaps even more important than thickness is the actual
material of the plate. Suppliers offer several types of
uncoated steel as well as an optional chrome-plated surface.
For standard plates, your choices are low-carbon steel,
nickel steel and stainless steel. Low-carbon steel offers
heat capacity that’s technically higher than stainless
(although experts debate whether the advantage is measurable
in griddle recovery). Nickel steel, with its high nickel
content, more readily resists rusting and other corrosion.
Stainless steel is specified least often.
Skipping over to chrome, this uptown option provides several
benefits. Chrome retains heat well, so your kitchen may be
cooler with less heat migrating off the griddle. Chrome also
prevents sticking and makes cleaning easier. And it’s a
pricey option for this reason: To apply chrome manufacturers
must grind the steel plate to an even smoother surface than
they would with a standard plate, and then liquid chrome is
electrostatically applied. So more attention to plate prep
boosts your cost.
Also important: You need to train staffers to be careful
with chrome. You can use steel utensils, but if you’ve got a
cook who loves to dice and chop on the surface, chrome’s not
for you. Chip it and you’re done for. And you must clean
chrome with non-abrasive products.
are the enemy of your food, and you’ll get them if your Btu
power isn’t up to snuff—remember to go higher with a lot of
frozen product—or your unit isn’t deep enough to withstand
normal drafts. But remember that a perfectly designed
griddle can develop cold spots due to non-mechanical
If a hood fan draws too much heat out of the back of the
unit your plate won’t heat evenly. And if you place your
griddle near receiving, the constant opening and closing of
the door can suck the heat right out of your plate.
Suppliers handle such difficulties by adding internal
baffles or draft averters.
And that brings us to maintenance. Manufacturers recommend
using water or ice to clean your plate’s surface between
loads, plus a good quality scraper to remove excess product.
Be sure your grease trough is large enough for the capacity
of the griddle so there’s no overflow, and check often for
spills and leaks.
At the end of the day, use a good commercial cleaner to get
down to the metal on griddle plates without a chrome
surface, then re-season the surface by applying a light
coating of oil and running the griddle at 350ºF for about 20
minutes before wiping down. For chrome, remember to use
While we’ve touched on the basics here, there’s plenty more
to learn about griddles before you buy. Be sure to carefully
compare specs from all of the manufacturers, and request
results from field or third-party tests.
Looking for more info on griddles? Check out these
APW Wyott Foodservice Equipment
Baker's Pride Oven Co.
Dynamic Cooking Systems
Imperial Commercial Cooking Equipment
Keating of Chicago
Thermodyne Foodservice Products
Wolf Range Co.