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Flat Top Grill vs Gas Grill: Detailed Look At 5 Differences

By James King

September 5, 2023

It’s safe to say that gas grills aren’t a passing fad.

They’re practical, convenient, and have been around for nearly a century. At this point, they’re not going anywhere!

But while gas grills are certainly the most popular option for casual backyard grillers… You may still question if they’re really the best choice for your space.

As you search high and low for an appliance that can take the top spot over the tried and tested gas grill… You may have come upon flat top grills.

flat top vs gas grill

While a flat top grill is certainly intriguing (and undeniably versatile)… Do they really have what it takes to knock gas grills from their pedestal?

In today’s flat top vs gas grill discourse… That’s exactly what we aim to find out.

Let’s dive in!

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Flat Top Grill vs Gas Grill Overview & Basic Features

Before we get granular… Let’s begin with the basics on each type of grill.

What Are Flat Top Grills?

tamara day cooking breakfast for her daughter on coyote flat top grill in moks outdoor kitchen

Grilling on a flat top isn’t a new phenomena… Restaurants have made use of hibachi-style griddles for years!

That said, outdoor flat top grills have only recently started to take off.

So, what are they?

Well, their name really tells all.

Outdoor flat top grills feature flat, metal cooking surfaces… With a hidden heat source below that surface.

These appliances are incredibly easy to use… And allow for unmatched cooking versatility.

You can cook anything you could make indoors with a frying pan on your stovetop… Just on a much larger scale!

We’ll dive into more detail shortly, but for now…

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What Are Gas Grills?

built in gas grill with power burner and combo storage

There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with gas grills… You can find these bad boys in just about every American neighborhood!

There’s a reason why these grillers have been around for so long… And still remain popular today.

It all comes down to efficient and convenient cooking!

Gas grills are easy to operate, accessible, heat up fast and hot, and their slatted cooking grates are responsible for those BBQ sear marks we all know and love.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who can’t appreciate the classic art that is gas grilling.

But even so, you may still be looking for more.

So, let’s dig in a little deeper.

Flat Top Grill vs Gas Grill: A Closer Look At The Main Differences

It goes without saying… The main difference between flat top grills and traditional gas grills is the cooking surface. One has a flat top, and one has slatted grill grates.

But, there’s more to it than that. Much more, in fact!

Let’s break down the differences.

Griddle vs Gas Grill: Available Fuel Types

Natural Gas
Propane

To kick off our conversation, let’s start with fuel type.

Of course, gas grills run off of natural gas or propane tanks.

Unless your gas grill is loaded with fancy digital features (like rotisserie kits or lights, which require electricity)… It won’t need anything other than gas to get going.

For flat top grills, it’s the same story! For the most part, outdoor griddles are fueled by natural gas or propane burners.

So, why bother making this distinction at all?

Well, it’s worth pointing out that there are increasingly more options for electric flat top grills.

These work much the same as their propane or natural gas counterparts… Though instead of gas burners, they’re heated by electric elements.

If you do opt for an electric griddle, just know that you shouldn’t leave it outside when not in use. The outdoor elements could damage the electric components… Which would be nothing short of a disaster.

Flat Top vs Gas Grill: Ease Of Use

woman cooking on flat top grill

It’s easy to get the hang of both flat top and gas grilling. In both cases, there’s not much to it!

To get a grill or griddle going… You’ll simply switch on the burners by pushing or turning a knob, and the cooktop will begin to preheat.

Both will come to temp quickly… So either is a solid choice for efficiently whipping up weeknight meals.

But, there are a few differences in the preheating process that may give gas grilling a leg up.

For a gas grill, you can preheat your grill on low, medium, or high without a worry.

But with flat top grills, you’ll have to be more cautious.

Namely, you’ll never want to preheat your flat top on the highest setting… Even if that’s the setting you’ll ultimately be cooking on.

You need to add oil to your flat top as it preheats (to keep it nonstick)… And if your grill gets too hot, too quickly, that oil will burn off before you even have a chance to cook.

To prevent this, experienced flat top grillers recommend preheating on low or medium-low, and slowly working up to those higher temp ranges.

So, firing up a gas grill doesn’t require much thought. Though it may take some fiddling to achieve the exact temp you want… It’s generally a simple process.

On the other hand, preheating a flat top requires a bit more patience… But for many, the payoff is more than worth it.

Is Cooking On A Flat Top Better Than A Traditional Grill?

When it comes to flat top griddle cooking versus traditional grill cooking… There are a few key components at play.

Namely, cooking temperatures… Versatility… And (most importantly) the flavor profile.

Griddle vs Grill Temperature Range

Both gas griddles and grills can dish out a range of temps… From low (around 200 degrees Fahrenheit) to piping hot (pushing 500 or even 600 degrees).

Though each type of grill can function at lower or higher temp points… There’s a sweet spot for both griddle and gas grill outdoor cooking.

Gas grills work best at temperatures over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows your food to achieve a nice, quick sear and deeply browned grill marks.

On the other hand, flat top grills function better at a slightly lower temp… Between 300 and 400 degrees.

These temps are still hot enough to sear… But not quite hot enough to risk burning.

As flat top grilled food will always be in direct contact with the cooking surface, cooking at temps higher than this may scorch the outer crust… Before the inside has a chance to cook through.

While this difference probably won’t make or break your decision… It’s still worth keeping in mind!

Versatility

In addition to cooking temperatures… Versatility is also a primary difference between flat top and gas grills.

Gas grills are good for the classic BBQ favorites… Hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, and the like.

But on a flat top grill… You can cook everything you could make on traditional grill grates, plus more.

Things like stir fry, hash browns, smash burgers, and fried rice come to mind. While these would fall through the grates on a gas grill, they sit soundly on a flat griddle surface.

Multiple individually controlled cooking zones also contribute to the flat top’s unbeatable versatility. You can sear steaks on one side… While using the other side of the griddle surface to cook veggies at a lower temperature.

But while you may be able to cook more types of food on a flat top… How do the flavors hold up against those of open flame gas grilling?

Flavors

tamara day cooking breakfast on her coyote griddle built in her rta outdoor kitchen

Finally, we can’t forget to factor in flavors.

Let’s start with flat top grills. Is griddled-food any good?

In addition to elevating versatility… The flat cooking surface directly affects the flavor of flat top grilled food.

Though you won’t get any grill marks or a smokey, open flame flavor… You will get incredible heat distribution, locked-in juices, and a delectably crispy, caramelized crust on your foods.

The flat top cooking surface traps all drippings and marinades… Allowing meats to cook in their own juices and retain more flavor (this also prevents drying).

What’s more… Flat top grills eliminate pesky flare-ups, which have been known to negatively impact the flavor of gas-grilled food.

This exposure to fuel byproducts can certainly result in a more acrid taste… So many may lean towards the purer flavors offered by the flat top.

Now, none of this is to say that gas grilled food is bad. Far from it!

There’s something to be said for an open flame flavor… And many grillers can’t go without it.

Plus, gas grills can be used with more cooking accessories to amp up flavors.

Want a pseudo-charcoal grill or pellet grill? Pair your gas grill with a charcoal tray or wood smoker box!

But in either case… Flavors are subjective. So, rely on your personal preferences!

If you like food seared over an open flame, go for gas!

And if you’d rather a nice, crispy crust… Choose a flat top.

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Cleanup and Maintenance of Flat Top Griddle vs Gas Grill

The amount of cleanup required can play a big role in picking the perfect type of grill… So what’s the deal in this regard?

Well, both flat top grills and gas grills should be cleaned routinely… After each and every cook!

To clean a flat top grill’s cooking surface, you’ll need to thoroughly scrape it down and remove any leftover grime or food residue… Then clean any excess debris from your griddle’s grease trap.

If you have a stainless steel flat top… That’s the extent of it! Maintenance is a walk in the park.

But if you have a cast iron or carbon steel flat top grill (like a Pit Boss or Blackstone griddle)… You’ll also need to periodically re-season the surface to keep that nonstick layering built up, and prevent potential rusting.

Now, how about gas grills?

Well, these may not require re-seasoning… But cleaning them can still be a bit involved.

Unlike a flat top, the mess won’t be contained to the cooking area.

Drippings and residue may fall through the metal grates… And make a mess on the internal components.

Many gas grills also have a drip tray that needs to be cleaned.

Luckily, there is a way to easily get all the nooks and crannies of a gas grill clean.

Simply crank it up to a scorching hot heat... And it’ll carbonize food buildup.(Just don’t do this for too long… As it could pose a fire hazard!) 

Once your grill cools, you’ll just have to scrape away any leftover burnt bits… And your gas grill will be good as new.

Gas Grill vs Flat Top: What Features and Accessories To Expect... And How These Affect Total Cost

To wrap things up, let’s talk about total cost.

Is a gas grill or flat top more expensive?

Well, total pricing isn’t all that different. For each type of grill… You can expect to spend anywhere from $100 (on the low end) up to $3,000+ (for higher-end models).

But generally speaking, gas grills do tend to have a slightly bigger price tag.

This makes sense! Most gas grills have more components (like rotisserie kits, lighting, sear burners, or heat shields)… And on average, they tend to be larger.

On the other hand, flat top grills have fewer flashy add-ons.

Essentially, you’re getting the burners and cooktop… And though some models have illuminated control knobs, there aren’t many special add-ons beyond that which impact the total cost.(Most of the must-have flat top grill accessories are sold separately!)

But, that rounds out our flat top grill vs gas grill comparison.

After running through the details… Is a flat top grill better than a regular grill?

Which Is Better: Flat Top Grill vs Traditional Gas Grill

mike pyle next to his flat top grill

Pros Of A Flat Top Grill

  • Easy and efficient to use.
  • Super versatile… Can cook anything you’d make on a traditional grill, and then some.
  • Flat top grilled food has great flavors… Tends to be juicier… And have a nicely charred crust.
  • When it comes to cleaning, most of the mess will be contained to the cooktop.
  • Flat top grills tend to be less expensive.
  • Dual heat zones allow you to cook multiple different foods at a time.

Cons Of A Flat Top Grill

  • Most flat top grills are simple, and don’t come with any special features.
  • Cast iron or carbon steel flat top grills require frequent re-seasoning… So maintenance of these is more involved.
  • You don’t get open flame flavors when using a flat top.
  • Preheating a flat top grill may require some patience.

Pros Of A Gas Grill

  • Gas grills heat up fast and hot… And are great for high temperature searing.
  • You get caramelized BBQ flavors from open flame cooking.
  • Cleaning a gas grill is a straightforward affair.
  • It’s easy to use a gas grill.
  • Gas grills have more special features and add-ons available.

Cons Of A Gas Grill

  • Gas grills tend to be the more expensive option.
  • Gas grills aren’t as versatile.
  • Flare-ups and fuel byproducts may impact the flavor profile of gas grills.

You’ve seen the pros and cons of each type of grill… And we’ve covered all the deal-breaking details.

Now, it’s the moment of truth. Which type of grill is better?

Well, that decision is yours!

You’ve seen how flat tops differ from regular gas grills… And now it’s time to bring your personal preferences into the fray.

If you’re looking to test the limits of your culinary creativity, a flat top grill will provide you with the versatility to do so.

But if you’re more of a traditional griller… Why fix what isn’t broken? A gas grill is still a solid choice.

Can’t make up your mind? We will say that a gas grill with a griddle accessory is a fair compromise if you’re at a crossroads.

That way, you’ll get the best of both worlds, and won’t have to sacrifice those beloved grill marks… Nor the versatility of a flat cooking space.

But either way… What’s next?

Grill, Griddle, Or Both... Where Should Your New Appliance Go?

mike pyle with his family at their custom outdoor kitchen with a modern concrete finish

Whether you have a hankering for a new griddle, or you’re more into high heat gas grilling… Where should your appliance go?

Sure, you could keep it simple with a plain old freestanding grill or tabletop griddle…

But honestly… We’d say you’re much better off including your flat top or gas grill in a new summer kitchen!

That way, you’ll have tons of cooking conveniences, right at your fingertips.

With counter space, storage room, and even a bar seating area… There’s no better way to bring your outdoor cooking experience to the next level.

Not sure how to make that happen? Allow us to walk you through the process.

When you work with us at RTA… It all starts with our free online design tool.

Here, you can factor a built-in gas grill or flat top into your BBQ station… Alongside other premium appliances.

Our partnership with Coyote Outdoor Living makes this a breeze!

In addition to their high quality flat top grill and built-in gas grill models… You can also select refrigeration, sinks, side burners, smokers, and more.

So, a complete 3D rendering of your custom kitchen can come together in minutes…

Then, once we ship it to your home… It can be assembled in a matter of hours.

Then, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits for years… Because our kitchens are made with durable concrete panels, built to last a lifetime.

Intrigued? Our Learning Hub has all the info you’ll ever need to get started.

Giving your new flat top or gas grill the treatment it deserves couldn’t get any easier… And we’d be ecstatic to help make it happen.

Need Help With Your Plans?

Talk to one of our expert designers and they will guide you from planning to installation. Schedule a call today.

FAQ

It’s true that you can cook anything you could make on a gas grill, and then some, on a flat top griddle… The flat cooktop allows for amazing versatility!

That said, a griddle can’t necessarily replace a traditional gas grill. They don’t work as well in the higher temp ranges… You won’t get those classic grill marks… And you won’t be able to cook over an open flame.

While a gas grill has slatted metal grates… A griddle has a flat, level cooking surface.

This flat cooktop gives griddles more versatility and a unique flavor profile.

You can cook more types of food than you can on traditional grill grates, and the food you cook will have purer flavors.

On the other hand, gas grills are great for efficient cooking… They heat up fast and hot, and can sear foods flawlessly.

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