Grill Griddle Faceoff
Practical Sailor recently tested three grill-top cooking griddles to see what benefits they could add to the outdoor cooking experience—a highlight of the summer boating season for us. We pit the rectangular, stainless-steel Little Griddle Sizzle-Q griddle against the reversible, non-stick rectangular and kettle-style griddles from Magma Products.
The Sizzle-Q, made by Little Griddle Innovations of Sterling Heights, Mich., is a sturdy, 14-gauge, 430 stainless-steel griddle that can be used atop any large barbecue grill. The griddle enables you to do more than just grill on your barbecue. You can stir fry, fry, and cook foods like pancakes, bacon, and other items on its flat, solid surface.
The griddle is substantial, weighing in at 9 pounds and measuring 17.75 inches wide by 13 inches deep by 3 inches high. Its grease trough diverts fats and oils during cooking, helping to prevent flame flare ups. It also has an underside cross bracing to help provide even heat distribution. The high-quality stainless means there’s no need to worry about the griddle rusting quickly, even if it’s stored on board.
Our testers fired up a large gas grill and tested the Sizzle-Q, cooking hamburgers, pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns, quesadillas, and salmon. The heat distribution was even, and the cooking surface worked well with the burgers, salmon, and quesadillas, but the breakfast foods took a long time to cook; the hash browns and bacon never browned or crisped as they do in a stovetop frying pan. Testers timed how long it took to cook the hash browns and bacon on a skillet over an electric stove and also timed cooking them on the grill-top Sizzle-Q griddle; it took twice as long to cook them on the griddle.
The point of the Sizzle-Q, though, is to give users more options for outdoor cooking, and the product does this. It requires a sizable grill—it was slightly too big to use on our Magma Catalina Grill (PS Best Choice, June 2006), which measures 17 inches long by 12 inches wide—as it is too wide for use with most marine grills. However, it can be used directly over charcoal coals for beach grilling.
The griddle is intended to be used for cooking large amounts of food for get-togethers, and Little Griddle Innovations also offers several larger, professional-grade rectangular griddles (Griddle-Q) and a smaller, kettle-grill griddle (Kettle-Q). The largest griddles can cook a dozen pancakes or a dozen grilled-cheese sandwiches at one time. Available accessories include a heat deflector and a cleaning kit.
The Griddle-Q line is made in the U.S., but the Sizzle-Q is made in China. The Sizzle-Q retails at $70 and has a one-year warranty.
Magma Products is one of the world’s leading makers of all-stainless grills and a major supplier of U.S.-made marine grills. Its Catalina gourmet series and Marine Kettle 2 grills grabbed the top spots in our last full test of marine grills (PS, June 2006).
For this review, we evaluated Magma’s reversible non-stick griddles. The non-stick griddles are constructed of 400 series cast aluminum and feature a non-stick coating. One side of the griddle is flat and is designed for cooking breakfast foods, while the other, ridged size is similar to a grill top and can be used for meats and veggies. The flat side has a tapered rim to keep the food on the griddle, while the grilling side features a deep drainage channel to keep the grease away from the cooking surface. A removable, rubber-coated, stainless-steel handle can be used to lift and move the griddle; it should not be left on while cooking. Testers liked the removable handles as they made the products easier to stow and made it possible to close the grill even while the griddle is in use.
We tested the round, reversible kettle griddle (11 and 3/4 inch diameter, $55); and the rectangular, 8- by 17-inch griddle ($60). The rectangular griddle also comes in a 12- by 17-inch size for $80. These Magma griddles are sized to fit Magma’s marine grills, but they may not fit other onboard grills, so be sure to measure your grill before buying one.
To try out the Magma griddle, testers cooked a full breakfast of bacon, eggs, hash browns, and pancakes on the flat side. As with the Sizzle-Q, the cooking
times were slow, and the hash browns and bacon struggled to brown. The Magma griddles, designed to fit small, onboard grills, could handle only a few items at a time, but it was enough for a few people, and they do extend grilling options to include breakfast items and stir fries, so consider the tradeoffs.
Testers noted that the results of cooking fish and hamburgers on the ridged side of the griddles were the same as when cooked directly on the grill, so the benefit here would be the griddle’s ease of cleaning over the grill.
Practical Sailor also tested Magma’s optional stainless-steel fish and veggie grill tray ($42). It measures 8 by 17 inches and is made of 304 stainless steel. Testers grilled salmon and asparagus using the grill tray and found that although there was no difference in the quality of the cooking with or without the tray, it keeps food from falling through the grill grate and keeps it one place—a bonus when grilling in rolly anchorages. The tray also makes cleanup easier since the grill face does not have to be removed.
The griddles are dishwasher (and oven) safe, but after just one cooking trial and a thorough cleaning, the tray was stained browned and had lost its shine. The griddles and tray come with a one-year warranty.
For those who frequently entertain a large group onboard and have a sizable grill, the Sizzle-Q makes it possible to efficiently cook a meal for a group, whether there’s a dozen breakfast pancakes or a half-dozen hamburgers on the menu. The griddle is big and heavy, so a large space will need to be carved out for its storage. We’d be more likely to use it in the backyard or on the beach than onboard.
The aluminum Magma griddles are well made and easy to clean, and the fact they are designed to fit the most popular marine grills is a bonus. However, keeping a cast-iron skillet onboard would meet the same needs, in our opinion, and it would be more versatile and longer lasting.
Magma’s stainless-steel fish and vegetable grill tray, on the other hand, could be quite useful onboard; it’s easy to clean and keeps flaky fish and veggies from sliding down into the grill. Although it has only a one-year warranty, it is made of 304 stainless steel, will fit most marine grills, and could easily be stored inside a grill or cabinet. It’s a great addition to the outdoor galley.