To Find the Best Flat-Top Grills, We Made Dozens of Smashed Burgers and Grilled Cheeses in 90-degree Heat

We tested six flat-top grills, using them to make smashed burgers, cook grilled cheese, and fry up an entire breakfast. Our four favorites heated consistently and were easy to use.

Three flat-top grills on an outdoor patio.
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Let’s set the scene: The month is June and the weather is in the 90s with nary a cloud in sight. The humidity is oppressive and, given the choice, we’d be indoors. This is not an option. There are flat-top grills to test, burgers to smash, grilled cheese to flip, and bacon to fry. 

This is all to say: We quite literally put our sweat into testing flat-top grills. If you’re unfamiliar with them, these outdoor griddles are best described as propane-powered versions of the large flat-tops short-order cooks use to churn out all sorts of delights at your favorite diner. Unlike a gas or charcoal grill, flat-top grills are grateless, with large pieces of carbon steel serving as their cooktops. While they won’t deliver grill marks or smoky flavor and can’t do low-and-slow cooking, flat-top grills are great for browning and searing. Because of their wide cooking surfaces, walls, and multiple burners, flat-tops allow you to cook a whole lot at once, use different heat zones, and make traditionally un-grillable things outside. Think of a full breakfast with pancakes, eggs, and bacon; a heap of peppers and onions; a bounty of fried rice.

To use a flat-top is to fall head over heels for cooking on one. In order to find the best of these outdoor griddles, we put six of them to the test.

 The Winners, at a Glance

The Weber’s expansive cooktop, easy-to-ignite burners, and built-in, slide-out drip tray made this flat-top grill exceptionally easy to use. It cooked food evenly and browned it deeply, and got as hot as you wanted it to go, climbing over 575°F in our tests. Of course, you get Weber’s exceptional customer service, too.

This flat-top grill is smaller and pricier but has a digital temperature gauge, extra-wide side tables, a fold-out extending table, and storage bins to house all of your grilling tools. It browned food quickly and evenly and, as with the 36-inch Weber, we loved the built-in, drawer-style drip tray.

While it’s the priciest flat-top grill we tested, the Traeger gives you loads of control. It has three separate cooking zones, indicator lights to show when it’s lit, and even a propane tank level monitor. While it ran cooler than other grills we tested, it still produced golden grilled cheese, crispy bacon, and lacy smash burgers.

This is a fantastic flat-top grill given its sub-$400 price tag. It gets wicked hot, has a drip tray in the rear (which stays out of the way of the action), and seared some of the laciest, crispiest-edged smashed burgers.

The Tests

A person flips pancakes on the Weber 36 Inch Gas Griddle
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore
  • Heating Test: We preheated the grill for 10 minutes, taking the temperature at various points on the cooktop with an infrared thermometer to evaluate how evenly it was heating. We continued to do this intermittently throughout testing, too.
  • Grilled Cheese Test: To see how evenly the grills performed on low heat, we placed 12 grilled cheeses across its surface. We flipped the grilled cheeses midway through cooking, evaluating their browning. ‘Twas a grilled cheese heat map!
  • Breakfast Test: We made bacon, pancakes, and fried eggs on each griddle, counting how many of each fit. We used two heat zones for this test: medium for the bacon and low for the pancakes and eggs.
  • Smashed Burgers Test: We used each grill to make smashed burgers, cooking them on medium-high heat. On the other side of the grill, we toasted the burger buns on low. 
  • Usability and Cleanup Tests: Throughout testing, we evaluated how easy the grills were to use and ignite. Between each test, we scraped any food remnants into the drip tray. At the end of testing, we cleaned the drip tray, evaluating how easy it was to do so.

What We Learned 

The Best Flat-Top Grills Heated (Mostly) Evenly 

A person makes grilled cheese on the Weber 36 Inch Gas Griddle
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Flat-top grills' cooking surfaces are big, honking sheets of carbon steel. Their sheer size means they’ll take longer to heat up, but the metal will stay ripping hot (much like a carbon steel skillet). Because of their expansiveness, we didn’t think it was abnormal for there to be some slight hot or cold spots. However, the best flat-top grills heat mostly evenly and are capable of producing near-perfect grilled cheese heat maps. We didn’t want to see a blackened sandwich beside a golden brown one.

Distinct Heating Zones and Searing Abilities Were Appreciated

A person makes smashburgers on the Weber Slate 30 Inch Griddle
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

All of the flat-top grills we tested had three or four burners. Because of how wide their cooktops were, we wanted to be able to use distinct heating zones (one burner on low, three on medium; two burners on high, one on medium) so we could, for example, make smashed burgers and toast burger buns at once. All of our winners were able to achieve this, though we’ll say most of the flat-tops got incredibly hot, so err on the side of using slightly lower heat. 

Cheeseburgers cooked on the Weber 36 Inch Gas Griddle
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

For searing, we wanted the grills to be able to easily hit 500°F. The Webers, in particular, proved adept at this. The Weber 30-inch repeatedly clocked in at 500°F and the 36-inch at 575°F, which is really, truly very hot. The Traeger did well, too: It was 514°F in the center before we made smashed burgers.

Easy Ignition and Drip Tray Openings Impacted Usability

A person cleans the Weber 36 Inch Gas Griddle using a flat spatula
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

We loved the easy, reliable ignition on the Weber models. They had click-to-ignite burners, which, after we turned the burners to the ignite position, literally clicked them on. It was nice not to have to hold down a separate ignitor. It was also helpful to have a small space between the grill’s body and cooktop, so you could visually check if the burners were on. 

A person pulls the drip tray out of the Weber 36 Inch Gas Griddle
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

As far as cleanup, wide openings that led to sizable drip trays were a must. The Camp Chef failed here, with a small hole for its grease well that easily got clogged. The Weber grills’ drip trays and openings were to the left of the grills, with the trays located in built-in, pull-out drawers. We loved the disposable, aluminum pans of these drip trays. It was much easier to just toss them rather than scrub down an un-lined tray. 

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Flat-Top Grill and Outdoor Griddle

A person smashes burgers on a flat-top grill.
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The best flat-top grills heat (mostly) evenly, have a wide temperature range, and are capable of distinct heating zones. They had to be easy to ignite and have wide drip tray openings that didn’t clog. We also liked grills with large side tables—helpful for placing sheet trays of uncooked and cooked food. 

Our Favorite Flat-Top Grills

What we liked: This Weber pairs a reasonable price with excellent performance and usability. Its wide cooking surface heated evenly, yielding golden brown grilled cheeses, handily accommodating a breakfast that’d serve four, and cooking super-crispy smashed burgers with aplomb. It has a smooth-opening hinged lid that sits out of the way behind the griddle, click-to-ignite burners that reliably start with an audible “click,” two side tables, and a built-in drawer-style drip tray. The disposable aluminum grease pans make for ultra-easy cleanup. Plus, with any Weber grill you get the brand’s exceptional customer service.

What we didn’t like: The grill’s side tables were a bit narrower than we’d like, though they still accommodated half-sheet pans.

Key Specs

  • Number of burners: 4
  • Cooktop area: 756 square inches 
  • Additional features: Tools hooks, side tables, shelf
  • Number of wheels: 4
  • Compatible cover: See here
  • Warranty: 5 years

What we liked: For a smaller flat-top grill with all of the same features, this Weber impressed us with its searing abilities and user-friendliness. For a couple of hundred more than the 36-inch Weber, you get a digital temperature gauge, huge side tables, an extendable table, and storage bins. Like the other Weber, the hinged lid smoothly slides back, resting vertically (but out of the way) behind the griddle. And the built-in, drawer-style drip tray with disposable liners was a boon for cleanup.

What we didn’t like: Its small size, of course, fit less food than other models. For those planning to throw backyard bashes, this could limit its versatility.   

Key Specs

  • Number of burners: 3
  • Cooktop area: 540 square inches
  • Additional features: Tools hooks, side tables, shelf, bins
  • Number of wheels: 4
  • Compatible cover: See here
  • Warranty: 5 years

What we liked: With a spacious 594-square-inch cooktop, three different temperature control zones, and lights that indicate when the grill is lit, this is the Tesla of flat-top grills. And it really was easy to control the temperatures of the zones; it did a good job having a cooler zone for toasting buns while maintaining a hotter area for searing smashed burgers. While the griddle ran on the cooler side, it still produced beautifully golden grilled cheese sandwiches and pancakes, crusty, lacey smashed burgers, and shatteringly crisp bacon. The side tables fit a half-sheet pan nicely, too. If you want control and have a fear of burning dinner, the Traeger takes what can be a stressful, short-order cook vibe and turns it into something manageable.

What we didn’t like: While the fuel sensor is a nice bonus, hoisting the propane tank onto the weighing hook was strenuous. You have to lift it with your shoulders since the underside of the grill is low, which is a recipe for pulling your back muscles. Another quibble was the lack of hooks to hang a grill brush or pair of tongs; you have to buy them separately. At $900 at the time of testing, this was the most expensive flat-top grill in our lineup.

Key Specs

  • Number of burners: 3
  • Cooktop area: 594 square inches
  • Features: Built-in ignitor, fuel gauge, ash keg
  • Number of wheels: 4
  • Compatible cover: See here
  • Warranty: 5-year limited

What we liked: This thing got ripping, blazing, sweat-on-your-eyelids hot. And, as a result, everything we threw on the surface—be it bacon or burgers—cooked up to golden, caramelized, crispy-edged perfection. We only noticed hot spots during the grilled cheese test; a quick glance at the bread told us the center and top of the grill were running hotter than the front and sides. But beyond that, and some light sticking of the fried eggs, the Blackstone performed well for a sub-$400 flat-top grill. The paper towel holder was a nice touch, too. 

What we didn’t like: The side tables had a gap where they met the grill, which reduced their usable surface area. The center and top of the grill ran a bit hotter than the front and sides. 

Key Specs

  • Number of burners: 4
  • Cooktop area: 768 square inches
  • Features: Built-in ignitor, rear grease trap, paper towel holder
  • Number of wheels: 4
  • Compatible cover: See here
  • Warranty: 1-year

The Competition


How do you clean a flat-top grill? 

To clean a flat-top girl, scrape any food debris into the drip tray using a metal spatula or scraper. If necessary, you can use a little water to loosen and scrape tough, stuck-on bits, but make sure to dry the grill very thoroughly afterward. After cleaning, rub the surface with a little oil and clean the drip tray.

Do you need to season a flat-top grill?

Just like carbon steel cookware, you do need to season a flat-top grill. Manufacturers usually have their own instructions for pre-seasoning, but make sure to wipe the surface with a little neutral oil after cooking and cleaning it, which will prevent the cooktop from rusting. 

What’s the best way to store a flat-top grill? 

We recommend storing the grill with a cover on it, to prevent water from rusting the surface. For long-term storage, stash the grill in a dry place, like a shed or garage. 

Why We’re the Experts

  • Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm is the senior commerce editor for Serious Eats. She’s been with the site since 2021 and has been testing gear for about six years. She’s written other grilling reviews for the site, including gas grills
  • Grace Kelly is a commerce editor for Serious Eats. She’s been with the site for about two years and previously worked for America’s Test Kitchen and as a line cook. She tested the Traeger Ironwood XL
  • For this review, we tested six flat-top grills, evaluating how evenly they heated, how easy they were to use and clean, and more.