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If you are in the market for a flat top grill or simply curious about this kind of cooking range, you’re in luck.
In this article, we will be examining two heavyweights of the flat top grill industry: Blackstone and Camp Chef.
First, we will discuss exactly what a flat top grill is and how it differs from a griddle and from a traditional grill. Then we will compare Blackstone vs Camp Chef flat top grills side by side and see who comes out on top.
Blackstone vs Camp Chef – A Primer on Flat Top Grills
What Is the Difference Between a Flat Top Grill, a Regular Grill, and a Griddle?
Many people use the terms “flat top grill” and “griddle” interchangeably – and they are in fact extremely similar. There are however a couple of very minor differences if we’re getting technical.
A flat top grill is a grill that has a flat surface as its cooking surface. A regular grill has a grill grate as its cooking surface, which is how you can achieve those parallel sear marks on the protein that you cook on a regular grill. The grill grate also allows for the fats and oils to drip down, whereas on a flat top grill, fats and oils have basically no place to go, since the surface is flat with no holes or openings.
A flat top grill can look similar to a griddle, which also has a flat cooking surface. However, the main difference between a flat top grill and a griddle is the way in which the cooking surface is heated. A griddle will have a rectangular heating element which runs across the entire griddle, while a flat top grill will be heated with several round burners, which causes the heat to be distributed quite evenly. A flat top grill allows for very even heating and cooking.
You can also use pots and pans on a flat top grill, which generally cannot be used on a griddle. Only food should be placed directly on the griddle surface. On a flat top grill, you can place food directly or your cookware. Another difference between a flat top grill and a griddle is the fact that the cooking surface of a flat top grill will generally be constructed with a heavier kind of steel than that which is used to construct the cooking surface of a griddle.
Essentially, a flat top grill is like a stove top (with several round burners) that has a flat metal cooking surface placed on top of it. This is why, in addition to food, pots and pans can be placed directly on a flat top grill.
Where Are Flat Top Grills Commonly Found and Used?
Flat top grills are commonly found in restaurants such as diners and burger joints, because their large cooking surface area allows the chef to cook large amounts of food which can be quickly and efficiently moved from the grill to be plated.
Flat top grills can also be found outdoors, in which case they may be fueled using a propane tank. They can be especially useful when it comes to backyard cooking for large parties or for tailgating. Outdoor flat top grills may not come with round burners but may instead be heated with multiple burners of a different form.
Typically, you will not find a flat top grill on a standard kitchen range. But if you wish to install a flat top grill in your kitchen, it is possible to purchase a flat top overlay which lies on top of two or three of your standard cook top burners. This turns part of your standard kitchen range into a flat top grill.
What Can You Cook with a Flat Top Grill?
You can cook burgers, steak, seafood, pancakes, eggs, sauces, and more on a flat top grill. Because one of the characteristic features of a flat top grill is how evenly it heats, the food that you cook on it will be cooked evenly.
Meats which are heavily marinated or which have a lot of fat may not be the best fit for cooking on a flat top grill, because as we said earlier, the cooking surface lacks a grate or any sort of opening into which the marinade or the fat can drip.
Also, if you enjoy grill marks on the food that you cook, a flat top grill will do you no good, as it will never produce those grill marks (although it will produce an even, complete sear on the outside). Neither will it impart a smoky taste to your food, so if you want that smokiness, you are better off cooking with a traditional grill.
Having considered all this, if you are still sold on a flat top grill, we will now present a comparison of two popular brands of flat top grills, Blackstone and Camp Chef.
Blackstone vs Camp Chef Reviews
Blackstone Flat Top Grills
Blackstone has the distinction of being the maker of the best selling griddles in the US. One thing to note that is a bit confusing right off the bat is that Blackstone frequently labels their flat top grills as griddles, despite what we said earlier about all the distinctions between flat top grills and griddles. But Blackstone frequently uses these terms interchangeably.
For that matter, Camp Chef does this as well. So keep this in mind if you decide to look at the products of these companies online.
Blackstone offers a number of different flat top grills, including a 36 inch flat top grill, a 28 inch flat top grill, and a 17 inch tabletop grill (which most likely fits into the category of a true griddle rather than a flat top grill). For the purposes of this article, we will effectively ignore the 17 inch tabletop grill.
The 36 inch flat top grill from Blackstone has a cooking surface area of 720 square inches, while the 28 inch flat top grill has a cooking surface area of 470 square inches. The 36 inch flat top grill has 4 stainless steel burners which output a total of 60,000 BTUs, and the 28 inch flat top grill has 2 stainless steel burners which output a total of 30,000 BTUs.
Both the 36 inch and the 28 inch flat top grills are excellent for camping, home use, outdoor parties, and events, although the 36 inch flat top grill can obviously cook much more food at once and is the preferred and more efficient choice when cooking for large (or even medium) groups of people. What makes these grills excellent for camping is the fact that both the 36 inch model and the 28 inch model are fully collapsible, which allows them to be transported easily to your campsite.
The four stainless steel burners on the 36 inch flat top grill and the two stainless steel burners on the 28 inch model allow for 4 heating zones and 2 heating zones to be created, respectively. This allows you to control exactly how you cook your food and at what temperature you would like it to be. For instance, you can cook the food in one zone and then move it to the other zone to keep it warm.
Both the 36 inch model and the 28 inch model come with an electrical push button ignition system, so you will not have to waste any time trying to ignite the fuel yourself, fumbling around with a match or a fuel starter.
The 36 inch flat top grill comes with 4 heavy duty castors to make rolling the grill around your backyard or campsite an easier task, and the 28 inch flat top grill comes with 2 of those heavy duty castors for easier transport.
The 36 inch flat top grill comes with two shelves to provide you convenient storage space for all of your grilling implements, and the 28 inch model comes with one shelf to serve the same purpose. As was described earlier, the folding legs on both of these flat top grills make the grills entirely collapsible so that you can save space while transporting them to your campsite or to your tailgate party.
Both the 36 inch flat top grill and the 28 inch flat top grill are equipped with a rear grease management system, but, as we will discuss later, this is one of the most annoying things about the Blackstone flat top grill models, as it either leaks or traps food inside and can get hot enough to burn anyone who happens to come into contact with it. The Camp Chef grease management system, which we will discuss in the next section, is superior to the Blackstone system.
As far as appearances are concerned, both the 28 inch flat top grill and the 36 inch model come in a black powder coated steel frame and possess a cold rolled steel cooking surface. With the 36 inch flat top grill, you can also opt for a stainless steel frame instead of the black powder coated steel frame, if you prefer the look of stainless steel.
All in all, the Blackstone flat top grills described here offer excellent performance at an affordable price, although our editors recommend the 36 inch flat top grill over the 28 inch model. But before you settle on a Blackstone flat top grill, let’s take a look at what Camp Chef has to offer.
Camp Chef Flat Top Grills
Camp Chef offers three sizes of flat top grills: the 475, the 600, and the 900. The flat top grill 475 has a cooking surface area of 468 square inches, the flat top grill 600 has a cooking surface area of 604 square inches, and the flat top grill 900 has a truly gargantuan cooking surface area of 877 square inches.
The 475 has 3 stainless steel burners which output a total of 36,000 BTUs, the 600 has 4 stainless steel burners which output a total of 48,000 BTUs, and the 900 has a whopping 6 stainless steel burners which output a total of 72,000 BTUs.
Aside from the number of burners and the BTUs they output, on the surface, many of the features of the Camp Chef flat top grills appear to be about the same as those of the Blackstone flat top grills: cold rolled steel cooking surface, a grease management system, an electrical push button ignition system, and shelves.
The major difference between the regular Blackstone flat top grills and the Camp Chef flat top grills is the fact that the Blackstone grills are completely collapsible with foldable legs, and the regular Camp Chef grills do not have such a feature. (If you want a foldable Camp Chef grill, you can go for the Portable Flat Top Grill 600). So if you desire a heavy duty flat top grill that you can easily fit in the back of your vehicle for that camping trip, then you may want to go with one of the Blackstone models.
But in just about every other way, Camp Chef’s implementation of the numerous features is superior to that of Blackstone’s. For instance, the grease management system on the Camp Chef flat top grills is much better than that of the Blackstone grills. The Camp Chef grease system is placed more ergonomically, is significantly easier to clean, does not leak, and can be placed more easily due to its front mounted positioning.
The Camp Chef electrical ignition system does not require batteries, unlike that of the Blackstone, and each burner has an igniter. Also, the Camp Chef models have wind screens built in which shield the stainless steel burners from the wind and allow them to stay lit and maintain their heat.
The Camp Chef 600 also comes with a grill grate, so you can switch the flat top grill cooking surface for a grill grate if you want to get those grill marks or cook meats that have more fat or are more heavily marinated.
Granted, the Camp Chef grills are a bit more expensive than the Blackstone grills, so if budget is a primary concern, then rest assured that you are still getting a very good grill if you go with the Blackstone.
Blackstone vs Camp Chef – The Verdict
Overall, we found the Camp Chef flat top grills to be better performers than the Blackstone grills. The Camp Chef 600 gets our highest recommendation, as it brings you the best of all worlds.
But if budget or portability are major concerns, the Blackstone grills do provide excellent value for the money. However, the execution of several of the features is simply superior on the Camp Chef grills.
Whatever you decide, we hope you enjoy the benefits of flat top grilling!