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The rise of the outdoor griddle and why you need one

The grill’s long reign as outdoor cooking champion may be coming to an end.

Consider everything you love about barbecuing on your charcoal or gas grill — quickness, simplicity and great flavor. Now remove many of the drawbacks, and you’ve got the outdoor griddle.

“Locally, we are seeing more and more people purchase griddles from us to incorporate into their outdoor kitchen spaces,” says Matt Compton, sales manager with Compton & Son Appliance LLC and Outdoor Living Center in Gulfport. Sales are skyrocketing nationwide, according to Popular Science — with griddle-maker Camp Chef seeing 150 percent growth and another manufacturer reporting a 600 percent spike. Retailers have struggled to keep them in stock. So why the surge in popularity?

“Locally, we are seeing more and more people purchase griddles from us to incorporate into their outdoor kitchen spaces.” Matt Compton, Sales Manager, Compton & Son Appliance LLC

“The outdoor griddle is great for cooking foods that you would traditionally see at a hibachi (restaurant), like steak, chicken, shrimp and rice,” Compton says. “You can also try some different options, such as doing a pressed hamburger that tastes like you would get it from an old-school burger joint, breakfast with the family on a cool morning or a Philly cheesesteak. Who doesn’t love a good Philly cheesesteak?!”

Griddles have several advantages over a grill: There’s no gaps or grates for food to fall into. If the surface is well seasoned and oiled, your fish and burgers won’t stick. The solid metal surface also ensures faster and more thorough cooking.

A griddle can become an entertainment piece for social gatherings, Compton adds, which enhances its appeal. Loyal fans have even established a social media presence, including a Facebook group dedicated to Blackstone griddle owners.

“If you are looking for an entry-level griddle, the Blackstone models are an inexpensive way to get into the market to see if you will truly use or enjoy it,” Compton says.

He advises not to expect a long life out of a lower-quality unit— especially in the punishing climate of south Mississippi. Brands like Le Griddle from France or Blaze, Fire Magic and Lynx offer high-end models, he says.

Options range from tabletop/portable units and attachments for existing grills, some in the $100 or less range, to fully loaded griddle stations that cost about $300 or more.

Whatever you buy, Compton advises, protect it with a cover.

“No matter if it is a cloth cover, stainless lid or a fully covered porch, it is important to keep your outdoor equipment covered,” he says. “Keeping the equipment out of the weather and properly cleaning it after each use will make the unit last longer.”

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