A flattop grill is a type of cooking appliance made of a single, seamless metal surface that is heated from underneath by electrical heating elements or gas burners. In commercial use, a flattop grill could be so long that it runs the length of a kitchen, while a portable model for home use could be no bigger than a traditional kettle grill. One advantage to using a flattop grill is that the entire surface is evenly heated and accessible so any size food can be grilled. The grill also tends to be more efficient for most applications, because none of the heat that is generated is lost to the air before having a chance to enter the food being cooked.
The surface of a flattop grill can be made from cast iron, stainless steel or a material with a nonstick coating. The burners or elements underneath the surface are aligned in such a way as to provide even heat across the entire cooking area so every inch (centimeter) of space can be utilized. Larger flattop grills can have several banks of burners, allowing different areas to be maintained at different temperatures. This can help when searing food, or browning it quickly over high heat before moving it to an area of lower heat to finish cooking slowly.
Some designs do not use an entirely flat surface. Instead, a grill might be slanted slightly downward toward the front edge or elevated a little in the center to make a subtle dome shape. This is done so any fat or other juices released by the food during cooking will not pool and burn on the flattop. With the addition of a small gradation, the liquids will run off the edge of the grill, usually into a well or pan designed to catch grease.
While a flattop grill is very versatile, one of the only features larger models generally do not have built in is a way to cover food while it is cooking, because the grills are usually too large for a hood or lid. Instead, chefs generally use overturned metal bowls that are placed over food to allow it to steam or to better concentrate the heat for tasks such as melting cheese. Smaller models, especially those designed to be used at home, are often small enough to come with a lid.
Depending on how it is manufactured, a flattop grill can have a surface that requires seasoning, much like a cast iron pan. Over time, this creates a cooking area that naturally prevents food from sticking in most cases. Models that are smaller, especially those designed for indoor countertop use, are sometimes coated in nonstick materials to provide the same benefit without the need for seasoning.