I have now been putting the Blackstone 36-inch outdoor flat top griddle through its paces for over a year and think it’s time to offer a detailed review.
Blackstone Customer Service Problems
Before we talk about the griddle itself, I think it’s important to talk about the [lack of] customer service. No matter how well a company is run, it is inevitable that an occasional sub-par product will make it off the production line. The question is how the company deals with it.
In my case, I actually ordered two Blackstone 36-inch outdoor flat top griddles. One was for me and one was a gift for my dad. If there is a silver lining, the defective unit was the one I set up for me and not the one I gave to my dad.
The issue with my griddle was that the first 3 inches, all the way across, had some sort of defect in the steel. I am experienced with reconditioning cast iron skillets and working with grills so I initially thought I could salvage it. Plus, I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of having to ship this 134-pound behemoth back to Amazon!
As the directions say, I scrubbed griddle top repeatedly. Once it was thoroughly rinsed and dried, I coated it with oil and got it up to temp to start the seasoning process. I repeated the seasoning process multiple times (as directed) until the top was as black as midnight. Well, at least most of it was. The front 3 inches were clearly not seasoning like the rest of the flat top.
At that point, I reached out to Blackstone customer service to see if they could offer any advice. And I waited, and I waited. More than two months later (yes, months!) I received a generic response that touted “We want to assure you that we are a company that stands behind our products and takes pride in our customer service…” and went on to say that it will eventually season. (I will circle back to this point later.)
Needless to say, actions speak louder than words when a company that says they take pride in their customer service takes more than two months to respond!
If you are considering ordering a Blackstone 36-inch outdoor flat top griddle online, keep in mind that you might not get much in the way of customer service if you have a problem.
Blackstone Griddle Description
As noted above, I ordered two griddles and the other top was fine so let’s assume the issue above was an isolated production flaw and talk about the product.
The description on Amazon noted the following when I bought the griddle:
- 720sq inches of flat top grilling, this griddle is perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Cook eggs, pancakes, quesadillas, grilled cheese, steak, potatoes, teppanyaki-style foods and more. Also, enjoy a bottom shelf and two side shelves for food storage and prep.
- DURABILITY AND LONGEVITY-This Blackstone Grill is built to last with a powder-coated black steel frame, stainless steel burners, and thick cold rolled steel cooktop.
- TRANSPORT WITH EASE-Easily wheel around your yard or transport from your backyard to the campsite thanks to the removable griddle top, fold-up legs and four industrial-strength caster wheels.
- CONTROLLABLE HEAT ZONES-Four independently controlled 15,000 BTU stainless steel burners make a total of 60,000 BTUs controlled low to high for versatile cooking options. Propane fueled by a standard 20lb tank with accommodating tank storage tucked nicely under the left side shelf.
- REPLACE YOUR STANDARD GRILL-Replace your grill or BBQ with a Blackstone griddle and never look back! Eliminate the hassle of kerosene, charcoal, and matches; This grill includes an easy start, battery-powered push-button ignition. With the simple push of a button, your griddle is ready to go! You may receive a rear grease or a front grease drain.
Let’s address these points in detail…
Point Number 1 – Size and Shelves
- The size – One of the best attributes of this griddle is the size. At 720 square inches, you can cook a huge amount of food. I have had pool parties where we cooked bacon and pancake brunches for large groups and it is absolutely fantastic. I have cooked bacon in a non-stick skillet, in a cast iron skillet, and in the oven. The Blackstone griddle does it better and faster than any. Also, I have to note that the Blackstone buttermilk pancake recipe that comes with the griddle is phenomenal. However, how the pancakes cook on the griddle is important too. The griddle allows them to develop a crispy edge but they are still soft and fluffy. If you ever have to cook for a group, you will love the size and the ability to create different heat zones.
- The two side shelves – I have one thing to say about the side shelves – BE CAREFUL! The side shelves are a (seemingly) attractive feature. Most grills have these and they are great for holding plates, utensils, food, and everything else you need. However, the issue here is how the Blackstone griddle is constructed. You have a giant metal plate sitting over a series of open burner tubes. The issue is that there is a gap between the bottom of the griddle top and the burners right at the level of the side shelves. If you get any sort of a breeze (and remember you are always cooking outside!) there is a chance that the heat will blow right onto the shelves. In my time using the Blackstone griddle I have melted a water bottle, burned my hand on a plate, and singed a roll of paper towels that were on the shelf.
- The bottom shelf – Yes, there is one. No, I have not used it in a year of using the Blackstone grill. It’s awkward to bend over and reach the shelf and it collects a lot of dirt.
Point Number 2 – Durability
- The powder-coated black steel frame and stainless steel burners are good. They are sturdy and seem to hold up well.
- In terms of the “thick cold rolled steel cooktop,” the statement is factually true but I think that some may people may take issue with how durability is defined. The griddle top is durable in the sense that it should last for a very long time, like cast-iron-skillet long. However, the top does take a moderate to heavy amount of effort to care for it. You need to wipe down the griddle after every use and, depending on what you cooked, that can use a substantial amount of paper towels. The biggest issue, though, is that if the griddle ends up with moisture on it, it will rust. You can rehab it, but that takes effort, and then you have to go through the entire re-seasoning process. This happened to me recently and I spent half a day cleaning and then re-seasoning it. The bottom line is that it is durable in the sense that short of blowing it up, it can probably survive any normal issues but you will have to put in the elbow grease to do it. This is a hands-on, labor-intensive appliance.
Point Number 3 – Transporting
- The company touts it as easy to move and transport to a campsite. While you could pull the flat top off, collapse the base, and take this camping, you better have a strong friend willing to help and a way to pack it. In fact, even moving the unit around the yard is more difficult than a standard grill. The problem is that only two of the wheels swivel, so you have to steer it from one end. There is a handle but it sits just above one of the side shelves so it’s awkward to grab. Moving it across a smooth surface, like a concrete pad, is a piece of cake but trying to move it across grass or gravel requires lifting from the handle. If transport is a key point for you, a different product might be better.
Point Number 4 – Controllable Heat Zones
- The 36-inch griddle has four burners that run the depth of the flat top. You can create different zones but the key point is that independently controlled burners allow you to create consistent heat across the flat top. In other words, it helps to eliminate hot spots.
- In my experience, the controls allow you to have either two cooking zones or one cooking zone and a holding zone. Unlike a gas grill where the heat is directly centered over a burner, the griddle heats the flat top and the heat radiates to the sides. Depending on what I’m cooking, I might run a 50/50 split with a hot side and low side. Other times I will run two hot burners, one low burner and leave one burner off. That gives me a way to move cooked food over, so it doesn’t burn while I am waiting for the rest to finish.
Point Number 5 – Replacing a Standard Grill
- I don’t think the Blackstone griddle would be a good replacement for a standard grill. At least not for me and I would say not for most people. There are a few reasons. The first is that cooking on the Blackstone is a bit of a production. You need to stage a few different cooking tools and (as noted above) clean-up is a process. This means it takes longer and is more work than a standard gas grill so it’s not a great option if you just wanted to grill a small/quick meal like a couple of hamburgers or hot dogs.
- The second reason it’s not a total replacement for a standard grill is that it doesn’t have a lid so it’s difficult (or in some cases just not feasible) to cook things like whole pork tenderloin or a whole chicken. I’ve tried pork tenderloin on the Blackstone griddle and it just wasn’t as good (or as easy) as on a grill.
- I would also note that even though you are cooking outside, the Blackstone griddle throws off a ton of heat. If it’s even a moderately warm day, be prepared to sweat! On warmer days I will opt for the grill where I can close the lid and block the heat.
Overall Review of the Blackstone 36-inch Outdoor Flat Top Griddle
Putting aside issues of atrocious customer service and seemingly spotty product quality control, the concept of the Blackstone 36-inch griddle is great. While I would not buy it as a replacement for a standard gas grill, it has definitely earned a place alongside it. It’s perfect for cooking for large groups and gives you the flexibility to cook food you normally wouldn’t, or couldn’t, cook on a grill. And, while clean-up is a somewhat tedious process, it can still be a time saver compared to cleaning multiple cooking vessels. For example, we recently hosted a party where we cooked up 9 pounds of pork chops with a stir-fry type of side using riced cauliflower. All of this was done on the Blackstone, which saved having to wash crock pots and pans.