Grill enthusiasts might argue that all veggies and meat taste better when they’ve been through the dry, charring heat that grills provide. It’s difficult not to love the smokey, roasted flavor of food when it’s been sizzling on the grill – however, one of the biggest downsides to grilling your food is the spaces between the grilling grates.
The easy solution to ensuring even heat for your food while not having it slip through the grates is investing in a grill mat. Here, you’ll learn about what is a grill mat and what the many benefits of using one for your grill are – and if, at all, are grill mats safe to use.
What Are Grill Mats?
Grill mats can be somewhat of a godsend to all barbecue enthusiasts since it is an accessory for your grill that can make your grilling experience more seamless than ever.
While it seems especially simple, a grill mat is essentially a flat surface material that is placed over the grates of your grill – so that whatever you’re grilling has a uniform surface, making sure that heat is distributed evenly over your meat or any other food.
This material is also usually nonstick and prevents uneven heating in the form of your grilling grates being spaced out between each other. However, considering all the concerns that surround the usage of grill mats, it is important to delve further into what a grill mat is made of and whether you should invest in one at all.
What Are Grill Mats Made Up Of?
Grill mats are popularly made up of fiberglass and the substance that is present in Teflon cookware – polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE in laymen’s terms – but other types of grill mats exist as well, which will be explored later. But are grill mats safe?
The main source of contention that arouses concern for using grill mats is the presence of PTFE, even if it has been declared non-toxic by the FDA. It is not the presence of PTFE that makes the usage of grill mats questionable, however. The real concern lies in the constituent of PTFE – PFOA.
Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, can be fatal in high quantities and pose quite a health hazard with continued exposure. While many manufacturers claim that most of the PFOA are burned away during the manufacturing process, it is difficult to gauge exactly what amount of PFOA remains in a grill mat and whether you should risk it at all. Hence, it is best to go for grill mats that say PFOA-free on their labels to avoid this toxic substance altogether.
What Are The Different Types Of Grill Mat?
The most common material to be used in grill mats is fiberglass. As you might know, fiberglass is made from a combination of pure glass and resin-like substances that can make the compound stronger and provide it with more resistance to heat.
This substance is then taken and coated on top of grill mats in order to make it efficient for high amounts of heating while providing a nonstick surface with ease.
Another popular compound used in grill mats is silicone, which is a fully synthetic material that incorporates the usage of silicon.
Silicone is extremely rubbery and flexible and is a great compound to be used in cookware or any other substance that is subject to high amounts of heat for prolonged periods.
Copper is yet another substance that can be seen as the constituents for grill mats a lot – but unlike what the name suggests, copper grill mats are not composed entirely of copper. However, are copper grill mats safe?
Like the other types of grill mats mentioned on this list, copper is infused into rubbery and flexible material and later coated with a nonstick coating.
This helps in conducting heat quickly and efficiently and is a great alternative for those who do not want PTFE in their grill mats.
Grill mats can also be made of PTFE, which, contrary to popular belief, is actually a fully non-toxic material to be used in cookware. Contrary to popular belief, PTFE does not leach onto cookware – but it can be harmful at extremely high temperatures since the breaking point of PTFE is around 570 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, if consumed, PTFE can be hazardous – but that’s not a risk you should be worrying about.
As opposed to PTFE, PFOA is indeed a toxic material that used to constitute grill mats in the past. However, owing to the health hazards, the use of PFOA has been discontinued in most brands that offer grill mats, so all you have to do is look out for the PFOA-free label when you’re getting your own grill mat.
Why Should You Use Grill Mats
Now that we’ve established that grill mats are completely safe to use, provided that you use them according to the given instructions, it is time to see what the many benefits of using a grill mat are.
One of the many benefits that a grill mat offers is how convenient it can be, no matter what you typically use your grill for and for how long. Grill mats are extremely easy to store since you can just roll them up and put them away while also being simple to clean.
Additionally, since grill mats are so versatile, you can choose to cut them up to suit the size of your grill instead. They’re also incredibly hygienic and can provide you a barrier between the grill and your food, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning up after whoever used the grill before you if you typically use the grill in a communal setting.
2. Easy To Use
If you’re wondering how to use grill mats on your grill, then you should know that it is also impossibly simple to use a grill mat for uniform grilling. All you need to do is take your grill mat and put it on top of your grill grates, forming a flat surface that helps you achieve even heating for all parts of your food.
This way, you can make foods such as pancakes and eggs as well without worrying about the spaces between your grates. And as for cleaning, as mentioned before, it is an incredibly simple process with the grill mat. Requiring just a gentle wipe with a cleaning agent and a soft cloth, you can have your grill mat clean and ready in a matter of minutes.
A grill mat is an excellent purchase that can give you value for your money in terms of durability. A single grill mat can last you a long time if you care for it properly without damaging the nonstick coating of the grill mat – however, if you do have to replace yours, you can do so at a minimal cost since most grill mats are affordably priced.
Are Grill Mats Safe To Use? Are Grill Mats Toxic?
1. Chemicals Used
If you’re wondering, “are grill mats toxic,” then this will assuage your concerns. The chief chemical that is used in grill mats that can be a point of contention for those concerned about the safety of grill mats is PFOA or perfluorooctanoic.
As mentioned before, PFOA is a potentially toxic material – especially if you’re exposed to it for long amounts of time. Even if you’re subjecting yourself to trace amounts of PFOA every time you use your grill mat, it can build up and be potentially toxic for your health since PFOA contains fluoride.
Once again, many are divided on the opinion of whether fluoride is toxic or not. While it’s definitely true that fluoride can be harmful because of prolonged exposure, it is said that grill mats do not contain nearly enough fluoride for this.
2. Health Risks
In extreme cases, individuals may be subjected to a greater risk of the formation of tumors through exposure to PFOA – especially in the pancreas, breasts, testicles, and liver. Additionally, breathing in Teflon fumes for prolonged periods can cause individuals to develop polymer fume fever. For upwards of four hours, Teflon fumes can have individuals develop flu-like symptoms that can be fixed with oxygen inhalation.
How To Use Grill Mats Safely
The one thing you want to especially consider when you’re using a grill mat is the temperature you will be grilling at. Owing to the composition of most grill mats that have PTFE in them, the breaking point of these grill mats lies around 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, it would be best to give it a safe margin of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit by limiting your temperature on the grill to anywhere from 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
This won’t take away from the grilling experience at all, as most grilling processes take place with a temperature falling between 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit anyway. However, suppose you want to subject your food to high temperatures on your grill. In that case, it is best to not use a grill mat at all – since when PTFE breaks and decomposes, the toxic substances may be infused in your food, rendering it completely inedible.
How To Take Care Of Grill Mats
Since a grill mat is coated with a Teflon coating to give it that nonstick ability, it is important to treat it very carefully, like you would with your other nonstick cookware.
Using metal spatulas is never recommended as far as grill mats are concerned since they can easily damage the nonstick coating and wear your grill mat down faster – effectively having your food come in contact with the toxic substances of the grill mat. Using a wooden or plastic spatula is imperative if you want to ensure durability for your grill mat.
Using The Right Cooking Techniques
As you would expect with most nonstick surfaces, the tools you use on them for the processes of flipping and scraping might affect your grilling experience immensely – especially if you’re using a grill mat. Similarly, using the right cooking techniques can make all the difference with your grill mat.
To further ensure durability with your grill mat, it is always recommended to cook simple foods on your grill that would not make them stick to the surface. For instance, sticky sauces can easily stick to your grill mat and be a hassle to clean.
Additionally, it is also recommended that you try to minimize friction between your cooking surface and the food by tossing your food around as long as it’s cooking to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Here, you can also use tongs to pick up pieces of food every now and then to reduce further friction.
How To Maintain And Store Grill Mats
Taking proper care of your grill mat is one of the first steps to increasing its longevity so that you don’t have to constantly keep replacing it.
As mentioned above, it is extremely important to monitor closely what you’re putting on the grill mat so that you can reduce the friction on it as much as possible. Just remember to ensure that the food is not sticking to the surface of the grill mat, as it can be a hassle to clean up later and may also overheat, which is not recommended for the PTFE coating.
Additionally, storing your grill mat and cleaning it properly also affects the durability of your grill mat. Refrain from using abrasive substances to clean your grill mat since this can wear away the PTFE coating faster than anything else. And while it’s easy to store a grill mat, the last thing you should do is stack it under your other cookware since this can cause scratches to the coating of the grill mat.
As you have seen, while grill mats are completely safe and can make your grilling experience easier than ever, they also need to be cared for with caution – much like your other nonstick cookware. Once you take proper care of your grill mat, not only are you ensuring food safety, but you’re also increasing the durability of your grill mat.