A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
When looking for ways to up your grilling skills and enjoy doing it more often, a durable grill mat can come in handy. These simple mats turn your grill into a cooking station, allowing for more food types to be cooked outdoors. However, you may wonder if these grill mats are safe to use.
While the quick answer is yes, learning more about grill mats can help you decide whether they are for you and how best to use and maintain them. Overall, the benefits far outweigh the negatives when it comes to these simple grilling aids.
1. What Are Grill Mats?
Grill mats are thin, solid sheets usually made of fiberglass fabric coated with PTFE, the same substance used on non-stick cookware. You place these mats directly on your grill, creating a flat grilling surface to cook eggs, bacon, and anything else you choose.
Grill mats come in different sizes, so you can cover the entire surface of your grill or just a part of it as you cook your steak on one side and your hash browns on the other. Most are rectangular, but you can trim these to fit your grill, even if it’s round.
2. What are the Main Benefits of Using Grill Mats?
There are several benefits to using a grill mat. Whether you’re a newbie or grilling aficionado, these mats can help you create your next favorite meal.
Convenience is one of the top benefits of using grill mats. Flexible and lightweight, you can take these mats with you on picnics and even camping trips with ease. If you grill in public parks or at your apartment pool, use one of these mats for additional cleanliness and safety from other left-over messes.
Another favorite benefit is that food can’t fall through the grill grates with the mat placed over the surface. Anyone who has lost food this way before will appreciate this advantage even more.
Grill mats don’t have a steep learning curve and are by far one of the easiest cooking aids to use. If you can cook in a frying pan, you can grill on one of these mats.
Use these grilling mats again and again. Clean them up simply with soap, water, and a soft cloth. Avoid scrubbing too hard, or else you can damage the coating. Taking the time to care for these mats can ensure they last a long time.
3. Are Grill Mats Really Safe to Use?
While grill mats offer several benefits, there are a few things to be aware of regarding their safe use. So, in answer to the question, are grill mats safe to use, do your research beforehand.
The coating of PTFE, a synthetic polymer, may have you asking about its safety. PTFE is approved by the FDA and already used on the non-stick and Teflon cookware you may already own. It’s what gives the surface its smoothness and allows food to slip off.
Although it is not toxic, another chemical, PFOA, is often used in the manufacturing process. PFOA mostly burns away during that process, but concerns have been raised around its possibility of not burning away completely. Manufacturers have discovered a way around this, and you can now purchase grill mats labeled PFOA-free.
Damage to your grill mat can deem them not just less efficient but also potentially dangerous. When the non-stick layer is damaged due to such things as excessive scrubbing, the coating breaks away, potentially allowing harmful chemicals to get into your food.
To prevent damage to your mat, avoid harsh scrubbing while cleaning it and resist using metal utensils. Inspect your mat before each use to identify any damage as well. Although most grill mats are durable, they can be rather fragile when not attended to with care.
If you are concerned about this factor, you do have another option. Copper grill mats are an alternative, although they do not come with a nonstick finish. These mats are efficient, however, in retaining and distributing heat. Toss them in the dishwasher for a quick clean-up.
4. Are There Other Reasons Not to Use Grill Mats?
One of the downsides to using grill mats is that they cannot be used over open flames. The heat melts and destroys the mat. High heat degrades the mat and possibly releases chemicals as a result. Resist using them over heat ranging between 400°F and 600°F to avoid risk.
If you like your food complete with a smoky flavor and grill marks, skip the grill mat. Overall, the mat blocks the smokiness, removing the signature trademark of grilling.
5. How to Prolong the Safe Use of Grill Mats?
There are certain steps you can take to keep your grill mats protected and, in turn, answer the question of are grill mats safe to use.
Keeping your grill mat safe to use by taking these additional steps will prolong its life and give you peace of mind concerning its safety.
In the end, grill mats are safe to use if you take the right steps in how to use, clean and store them. Follow these simple guidelines to keep you and your food safe every time you grill using a grill mat.
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