Sometimes you come across things that make you feel how you lived without them all this while and for me, grill mats are one of them. When I came to know about grill mats, I was excited to find something that makes grilling and cleaning so easy. However, news about being toxic followed soon and made me worried.
So, is grill mat toxic? Not, if you make the right choices. All that confusion is due to the findings by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that says PTFE-coated grill mats release toxic fumes at high temperatures, and this can kill pet birds and cause flu-like symptoms in human beings.
This flu is named as Teflon flu or Polymer fume fever. However, the main culprit is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and the PFOA-free mats can be used safely. For years, there has been a debate regarding the safety of Teflon cookware, primarily the polytetrafluoroethylene coatings applied to the non-stick cookware and PTFE fabric used in baking and grill mats.
The debates usually point to a chemical formulation known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Read on to find out more about PFOA and how to ensure that you always buy safe and non-toxic grill mats to enjoy delicious grilled food outdoors.
What Is Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)
This is not an ingredient used in making grill mats or non-stick cooking pans, but a catalyst used in preparing fluoropolymers like PTFE, which is the primary formulation used in making the non-stick kitchen tools available today.
The debate took a serious turn in 2003 when a self-regulating organization named Environmental Working Group (EWG) filed a petition requesting that all products containing PFOA should be labeled with a safety warning.
After much evaluation, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission decided that no warning was necessary. However, they set out to ensure that manufacturers stop using PFOA in their kitchen utensils by 2015. So, the elimination of PFOA while making PTFE coating ensures that the final product does not contain any toxic acid at all.
Even before the PFOA was phased out, many manufacturers were already producing PFOA-free cookware. However, these products were the most high quality and expensive than others. After the phase-out, many affordable PFOA-free cookware made their way into the market.
Learning To Be Safe With Grill Mats
Post 2015, there’s no need to worry about ‘is grill mat toxic’ because you can take for granted that the non-stick cookwares are made of PFOA-free materials. An important consideration when using grill mats or any other non-stick or regular cookware is acknowledging the fact that overheating can produce toxic fumes.
Cookware made from different types of materials such as cast iron, aluminum, ceramic, non-stick, and the ones that come with PTFE coating is susceptible to releasing toxic fumes when overheated. Thus, the complete concept of using safe non-stick cookware has more to do with use and practice than the specific materials that they are made from.
The best and most lasting non-stick cookware are those that are used with great care, following the restrictions and directions. When discussing PTFE fabrics, Teflon coatings, or other non-stick tools, remember that heat is one of the most important considerations.
PTFE is an extremely stable material that is resistant even to the harsh chemicals, but that changes as the temperature goes over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. There are substances that change state from solid to liquid and then to gas when exposed to high temperature, and PTFE is no exception.
Taking Care Of Grill Mat
There are reasons why a perfectly fine and safe grill mat may turn toxic. One of the most mistakes people commit when handling non-stick cookware is the type of tools they use. For example, the manufacturer always recommends using a wooden or plastic spatula with non-stick cookware.
However, many times we find it more convenient to grab whatever is handy and start scraping the Teflon pan or grill mat with it. You should be careful to never use a metal tool on PTFE-coated cookware. This will only scratch the surface and weaken the non-stick coating. To be on the safe side, use tools made of plastic, wood, or meta with PTFE coating.
Using The Right Cooking Techniques
Just like you need to use the correct tools when cooking on non-stick cookware, you also need to apply the right cooking techniques. These techniques will differ slightly compared to when you use glass, cast iron, or stainless steel cookware.
The number one rule is to ensure that there’s as little friction as possible on the cooking surface, even with rubber or plastic tools. When using pans, just toss the food to prevent them from sitting on the same base for too long. When cooking on grill mats, remember to use tongs instead of spatulas.
Another important point of consideration is to know what types of foods you must prepare in your grill mat or any other non-stick cookware. For example, the sticky sauces can easily burn and require deep cleaning that can eventually wear out your cookware.
To ensure a longer life for your grill mat, use them to prepare simple foods on your barbeque. You must also remember to keep moving the food instead of just letting them sit on the surface and cook. If you take good care of the grill mats and follow the above instructions properly, they can last for up to 3 years.
This will definitely depend on how often you use the non-stick cookware and what you cook with them. The grill mats that are advertised as containing extra layers of PTFE coating are slightly more expensive, but they are designed to hold up better and last longer.
Maintaining And Storing Grill Mats
When working with a non-stick cookware or grill mat, you need to pay close attention to what is cooking. Don’t even think of putting food on the mat and walk away to take care of other household errands. You need to stand there and ensure that the mat does not overheat and food does not get charred.
Use a spatula or tongs to move the food before they start sticking to the surface due to excessive heat. While this might not sound like a big deal, taking care of these points can dramatically increase the life of your non-stick cookware.
Besides being a safety concern, taking good care of your grill mat also makes it easier to clean up later. You can easily wipe the mat using a mild soap and water. For stubborn stains, you may at most need to soak the cookware first but resist your temptation to scrub with scratch pads or any abrasive material. This may result in tiny scratches and lead to the premature breakdown of the PTFE fabric.
Storing A Grill Mat
Now that you know that your grill mat is not toxic and safe to use as long as it is well-kept, you may want to take care while storing it. Careless storage is one of the primary reasons leading to premature aging of non-stick cookware.
Quality grill mats don’t come cheap so keep your investment safe by storing them correctly. Avoid stacking the cookware as this will result in scratches that are detrimental to their lifespan. Treat the mats with care and respect and they will deliver great results for several years to come.
What To Look For In A Grill Mat
When buying a grill mat, one of the most important and obvious things you need to look for is what the cookware is made from. You must ensure that the material is durable, and it will not melt or burn during the grilling process.
If you plan to reuse the grill mat repeatedly, you must also ensure that it is safe and capable of withstanding high temperatures. You must also ensure that the grill mat is safe to use while cooking food, as you would not want to use products made from harmful chemicals or hazardous materials.
Always remember to read the customer reviews and do your research before making a purchase. Also, don’t forget to look for a manufacturer warranty or product guarantee. You should be able to exchange or return the product to get your money back.
Best Ways To Utilize Your Grill Mats
The grills mats are a non-toxic and fun way to cook your food outdoors during summertime and having used them in several ways, I think I can now share with you a few interesting ways to utilize the grills mats.
#1. I am sure you have been in situations when you badly want to grill some food but don’t want to clean the barbeque. If you want to cut short the scraping job and avoid cleaning the grill grates, just lay a grill mat over the grate and cook your food on the clean surface. This is a huge plus when cooking outdoors.
#2. A grill mat not only gives you a clean surface but also provides a large area to cook smaller foods together. So, you can place small items such as shrimps, veggies, and fruits, so you don’t have to fret about putting them on the grate.
#3. Use your grill mat to whisk up delicious breakfast such as pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese sandwich and so on. Make sure you add some butter over the mat to prevent the food from sticking to the surface.
Are copper grill mats better?
The copper grill mats not only protect the grill grates but also increase their lifespan. Mats made of copper material have just the right thickness and they are also dishwasher safe and heat resistant up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are the benefits of using grill mats over non-stick pans？
The mats are capable of absorbing heat quickly and distributing them equally on an even surface. In this aspect, they are better than the non-stick pans. As a result, food cooks well even in medium heat and your maximum flavors from your food.
What is the ideal temperature to cook food on grill mats?
The ideal temperature to cook your food on grill mats is between 300˚ and 400˚F. You should avoid exposing the mats directly to open flame and it should be far enough from any open heat source that is above 500 F. Please bear in mind that PTFE will disintegrate if exposed to very high temperatures and release toxic fumes.