Non-stick BBQ grill mats have recently seen a big surge in popularity, which is not surprising since they do bring some real conveniences and advantages to the process of barbecuing.
What are they?
Basically BBQ grill mats are constructed from a fiberglass cloth, covered with a non-stick, heat-resistant coating of polytetrafluoroethylene, more commonly known as PTFE, which is currently the only non-stick cooking surface approved by the FDA.
It is important to note that the FDA allows PTFE-coated cooking utensils to be used only at temperatures below 500 degrees Fahrenheit. There are industrial applications in which PTFE can be exposed to temperatures up to 600 degrees for very short periods of time but that does not apply to food-grade products such as grill mats. Just so you know, PTFE will actually melt at 626 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gimmicks to avoid
Consequently, any ads you see for “Extra High Heat Mats” or “Military Grade High Heat Mats” or “Industrial Quality 600 degree Mats” are nothing more than advertising gimmicks. You never want to use any non-stick cookware above 500 degrees. For those of you who like to verify their sources, these restrictions are specified in the FDA regulations (EC) No.1935/2004 and (EC) No. 2023/2006.
In theory, then, all BBQ grill mats are basically the same – since they’re all made from identical materials. In practice, though, there are some important distinctions to be aware of when buying them.
The grill mats come in many different thicknesses. We have found that the ideal thickness is 2 mil. These are still thin enough to transfer heat quickly, but heavy enough to be long-lasting and durable.
Amount of PTFE
Another difference is the amount of PTFE coating on the fiberglass cloth. This is the most significant indicator of mat quality because it affects the durability of the mat, the surface quality and the ease of cleaning. Double-coated mats are generally sold as “Professional or Commercial Quality Mats,” and they are, indeed, a higher quality mat.
You can identify a professional mat because the tiny squares of fiberglass cloth are almost non-existent to both sight and touch. You can’t see them and you can’t feel them on the mat’s surface. On lower quality mats you can both feel and see the texture of the underlying fiberglass.
Another consideration is the size of the mats. With mats, bigger is better because you can cut them down to any size you want. They generally come in a 13 inch width but the length varies from 13 inches up to about 17 inches, so look for the longer ones.
And that’s really it.
To summarize, when shopping for a non-stick BBQ grill mat, look for a large size, double-coated mat at least 2 mil thick. And avoid gimmicks that claim extra-heat resistance.