Do you want a better experience and barbecuing results the next time you fire up your grill? If so, what you need is a grill mat! Here are some tips help you choosing the right grill mat.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Grill Mats
Before buying a new set of grill mats there are a few things shoppers should think about, including the size of the mats, the size of the grill, the grill mats’ construction and thickness, and the maximum temperature the grill mats can withstand.
To ensure that the grill mats you buy are the appropriate size, measure the grill before you go shopping. The shape of the grill isn’t all that important, but it’s important to measure the width and depth of the grill grates and calculate the total area of the cooking surface. Once these figures are calculated, look for a grill mat that doesn’t completely cover the grates. It’s best to leave two to three inches of space between the edge of the mat and the side of the grill.
Keep in mind that grill mats can be cut to size fairly easily, so if a product is off by an inch or two, it can be customized at home for the perfect fit. However, to avoid wasting a significant portion of the grill mat material, look for products that come as close as possible to the size you need. If you have a round grill, you may need to trim the edges from a square mat.
Grill mats are excellent grilling tools that make it easy to grill soft foods like vegetables, eggs, and bacon. This heat-resistant grilling tool is made by combining fiberglass cloth and polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE. Fiberglass cloth is an insulating material that doesn’t conduct heat well, but once it’s coated in varying amounts of PTFE it can be used on the grill.
PTFE is a synthetic polymer used to coat nonstick cookware; for instance, Teflon cookware is actually a brand name of PTFE. This coating gives the mat its nonstick capabilities and makes it easier to clean than sticky, messy grill grates. PTFE is approved for use by the FDA at temperatures under 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures could cause the mat to melt, releasing irritating fumes and potentially ruining the food.
The thickness of the grill mat affects the way food on the mat is cooked. Grill mats with a very thin profile will heat up quickly. However, thin mats are also susceptible to being burned, and they degrade more quickly than thicker grill mats.
Thick grill mats have the opposite problem—they take a longer time to transfer heat to the food. Heat isn’t always distributed evenly across the surface of thicker mats, which results in food being cooked unevenly. Grill mats with a thickness of about 0.25 millimeters are recommended. They are the best balance of optimal heat distribution and low probability of the mat being damaged.
Most grill mats’ maximum recommended temperatures are roughly the same, and there’s a simple reason for that: grill mats are made of similar materials with slight variations in size, thickness, and functionality. A typical fiberglass grill mat with a coating of PTFE is recommended for grilling at temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond this point the mat may begin to degrade, contaminating food and producing unpleasant odors.
Some grill mat manufacturers, however, claim that their mats can withstand temperatures up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. This may be true—mats that are a little bit thicker or have a double coating of PTFE might withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Based on the materials used to make grill mats, however, the FDA has determined that these mats should not be used at temperatures higher than 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a good idea to follow the experts’ advice on this one.
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