Use Grill Mats For Even Heat, Easier Cleanup & More!

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As RVers and campers, we tend to cook on grills, griddles, and even over open fires at campsites. A grill mat is something that many people use for cooking or baking both outside and in a home oven.

But, why would you need one? Are they expensive? What are they made of and could they leach toxic chemicals into your food?

Can you use them on a gas cooktop? Are they reusable? What kinds of foods can you cook on them, and how much heat can they tolerate?

We’ll answer all these questions and more in today’s post, so you can decide if a pack of grill mats is worth tossing in with your camping cooking gear.

What is the Purpose of a Grill Mat?

The general purpose of a cooking mat is to cover the grill grates with a smooth, even cooking area that distributes heat evenly across the surface.

But let’s take a look at some additional reasons why we might want to use a mat for grilling.

Saves Food and Foil

A grill mat prevents grease and food from falling through the grates without the need to waste aluminum foil or use a skillet (which also significantly reduces your cooking area).

Easy Cleanup

A mat prevents food from getting on the grill grates at all. This means less scraping and cleaning.

Also, many mats are coated with a non-stick surface, making them especially easy to clean.

A Clean, Rust-Free Cooking Surface

It also means that you can use a public grill like those found at a campground with less concern for your food making direct contact with the grill as it cooks.

No Food Limitations

With a mat covering the grill grates, the grill becomes a camping griddle where you can cook things like eggs or pancakes.

Can Provide a Non-Stick Surface

And finally, non-stick mats prevent your food from sticking to the cooking surface of the grill.

If you’re interested in seeing grill mats in action, check out this video:

Do Grill Mats Burn?

Cooking mats are heat-resistant and most are rated to tolerate heat up to 500 degrees — some a bit higher than that, depending on the material used to create the mat.

So, while they don’t tend to burn, they do break down over time, at which point they need to be disposed of and replaced.

How Many Times Can You Use a Grill Mat?

The answer to this question really depends on which mat you buy, but there are some copper cooking mats out there with manufacturers claiming they can last up to 1,000 uses.

In general, though, most are reusable, But different types of mats will last for varying durations. If you decide to shop for some, you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s specs on reusability.

More importantly, though, always dispose of a mat that’s showing signs of breaking down.

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Anytime a cooking surface breaks down, (whether it’s a mat, a pan, a griddle, or anything else), there’s a potential for materials under the protective coating to leach into your food.

Are Grill Mats Toxic?

At one time there was a lot of controversy about cooking mats, just as there was about various types of cooking pans, and rightfully so. There were chemicals being used in the construction of all sorts of cooking surfaces, and they had the potential to be toxic, especially at high temperatures.

However, most (not all) grill mats are made to withstand temperatures up to 500°F, are made of food-safe materials.

The majority of mats are made of PTFE, more commonly known as Teflon, so let’s take a look at this material to get a better handle on its safety as a cooking surface.

What Is PTFE?

PTFE is polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as Teflon.

So, Teflon™ is simply a brand name for PTFE.

Is PTFE Safe?

As we write this in 2024, PTFE (Teflon) has been determined to be safe and even harmless if ingested.

In fact, there’s been much research conducted on PTFE (again, with good reason), and the current version of PTFE has been deemed safe even if it passes into food as particles from chipped or flaking pans.

Years ago it was a different story. PTFE came under fire for containing toxic chemicals, in particular long-chain PFAS, (PFOA and PFOS), considered to be “forever chemicals” and harmful to humans and animals.

But by 2014, manufacturers phased out all PTFE made with long-chain PFAS in cooperation with EPA guidance. This means that PTFE (Teflon) products made BEFORE 2014 have the potential for toxicity from PFAS.

However, PTFE/Teflon products made after 2014 are considered safe for use in cooking products, including BBQ grill mats. In fact, you’ll see many mats advertised to address this concern with terms like “PFAS-free” or “PFOA-free”, etc.

To make sure you’re using grilling or baking mats in the safest way possible, always use them and clean them in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Are Copper Mats Safer for Cooking?

Actually, most “copper” cooking mats are coated with PTFE to create a non-stick surface.

The term “copper grill mat” is a bit of a misnomer because a “copper” mat isn’t actually a sheet of pure copper. In fact, some mats billed as “copper grill mats” contain no copper at all.

Copper mats that do use copper are typically “copper infused” which means that the material has strands of copper woven into it. This material is ultimately covered with a non-stick coating, generally PTFE.

Copper does tend to make the mat a bit thicker than others, so you’ll often see them advertised as heavy-duty and longer-lasting.

Copper is also a great heat conductor, so mats that contain copper tend to heat more quickly and evenly.

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Can You Cook Steak on a Grill Mat? How About Eggs?

Yes, you can cook steak and eggs on a grill mat.

A mat provides a continuous surface for even heating, and most foods will cook nicely on a mat.

Note, however, that mats are available in different thicknesses, and you’ll want a thinner mat if you’re looking to leave grill marks on your steaks.

We’ll provide links to mats that claim to give you those great/grate grill marks, but with the caveat that some chefs say there’s no way to really get grill marks on your meat or fish if you’re using a mat.

Does a Grill Mat Prevent Flare-Ups?

Yes. Using a mat on a grill does prevent flare-ups because the oils used in cooking and the fats naturally contained in meats don’t drip onto the flames.

How Much Do Grill Mats Cost?

Most mats used for grilling and baking aren’t terribly expensive, especially considering the fact that they can be used multiple times if used and cared for properly.

Let’s take a look at a few popular options with good reviews to see how budget-friendly they are:

KONA BBQ Grill Mat

This is a set of two heavy-duty non-stick grill mats from Kona.

Made of PTFE and PTFE fibers, these mats are billed as having a 600-degree peak temperature.

These particular mats are 16″ x 13″, but Kona also makes a set of extra large mats that will fully cover a 4-burner grill.

Kona mats are extra thick (0.39mm), and are noted by the manufacturer to be capable of 1,000 uses per side before needing to be replaced when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Kona mats come with a 7-year warranty.

Grillaholics Grill Mat

This is also a set of two heavy-duty BBQ grill mats, similar in many ways to the Kona mats, though maybe a bit thinner. (Grillaholics also makes a thicker mat as well as a mesh mat.)

Grillaholics notes that this version of their mat is thin enough to leave grill marks and BBQ flavor, while also being thick enough for good heat resistance and long-lasting use.

Grillaholics is so confident in the durability of these mats, that they offer a lifetime warranty.

These 15.75″ x 13″ cooking/baking mats have a PTFE-fiberglass coating and are PFOA and silicone free. They can tolerate temperatures of up to 500°F without burning, and can be used on any type of grill including gas, smoker, charcoal, and electric.

Yoshi Copper Grill and Bake Mats

Another set of two cooking mats, Yoshi bills these mats as “infused with real copper”.

Of course, a little online digging finds that they’re copper-laced PTFE.

Like a majority of grill mats, Yoshi mats are reusable and reversible and can withstand heat up to 500°F.

These mats are dishwasher-safe or can be wiped clean.

GrillShield Extra Large Copper Grill and Bake Mats

This is a set of two grill/bake mats that are extra large in size (17″ x 23″) but can be cut to fit any size grill, griddle, or oven pan.

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We’re not certain as to whether GrillShield mats actually contain copper or whether they’re simply a copper-colored PTFE (Teflon).

The manufacturer’s online notes don’t actually state that there’s copper in them, but the Amazon seller indicates (in the questions and reviews section) that they’re made of “copper-infused PTFE-coated glass fabric sheet which is PFOA free and non-toxic.”

The manufacturer does state that these mats use extra layers of PTFE to make their mats more durable, and that they’re non-toxic and PFOA-free. They’re heat-safe up to 500°F, and can be used on gas, charcoal, and electric grills.

GrillShield offers a lifetime “no questions asked” money-back guarantee on these reversible, reusable grill mats.

Renook Grill Mat Set of 6

And finally, we have a set of six 15.75″ x 13″ cooking mats from Renook.

Renook states that these mats are 100% non-stick requiring no oil for cooking, and are made from “100% PFOA-free materials and premium PTFE-fiberglass coating.” They also note that there’s no silicone in their products.

Renook offers very specific guidance on use with regard to heat, so we’re going to quote directly from their info here:

“When the use time exceeds 30 minutes, the maximum temperature cannot exceed 260 F; when used for a short time, the maximum temperature cannot exceed 400 F.” This should be kept in mind by anyone considering this model.

Are Grill Mats Worth It?

For many outdoor chefs, (and also for indoor chefs and bakers), grill mats are worth having. For some, in fact, they’re a favorite cooking accessory.

They make clean-up easy, prevent food from falling through grill grates, prevent flare-ups by reducing the amount of grease or fat that reaches the fire, and offer a smooth cooking surface and even heating.

They can be especially desirable for those who like to grill on the grates at national, state, and regional parks (we’ve all seen how unsanitary those look).

There’s a lot to love about cooking on mats, and now that you’ve got the information handy, you can decide whether they’re the right grilling accessory for you!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>