How Do You Use a BBQ Mat?
First, were you looking for the type of bbq mat that you put under your bbq grill to catch splatters and protect your deck or patio? If so, click here, because you’re in the wrong place. Otherwise read on about the bbq grill mat, the nonstick cooking surface for your barbecue.
You’d think the answer to the question would be obvious – you put the bbq mat on the barbecue grate and you cook on it, and that’s how you use a bbq mat. Well, yes, it’s almost that simple, but you’d be amazed at some of the pictures I receive from customers showing what people have done to their bbq mats – simply because they don’t know how to use them properly.
First of all, a bbq mat isn’t much to look at. It’s nothing more than a large rectangle of flexible black material. (If you want to know more about how bbq mats are constructed and what they’re made from, click here). But don’t let appearances deceive you. If you’ve purchased a high quality bbq grill mat, then you’ve actually acquired a high end cooking and barbecuing tool. You’ll need to treat it appropriately.
Caring for your BBQ Mat
In many ways a bbq mat needs to be cared for like any other expensive nonstick cookware. Keep the heat on low or medium and never expose the bbq mat to temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit. I realize there are some manufacturers out there that are claiming their mats are good up to 600 degrees, but all bbq grill mats are made from the same material, and the 500 degree limit is set by the FDA – because of the fact that a bbq mat will begin to break down under higher temperatures, possibly contaminating the air and your food.
Use the Correct Tools
Don’t use metal tools and even when using the correct tools, silicone or soft plastic, don’t scrape the surface of the bbq mat excessively. Turning foods with a pair of silicone tipped tongs is preferable to flipping them with a spatula.
Be Smart About What You’re Cooking
Don’t cook sticky sauces and other sticky foods on the mats. As with nonstick pans there are going to be foods that stick to them and will be difficult to clean off. Use common sense.
I use the bbq mats to cook fresh vegetables, chicken, certain fish, shrimp, hash browns, bacon, sausage, pancakes and fried eggs, for example. But I don’t cook steak on them because I like my steaks cooked on high heat and cooked quickly. The high heat cooking is not appropriate for a bbq mat. And some whitefish is just too sticky and will make a mess of the mat.
BBQ Mat Rule of Thumb
So here’s a rule of thumb for cooking with a BBQ grill mat. Don’t use the bbq mats to replace techniques you are already using on the grill – techniques that are working for you. Instead, use the bbq mats to expand your grilling options; Use them to grill things that weren’t possible without a bbq mat. Or use them to grill in a different, hopefully better way. If you’re looking for grill marks, then stick the food directly on the grill, for pete’s sake. And try slow cooking pork or chicken on a bbq mat to retain flavor and moisture. I think the results are phenomenally better.
Lastly, there are a lot more uses for a bbq mat than being able to fry eggs on a grill. You can use them for a range of nonstick applications. They can be cut to any size or shape as long as you’re using very sharp cutting tools. You can use them in the bottom of your oven as a drip catcher, in your stovetop wells, in a smoker, on cookie sheets, as a baking sheet or for anything else you can imagine, as long as you follow the temperature rules.
Hope that helps. Happy grilling, Chef Caron