Review: Grape Stuff BBQ Grill Mats
Labor Day doesn’t mean the end of summer – it means the start of tailgating season!
Of course, here in the so-called sunny South, there’s a lot of good outdoor time to come, and for many of us, that means time with the grill – in the backyard, or at the stadium. Our friend JoJo Tabares sent us a sample of these grill mats from her company, Grape Stuff.
No More Aluminum Foil! No More Skewers!
One of the limitations of grill cooking is how to handle items which can fall through the grating. Sometimes you can grill shrimp or fruits and vegetables by slipping them on skewers; other items like fish are simply too fragile, and require extra hardware to cook outdoors – if even possible. This product overcomes that problem!
The package comes with two 16×13-inch sheets of a black, stiff-but-flexible synthetic fabric. If you plan to use it at home, you might trim it to size with scissors; since we were on vacation and not our “home” grill, I opted to leave the sheets full size and just curl up the edges where needed. It’s a very tight weave, tight enough that I’ve heard you can even cook eggs on it — though we didn’t test that.
Instead, we cooked a batch of diced squash and onions – not our usual grill fare!
First, the fabric transferred heat well, though not 100% – there was definitely a hot band at the edges, where the excess hot air was slipping around the sheet. Instead of roasting like an open grill would do, the fabric allows the grill to act more like a griddle. I found the vegetables didn’t stick to the sheet, but they could scorch, if I wasn’t careful. The sheet greatly increases the contact area so you may want to turn down the flame a bit or just be sure to keep the food moving as it cooks. A little bit of fat or vegetable oil might help too.
We also tried it with a batch of pork chops to see how meat behaved. Surprisingly, this was a little more tricky than the vegetables – the fat from the meat doesn’t seep through the fabric, but instead runs to the edge. That means you need to be sure the fabric doesn’t hang over the edge of the grill. I curled up the back edge and positioned the sheet so the front edge had a gap to let the fat drip into the fire and not my shoes.
One nice feature is you can mix items on the grill without concern. We often cook onions and hamburgers together in the pan, and you can do the same on the grill with these mats. And you can orient your bratwurst and hot dogs however they fit best, not worrying about properly bridging the spaces in the grill.
I wasn’t able to get sear marks on anything while using the mats; the illustrations on the package show grill marks on both chicken and vegetables, so I may have been doing it wrong. [Disclaimer: I’ve never used foil on the grill so some of these observations may not be surprising to readers!]
Besides the cooking, the grill mat simplifies clean up. I have to confess, with our grill’s many years of use, it has a permanent patina of sorts and you wouldn’t be able to see the difference for this test. Using these mats from the start with a new (or newly scrubbed) grill would prevent the usual baked-on buildup – and unlike aluminum foil, I don’t think this material would tear or wear out. This would be a great help for picnic or tail-gating situations, where you can just wipe off the loose residue with a paper towel, then roll up the grill mats to carry home in a plastic bag — much easier than managing a bulky, greasy grill in your car!
Cleanup is easy – we just used dishwashing liquid and a dish brush in the sink. The fabric sheds water so the mats can be dried off and put away immediately. The material will probably crease – it’s delivered flat and unfolded from Grape Stuff – so I’d recommend rolling it for storage, if you don’t leave it on the grill for next time.
The biggest advantage? Instead of having someone inside cooking the things we couldn’t cook on the grill, it can all be cooked out on the deck looking at the lovely view! Grab a set for your cookouts this fall here.
[Disclaimer: We received a free sample of BBQ Grill Mats from Grape Stuff in exchange for this objective review.]