In our round-up of the best portable grills, I note that our top pick (from Weber) has PTFE-free grill grates. Here’s how I know and how to tell if a BBQ is PTFE-free.
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A thoughtful reader wrote in to ask how I could tell that our top choice for a portable grill had grates not coated in PTFE or PFOA. It got me thinking that it would be worth publishing an explainer on how to tell if grills are PTFE-free, even when listings don’t tell you explicitly.
Here’s the question:
Hi Leigh, how were you able to determine that the Weber Q 1400 grill’s porcelain-enameled cast iron cooking grates are PFOA and PTFE-free? Were you able to speak with the company? I can’t find this information on their site.TJ
Thanks for the question, TJ!
The short answer is that I did contact Weber to check the grill grates were free of PTFE. They are, as is the whole grill.
I didn’t specifically ask about PFOA for three reasons:
- A PTFE-free grill won’t contain PFOA
- PFOA has been banned for use in cookware in the U.S. since
- Weber makes its grills in Illinois – one of many reasons I favor Weber for grills!
Now, for the longer answer.
Is the Weber Q grill series PTFE-free?
To confirm that the Weber 1400 Q is free of PTFE, I contacted the company. Siddhanths, of the Weber Consumer Care Team told me that “the grill doesn’t contain any PTFE (polymer polytetrafluoroethylene),” and went on to detail every aspect of the grill.
Every Q series model has five basic components that make up the “DNA” of the grill. Weber calls this its “Original Grilling System”.
These five components are:
- Lid and cookbox
- Cooking grates
- Flavorizer system
- Grease management system.
The lid and cookbox comprise cast aluminum for durability and ability to withstand heat. The aluminum is also easy to clean and is sloped to promote heat circulation inside the grill. This is all PTFE-free.
The two cooking grates on the Q series grills are porcelain enameled cast iron. Again, these are PTFE-free. The cast iron retains heat well, and the porcelain enamel is easier to clean than straight-up cast iron.
The burners comprise PTFE-free stainless steel, in one complete piece without welds. This means they’re more resistant to corrosion or burning through.
Most Weber grills feature the brand’s signature flavorizer bars, first seen in the 1985 Genesis grill. The Q series is different: the cooking grates have the flavorizer system built in by design.
This means that the cast iron between the bars of the cooking grates is at the right angle to catch drippings, so they smoke and imbue food with that grilled taste. Other juices and grease flow away from the burner, into the grease management system. The cast iron flavorizer bars are PTFE-free.
The grease management system comprises an angled cookbox to direct drippings into a disposable drip pan. This lifts out to make it easy to clean. And because the drip pan is below the cookbox, it helps prevent grease flaring up. The drip pan is also PTFE-free.
All in all, the Weber Q 1400 is PTFE-free and PFOA-free by design.
Are all grills PTFE-free?
PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene. This chemical is commonly found in non-stick coatings like Teflon and is applied using other chemicals. When it starts to break down, such as under high temperatures, it off-gasses toxic fumes.
One of the reasons I looked at the Weber grill when putting together my recommendations for the best portable grill was because it has porcelain enamel cast iron grates. There’s no reason for Weber to use PTFE on these types of grates, and every reason not to.
Cast iron porcelain enamel grates are designed for durability and high heat grilling. In contrast, PTFE starts to break down at temperatures above 500 Fahrenheit, or thereabouts. While you can grill a lot on a barbecue at a lower temperature than this, it’s also really easy to accidentally get the temperature up above 500 without really realizing.
For this reason, many responsible manufacturers don’t use PTFE on grills, even while it’s still common in stovetop cookware. Instead, most grills from reputable brands now have ceramic, stainless steel, or porcelain enamel cast iron grilling bars.
In addition, the main body of a BBQ grill typically comprises stainless steel, cast iron, or other materials that can withstand high temperatures. This means they don’t typically feature any non-stick coatings containing PTFE.
How to tell if a grill is PTFE-free
Unless a company explicitly states that it’s grill is PTFE-free, it can be hard to tell.
Your best approach when choosing a PTFE-free grill is to:
- Check product information – if it’s PTFE-free, the manufacturer usually uses this as a selling point
- Check specifications – look on the company website or on bigger retail sites for more granular information
- Check material and coating labels – if you have the grill in front of you, check for labels on cooking surfaces and grates. If it says PTFE-free, great! Otherwise, look for material labels such as ceramic and cast iron.
- Be wary of grills labeled PFOA-free – PFOA is no longer used in the U.S. for grills, so PFOA-free is a given. PFOA-free does not mean PTFE-free, however. Some brands use the term (along with ‘non-toxic’) to greenwash PTFE products
Even if your grill is PTFE-free, watch out for BBQ accessories and attachments with non-stick coatings. These can include:
- Grill mats
- Grilling baskets
Ask the manufacturer what the accessories are made from and for details of any coatings.
Other steps to take if those first four things didn’t help:
- Research the brand – in the absence of information on a specific grill, check the company website. It may be that all of their grills, or a certain range, are PTFE-free, which is why they don’t mention PTFE on specific products.
- Contact the manufacturer – to get more information and make an informed decision, ask the manufacturer. The more of us who do this, the more pressure we put on companies to make safer, more responsible, and more sustainable products.
- Ask me! – still can’t figure out if a grill is PTFE-free? Get in touch (comment or email) and I’ll do my best to help.
You can also check out our recommendations for the best portable electric grills.