Is It Safe To Use Plastic Cooking Tools At A Barbecue?

If you're not a barbecue aficionado, you may not have all the proper tools ready to go when you fire up the grill — and even if you are, it can be hard to tell what utensils are safe to use. We know it's a bad idea to reuse plastic single-use water bottles and that you shouldn't put plastic wraps in the oven – but is it safe to use cooking tools made out of plastic on the grill? These utensils tend to be lightweight, disposable, and affordable, but you may want to leave them in the kitchen when you're getting ready for your summer cookout.

When plastic tools spend a lot of time around high temperatures on the grill, they can begin to melt — even if they only touch the barbecue briefly. Even worse, the melted plastic may seep into your food, altering its flavor and leading to a host of potential health risks. According to Women's Health, these types of utensils can form harmful substances when they are exposed to temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius (or 158 degrees Fahrenheit) — and ingesting these materials has been linked to liver disease, thyroid disease, infertility, cancer, and high cholesterol.

Materials that are safe to barbecue with

So if plastic cooking tools can be unsafe, what materials are ideal for the grill? Stainless steel utensils may be your best bet, as they are resistant to high temperatures, won't react with the ingredients in your food, and won't give off toxic byproducts. Plus, they aren't going to hold onto bacteria, and they pose no risk of rusting (in case you're making something particularly saucy or get caught in a summer shower mid-barbecue). Silicone is another excellent option, as long as you've confirmed the tools are heat resistant — in fact, some utensils made out of this material can withstand up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, if you already have some plastic tools sitting around, you don't necessarily need to throw them out. There's still a time and a place for them — it's just not around open flames, and you'll probably want to keep them away from high heat in general. However, they work well for stirring and measuring ingredients when cold (like in cake batter). But remember that plastic utensils may not last as long as other materials, so even if you're not using them on the grill, you may want to replace them often.