No, you don’t need a self-turning hotdog rack. No, you don’t need a barbecue fork meat thermometer. (You don’t need a barbecue fork period—avoid the temptation of stabbing your steaks.) No, you don’t need all of the 50 or 60 different grilling utensils you’ll find your local barbecue shop. (Of course, if you want to own 60 utensils, more power to you. I do!) But you do need a basic tool kit to help you build and manage your fire, handle your food, and tell when it’s a safe and tasty temperature to eat. So the next time you fire up the grill for dinner, serve your family some hints for the perfect Father’s Day gift along with those juicy steaks.
I never intended to get into the barbecue utensil business. But the more I grilled, the more I found that existing tools had shortcomings. Chimney starters that were too small. Tongs or grill brushes that were too short. And how about a really effective tool for lifting a screaming hot grill grate so you can add fresh coals or wood chips to the fire?
Well, to paraphrase Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. Here are the 10 tools I consider essential for any griller. Designed not by an industrial engineer, but by a man who grills six days a week. Me.
FOR CHARCOAL GRILLERS
Chimney starter: This simple but efficient igniter has been weaning people off lighter fluid for decades. You fill it with natural lump charcoal, charcoal briquettes, or even wood chunks, then light it from the bottom using fatwood, a paraffin fire starter, or crumpled newspaper. In 15 to 20 minutes, you have glowing coals, and the beauty of the chimney is that they light evenly. The Best of Barbecue® Ultimate Chimney Starter comes in a revolutionary square shape, so it accommodates nearly 7 pounds of charcoal, a load large enough to fuel an hour of direct grilling. The square corners make it easy to pour the embers where you need them..
Grill hoe: If you’ve ever tried to move hot coals around with tongs or a spatula, you’ll appreciate the grill hoe. (That’s H-O-E, guys.) You could use a common garden hoe, of course, to rake blazing embers into a 3-zone fire configuration or mounds of coals at opposite sides of the grill for indirect grilling. But the long hand and small blade make it awkward to maneuver. That’s why I made the Best of Barbecue Charcoal and Ash grill hoe, with its head set at just the right angle to make moving coals a snap. Looks cool and works even better.
Grate lifter: If you have ever struggled to lift a hot grill grate off your grill to replenish the coals or wood chips, you know it’s an awkward and potentially dangerous endeavor. Many grill grates don’t even have side handles. Here’s a tool that will help: the grill grate lifter (sometimes called grate grabber). Mine features a spring-loaded lift mechanism and heat shield to protect your hands. Place it in the middle of the grate, depress the lifter and turn 90 degrees to grab the grate.
FOR ALL GRILLERS
Grill brush: The first step in any grill session is to brush and oil your grill grate. This holds true whether you’re an asador in Argentina using a 6-foot brush or a saté specialist working on a cigar box-sized grill in Southeast Asia. This Ultimate Grill Brush comes with a 27-inch long handle to keep your arm away from the fire and a super wide 8-inch head to give you maximum scour power. Use the steel bristles on cast iron and stainless steel grates; the softer brass bristles on the other side on more delicate porcelainized enamel.
Grill oiler (pictured, above): A clean well-oiled grill grate is essential to master grillmanship, preventing sticking and giving you those handsome well-defined grill marks. And while a tightly folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil, clasped in long-handled tongs and drawn across the bars of the grate will get the job done, there’s now a special dedicated tool: the Grate Oiler. The reservoir holds enough oil for multiple grill sessions, evenly distributing the oil onto the grate via a cluster of short-bristled silicone brushes. Keep it grill-side to remind you to brush and oil your grill grate both before and after grilling to maintain a clean well-seasoned surface. Because you want your food in your mouth, not stuck to the grill grate.
Lumatong: Many grill sessions take place after dark—typically on a patio with a wall-mounded light behind you, a grill in front of you, and a dark shadow cast obscuring the food on the grill. That was the inspiration for the Lumatong—grill tongs with a flashlight attached to one arm so you could actually see what you’re grilling. The flashlight comes off, so you can put the tongs in the dishwasher, too.
Big blade spatula: It’s one of the iconic symbols of grilling, a spatula used for flipping burgers, turning fish fillets, and waltzing garlic bread to a cooler section of the grill. Ideally, it will come with a long handle (to keep your arm away from the fire) and a wide blade with a sharp thin leading edge to slide under that grilled fish steak. Extra points for holes or slits in the head to release the steam so the food doesn’t get soggy. To this add a bottle opener built into the handle (so you always have a cold one on hand) and you get what I consider to be the ultimate grill spatula.
Basting brush: Whether you’re basting a brisket during a protracted low and slow barbecue session or applying a finishing sauce to flash-grilled chicken breasts, a basting brush is essential. Preferably one with a long metal handle and heat-resistant silicone head you can clean in the dishwasher. The thick silicone bristles work equally well with thin mop sauces and thick barbecue sauces and
Grilling gloves: Master grillers do not wear quilted oven mitts. Ever. For safetly reasons and aesthetics. After you buy your grill, one of your first investments should be a pair of serious leather or suede grill gloves. For maximum protection, look for gloves that extend all the way to your elbows, protecting your arms from heat when you reach across the grill grate. Welders’ gloves are one alternative, but we’re partial to the these two-tone extra-long suede gloves from my Best of Barbecue® line.
Instant-read meat thermometer: You know how to start a fire and handle the food on the grate. Now comes the most essential task of all: determining when that barbecued pork shoulder or turkey is cooked to the proper degree of doneness—the way you like it. The poke test works fine for steaks or fish fillets, but there is no substitute for an accurate instant-read meat thermometer. It will pay for itself the first time you don’t overcook the holiday prime rib. Or serve undercooked chicken. Look for a digital model with a replaceable battery, a thin probe for checking the temperature of thin cuts of food like fish fillets, and a prompt temperature register. Ours also includes a temperature chart on the handle.
THIS JUST IN!
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