I love to grill and BBQ. Nothing beats the smoky savor of meat or vegetables hot off the grill. You need a few tools and accessories to make your BBQ experience a good one.
I will not go into all the rubs, marinades and sauces that accompany many BBQ recipes. This article will stick with the accessories and utensils you will need, as well as a few you should avoid.
- You need a heat source. The most common source in use for home BBQ is charcoal. You need a brand that will maintain a good grilling temperature for quite a while, at least long enough to cook your food. You can spend a little or a lot. My experience is that the brand name charcoals will start better and last longer, but are not so much better than the cheaper brands that it is worth the extra cost. Alternatively, you can use wood and burn it down to coals to cook. I prefer this method, but you need a source of wood and a grill that can accommodate wood instead of charcoal.
- Wood. You still will want wood most of the time, in the form of chips or chunks, to supply the smoke that will flavor your BBQ. You want smoke, not fire. If you are having a problem with your wood catching fire, wrap it in aluminum foil and poke just a few holes in it. I do not use gas grills, but wrapping wood in aluminum foil and poking some holes in it can make a gas grill produce more flavorful food.
- Chimney starter. I have fallen in love with this contraption. I consider it indispensable. I very, very rarely use starter fluid anymore. Crumple two or three sheets of newspaper for the base, fill the chimney with charcoal, and light it. You have no waste, no petroleum taste or flavorings. It is much, much better than any liquid lighter, and it is much more cost-effective over time. I use liquid lighter only when I need a flame to intentionally scorch something, like the skins on peppers. If you must use liquid starter, mound charcoal in a basic pyramid. Apply lighter fluid liberally and let sit for five minutes. Then light. When all flame is gone, spread charcoal out evenly. It is ready when the briquettes are 75% white.
- Spray bottle. Your heat source can get out of control. You want heat and smoke, but not fire. A spray bottle is indispensable.
- Grill wok. This is not an accessory that may be high on some people's list, but I can't do without mine. I gave away all my skewers. I use only the grill wok. It grills small portions of meat and vegetables that would traditionally be threaded on a skewer, but it eliminates the mess and hassle of skewers. With a grill wok you can give each ingredient the appropriate amount of time over the coals, so that things are not overcooked or undercooked.
- Tongs. I like the heavy-duty tongs meant for general kitchen work. Most of the cheap tongs intended for BBQ use are poorly aligned and will not pick up much of anything efficiently. I use them for positioning coals only. Light duty tongs are worthless. They bend easily and will let you down. Tongs move food around without piercing the surface, essential if you want to prevent your meats from drying out.
- Spatula. For burgers and patties or flat items like fish, a spatula works best.
- Basting brush. I use only silicon brushes now. They work very well and clean up nicely. Traditional brushes leave bristles on your food and are very hard to clean.
- Meat thermometer. Unless you have calibrated eyeballs, you can't really be sure that meat is really done. A thermometer is a food safety essential.
- Mitt. Some things are just too hot to handle. I use a mitt to handle hot grill woks and utensils that I have unintentionally allowed to get too hot.
- Grill brush. You have to clean up. BBQ is messy. You want a clean place on the grill where you will cook your food. Grease, carbonized sauces and food particles will be left over from the last grill session. You really will not want to carry over food particles and the like from one session to the next. Get a good brush with a scraper.
- Scraper. You will need to clean not only your grill's grates, but other parts as well. You will need to scrape excess grease and gunk off your grill from time to time. A cheap spatula or putty knife works well for this purpose.
- Brush and dustpan. When all is said and done, and your grill is cold, you need to clean out the ashes and such. Ashes plus moisture equals lye. Failing to clean your grill will reduce its useful life.
Nice to have:
- Injector. Marinating meat allows the flavors of the marinade to penetrate the meat, but if you are pressed for time, an injector can do the same. An injector is like a large hypodermic needle that penetrates meat and gets the marinade deep inside.
- Apron. Let's face it. Grilling and BBQing is messy. Let your apron reflect your personality. Get one that's fun.
What you don't need:
- Forks & turning hooks. Piercing meat causes it to lose juices and dry out. Never use a fork or a turning hook.
- Skewers. See above. Use a grill wok instead.
- Charcoal lighter. See above. Lighter fluid is rarely needed unless you are in a really big hurry.
Grilling is fun, and the meals you produce will get rave reviews. Make your life and grilling simpler by following the tips above.