For those of you who decided it was too cold this winter to grill outside, that's ok, we won't judge. But now that spring has sprung and summer's just around the bend, there's no excuse to be cooking inside. It's time to go out in the backyard, start a fire and throw some meat on it -- and some fish and maybe a few vegetables -- the way nature intended.
And to ensure your grill fests are always a success, there are a few items you'll want to make sure you have in your barbecue arsenal…beyond the usual tool set and apron with built-in bottle opener. Here are 12 that we wouldn't have a barbecue without.
You can keep arguing over ceramic versus stainless, I'll be grilling on GrillGrates. Made of anodized aircraft grade aluminum, these interlocking grates keep the fire off your meat, keep your veggies from falling into the abyss, and help keep precious juices from burning off. I got my first pair last year, and won't put meat to flame without them in between the two.
Able to withstand temps up to 1000+ degrees F, they won't ever rust, clean up with water and a grill brush, and come with the GrateTool that slides between the rails, and lifts your food off intact. (I'll let you insert your own great/grate pun here.) $39.99 for set of 2 with GrateTool
Designed by the ultimate grill master, Steven Raichlen, author of the bible of barbecuing, The Barbecue Bible, the Ultimate Chimney Starter should be standard equipment for everyone who agrees that lighter fluid destroys the flavor of whatever you're cooking. (Which should be everyone.)
The biggest chimney starter on the market, it holds a full 425 cubic inches of charcoal (that's 7 pounds), and gets them lit and hot fast. The unusual square shape is better than round for pouring those glowing coals right where you want 'em. Now take that lighter fluid and put in the trash where it belongs. $21.99
Everyone loves a grilled kabob. But most skewers are too short to hold all the chunks we want to pile on, and the longer skewers may not fit on your grill. That's where the Fire Wire Flexible Grilling Skewers come in.
Made of flexible, food-grade, stainless steel cable, they give you nearly two-feet of meat and veggie-stacking space, and can bend into any shape to fit just about any grill. You can even coil it into a bag for on-the-skewer marinating. When the cooking is done, just pick it up by the loop, hold over a plate and the food slides right off. Cleaning's easy too, and they'll never rust. I've been using mine weekly for about 2 years, and they look like the day I got them. My other skewers? I'm using them to keep my tomato plants from drooping. $10 for set of 2
Speaking of skewers, the biggest problem with them is struggling to get the food off once they're cooked. The first few? You can bite those off, but unless you've spent time in the circus, getting to the stuff in the middle requires a different technique. And your plastic backyard barbecue fork just isn't up to the task. Use a SkewerMate instead.
Made of stainless steel with a soft-grip handle, the V slot fits over any size skewer, and lets you easily slide the food onto your plate -- instead of flipping it across the backyard. $11.99
You can't always be grill-side when your steaks are cooking. (Someone's got to restock the cooler and mix the marinade.) So make sure you don't char everything to ash by using the Mr. Bar-B-Q Digital Temperature Gauge.
Just push the probe into your meat, and take the handheld LCD display with you. You can check how the steak's doing from the kitchen, garage or wherever. There's even a timer to remind you to get back to the fire should you get stuck listening to your brother-in-law's 15th retelling of the time he met Bobbly Flay in Vegas. $19
We know. You're a tough guy and can handle the heat. But there are times when even the thickest skinned of us need some shielding from the high temps around the fire. That's when it's time to slip on the Suede Grilling Glove. Notice I said "grilling glove" and not "oven mitt." Mitts belong on the baseball field and on Betty Crocker, not near a grill.
Whether you need to handle a hot chimney fire starter filled with glowing coals, or rescue a shrimp that has fallen on the grate, or just need to reach across the grill, these gloves will keep your whole arm safe from the heat. And the fingers make it easier to grasp and grab. Try doing that with your mitt. $25
Ever wanted to add delicate fish or small veggies to your barbecue menu, but never do because of visions of everything tumbling through your grates into the fiery pit? Won't happen. Just stuff everything into a PaperChef Parchment Cooking Bag.
The same bags top chefs use to cook en papillote, you can fill them with fish, veggies, herbs, spices, and they'll survive up to 425 degrees of indirect heat. (That means put them on the top shelf, away from the flame.) You'll get more flavor than you will with aluminum foil, and it's healthier too. Plus it's an excuse to do your snooty French chef impersonation. $8 for 10 bags
The best barbecues don't end when the sun goes down, so you'll need to shine some light on what you're cooking. You can use an overhead hood light, or you can put the light exactly where you need it with Lumatongs. They're 20-inch locking tongs with a detachable LED light on the handle. So you can grill on, even if the power goes out. $19
Want great smoke flavor, but don't have a smoker box and don't want to drop wood chips on the coals and smoke everything? Open a Smoker Bag and smoke just the food you want to.
Available in natural Hickory or Alder woods, the chips stay in the bag, so it's easy to smoke fish, veggies, or meat right on the grill, or even in the oven when the weather won't allow you to get outside. When it's done, just throw the bag away -- no need to pick wood chips out of your grill for your next, smokeless, barbecue. $37 for 10 bags
When you're craving some grilled stuffed jalapenos or roasted tomatoes, put them in a Chile Grill and grill them, upright, to perfection.
Just put the peppers into the holes, put the Chile Grill on your grill, and let 'em roast for a while. In about 30 minutes you'll have perfectly grilled peppers ready to enjoy…without having to roll them around the grates. And the Grill comes in a wide variety of sizes to hold from one dozen up to 56 peppers, and are cut into shapes that'll entertain your guests as much as the food you prepare on them. Starting at $24.95
There's nothing like the taste of ribs slow cooked over an open flame. (I'm pretty sure that's why barbecue was invented in the first place.) The only problem is they can monopolize all your grill space while they cook. So instead, stand them up on a Rib Rack and open up some space for those burgers.
The huge metal arcs are large enough to support racks from baby backs to beef ribs, and give you the ability to grill four racks at once, in a fraction of the space. They even help drain off the fat, while you drain that next beer. $25
While technically not a barbecue tool, the mobile evaporative coolers from KuulAire can be a critical part of keeping the party going in the heat of summer.
Using the same technology put to use by 22 NFL and college football teams to keep players from overheating on the sidelines, KuulAire can drop the temp in a 200-700 square-foot radius (depending on the model), by as much as 25 degrees. All while using only tap water (no chemicals), and running on less electricity than a hairdryer. Beats blowing hot air around with a fan. Think of them as air conditioners for your backyard. Starting at $199; model shown is $449