Ten Indispensable Tools for Great Grilling
The first major grilling holiday of the summer—Memorial Day—is in the rearview mirror. Did you have all the tools you needed, or were there some gaps in your batterie de cuisine (the utensils you need to prepare the food)? As anyone who has substituted the thin side of a dime for a proper screwdriver knows, proper tools make all the difference. Here are ten I consider essential for grilling and smoking.
Grill brush or scraper: Several cases of diners ingesting wire bristles from shedding grill brushes have been reported in recent years to the Center for Disease Control. (One Providence, Rhode Island hospital reported six cases.) Poorly made grill brushes are usually to blame—brushes whose bristles are glued to the base. To avoid problems, I redesigned my own Best of Barbecue Ultimate Grill Brush to ensure the bristles can’t come loose. The head features stainless steel bristles on one side and softer brass bristles on the other for porcelainized grill grates.
Chimney starter: Owners of charcoal and wood-burning grills can be ready to cook in just 15 to 20 minutes—about the same amount of time it takes to fire up a gas grill. Position a petroleum-based fire starter or crumpled newspaper underneath the unit, light, and the chimney starter does the rest. For a righteous, wood-enhanced fire, I like to fill the chimney starter with hardwood chunks.
Suede grill gloves: For more than ten years, I’ve been wearing these distinctive suede orange and black grill gloves on the set of my television shows on PBS. (The latest one, Project Smoke, Season 3, premiered this past weekend. For air times in your area, go to www.projectsmoke.org.) Made of heavy-duty suede, the gloves preserve your dexterity while protecting your arms up to the elbow from the heat.
Tongs: You know that big fork that came with your matched set of grilling tools? Get rid of it. That’s right, replace it with tongs. Never stab meat again unless you want to lose those beautiful meat juices to the flames. My favorite pair, called Lumatongs, even have a two bright LED lights on one arm (removable) to illuminate the grill grate during an evening cook session.
Insulated gloves: The trick to perfect pulled pork or beef is to cook it to an internal temperature of 195 degrees, then shred it while it’s still uncomfortably hot. Insulated for comfort and coated with rubber, these gloves will help you maintain your dexterity while protecting your hands from the heat. Wear them when you handle beer can chicken.
Spatula: Handsome and well-made, this spatula has a sturdy oversize blade with a sharp leading edge to release food from the grill grate and perforations to discourage sogginess. The handle is sleek pakkawood. If it wasn’t useful enough, a handy bottle opener is built into the stainless steel handle.
Rib rack: If you own a kettle grill or even a Big Green Egg, you’ll appreciate the space-saving features of this well-designed rib rack. Four large arcs support full racks of pork spare ribs, baby backs, or beef ribs, quadrupling your grill space. (You have plenty of time to order one for the Fourth of July celebration.) Ribs that cook in a vertical position baste themselves, yet form perfect bark. Nonstick and rust-proof.
Wireless roasting thermometer: A reliable remote thermometer will pay for itself the first time you bring a perfectly cooked hunk of prime rib or thick dry-aged steaks to the table. With the price of meat these days, you can’t afford to make mistakes. My favorite thermometer, by Maverick, has two meat probes, a sleek digital base unit, and Wi-Fi connectivity so you can monitor the meat temperature from anywhere within range of your router. Priceless.
Charcoal and ash hoe: No skilled pit master would want to be without this handy tool, which you can use to adjust the depth of your coals. (The deeper the coals, the hotter the fire.) You can even establish a fire-free zone where you can move food if flare-ups occur, as they often do with fattier meats like pork belly or even buttery garlic bread. Extra points if the hoe has an extra-long handle.
Wire mesh grilling basket: From time to time, we’ve all made sacrifices to the grill gods, accidentally dropping a shrimp or a chicken wing through the grill grate. But a grilling basket will keep the donations to a minimum while still allowing flavorful heat and smoke access to the food. Terrific for mixed vegetables, clams or oysters, mushrooms, and of course, the aforementioned shrimp and chicken wings.
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