Walking into a barbecue specialty shop or the grilling department of a big-box merchandiser can be a little daunting for the novice griller. With so many gadgets, gee-gaws and contraptions, you could easily spend a fortune on a collection tools that, ultimately, you rarely use or have little true affect on the quality of your cooked foods.
Here are several items we believe are fundamental to great grilling and help you achieve the delicious results you want every time.
Chimney Charcoal Starter
For charcoal grills, a chimney starter is absolutely essential for starting a hot fire in the least amount of time. We prefer a chimney starter over any other method of fire starting because it is all-natural and has a positive impact on the flavor of your grilled foods.
In about 20 minutes, with only charcoal and wad of paper, you’ll have a uniformly hot fire that’s your baseline for cooking everything from burger sliders to monster roasts.
We strongly recommend against liquid fire starters. Most importantly, these petroleum-based products impart a strong and unpleasant odor and acrid flavor to grilled meats, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
Controlling heat means managing two different temperatures and requires two types of thermometers for the highest accuracy.
The first is a thermometer that fits into your grill’s hood, lid, or cover. Many grills have a built-in grill thermometer. This type will tell you the running temperature of your grill. Some grill thermometers have the following ranges printed on their dials:
- Smoking: 150–250°F
- Barbecuing: 250–350°F
- Grilling: 350–450°F
Above that (500–800°F), you’re at searing temperatures. (Restaurant grills can reach running temperatures of up to 1,500°F.)
A digital instant-read thermometer is the fastest—it tells you the internal temperature of whatever you’re grilling in seconds.
Rules of the road:
- Don’t poke too soon, or you’ll lose precious juices.
- Take your first reading after about 80 percent of your estimated cooking time has elapsed.
- For the best readings: Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, well away from any bone.
For charcoal and wood fires, nothing stokes up a pokey fire better than a good, old-fashioned set of bellows. The pointed nozzle lets you direct high-speed airflow with almost pinpoint precision.
Keep a spray bottle of water handy for controlling flare-ups and for calming a raging inferno, particularly with a charcoal or wood fire.
Look for heavy leather foundry gloves or fabric gloves insulated to withstand temperatures of 800°F. For safety’s sake, don’t rely on your kitchen oven mitts. They are not well-suited high-heat grilling.
A good, solid grill brush is essential for keeping your grill grid clean and sanitary. The best grill brushes have wire bristles (not unlike a paint scraping brush) and a metal straight edge for digging into really baked on areas. Pick one with a strong hand made from wood, metal or heat-resistant plastic.
One method for cleaning your grill is to light your fire and place the grill grid over the heat. Give it a few minutes to let the grid heat up and then, with your heavy-duty gloves on, use the brush on both sides of the grid. The heat from the fire will reduce any residue to charred bits of carbon that can be flaked off with the grill brush.