Grilling is an art that involves a lot of science, and is an activity enjoyed by the entire family. It involves cooking food―meat and vegetables―on high heat, causing lovely charred marks on the food. The aroma of freshly grilled steak and the pleasing colors of vibrant vegetables are a couple of things we all love about grilling. Traditionally, men have been associated with grilling; however, this is not the case today. Women are becoming equally involved with this form of cooking.
Cooking outdoors is a lot of fun, and whether you’re a novice or an experienced griller, grilling cannot be carried out without the right equipment. With the right tools, grilling can not only be carried out in a convenient manner, but also in a safe and healthy way. Let’s take a look at the different tools and accessories that you definitely need before you finally take your place behind the grill.
Essential Grilling Tools and Accessories
Depending on your personal preference, you can purchase a gas grill or charcoal grill. While both grill food to perfection, the gas version burns food in a more greener fashion. Charcoal grills emit carbon monoxide, thereby, polluting the environment. Moreover, while gas grills use liquid propane, charcoal grills use charcoal briquettes, hardwood chunks, or both. Besides these two basic types, there also exists the infrared and electric type. Choose one according to your preference. As far as size is concerned, it’s always better to get a grill that’s one size bigger than what you’re expecting to be sufficient. The bigger size will come in handy in the future, especially when you wish to expand your repertoire.
Note: Don’t purchase a grill with features you don’t think you’re going to use. A basic grill should keep you grilling away for a very long time.
Grill grates form the cooking surface, and serve as a platform to place the food. Since their rods are spaced out, the food gets cooked by the flame, but doesn’t come in contact with the ashes. These grates come in different materials like steel, stainless steel, porcelain, or cast iron. A suitable grill grate would be one with strong, sturdy rods that will stand strong for the years to come. A cast iron grill grate is sturdy and holds heat for longer; however, it requires good maintenance. The porcelain-coated ones are also good, and maintaining them is easier.
Note: Cleaning and greasing are two important steps that need to be carried out with regard to grill grates. Clean and greased grill grates ensure that the food doesn’t stick to the grill and even result in lovely grill marks on the food.
Lighter fluid is dangerous, which is why chimney starters have gained popularity among the grilling community. This cylindrical equipment is based on the chimney effect, wherein paper is placed at its base and charcoal briquettes are placed above. The paper is lit using a lighter, which, in turn, lights the charcoal. Using heat-resistant gloves or oven mittens to hold, the hot charcoal is transferred into the grill.
Note: It’s good to invest in a chimney starter that can hold a lot of charcoal. Larger starters are efficient and take less time to light the grill.
The whole purpose of purchasing a grill basket is to prevent smaller foods from falling though the grill bars into the coal. These baskets come with lids that lock the food in them, and allow you to cook smaller foods with ease. Their long handles enable you to flip and lift the basket easily. While there are several specialized grilling baskets designed to fit fish, corn, meatballs, etc., such fancy tools aren’t essential. Purchase the simple grill basket that will serve the purpose. If you’re into grilling a lot of corn on the cob or fish, then may be you can opt for their specific baskets to make things easier.
Note: If you don’t have a grilling basket, you can use skewers to hold small food items together. You can also use aluminum foil to make parcels and grill the food in them.
Grilling tongs are not the same as kitchen tongs. These tongs come with long handles, simply because grilling involves a lot of flipping and standing near the hot coals, and long handles allow you to work without getting too close to the heat source. Tongs with a little spring in them are good, because they help get a better grip on the food. Besides flipping the food, tongs are also used to add wood chips, etc. However, make sure you have a different set of tongs for the two purposes. Heavy-duty stainless steel tongs are preferred because they are sturdy and durable. Moreover, don’t purchase tongs with forks at the edges. Forked tongs pierce the meat, causing the precious juices to escape. Tongs can also be used to oil the grill with the help of a paper towel.
Note: To avoid cross-contamination, use a different pair of tongs for handling raw and cooked meat. Otherwise, hold the ends of the tong over the fire to sterilize them.
Spatulas or Turners
You need a spatula to flip delicate foods on the grill. Large, flat spatulas are ideal because they’ll enable you to turn the food over, without causing them to break. Spatulas with deep offset handles help lift the food with ease. If you’re grilling fish, you need rectangular-shaped spatulas that will support the whole fish firmly, without causing it to bend and break. Never press your meat with the spatula. This will only cause the delicious juices to seep out of your meat, ultimately making it dry.
Note: Forks must not be used to turn food, because they poke holes that result in loss of precious juices.
Several folks use grill scrapers to clean their porcelain-coated grill grates. However, this will only cause the porcelain coating to come off. Grill brushes are milder and serve the purpose of cleaning the grates. They come in brass and stainless steel and help loosen the food particles left on the grill grates, after grilling. Brass brushes are better, because they clean the grates without chipping them. The brush you purchase must be able to withstand heat so that it can be used to clean hot grates. A good grill brush will not have metal bristles coming off when you give it a firm pull. So, choose wisely, or else opt for wooden scrapers or grill floss to clean your grates. A clean grill is not only hygienic but also ensures lovely grill marks on the food.
Note: Make sure you replace your grill brushes regularly. Old brushes may cause metal bristles to come off and may even be ingested along with the food. This is potentially dangerous and must be avoided. Wiping your grill with a wet paper towel before grilling food can help remove any stuck bristles.
The best way to add flavor to grilled food is by basting them with sauces or marinades during the last few minutes of grilling. You need a basting brush to apply the marinade or sauce onto the vegetables and meat. Purchase the silicone basting brush, because it’s much easier to wash and maintain and also leaves behind no strands, unlike the nylon- and boar-bristled brushes.
Note: If you can’t find your basting brush or don’t have one, you can bind a few lettuce leaves to form a natural brush and baste your food.
Instant-read thermometers not only measure the temperature of the meats accurately, but prevent the embarrassing situation of serving undercooked or overcooked food on the table. A meat thermometer is important for health reasons, because consuming undercooked food can result in several foodborne illnesses. In fact, this tool is among the most essential grilling tools a barbecue chef should own. Compromising here isn’t allowed. While there are many fancy meat thermometers available in the market, a simple instant-read thermometer should do the job. If possible, get a digital one for accurate readings.
Note: Certain thermometers can be left in the food while it’s cooking; however, others must be inserted after cooking. So, make sure you know exactly which type your thermometer is.
Grilling Gloves and Mitts
Grilling calls for a lot of interaction with hot coals and hot tools. To minimize the risk of accidental burns, it’s important to invest in a pair of good quality gloves. Heavy-duty, insulated food gloves are ideal; however, thick mittens will do the job. Just make sure the gloves are sturdy enough to withstand the rugged demands of grilling. PVC-coated gloves are ideal for handling big cuts of meat, and help hold the hot meat while you carve it. Suede gloves are ideal to handle hot grill grates, shift coals, etc.
Note: Make sure you have a different pair of gloves for handling the coal and a different one for the food.
Skewers are used to hold vegetables and meat cuts together. These days, you also get the flexible skewers that bend to fit into marinade bags. They can be left for hours in the marinade without the fear of rusting. The flexibility also allows you to maximize the space on the grill, to grill other foods side by side. Purchase these skewers only if you intend to prepare kebabs.
Note: If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for half an hour before use, because flimsy skewers may catch fire.
While many overlook this simple tool, it’s a grilling necessity. You need to have at least 3 to 4 side towels before you can begin grilling. You’ll be surprised how these towels come in handy during your grilling endeavor. They are used to wipe all kinds of tools from forks, tongs, etc., to mopping up spills on the preparation counter. You can set one towel aside to wipe your hands.
Note: You can also use disinfected disposable cloth instead.
If you’re cooking at night, you need a grill light. If you have a source of light, you needn’t purchase a special grill light. The accessories will differ depending on the type of food you’re cooking. Don’t purchase accessories that you’re not sure of using. Until you get a hang of grilling and till your repertoire expands, stay clear of specific accessories. Once you’ve mastered the art and are ready to venture into different kinds of foods, gradually increase your accessory collection.