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BBQ Essentials For The Summer

by Benjamin Sauerborn
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I think one of the biggest reasons we love outdoor barbeques is the sense of nostalgia that surrounds the occasion.  The majority of us have slight reminiscence of those early childhood BBQ memories. They seem to flood back years later with a whiff of burning charcoal briquets.

Of course, a far more simple explanation is that BBQ, when it’s done right, is f*cking delicious. It does come down to some deciding factors. Perfect bbq is tender but not mushy, it’s moist, but not dripping with grease. It needs to have that perfect balance of char that provides beautiful color and texture, without burning. Last but certainly not least, it needs to be seasoned right.

While I know many people who have entire sheds or garages dedicated to their BBQ, you hardly need hundreds or occasionally thousands to have a 5 star BBQ set. Here are all the basics, plus a little extra in case you’re feeling adventurous:

The Basics

  • A BBQ
  • Set of utensils
  • Chopping board
  • Storage for leftovers and marinating
  • Thermometer
  • Cleaning Products & Supplies

Bonus

  • Disposable and eco-friendly cutlery
  • Weight press
  • Burger dome

The grill

I find that a lot of the times grills are particularly hard to buy online mainly because of their huge price range. On one hand, you probably don’t want to break the bank on a new grill, but you don’t want to buy a piece of junk either. The grill market is also extensive, from its fuel lines to their size, price, make, and material. It can be pretty intimidating. The largest question should be whether you decide to grill using gas or combustible materials like wood or charcoal. It’s all a question of preference. Propane grills although they’re significantly more expensive, are much easier to use and maintain, and they can last far longer than most charcoal grills. Thankful we have a recommendation for both.

Gas

Propane grills tend to be cleaner, safer, and easier to use than charcoal. They can last a lifetime if they’re treated properly (which they better for the price some of them go for). A good gas grill will probably start at around $300 but can set a very passionate enthusiast back around $15,000.  The first thing you want to check for is the number of burners the grill has inside of it. This will typically be between 2 and 6. You should decide based on how many people you cook for. 4 is a very safe even ground for a family and the occasional party host. If you’re a fanatic for crowded cookouts or have a family of 6, 7, 8, or more people, upwards of 6 will be your best option.

Option 1 for the occasional griller that enjoys the clean burn of propane, there is no better option that the Weber 51060001 Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill. It’s not just the perfect size to whip up food for a small group, but it’s portable, very sturdy, and comes at an incredible price. You can buy this grill in a wide range of colors starting at $209, although there is a cheaper, less advanced model available for only $179. I would buy this grill on top of my normal grill just so I could take it camping. 

Option 2 comes with 4 burners and 475 square inches of primary cooking space. This standard grill by char-broil comes with everything you need to get started. It’s easy to assemble and very sturdy once set up. I wouldn’t buy this particular grill if you plan on moving it much, but that’s the case with most grills. If you’re on a budget and need an all-around good gas grill, we recommend this one.

Burning Material

You almost have to be passionate about BBQ if you decide to go with a grill that uses solid materials as fuel. Using charcoal and wood chips can introduce you to a world of flavor you never knew. It can however be harder to use, clean, and maintain. That being said the experience of having and using one can be very rewarding especially if you like the aesthetics of nature. I’ve had some of the best times of my life surrounded by nothing but trees, meat, fire, and good company.

First off is the Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill and it is the most generic definition of a grill you can probably find. It has a super simple design that’s easy to use, is lightweight so you can travel with it and comes at the awesome price of around $110. Surely you can find a cheaper kettle grill out there but based on my own experience, they do not last.

The second grill is the Z GRILLS ZPG-450A Upgraded Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker, with 450 square inches of cooking space, and a stylish Bronze or solid black design option. This grill is something special not just because of how cool it looks, but its insane practicality in almost every single part. This grill doubles as a smoker with a burner that is fueled by electricity that activates with a touch of a button, which smokes wood chips at the perfect temperature. Its also designed to be easy to clean and have any outdoor cooking function you can think of. So whether you’re grilling dogs or roasting a cut of pork for 2 days, this guy has got you covered. 

Utensils

The utensils you use are the backbone of a cookout. You definitely don’t want to buy them separately or you might end up spending significantly more than you plan, there are countless sets out there that do a perfect job for a moderate price. Look out for the material you buy both natural and man-made ones, some metals are easier to maintain and keep for longer, while a plastic handle might not be the greatest to have around open flames.

GrillArt has been one of my most trusted BBQ manufacturers for a while now. When I buy their utensils I usually don’t feel like I have to think twice about it because it’s such a great product at a price absolutely anyone could afford. The set i use and have been using for years is the Grillart BBQ Grill Utensil Tools Set. It comes with 19 pieces including a spatula (with a multitude of functions such as a knife, meat tenderizer, and bottle opener), tongs, a meat fork, a grill brush, corn holders, skewers, a brush, and a knife, all with an extended handle. Unlike wood that cracks and burns or plastic that melts, these utensils are made fully of high-grade stainless steel, as is the convenient carry case that comes with it. Other than that they’re comfy to hold. convenient to store, and only costs $60.

Chopping Board

Regardless of whether you have one already or not a color-coded set of chopping boards is highly recommended particularly when you’re dealing with food outside and want to keep the risk of foodborne pathogens to an absolute minimum. The Seville Classics Easy to Clean Chopping Board is one of my all-time favorites because it does just that while keeping the aesthetic of wood alive. It’s also particularly helpful when you have a small group of helpers with their own designated tasks. On top of all that, it’s an easy way to teach your children about food safety. Although Seville Classics is hardly a cookware brand, it takes its kitchen storage seriously, and frankly, so do I.

Storage

While spring leftovers fun and all, there is an essential part of grilling that queries the space before you even light the grill, and that’s marinating. Marinating is a timeless method of implementing flavor, and most of us tend to use non-eco-friendly zip lock bags, or clunky, space-consuming bowls or dishes. Shark Lock Silicone Storage bags take both of those inconveniences out of the equation because there reusable, and dishwasher safe. They’re plastic-free, have an airtight seal, some in a large array of sizes, colors, and designs, and most even stand upright.

Thermometer

Without 20-30+ years of BBQ experience, you can bet that you won’t be very consistent with your BBQ, like at all. Every cur of meat is different, the temperature is different every time, the timing is different every time, and your mood, motivation, and taste will be different almost every time. A meat thermometer, a good meat thermometer is essential.  While handheld and wired probes work well when you’re in the kitchen, having to open a grill up all the way to check the interior temperature of a roast is incredibly inefficient and can have some undesired effects, and I’d feel bad recommending anything other than the MEATER 165ft Long Range Smart Wireless Meat Thermometer. It comes at a pretty stiff price (for a thermometer) but there really is no better option.

Of course, you can find another wireless thermometer for much less than $100, but if you’re passionate about BBQ, this is the one. The app that links to your phone makes for ultimate convenience because it helps you time everything around cooking and resting the meat, gives you all the information on internal temperatures and doneness, and alerts you once you’re meat is up to temperature. Again if you can’t splash out that much for a thermometer, there are plenty of good ones for around half that price. 

Cleaning Products & Supplies

The dread of cleaning a dirty grill still haunts me from my childhood, but my parents always told me like most things in life, it’s just part of the process. We can take a lot of the anguish out of the whole ritual by recommending some of these supplies.

I’m always cautious of the cleaner I use or get other people to use when they clean my grill and make sure it’s nontoxic. No just because I’m spraying it onto a surface I will eventually cook food off of again, but because the manufacturing process is much less harmful, and the risk of serious illness is dialed down incase someone should accidentally swallow it or get it on a severe injury. Weber makes a large range on non-toxic grill cleaners, not just for crates and griddles, but for the rest of your grill too. Stainless steel polish, degreaser, stain remover, etc. And the best part? They’re all available as an all-in-one kit with the Weber Grill Cleaning Kit.

While the set above is super handy and convenient, you’ll never manage to contour to the shape of a grill grate with a flat scrubbing device. Wire brushes work well for that, except many of them have completely stiff handles that only allow you to scrub at one angle. A wire brush with a flexible top come does just that, and in my experience, there’s none better than Grillarts 18” 3 in 1 bristle brush. It’s made of high-grade stainless steel so you don’t have to worry about wear & tear or quality, and it comes with a longer-than-average bristle head for much after cleaning.

Serving

It’s estimated that approximately 40 billion individual pieces of plastic cutlery get thrown into landfills every year in the US. It is a well-known fact that the international plastic craze we all have come to depend heavily on is unsustainable. Many people will think that recycling is a solution to this problem. In reality, a large amount of plastic we throw out (plastic bags, straws, plastic cutlery) isn’t even recyclable. Compostable and bio-degradable disposable eating utensils are undoubtedly better for the environment.

Stack man and Gezond are two of these producers and they create much more than just plates and cutlery that are compostable. Their plates are made of sugarcane fibers and their forks, knives, and spoons are made from corn starches. It’s a start to a long uphill battle against pollution and environmental destruction.

Some Extras

When it comes to cooking, let’s face it, so much of what we own in terms of equipment is not actually essential. After all, you can do almost anything with the right ingredients, a pan, a knife, and your hands, yet we opt for fancy food processors, fat wooden cutting boards, a variety of pots and pans, and more just to make out cooking experience easier, and a little more fun. Here are some extras that’ll keep you engaged in cooking outside.

Burger press

One of the first pieces of equipment I ever learned to have fun with over the grill was a grill press. A lot of people don’t see the point in owning one, but they’re wrong. You can use a chef’s press to sear meat, crisp up poultry skin, make paninis, crispy bacon, and more. You just need to heat them on a hot surface, then press them onto whatever you’re searing. The only thing you should really look out for when buying one of these is the material. I always use cast iron for things like this because it can get far hotter, and stay that way for longer. Two of my favorite grill presses are the RadicalN Burger Press  and the Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Grill Press.

Melting Dome

Another piece of equipment that is fun to use and handy, but not necessarily a ‘must-have’ is a melting dome. Melting domes are usually stainless steel and fit around a burger to melt the cheese on top. Domes also help provide more even and directed grilling. They also make you look like a total pro. If you’re feeling extra spiffy then you can’t go wrong with the Cuisinart Melting Dome 9″. For larger dishes, you can get the Cuisinart 12″ Melting Dome.

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