Last summer was a bummer. The covid-19 pandemic spread like wildfire infecting a whopping 8 million people worldwide in July 2020 alone (more than the entirety of the first 6 months of the pandemic). Restaurants closed, an overwhelming amount permanently, some of the tightest travel restrictions many people around the world have never experienced, and of course, all during Donald Trump’s notorious presidential term.
Fast forward a year later and things finally seem to be coming down and countries and people have finally adapted more to life during a worldwide pandemic. So as social gatherings start to incline (and hopefully not covid-19 cases), a lot of Texans are dusting off the old grills and getting ready to do one of the things the state does best: BBQ. These are some of the most basic and essential BBQ tools and equipment you need to stock up on before the height of summer hits.
Whether you smash on the grill or prior, burger presses are a really quick way to make perfect patties. All you need to do is cut a few squares of parchment paper (around 6×6 inches), place a ¼ pound ball of meat between two, then press down. The only important thing to note about the method is that it’s essential that you press down straight and evenly so as to not give the patty a slant.
Multi-tools are perfect if you cook outside often or cook on the go. A lot of people don’t like multi-tools, I prefer to have all my tools separate but to each his own. There are some multi tools that look and act kind of like swiss army knives, I recommend you stay far away from them if you enjoy being comfortable or at all practical.
If you’re like me and you prefer utensil sets then look no further. It’s cheaper to buy all the tools at once and they also often have many more uses than any multi-tool you’d find on the market. When you choose utensils I typically go for stainless steel or something similar. Wood, although stylish, deteriorates fast when you cook a lot outside using a lot of liquids, fats, and high heat, and plastic can melt with one small misplacement.
Heat Proof Gloves
I find myself using heat-proof gloves a lot more after the BBQ particularly to clean. As such get a pair of waterproof and heat-proof gloves so you can heat, scrub, and clean the grill in a jiffy.
One of the aesthetics that make a BBQ joint an institution is butcher paper or greaseproof paper. It’s used both to wrap brisket and to serve fatty, juicy meats. They come in a number of colors and styles but I’m a stickler for the classics, which is why I always recommend and use that traditional pinkish, brown butcher paper.
Nowadays you can just buy condiments in their pre-packaged squeeze bottles, but anyone who’s serious about BBQ makes his or her own sauces. For that, you’ll need some squeeze bottles. Not just to serve, it makes the entire process a little easier which goes a long way during hot, fast-paced BBQs.
Corn on the cob is a staple of the American BBQ. Where would our precious hands be without those practical little spears that let us grate down an ear of corn to its fibrous core? In all seriousness, they’re great for kids and do have their uses outside of corn holding.
A couple of table caddies are the difference between home grilling and that authentic BBQ shack feel. Use them to hold condiments, silverware, napkins, salt & pepper shakers, straws, and any other table necessity you can think of.
Meat Grilling Equipment
Wood over metal skewers any day for 1 reason: soaking. Soaking skewers keep from burning on the grill but can be a great way to impart a small amount of flavor. While the evaporating juice, liquor, or vinegar won’t give the meat a hut of flavor, pulling that skewer up to your mouth to take a bite will deliver some nice aromatics that definitely will impact how you taste the food.
If you have any experience grilling you’ll have a fitting thermometer, and if you already have a kitchen thermometer, make sure you have the right one. One of the keys to BBQ is consistency. Lifting the lid to read the internal temperature of a larger cut of meat will set you back potentially up to 30 minutes. To avoid this, use remote thermometers that are either attached by thin, heat-proof wires, or that are totally wireless.
Wing racks, also for drumsticks, are by far one of the greatest poultry innovations ever made. They let you smoke wings, or drumsticks, perfectly without having to open the grill to flip or anything else. The even cooking also makes for some really nice, consistent color.
XSpecial Meat Tenderizer Tool
I’ll be frank when I say I’ve never used this particular method of tenderization, but I’ve heard some great things. The real hidden benefit of this amazing tool is that it allows marinades to penetrate much, much deeper into the meat. So next time you hear someone talk down marinades, you can throw one of these at them.
Fish Grilling Equipment
Cedar plank salmon is almost a cliche. It’s the first thing people tend to think of when they imagine grilling fish, and to its credit, there is a good reason for that. You can use cedar planks for meat, fish, and vegetables. It works by evaporating the fragrant water molecules out of the plank which imparts flavor onto the food. They’re also perfect to soak in something like apple cider vinegar or beer or whatever gets your wood on.
While fish baskets are much more for open fire grilling, they can be really convenient when you’re grilling a lot of food. Simple clamp whole or filets of fish between the grates, cook as you normally would, and flip with ease.
Fish Boning Pliers
Fish boning is a devious task but has to be done. There are a few good reasons to buy fish whole and fillet it yourself, at which point you’d also have to debone. To me, it’s always worth it to buy whole birds and fish then break them down myself, but if you lack the know-how or just aren’t as passionate about breaking down carcasses, you can skip this one.
Extra Wide Turner
Perfectly cooked fish should be very flaky, so holding up a filet of fish with some of the sides dangling off the spatula can be devastating. An extra-long turner gives you more control and more leverage so you can turn, flip, and move your fish with ease.
While this is mostly for making sausages than actually grilling them, every BBQ enthusiast I’ve ever met has at least an interest in making their own sausages. Like most things it takes some practice, but when you have it you have it, and you could shoot out tens of sausages within a couple of hours, or in the case of Barry John Crow, 78 within a minute.
I suppose the most important thing about the casing depends on the person, there are a few things to consider. Thickness, diameter, the animal it was sourced from, and whether or not you’re trying to follow particular traditions. You can use natural cow, sheep, or pigs casing or use synthetic casings made from collagen, cellulose, or plastic.
Pricking sausage both keeps them from bursting from internal pressure as the water inside evaporates, and lets water and air escape during curing or drying to intensify the flavor.
Like a fish grate, a sausage griller just makes your job that much easier and lets you cook and flip multiple sausages at once.
If you have a gas grill but also love smoked food, consider one of these smoke boxes before shelling out on another grill entirely. They are rectangular or cylindrical containers typically made from stainless steel riddled with many small holes that release smoke. You simply fill the container with a wood of your choice (soaked in a brine of your choice) and place it onto the burner that you will leave on for indirect cooking.
There are so many woods and forms of said wood to choose from we could be here forever. I also won’t include pellets because I frankly have never used them, and don’t have very much interest in using an electric smoker. Which wood you use I can’t recommend either, it’s down to preference but I can advise this: If you’re using a smoker box, use wood chips and soak them in a flavorful liquid overnight. For charcoal, smoking uses large chunks of wood. You don’t necessarily have to soak them, but I like to anyway. Personally, I’d have a hard time choosing one wood to call my favorite, so since we’re in Texas I’d tell you to go for cherry, pecan, or mesquite.
Charcoal Grill Equipment
If you’re into cooking outdoors I recommend you get a chimney anyway because it’s also helpful when you’re smoking meat and even just regular fire starting. For their price, it’s well worth owning one.
Don’t get hung up on the word natural. It’s not like you’ll be grilling over a pile of fire starters, but to me, it’s always better to go natural when you can, especially when it’s something as trivial as fire starters.
Propane Grill Equipment
Cast Iron Seasoning
Not all grates are made from cast iron, but some of the best ones are. Cast iron is such a phenomenal material to grill grates because of its slow conduction and heat retention. Of course, the hassle is that it needs to be seasoned, but hey it wouldn’t be so popular if it were that time and effort-consuming.
While in my career I haven’t found many products that are quite as useless as this one, but as far as I can tell people love them. And they are practical if BBQ isn’t exactly your area of expertise. That being said, if you’re going to toss a non-stick mat onto a grill you may as well keep it in the kitchen and use a frying pan.
Grill Cleaning Equipment
Grill Rescue Brush
The grill rescue brush is unlike any other grill brush because it doesn’t have any bristles. This has a surprising amount of benefits like the fact that you can clean the bush, the lack of residue and bristles that can often be left behind, and often can’t be used while the grill is hot. With the rescue brush, you simply dip it in some hot water and start scrubbing. A fraction of the proceeds even goes to fire, military, and police foundations.
BBQ Cleaning Bricks
Cleaning stones are natural, non-toxic, and they work surprisingly well. They don’t absorb any of the gunk or grease and are cheap enough considering one can last around 5 cleanings. Perhaps the biggest benefit of these bricks is that they contour their shape to the grate of your grill for super effective cleaning.
Grill cleaners cut through grease and grime and allow you to clean the griddle without heating it. Buying it online you may as well buy it in bulk, I use Pro HD”Purple” Concentrated Cleaner & Degreaser to this day.
I’m not talking about one of those flat griddle scrapers, using them on a grate is the most impractical use of any piece of grilling equipment I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about the sage owl. It’ll explain itself as soon as you see it.