You don't have to have these grilling accessories to get the job done but they do make it more fun and easier.
Look around. Do a search on Amazon. There are tons of grilling accessories out there. You can find anything from potholders specially designed for grilling to a 36 hole jalapeño rack. I love grilling and over the years I have tried quite of few of these accessories so I decided to share my experience with all of you. I will go over the most useful and coolest ones so you can make an educated decision on what or what not to buy. Ready?
Grilling Accessories: The Grill
First and foremost is the grill…which I am not sure is considered an accessory. Basically there are 3 types of grills that I have experience with. These are charcoal, gas, and electric grills. I don’t include smokers in my grill list even though some do. Let’s look at each of these types of grills in reverse order.
Electric grills are great for grilling indoors and they definitely have their uses but as far as I am concerned they are the unwanted stepbrother in the grilling world. Something about fire makes grilling another world. The fats on a charcoal or gas grill fall into the heat source and are evaporated to pass over the meat again adding flavor. On an electric grill they drain into a pan.
Electric grills don’t need fuel.
These grills are a fast and clean way to grill.
These grills are usually fairly small.
You don’t have to go outside if it’s too cold to grill.
There is practically no wait time for the grill to be ready.
These grills are relatively inexpensive.
You don’t have to go outside if the weather is great
Food grilled on an electric grill just doesn’t have the same flavor as food grilled on other types of grills.
Gas grills in my mind are the mid ground between a grill purist and an electric grill lover. It’s easy. You just turn the knob on the propane or natural gas and light the grill just like a kitchen stove. The fire you light heats “rocks” in the grill which comes really close to being like a charcoal grill. These grills can come with a lot of features like a side burners for cooking other foods or motor run rotisseries.
Cooking on these grills is fast and clean.
Fuel is widely available.
You can run out of fuel.
I usually find a slight fuel taste in the food cooked on a gas grill even though people have argued that I am lying.
No wood flavor.
I learned to love the traditional charcoal grills from a young age. My father also loves the grill and uses either wood or charcoal on his grill and let me tell you this is THE best way to grill. Yes it’s slower but it’s a BBQ not a commute. Take your time. Enjoy tradition. Something about making the fire takes us back to our caveman roots and for me greatly improves the whole process. You can’t beat the flavor and fun of a BBQ on a charcoal grill.
Charcoal grills great that great wood flavor.
Slow process allows for a better experience.
Easy to find charcoal and can substitute with almost any hardwood for added fun and flavor.
These grills are simple and inexpensive.
Another awesome advantage of a charcoal grill is that there are very low cost portable BBQ grills with charcoal. (read out how to portable BBQ grills here)
To me this is the tradition. I look forward to teaching my sons the steps to preparing the charcoal or wood for the fire, on how to know when everything is ready, etc. This is a HUGE advantage for me.
Getting the charcoal to grilling temperate isn’t a hard or all that slow process but it is much slower than gas or electric grills.
In my mind you can’t go wrong with the charcoal grill. If you don’t believe me try it!
Grilling Accessories: The Meat Thermometer
For those of you who have been grilling for a while or usually grill only one type of food you may not need a meat thermometer. I like to use a thermometer just to make sure every piece of meat comes out perfect. I have used digital and analog meat thermometers and I really have not preference except that the fact that the batteries never run out on an analog thermometer. Meat thermometers are very simple to use. You simply insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat because this is the part that will take the longest to finish cooking. After you position the thermometer you wait 30 to 45 seconds before taking the reading.
Here is a guideline of different meat temperatures. This is only a guideline. With poultry and pork be careful because these meats may carry disease so always shoot for the high number.
Chicken: Thigh 175 to 185 °F
Beef: Rare 120 to 135 °F
Medium rare 135 to 145 °F
Medium 145 to 155 °F
Medium well 155 to 165 °F
Burnt to a crisp (AKA well done) above 165°F
Lamb: Rare to Medium 120 to 145 °F
Medium above 145 °F
Pork: Always cook pork until it is 155 to 165 °F
It’s that easy. Follow this temperature guide and you will never have those “Mine’s not done” or “Mine’s too dry” complaints again.
Grill Accessories: The Utensils
To do it right on the grill you need some utensils. Don’t use a kitchen fork unless you don’t want hair on your fingers and hand. It really makes you look like an amateur. The good news is that there aren’t that many utensils and even though there are some high end styles most are very cheap and with a little bit of care will last you a long time.
Brush to Clean the Grill
You don’t want a rusted and dirty grill to ruin the flavor of your food so you need a good brush to clean your grill. The trick to make your life easy and to keep your grill in optimal conditions is to clean the grill after you are done cooking and the grill is still warm. Most people in my experience leave all the food parts and gunk on the grill until they have their next BBQ…this is not how a pro does things. This will rust and eventually ruin your grill.
Tongs are your most useful utensil. You will notice that I don’t list a fork on my list. Forks are bad. Forks pierce the seal you carefully did (I will teach you how to seal the meat in another article) and let all the juice out. I use tongs for all the food I cook on a grill. I already told you I don’t use a fork and I also don’t use a spatula. This being the case you don’t have to buy those “complete” BBQ sets and you can use that money to buy some good tongs.
Grill Accessories: The Chimney Charcoal Starter
Starting charcoal isn’t all that hard but a charcoal starter makes it all that much easier. When you are ready to start your BBQ experience just follow these steps and you will have plenty of charcoal and even heat throughout your grill.
First: Clean out all old ashes.
If you have a pile of ashes about your charcoal won’t breathe because air will not circulate right and this will make it a lot harder to get the charcoal going right.
Second: Use enough charcoal.
This is a common rookie mistake and it’s something you usually have to learn by experience. Make sure you can cover the whole grilling area to ensure that there are not parts of the grill that won’t cook as fast as others.
Third: Take your Chimney Charcoal Starter.
To use a chimney charcoal starter all you need is charcoal, newspaper and matches. You put newspaper in the lower section of the chimney and then fill it almost (leave 2 inches or so) to the top with charcoal. Then simply light the newspaper on the bottom. Make sure you have enough newspaper and you should be set. Within fifteen minutes (could be less so don’t go anywhere) you should start to see flames coming out of the top. When you see that just dump the charcoal out into a pile. At this point you can add more charcoal if you have a big grill but usually you are good to get started. This is the best way I have found to get your charcoal going. Don’t use lighter fluid because you will be able to taste it.
Grilling Accessories: The Vegetable Basket
The last must have on the grilling accessories list is the veggie basket. I love grilling vegetables. I can’t understand why so many people don’t take advantage of that heat to grill some awesome vegetables. The problem is that some veggies fall through the grill. What the vegetable basket does is that it prevents this from happening. It’s just a metal basket but oh is it useful.
Those are the must haves of the grilling accessories world. There are a lot more out there from steak brands for personalized grilling to pot holders and I have and use some grilling accessories that I didn’t put on this list. These are the ones I would not live without.
Go out there and have fun grilling. If you have any questions about grilling please don’t hesitate to ask.