Grilling only requires fire and meat. That is all.
However, good gear goes a long ways toward the physical ease and pleasure of grilling. But like any interesting hobby the amount of gear options continues to grow every year (look at photography for the ultimate example).
Following is my short list of essential gear to have to become a Grilling Man. I believe in buying good stuff and taking good care of it, but I also believe that less is more. I hope you enjoy the list.
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Your grill. The best all purpose grill for home use is the classic 22.5 inch Weber One Touch Gold Edition Kettle Grill. There is no doubt about this fact, though many will argue that the Weber design is faulty because you cannot control the distance between the coals and the grill. Those that argue such a point have not honed their skills enough, and need to spend more time grilling and less time reading (zing!). I love this grill for a few main reasons:
- It’s the best at offset heat, which is essential to producing quality grilled food. Temperature control is everything, and a two stage fire is the single biggest grilling secret out there.
- The heat control is easy thanks to the vent on the kettle. Heat is a grill is always controlled at the exit point of the heat, and simply closing those vents a bit helps to maintain low-and-slow if needed. The ‘fin’ vents on the bottom are for cutting off the air, if you want to cut you fire and save the wood for another day.
- The Gold Edition comes with an ash bucket that keeps your grilling area tidy. If you use real hardwood charcoal you’ll be amazed at how little you have to empty this out. If you use Kingsford, you have to empty it more often because of the residual leftovers from burning that product, but in the end simply being tidy about your workspace is the goal.
- The kettle shape allows a convection of heat within the grill, which is essential when doing chicken or a turkey … it keeps the heat stable throughout the kettle rather than hotspots due to vertical heat hitting a flat box roof.
High quality tools (spatula, tongs, and fork). Note that this is all you need – the simple and basic three piece set. Sometimes grilling gear tries to appeal to the ‘more is better’ crowd by making it a 12 or 18 piece set, and that is nonsense.
The key here, of course, is the term ‘high quality’. I personally use a Williams Sonoma set given to me in 1995. Because of the good construction and the fact that I take care of my gear it has lasted well over a decade. Heavy gauge metal, sturdy connection points, and no sense of flimsiness will pay off for years.
Taking care of your tools means cleaning up after cooking, drying the tools, and being sure to not leave them outside overnight. Pretty simple list, uh?
Pictured are the All-Clad tools from Amazon. These look great, and I like the case.
Never, ever, use lighter fluid. That shit will kill you. Don’t believe for a second that it all burns off and doesn’t impart flavor into the meat. It is completely unnecessary and dangerous.
Buy a chimney starter, such as the one pictured. Three sheets of newspaper will start up your coals faster and with more consistency than fluid ever would. I usually fill it almost to the top, and it takes about 12-15 minutes for the coals to reach nearly perfect temperature.
A little hint from the grilling man: the vents on the bottom of the chimney are often not large enough to really get the coals going quickly. Take one piece of charcoal or hardwood and wedge it under the front lip after lighting the newspaper. This does two things: opens up the bottom for more airflow for ignition, and angles the chimney a touch backwards allowing less heat to build up on the handle. This little trick often keeps the handle cool enough that I don’t need gloves to empty out the coals.
You should have a grilling apron. The one pictured is a bit over the top, with pockets for tools and stuff. Who in their right minds would wear this? Anyway, I would avoid heavy aprons made out of leather … grilling often happens in the summer and why wear that? I would avoid aprons like the one pictured that is built on gimmickry. I would avoid stupid looking aprons for obvious reasons. Simpler is better, and you can make your own easily. If you have a wonderful wife like The Grilling Man has she may even make one for you.
The purpose of the grilling apron is two fold. One, you wear it because it keeps shit off your clothes. Grease is nasty to try to get out of a good shirt, and I like to look stylish while grilling so I want to protect by button down Oxfords. But the second and more important reason is that putting the apron on is a moment to convey your intentions to the world and enter the mindset of The Grilling Man. Much like the classic car restorer putting on his overalls, or the midwestern farmer putting on his seed cap and work gloves, the apron is a symbol of intent and tells the world “Get ready!”
Precise temperature control is the hallmark of The Grilling Man. Once you develop your ‘touch’ you can play with guessing temperatures, but if you want the best results time after time, if you want to be the envy of the neighborhood, if you want to be in total control of your grilling world, you must embrace thermometers and temperature control.
Knowing your temperatures is the start of grilling mastery (and is essential to safe grilling). There are lots of thermometers out there, but having one with a probe that can stay in the meat without opening the grill is important. Many people rely on the inexpensive dial thermometers, which are of course better than nothing, but for accuracy (and fun) nothing beats wireless digital thermometers.
I use two: The new iGrill Dual Probe, and the Oregon Scientific AW131 which speaks to you in multiple languages (I have mine set on French). Both have proven to be relatively reliable but keep in mind whenever you are talking about wireless connections there is a certain digital randomness in the world that may suddenly make these unusable at just the wrong time. In that case you MUST have a back up and I use the Taylor 806E4L Weekend Warrior Waterproof Digital Thermometer, a proven tool that is fast, accurate, and consistent.