Meat Tips: Gear Up!
Less than a week until the Meatwave season starts up! My excitement level is about to burst as my mind swirls with thoughts of the waves of meat that are about to hit, and all the deliciousness they will surely bring. Thinking about it made me start thinking about you, and although I provide some excellent recipes to feed your hungry bellies, I've never mentioned the tools to make that happen. So without further ado, I present another installment of Meat Tips, this time focusing on the gear needed to get your meat grilling right.
To grill, first you need fire. To get that fire going you must never use that nasty, nasty lighter fluid that takes forever to burn off and leaves food tasting like the exhaust of chemical plant. All that's needed to get the job done right every time is a chimney starter.
Bunch up some newspaper in the bottom, then pour the charcoal on top, light the paper and you'll have a fire ready to grill in about 15-20 minutes without fail and using no chemicals. I'm quite fond of this Weber model, which has a large charcoal capacity and is sturdy enough to keep lighting fires for years on end.
Fire's hot, so you need some protection, which is where these welding gloves come to your aid. After years of constantly replacing grilling mitts—which can't always hold up to the high heat of the grill—I've made the switch to welding gloves, which are made to handle some extreme temperatures. Affording more dexterity than mitts and giving better heat protection, a good pair is something every griller needs. I use a pair like these 16" Leather Forge Welding Gloves, which provides some nice added heat protection almost up to my elbows, letting me really get in there and work the grill with no worries.
With proper protection, it's time to jump into the heat and clean off that dirty grilling grate with a strong and sturdy grill brush. It took me a really long time to find the best grill brush, and like the gloves I use, the one that works best is built first for welding. This welding brush is superior to any brush marketed towards grilling uses with much sturdier bristles that don't fall off and do the job of scrubbing off stuck on food really well.
With a clean grate, it's time to throw down some meat, right? Well, it'd be best to know the temperature of your grill first. Even though you can get a good reading of a fire's temperature using your hand, for barbecue and indirect cooking, I've found a grill thermometer indispensable. With a range from 150-550 degrees, it's perfect for keeping an eye on the grill's temperature—knowing exactly when it's time to get the meat going or when the fire's dying and needs replenishing. I've always used the Weber replacement grill thermometer and have no qualms with it. Cheap and effective, it just needs the occasional cleaning to keep reading accurately. If your grill doesn't have a space for a thermometer like mine, you can simply drop it in the top air vent and you'll be good to go.
The grill's clean and at the right temperature, alas, it's time to add the meat! Getting meat on and off the grill is simple with the perfect set of tongs. I recommend investing in two pairs of tongs, since two are often needed for those heavier cuts of meat. I also like having at least one long pair—allowing you to work a safe distance from the fire—and a shorter pair—letting you get in closer when needed. The OXO line of tongs have stood up for years on my grill, and the locking mechanism is incredibly handy.
While the meat's on the grill, it's often nice to add some flavor in the form of a sauce or mop, for which you'll need a basting brush. Like the tongs, I always like to have two different sizes of basting brushes, equipping me for the larger and smaller tasks. Since a lot of grilling recipes have you brushing on liquids while cooking, I think you'll be at a bit of a loss without some good brushes—the best being the silicone models which making cleaning the brushes a cinch—the ones above have been used for years and they're still looking brand new!
Instant Read Thermometer
Meat's been cooking and has been brushed with a tasty sauce, but is it done yet? The most surefire way of knowing is getting an instant-read thermometer. There's no better around than the Thermapen, which takes highly accurate readings in seconds.
I rely mainly on my instant-read thermometer, but use probe thermometers often as well. Offering the ability to continually monitor the temperature of the food and/or the grill, they take the guess work out of how everything is cooking. The Thermoworks Smoke model offers a dual channel and remote monitor, so you don't have to be next to the grill to keep an eye on things. If you own a smoker, the UltraQ from the BBQ Guru not only can monitor three meats plus the pit at once, but also hook up to a fan to keep the temperature in the smoker always on point as well as control and record everything through the cloud.
Lastly, the most useless and useful of all the grilling gear, a fire extinguisher. Chances are, this will never see any action, but it's best to have one nearby in case the unthinkable happens. At my old apartment, I had a nosy neighbor who was absolutely convinced I was destined to burn down the neighborhood each time I grilled. Although in her whacked out mind—where the smell of barbecue incites fear rather than droll—the presence of a multi-purpose fire extinguisher didn't quite put her at ease, but it did for me, and that's all that matters.
Now armed with all the right gear, it's time for you to take your meat to flames and enjoy the summer ahead. I, for one, cannot wait. Even though I grill all year, these last six days before the Meatwave starts are excruciating—just sitting in anticipation to share the meat with everybody else. So close, yet so far...but until then, I wish you all happy grilling.
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Renee Devantier Nice BBQ. I got a pair of those tongs for free with a coupon - love them. Happy cooking!
Chris Great list of accessories. I love the extra long tongs by OXO, those rock.
Having torched two more oven mitts this week, I need to pick up a pair of the welding gloves. The plate setter and cast iron grates of a Big Green Egg get too hot for mitts.
Josh @Chris Tell me about it, all of my mitts have large gashes in them from handling the grill grates while hot. I'm happy to say that not only do the welding gloves hold up to that type of torture, you also can't feel the heat through them. Totally eye opening when I first used them!
Mike Great gear! I would like to see some cast iron grid or skillet for making killer grill marks
Josh @Mike Is there a cast iron replacement for the Weber grilling grates?
I personally don't put too much emphasis on grill marks...food tastes the same with or without them, although I admit they can be pretty evocative.
rich langer For my Weber kettles I was torn between the grillgrates http://grillgrate.com/, a cast iron grate from Big Green Egg http://www.bbqislandinc.com/store/18-cast-iron-grill-grate-free-shipping.html , or the new pie shaped cast iron grates http://cast-iron-grates.com/.
Then I realized that the Grillgrates WON'T RUST!! So I ordered the 3-pak for the BGE - same size (18.25") so it should work just fine. RIGHT??
Mike I've really been happy with the Weber grates, but have thought about getting a cast iron set at some point. I have seen grill grates before, but I don't personally see a need. To me, they seem more aimed to the casual griller who battles flare-ups while doing 10 other things besides tending to the fire. Also, it looks like if you aren't careful, high charcoal temps could damage them.
Your gloves idea is spot on though! Nothing worse than burned fingers and torn gloves!
Josh @Mike The GrillGrates are kind of baffling me, I wasn't really seeing the appeal to them, but your point of them being geared towards the casual griller makes a lot of sense.
Cast iron seems enticing, mostly because it would help with grill marks for photos more than anything else. The problem I'm thinking is that they'd be harder to deal if you need to move them while they're hot. The Weber grate doesn't retain heat well, so I can throw it on the deck if I need to move it off the fire, but because of weight and heat of cast iron, I'm guessing that would no longer be an option.
The real issue may just be my stubbornness to change my set ways.
Brad Barrett Don't discount the value add that GrillGrates will make to any grill. Searing is sweet, but the sizzle effect of juices sizzling beneath your food will win you over- fast. and they radiate heat for even grilling temps. http://www.youtube.com/grillgrate
rich langer If I cook something, I want it to look good as well as tasting good. The grillgrates help me make my food look good - I believe that you eat your food first with your eyes - and the grill grates help there.
My primary grill is a red 18.5" weber kettle - I bought the Big BGE set thinking they would fit the weber but they didn't until I trimmed them. Now I love them - I would send pix but my camera is F'ed up.'
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Dan Didn't you forget the most important piece of equipment... the grill(s) you use to cook/smoke?