The weather's hot and it's time to get the grill even hotter. We've rounded up the best grilling accessories to bring your grill game from meh to master-chef. From cedar and salt planks to tools that are high-tech gadgets, from who-would-have-thought trinkets to the simple things that make a barbecue memorable, we've got the best of the best.
Every good barbecue station needs the basics. These basics should be reliable, affordable, and still have a bit of cool-factor that makes you want to grab them again and again. Here are our picks.
- Grill Spatula: This all-purpose tool is a must-have that allows you to get the grill going and keeps things moving. We like this stainless steel grill spatula for its professional feel. No extra-long wooden handles to rot and splinter here; just stainless steel and a rubber grip on a useful size handle. There are also two useful serrated edges for separating and moving food. Bonus? The hanging handle doubles as a beer can opener, meaning there's one less thing to lose track of around the back yard.
- Tongs: Tongs are the grill workhorse, so it's important to get a high-quality pair that can be put through the summer paces and will last until next year. These grill tongs can handle the heaviest rack of ribs you've got, but they can also make sure those delicate veggies don't burn. The best part is they have a built-in LED light so you can grill as the sun sets and make sure everything is perfectly cooked.
- Thermometer: Easily one of the most important elements of a good cook-out, because no one wants to send their guests home with food poisoning. The royal standard is the ThermaPen, an instant-read thermometer that will never fail you. Of course, being the royal standard, it has a price tag to match. Don't fear, the company also makes a smaller, less fancy model that works just as well, and is a third of the price: the ThermoPop. Pop-up poultry thermometers can give guests peace of mind, too: insert them into the thickest part of the chicken and they pop up when the internal temperature is reached.
- Apron: An apron makes sure everyone knows you're in charge of the grill. It's also practical since grilling can get a bit messy. There are many fun grilling-themed aprons, but a classic cotton canvas chef's apron will last for years to come and serve you well. Wear it around your neck or fold it down to create a half-apron.
- Veggie Basket: A veggie basket keeps grilled vegetables under control and keeps them from getting too hot and falling through the grates. Any basic one will do, but this nonstick perforated steel version is a step up. The frying-pan like shape is easy to maneuver and the handle comes off for when you want to keep the grill closed.
- Fish Accessories: If you like to vary what you're grilling and put some fish on the grill, there are several options. A fish basket is perhaps the simplest to use, and this flexible version holds fish of all shapes and sizes. Soaked wood grilling planks impart different flavors and are particularly delicious when paired with salmon. A salt block imparts flavor, too, and works well with fish and meat.
- Grill Grates: Grill grates can take the most basic home grill to another level. Invest in cast iron ones for a lifetime of flavorful grilled meats. Cast iron hold heat for more even cooking, builds seasoning to create a non-stick coating that also adds flavor, won't rust when cared for properly, and gives those enviable sear marks.
- Grill Mat: A grill mat makes any grill into a flat surface to prevent food from falling through. The grill mat is also the perfect surface for grilling unconventional things, such as personal pizzas, or fruit for desserts.
- Burger Press: Make your own perfectly shaped patties every time. It may seem time-consuming, but the difference is immeasurable. Using a burger press makes your patties all the same size and shape, which makes for quicker, more even cooking. Not to mention they'll look super professional. Look for an adjustable burger press that lets you choose the thickness. You can even make stuffed burgers with it!
- Basting Brush: This basting brush is the best of all basting brushes. Pinch the handle to draw up the sauce, baste, then place it back in the drip-proof container. The small size lets you get into the nooks and crannies to cover every inch of surface area.
Set the Table
- Seasoning and Sauces: Seasoning and sauces set the grill gurus apart from the grill novices. Finding the perfect one can be tricky, but these are sure to be winners when combined with your grilling skills: Trader Joe's Coffee & Garlic BBQ Rub, Penzey's Spices Chicago Steak Seasoning, or make your own Montreal Steak Seasoning. You can make your own barbecue sauce, of course, or grab a bottle of Bone Suckin' Sauce that's sure to please.
- Tablecloths: Vintage oil-cloth tablecloths are the way to go. Cover splintering wood tables with cheerful summery patterns in easily wipeable coated fabric. You can find these in standard tablecloth sizes, or purchase oil cloth by the yard to create a custom size or shape. The American flag, fruit, flowers…there are plenty of summer-themed prints to choose from.
- Tablecloth Weights: These old-fashioned gadgets should be on every picnic table, but they've fallen out of favor. Luckily you still find them, and cheerful watermelons add an ideal vintage appeal to your outdoor tablescape. These spring-loaded clips fit any table.
- Platters and Serving Dishes: Plastic, or melamine, as it's called when it pertains to thick plastic dishware, rules supreme for grilling outdoors. It travels well, holds up to the weight of a steak or burger, and are dishwasher safe. Try these rustic-themed melamine serving dishes that conjure up memories of camping on the farm, but are rust-free.
Creating a Bug-Free Zone
While it isn't directly food-related, creating a bug-free zone is key for a wonderful barbecue. While you can't patrol the entire great outdoors for bugs, you can certainly create a bug-free zone around your guests, your grill, and the food.
- Citronella candles: This cool concrete planter is actually a giant citronella candle that will reach across the picnic zone to deter mosquitos. When the candle is finished, use the container as a planter. SkeeterBeeter brand makes great smaller candles to go on tables around the yard. Or make your own citronella candles with some citronella tiki oil lamp and mason jars. If you don't like the scent of citronella, there are scented candles with the same properties.
- Yard Stakes: Murphy's Mosquito Sticks can be placed around the yard at 1-foot intervals to keep the mosquitos away. The blend of lemongrass and rosemary, along with citronella, is a powerful deterrent for bugs.
- Bug Spray: Of course, keeping the air free of bugs is great but bug spray is still the gold standard in preventing bugs from munching on us as we munch on picnic foods. Strong natural formulations are preferable as they are safe for everyone, including pets, to use. While there are many to choose from, these are
- Tick Key: Tick season is upon us, which means time spent outdoors basking in the glory of the grill might also mean you pick up a tick or two. Properly removing ticks is paramount for avoiding the numerous diseases and infections they carry. A tick key should be a staple in every outdoor space these days, and they don't cost much.
These items are the charcoal on the steak, so to speak, and they can help you achieve those perfect grill marks, too. You'll be the go-to grill master of the summer with any of these tools at hand.
- Rotisserie: A chicken on the grill is a sight for summer, indeed. A rotisserie insert for your grill makes this much easier. You can type in your grill model number to make sure this one works; if not, there are plenty of other models for all types of grills. If you're making beer can chicken, check out this under-$10 holder to make sure your chicken stays upright.
- Personal Grill Brand: Nothing says professional barbecue like your initials literally branded into the meat. This makes a great gift or splurge for the grilling aficionado. If initials aren't your thing, you can also use a house symbol, such as the pineapple that stands for hospitality, or your favorite sports team's logo.
- Grill Press: This under-$10 tool is a no-brainer addition to your grill kit. A cast iron grill press gives chicken an incredible flavor, helps it cook faster, and gives it a professional look. It also creates smashed burgers that are all the rage now—soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.
- Smoker Box: Instantly turn any grill into a smoker with this handy gadget. It's simple to use but it takes your grilling game up a step. You'll need some wood chips too; try these Tobasco brand chips. Try smoking things other than meat: cheese, nuts, and vegetables are all good options to get more use out of this simple box.
Start with the basics, set the scene, and you're already on your way to having a great barbecue. Add in a wow-factor grilling accessory or two and your back yard will be the most popular restaurant in town all summer long.
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