There's nothing like a meal prepared outdoors. Unfortunately, we can't always have a shore lunch or a campfire-cooked meal but for me, my backyard grill satisfies my needs for outdoor cuisine. Many types of accessories are available to help you make the most of food from a grill. This Guide overviews the basics as well as some advanced grilling accessories.
Nothing tastes better than freshly-grilled food after a long day in the office.
Cooking tools let you tend to the food you're grilling without singeing your hands over the heat. Opt for tools with long handles over short ones or you'll be fighting flames as you move food around on the grill. Stainless steel construction ensures a long life. A loop or a hook on the handle is handy to hang items from the tool holders found on most barbeques.
Tongs and forks are best for moving cuts of meat, like steaks or chops, while spatulas are best for flipping burgers and fish. Use a basting brush to apply sauces to meats when grilling. Before and after cooking, use a grill brush to clean the grill and scrub off burnt-on food. The above items can be purchased in sets and are the basic cooking tools for outdoor grilling.
You'll also want a variety of dishes for grilling. Small bowls are great for holding sauces and spice, while deep cooking dishes with lids are excellent for marinating meat. Cutting boards and serving platters are also handy for taking food to and from the grill. Lastly, don't forget to have a fire extinguisher close at hand whenever grilling.
Grill Top Accessories
There are dozens of accessories to broaden the range of food you can cook and the way you cook it on your outdoor grill. Here's a listing of some of the more popular items.
Beer-can chicken is one of the most tasty and creative ways to grill this bird. Although you can get by with just a beer can, several types of racks and grill top accessories are available to hold the chicken in place and the can upright to stabilize it and prevent it from falling over.
Containers, like Cook's Choice Sittin' Chicken, are reusable and follow the beer-can cooking method, but without the need for an aluminum can. Instead, the container's cavity will hold whatever spices and marinades the recipe calls for and the bird will be seasoned and steamed as good as if cooked on a can. Poultry roasters let you barbeque a chicken or turkey upright, but don't have containers to hold marinades and sauces.
Grilling Planks and Woodchips
If you've yet to use a wood plank to cook fish on a grill, put it high on your "to-do" list. Cedar and alder planks are the most popular and must be soaked in water for several hours before grilling. The wet planks smolder on the grill and as the meat cooks, it absorbs the smoky flavor from the burning wood. Apply a marinade to the meat as it cooks and you'll produce an extremely savory and moist dish.
Wood chips can be added to coals or placed in a smoker box (or aluminum foil pouch) when grilling. Like a plank, these chips give meats more flavor. Apple, oak and mesquite are three top-chip choices for grilling. It goes without saying that grilling planks and chips should be free of chemicals when used as part of food preparation, so it's best to purchase them from grocery or food supply stores or harvest the wood from a trusty source.
A great way to cook veggies is a grill wok. These non-stick woks are perforated with small holes that allow the smoke flavor of the grill come through vegetables and meats. Anything you would stir fry can be cooked in a grill work. Woks let grillers avoid the problems of veggies either sticking to grill or of small pieces falling through the cracks. Woks come with both long and short handles. If the latter, oven gloves will protect your hands when it's time to shake-up the ingredients.
Grilling baskets are an easy way to cook small items or fragile items, like fish that flakes when cooked. Baskets come in various sizes and depths and usually feature long handles. Most baskets come with non stick coatings, which make cleaning them easier. A quick coating of cooking oil before grilling will also help the non-stick cause. The benefit of a grilling basket is that food can be easily be flipped over or moved on the grill with a turn of the handle, while remaining in the basket.
Grill Top Griddles
Available in various sizes, these griddles fit on top of the grill, letting you prepare items like you would in a pan, but cooked outdoors and heated by the grill. These griddles are particularly useful to cook various breakfasts outdoors, whether you're a fan of bacon and eggs or pancakes. Most of these grills will also feature a collector gutter to gather oil and grease. This accessory is a definite must for individuals looking to get the most use out of their grills.
Often available in sets featuring both skewers and a carrying frame, skewers are a great way to grill meat and veggies and shish kebabs are always a crowd pleaser. Perfect for grilling shrimp, scallops and other seafood, skewers are also a great way to sandwich meat next to onions and other veggies, letting juices and flavors intermingle to make grilled meats savory. Turning food is as simple as rotating the skewers.
Thermometers let you cook meat and poultry thoroughly and to perfection each time. Overcooking meat is disappointing and undercooking certain meats, like chicken, can be dangerous. A meat thermometer lets you measure the internal temperature of the meat. I find thermometers particularly handy when grilling at night or when cooking large cuts of meat or entire chickens to ensure the meat is properly cooked.
Spices, Sauces, Marinades and a Manual
When it comes to grilling, flavor is king! Food soaks up the smoke and flame flavors from the grill and spices, sauces and marinades only help make grilled food more savory. Whether it's steak spice, honey garlic sauce for chicken wings, or a teriyaki marinade for salmon fillets, it's best to have a variety of these flavor enhancers on hands for various meats and poultry.
To help you match the right seasoning to the meal's meat of choice, consider buying a grilling book. Books come in a range of subjects, from basic grilling to sophisticated topics - there's a book out there to suit your needs. Full of great info, preparation tips, a grill cookbook will help you increase your grill know-how and help you prepare mouth-watering meals.
Other Grilling Accessories
Other items are available to make grilling easier and your barbeque perform better. If using charcoal as your fuel source, a charcoal starter (also called a chimney) is a must. Much faster than piling bricks in a pyramid, starters can have you cooking on coals in 15 minutes. These cylinders hold bricks as they burn. Once ready, coals are easily placed wherever needed using the handle, letting you customize the direct and indirect heating options of your grill.
Protecting your barbeque is as simple as buying a cover for it. Customized covers from grill manufactures will ensure a proper fit. Usually made of high-end vinyl, covers shelter the grill from the elements and extends its lifespan. Replacing drip pans and bricks, as well as cleaning your grill and performing pre- and post-season maintenance, as per the owner's manual, will also help extend the life and increase the performance of the unit.
The items listed above are some of the most basic and popular grilling accessories. If you haven't, consider trying some of the accessories above, not only will they help you cook better meals, but they'll likely expand the range of entrees you can make using your grill. Now go get grilling!