Mon May 10, 2010
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 these extra long pair, 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. The jury is still out on this one for me—I have yet to find a perfect grill brush. I had been buying them at the local dollar store, and they had surprisingly strong bristles for the price, but also needed be replaced every couple years. I recently upgraded to the Tool Wizard Grill Bush on a recommendation from Cook's Illustrated. It has a changeable scouring pad that makes quick work of scrubbing crusty grates, although during a recent extra high heat fire, the brush started to melt a little, making me wonder if it's really the same one that won the Cook's Illustrated test, or if the brush was ever tested over an incredibly hot fire. Still, it's fairing better than any grill brush I've owned in the past, so I can recommend it with a good degree of confidence.
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!
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 a prode thermometer. Granted, over time, you may know your meats so well that you may rarely use it, but I still use mine regularly for pulled porks and larger roasts, taking a relaxing set-it-and-forget approach—when the alarm rings, I know my meat is perfectly done. Polder was one of the first to make these thermometers, and in my opinion, still makes one of the best.
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.
So there you have it, just about ever tool I use on a regular basis while grill-side. Every other grilling toy I own is merely a nice-to-have rather than a must-have. I've created a handy little Meatwave Store where you can pick up these and other items hand-picked by me, based on my own experience. Besides being able to shop with confidence, the store also provides a little monetarily help to keep this blog up and running.
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.