Over the past few weeks I’ve been having a lot of fun as I learn how to make the most of my barbecue and explore the world of outdoor cooking.
Of course I am a gadget fiend, so it wasn’t hard for me to fall down several rabbit holes as I explored the options for upgrading and tweaking my barbecue. Being stuck at home most of the time means that I’ve got plenty of time to play around with the barbecue when I’m not working and it also means I’m less likely to be lazing on the couch. But I digress.
So what kind of gear do you need with a barbecue grill?
Some equipment is essential, or so useful that it should be classed as essential.
Other things may not be essential, but they either give you more options or make things easier or more enjoyable. Necessary? No. But that’s really not the point.
So what’s essential?
The obvious stuff would be:
- a starter chimney. Lighting a charcoal barbecue is kind of important! I got a Weber one when I bought my barbecue, but there’s plenty of other companies offering similar devices. Of course there’s also the chimney of insanity which has an optional fan. Not necessary, but it looks like it’d be fun. (And no, I haven’t got one (yet!)). If you’re using lump charcoal a lot you might be able to get away without a starter chimney, but they’re really handy for getting things up and running quickly so I’d keep one around anyway.
- heatproof gloves – yeah, grills get hot. Really hot. So you need a decent pair. Again, Weber has their branded ones, but there’s plenty of options on the market. You could try welder gloves as well, though the ones I got recently weren’t the best quality.
- an apron – working with the grill can get messy. An apron helps protect your clothes and if it has pockets it can make it easier to carry some bits and bobs that you’re using
- a *good* instant read thermometer. I cannot stress this enough. Do not skimp on this. Why? Because undercooked food is a really really bad idea. After reading a load of reviews I went for the Thermapen. It’ll give you the temperature of whatever you shove it into really quickly. (I found it was much cheaper to buy directly from them in the UK and have it shipped using DPD Parcel Wizard than any other option)
- metal tongs – plastic melts. I got some long handled ones when I bought the barbecue, but I’ve found that I need ones for moving coals and grill grates around, as well as the food. So having a couple to hand makes sense. The slow ‘n ‘ sear cherry picker is excellent for working with coals.
- disposable drip trays – basically they’re aluminium baking trays that you can put under the grate to catch grease etc., You’ll find them in most supermarkets or discount shops. Weber sells them as well, but at a premium price.
- fire lighters – the only reason I mention them is because they’re both necessary and not “magical”. You can use any firelighters you like, though you will find that Weber sells their own branded ones at a premium (Spotting a trend?). I’ve also found some more eco-friendly options out there which are made with wood shavings or similar.
- A decent metal brush for keeping the grates clean. There’s plenty to choose from. I also find that running half an onion over the grill grates will help to remove anything that the brush hasn’t removed or has simply moved around. Dirty grates are just plain nasty!
Nice to have:
There are oodles of accessories that you can get for a barbecue. It will also depend a lot on what you’re doing with it. If you’re just cooking the odd steak or burger then you probably don’t need to splash out.
If, however, you’re going to be doing long slow cooks and using your barbecue for smoking etc, then there’s quite a few things that you might want to invest in.
- The Meater+ smart thermometer – not a cheap device, but it is wonderful. Simply stick it in to the meat you’re cooking, setup the cook in the app and off you go. It’ll track what’s going on with both the meat temperature and the air around it. What I really like is that it keeps a record of past cooks, so you can learn from your mistakes. However the meater is most definitely not perfect and its uses are a little limited. While it works really well with larger or thick cuts of meat it is physically impossible to use it with thinner cuts. You won’t be able to get the probe into the meat. Also the wifi / bluetooth connection can be quite tempermental.
- Heat sensors for the grill – the inkbird brand of BBQ thermometers have reliable and not overly expensive “smart” thermometers. Even if I’m using the meater I’ll still use the Inkbird to keep track of the grill’s temperature, which is especially important when you’re trying to do a long slow cook and need to maintain the temperature stable. The app isn’t amazing, but functional. It has a bunch of presets for various scenarios and you can create your own. You can find them cheaply enough on Amazon or, if you’re patient you can get them via AliExpress or Wish.com.
- Slow ‘n sear – I’d be tempted to classify this as a “must have”, but I’ll resist. This is a really clever yet simple device that helps you to setup a two zone cook. They explain it all here. While you can get them directly from the US it’s probably simpler to get them from somewhere a bit more local.
- a plancha – the Weber grills have a replaceable central section which is designed for a growing range of accessories. I got a plancha for mine which is perfect for doing burgers or bacon, or anything that you want to do HOT but don’t want falling into the grill. I got mine here.
- Wood chunks for smoking – you can add a bit of flavour to your cook with some wood chunks. I have both whiskey barrel ones and some cherry ones.
Cooking with a charcoal barbecue is fun. But it’s not quick and easy. If you want quick then you might need to look at getting a gas barbecue, though purists will take issue with that. Personally I find the Weber kettle style barbecue to be excellent and with the one I have it’s versatile for most situations. Of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been looking at other styles of smokers and barbecues!
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