Somehow through the secret power of the internets, you found this blog and are taking the time to read this first sentence. Keep going. Because no matter what stage you’re at in life—experienced grilling guru or just beginning to dabble in the magical marriage of smoke and meat—you can learn a bit here. We’re going to give you some core charcoal grill accessory categories for the newbies and some new and interesting products that some of you long-time grill masters may want to add to your accessory arsenal. So let’s get started. Meat mastery awaits!
The Coal Hard Facts: Lump Charcoal
You may not think of your charcoal as a grilling “accessory,” but it is—at its very base—the foundation of every creation that will emerge from your grill. For you beginners, if you are serious about grilling and smoking meat, lump charcoal is a must, not briquettes. Lump charcoal is made from chunks of pure wood that are burned in an oxygen-deficient environment until they are little more than pieces of carbon. While similar, charcoal briquettes are made of sawdust and waste wood that is clumped together using a range of additives. These additives can impart subtle “off” flavors into lighter foods like chicken and fish. In addition, lump charcoal burns slower, lasts longer and when you shut off oxygen to the grill it will cease to burn so you can re-light it for future use. What are you looking for in quality charcoal? Less tiny pieces and more sizeable chunks about the size of a fist with some that look like actual wood; a product that does not spark uncontrollably during lighting; and something that burns hot and slow. Brands like Fogo, Cowboy, B&B and Royal Oak all produce quality charcoal. If you want to splurge, try IPPINKA Binchotan BBQ Charcoal from Kishu, Japan. Made from Japanese oak, this product is considered the highest grade of charcoal available and burns hotter and longer.
See the Light: Charcoal Lighter
When you’re ready to grill, lighting your coals is like the coin toss of a football game. It’s a necessity, but the faster you get through it the sooner you can get your meat on the grill. DO NOT use lighter fluid to start your lump charcoal. These liquid chemicals are bad for the environment and can impart a chemical taste to your food. There have been many advances in fire starting since the days of our ancestors, so don’t stay in your cave with an electric starter, kick up your flame game with some new fast-lighting gadgets. First, BBQ Dragon has taken the tried and true chimney starter to the next level and given it the coolest name: the BBQ Dragon Chimney of Insanity. A combination chimney starter and high-speed fan, this product thoroughly lights your coals in about three minutes. The Looft Lighter uses the same idea combining air and a heat source into a handheld fire wand that makes you feel like a grilling Jedi. The next generation Looft Lighter X cuts the electric cord of the original but you pay for the privilege, literally. The JJ George Torch Lighter uses a high-heat flame fueled by a can of propane, which combines the most convenient, quickest and economical lighting process of all three products.
It’s Getting Hot in Here: Thermometer
You don’t necessarily need a meat thermometer to cook chicken breasts, fish and steaks, but you bought your grill to smoke brisket, pork shoulder, whole chickens and the 20-pound turkey that’s sure to “wow” the family this Thanksgiving, didn’t you? Cooked slow (as long as 12+ hours) and low (225°-250°), these are the meat masterpieces that separate the Pit Masters from those “gas grill wannabes.” Today’s meat thermometers are not so much to prevent trichinosis, but to ensure you coax the meat to the optimum temperature so it’s not only safe to eat, but also far from dry and overcooked. With a thermometer, you can get something that’s inexpensive, but super functional like the ThermoPop or the BBQ Guru UltraQ that does almost everything but prep your meat. Want something in between that’s more affordable and combines the best of both worlds? Check out the Meater, which features a cool app that helps guide you along your way to meated bliss.
Playing with Your Food: Grilling Tool Set
Since the cuts of meat you will often be handling are larger and sometimes require flipping and turning, special heavy-duty utensils are required. The stars of your grilling set should be a solid pair of tongs and a spatula. You can buy them separately, or in sets along with a few other tools like this one from Steven-bull, which includes a grill fork. Sauce brushes, skewers, corn cob holders, cleaning brushes and more can be included and are all useful items that can enhance your grilling experience like this quality set from Crate and Barrel. And though you’ll have to purchase these separately from your utensils, grab yourself a set of gloves to keep from burning your hands when moving coals around, opening/closing a kamado grill that’s plenty hot or transferring large items like a brisket. These Steven Raichlen suede gloves are very nice and at 18 inches long provide protection all the way up to the elbow. Remember, singed arm hair neither looks nor smells good.
Eat Your Veggies: Vegetable Basket
Man cannot live by meat alone, or at least it’s not recommended by most doctors. That’s why grilling vegetables to go along with your protein is always a great idea. Grilled peppers, onions, squash, zucchini and asparagus are the usual suspects, but don’t discount avocados, cabbage, and fruits like tomatoes (technically a fruit), peaches, pineapple, bananas and more. Any griller knows the pain of watching some of those delicious morsels slip through the grates into the flames below, so a grill basket is a great way to save your food. Baskets come in a variety of shapes and sizes like this standard square from Weber or this interesting Rolling Grill Basket from BBQ Dragon that allows you to turn your vegetables by just rolling them over. Oh, and shrimp work pretty well in there, too.
Keep it Clean: Grill Cleaner
Grilling can be a messy endeavor leaving baked on pieces of meat, melted rubs and sticky sauces covering the grill. Giving the grates a good scrubbing in between bouts of grilling can keep from transferring any of this leftover char onto the next amazing delicacy you cook, which not only looks messy but can affect the flavor of your food. As far as cleaners and brushes, you’ve got plenty of options. In our opinion the shorter more rigid bristles work best such as the Kona 360, or the bristle-free Kona Safe Clean. Look around and you’ll find no shortage of cleaners including electric cleaners, steam cleaners and even robotic cleaners . Our advice is to try a few of the inexpensive versions and see which you prefer, then move up to one of the fancy devices if you so choose. Just remember, a clean grill is a happy grill.
Burn Baby Burn: Grill Side Burner
If you want to take the leap to the next level, consider installing a side burner to your grill and outdoor kitchen. A side burner allows you to cook alongside your grill without having to run back and forth to the kitchen. Prepare your side dishes like baked beans or rice, pan-fry potatoes, sauté’ vegetables for fajitas, cook bacon and heat up your sauces. The BBQGuys have a vast, and we do mean vast, array of side burners plus a toll free number or live chat web feature to have your questions answered.
Basically, barbequing, smoking and grilling all comes down to the simple elements of heat, time and smoke. All of these tools and accessories are available to make your cooking adventure easier. The primary accessory is your brain. Read and learn from the experts, try interesting recipes and techniques and get out there and practice, practice, practice. And believe us, practicing never tasted so good!