There used to be a time when a man’s backyard barbecue reputation was based on how high the flames reached and how deep the char penetrated the meat’s raw center. Those days are gone.
Lost too is the time when grilling meant just hot dogs, burgers and perhaps a steak, with green relish as the vegetarian offering. Today, the options are abundant for a lazy afternoon of gourmet grilling, wowing guests with the sear on your tofu, the crunch of your kale, or the depth of flavor on your black cod marinade. With these gadgets, you’ll look like a maestro…
Special Forces typically go into the hot zone wearing at least 60 pounds of gear. You can kit up in similar fashion with a single apron sewn with pockets for all the essentials: tongs, cloth and beer.
A plain apron in non-flammable material will do the job of catching any fat spatters, but it won’t cut the mustard entirely. To go full Zero Dark Thirty, make sure your apron carries an ‘amusing’ slogan that riffs on the comic potential of meat and butts.
Guests will not fully appreciate your status as King of the Grill unless you’re appropriately crowned. A flamboyant chef’s hat, ideally personalized, will do the trick. Failing that, a simple baseball cap will give you the look of a Southern BBQ pit-master.
Silicon BBQ Gloves
You don’t see The Rock preparing a 5,000-calorie smoothie without a pair of gloves on, so neither should you think about handling hot tongs, searing trays or sizzling racks of hot hog without something to protect your pinkies.
A pair of silicon gloves will allow you to maintain a flexible grip in temperatures where pork is already falling off the bone. Most come with the added advantage of being bright green or orange, so no one will be left in any doubt about how high you’re raising the bar.
Your guests knew what they were getting into when they handed you the tongs. You’re a maverick, a renegade. You don’t play by the rules. The first thing you should be strapping onto your hips is a six-pack beer belt, fully loaded.
As the heat rises and the sparks start flying, you’ll be ripping the tabs off these bad boys and tossing them down your throat with gusto. Try to get the more intricate parts of your grilling done before this bit.
The USDA publishes a handy list on its website of safe internal temperatures for cooked meat. Download a copy and keep it in your apron pocket, ready to brandish in the eye line of anyone who’s hanging around in your spotlight, pestering you for the next burger.
Food poisoning is no laughing matter, and the chances are that a perfunctory glance through the smoke and jab with a finger won’t give you the information you need about whether that pork shoulder is cooked through. Send guests home with a smile on their face, rather than organizing a group trip to ER, by checking each chop and cut with a digital quick-read thermometer.
BBQ Tool set
Who’s that man striding towards the smoker with grim determination in the set of his jawline, and a briefcase in one hand? That’ll be you. You’re a specialist and you bring your own tools, because they feel just the way you need in the palm of your hand, and no, nobody else can touch them.
An entry-level set, the kind you were slinging back in Middle School, should include a long-handle spatula, tongs, and a cleaning brush or scraper. You, of course, have built and personalized yours over time with kebab and corn skewers, basting brush, and chopping cleaver. That’s why the case carries stickers from North Carolina, Texas and Buenos Aires.
Your guests will know from the first bite of their rib eye that it’s a steak off your grill, but don’t leave them in any doubt. Stamp each slab with your calling card with the help of a stainless steel iron that you load up with letters, heat over the coals, then press into the meat. Keep it short, keep it simple. A hot dog is not the place to publish the first two chapters of your post-apocalyptic zombie trilogy.
There’s grilling and there’s smoking. As an aficionado of BBQ, you’ll want to be doing the latter. Yes, it takes an afternoon rather than the short window of opportunity between rain showers, but that’s why you’ve got the beer belt.
Load up a stainless steel smoker box with wood chips that you’ve soaked for at least an hour, pop it on the coals, close the lid and let the magic happen. Whether you’re using hickory, maple or apple wood, your guests will be left open-mouthed.
At one end of the BBQ spectrum there are wrinkled, curled wieners that taste of desperation. At the other are sweet, spicy or herby pork sausages that snap and sizzle, releasing intoxicating aromas into the air. You’ll want to aim for the latter.
If you can make your own burgers, you can graduate to sausages. A simple handle-turned sausage maker will funnel your pork and spice mix into a waiting sausage skin, giving you an end product that does justice to the grill. It might take a few test-runs, and you won’t really want to do this grill-side, but nothing beats turning a row of sausages that you made with your own hands.
We live in an age of kit. Kit for cycling, driving, fishing, running or even just watching TV. The outdoor grill is no exception. Fire up those coals, leave it to build with the cover down, and go get ready. There’s BBQ to master.