Labor Day is here, and you know what that means: there is still time for some summer grilling and last minute cookouts. (Though if you’re like us, you’ll probably be cooking outside well into Fall. Because who cares about a little chilly weather?)
You’ve likely already got a good grill or barbecue setup out back that you’ve been enjoying all summer, but if you’re looking to upgrade…there’s still no better time than the present, whether you’ll be putting the set away for the winter or cooking out all summer.
Here are the grill and barbecue essentials we recommend to amp up your backyard setup in time for Labor Day, and ensure you’re ready for year-round grilling, no matter the weather.
Starting a charcoal fire can be tricky. We all have our own preferred methods – from stuffed newspapers to fire starters to lighter fluid. But we can probably all agree that a charcoal chimney is the most efficient. We choose Oklahoma Joe’s Half-Time Charcoal Starter.
This stainless-steel chimney claims to get your charcoal fire up and burning in about half the time of any other chimney, heating up twice as fast thanks to its wider, more ventilated design; more airflow equals a hotter fire.
You can use it with both briquettes and lump charcoal, and the extra-wide design holds about 100 briquettes for faster, larger fires. It’s large enough that you can even use it to create a mini portable grill to quickly sear up a steak or a burger; just place it in the grill and put the grate down, and pop the meat right over the fire in the chimney. You’ll be cooking in no time.
Bonus points: the handle design keeps things cool to the touch. A chimney is the fastest way for you to up your grilling game in no time, and this one delivers.
It’s surprising how many people get by without a good pair of barbecue gloves, but they are an absolutely essential piece of grilling gear. Any self-respecting barbecue or grilling aficionado should have a trusty pair or two handy. At the least, they’re useful for protecting your hands and forearms from the heat when reaching over the grill, but they also come handy for grabbing hot grates and tools and even briskets or hot pork when slow cooking.
Styles range from fancy synthetic gloves to silicone ones meant for handling messy meat. We recommend starting with the basics – tried and true leather gloves will cover about 85% of tasks.
We like these Steve Raichlen extra-long suede gloves. They’re made of extra thick suede leather and fabric that protects your hands from short but hot blasts of heat and extend all the way up to your elbows to ensure arm coverage. And unlike many other types of grill gloves, these are still quite dexterous – despite the thick leather build.
Another option: 932F Insulated Barbecue Gloves
You won’t need these for regular steaks, burgers or brats. But if you’re slow-cooking pulled pork, meat claws will be a lifesaver; use them to neatly and easily shred crispy, bark-encrusted meat into delicious, juicy shreds of pork – without burning your fingers. You can meat claws made from metal or from nylon or another heat-resistant plastic, like the Bear Paws.
Either one is fine; stainless steel will make quicker, sharper work, but is also more likely to cut you if grab the claws by accident. (The Bear Claws are made in America, so there’s a plus.) And let us tell you; there’s really nothing more primally satisfying than tearing juicy meat apart. Give it a shot and you’ll see what we mean.
If you’re still standing over the grill shoving that old instant read thermometer into the meat, it’s time for an upgrade. A Bluetooth-enabled meat thermometer sits at the top of any barbecue essentials, one that allows you to get the read on your meat’s internal temp and doneness instantly – but up to 100 feet away. Make that a WiFi Thermometer, and that range becomes infinite; you can keep an eye on your barbecue while running errands.
Our favorite Bluetooth thermometer is the ThermoWorks BlueDot. It’s exceedingly simple, hooks up to your phone via Bluetooth, and gives you live temperature readings streamed straight to your phone with its highly accurate temperature probe. ThermoWorks is the best in the business, and this device packs all the quality you could ask for.
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