Leave The Gimmicks On The Shelf
It seems like every week there's a new barbecue accessory invented to make your grilling easier, faster or better. But which should you buy and what's best left on the shelf? There's a gadget for everything that you could ever wish for, and why? It's a fact that most barbecue cooking is carried out by the male members of the family and it's usually 'dad' that takes command. So every Christmas, birthday or Fathers Day his family are on the search for presents for him. And what magically appears in the grilling tool section of practically every store? You've guessed it, the newest, best ever, ultimate barbecue accessory! Now, it looks good, promises to be the most useful gadget ever, it's nicely packaged and it's at just the right price, and so, it's bought. 'Dad' receives the present, takes it out of the packaging, reads the instructions and wants to use it this very minute! So the barbecue is fired-up, the food's prepared and the brand new best ever barbecue accessory is wielded for the very first time!! But, in the majority of cases it just doesn't live up to expectations. It's too awkward to use, or it takes too long to do what it's supposed to do. More likely than not a much simpler tool that's been used for years does a much better job. The new grilling tool is consigned to the Box full of other barbecue accessory presents.
So, what are the best barbecue accessories? What grilling tools do you really need? I've put together a list of items that I consider to be the essential items and some that are nice to have but aren't imperative. Only you can decide on what you feel you need though. From experience I've found that the simplest tools are the easiest and most comfortable to use, they also tend to last longer. Lastly, buy the best quality tools that you can afford. It really is worth paying a little extra for tools that will last longer and do their job better than the really cheap alternatives.
Long Handled Tongs
This barbecue accessory is at the very top of the list because I believe that it's the most useful and essential grilling tool that you'll need. I have two pairs. I use one pair for flipping steaks, burgers, sausages etc. The other pair is used to move coals, grates and other things that aren't going to be eaten.
Long Handled Spatula
This barbeque tool is ideal for lifting delicate foods that would otherwise break apart when using tongs. Get one with a bent handle and a wide blade. The wide blade allows you to get right under the food without some overhanging and possibly breaking off.
Long Handled Brushes
It's a good idea to have more than one brush. Keep one brush for oiling the barbecue grill cooking surfaces only and have at least one other brush to use as a basting brush. If you're going to grill and baste a number of different foods then it's worth considering a different brush for each baste, as it's sometimes difficult to wash the flavour out of the brushes. This is the one barbecue accessory that I recommend that you don't spend a great deal of money on. No matter how well you look after the brushes, they tend not to last very long.
Ordinary kitchen mitts are fine for using with your barbecue. They're useful for turning and removing kebabs from the grill, especially kebabs that are on metal skewers, or for picking up food that's being grilled in foil parcels. They're also useful for handling hot metal items such as drip pans etc. If you really want to be safe, you can buy some fireproof mitts that won't catch fire when they come into contact with flames.
If you want to cook kebabs then this is an essential barbecue accessory. There are a number of different types but they tend to fit into two categories; long metal skewers and bamboo skewers. When you buy metal skewers make sure that they have a flat blade. Plain round blades are useless because when you try to turn them, they just spin in the food making it impossible to turn the food. Flat bladed metal skewers are ideal for chunky pieces of meat and fish as the metal conducts the heat through the centre of the food, decreasing the cooking time. If the skewers don't have a heat resistant handle, you can use mitts to pick them up with. My favourite skewers, bought in Florida several years ago, have 15" blades and wooden handles. Care needs to be taken as wooden handles can be scorched. The second type of skewer, made from bamboo, are ideal for delicate foods that need shorter cooking times. I like to use them with Oriental type foods, they just seem to look more authentic! Bamboo skewers are cheap, they come in packs of typically 50 or 100 off and they come in a variety of sizes. My advice is to buy the longer ones for kebabs and smaller ones, cocktail stick size, for trussing-up food to seal in stuffings etc. Always remember to soak bamboo skewers for at least 30 minutes before you intend to use them, otherwise they'll scorch or possibly burn.
BBQ Fish Basket
This was a difficult one to place as it's a favourite barbecue accessory of mine, but it's not essential. This tool allows you to easily move and turn fish, and other food on the grill. Find out more about BBQ Fish Baskets.
A Meat Thermometer
A meat thermometer tests the internal temperature of the meat so that you can confirm that the meat's cooked all of the way through. This is particularly important when cooking large joints of meat or whole chickens etc. If you're the cautious type it might be worth considering a meat thermometer as an essential barbecue accessory. The most important point to remember when choosing a meat thermometer is to go for one with accuracy. An inaccurate tool can mean the difference between a successgul meal and a hospital visit. A way to test the accuracy of your thermometer is to boil some water, keep it at a rolling boil, and test the temperature with you thermometer. With a new thermometer it's also worth checking it with food. Test the internal temperature of the cooked food with your thermometer then split it open to confirm that it's cooked inside. If it is, then fine, if not I'd advise replacing it. Do this test on a number of different types of meat to confirm to yourself that the meat thermometer is accurate.
This barbecue accessory makes cleaning your grill so much easier. It's much easier to you clean your grill immediately after cooking. If you leave the grill for too long after you've finished cooking, the remains of food dry onto the rack a making cleaning a real chore. A wire brush can be used during cooking as well, to remove pieces of food that have stuck to the rack, as can often happen with fish. Metal scrapers are also a useful barbecue accessory and are used in a similar way to a wire brush. In fact, some wire brushes come complete with a scraper attached. Wire brushes can be difficult to clean, so the amount that you spend on one is you're choice. Some people buy cheap wire brushes and use them only a few times before replacing them.
As a barbecue accessory, plastic covers are often ignored. Plastic covers are available for both gas and charcoal barbecues and they're ideal for protecting your grill whilst in storage, or to a limited degree, against the ravages of the weather. An alternative, and cheaper type of protection is to buy some plastic sheeting and roughly cut it to a size suitable to cover your barbecue grill, then tape or tie it in place over you grill. A home-made barbecue accessory!
Other Barbecue Accessories
Other barbecue accessories that are useful include: fine wire meshes that hold small pieces of food whilst resting on the bars of the main bbq grill, battery and electrically operated rotisserie attachments, kebab racks that enable a number of kebabs to be suspended over the barbecue grill at the same time, etc. Before buying any barbecue accessory though, consider its usefulness and ask yourself if you're really going to use it. A bartbacue accessory is only an accessory if you've got a use for it!!