Grilling seems fairly straightforward, at least compared with other cooking methods. You’ve got fire and you’ve got food. What could go wrong?
Plenty, it turns out. From running out of propane to overcooking your steak to accidentally charbroiling your hand, you’re literally playing with fire—so you shouldn’t be surprised when your dreams of hosting the perfect backyard barbecue go up in smoke.
But there is a better way: Just get your hands on the right accessories that solve these annoying grilling problems. Here are seven gadgets that’ll douse those flaming nightmares.
1. Discovering in the middle of your party that you’re low on propane
If I had a burger for every time we’ve unexpectedly run out of propane, I could probably open a restaurant. But a few years ago, as a Father’s Day gift that actually benefited the whole family, I purchased a propane gauge (Amazon.com, $14.99), which lets us know when we’re running low.
This easy-to-use and affordable gadget is attached to the tank and works by assessing its weight. Lift your 15- or 20-pound tank a few inches off the ground, and you’ll know exactly where you stand. It sure beats leaving your party to go in search of a full tank. Been there, done that.
2. Eating a little something extra with your burger
We’ve all heard horror stories about people landing in the emergency room because they swallowed a little something extra with their ribs and chicken—such as a wire bristle left behind by a grill brush. It’s all the more reason to get a bristle-less grill cleaner (The Grommet.com, $15.95), where the wires form a spiral that won’t break off.
3. Cooking the meat too long, or not long enough
My brother has three young kids, so if he gets distracted while manning the grill, you can bet your burger is going to be tougher than a hockey puck despite his best intentions to cook it medium-rare as you requested. (Sorry, Chris, if you’re reading this.) What he needs is a meat thermometer.
Brian Misko, owner of barbecue sauce and spice maker House of Q, says the one tool most backyard grillers need, hands down, is a meat thermometer: “It would be like driving without a speedometer if you didn’t have one. Stop cooking by a clock—and cook by temperature.”
Meet Meater (Meater.com, starting at $69), a wireless thermometer you stick in your steak, chicken, and other fare, syncs with your smart phone via Bluetooth to give you up-to-the-second temperature readings of your food’s interior.
Have fussy guests with demands that span from still mooing to positively blackened? Pick up a four-pack of Meater probes ($199), which allow you to cook different meats at various temperatures.
4. Spending time skewering kebabs
If you’re hosting a barbecue, chances are good you have a thousand things to do: Put drinks on ice, hose down the lawn chairs, check your condiment supplies. Amid all this, who has the time to thread meats and veggies on skewers to whip up shish kebabs? As delicious as they are, they’re a time-consuming pain in the neck. Skip the hassle and the pesky sticks, and get kebab baskets instead (Amazon.com, set of four for $18.66).
5. Groping for your grill in the dark
The best barbecues often go late into the evening, which is always fun. However, the lack of daylight can make it difficult to find your grill, let alone cook up a feast. And you probably don’t want to stand there holding a flashlight while flipping your burgers and hot dogs.
Barbecue expert and sauce maker Andy LaPointe swears by his clip-on grill light (Target, $18.99).
“During the summertime, we spend a lot of time grilling after work and into the evening hours,” he says. “A grill light is amazing and helps to ensure our late-night grilling isn’t burnt.”
6. Burning yourself on the grill
Many get burned while attempting to rearrange racks of ribs—or worse, picking up a grill pan barehanded. If this sounds familiar, you’ll understand why Bianca Shalakho at Daddy Matty’s BBQ says fireproof grill gloves are “a must.” These babies below (Amazon.com, $28.11) withstand up to 932 degrees Fahrenheit, and come with a lifetime warranty. You can use them indoors with your oven, too.
7. Waiting for the meat to marinate
Those of us who’ve hosted a last-minute cookout often find ourselves wishing we had just a little more time to marinate our meats, because, let’s be honest, bland barbecue is almost worse than no barbecue. (Almost.) To solve this problem, many of the pros keep a meat injector (Amazon.com, $125) on hand.
“My favorite grilling accessory is the Spitjack Magnum Meat Injector,” said Alex Benes, culinary director of the SoCal-based barbecue concept Wood Ranch. “It’s a great way to get flavor into a large piece of meat like a pork shoulder without marinating, which can oftentimes rob meat of its natural moisture.”