Tag Archives: bbq

Barbecue and Grilling Equipment Buyer’s Guide

I’ve been grilling for nearly a decade now, and until I moved to a place with a lousy grill1 I did it at least 3 times a week. I figure I have over a thousand sessions in front of the grill and I’ve formed some opinions during that time. What follows is a list of equipment that I use and recommend along with some warnings on what doesn’t work. I’ll try to keep it updated and will add more as I think of it. I’ll post to the main blog when there’s an update.

I used a Weber gas grill and highly recommend them. I recently wrote about the Weber Spirit 310, however, I wrote it as a general grill buying guide so it’s a good place to start. I owned the predecessor, the Genesis Silver, which is still working today after almost a decade. Three friends bought the Spirit 310 on my recommendation and none of them have yelled at me for it, so I’m feeling pretty confident in the brand.

I’ve heard good things about Ducane and TEC, but I’ve never used them. TEC has been recommended by Steven Raichlen for its infrared cooking system that allows for much higher searing temperatures. If I was buying a grill just to do steaks or rotisserie cooking (which is ideally done with infrared heat), I’d definitely go with TEC to give me a better chance at replicating Ruth’s Chris or Boston Market.

All your utensils should be stainless steel. It’s easiest to clean and lasts forever. Iron rusts and aluminum has a low melting point and might be linked to Alzheimer’s. Doctors don’t know what Teflon causes, but I do. It causes you to be pissed off because you paid good money for a Teflon coated utensil and half the Teflon flaked off after a couple uses. Now your utensil is coated with Teflon and rust.

The number one utensil is a good set of tongs. You’ll use this more than anything else, as you need it to turn everything that isn’t a burger or fish. Never, ever use a fork to turn things! I’m sorry I yelled, but this is a critical rule. Ever see those BBQ tool sets that include a big fork? They are purposely trying to make a buck at the expense of ruining your dinner. Piercing meat lets out precious juices.

Oxo 16″ Good Grips stainless steel locking tongs

I love my Oxo Good Grips stainless steel locking tongs. I own the 12″ tongs, but I’m recommending the 16″ because 12″ is a little too short for grill work; you really don’t want your hands directly over the burners. As for the locking feature, you might not think it’s important, but I use it all the time. It makes it more compact for storing or just setting down on the side shelf of your grill.

Number 2 is the spatula, of which I own a couple. For burgers, you just want something with a long handle and a square face. As a gift, I received a Pampered Chef BBQ spatula, and I indeed feel pampered while flipping burgers.2 While I’ve never had use for its serrated edge, pointy edge, or bottle opener, those features don’t get in the way of flipping burgers.

Pampered Chef Barbecue Spatula

I would also consider this Weber spatula.

Weber BBQ Spatula

Now fish is a whole ‘nother animal and requires a guide unto itself. The short answer is to avoid fish baskets because nobody has ever designed one that will easily cook skinless fillets on a lidded grill. I will someday post a guide to grilling fish.

Grill Brushes
Every time you grill, you’re going to set your grill to high for 10 minutes and then brush off the ashes. So you need a decent grill brush. The bristles should always be brass, that’s a given. I thought I’d be clever and save money by getting one with a replaceable head, but I was too clever by half. The replacement heads have the bristles embedded in a rubber base that – surprise! – melts over high heat, so the bristles start to fall out. That’s why you need the replacement heads! Instead, buy a cheap brush with a long, wooden handle and a metal scraper on the end. I got mine at Lowes for about $6. Here are a couple that are even cheaper (they qualify for standard free shipping and no tax) and nicer looking (mine was unfinished and got grungy-looking fast):

Outset QV40 Verde Grill Brush
Outset Grill Brush

Kingsford Rosewood Grill Brushes
(this one’s a little more expensive, but it’s 18″ and rosewood, so it’s probably worth the extra buck-fiddy considering you may have it for a few years)
Kingsford Rosewood Grill Brush

Meat Thermometers
If you’re going to do a roast of some sort (and I’ve done plenty, as well as a few Thanksgiving turkeys), you need a good meat thermometer. I own the Chaney Acu-Rite Digital Instant Read Thermometer. I wanted a digital thermometer to read easier and I’m happy with my purchase; it’s served well for many years. However, I discovered early on that if you stick the thermometer in the meat while it’s on the grill, and you don’t do it so that the roast is completely blocking the heat coming from the grill, the heat will interfere with the electronics and give you a false reading. It’s probably best to take it off the grill for a few seconds to get a reading, but if that’s too much hassle just be careful to put it perpendicular to the grill grate and in the middle of the roast. I don’t know if that’s typical of digital thermometers, but if I had to buy a new one I’d probably go with the much better reviewed and slightly cheaper CDN Proaccurate Stainless Digital Thermometer. It sounds like that one takes a reading much faster than mine, which stabilizes after about 10 seconds.
CDN Digital Meat Thermometer

And lest you think there’s an exception, the ban on forks extends to those fork-thermometers. You don’t want to poke any more juice-depleting holes than you have to.

Grill Gloves
When you’re brushing that 600 degree grill grate, it’s nice to have a pair of grill gloves so your hands don’t melt. It turns out that I didn’t buy grill gloves (even though they were marketed as such), I bought welding gloves. Mine are Weldas COMFOflex gloves in bright orange. Note that these will keep your hands from burning from the heat coming off the grill or grease splatter, but if you grab on to the grate or the outside metal of the grill, you can get burned as they’re not super-insulated. They also sell food handling gloves so you can pick up a roast with your hands, but I’ve never used those before. I just rely on tongs for that; if the roast is too big for tongs, I use a roasting pan (see below).

Cutting Boards
I recommend two kinds of cutting boards. For every day chopping and food preparation, get one made of polypropylene with rubberized handles. The handles keep it from slipping on your counter top and the whole thing can be thrown in the dishwasher when you’re done.

Oneida polypropylene cutting board

However, for roasts, you really want one like I had growing up: wood with a juice channel and reservoir. Otherwise the juice/blood runs all over the place and makes a big mess. I searched around and the Mundial solid wood cutting board has all the right design marks, including non-slip rubber feet. Medium should handle your average beef and pork roasts, but they also make it in large for when you’re carving that Thanksgiving turkey or prime rib roast.

Mundial solid wood cutting board

Roasting Pans
Looking at the photographs accompanying the roast recipes offered by your grill mfr., you’d wonder why you’d ever need a roasting pan. Why, you just put the roast directly on the grill grate. And technically you can do that, but the bottom of your roast will get dry and tough and stringy, even with indirect heat. I also find that using a roasting pan for long cooking times helps keep the food from getting dried out, as you can put water in the pan to increase the humidity inside the grill. I’ve cooked a few Thanksgiving turkeys on the grill, as well as some big pork shoulders, and I was glad I used the pan.

You want to find one big enough for your larger cuts, and 16″ is about normal. You want big handles that can fit your hands while wearing oven mitts or grill gloves along with pot holders. I had a pan with hinged handles that laid flat along the sides and weren’t very big, so it was a pain to grab onto it. You want something easy to clean, either stainless or non-stick. But if you get non-stick, you want it designed so the accompanying rack isn’t scratching the coating. I found two that meet these requirements well:

Calphalon Contemporary Stainless 16-Inch Roaster with Nonstick Roasting Rack
(Currently on sale.)
Calphalon roasting pan

Circulon 16-Inch Rectangular Nonstick Roaster
(I have a couple Circulon pans and I’m a big fan. My big skillet cost almost twice what this roaster costs and I still don’t regret buying it.)
Circulon roasting pan

One of my college roommates was quite the gourmand and his advice on knives was to wait until some big department store put an expensive set of knives on clearance for $100. That’s how I got my J.A. Henckels 7 piece cutlery set, although I think I paid a bit more than $100. Whatever the cost, I’m very happy with it. It comes with a chef’s knife, carving knife, serrated utility knife, paring knife, utility scissors, sharpening steel, and a wooden block for storage. They are all used regularly. The handles feel great, the knives are sharp, the scissors are – as the Zohan would say – silky smooth. What more do you want?

Well, you might want steak knives, but I’ve never been picky on that. Just buy better meat and anything reasonably sharp with a serrated edge will cut it.

You will, however, need a carving fork. Yes, NOW you can use a fork – provided you’ve let the roast sit for 20 minutes. I’ve inherited a Cutco fork that’s over 30 years old and feels new. Go to the store and see how they feel – you want something sturdy that fits your left hand well, assuming you’re cutting with your right.

Cooking/Butcher’s Twine
Butcher’s twine is very handy for tying meat to other pieces of meat (e.g., bacon to fillet mignon, or certain acts of poultry bondage). You can buy it cheap here, but I just asked my supermarket butcher for some. Actually, I asked him where I could buy it, and he just pulled off several feet and gave it to me. I never used it all, so I imagine 370 feet will last your family for many generations.

  1. It’s a built-in Fire Magic. I’d never heard of that brand before, but apparently it’s pretty expensive. Unfortunately, it’s slow to heat and is missing critical features like a thermometer. []
  2. Many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Blade Runner. []

Single Guy Chef: Barbecue Tri-tip Roast

Since there was a request for the BBQ version of the tri-tip oven roast, here it is. (It might help you to read that recipe first.)

First, prepare the BBQ rub. I like this Carolina BBQ rub that I originally made for pulled pork. I found it works well on beef, too. The only change I made was using pure ancho chile powder instead of your garden variety chili powder. This was suggested by a couple chefs and I think it turned out well, but if you already have the regular stuff then use it. You are nothing if not practical. And lazy.

Trim the roast, and then sprinkle on the rub liberally and rub it in. Let it marry in the fridge overnight. Don’t worry, this is an acceptable union under the current law; it’s not like a man marrying a box turtle. Take the roast out half an hour before grilling so it comes to room temp.

For cooking times, follow the recommendations in your manual, esp. if it’s a Weber. My Weber manual was quite accurate, definitely more than the one for my Viking range. Like all roasts, it will be medium indirect, and it will benefit from smoke. Try mesquite. Avoid tobacco. And don’t flip it while grilling.

One problem I had while taking its temperature is that heat from the grill messed with my digital thermometer. I had to remove it from the grill while checking the temp. Of course, use a meat thermometer, not an oral or rectal one. In fact, if using either of those is even possible, your butcher has executed an elaborate ruse at your expense. Always remember: a tri-tip roast has neither a mouth nor an anus. Words to live by.

Weber Spirit 310: The Best Cheap Gas Grill You Can Buy

Update 6/30/2009: Thanks to my new roommate, I now have some serious hands-on experience with this grill. I still stand by my recommendation (and more importantly, everyone has remained happy with their purchase), but I’m amending some of my statements. See the additional text in italics.

A couple friends have asked me what cheap gas grills I recommend. This is not familiar territory, as I’m usually off dreaming about the Weber Summit. [ Weber ] [ Amazon ]

Weber Summit S-650

It’s the only grill I know of with a pull-out smoker box with it’s own burner. When you’re doing traditional slow and low barbecue and have to add wood chips every 1/2 hour, it’s a dream come true. But it’s also around $1,500 – not cheap.

If you want a cheap (around $400) gas grill that’s also high quality, you only have one choice: the Weber Spirit E-310. [ Weber ] [ Amazon ]

Weber Spirit E-310

IMHO, everything else is a poor investment. Here’s why.
Continue reading Weber Spirit 310: The Best Cheap Gas Grill You Can Buy

Crank Is Bad For Your Tank

This summer, when you fill your empty propane tank with anhydrous ammonia to make a delicious batch of methamphetamine, you could be damaging your tank! Smart meth-heads are using tanks they get from tank exchange programs like Blue Rhino. If you see a blue/green residue on your tank’s fittings, it’s time to turn it into your local tank exchange – whether it be in Riverside County or San Bernadino County – so it can blow up in some other asshole’s face. Remember, a smoldering trailer is a sad trailer. If you don’t believe me, take it from Hank Hill.

Flat Iron Steak

Flat iron steak is a new cut of beef that was invented just a few years ago. I had no idea you could invent a steak, but researchers at the University of Nebraska and University of Florida they did just that. Basically, they were studying the cheap meats you normally don’t consider, and discovered that the “top blade” roast could be made into some damn good steaks if you removed the part that resembled shoe leather. The one I bought was about 12″ x 5″ x 1″ thick, and weighed 1.3 lbs. Of course, size isn’t everything.

I first heard about flat iron while reading about restaurants in Orange County that serve Kobe beef (aka Wagyu). Then I caught Stephen Raichlen expounding on it on Barbecue University (definitely worth watching if you’re a griller like me; his books are great, too). As Raichlen explains, the flat iron is second only to filet mignon in tenderness! And it’s cheap – I paid a little only $4/lb! And yes, it tastes good.

The one I bought was about 12″ x 5″ x 1″ thick, and weighed 1.3 lbs. Of course, size isn’t everything. I grilled it with just coarse Kosher salt, ground black pepper, and olive oil. I was shooting for medium rare, but it swelled up and came out closer to rare. Some steaks are tough if not cooked enough, but like a tenderloin or ribeye, this was still tender. And the flavor was decent, too. Filet mignon is known for not being very flavorful, which is why they serve it in sizzling herb butter at Ruth’s Chris, or wrap it in bacon, or wrap it in puff pastry with foie gras and truffles (Beef Wellington). And all of those fantastic recipes are why flat iron cannot replace tenderloin in the world of fine cuisine.

I don’t think flat iron is as tasty as ribeye, but boneless ribeye is 2-3 times more expensive and obscenely fatty. Granted, that’s why it’s so tasty, but it’s horrible for you unless you’re on some ultra-low-carb diet. And even then, it should be eaten sparingly.

I also like strip steak, skirt steak, and tri-tip, but when you factor in price and fat content, it’s hard to justify any other steak over flat iron for regular eating.

Edit: I recommend cutting the steak into 2-3 smaller steaks to speed cooking. I did a whole one (almost two pounds) and it easily doubled the cooking time.