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How to Grill

Grilling Equipment and Tools

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Grilling is a great form of cooking because, in addition to its great-tasting food, it's a fairly uncomplicated process. You don't need a lot of special equipment, high-voltage power outlets, or high-end pots and pans to get started.

In this section, we'll talk about the grilling equipment and grilling tools you'll want to begin.

The first piece of equipment that you'll need is the grill.

The Grill

If you don't already own a grill, you'll want to take the answers to the following questions into consideration before you buy:

  • Where you will be grilling?

  • What kinds and quantities of food will you be cooking?

  • Do you plan to grill year-round?

  • What's your budget?

You'll also want to be clear on your taste preferences, namely where you stand on the smoky (charcoal-grilled) vs. subtle (gas-grilled) flavor debate. We can't offer any advice on this issue -- it's strictly between you and your tastebuds. We can tell you that even if you choose a gas grill, you can still accent your recipes with smoky rubs.

Hibachi grill is a type of portable charcoal grill.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
This tiny hibachi is a
single's training grill.

Small, portable charcoal grills like hibachis or small picnic grills are probably fine for occasional grilling, smaller cuts of meat, and fewer mouths to feed.

For larger cuts of meat, bigger groups of people, and year-round grilling, a large covered grill is worth the expense. There are two basic types: covered cookers (charcoal) and gas grills.

Covered cookers are those familiar kettle-shaped or rectangular grills that you see everywhere from city balconies to country porches. This versatile covered grill lets you roast, steam, smoke, or cook whole meals in any season of the year. Draft controls on the lid and in the base help control the temperature. Closing the dampers reduces the heat; opening them increases it.

When the grill is covered, heat is reflected off the inside. It cooks the food evenly and keeps it moist. When grilling without the cover, the coals are hotter since added circulation promotes their burning.

Gas grills are a popular method for grilling.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Gas grills are becoming more
sophisticated and more popular.

Gas grills are becoming more popular and more sophisticated and can do all the things a covered charcoal grill can -- except burn charcoal. This type of covered grill offers more convenience -- fast starts, accurate heat control, even cooking, easy year-round use, and less labor-intensive and messy clean up.

Gas flames heat a bed of lava rock or ceramic coals -- no charcoal is required -- to provide the cooking power. Fat from the meat drips onto the lava rocks or coals and produces smoke for a grilled flavor. Hickory or fruitwood chips can be used to create more of the smoky taste associated with charcoal grilling.

Once you choose the grill that's right for you, you'll want to make sure that you have the basic tools and accessories to get out there and start grilling.

Tools & Accessories

Apart from the grill, there are very few tools used in the grilling process. But there are a few essentials that keep barbecuing safe and the results more consistent.

Long-handled utensils, such as tongs, basting brushes, and spatulas, are necessary for getting foods on and off the hot grill rack, for basting and turning. Actually, two sets of tongs are a good idea, so you can use one for food and the other for moving the hot coals around. Buy them with loops or hooks so you can hang them within reach.

Meat thermometers are helpful when grilling.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
For safety, use a meat thermometer
to test for doneness.

Grilling tongs are a great grilling tool.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Long-handled tools make grilling
safer and more convenient.

Meat thermometers are the safest way to judge the doneness of grilled meats and poultry. Some may be inserted prior to grilling. Most are instant-read. They give an accurate reading within seconds of insertion, but they are not heatproof and can't be left in the meat during grilling.

Heavy-duty mitts safeguard your hands and forearms and prevent burns. Never grill without them.

Metal or disposable foil drip pans placed beneath grilling meats prevent flare-ups. The pan should be 1-1/2 inches deep and extend about 3 inches beyond either end of the meat. The juices that collect in the drip pan may be used for a sauce or gravy. Always bring drippings to a boil before using.

Water spritzers, household plastic spray bottles filled with water, or water pistols come in handy for quenching flare-ups when grilling with charcoal. Do not use water with a gas grill.

Hinged wire baskets help when grilling vegetables or grilling seafood.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Hinged wire baskets are great for
seafood and vegetables.

Disposable foil drip pans help alter flare-ups.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Disposable foil drip pans help keep
flare-ups and clean up under control.

Hinged wire baskets, made specifically for use on the grill, are designed to hold delicate foods like fish, shellfish, and mushrooms, which can stick and break when turned with a spatula. The hinged basket protects them and really speeds up the process of turning small foods individually.

Grill toppers are perforated metal plates you can put on top of the grid to cook vegetables and other small pieces of food that might fall through the grid. Always spray toppers with nonstick cooking spray and preheat before adding the food. Grill woks and grill skillets are similar products made with sides so you can toss and stir-fry on the grill.

Rib racks help provide extra space when grilling.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Rib racks maximize grilling area.

Grill toppers help keep small food like grilled vegetables from falling into the grill.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Toppers like this vegetable grate keep
small foods from falling through the grid.

Rib racks increase the grill's cooking capacity by standing slabs of ribs at an angle to the heat source.

Bamboo skewers are good for seafood kabobs or vegetable kabobs when grilling.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Soak bamboo skewers to prevent burning.

Skewers are indispensable for kabobs and come in either metal or bamboo and in a variety of lengths. Bamboo skewers must be soaked in water at least 20 minutes before grilling to prevent them from burning.

Aluminum foil is the grill cook's best friend. Vegetables can be enclosed in aluminum foil packed before placing them directly on the coals or on the grid to cook. To ensure even cooking without any leakage, use the Drugstore Wrap technique.

The Drugstore Wrap Technique

Place the food in the center of an oblong piece of heavy-duty foil, leaving at least a 2-inch border around the food.

Bring the 2 long sides together above the food; fold down in a series of locked folds, allowing for heat circulation and expansion. Fold the short ends up and over again. Crimp closed to seal.

Aluminum foil helps food cook on the grill.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Fold the short ends and crimp to seal.

Aluminum foil helps food cook on the grill.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
First fold the 2 long sides together.

Grill brushes are the tools you will use more than once at every grilling session, so don't skimp on the quality. It is the most effective utensil for cleaning the grid and removing burned on, stuck-on food.

Grill brushes help you keep your grill clean.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Clean the grid with a wire brush.

There are many styles available, but most feature a long wooden handle and a brush made of brass bristles. They usually have a scraper at the end, as well.

Check your owner's manual for specific cleaning instructions for your grill.

Once your gear is ready, you're ready to learn a few grilling techniques. Let us show you how to grill safely. Next, we're going to cover everything you'd want to know about fire and heat.

Whether it's checking the temperature, or lighting your fire, click to the next section to find out all the right grilling moves.