It's a sad fact: 8 out of 10 Americans are grilling without the proper equipment. Every day people are walking out into their backyards and trying to cook food outdoors in a completely half-assed fashion. It's a wonder they don't injure themselves, or set the house on fire, or that any food gets cooked at all.
Okay, I totally made up that statistic. Probably most of us have the basics -- but there are some key grilling tools that can make the difference between grilled hassle and grilled bliss. Take a gander at our checklist and see if there's something you could add to your own arsenal for deliciousness.
Grilling mitt -- You know those cute little quilted potholders can catch fire from a stray spark, right? Pick up a grilling mitt, something that goes part-way up your arm so you can really reach in there without worrying about burning off your arm hair. Even better than a fancy-schmancy grilling mitt: a welding glove! Seriously, grab one from the hardware store and you'll be able to move hot coals around by hand. Not that we recommend that.
Long-handled tongs -- I've been foolish and tried to turn meat on the grill with my dinky salad tongs. Ouch! As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to grilling tongs, the longer the handle, the better. It's not just about keeping your arms protected. They also keep you from leaning your whole face over the grill. I like the kind with a wood or plastic hand grip.
Long-handled spatula -- See above about protecting your arms and eyebrows.
Grill brush -- Clean that grill! You don't want last weekend's carbon remains on today's burgers, do you? I like the ones with a long handle because gunk flies while you clean. This one has a removable head so you can replace the scrubber without buying a whole new brush.
Chimney starter -- Grilling with briquettes or lump coal? Don't make your food taste like lighter fluid. Yeech! Light your fire using a chimney starter. They're just as easy to use as lighter fluid. Oh yeah, and make sure you have matches, a lighter, something like that.
Grill pan -- A grill pan can keep your grilled goodies warm when the timing for everything else is slightly out of your control (where's Bonnie with that potato salad?). Here's a fancy one from Circulon with a rack that lets juices drain.
Basting brush -- Again, look for a long handle. Don't you love all the silicone options out there? I used to hate getting basting brush hairs in my food.
Towel -- Keep one on hand for sauce spills ... or sweat. Whatever. Just make sure it stays far away from the fire.
A beer -- Maybe just one beer that you make last a long time. After all, drinking and fire can get dangerous, right? But c'mon, what else are you going to do with your other hand while you're turning over the corn cobs with your long-handled tongs?
Image via stevendepolo/Flickr