Well, we did it! Spring has finally sprung and we are ready to reunite (safely) with our nearest and dearest for some good old fashioned grilling. If you’re planning to fire her up for a fun family feed sometime soon, it pays to be prepared — or should we say, pregeared. While I love to try new things, I do have a collection of tried-and-true tools that I just keep coming back to. I’ll start with my essentials, and move into some very worthwhile extras.
Essential 1: An instant read thermometer
What is it? You can check the internal temp of meat in an instant.
Why is it worth it? Quick oven and grill opens allow you to retain as much heat as possible, while understanding exactly what’s happening with your meat. Keeps you from underdone or overdone cooks, because you know what is going with your cook in real-time. Thermoworks makes the best one, hands down. It is pricey at around $80, but worth the quality.
Essential 2: Wireless Temperature Monitoring
What is it? Imagine a wireless thermometer in the truest sense and you’ve got the Meater. Yes, it literally sends WiFi or Bluetooth signals directly to your phone from your cook.
Why is it worth it? Meater is a self-contained, dual zone temperature transmitter. You can monitor internal temp and air temp, continuously, without having to open your cooker. It looks kind of like a nail, with temperature sensors on both ends to read air temp and meat temp. It also has a WiFi or Bluetooth radio built into it so there are no wires hanging out of your grill. Get the WiFi “plus” version if you have a good wifi signal at your grill.
Temperature control (Maybe Essential)
What is it? Depending on your grill you might be able to install a draft system. By running a fan to add or hold back oxygen from your coals, this device monitors your grill air temp (or grate temp) and flows air in accordingly to keep your target temp. It also monitors the internal temperature of the meat and can shut down air flow as the target temp is reached.
Why is it worth it? Okay, while this isn’t an essential, it does make things easier for long and overnight cooks. It definitely falls under the category of ‘cool’ gear, though (no pun intended). Set your air and meat target temperatures at your grill’s air temp until your cook is done. If you've got other things to do with your day this one might bump into the essential category
I’ve been using an older model “bbq guru” shown above for something like 15 years and things have definitely advanced. I bought this one directly from Fred Pirkle, their founder at a festival at a bbq festival in Maryland. It’s done a great job in competitions and in my own backyard. Eventually, this unit will need to be replaced, but I can’t let go just yet!
Another setup I've been dying to try is the Signals™ BBQ Alarm Thermometer with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth® Wireless Technology + Billows blower. If you’ve used one of these, I’d love to know how you like it in the comments below!
Your choice in a grill/smoker
At Outside Table, our sauces and seasonings are versatile enough to be used in a traditional kitchen stove configuration. However, for an outside grill and smoker setup I like to use a Big Green Egg: it’s simple, and able to nail indirect low and slow BBQ cooks as well as hot or super hot traditional cooks over charcoal. Additionally, I will often use a gas grill (gasp!) as you can’t beat the convenience. I’ve also competed with some pretty famous pit masters who stuck to side stick burners and did pretty well. While these tend to require a larger space and time commitment, pellet smokers are gaining in popularity due to the fact they let you really dial in the level of smoke. It really comes down to personal preference when it comes to your choice in an outdoor cooker. Food for thought!
So that's my gear summary. What’s your setup?