Summer weather means grills across the country are being uncovered and put to good use... but even if you like your steaks and burgers rare, how can you make sure your next cookout is a job well done? Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen recommend the following tools and grills for the best backyard barbecues:
Grill Wizard BBQ Brush: $10.99 at www.bbq-tools.com
Traditional wire bristle brushes are pretty useless because after just a few uses, the bristles become worn down. The Grill Wizard may look unusual, but it's incredibly effective because they are no brass bristles to bend, break, or clog with unwanted grease and grime. Instead, this brush comes equipped with two large woven mesh stainless steel "scrubbie" pads that are detachable, washable, and replaceable.
Grate Chef Grill Wipes: $3.49 for a pack of six at www.barbecue-store.com
Every parent knows how valuable baby wipes are. Now, you can clean your dirty grill grates (and prevent food from sticking) with these handy disposable, vegetable-oil towelettes. Just hold them with a pair of long-handled tongs and wipe the hot grate to remove burnt-on gunk. The oil leaves the grates nicely slicked so even fish won't stick.
The Original Grill Gauge: $13.99 at www.outdoorcooking.com
Love your gas grill but hate running out of gas in the middle of dinner? An inexpensive propane level indicator hooks onto a standard 20-gallon propane tank and lets you know how much gas is left. Our favorite models looks like the gas gauge on your car. You hook the indicator to the collar of the tank; when you lift the tank three inches off the ground it registers the gas level by weight.
Grill Life Leather Grill Gloves: $13.99 (for pair) at www.acehardwareoutlet.com
Worried about singeing the hair on your hands and forearms when it's time to turn chicken on the grill? You need a sturdy pair of flame-resistant grill gloves. You want something comfortable (forget about silicone, which causes hands to sweat and limits dexterity). Remember you need to work those grill tongs! And forget treated cotton - it catches fire too easily. We like leather gloves, preferably something long enough (our favorites are 18 inches long) to cover your arms, too.
Thermoworks Super-Fast Thermapen: $85 at www.thermoworks.com
Tired of overcooked steaks? Worry about underdone chicken? Forget about nicking food with a knife and peeking in. Instead, invest in an instant-read thermometer and you'll never ruin another roast. Our favorite model is super-fast (it registers the correct temperature in 5 seconds). At $85, it seems expensive (it's the Ferrari of thermometers), but if it saves you from ruining a few dinners, it quickly pays for itself.
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Bar-B-Chef Texas Charcoal Barbecue On Cart: $699 at bbqgalore.com
The Rolls-Royce of charcoal grills (and the test kitchen's overall top choice). It's certainly not your father's charcoal grill. This huge charcoal grills boasts nearly 600 sq. inches of cooking space and has many of the same features that make gas grills so popular (hinged lid, side tables, built-in thermometer). Plus, it solves the biggest problem with charcoal grills - the difficulty in regulating the fire. With gas grills, you turn the dials up or down. On most charcoal grills, you need to let fire die down or add more coals. But this novel grill has an adjustable charcoal rack that allows you to move the fire closer to the food - or away from the food. A door to the charcoal rack makes tending the fire - even for hours - easy.
Weber Spirit E-310 Gas Grill: $499 at www.weberstuff.com
The best gas grill for the money. All the features you need; without the useless bells and whistles that drive up cost on other fancy grills. Three burners give you maximum flexibility whether searing steaks on high or barbecuing brisket on low for hours. Cooking surface is ample 424 square inches and the thermometer in the lid reads real temperatures. Weber grills have excellent fat draining system with V-shaped bars that channel grease into drainage tray and prevent flare-ups.
Sanyo Smokeless Electric Indoor Grill: $39.95 at cooking.com
The best indoor grill (good for apartment dwellers, boaters, and rainy days, too). Many indoor grills require hard-to-find fondue fuel or denatured alcohol. Others are designed to sit atop stovetop burns and cause a lot of smoke. Electric countertop units make the most sense. Of the models we tested, this one most closely mimicked the heat of an outdoor grill and produced the least amount of smoke due to the basin you must fill with water before cooking.
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