Erin Doman on August 19, 2015 0 Comments For many, there are only two rules when using the grill. The first is that you must never waste an active fire, even if you have to ransack your fridge for something to cook. The other rule is to always be prepared. With hundreds of pieces of grill equipment and essentials you might have seen in catalogues or on display at the market, it can be difficult to decipher what exactly you need and why. Despite infomercials and repeat advertisements, the only grilling tools required are the ones that will make your grill time easier and help you bring the food closer to the fire without actually burning yourself. Here are five essential tools for grilling and helpful tips on what to look for in your equipment. Find the Best Charcoal Grill For You 1. The Perfect Grill The importance of having the perfect grill may seem like a no-brainer for seasoned grilling professionals. But for the less advanced, finding the right outdoor cooker can be difficult. Cooking over the embers of real charcoal can give your meat and vegetables a specific searing and that smoky flavor many people crave. The varieties of each outdoor cooker vary depending on the manufacturer and size, but it all boils down to three factors you might want to look out for: Ventilation Ease of operation Size Especially for the coal area, ventilation is essential. In order to allow the ashes to fall through, your charcoal grill should have a rack that is elevated to keep the coals above the floor. This can allow them to burn more efficiently and faster, as well as increase the oxygen supply to the coals. You should also look for vents in the base and cover, which most grilling models should already have. There are several features to make your outdoor cooker easier to use. You will have to factor your budget in when deciding which features are must-haves, and which you can live without. Some of the best features for ease of operation include wheels for easier mobility, side tables, heat-resistant handles and clean ash catchers. Hinged grates, often found on the newer models, are also a great feature. The grates allow you to add coals to the fire without removing the rack and food. As far as size goes, a large grilling surface will enable you to cook more food at a time. Many prefer to have a larger surface with fewer features, rather than a smaller version packed with features. A large cooking area is great for throwing parties and get-togethers so you will be able to serve more at a time and in larger batches. A domed lid and expanded surface are also essential factors if you plan to roast large meats and whole birds. 2. Tongs with Long Handles Using a short-handled pair of tongs to flip some bacon in a small skillet indoors is ideal. However, when you are flipping dozens of sausages and steaks over a hot fire outdoors, long handles are a necessity for keeping your distance. Look for a pair of tongs with two extended, separate arms that are connected with a hinge. Many options feature a locking mechanism, which can be especially great for storage purposes or if you want to wash it in the dishwasher. It is also important to look for a pair grilling tongs that are sturdy and durable. Many are made of a plastic or lightweight aluminum that is easily bent and quick to heat. Avoid getting those types of tongs and instead look for well-constructed and hefty models. A scalloped shape at the head of the tongs is a great option because it can allow you to use the tongs for a variety of foods and purposes. There are also designs with loped or forked heads, which can also get the job done but are not ideal for grilling smaller items or ones that can easily break apart. 3. Brushes for Cleaning the Grates Do You Have the Best Grilling Tools? Just like your dishes, your grate needs to be cleaned after each use. This is essential for making those famous markings on your patties and steaks. It can also help with the taste and make cooking easier. If your grates are dirty, caked in food or have burn marks, this can affect the taste of your food and, possibly, cause delicate foods, such as vegetables and fish, to stick to the grill itself. A brush is an essential part of your grill equipment and is a tool you should use to clean after each time you fire up the coals. Look for brushes with brass or stiff bristles, preferably ones that are replaceable and detachable. You will likely bend, break and gunk up the bristles with time, so having spares and a way to replace the bristle head is a great feature. 4. Chimney Starter If you don’t want your food to smell like gasoline, it is best to stay away from lighter fluid, which can impart strange flavors into your grub. A chimney starter is cleaner, faster, better for the environment and can even be more efficient. The starters typically have a tall cylinder made of metal with holes in it and a grate for putting the charcoal in at the bottom. It is powered by convection, so when paper is at the bottom, it can ignite the coals and allow for the hot air to rise. The holes in the cylinder allow for fresh oxygen to vent through and reach the bottom to help fuel the fire. This handy tool requires nothing more than a match or lighter and some paper to get the fire going. Look for starters with a greater capacity, preferably around six quarts. 5. Extra Spatulas Every cook needs spatulas, whether you are in the kitchen or outdoors using a cooker. Depending on how often and what you grill, you will likely need at least two spatulas. Look for a model with a full tang, flexibility and a slanted but strong head. For a full tang, the metal should continue throughout the spatula and handle as one piece. This is needed to ensure your spatula is built to last. You ideally want a thin metal that is both strong and flexible. This can allow you to flip delicate fish without it breaking as well as larger burger patties without the spatula breaking. Learn to Grill Like the Professionals It can be difficult to decide what grilling tools will work best for you and your unique situation. It all depends on how often you grill, the type of grill you have and the recipes and food you plan to cook. With practice and time, you might learn other tools, tips and tricks needed to cook like the professionals, but this list of essential grill equipment can help get you started and make your experience easier.