GREAT GADGETS Hot Accessories for Your Grill

grillIt’s a fashion show in your own backyard. Your grill, hidden under a cover for months, is ready to strut its stuff. So don’t forget to accessorize this “hot item” as it makes its appearance on your patio runway this summer.

Grilling gadgets are more varied and plentiful than ever before. It’s heaven on earth for grill lovers in hardware stores and on websites nowadays. Gone are the grill kits with mere tongs, a burger flipper and a basting brush. Today’s selection of barbeque tools would make Tim the Toolman from the popular TV show “Home Improvement” grunt for sure. In fact, there are so many out there that the company Grillslinger has introduced its Sport Barbeque Tool Belt, described online as “a cleverly designed twist on the classic builder’s belt” to hold all the necessary tools for a great grilling adventure. Here are some accessories that will have you saying “Argh, Argh, Argh” along with the Toolman. 

Ready or Not?
All backyard chefs will agree that the trickiest part of grilling is knowing when to call it quits. Don’t we all wish our steak could shout out when it’s done to our liking? Well, it actually can, thanks to new wireless technology. Talking thermometers have stainless steel transmitter probes that send signals to a wireless monitor that you clip on your belt. A voice prompt will tell you when your entrée is “almost ready” or “ready.” Starting around $50, these gadgets can be programmed with the foods and readiness levels of your choice.

If you’re not ready to step aside and trust a talking gadget, there are other new thermometers that will do the job. There are relatively inexpensive digital thermometer forks and new color-coded, easy-to-read temperature testers as low as $12. Then there are the newer, more expensive infrared laser thermometers, used in food service and the culinary industry for years, but now affordable enough to offer consumers. Simply aim, fire the trigger and see the temperature show up on an LED display.

Great Grates
Grills are not just for slabs of meat anymore. Now a whole meal can be prepared on the grill’s surface—with no more burning or charring—with the help of a proper grate, grid or tray. Grids, typically made of steel, can have non-stick surfaces with just the right-sized holes in the bottom to both hold and thoroughly cook the right foods, and to allow the food to sear in its juices while preventing flare-ups and removing unwanted fat. There’s a grid for every food, it seems. A few examples include the Chile Roasta grill topper by Camerons and the Happy Jalapeno Grill by Texas Irons. The Barbecue Store (www.barbecue-store.com) also offers more than a dozen varieties, including wok grill toppers and specialty grids for pizzas, veggies and fish. There’s even an adjustable grid that expands from 16 to 25 inches for any size grill, and disposable grids for the chef who wants easy clean-up. 

For even more versatility, you may want to try The Grill Grate, as advertised on “The BBQ Report” (www.bbqreport.com)—a raised-rail cooking surface that sits on top of an existing grill grate. Modular plates interlock to cover part or all of your grill, and the raised rails make perfect grill marks. Then there’s the Grill Friends GrillMat, purported to be “the first and only nonstick cooking sheet designed for the outdoor grill.” Recommended for use only with indirect heat, the mat is ideal for delicate fish and sliced veggies. It is made from FDA-approved food-grade silicone.

Let There Be Light
Just like the lighting for your home, grill lights come in many options. There are halogen lights, fluorescents and LEDs. There are lamps that are battery-powered or solar-powered. There are lamps that can clip to the grill stand, grill handle or even the backyard gate. 

And gone are the days when—if you didn’t time the sunset just right—you had to fish a burger from the grill with tongs in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Now you can grab one utensil to do the job: illuminated tongs. Brought to you by today’s king of barbecue, Steven Raichlen, author of “The Barbecue Bible,” the 20-inch Ultimate Tongs have a small halogen flashlight attached to the handle to shine light directly on whatever you are turning. 

grill2Hands Off My Food!
It never fails. You place your order and the chef (or “hubby” or “Daddy” or whatever you prefer to call him) races in with a proud platter of meat and says, “I think yours is the one on the bottom. No, maybe it’s this one on the top.”

Now there are clever ways to make sure this never happens again. Grab a grill charm, marked “R” for rare, “MR” for medium rare…you get the idea. These dime-sized stainless steel charms, widely available online, look more like golf ball markers and will take the guesswork out of serving your orders. At www.grillcharms.com, pick the spicy collection with six designs of peppers that represent varying degrees of heat, or individual charms—a lady’s shoe, a dollar sign or a sailboat, to name a few. 

And if you want to feel like you’re in the Wild West, buy your own brand, now available with college logos, corporation logos, and interchangeable letters for the initials of your choice.

Groovy Grilling
No fashion show would be complete without music. To pass the time between temperature checks, get in the groove with a grillside radio. Char-Broil offers a grill light with a timer and AM/FM radio. Or splurge and buy the ultimate music grilling machine. Everybody knows George Foreman has his own moves when it comes to grilling, but now you can get down with the George Foreman iPod- and MP3-ready grill, featuring a 10-watt speaker. 

The grill: a symbol of summer, a time for family gatherings, neighborhood picnics and holiday celebrations. You can make any grill your “top model” with accessories that make outdoor cooking not only easier and more practical, but also more fun.

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