The centerpiece of any BBQ is, of course, the grill. Everyone knows you need to keep it clean and keep it hot. But there are many details you can and should do before you even light it up to make it that much easier.
The first step is the cooking area in general. Some grills come with small collapsible platforms on the sides, but these are rarely enough for more than the task at hand. Placing a table or keeping a housing around the grill with ample work and space will keep you from having to run back and forth between different areas. Being able to keep all your cooking materials and utensils near the grill can make a small grill produce better results than a fancy grill without the same space since you are able to work faster and focus when you need to focus most. This workspace should also contain a natural separation between cooked and uncooked foods to avoid cross-contamination (for the benefit of everyone).
The easiest way to do this is to put a space on either side of the grill and work from laterally, this also provides you with the ability to keep the finished food next to the grill where you could serve buffet style or even just to keep an eye on it for pesky dogs or natures less appetizing additions. When setting this workspace up to be conscious of its heat conductivity, remember that stone gets very very hot (I’ve seen a grill on a gravel path melt a dog toy a few feet away)
Next, are the utensils and devices you will use with the grill. The most important of these are the tongs, tongs do not keep you from burning yourself but also provide the best possible way to move your food around. Tongs have the best grip on odd shapes and don’t punch holes into your food were the highly pressurized juices of hot meat can escape into the grill making a mess and turning your food into tough rubber. You need at least 2 sets of tongs, one for uncooked food and one for cooked food. Keep these separate and identify them with colored tape. The best-case scenario is to have different tongs for raw chicken, beef, pork, and fruits and veggies. Keep a cutting board near the grill also, this gives you an easy to clean space to keep uncooked food and lets you trim easily.
Just like the tongs and more importantly, you need multiple cutting boards. Since meats need to be cooked and can handle different temperatures when you get chicken bacteria on a piece of beef you either need to cook the beef to the point where it’s overdone or serve contaminated beef. Having a raw cutting board for each type of food and one for finished food will prevent this.
A digital read probe thermometer is also very handy, this will let you know when the meat is done without having to slice it open and release all the juices before they are ready to eat. A stainless steel grill bowl is also very handy. Pick one that is large and keep it nearby, you can use this as a garbage bowl or even as a cooking vessel for more advanced grilling techniques (but that’s a different article), you will find countless handy uses for a dedicated bowl as you grill. If you are using a charcoal grill, a chimney starter is a best and fastest way to get your grill rocket hot and ready to cook, it will also help keep the grill clean and chemical-free. Skewers are a grillers best friend, the choice between wooden and metal isn’t always easy. If you use wooden ones you won’t have hot skewers to deal with but they need a soak so they won’t burn (another use for that bowl), metal ones get real hot but you can get some with detachable clip handles and metal skewers have the benefit of coming in various shapes. The last few items you need to keep handy are a roll of heavy-duty aluminum cooking foil and some chicken wire. You can use the wire directly under foods to make it easy to carry and prevent sticking, this is especially handy for delicate foods like fish. With fish you can take it a step further and grab some planks to grill on, cedar is the way to go for my money. Make sure it’s not chemically treated and soak it before grilling, be sure to follow a recipe as plank grilling can have some unexpected results to the inexperienced. Handled properly a grilling plank can last for many applications.
No more are the times of the grill fork, paper plates, and novelty apron. You now have a checklist for having all the right equipment to grill like a pro.