By Brandon Byrd
For me, the beginning of fall is the height of grilling season. Though the daylight is getting scarce, the cooler weather makes standing over a scorching hot grill more inviting than the sultry days of summer. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a selection of my favorite grill accessories that promise to take your existing setup to new heights. Get ready to pimp your grill.Jaccard Tenderizer ($20) – Technically, the first item on our list isn’t so much a grill accessory as it is a meat accessory. If you cook a lot of steaks or chops, you owe it to yourself to shell out for a Jaccard tenderizer. It works by using 48 razor sharp blades to cut through and shorten the muscle fibers which comprise your prized piece of meat. This process is used by virtually every high end steakhouse to make their prime meats even more juicy and tender. Though it might seem counter intuitive, cutting a bunch of tiny holes in your steak actually helps keep moisture in, since the shorter muscle fibers will not contract as much during cooking and won’t wring out as many juices as they ordinarily would. And it’ll be the scariest looking thing in your kitchen.
ISI 16” Pro Tongs ($30) – Few things are sadder than watching someone try to man a grill with crappy tongs. Burning their knuckles with their stubby short ones. Flopping around with ridiculously large ones. It’s embarrassing. Don’t be that guy. These stainless steel tongs from ISI are long enough to manage a screaming hot grill without curling your arm hair but are still nimble enough to grasp small items. They’re dishwasher safe and completely disassemble with ease. Don’t be a schmuck. Get some quality tongs.A-maze-n Tube Smoker ($30) – Not everyone has the money or space for a dedicated smoker. This includes me. Enter the A-maze-n Tube Smoker – perhaps the best thirty bucks I’ve ever spent. Designed to supplement the (sometimes inadequate) smoke generated from pellet grills and smokers, this tube of drilled stainless steel will turn your grill into a bona fide smoking machine. It will produce four hours of perfect smoke off of a pound of wood pellets (which are available in tons of varieties). If you’re thinking that your wood chips and your garden variety chip-holder can compare to the Tube, you’re wrong. It’s okay… so was I. I’ve never been so glad to be so wrong. With this piece of kit (and a bit of temperature control) you can produce great barbeque, ribs, bacon, or whatever else your heart desires. And since the Tube doesn’t produce much heat on its own, you can use it to cold smoke delicate items like fish, cheese, butter, lard, or whatever else you might want to put some smoke on. The only mild downside to this unit is that it requires a blowtorch to light the pellets. Which leads me to the next item on the list…A blowtorch ($26 – $65) – Sometimes you need to start a camp fire. Or get some pellets burning in your smokerbox. Or touch up the crust on a slightly underdone part of a steak, chop, or roast. Sometimes you just need a blowtorch. An inexpensive favorite is the Iwatani torch head, which outputs 9725 BTU per hour – plenty hot for most applications. But if you want to all-out, spring for the spendier Bernzomatic TS8000 which outputs a whopping 14282 BTU per hour. You can melt aluminum in no time with that thing. Both the Iwatani and the TS8000 run off standard propane tanks, like the one that powers your Coleman camp stove. Not sure you need a torch? Abraham Maslow famously remarked that “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Well, when you’ve got a blowtorch in your hand, you’ll figure out a way to use it. For real.Grill Grates & Grate Tool ($50 – $120+) – Grill grates are a weak spot in many grilling setups. I’ve seen grates that were so thin it seemed like their only purpose was to stop the food from falling directly into the fire. Good luck getting a quality sear or nice grill marks, buddy. As much as I loved my enameled cast iron grates, I recently upgraded to Grill Grates and haven’t looked back. These interlocking grates are made of machined aluminum which can either sit atop your existing grates or altogether replace them altogether. These grates get hotter than your existing grates – about 100F hotter, according to my infrared thermometer – and produce righteous sear marks. Because they interlock, they even out the temperature of the grilling surface, reducing the differential between hot and cold spots. But apart from the even and more intense heat, perhaps the best thing about these grates is that they basically eliminate fiery flare-ups caused by dripping grease.
When you fill up your grill with fine sausages, fatty burgers, or skin-on chicken, things can flare up faster than a Kardashian without her Valtrex. Grill Grates are connected between each crossbar in the grate so juices and fat are prevented from falling directly into your fire. And if things get really nasty and fat does make it down, the grates will act as a barrier between the flame and your precious meat. And because they’re made of aluminum, they’ll never rust. If you’re going to pick up a set of Grill Grates, you should also go ahead and get the Grate Tool, a silly looking but extremely useful grill spatula that has “fingers” perfectly spaced to go between the grates. This allows you to lift delicate items such as salmon filet from underneath rather than trying to scrape them up from the side. Nice.A rotisserie attachment ($75 – $150+ depending on model) – When people go on about how great rotisserie chickens from the supermarket are, I can’t help but take pity on them. Don’t settle for soggy skin on a low-quality bird. Do it better; do it yourself. Though not all grills are designed to accommodate a rotisserie attachment, many of them are. If yours is, don’t underestimate how mesmerizing it is to watch meat revolve and baste itself in its own juices. Rotisseries aren’t just for spinning birds either. They’re also fantastic for prime rib, pork shoulders, and even babyback ribs. So bone up on your trussing skills, remember to use indirect heat, and get spinning.
Thermoworks TW8060 Two Channel Thermocouple ($69, plus more for probes) – Even if your grill has a thermometer on the hood, it’s probably lying to you. Cooking in general – and cooking protein in particular – requires that you master the application of heat. This mastery comes easier when you know, precisely, how hot your grill or smoker is, and how hot the interior of your meat is. That’s where the Thermoworks TW8060 comes in. It can provide two temperature readings at once and is accurate to within ±0.7°C. Plus, you can set an alarm to alert you when your meat reaches its desired temperature. The TW8060 is compatible with all Type-K thermocouples, so you can use a variety of probes with it. If you’re going to be using it with your grill, I recommend the High Temp Kit ($148) which includes the TW8060 along with the Armored Smokehouse Penetration and the Flexible Ceramic Fiber probes.KettlePizza ($129 – $399) – Making great Neapolitan pizza requires intense heat that your puny home oven just can’t deliver. Luckily, your grill can. KettlePizza converts your kettle grill into a blisteringly hot pizza oven that will produce quality pies with beautiful crusts in no time flat. And by “no time flat” I mean “under four minutes.” Just like God intended. It’s going to take a boatload of charcoal and/or hardwood each time you cook, and you’re going to have to preheat for a long damn while. But once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll be able to turn out pizza so good that you’ll never order delivery again. There are a wide variety of kits available, starting with the no frills Basic Kit ($129) which doesn’t include a pizza peel or a baking stone. You’re going to want those if you don’t have them already. The super-deluxe mack daddy version ($399) combines the design of the KettlePizza with the thermal mass and badassery of the Baking Steel. It also includes every bell and whistle you can think of. Sure, it’s expensive. But the results are worth every penny.
And with that, we conclude this list of my favorite grill upgrades. Think I missed something? Think one of my proposed grill-pimping-devices totally sucks? Let us know in the comments! How do you pimp your grill?