As any expert can tell you, tools don’t make the master, but they sure can help! And when it comes to grilling, Fire Master host Dylan Benoit has some BBQ accessory suggestions for how to level up your next BBQ.
What does Benoit look for when sourcing BBQ accessories? “When I’m looking at BBQ or cooking accessories, I always look for items that do a unique job, improve the quality of a job, or make a difficult and time-consuming job easier,” says the Fire Masters host.
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“For example, a metal grill basket does a job that can’t easily be done with any other apparatus, and although I can take my grill grates out and scrub them in my kitchen sink after each use, a good quality grill brush does a similar job with a fraction of the effort and mess. Conversely, I’ve never purchased a set of ‘bear claws’ or anything similar for shredding meat because I can achieve the exact same result with two forks, and I already own the forks!”
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As for insider tips, here are a couple of Benoit’s trade secrets: “Just like any time we add something new to our cooking routine, it can be unfamiliar at first but after some use and practice, we wonder how we ever lived without that item. For me, tongs are a big factor – it may sound silly to some, but if I’m cooking somewhere and the tongs are inadequate, it negatively affects my cooking experience.”
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He adds, “Much like trying to cut with a dull knife, you can often get the job done, but the enjoyment of the process is greatly diminished. Too many times I see people fumbling around with massive grill tongs that are clumsy to hold and provide no structural integrity or grip to rely on. And don’t get me started on tongs that have rubber or plastic on the tips where you grab the food! A set of 6″, 12″ and 18″ restaurant quality tongs will change your grilling experience, I promise.”
Of all these favourites, Benoit has his absolute essentials. “My top three must-have accessories are a good set of tongs, a quality thermometer and a selection of wood chips. With these three items I can tackle just about any ingredient or cooking environment,” he says.
The following 10 BBQ accessories are Benoit’s go-tos that improve his cooking techniques or the overall grilling experience – and find out his reason why.
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Good Set of Tongs
These are not the ones that come with your BBQ set. You need a set of solid 12″ stainless steel tongs from a restaurant supply store. They are cheap, reliable and also come in 6″ and 18″ for smaller jobs or when the fire is ripping hot and you need to stand back a bit!
Quality Digital Instant Read Thermometer
You may think you’re a pro and have the “feel” of the perfect medium rare steak when it’s cut ½ thick, but when you get a 2″ thick bone-in ribeye on the grill or you’re smoking a whole brisket, you’ll need a good thermometer. Set your ego aside and use precision tools when cooking. The gratification of a perfectly cooked steak is far greater than that of an over/undercooked steak that was cooked by “feel” and your dining guests will thank you!
Quality Grill Brush
This may be the most boring item on this list, but it’s arguably the most important. If your grill isn’t clean, you’re not only contaminating your new cook with flavours from your previous one, but you need clean metal grill gates to achieve the right sear, especially when high-heat grilling. There is nothing worse than a grey steak with no sear or crust! High heat, clean grill, sear then reduce the heat to finish cooking – that’s the recipe for success.
Metal Smoking Box
For those that don’t have a full-blown smoker, a metal smoking box with some wood chips is a great way to impart a touch of smoked flavour to grilled items. You’re not going to smoke a whole pork shoulder with a small grill box, but you can definitely add a new dimension of flavor to your chicken, steaks, burgers, fish and vegetables.
Selection of Wood Chips
Not all woods are created equal. Having a selection of wood chips or chunks will allow you to play around with different flavour profiles and how they interact with different proteins and vegetables.
Metal Grill Basket
One of my favourite accessories for grilling/charring cut vegetables. I leave mine on the grill with the lid down to pre-heat, then toss in vegetables that have been seasoned and lightly tossed in oil. This results in charred but still crunchy vegetables that have a fantastic grilled flavor without the risk of them falling though the grill grate.
I use a standard heat gun from the hardware store to light my charcoal. It’s a quick, reliable and relatively inexpensive way to fire up the grill that saves on time and headaches.
Basting or Sauce Brushes
Spend a little extra on high quality brushes so you don’t get as many bristles in your sauce or on your food. Also keep in mind when grilling you do not want brushes with synthetic or nylon bristles as they will melt and curl up if they get too close to the heat which will affect their performance.
Metal Baking Tray and Resting Rack
We all know the importance of resting meat once it comes off the grill, but if you put your meat directly on a plate, cutting board or tray, the underside of your item will continue to cook. Placing your meat on a rack allows airflow all around the cut, which ensures an even rest, resulting in a better, more evenly cooked piece of meat in a shorter amount of time.
Cooler Full of Frosty Beers
Because nothing goes with grilled meat like a crispy cold one!
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