The chinaberry tree and rock roses are in full bloom. The spring breeze carries the aroma of sage and honeysuckle. Orange-and-yellow western tanagers fly through the yard daily. Spring is in the air, summer on its way, and the barbecue beckons. But our barbecue tools are a sad hodgepodge from cheap sets that fell apart after a use or two. Patrick wants to replace the lot of them with one quality set of barbecue must-haves. I don’t want to pay too much.
Erika D’Eugenio, general manager of Great News! Discount Cookware in Pacific Beach (858-270-1582; great-news.com) recommended purchasing tools from open stock rather than in sets. “Barbeque tools are personal,” D’Eugenio explained, “and sometimes the tool sets don’t give you exactly what you want. Get in the store and feel the individual tools in your hand.”
Another tip: know what kind of grill grate is on your barbeque. “If you have a porcelain grate, it can’t always be cleaned with an abrasive brush because you will strip the porcelain and your barbeque will rust. So, know your grate. I like the Big Head rosewood brush [$12.94], and you can buy replaceable brush heads. We carry one barbecue brush for the porcelain grates [$5.94].”
And give some thought to spatulas, D’Eugenio advises. “Some spatulas have a little serration on the side, so you can come across your meat on the side to get the meat off the grill. Some spatulas are thinner at the top. You might want a different spatula for fish than you would for your burgers.” Prices on spatulas range from $12.94 to $16.94. “I like the Big Head rosewood spatula [$12.94], which is wide and has the teeth on the side.”
D’Eugenio singled out the stainless steel Oxo grilling tongs ($14.94) for recommendation.
“Flavored grilling planks are popular,” she continued ($10.94 to $11.94 for a two-pack). “We sell pecan, hickory, and cedar. They infuse the flavor of smoking without having to perform any sort of smoking onto the meat, chicken, or fish. They say they are one-time use, but if you take care of them, they can be used a few times.”
For thermometers, “I actually recommend both a probe thermometer and an instant read because sometimes you have two types of meat going at the same time. Or you might have a large cut of meat and a smaller one. I like the Maverick remote wireless meat thermometer [$59]. You can be anywhere in the house, and with the little remote it will tell you when the steaks are ready.
“We also sell little square woks that go on the grill, which are popular. With them, you can cook just about anything outside in the summer months — even stir-fry on the grill [Charcoal Companion 12-inch square grilling wok, $13.94].
“I also have a cool grilling grid by Charcoal Companion [$16.94], which is two pieces that open up and you fill the middle part with herbs and put it on the grill. You are infusing what you’re cooking with all the herbs.
“We carry some burger presses that leave the little divot at the top so you can put a little pad of butter, which they recommend for a perfect burger.” The burger presses run from $5 to $20.
At Brookstone in Fashion Valley (619-296-4091; brookstone.com), salesperson Tina suggested a grill light. “Our handle-mount grill light [$39.95] runs on batteries; you just clip it onto the grill.” The light has an automatic shut-off after six minutes.
“We sell a motorized grill brush with steam-cleaning power [$29.95],” continued Tina. “It’s also battery-operated — it spins and lets out steam to wet the grill to clean it.” The brass bristle brushes are removable for cleaning.
Rich from BBQ Depot in Clairemont Mesa (858-571-7858; bbqdepot.com) suggested a broiler basket, $22.46. “It’s a basket that you put on the grill, and you can put vegetables in it to cook. It’s metal. It looks like a basket you dump fries into for a fryer.”