Essential Barbecue Tools & Utensils

May 4, 2011,  Thomas Wenger
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Choosing the right tools and equipment for the right job is important. BBQ tools in general all have long handles as the flames of a wood fire or the heat radiating off coal, lava stones or gas grills is very intense. In terms of material used to manufacture those tools, nothing beats stainless steel or other similar alloys. Stainless steel is easy to clean, bacteria resistible, sturdy and does not conduct heat very well.

A good steak knife is a man’s best tool.

Apron – whether you are choosing to wear a full length apron or one from your waist down only, the apron needs to cover the knees and protect your pants and your body from fat sprinkles, ashes and similar. The apron may also reflect your personality and be the object everybody's comments - if the color is off and or the joke stitched up front of is lame you will hear it all day!

BBQ knife - as part of any quality BBQ kit or tools there usually is a knife. With a long handle, the short and usually fairly roughly serrated knife is used to cut off excess fat from a steak, a sinew that might make the meat curl during the grilling process and separate sausages if that hasn't been done in advance.

Brush - the brush is mainly used for basting and oiling of your meat during the cooking process - brushes with heat resisting hairs are important. As with everything else in the world of BBQ equipment, the brush should be at least 40cm (16 inches) long.

Cast iron pot - these are great if you are planning to boil something on top of your grill. They retain heat much better than stainless steel. They are also great to hang over a pit fire or they can be suspended on a rack into a wood fire.

Chopping board – it is always handy to have a chopping board set up next to your BBQ grill. It is invaluable for chopping herbs for a basting liquid, cutting unwanted fat of a steak, or any other small job that needs to be done just before or during the grilling process. Plastic boards are great and easy to clean.

Carving board – these are used to carve a large roast, chicken or turkey, but also whole fish and other items, and therefore need to be fairly large. They need to have a indented rim all around with a reservoir in any one of the corners, where juices that may flow out during carving can be collected. Just as the large roast is the centre piece of the dinner so must the carving board be thick, of good wood and presentable to guests.

Fork or Meat fork – in general NOT used for skewering or “spiting” up the meat, but used for aiding, helping and assisting the spatula. The fork is only poked into the meat if a heavy piece needs to be lifted from its position or for testing the how well done the meat is, as described under "Thermometer" below.

Gloves - although frowned upon by the serious BBQ chef, at times, especially when grilling for a larger party, gloves are a big help in protecting your hands and forearms from the heat of the coal or lava stones. They should be made out of wool or cotton only, polyester, plastic and other materials do not protect well against the heat.

Griddle plate – these are usually fitted on top of the regular grill/griddle, made of solid steel and are great for smaller items such as scallops, mushrooms etc. On a griddle plate sautéing can be done by adding a sauce or seasoning to the product and stirring it with a spatula.

Grill or BBQ - the debate of charcoal or gas, lava stones or metal plate is just too long to tackle! Charcoal is certainly the most flavorful of the above and gas perhaps the most convenient. Cooking on woodfire although is certainly the most romantic and the glowing coal of it, once the fire has died down, can have a very intense heat.

Rotisserie meat spit - depending on the size of roast or joint that is to be roasted, the thickness of the spit has to be determined. The attachments to the spit, the cross pieces, that can be attached through the main rod and are very important and need to be made out of a rust free material such as stainless steel. They are needed to hold the product in place, so it can not spin with the rotation of the spit. They need to be fitted with screws in order to secure them tightly onto the rod.

Rotisserie basket – these are great for fish or joints such as pork knuckles where the bone prevents an even skewering with the rotisserie spit. There are the flatter type which “wedges” the product in-between the two parts, fish or similar and tumble baskets. These are great for chicken wings, chunky vegetables and marble potatoes and similar. They are round and have a little door for to access the inside. The food just tumbles loosely in it until cooked.

Skewers & Kebabs - There are a great many varieties available, brass, stainless steel and of course wood/bamboo skewers and more. The right skewer for the right job needs to be selected. While items like mixed grill skewers and kebabs are best suited to metal skewers due to their longer cooking time, bamboo or wooden skewers are great for things like Satays, prawns and other items which have a short cooking time.

Spatula - the width of the correct spatula depends on the size of the product you are trying to grill -the wider the meat the wider the spatula. As a "serious BBQ chef" you will have an array of spatulas for the right job handy at all times. The length of the blade and the angle of the spatula are really up to the individual, but again, having the wrong piece of equipment might be a considerable discussion point during the party, when the men gather around the grill!

Steel brush – A very important tool for cleaning the grills of all the leftover burnt particles on it before and in-between dishes. Any old hardware brush will do as long there is a solid base of either steel or brass bristles and they do not come loose.

Steak knife - A good steak knife is a man’s best tool. Generally the better the meat the less likely you are in need of steak knives. Aficionados will take their knife wherever they go. Laguiole knifes from France have that kind of following.

Steak weight - The serious chef will not use weights because, while helping to speed up the cooking process, they press the juices out of the meat on the grill. The exception to this is “brick chickens”, where a brick is weighted onto the chicken during the cooking process in order to ensure the skin is getting flattened and really crispy.

Thermometer – Whether you use digital or analog probe thermometers to determine how well done a large joint of meat is, in today’s BBQ world the probe thermometer is an important tool. In the old days one used to pierce the fork into the thickest part of the meat, let it rest in there for a few seconds, remove the fork and gage the warmth of it on the skin just below our lips. This would give an indication as to how well the meat was cooked. These days, with probe thermometers this is much easier. Please also see “Roasting meat to the Desired Level” in our Techniques section.

Tongs - Probably the most important and ultimate tool in grilling and BBQ cooking, used for almost everything. Choose tongs with a good grip and strong spring and a length that suits you best. The grips are important so you have control over the tongs. Stainless steel tongs are best, while plastic coated tongs have the draw back that the plastic might get burned during grilling.

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About Author

Born in Bern, Switzerland, Thomas followed in the footsteps of his mother and entered a three-year cooking apprenticeship program and graduating it at the age of 20. Working a few short stints in a winter ski resort and a city hotel in Basel/Switzerland during the following years he took the opportunity to work in New York in 1986.

What was originally planned as a one-year experience in New York lasted three years and went on to a global career, which led him to Australia and on to Hong Kong in 1990.

For the past 15 years, Thomas has explored South East Asia and it’s cuisines and regional specialties. He worked in some of the most exciting cities in the world – Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok and his culinary style reflects the many experiences and the people he worked with.

Throughout his career, Thomas liked the challenges and diversity of hotel operations. He recently joined a Hotel & Restaurant Management school in Manila, Philippines as Senior Culinary Faculty.

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