The New Smoke

Underrated Outdoor Cooking Essentials You Need, According to Expert Grill Masters

You've got the essentials: A spatula, tongs, meat thermometer, people to cook for. Here's what the experts say you need to take your grill game to the next level.

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As somewhat of a minimalist, I try my best to keep every aspect of my life free from clutter. This includes my hobbies like hiking & camping, my kitchen, my bedroom, my Twitter feed. The list goes on. 

Admittedly, however, my minimalist tendencies can be a hindrance. To wit, grilling. I've been cooking with charcoal for over 15 years and can confidently say my list of necessities is decidedly small. Give me a grill, charcoal, lighter fluid, a spatula, and something to cook and I'll fire you up a decent meal. But lately I've been looking to grow my creature comforts when cooking outdoors, especially since grilling season is peeking anxiously around the corner. Naturally, I went to the experts.

I had one question: what are some unexpected grilling necessities (a.k.a. tangible products) people either skimp on or overlook altogether? The answers came from master griller Misty Banchero aka "Seattle Butcher's Wife" as she's known on IG, and Jonathan Fox (of the indomitable Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q in Atlanta, GA). Without further ado, let's get cookin'.

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A solid set of steel skewers

Price: $21.99
Sure, wood skewers are cheap and easy to grab, but sometimes they can burn through, singe the food, or cause your food to become stuck on them. Banchero recommends a steel set of Flafster skewers to keep the job simple, "You can easily squeeze and glide the food gently off of them. They're a great time saver."

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A silicon mat for your grill tools (or drink)

Price: $10
Easy to clean? Check. Heat-resistant? Check. Unexpected? Double check. "This OXO tool mat is supposed to be for hair. I love mine. I set it on the side of my grill and lay hot tools on top, or set my drink on top if I need a non-stick surface," says Banchero.

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An actually good apron (read: leather)

Price: $120-$210
Unlike your somewhat outdated and sauce-stained "Why are you up in my grill?" apron, a leather apron will only look better the more you use it (and it's much easier to clean). Banchero tells me, "It sounds basic but I absolutely love mine. They are from the Netherlands and weigh less than most leather aprons, so they work for grilling all year long. Good protection and a stylish, comfy feel."


Boar's Head

We’ve all had cravings for that smoky barbecue flavor. But firing up the grill at, say, lunchtime isn’t always an option. That’s why Boar’s Head’s created their new PitCraft Turkey. It’s inspired by real pit masters and slow-cooked to perfection to bring that real pit barbecue taste to the deli. Think of it as your ultimate hack for picnics, sandwiches, and more.

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A wine bottle holder that's probably more expensive than your wine

Price: $89
As far as status symbols are concerned, if you don't have a wine bottle holder crafted from a cow horn what are you even doing? According to Banchero, "It's classy and maybe even necessary when you have slippery grilling fingers. This is an easy pour wine holder that I just love."

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A one liter hand sprayer

Price: $16
Banchero states that this sprayer is "perfect for misting your meats during a long, slow and low cook." For those wondering, misting the meats will increase cooking time a bit, but depending on what you're misting them in, the process will help seal in (or add) flavor.

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A 360Âş rotating knife block

Price: $299
As someone who always forgets a knife or two after late night clean-ups, I'm enthralled by this knife block. And so is Banchero who says "I love this because it’s heavy and has strong magnets. It makes it so easy to use my knives and to put them away fast."

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British butcher twine

Price: $12
Banchero sums this one up nicely: "This high quality twine is perfect for roasts and pinwheels at the grill. It’s the best."

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Only the best type of charcoal

Price: $13
There are a ton of charcoals to choose from, so let's hear from Fox about his top choice: "I've found B&B Lump Hickory Charcoal adds the most flavor, burns clean, and burns both hotter and longer for a great sear—especially if I wind up filling my grill up more than once. The charcoal you are using is just as important as the quality of the item you are grilling, so I go with B&B."

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A small heat laser to get the coals going

Price: $100
Bundle this with the cow horn bottle holder and rule the 'Q forever. Fox breaks it down. "Your time is valuable, so when starting that fire you definitely don't want to use lighter fluid. And you could use a chimney to start your charcoal, but I prefer the Looftlighter to really get things going. It uses super heated air to get your charcoal lit within 60 seconds. And if you want to go all out, the Looftlighter X is a portable, rechargeable powerhouse. No fluids, no paper or chimneys, just add your charcoal and light."

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A throne (chair) fit for a grill master

Price: $300
Paying over $50 for a portable chair can seem, admittedly, unnecessary. But seeing as though I've easily gone through ~$450 worth of crappy portable chairs, the investment is sound. Fox tells me "The YETI Hondo Camp Chair is one comfortable seat. It's well built, allowing you to sit back and relax in style, and it comes complete with a drink holder. It also quickly folds up for easy storage. Time to grow up from those cheap camping chairs, this chair will keep you comfortable well after your fire has burned out."

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An extremely portable cooler

Price: $200
Of course you need a cooler at your cookout, but when your weekend is limited to just a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday, make sure you're maximizing your time cooking and not carrying. Fox loves the Roadie 24 from YETI. "This hard cooler makes a great personal cooler. Not too big, not too small—it's just right to keep you stocked for that cook. This new size allows you to store your wine—or any other similar sized bottle—and still hold enough cans for you and your companions. It's easy to carry and store, and if you are gonna cook (and clean up), this is your cooler."

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A koozie you didn't get from a wedding or gift basket

Price: $30
Having a drawer or basket full of neoprene koozies is great...for guests. But if you're on the grill all afternoon, you need something with a little more tech baked into it. That's where YETI's Colster comes into play. According to Fox, this is "The only koozie you'll need. It can be the hottest day on record, no shade, and your can will be cold for hours. There's even a slim and tallboy Colster for the different styles of cans out there. You need these in your life."

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Cups that aren't single-use plastic

Price: $20
Realistically, it's almost impossible to supply an entire BBQ with cups that aren't single-use plastic. But you can get a good start with these YETI tumblers recommended by Fox: "The 10oz Lowballs are perfect for your cocktail or enjoying that wine, these cups are great for keeping drinks cold while being very durable, at a very good price."

Misty Banchero has been called "one of the most influential women in the world of grilling" and all it takes is one look at her Instagram, @SeattleButchersWife, to find out why. She's also married to Angelo Banchero, who runs the wholesale butcher shop, Mondo & Sons. So, yeah, this family knows a thing or two about cookin'. You can also check her out on Twitter @seattlebutcherswife.
Jonathan Fox is a self-taught BBQ expert who runs the Atlanta staple Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q with his twin brother Justin. If you're ever in the greater ATL area, definitely make a stop.
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