The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

March 29, 2012

Five grilling essentials

As temperatures warm, the grill beckons. You can spend as much as you want on equipment, but there are a few essentials every backyard chef should have in the arsenal.

The grill

Yes, it's obvious, but a good grill is essential to good grilling. Both charcoal and gas get the job done, and both have strengths and weaknesses, so it's a matter of personal preference which you choose.

Barbecue mitt

You're working a few inches away from fire, so invest in a good glove to protect your hand. Designs and materials vary considerably, but you should be able to manipulate your tools effectively while wearing it.


A good set of tongs with a long handle are important. A longer handle keeps your hand cooler, even if you're wearing a mitt, and it can handle the vast majority of turning needed with grilled foods. A barbecue fork? Throw it out. Piercing the food lets juices escape.


Some things just can't handle tongs (think hamburgers and many fish). So a good, long handled spatula is important. Again, a barbecue fork should not be used.

Lump charcoal

Yes, most people use briquets. But lump charcoal catches faster and doesn't have the chemical fillers and binders that keep charcoal dust in brick form. That means a cleaner burn, taste and, in my experience, less ash.

Extra Credit: Smoker

Most of what we call barbecue is, in fact, grilling. True barbecue is cooked low and slow. A smoker box attached to the grill can help coax the flavor that comes with hardwood smoke while keeping temperatures down.

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