Grill & SkillLet’s be honest for a moment here: everyone likes BBQ food. No matter if you are a meat eater, or prefer veggies and mushrooms, the taste of grilled food is unique and holds a special place within each and every one of us. But it is well known that not everyone has the skill or the capacity to make a great BBQ. We at Grill & Skill beg to differ, and we do believe that anyone can be a solid grill master, with the help of reliable tools, elbow grease and a dash of patience.

There is something special about this ancient way of preparing food. You build a fire and work with raw ingredients, while everyone else is mingling around, waiting for that delicious steak that is about to be done. This kind of gathering takes us back to our roots and helps us reconnect with old friends and relatives. Making good BBQ food is not as hard as you might think, but if you arm yourself with trustworthy tools, you won’t have to worry about a thing.

So, to help you make a glorious feast, we invite you to join us on this journey of discovering the best grill equipment for your backyards. Let’s dive in!

1. Grills

Grills are the oldest way of food preparing, discovered by cavemen who wanted to make their venison taste better, and last longer. The core construction of a grill remained the same, but when it comes to finesses, a lot has changed. Nowadays, grills vary in size, fuel type, materials used, and overall capacity.

Grills, essentially, represent a fire pit (heat source) and a metallic bar system (grill) which keeps the food above the fire, where it can cook without burning. Now, because there are safety reasons to worry about, throughout the ages, we have learned how to control that fire, and how to apply various fuel sources.

When it comes to size, grills range from small tabletop models that weigh under 10 pounds, to large kamado grills made of full ceramics, sometimes weighing over a 100 pounds. Within each size group, some models utilize one of three mainstream fuel types: gas, charcoal, or electricity. Each fuel type has its advantages, but they deliver similar results. For example, electric is the least messy, charcoal adds unique aroma to the food, and gas is the most practical.

By general type, considering both size and fuel type, we can separate grills into four groups: small grills, kamados, tabletop grills and offset smokers (a combo type of grill).

1.1 Small Grills

Small GrillsIf you like to eat grilled food, but do not have a lit of room in your backyard or balcony, a small grill might just do the work. They are compact, portable, and usually come with some kind of ergonomic feature regarding storage. But one of the best features a small grill brings to the table is the ease of use.

People usually stress about things like where to store the grill, how to maintain it, will it be hard to use, etc. A small grill will provide a great entry-level learning curve, allowing you to experiment without damaging it, or even burning the food to a crisp.

The fuel types for small grill models vary. They come in all versions: charcoal, gas, and electricity. If you are having doubts about the fuel type your small grill uses, the general rule of thumb is to check your surroundings and decide accordingly:

  • Electric if you do not want exhaust gases, and do not have a lot of space
  • Gas if you prefer the convenience and like to grill outside even when it’s cold outside
  • Charcoal if you like your food to have that extra savory taste.

1.2 Kamado Grills

Kamado GrillsFor people that like to take their time, and also like to slow cook, a well-built kamado grill is the best choice. A lot of food historians around the world think that kamado cooking is the most ancient way of preparing food and that the first humans had some sort of a ceramic capsule, acting as a primitive kamado.

Kamado grill is essentially an egg-shaped cooking chamber, which utilizes the way hot air moves. The parabolic shape of these grills helps cook the food evenly at the cost of time. Some kamado recipes take over a day to prepare, while you can still use it as a regular grill.

Kamado grills are definitely among the heaviest and sturdiest out there. All models weigh over 70 pounds, with some going over 200 pounds. While not being the biggest out there, kamado grills gain all that weight because they are built of heavy-duty metal materials combined with ceramics. This material combination provides the best heat capacity and heat retention.

Every kamado out there uses charcoal or wood as fuel. Regulating temperature requires some time to master, but once you get the hang of it, you will never go back to regular cooking.

1.3 Tabletop Grills

Tabletop GrillsNow comes the grill type for people that like to cook inside or simply do not have enough space in their backyard. Tabletop grills are known for being the most user-friendly on the market, due to both their compact size and simple mechanics. As the name suggests, tabletop grills are small enough for you to use them on the kitchen or garden table, but powerful enough to grill all the food you want.

As the technology evolved, tabletop grills divided into two major groups: gas and charcoal.

Due to gas availability, people mostly opt for a propane tabletop grill. They are lighter than their charcoal counterparts, and they make less mess overall. The main advantage of a gas-powered tabletop grill is temperature control. After you connect the grill to a gas source, all you have to do to change heat intensity is to turn the regulator knobs that let more gas through or cut off the gas stream, thus changing the overall temperature of the grill.

Another nice-to-have feature of a gas grill is the ease of refueling. If by any chance you run out of gas, all you have to do is to connect another source, and you are set. With charcoal grills, refueling is a bit harder.

The other side of this coin would be charcoal tabletop grills. They are also convenient for everyday use, but they come with the problem of smoke. Now, because they are intended to handle large lumps of burning charcoal, these tabletop grills are more massive than their propane counterparts.

Charcoal tabletop grills are made for people who like that savory taste of meat which charcoal leaves behind, but they also like the convenience and compact grill sizes. The decision between gas and coal is up to your preferences.

1.4 Offset Smokers

When you think about grill meat flavor, the chances are that you are actually thinking about meat that went through an offset smoker. Favored by people who have a lot of backyard space, and who like the zesty royal flavor of meat, offset smokers are the most versatile sort of grills out there.

The key difference between an offset smoker and any other grill is in the heat source. With a designated burning chamber, offset smokers prepare the meat by indirectly heating it up. So, by feeding the fire with oxygen (through the provided vents on the body of the grill), you control the rising of temperature.

Offset smokers come in 3 significant shapes: drum, vertical, and barrel. The operating mechanism is the same, and the size you should pick solely depends on the spot you wish to install the smoker on, and storage capacity, of course. The main chamber (one where the meat goes) can be used as a regular grill because it is elevated over a smaller burning pit for direct fire exposure.

2. Griddles

If you are a fan of nicely fried food, but you do not want to go through the hassle of learning how to master the fire pit, a griddle might just be down your alley. Essentially griddles are large, flat cooking surfaces, usually heated from below by a burner. The whole idea of a griddle is to enable you to cook and roast meat and veggies, without having to think about charcoal or even exhaust gases. It is simply a more domesticated version of the grill and comes with its own ups and downs.

While there are griddle models that utilize the power of charcoal as their primary fuel, the most common ones are either gas powered or electric. Due to their compact sizes, the majority of griddles are safe for indoor use, and many families around the world use them on a daily basis.

Because they are easy to fire up and much easier to clean and maintain that standard grills, griddles excel at two jobs: making breakfast and preparing simple food for a large number of people. Imagine having a frying pan with a ten times larger cooking surface. That is the essence of a standard griddle.

Now, if we want to divide popular griddle models into groups, the best way to do it would be:

  • Outdoor – larger and more powerful models
  • Electric – practical and safe for indoor use
  • Cast Iron – the strongest and most durable material when it comes to cooking.

2.1 Outdoor Griddles

Outdoor GriddlesAmong all the griddle types out there, conventional and less so, the outdoor griddles are definitely the largest. While a smaller indoor griddle may have only one burner, their outdoor counterparts can pack up to six burners under a single cooking plate.

Now, when it comes to the practical side of things, outdoor griddles give you enough space to cook several meals at a time. These backyard appliances are designed to help you prepare food for a larger number of people, so cookouts are definitely fair game.

The features outdoor griddles pack differ from model to model, but every model has some kind of a drip tray to help you collect the excess fats from the whole cooking process. Another common thing you can find is the larger body frame that resembles a table. This way, you can cook without breaking your back, and enjoy every moment of it.

2.2 Electric Griddles

Electric GriddlesIf you cannot spare enough space in your backyard, or simply want to cook inside, electric griddles will answer your demands. More compact in size than their outdoor relatives, electric griddles are ultra-convenient due to the fact that they do not need a gas line. Instead, all you have to provide is a simple wall socket and some space on the table or the kitchen counter.

A lot of people around the world use electric griddles to make breakfast every day. A well-built griddle will help you prepare pancakes, bacon, and eggs for four people with ease, and you will not have to wash a bunch of pots and pans afterward.

Some electric griddle models are even designed to look fancy, and, when you have guests over, can play the role of entertainment. These larger models are usually made lengthy and are used right on the dining table. There are options for every type of cook out there, from simple breakfast to full “dinner and a show” parties.

2.3 Cast Iron Griddles

Cast Iron GriddlesEveryone has heard of cast iron and its magical properties. They say that a solid cast iron dish can last for centuries if maintained properly, that is. Such is the case of cast iron griddles as well. It is important to note that cast iron griddles do not come with their own heating system. They are designed to fit on top of stoves and standard burners, depending on the size and model of course.

Cast iron is a heavy material. It holds on to heat for a long time, and it changes with every use. It is a well-known fact that each cast iron pot or griddle gives off a different aroma during cooking, regardless of them being the same model, or overall make. This is because every house/kitchen uses a different set of spices, and cast iron has a way of “remembering” them.

If you decide to embark on the journey of cast iron cooking, you will have to learn about cast iron seasoning, and what benefits it brings. However, many world-famous cooks will tell you that once you go cast iron, you never go back!

3. Supplies and Equipment

A chef is as good as his gear. This statement will be true no matter where you go, and it remains true in the case of grills, kamados, and griddles. We went through some of the most popular pieces of additional equipment that grill masters use all around the world, and decided to put up a summary for you to see and decide which tools will fulfill your requirements in the best possible way.

Now, being that grills cannot exist without a reliable fuel source, we dedicated a lot of time to charcoal and temperature regulation gear. Besides that, a great piece of additional equipment that we found useful is the grill basket.

It is true that you can go fully raw, and wing everything along the way, but we are sure that learning how to use your grill properly, and equip it, will enhance the taste of the food you make by a large margin. S, let’s quickly review some of the best additional gear you can get to boost your grilling experience.

3.1 Lump Charcoals

Lump CharcoalsThinking that you can burn any type of coal under your meat is not the way to go. Why? Well, while you can technically burn whatever you want as long as it reaches the temperature needed to burn the meat, lump charcoal is designed solely for that purpose.

If you ever tasted a professionally made grill steak or burger, you have certainly noticed the aftertaste or the special smell the meat has. While many would argue that the aroma comes from the meat itself, the truth is that it actually comes from the wood that burns underneath it.

Lump charcoal is made by evaporating water and oil from wood by burning it, keeping the caloric value of wood intact. This way, the charcoal can still provide more than enough heat for you to cook, while keeping some of the aromatic characteristics from the original plant.

For example, hickory and oak are world-famous for giving the meat taste that zesty punch that everyone lies, while apple lump charcoal fits fish and chicken recipes best.

3.2 BBQ Temperature Controllers

If you decided to take upon charcoal grilling instead of gas or electricity, you would eventually have to master the art of temperature control. Charcoal fire burns the hottest, and it is controlled by allowing more or less air into the fire pit. This might sound easy, but if you do not have days to spend on learning this skill, and just want to cook, you should definitely consider getting a BBQ temperature controller for your setup.

At its core, a BBQ temperature controller consists of three main parts: the central control unit, a couple of probes that measure heat, and a system of fans (or in some cases a single fan). The whole process is based on measuring heat in the fire pit, and pinging the fans to start or stop blowing more air.

We encourage you to give this useful gimmick a try, even though it might look clunky in the beginning. It will save you a lot of time. The time you could spend cooking and flipping burgers.

3.3 Wireless Meat Thermometers for Smokers

Wireless Meat Thermometers for SmokersWhile we are on the subject of heat and temperature measuring, there must be a word about meat thermometers. What separates a good grill cook from a grill master is the way he/she determines when the meat is done and ready for serving. This “sixth sense” is achieved by years and years of practice, that’s true, but there is a shortcut for people that like good meat and that is not dedicated, grill masters.

A wireless meat thermometer for smokers (and outdoor grills) is a piece of equipment that will tell you the exact temperature of the meat you are cooking in a live feed. This is achieved by utilizing highly-enduring heat probes that are connected to the main control unit. Sets like these usually have up to 10 probes so that you can test the meat insides, outsides, and even bone heat.

Another important reason to check on the temperature is, of course, safety. If undercooked, meat can be hazardous for your health and lead to food poisoning, especially if we are talking about poultry. So, with “better safe than sorry” in mind, getting a meat thermometer is a must if you want to become a pitmaster without spending decades of learning.

3.4 Grill Baskets

Grill BasketsLet’s be real for a moment and admit that sides dishes and veggies taste infinitely better when they are properly grilled. If you do not want to take up a lot of space on the grill or griddle, you should take a look at grill baskets. These baskets are designed to give you more space on the grill by holding together every ingredient you put in.

Usually, there are two types you can find on the market: a wire net grill basket, and a plate-like basket with holes all around. No matter which type you decide to go with, from now on, you can grill mushrooms, vegetables, and even fish, using a basket with your grill.

A popular trend among the grill enthusiasts is to put skewer ingredients in a grill basket instead of skewering it. By doing this, you save a lot of time and get to cook every part of your skewer more evenly. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

4. Tips & Recipes Blog

Having a trustworthy grill in your backyard or inside your kitchen is the first step towards unlocking the godly flavors of grilled food. Standard grills will help you prepare classic meat recipes, kamados will teach you that patience translates into the flavor, and griddles will help you prepare large breakfasts while making a show out of it.

To test out your skills and equipment, we strongly encourage you to take a look at our tips on meat handling and some of the easiest, tastiest recipes that even a novice pit master can tackle. Our library of grill and meat knowledge is at your disposal, so go out and explore.

Wrap Up

There is a lot to learn about this ancient food-preparing ritual. Along the way, you will acquire a special and unique taste, and make your own adjustments and observations. No two grill masters are the same. The best and easiest way to learn how to cook using fire is to have reliable gear by your side.

People have been grilling food for millennia, and will probably continue to do so as long as we exist, so why not give it a go. Grilling is supposed to be fun and tasty at the same time. There is something special about starting a fire pit, preparing meat and generally spending time outside with your loved ones.

Happy Grilling!