What has grillers all fired up

Must-haves include steak brand and belt

July 28, 2004|By Jeffrey Dieter | Jeffrey Dieter,SUN STAFF

Thousands of years after humans learned to walk upright and figured out how to use fire, we harnessed the power of electricity and gas to power our indoor stoves.

And that was fun, for a while. Certainly less complicated than building a fire in the back yard. But then cooking inside became humdrum, mundane, not dangerous enough. We yearned for the savagery of throwing a raw flank of meat on an open flame. Inevitably, what we humans want, we invent. Enter the grill.

Call it a Weber, Thermadore or Dynasty, it's still a glorified pit of fire, not unlike what our ancestors grunted over a thousand years ago. Nothing could be simpler or as back-to-basics, right?

Not exactly.

The invention of the grill brought with it a plague of burning questions humans never considered before: Charcoal or gas? Mesquite or hickory for that mouthwatering, smoky flavor? Or, that age-old question that borders on a philosophical plea: to grill or not to grill for my family tonight?

It's no longer a question, really.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association estimates that 76 percent of U.S. households own a barbecue grill. That means you, your neighbor and your neighbor's neighbor are out on the deck several nights a week sizzling and searing hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and chicken breasts to the delight of anyone within smelling distance.

But barbecue grills and the foods cooked on them are not the only hot items. Grill enthusiasts have distinct needs. We're not talking about the old standby spatula, basting brush and oversized fork.

Here are the latest must-have items for the serious griller:

The Barbecue Belt. For $35 ($40 if you prefer a monogram) one can buy an adjustable belt that fits a maximum waist size of 47 and features a hook for tongs, a holder for the spatula, seasonings and most importantly, a holder for beer. (This frees at least one of your hands to shield your eyelashes and eyebrows from the rising flames.) Available online at www.redenvelope.com.

Tank Teddies. If your propane tank isn't firing you up the way it used to, maybe it's just not visually pleasing anymore. Not to worry. For $12.95 you can purchase a Tank Teddie with your choice of an American flag print, aquarium scene, chili peppers, crawfish or lobsters. Why not buy all five and dress your tank for every occasion? This item is available online at www .barbecue-store.com.

Grill+Floss. This little tool, meant to replace the old wire brush, goes for $19.99 and supposedly cleans the grill surface much as a piece of floss cleans between our teeth. Available at www.cleancurve .com.

Rootin' Tootin' Corn Holders. No shindig or hoedown is complete without corncob holders shaped like cowboy boots. A set of eight sells for $14.95 at www.howthewestwasfun.com/BBQ.htm.

Corncob Grill Basket. For grillers who think putting their ears directly on the grill is an outdoor entertaining no-no. This basket from Williams-Sonoma comfortably holds four cobs. It sells for $19.

Monogrammed Steak Brand. Here's something for grilling buffs who can't go another minute without their initials on a side of beef. Just $34.95 for double or triple initials at www.williams-sonoma.com or through the catalog at 800-541-2233.

Digital Roasting Thermometer and Timer. This puppy has all the bells and whistles your father's father never thought a meat thermometer would or should have. You can check the temperature of your food without even opening the grill lid. You don't even have to be near the grill, in fact. It's a remote thermometer with three different alarms. Available for $50 at all Williams-Sonoma retail stores.

Suede cooking gloves. Be safe and stylish as Elvis with these gloves protecting your hands from hot grates, fiery coals and hot-handled pots. The 13-inch gloves sell for $14.95 at www.amazon.com.

Meat markers. Friends and family fussing about which steak is cooked to their liking? Stamp out confusion with a set of five markers for each type of doneness -- rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well and well-done. The set is available for $6.95 at www.barbecue-store.com.

ChickCAN Beercan Chicken Rack. Why rotisserie when you can "Beercan" your chicken? All you need is your favorite can of beer and the gaping nether region of a whole chicken. The chicken might be uncomfortable with this process, but it'll be tasty. It's $9.99 at Home Depot and Lowe's stores.

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