Nobody knows who the first grill master was, but chances are he was wearing a bearskin and practiced his craft in a cave. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were not on the menu, though the former occupant of the bearskin might have been. We’ve come a long way since then, and, though grilling is still all about cooking food over flame, the end result of even the most basic backyard barbecue would have our innovative ancestor thinking he’d died and gone to heaven. Apart from the attire and decor, perhaps the most striking difference between grilling then and grilling today is the variety of foods you’ll find being cooked and the spectrum of things available to help you cook it.
“Thanks to all the tools and techniques available today, pretty much anything you can cook in an oven, you can cook on a grill,” says Kevin Kohlman, a modern-day Grill Master for Weber grills. “And anything you do grill cooks faster and comes out more flavorful than cooking it in an oven.”
From steaks to stir-fry, oysters to osso buco, and Danish pancakes to pizza, we’re living in the golden age of grilling. And here are some of the new tools available to help you up your grilling game.
Who Invented the Word “Barbecue”?
Nobody knows. Etymologists (word detectives) think it might be a Caribbean word barabicu—meaning “sacred fire pit.” When Europeans adopted the word, they changed it to barbacoa, which describes a framework of green wood used to cook food over hot coals.
Who Invented Charcoal?
Ellsworth B.A. Zwoyer of Pennsylvania patented a design for charcoal briquettes, in 1897. Henry Ford also made charcoal from wood scraps left over from building his cars.
Who Invented Grilling?
With the popularity of backyard barbecues skyrocketing in the 1950s, metalworker and inventor George Stephen inherited a controlling interest in the Weber Brothers Metal Spinning Company, best known as a maker of harbor buoys. He cut one in half, added a grate and legs and vents to invent the world-famous Weber grill.
$23 and up | Weber Gourmet BBQ System One of the most important aspects of grilling is where the food meets the flame and nobody has that zone covered better than Weber with their Gourmet BBQ System. It’s a dozen different types of grills, pans, grates, roasters, and more, all sold separately. These are the tools that let you expand your grilling horizons to include Korean barbecue, turkeys, roasts, and stir-fries, even salad and dessert. Don’t laugh until you’ve had grilled romaine with bleu cheese and bacon, or a milkshake made smoky and sweet with grilled fruit.
$90 | Pizzacraft Pizza Stone Grill Guests tired of the same old appetizers? Kids more into mac-and-cheese than ribeye? Surprise them all with grilled pizzas using a Pizzacraft Pizza Stone Grill. It fits inside most grills, always produces a crispy crust and cooks delicious, smoky pizzas in half the time it takes in an oven. So roll out some fresh, room temperature dough over a sprinkling of corn meal and have everyone design their own. Pre-heat the stone for twenty minutes and let the creativity begin.
Price upon request | Lynx Smart Grill It’s a party, and you’d like to be part of it, but dividing your attention between grill and guests is a sure recipe for an over-cooked meal. Lonely is the man with the tongs. But not anymore, thanks to the new Lynx Smart Grill. It’s the Internet-connected, voice-activated, stainless-steel solution to being a perfect host while producing perfect food every time. The Smart Grill asks you questions about what’s on the menu, connects to an online database to optimize time, temperature, and technique, and lets you keep track of it all via smartphone. Or it will when it launches in 2015.
$25 | Gril-Lit Automatic Grill Light Given that the light bulb was still fifty thousand years in the future, our first grill master may have been forced to cook in the dark, but you can have light when and where you want it with the Gril-Lit Automatic Grill light. Battery-powered with five super-bright light LEDs, the Gril-Lit is heat- and weather-resistant, fits most grills, is fully adjustable, turns on when you open the lid and turns off when you close it. A cave man could figure it out.
$76 | SpitJack Magnum Meat Marinade Injector Gun Spices, dry rubs, and even marinades are all fine for taste that’s skin-deep, but if you want flavor that goes right to the core, you need to inject it. The SpitJack Magnum Meat Marinade Injector Gun delivers anything from brine to Cajun sauce deep into roasts, game birds, even fish. For thinner cuts, steaks, or fillets, inject small amounts—slowly—around the edge rather than the top.
$130 | Grillbot The least fun part of grilling is cleaning the grill afterward, so let a robot do it. The three brass-bristled brushes of the battery-powered Grillbot automatically make short work of baked-on grease. Just push the start button and go join your guests.
$120 | All-Clad Stainless Steel BBQ Tool Set Truth is, you could use a sharp stick as a grilling tool and get the same results, but where’s the fun in that? If grilling is primarily a guy thing, and guys love shiny new tools, then check out the All-Clad Metalcrafters BBQ Tool Set. Housed in a smartly styled aluminum case that would look perfectly at home at a business meeting, the stainless-steel set includes a two-pronged fork, a marinade brush, locking tongs and a turner. Great gift for the griller in your life.
$40 | Mo’s Smoking Pouch Grilling with gas is convenient, but grilling with charcoal produces a smoky flavor you just can’t get any other way. Now you can have both; just fill a stainless-steel smoke screen pouch with your choice of four different flavors of wood chips (apple, cherry, maple, and bourbon barbecue) and throw it on the grill.
About $200 for the set | Williams-Sonoma Smart Tools for iPad Set The iPad has done more to raise the world’s level of culinary IQ than anything since The Joy of Cooking, and the Williams-Sonoma Smart Tools collection lets you watch cooking videos, search for recipes, listen to music, and even video chat while you cook and entertain. The three-piece set includes the Bluetooth Speaker, Kitchen Stand, and a Screen Shield to keep away the barbecue sauce.
Grilling has been a tradition of US presidents since Thomas Jefferson. Lyndon Johnson was the first president to hold a barbecue with Texas-style ribs. Noted presidential grillers also included Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and both George H. and George W. Bush.
The Right Way to Say
Grilling and barbecuing are not the same thing. Grilling is fast and hot, over a direct gas or charcoal flame at temperatures over 500 degrees. You grill steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Barbecuing uses smoldering wood to simultaneously smoke and cook the food at temperatures between 180 and 250°F. You barbecue ribs, brisket, and pork shoulder.
Tips From the Masters
Cook to temperature, not to time. Keep the lid on, it keeps the flavor in. Use tongs to turn; poking holes in the meat with a fork lets the juices out. Pay attention to the vents; the coals under the top vent will burn hotter. Pre-heat the grill and let meat warm up to room temperature before grilling. After cooking, let meat rest for five minutes before cutting; it gives juices time to expand inside and improve flavor.