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Finding the Right Accessories for the Grill and Smoker

Finding the right tools and accessories to use around the BBQ pit.

There are so many different gadgets and gizmos when it comes to the world of BBQ grilling and smoking.  I personally have a huge box of things that didn’t work out like they said on the box or the commercial they put out.  My children all think it is fun to get dad another grilling tool to make my life easier and better.  Most of those gifts end up in that box of forgotten tools.

When it comes to gifts for the pitmaster in your life, keep it simple and avoid most of the “too good to be true” tools and accessories.  So, what are the best barbecue accessories?  What grilling tools do you really need?  I’ve put together a list of items that I consider to be the essential items and some that are nice to have but aren’t imperative.  Only you can decide on what you feel you need though.  From experience I’ve found that the simplest tools are the easiest and most comfortable to use, they also tend to last longer.  Lastly, buy the best quality tools that you can afford.  It really is worth paying a little extra for tools that will last longer and do their job better than the really cheap alternatives.

Most essential tools for the BBQ pit.

Long Handled Tongs
This barbecue accessory is at the very top of the list because I believe that it’s the most useful and essential grilling tool that you’ll need.  I have two pairs.  I use one pair for flipping steaks, burgers, sausages etc.  The other pair is used to move coals, grates and other things that aren’t going to be eaten.   These long-handled tongs are great for reaching across a super hot grill or smoker to reach your food when it is time to flip it over or simply move it.

Long Handled Spatula
This barbeque tool is ideal for lifting delicate foods that would otherwise break apart when using tongs. Get one with a bent handle and a wide blade.   I also have two of these.  They are both a long-handled spatula with hardly any curve which makes it nice when reaching under another hot shelf full of food.

BBQ Fork
This is another must-have tool for beginners.  I use mine almost daily for moving pork butts and other meats around on the smoker.

Long Handled Brushes

BBQ Mop brushes
It’s a good idea to have more than one brush. Keep one brush for oiling the barbecue grill cooking surfaces only and have at least one other brush to use as a basting brush. If you’re going to grill and baste a number of different foods then it’s worth considering a different brush for each baste, as it’s sometimes difficult to wash the flavor out of the brushes. This is the one barbecue accessory that I recommend that you don’t spend a great deal of money on. No matter how well you look after the brushes, they tend not to last very long.

Oven Mitts
Ordinary kitchen mitts are fine for using with your barbecue. They’re useful for turning and removing kebabs from the grill, especially kebabs that are on metal skewers, or for picking up food that’s being grilled in foil parcels. They’re also useful for handling hot metal items such as drip pans etc. If you really want to be safe, you can buy some fireproof mitts that won’t catch fire when they come into contact with flames.

If you want to cook kebabs then this is an essential barbecue accessory. There are a number of different types but they tend to fit into two categories; long metal skewers and bamboo skewers. When you buy metal skewers make sure that they have a flat blade. Plain round blades are useless because when you try to turn them, they just spin in the food making it impossible to turn the food. Flat bladed metal skewers are ideal for chunky pieces of meat and fish as the metal conducts the heat through the center of the food, decreasing the cooking time. If the skewers don’t have a heat resistant handle, you can use mitts to pick them up with. My favorite skewers, bought in Florida several years ago, have 15″ blades and wooden handles. Care needs to be taken as wooden handles can be scorched. The second type of skewer, made from bamboo, are ideal for delicate foods that need shorter cooking times. I like to use them with Oriental type foods, they just seem to look more authentic! Bamboo skewers are cheap, they come in packs of typically 50 or 100 off and they come in a variety of sizes. My advice is to buy the longer ones for kebabs and smaller ones, cocktail stick size, for trussing-up food to seal in stuffing etc. Always remember to soak bamboo skewers for at least 30 minutes before you intend to use them, otherwise they’ll scorch or possibly burn.

Non-Essentials But Useful

BBQ Fish Basket
This was a difficult one to place as it’s a favorite barbecue accessory of mine, but it’s not essential. This tool allows you to easily move and turn fish, and other food on the grill. Find out more about BBQ Fish Baskets.

A Meat Thermometer        (see my review on internal meat thermometer)
A meat thermometer tests the internal temperature of the meat so that you can confirm that the meat’s cooked all of the way through. This is particularly important when cooking large joints of meat or whole chickens etc. If you’re the cautious type it might be worth considering a meat thermometer as an essential barbecue accessory. The most important point to remember when choosing a meat thermometer is to go for one with accuracy. An inaccurate tool can mean the difference between a successful meal and a hospital visit. A way to test the accuracy of your thermometer is to boil some water, keep it at a rolling boil, and test the temperature with you thermometer. With a new thermometer it’s also worth checking it with food. Test the internal temperature of the cooked food with your thermometer then split it open to confirm that it’s cooked inside. If it is, then fine, if not I’d advise replacing it. Do this test on a number of different types of meat to confirm to yourself that the meat thermometer is accurate.

Wire Brushes
This barbecue accessory makes cleaning your grill so much easier. It’s much easier to you clean your grill immediately after cooking. If you leave the grill for too long after you’ve finished cooking, the remains of food dry onto the rack a making cleaning a real chore. A wire brush can be used during cooking as well, to remove pieces of food that have stuck to the rack, as can often happen with fish. Metal scrapers are also a useful barbecue accessory and are used in a similar way to a wire brush. In fact, some wire brushes come complete with a scraper attached. Wire brushes can be difficult to clean, so the amount that you spend on one is you’re choice. Some people buy cheap wire brushes and use them only a few times before replacing them.

Plastic Covers
As a barbecue accessory, plastic covers are often ignored. Plastic covers are available for both gas and charcoal barbecues and they’re ideal for protecting your grill whilst in storage, or to a limited degree, against the ravages of the weather. An alternative, and cheaper type of protection is to buy some plastic sheeting and roughly cut it to a size suitable to cover your barbecue grill, then tape or tie it in place over you grill. A home-made barbecue accessory!

Other Barbecue Accessories
Other barbecue accessories that are useful include: fine wire meshes that hold small pieces of food whilst resting on the bars of the main BBQ grill, battery and electrically operated rotisserie attachments, kebab racks that enable a number of kebabs to be suspended over the barbecue grill at the same time, etc. Before buying any barbecue accessory though, consider its usefulness and ask yourself if you’re really going to use it. A barbeque accessory is only an accessory if you’ve got a use for it!!

What are your thoughts on these accessories?  Please comment below.

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Does cast iron cookware add iron to our foods?

Does that old skillet or Dutch oven add any iron to the foods we put in them?

Yes, cooking in a cast iron skillet can add significant amounts of iron to your food and into your body. In addition to eating more iron-rich foods like meats, beans, and spinach, using cast iron cookware is an easy way to boost your iron intake.

Iron is an essential nutrient for all the cells in our body. Iron’s main job is to help transport oxygen through hemoglobin in the blood and myoglobin in muscles. In order to function well, your body needs just the right amount of iron, which depends on your age and sex. A lack of iron in red blood cells leads to a condition known as iron deficiency or anemia. On the other hand, too much iron can lead to a dangerous condition called iron toxicity (link is external). Children under age three are particularly susceptible to iron toxicity, and symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, and hemorrhaging. To be on the safe side, avoid cooking foods for young children in iron pots.

Researchers have found that cooking in an iron skillet greatly increases the iron content of many foods. Acidic foods that have a higher moisture content, such as applesauce and spaghetti sauce, absorb the most iron.  Other factors that boost the iron content of foods include longer cooking time, frequent stirring, and using a newer iron skillet.

However, not all foods benefit from cooking in an iron skillet. For example, hamburger, corn tortillas, cornbread, and liver with onions didn’t absorb as much iron. This was probably due to the shorter cooking times, and the fact that they were either turned once or not at all, resulting in less contact with the iron. It’s good for cooks to be aware that that iron pots and deep-frying don’t mix. Iron can oxidize fats, causing the cooking oil to become rancid. If you want to deep-fry foods, stick with an aluminum or stainless steel pot, or better yet, try a healthier cooking method that still packs a lot of flavor like roasting, grilling, or using a marinade.

Foods cooked at home may vary in iron absorption based on the age of the skillet used and the amount of time the foods are heated. So, if you’re looking to increase your dietary iron, use a new cast iron skillet. After all, the iron in cookware is no different from the iron in our bodies — except we have much smaller amounts!

What are your thoughts on iron leaching into your foods?  Please comment below.