Hot gifts for the grill

It doesn’t matter if it’s meat, fruit or vegetables — everything tastes better hot off the grill. When it comes to outfitting our “outdoor kitchens”, there are plenty of gadgets and tools on the market to make the job easier (and tastier too!) If you’re shopping for a special someone in your life (or looking to treat yourself) here are some ideas you won’t want to pass up:

Basting bottle. Keep your hands at a safe distance while basting your meat, or use it to oil your grill. The Basting Bottle ($16.00, Pampered Chef) has a heat-resistant, removable head and bottle with measuring gradations. Simply fill it with your favourite oil or marinade and rub-a-dub-dub!

Steak buttons. They’re small versions of meat thermometers designed to let you cook steaks to order. How small are they? The Button Thermometers ($12.50 for a set of four) from Lee Valley have faces that are only one inch in diameter. Don’t worry, they’re still big enough for the only measurements you need — rare, medium and well done.

Digital BBQ thermometer. Need to keep a close eye on the temperature of your grill but you’ve got food cooking in the house or guests to attend to? These handy gadgets give you precise measurements — and you don’t even have to be nearby. For example, the Fireworks Digital Thermometer ($49.99, Home Depot) lets you program the right level of “doneness” for meat, and you can check the status of your dinner from up to 100 feet away. (But you don’t have to go all out — there are barbeque thermometers available in just about every price range, depending on the brand and features.)

Corn holders. Be ready for corn on the cob season! When it comes to holders, look for something that’s sturdy and easy to clean (especially if they can go in the dishwasher). Try the Corn Forks from Lee Valley, for example ($8.50 per dozen).

Skewers. Tired of having your meat and veggies spin around when you try to rotate your skewers? With an easy-to-grip round handle, these Double-Prong Skewers from Lee Valley have two sharp-tipped prongs for threading food. A package of six costs just $8.95.

Bear Paws. Need to move a roast, ham or chicken? They’re called bear paws for a reason. The sharp “claws” let you easily grip and lift even slippery meats. (Available at Ontario Gas BBQ, $14.99).

Marinade injector. Get your marinade right into the meat with one of these syringe-like tools. Models like the Monster marinade injector ($7.99, Canadian Tire) have twelve holes to evenly distribute marinade, and you can throw them in the dishwasher when you’re done. The Signature Marinade Turbocharger (Ontario Gas BBQs, $29.99) has tiny stainless steel needles to penetrate meat and quickly boost flavour.

Beer can (and chicken) holder. Believe it or not, a can of your favourite brew adds some wonderful flavour to a roasted chicken. However, getting them both to stay upright can be a bit of a trick. An inexpensive holder like the Beer Can Chicken Roaster ($9.99, Canadian Tire) holds the can in place and keeps the chicken standing tall — all while collecting the juices to add more flavour.

Fuel indicator. If you’ve ever run out of gas in the middle of entertaining, you’ll appreciate the Magnetic Propane Tank Gauge (Lee Valley, $6.95). The magnetic strip changes colour when you run water over it to show you just how much fuel is left.

Handle light . The party doesn’t have to stop once the sun starts to go down. Use an attachable and adjustable light like the Universal LED Q-Lite Handle Light ($22.99) to keep on eye on your grub. (Available at Home Depot and other retailers). Most models use LED lights so they’re long-lasting, and they’re heat- and water-proof as well.

Pizza pans and stones. The Cast Iron Barbecue Pizza Pan and Tray Set ($59.99, Home Hardware) may just be the ideal pan for a perfectly grilled pizza (even if it comes from the freezer). The perforated pan allows air to circulate to ensure even cooking, and set the set comes with a bamboo pizza peel for easy prep and serving.

Another option: enjoy restaurant style baking with a Deluxe Composite Pizza And Grill Stone ($26.99, Home Depot). The grilling stone is double-sided — use either flat or ridged side — and features a wire support for easy lifting. The set includes a wooden peel to transfer the pizza from grill to table.

Barbeque mitt. What’s unique about this specially-designed BBQ Mitt from Pampered Chef ($17.50) is its split finger design. The mitt looks like it’s made for someone with extra digits, but it’s handy for grasping barbeque tools while keeping hands safe and protected.

Insulated gloves. Sometimes a mitt doesn’t offer the dexterity or easy-to-clean surface you need to get hands on with your food. Try these Insulated Food Gloves (Ontario Gas BBQ, $16.99) — it allows you easily remove that bear can chicken or hold meat steady for cutting or shredding without letting you take the heat.

Extra-large flippers. Sometimes you just need a bigger tool. The Weber Fish Turner ($24.99, Ontario Gas BBQ) has a seven-inch wide head to make turning whole fish, fillets or steaks a snap. In contrast, the Weber Large Turner ($19.99, Ontario Gas BBQ) has an extra-long head instead. Both tools will come in handy in the kitchen too for casseroles or grilled sandwiches.

Vegetable basket. We’re always told to eat more vegetables — and which won’t be a problem when they come off the grill. A good vegetable pan like the Weber Vegetable Basket ($29.99, Ontario Gas BBQ) or the Non-Stick Grill Basket ($14.99, Canadian Tire) is a must-have item for any outdoor chef. (You can also use it as a wok for diced meats too — not to mention shrimp, scallops and other tasty morsels that would fall through the grill).

Barbeque tool sets. What could be better than all the tools you need to serve up a delicious meal? A case that neatly stores all of them together. There are a variety of kits on the market ranging $40 – $60 (for 16 or 19 piece kits) that include the basics like a spatula, fork, tongs, brush, skewers and corn holders — all with in a handy storage case. (For an example, see the 19-piece Stainless Steel Barbecue Set with Case from Canadian Tire, $39.99). The best part? They’re easy to pack and take along to the park, cottage or camping.

Flavourizer bars. Don’t lose the extra flavour along with the drippings. These long, trough-like bars sit on your grill to catch the drippings from your meat — allowing those tasty juices to re-circulate into the air to infuse your burgers and steaks. You can find these handy tools from retailers who sell grills — just make sure to get the correct ones for your model or buy a “universal” version. Prices can range from $40 to $120, depending on the number of bars in the set and the material from which they are made. (See Home Depot for examples).

Outdoor prep centres. You’ve moved your living room outdoors for the summer — but you’re still running back and forth to the kitchen to chop, cut and clean. These units turn your patio into an outdoor kitchen with a sink (complete with plumbing hook-up), cutting board, towel bar and room for other accessories or condiments. These units won’t come cheap, but they’re the ultimate prep station for cooks who truly want to move outdoors for the season.

Spices and mixes. Still shopping for the cook who has everything? You can’t go wrong with consumable items like seasoning mixes, marinades or steak rubs. Seasonings are available for just about everything you can put on the grill — especially for tasty vegetables and grilled fruits.

If you’re not sure what to get, opt for versatility. Dip mixes make for easy appetizers, whether it’s a creamy dip or a spicy salsa, but they can also be used in cream-based sauces. Some fruit dip mixes can also be folded into whipped cream and cream cheese to top a light summer dessert. Salad dressings can also serve double duty as marinades.

You don’t have to look very far to find these products– grocery stores carry them, but for something a little “higher end” try gift shops, kitchen stores or through companies such as Epicure Selections. You can also make your own mixes in decorated jars for a hostess gift.

Smokers. You don’t have to invest in a smoker to add some flavour to your favourite meats. Smaller accessories like the Grill Kicker ($7.99, Ontario Gas BBQ) — which looks like a beer can with holes in the top — and the Smoker Tube ($14.99, Ontario Gas BBQ) can be used directly on the grill. Refill cartridges and pellets are available so you can switch up the flavours which options like apple, oak, pecan, sugar maple and mesquite .

Branding irons. Leave your mark or send a message with a branding iron for the BBQ. (For example, try the Cattleman’s Brand, $69.99/kit plus brands available online from Ontario Gas BBQs). Brand your initials on the steak, label your meat “m” for medium or “w” for well done, or include a special message like “happy birthday” or “best dad”.

Barbeque brush. And when you’re done, how about a hand with the clean up? The Grill Daddy (The Shopping Channel, $24.95) features a barbeque brush with a built-in water reservoir. When the water meets your warm grill, the result is a steam brush that gets the grease off your grill (without the need for harsh cleaning chemicals).

Updated November 2012. Please note prices and links are subject to change.

Photo © Catherine Yeulet