Summer means backyard grilling when more people cook outdoors than any other time of the year.
Whether inviting people over or grilling for the immediate family, there’s something to be said about eating in the open air. And having the right tools can simplify cooking meals outdoors.
“I think the right number of tools can make grilling easier and efficient,’’ said Melissa Shaw, of Grindstone, retired culinary instructor from Fayette County Career and Technical Institute in Georges Township “It makes it a little safer, too.’’
Here are some suggestions for grilling tools to have on hand:
Turner: it’s the basic tool that’s good for turning over those burgers. Shaw advised using a turner — as well all grilling tools — that can withstand high temperatures.
Tongs: Shaw reeled off a list of foods easier to pick up with tongs, including chicken, hot dogs, kielbasa and shish kabobs. Grill cooks also have better control of vegetables, such as corn on the cob and potatoes.
“If you are using tongs for vegetables, have different ones for meat to avoid cross contamination,’’ noted Shaw, who also advised taking cooked meat off the grill with a separate pair or washing tongs that handled raw meat with hot, soapy water. Also don’t place cooked meat on the same platter that handled the raw meat.
Fork: A large, strong fork allows a cook to handle large and/or heavy pieces of meat.
“If you do a brisket, use a fork to put in on, turn it over and take it off,’’ said Shaw.
Skewers: They allow cooks to make kabobs, grilled pieces of meat and vegetables.
“If you use wooden ones, they say to soak them in water before putting the meat on,’’ said Shaw. “You can put stainless steel ones right on the grill but they get very hot so make sure to use tongs to take them off.’’
Grilling gloves: They protect the cook from heat but also flexible enough to allow him or her to use grilling tools.
“If you grill a lot, it might be worth investing in a pair,’’ said Shaw. “I think they are making ones that come up higher on your arms for more protection.’’
Meat thermometer: It reads the temperature inside the meat to insure it’s properly cooked.
“You want to check the temperature of your meat, especially ground meat and chicken,’’ said Shaw. “Any kitchen meat thermometer will work. You will stick it into the meat — a probe. You don’t want it on the surface. Temperatures are 165 degrees for poultry, 145 degrees for steaks, 155 degrees for burgers and also 145 degrees for seafood. It has to read that for 15 seconds.’’
Other tools include a vegetable basket, which prevents vegetables from falling through the grates and into the flames and can be open or two sided, as well as knives, used to properly cut meat.
Shaw added, “New grills do almost everything. They come with racks and shelves that you can put food on to keep warm until you’re ready to eat.’’
Shaw also offers these tips:
“If marinating meat, I like to do it the night before in a (plastic, re-sealable storage bag). It marinates more evenly than in a bowl and there’s less mess.’’
“Clean up while the grill is still warm. Take a grill brush and go over it. If you do let it get cold, heat it up a few minutes, then shut it off and clean it.’’
And finally, take time to appreciate the fun and flavor of grilling in your backyard.
Shaw noted, “You don’t have to have a fancy grill or be a gourmet grillmaster to have a nice cook out.’’