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Ready, Set ... Grill!

Ready, Set ... Grill!

Lisa Futterman | Chicago Tribune

The weather may be cooling but don’t give up on autumn’s final s’mores, as few dishes are more satisfying than those cooked in the great outdoors.

Make sure to be prepared for gourmet grilling with a few key tools to keep everything sizzling. We made our list of must-haves, and asked a couple of experts to chime in on their favorite grilling gadgets.


Innovation truly has improved the selection of kebab skewers on the market. We love double-tined skewers for the best stability when moving from kitchen to grill to table. Pretty curved ones add grace to the plate. Choose sturdy, squared-off metal, in a range of sizes, and thread them with everything from bacon-wrapped scallops to vanilla poundcake.

Executive chef Brad Phillips of We Restaurant in the W Hotel sees the ongoing trend toward Mediterranean-style grilling as an opportunity to pop all kinds of meats, seafood and vegetables on skewers, and reinvent them Italian-style, as spiedini. He uses everything from tiny skewers for one-bite cocktail party appetizers to plate-size skewers for entrees.

“Be sure to buy metal skewers; you can keep reusing them,” he advises. “Wooden ones can burn and you have to worry about splinters. Metal is sturdier.”

Grill toppers

We’re talking about baskets, woks, grilling platters and griddles. In summer, it’s fun to bring all kinds of cooking outside. Treat your guests to a huge range of recipes by using one of the multitudes of grilltop woks or baskets available to stir-fry or sizzle smaller pieces of food over your outdoor heat source. Griddles and grill platters focus the high heat on a flat surface for fantastic fish and steak searing.

Cookbook author and grilling expert Jamie Purviance (“Weber’s Real Grilling”) was initially skeptical about using a grilling basket on top of his grill grate. “The effect you are after on the grill is searing and caramelizing—I thought if I put a pan in between the grate and the food I would miss that opportunity to develop those flavors.” But he admits he was wrong to doubt this relatively new invention. “When properly preheated, a grilling or vegetable basket makes it easy to do things that you couldn’t do otherwise,” said Purviance, citing examples like shellfish and vegetable stir-fries. “Plus, the holes in the pan allow the smoke to come through and flavor the food even more.”

Long tongs

Tongs work best for flipping most grilled items; they don’t poke holes as do forks, letting the juices run out of expensive steaks. Go for the 18-inch length; although they are double the size of indoor tongs, that distance from the heat more than makes up for their unwieldiness. Purviance actually recommends using three pairs at a time (he marks his with colored tape) for sanitation purposes: one for the charcoal, one for raw food, and one for the finished product.