Alton Brown Weighs In On Grill Gear

Food Network star Alton Brown is the original food geek, combining history, pop culture, and food science on his show Good Eats. We asked him about his grill gear must-haves.

Everyone is gearing
 up for grilling season. What are your top "must-have" gadgets for grilling?

Bourbon.... No, wait...tongs. Really long, spring-loaded tongs. And heavy-duty aluminum foil. I can't grill without my foil.

Do you think everyone should invest in a thermometer or is trial and error the best way to tell when your meat is done?

I believe in using a thermometer to teach yourself how to recognize the various stages of doneness for meats. Take the temp, and when it's where you want it, feel the meat. Look at it closely so that eventually you'll only need to temp big cuts that you're not sure about. The exception is chicken. Always temp chicken.

How do you feel about fish and veggie traps?

They're just that: traps.

Are there any typical household items you think can do double duty as grill gear?

I use my wife's hairdryer to kick up the fire and blow ashes off the coals. She is not happy about this, but I can't stop.

How long are your tongs? The typical tongs sold in a grill set seem to be unnecessarily long — thoughts?

This is a very personal question, but here goes: the longer the tongs, the less control you have. You may keep your hands out of the heat, but you may drop your meat in the fire. I think my set is about 8 inches, but to tell you the truth I've never measured.

We've seen you play with charcoal starters. Do you think they are worth the investment?

Absolutely. Buy 'em big and buy 2.

The age-old argument: gas vs. charcoal. Which guy are you?

I have both. Gas is great for weeknights and for cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. When I grill fish, or steak, it's charcoal or nothing.

We talk a lot about direct versus indirect heat. Can you tell us your take? What items work best with which type of heat?

I use both, and more and more these days, I go with direct heat. That said, the fattier the meat is the greater the danger of flare-ups from fat dripping on the coals. Chicken's a really good example. I tend to use the circular grate of a Weber kettle so that I can spin the grate so that the chicken pieces move on and off direct heat.

Any gadgets on the market you think grill-goers should skip altogether?

Big grill forks. No food should be poked while grilling.

What's your favorite item to grill?

Skirt steak.

Can you share a recipe with Food Republic readers?

  1. Fire a couple of quarts of chunk charcoal in a chimney starter and down to white ash coals.
  2. Dump into coal grate of grill, and smooth into even layer.
  3. Blow off ashes off with wife's hair dryer.
  4. Place two skirt steaks directly on coals for 60 seconds.
  5. Flip and cook another 60.
  6. Wrap steaks together tightly in heavy duty foil and rest 20 minutes.
  7. Slice meat thin and serve atop salad dressed with vinaigrette made of meat drippings from the foil pouch.

Any other grilling secrets you are keeping?

Now, about that bourbon.