As the weather gets warmer and you want to show off your grill skills, you’ll naturally want to enhance your setup so you can serve a crowd and have fun with the menu. Luckily, jazzing up your outdoor cooking space doesn’t have to require a full-scale kitchen buildout (as dreamy as that sounds). A few small tweaks and you’ll be well on your way to pitmaster status.
- Invest in New Grill Tools — Grilling is like any other art in that you’re going to do your very best work when you have top-notch implements. And far too many of us rock the old, worn-out grill brush and tongs long after they’re still in respectable shape. Upgrading to some high-quality new grill tools can help ensure that you have everything you need to flip, grab and clean over a hot surface without worrying about burning your hands.
- Set Up a Prep Surface — By far, the best thing you can do to make your grilling area more functional is to equip it with some sort of prep surface. Whether that means constructing an outdoor countertop or tossing up a folding table is entirely up to you (and your budget). A prep surface will help you lay out all your food pre- and post-grill and give you a space to rest your grill tools, sauces, spices and oven mitts so they’re easily accessible as you’re flipping.
- Focus on Lighting — If you plan to grill into the evening — and, if the weather’s nice, why not? — make sure the grilling area is well- You can achieve this by hanging bistro lights, installing solar overhead lights or, in moments of desperation, rocking a headlamp to light up your workspace. Poor lighting is quite literally a recipe for a grilling disaster and can put you at risk of burning yourself. It can also result in over- or under-cooked meat.
- Check The Weather Beforehand — In an ideal world, you want a beautiful, not-to-hot but not-to-chilly day to bust out the grill and get cooking. If rain or inclement weather is in the distance, you might consider moving your grill to a covered area. However rolling the grill into the garage or another enclosed area isn’t safe and can lead to dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. So, what do you do? Always check the weather beforehand to make sure it’s a good day to go out and grill. If not, stick to indoor cooking and reschedule any BBQ plans for another day.
- Have a Cooler or Fridge Nearby — The cooler or patio fridge is the alfresco chef’s best friend. Not only does it keep your drink cold, which you’ll need for long afternoons of grilling, but it can also be used for safely storing marinated meat, veggies and more so you don’t have to keep running in and out of the house. Many savvy barbecue pros even use the cooler as their go-to spot for resting meat after it has spent the whole day in the smoker.
- Keep Your Fuel Nearby — Whether you’re an open-fire kind of chef or are a huge fan of gas, pellets or charcoal, you need to make sure you have some kind of weather-proof storage solution nearby for your fuel. Precipitation and humidity can wreak havoc on your pellets or charcoal, so you always want to make sure you store them in a covered bin in a cool, dry place. However, you always want to keep them close just in case you need to top off the fire quickly.
- Invest in a Few Outdoor Trays —In your collection of outdoor entertaining essentials, make sure you have some serving trays. Trays can hold multiple platters, sauces, spices and tools, so you don’t have to make as many trips in and out of the house. Just make sure you don’t overload the trays, as this can increase your risk of tripping and dropping your delicious food everywhere!
- Get the Tunes Going — Every good grill session is made better by some amazing background music. Invest in a portable Bluetooth speaker or, if you want to get fancy, consider installing a permanent outdoor sound system. Just make sure to be mindful of the neighbors and don’t crank up the music if it’s going to distract you from the important task at hand!
- Set Up Anti-Fatigue Mats — For as enjoyable as it can be, grilling is also hard work that can require hours of standing on your feet over a hot surface. To make long grilling or smoking sessions a bit more bearable, consider setting up thick anti-fatigue mats — preferably ones that are fire- and heat-resistant — in your work zone so you don’t get as tired during longer sessions. Be sure to choose ones that are heavy-duty and designed for outdoor use. Make sure to place them a few inches away from the grill stand so heat doesn’t transfer.
- Set Up a Chair Nearby — Need a rest? Make sure you’ve got a comfy spot to take a seat in between long periods of grilling. Whether it be some high-quality outdoor lounge furniture or a simple folding chair from the camping pile, if you’ve got a spot to rest your body and your drink, you’ll be much happier doing your job.
The key to succeeding in any hobby or endeavor is to make it enjoyable every step of the way. The fact of the matter is that you’re going to do your best grilling work if you’ve got a setup that works for you. Investing in a few high-quality tools, setting up a roomy prep station and making the environment an enjoyable place to spend time will help ensure that you always want to get out and grill when the weather is warm!