Memorial day gets summer started and that usually means the grill gets going as well. One of the key ingredients to that grill is the fire. Keep the fire burning and you can cook anything. Besides having a good fire in order to grill like a pro you need the right tools.
A grill is a good start but there are so many it can be overwhelming to decide what is right. That big question pops up. Do I use gas or charcoal? This statement won’t make it much easier on you but it really depends on what you like to cook with because the flavor comes from the drippings, not the fuel.
When those drippings hit the heat source below, the oils, sugars, and proteins burst into smoke and flame. That heat creates new complex molecules that rise in the smoke and warm air to coat the food you're grilling.
Nothing in that process relies on charcoal. That is the scientific answer so there is no bias.
If you decide to go with a charcoal grill there really isn’t that much difference between them. It boils down to size, ventilation, and ease of operation.
If you are cooking for several people, size is important. You can create an ultra-hot searing zone while leaving the other side of the grill relatively cool in order to gently finish cooking chicken breasts, burgers, or steaks to your desired level of doneness.
Look for a rack that will let the coals ventilate. It is better for the coals to be above the floor. It will allow them to burn faster and more efficiently.
If you decide gas is what you want, plan on spending a little more. All of the same rules for charcoal apply to gas but you have to talk to the store salesperson on how each of the gas grills burn -- some are quicker than the others and your food will look Cajun even of that wasn't the plan. Check how the grease will drain as it can cause flare-ups.
Some required tools of the trade are a pair of tongs. Look for ones made from two separate arms connected with a spring-loaded hinge. While a locking mechanism is nice for storage, it's by no means essential. You want your tongs to be heavy so you can pick things up without dropping them or bending the tongs. You should be able to tell by feel. Stay away from heat-proof nylon-tipped tongs. Not only do they give you less grip and less control, they also aren't really that heat-proof.
A clean grill is essential and a dedicated grill brush is a tool you will use every time you use your grill.
Spatulas that are thin and flexible are important for flipping chicken and not piercing the breasts so that you let all the juices out. It would be best to get a model with a slanted head, great flexibility, and a full tang (the metal head should continue all the way through the handle in one single piece).
Medium well done or rare. How can you tell without cutting into your meat? A thermometer is key. You want to keep your meat favorable and juicy. The best way to do that is not to have to slice it and dice it. A good thermometer will help.