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Weekend Warrior: Upgrade your grill station

By Bob Payne
For Steamboat Homefinder
Minor to major improvements to your grill station can enliven a backyard (Photo by Getty Images)

Upgrading an outdoor grill station can be as satisfying as hanging with your favorite crowd, long-handled tongs in one hand, cold drink in the other, while the prime cuts begin to sizzle. Here are a few suggestions to get you started, all helping to enhance the smoky aromas happily associated with grilling season.

Add a grill light

Anyone who has ever tried to grill in the dark, which usually happens only once, knows how valuable a grill light can be. A top-quality light, often integrated into a home’s low-voltage landscape lighting system, will probably require an electrician. But you can install a perfectly adequate model yourself. Many grill lights use AAA batteries and cost $20 – $30. Among lights to consider are those by Grillinator, Kosin, and Zeust. Look for LED bulbs, a durable case that will resist weather and high grill heat, a means of adjustment that allows light to be focused on any part of the grilling surface, and a way of attaching the light that will work with your grill (most clamp onto the front handle).

Use the right thermometer

For outdoor chefs who have depended on guesswork, the touch test, or an analog thermometer to know when a piece of beef, pork, or poultry has reached the right internal temperature, it may be time to upgrade to digital. Not only are digital meat thermometers extremely accurate, but the most sophisticated models, such as ThermoPro’s wireless thermometer made specifically for grilling, can remain in the meat while it is cooking. Not only does it mean you don’t have to lift the grill lid to check on doneness, but you can lounge on the patio, mobile receiver in hand, and wait for the beep to let you know dinner is ready.

Erect a canopy

The most effective way to protect a backyard chef from a little summer rain or too much sun is with a gazebo-like grill canopy. All are easy to assemble, but features to look for are sturdy steel construction, built-in LED lights, attached shelves and storage hooks, and a two-tiered canvas canopy that lets smoke escape through the top and increases the canopy’s stability should a breeze blow up. It’s not a bad idea to bolster breeze management with weighted plates or sandbags that secure to the canopy legs and keep the structure from blowing into a neighbor’s yard.

Pull up a table

They go by many names to which the word “table” is amended: console, buffet, serving, prep, bar, grill. But while they might have slightly different purposes, the one constant is that almost any outdoor cooking area can benefit by having a small table conveniently nearby. Pieces that are 36” high are the best for cooking prep. Look for a table made of hardwood or another weather-resistant material. Some grill tables, meant for camping and tailgating, are foldable and are designed to have a portable grill sit atop them. Others accommodate an ice chest stowed below. And most are easy enough to assemble that any backyard griller need only spend an hour wearing a different hat.

Procure a pizza oven

You can shell out thousands for a stand-alone outdoor pizza oven. Or you can spend a fraction of that for a grill-top alternative that produces a crust just as crispy. Portable, compact grill-top ovens, such as those produced by Zenvida, are essentially metal boxes that can boost the grill temperature up to 750°F, which is what all the best pizza chefs demand. There are plenty of models for use with charcoal and gas, but to fit properly they typically require at least a three-burner grill and a suitably large grill area. So do some measuring before you make a purchase. If the oven doesn’t include a pizza stone, you’ll want to get that separately, as well as a pizza peel, which is an oversize spatula that lets people know you aren’t just flipping burgers.

 


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