Paul Stephen: 7 gadgets to up your grilling game

Paul Stephen StarNews Media

America’s most popular grilling occasion is the Fourth of July, followed by Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.

This statistic comes as no surprise to John and Claudia Ortiz, who’ve owned and operated The Grill House Company in Wilmington, North Carolina, for the past 23 years. The shop’s business peaks in the weeks running up to the Fourth, Claudia Ortiz said. But our balmy beach climate backs up another statistic from the same trade organization: 60 percent of Americans use their grills year-round.

Ortiz knows better than most just how huge this industry is. Each new year is met with a wave of gadgets and gizmos designed to improve the outdoor cookery experience, and trimming the fat from the lean has become something of a shop specialty.

“We go to product shows every year and see hundreds of items,” Ortiz said. “Deciding what to exclude is just as important as choosing what to include in our inventory.”

Several widgets have made the cut in recent seasons, and Ortiz pointed out some of her favorites during a recent visit to the store.

1. Bacon Grilling Rack

Details: This device from Charcoal Companion provides a stainless surface to drape sizzling bacon over with a trough to keep the fat from flaring up on the flames below. Price: $19.95.

2. Flexible Skewers

Details: Outset’s latest development provides 29 inches if skewer length — far more than the average skewer — that can be coiled to best utilize the available surface area. Price: $14.95.

3. Pork Claws

Details: Broil King and several other manufacturers have solved the pulled pork problem with these shredders that protect tender fingers from searing swine. Price: $18.95.

4. TipTopTemp

Details: This temperature regulator attaches with a silicone seal to automatically adjust air flow in order to maintain a constant heat level. Price: $24.95.

5. RediCheck Remote Cooking Thermometer

Details: A digital probe keeps an eye on the grill and wirelessly transmits a signal to your pocket when the desired doneness is achieved. Price: $84.95.

6. Pepper Roasting Racks

Details: Multiple manufacturers produce an item designed to keep stuffed peppers upright, and GrillPro’s version comes in stainless steel. Price: $13.95.

7. Brushtech Double Helix BBQ Brush

Details: Some cooks are concerned about potentially dangerous cleaning bristles attaching themselves to food, and this product removes that risk entirely with a bristle-free design. Price: $12.95-15.95, depending on handle length.

Contact (Wilmington, N.C.) StarNews writer Paul Stephen at