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A barbecue is more than just the quintessential warm-weather meal. It’s also an event that enables us to gather with our loved ones, chow down, and make a toast to the summer and to one another.
Even though all you really need is a gas or charcoal grill and some fresh ingredients, there’s a lot more that goes into hosting or attending a great barbecue. This gear, all recommended by Wirecutter’s experts, will make your next BBQ the envy of the neighborhood.
GrillPro 98121 Square Wok Topper (about $17 at the time of publishing)
The GrillPro is perfect for grilling veggies, shrimp, or anything else small or skinny—looking at you, asparagus—that might otherwise slide through the grill grates. I’ve got two of these, and the first one is four years old and still in fine shape. Just spray it with a little olive oil before cooking and you’re set. I prefer this one to models with long handles because I can close the grill lid completely over it.
ThermoWorks ThermoPop ($35 at the time of publishing)
Even the most experienced home chef can get nervous when cooking for groups. The last thing you want to do is serve your friends or family a dried-out, overcooked piece of BBQ chicken—or, worse, completely raw poultry. Enter the ThermoWorks ThermoPop. This is by far the best instant-read thermometer I’ve used. It provides a very quick reading on a large, backlit display (ideal for nighttime grilling). With this simple gadget, I’m able to confidently cook food to the desired temperature, without having to slice open meat to check for doneness.
—Sebastian Compagnucci, senior SEO manager
Pandex Melamine 4-piece Mixing Bowl Set with Lids ($15 at the time of publishing)
For serious mixing at home, our kitchen experts recommend these sets from Cuisinart and Pyrex. But for bringing food to a BBQ, I like these Pandex bowls, which I snagged from my local Costco last year right before summer. They come in four sizes, so I can put different side salads, grilled veggies, or chips into each one. The bright colors bring a nice pop to a backyard party, and the lids keep all the critters away.
Tru Blu Steel Stainless Steel Cups ($20 for five at the time of publishing)
We bring a stack of six or so stainless steel cups in our picnic bags whenever we’re having a park hang. Juice, water, wine, whatever—our first motivation is to avoid plastic-cup waste, and our second is to avoid single-use drink containers. These are unbreakable, stackable, obviously reusable, and clandestine, if the contents of your drink make discretion important. You can get these cups at Amazon. We got ours in-store at Daiso, a local home-goods chain. But you can also find versions at restaurant-supply stores and other online retailers, such as Hudson Essentials.
Coleman Oversized Quad Chair with Cooler ($40 at the time of publishing) REI Co-Op Camp Chair ($40 at the time of publishing)
No one wants to stand through an hours-long barbecue—knees swelling, ankles screaming—as the merciless summer sun beats down upon them. No, you and your pals would rather sit, cold drinks in hand, in the enveloping embrace of a comfy chair. We recommend several portable outdoor chairs that are perfect for a cookout. For grownups, I use the Coleman Oversized Quad Chair with Cooler. It’s big, durable, comfortable, and easy to collapse and carry, and it has a cupholder and helpful pocket. And for my kids, we like the Wirecutter-recommended REI Co-op Camp Chair, which gets rave reviews from my very particular 6-year-old daughter.
Treasure Garden Market Aluminum Push Button Tilt Umbrella (price varies)
For more than a year, I’ve had our patio umbrella pick, the Treasure Garden Market umbrella, in a cheerful lemon color. It has transformed my sun-baked, fry-an-egg-hot deck in Los Angeles into an oasis, shading many lunches and dinners with its 9-foot span and keeping us comfortable for hours. Considering how often I use it, I’m grateful that it’s so well built and easy to use. It opens, closes, and tilts with the push of a button. The lemon-yellow fabric—made by Sunbrella, the industry leader in durable, fade-resistant outdoor textiles—hasn’t lost its luster, even in our relentless sun. And there are lots of other colors to choose from. Plus, this umbrella holds up in lots of climates. One of our testers moved from California to Maine and has used the umbrella for almost six summers, with no issues or visible wear.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 (about $80 at the time of publishing)
Don’t let your barbecue stall out in painful silence. A steady stream of great music will ensure the right vibe, and you don’t have to spend a ton on a fancy sound system. Our pick for the best Bluetooth speaker costs less than $100 and delivers crisp, full sound. And it’s small and light enough (it’s barely the size of a baseball) to bring anywhere. Plus, this speaker is easy to pair with your phone, so you can seamlessly play hours of music from your streaming service of choice. Try it, and I promise you’ll never have awkward silences at a backyard bash again.
Thermacell E55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repeller (about $35 at the time of publishing)
Guests at a BBQ want to be the eaters, not the eaten—so we never host a summer gathering without turning on the Thermacell E55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repeller. It’s Wirecutter’s pick for keeping mosquitoes at bay for a reason. It has a bedroom-sized coverage area, and it actually works, unlike citronella candles and other debunked methods. And using this repeller is easier than slathering everyone in bug sprays (though discouraging ticks is not a bad idea).
—Doug Mahoney, senior staff writer
Momo Dressing Yuzu Jalapeño Dressing (price varies)
Be the person who brings a crisp, refreshing salad to the summer barbecue. I love topping off my summer salads with this Yuzu Jalapeño Dressing. It’s sweet, tangy, and complex, with the perfect punch of spice. It’s not too overpowering, either, which I often find to be the case with dressings this thick and flavorful. This dressing can elevate a simple bowl of shredded lettuce and tomatoes. But it’s also the secret ingredient to my all-time favorite summer salad: butter lettuce, grilled peaches, English cucumbers, prosciutto, and cherry tomatoes.
365 Organic Ice Cream Sandwiches (about $5 for six at the time of publishing)
Who doesn’t love ice cream sandwiches? Both kids and adults will appreciate this sweet treat, especially on a hot day (although I wouldn’t turn one down on a cold night, either). You will be the hit of the party!
—Rachel Cericola, senior staff writer
Little Tikes Jump ’n Slide Bouncer (about $190 at the time of publishing)
My expert colleagues will tell you that tasty treats, bug-zapping gadgets, and an ace patio umbrella are keys to a great BBQ. And they’re not wrong! But none of it matters if a wild pack of maniac children have been set loose in your backyard. You need something to occupy the kids. And a bounce house—while sure to result in some tears, scuffles, and minor boo-boos—does the trick. Of course, we don’t bring this to other people’s barbecues. But when we host one in our backyard, we always bring out the bounce house. Kids reliably play in this thing for hours. And lo and behold: Suddenly the grownups are free to laze and lounge over beers and burgers while the children jump themselves into giddy oblivion. Paradise.
X-Factor Custom Cornhole Boards ($400 at the time of publishing)
In the South, we play a lot of cornhole during BBQs and league nights. The key to a good cornhole game is a sturdy, heavy board that will withstand the elements. Wirecutter’s pick, the AllCornhole Tournament Series board, is used by the pros. I also love my custom-printed X-Factor cornhole board, from West Georgia Cornhole. It’s quiet and low-bounce, doesn’t move when the bags hit it, and the bags slide perfectly every time. I hired someone from Fiverr to design a logo for my cornhole team and had it directly UV-printed on top (no cheap vinyl). The boards are then sprayed perfectly with a special blend of polyurethane to help protect from wear and weather. Whichever brand you choose, invest in quality. I’ve had these boards for over two years, and they look and play as good as they did on Day 1. Get some good bags while you’re at it.
—Jeff Louella, senior technical SEO manager
This article was edited by Amy Koplin and Ben Frumin.
by Christina Williams and Wirecutter Staff
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