Esteemed CrunchGear gadget guru, Matt “Effing” Hickey asked me to write a summer outdoor gadget roundup for the CrunchGear on account of my experience writing for a more food oriented site. I may be a bit out of the loop when it comes to all your electro-sonic gadgetry but I’m no BlueTooth earpiece wearing PT Cruiser Driving, Credence fan either.
I kind of figured out the right angle though… we won’t be talking about the kind of gadgets with OLED displays that organize your mp3’s robotocally and synch them to your TV by microwaves. Nope, we’re talking about the kind of gadgets that people-who-go-outside want. Or, People-who-cook-outside. It’s 100% true that summertime affors a whole bunch of really neat gadgets unto the world, mostly to do with portable ways of generating really fierce temperatures, containing them enough to raise the temperature of beef to 150C, and maybe looking cool while doing it.
Now, I’ve actually been outside (and no I don’t just mean on the patio at the bar), and have had some pretty close calls with fire and other extreme forms of heat. In fact just the other day I was dreaming about how, hopefully, I’ll land one of these sweet little Weber Qs this year. The smallest one, which is the 100, has a cooking area of 189 sq in. (That’s large enough for fourteen quarter pound hamburgers!!) All that grilling power fits inside a sleek package that’s hardly bigger than the microwave in your breakroom at work. Now I’m not saying you could take it on the bus or subway so you’ll need to make sure your girlfriend’s Reno has some gas if you’re the guy bringing the heat to that downtown roof party.
“But wait,” you say, “I just spent my last thousand bucks hiring a guy to wait in line and buy me an iPhone. I don’t have the kind of scratch to buy a Weber anymore.”
Well son, I’ve just the answer for you: The Muji Trian-grill. Here’s why:
- It folds up flat like a briefcase so you can take it on the bus pretty easy
- It only costs 5p under 40£ (which is far less than that OLED screen video watch you bought to share ironic music videos with the kids at the club… plus it makes food).
The portable bucket or fold-up grill has a nice variety of models. I’m fond of the very old-school, absolute classic Weber Smokey Joe, a tiny version of your dad’s shiny black kettle. But then, even though I’d never be caught dead wearing Cameron’s Grill-slinger, I do buy plaid shirts and cargo shorts at Old Navy, so don’t quote me on the fashion stuff. For comparison, you American Apparel types will probably want to look at the BBQ Briefcase; and those more inclined to Salvation Army should be sporting the Firebox Bucket BBQ; definitely steer clear of last year’s Bruce grill (this grill, modelled after a hanging flower box, is strictly for boring jocks). Dumpster divers, there’s a whole variety of disposable BBQ Units can be had from the Kwikee Mart for a few handfuls of nickels.
Okay. So now we’ve got everybody outfitted with the right style of portable grilling unit, let’s class it up with an absolute must-have. I’m telling you, if you’ve got this thing and know how to use it, it almost doesn’t matter if you screw up whatever you’re grilling, because you’ll have appeared to know your stuff just by lighting the charcoal. Gone are the days of Homer-esque lighter fluid fireballs; but I shouldn’t have to tell you to stop using lighter fluid, because I’m sure your hippie big sister already told you five years ago … it’s just that, now it’s not about saving the baby whales or whatever. Now it’s about knowing the best way to grill tasty stuff:
Start your charcoals in a chimney starter.
You can still use the blue and white bag of briquettes from Seven-11, just skip the lighter fluid and spend twelve bucks on one of these babies. This alone will get you laid.
Now I’m not at all sure what kind of heat you’ll get off these portable grill contraptions, because they’re rated in some fancy foreign system called British Thermal Units, and I don’t speak metric when it comes to temperature. I just follow the wisdom of old Crusty Steve, a true naive grilling savant, who croaked: “if I can keep my hand over the grill for longer than a three-count, it ain’t ready.”
But on the other hand, if you somehow end up food-poisoning the whole choir section of Rufus’s touring troupe, you’ll probably never grill again. So of course there’s tons of gadgets that come out every year around Father’s day to measure temperature, and guarantee safe food. We’re not talking about mere thermometers anymore though, and frankly I can’t even understand them. But it’s almost becoming a yearly BBQ arms race, especially with Father’s day pretty much exactly the start of Grillin Season.
With all the disposable income we spend on gadgetry, and the eternal impossibility of knowing what to get our Dads for a gift, we’ll always see more and more elaborate temperature measurement systems, year after year. Something tells me you’d rather shell out for a new Helio Ocean than spend 1/5 that to get your dad the Bonjour Culinary Laser Thermometer or Grill-Right Wireless Talking BBQ/Oven Thermometer. But maybe that’d be better anyway, because, spare your dad the humiliation of you thinking he needs a gadget to check on the porterhouse. A better present for dad would be you asking him to teach you finger/thumb test of doneness. Although, you should maybe get yourself a handful of reusable steak button thermometers for fifteen bucks, just to be on the safe side (sexy bonus points: you’ll also, again, look like you know what you’re doing).
Okay, so you’re all set. You’ve turned a hundred or less dollars into a pretty hip, very capable, and totally hot, portable grill-master kit. You need one more bit of flair, something slightly goofy and/or ironic so you don’t just seem like some fairy kitchen nerd who’s got the hots more for Bobby Flay than for Giada’s cleavages … Well I think you could do a whole lot worse than the BBQ Spinner Spatchula [sic]. It’s flashy, and fly, and it’s even functionally illiterate. The perfect little ironic jab, that says you really don’t take all this fancy, stupid, cooking stuff so seriously. You’re just joking around, kind of, but you also happen to be a bit of a naive grilling savant yourself.
Looking forward to next year, when your stock options have matured, and your girlfriend becomes your Mrs: you’ll probably want to get her a really pretty Memphis Two Burner gas grill for the patio, and for yourself, to keep your new best friend icy cold, the Koolatron CC10G Can Refrigerator [note, by "new best friend" I don't mean Coke, unless it's prefaced by "Jack &"]. For sexy gourmet bonus points: Reveo MariVac Food Tumbler Marinader gives you that ineffable “commercially marinaded … fully automated … flavor penetration” you just can’t get anywhere else. Special ironic double bonus bonus: two words Turkey Canon.