BOSTON — The best grilling tool is a 16-inch pair of spring-loaded, scallop-edged tongs. Forks pierce meat leading to a loss of flavorful juices. Tongs are also useful for arranging hot coals on the grill.
Use a long-handled spatula for turning tender foods such as burgers, and fish steaks; a stiff wire brush is needed to keep your grill clean between cookouts.
Avoid liquid fire starters or quick-start charcoal when you can. They smell. If you must use lighter fluid, use it sparingly on just a few briquettes. When they are glowing, pile remaining charcoal on top in pyramid fashion. Once they have all caught, spread out the coals. When they are coated with a thin gray ash, you are ready to grill.
A fire-starting chimney is a valuable asset for lighting charcoal. It is quick, inexpensive (about $10), and is the preferred method among gourmet grillers because it eliminates the need for liquid fire starters.
Simply stuff a wad of paper in the bottom of the chimney, add charcoal and/or wood, light the paper, and in a few minutes you're ready to grill.
When grilling (especially with charcoal), be patient. The main purpose is to have the heat hot enough to sear meats so that they hold in their juices.
There are two methods for charcoal grilling: direct and indirect.
Direct grilling is best for cooking meats of relatively small mass: steaks, poultry pieces, fish, and chops. The idea is to quickly sear in the juices while forming a light, flavorful crust.
Indirect grilling is where the hot coals are pushed to one side of the grate, a drip pan is placed on the grate beside the hot coals, and the food (usually something that requires long, less-intense cooking such as a roast chicken or leg of lamb) is placed on the grill over the pan.
A grill cover is required for this method, and an instant meat thermometer is an especially valuable tool.