Meat plus fire equals delicious; an equation so obvious, even our cavemen ancestors’ constantly buffering brains could understand.
Mankind has come a long way in the art of grilling. We’ve spent millennia experimenting with countless grilling techniques, and still, we’ve only seared the surface of the infinite possibilities when meat meets fire.
Some men are culinary adventurers in pursuit of textures and flavors bolder than those created by the typical backyard grill. If you’re searching for an unique gift to light up the face of your favorite backyard griller, we’ve curated five exciting grilling gifts that’ll put him on the path toward grill mastery.
1. Cast Iron
Cast iron pans are the veteran workhorses in any kitchen, but they’re equally effective over outdoor grills.
Cast iron is slow to heat, but its heftiness retains high temperatures for better seared meat. Its flat surface provides even grilling contact and keeps fat from dripping onto the fire below, eliminating flare-ups and potentially saving his eyebrows, backyard, and every earthly possession from scorched destruction. Instead, he’ll bask in the glory of delicious, brown-crusted, smoke-kissed meat.
Pro tip: Cast iron requires particular care, so consider maturity levels before gifting. Pans should be cleaned with hot water and a rag, instead of soap. It will help preserve the seasoning of the pan and instill a sense of responsibility in the man.
Where to get it: Cast iron pans are readily available at any outdoor store, but keep an eye out for them at yard sales to snag a cheap score.
2. Himalayan Salt Block
You could give him a round trip ticket to northern Pakistan with instructions to a 16th century mineshaft where he could delicately, possibly fatally, extract the crystallized remains of a 600-million-year-old inland sea. Or you could just grab a Himalayan salt block. Either one.
Salt blocks have an extremely low porosity, meaning they hold heat well, can withstand high temperatures, and are an ideal surface for grilling. And the high quantity of trace minerals inherently infuses a unique complexity of flavor. Even a few seconds on a sizzling salt block will sear his steak to caramelized perfection.
Pro tip: When it comes to salt block selection, looks can be deceiving. Avoid distinctly patterned blocks and lean toward ones with crystalline uniformity and muted colors. These blocks will hold up better under the stresses of high heat cooking.
Where to get it: We’ve curated the Everest Grill Crate, an introductory collection of tools and recipes for majestic salt block grilling.
3. Wood Planks
Early Native American grilling utilized planks of hardwood placed directly over a hot grill.
The wood slowly chars with heat, releasing a smoky aroma that envelops the meat with subtle, woodsy flavors. It also helps retain moisture and keep your meat juicy.
Different types of wood pair better with different types of meat due to the unique flavor emitted. Fish is best complemented by the subtle, earthy tones of cedar and alder, while poultry pairs perfectly with the fruity, sweeter flavors of cherry or maple. For beef or gamier meats, the bold flavors of oak and hickory are the perfect match.
Pro Tip: He may be super confused/underwhelmed when you present him with a wood plank. Have him soak it for an hour before cooking and use indirect heat placement when grilling. It also helps to have a spray bottle of water on hand to keep those pesky flames in check.
Where to get it: Check out Wildwood Grilling for any tree varieties.
4. Slate Tile
Who would’ve thought one of the best grilling gifts at your local hardware store wouldn’t be in the grilling aisle.
Inspired by plancha-style cooking, slate tiles offer a grilling surface that diffuses heat, allowing aromatic flavors to seep in slowly without the good stuff. As the cooking progresses, the slate’s searing surface give off a unique mineral tang and creates a beautifully browned crust.
The only drawback is that slate often cracks after only one grill, but it only cost you a couple of bucks, so you can gift him a trunk’s worth.
Pro Tip: Leave the slate on the grill after the meat finishes, and toss a few fresh vegetables onto the leftover juice and fat for our type of balanced meal.
Where to get it: Pick up a 12”x12” slate tile at Home Depot for $1.48.
5. On the Coals
Don’t clutter up his backyard with more pans, grates, and racks. Help him channel his inner caveman by gifting a bag of coals.
It sounds like a ridiculous gift, maybe because it is, but if he wants great meat with no acid residue, coals will get it done. With the meat directly on the coals, there’s no room for air, and thus no room for meat-singeing flames.
Note: Only gift lump charcoal made from hardwood. Standard briquettes might contain wood by-products and additives, which might cause any number of horrible things, from mild stomach unsettlement to morality-consuming superpowers.
Pro Tip: A hair dryer can be used to blow away loose ash to keep it from clinging to the meat. If he doesn’t own a hair dryer, perhaps a leaf blower?
Where to get it: A 15 lb. bag of lump charcoal can be found at any outdoor store for around thirteen bucks.