Outdoor Cooking Equipment Buying Guide

In the spring, home cooks and professionals from all walks of life haul out their neat outdoor equipment onto a patio or a lawn or other space, to get cooking with exterior equipment and accessories that produce those mouth-watering sizzling slabs of meat, or innovative tasty vegetable treats, or other cuisine that the grillmaster is into. But with today’s new modern equipment, many chefs are going beyond the old days of grilling meat and proteins, and into new vistas, for instance, frying potato wedges, or cooking up cauldrons of hot soup.

How does this work? Let’s go over some of the major types of outdoor cooking equipment that are now considered state-of-the-art for a busy chef or home cook who wants to do his or her work out in the elements.

The Grill
This is the traditional workhorse of the outdoors. Grills come in many different models and shapes and sizes. Beloved for their ability to throw contained heat at whatever’s inside, grills are important and have their own unique culinary traditions attached.

Outdoor grills also come in several important varieties, according to their fuel sources.

We should break that down a little bit.

Charcoal grills – this is your old-school grill that takes a little more work, but delivers results that some chefs feel are a bit higher in terms of quality. You may need to use charcoal starters, or re-arrange live coals, along with cleaning and maintaining the grill differently, but you’ll get that unique smoky flavor that the charcoal grill is known for.

Gas grills – the gas grill has been overtaking the charcoal grill as a popular front yard or back yard option for helping cooks take on big challenges, such as turning out high volumes of cooked food in a short time frame. Unlike charcoal, gas is ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s also possible to micromanage the temperature and keep an eye on the heat inside the grill chamber.

Propane grills – in going with a gas grill option, chefs have a choice: propane or natural gas. Propane is generally a bit more expensive, but is known to have a little more “zip” – again, expediting the heating and cooking process.

If you want that additional smoky taste to your meat or other grilling components, the smoker is the way to go. Simply add various types of wood chips – apple, cherry and Cedar are favorites, as is hickory – and set your proteins or other food inside for a couple of hours or more. It’s basically that easy, although pros have put together their own tricks of the trade for optimal smoking.

Outdoor Stoves
Here’s one you may not have heard as much about. The outdoor stove is nevertheless taking on with many types of chefs and home cooks, because it allows for a large number of those outdoor cooking processes that you want for things like:

  • Corn on the cob
  • Soup or stew
  • Hot drinks
  • Boiled veggies as a side

You can even brew beer in these things, on a cauldron located on top of the stove. The best models are sturdily built to withstand jostling.

Some of these uses are more popular in the early spring or late fall – but cooking corn on the cob is one that is extremely popular in many parts of the country, making the outdoor stove a good addition to your grill area.

What about all of that excellent fried food that you might enjoy at a restaurant, at the county fair or at your old-school diner?

With modern fryers, home cooks can make their own tasty fried food in batches, according to how many people they want to feed.

Deliver French fries, fried seafood, fried chicken, or really, fried anything, with modern deep fryers that come in different shapes and sizes as well. You want to think about the number of trays and the capacity, as well as the build of the unit – some cooks like the circular fryers that are free-standing, small and portable, while others like the cabinet-type fryer with multiple pans that has a lot more protection for what’s being dipped in hot oil.

Here’s a very important choice for fryers that’s pretty new. You can also choose between traditional fryers, that use oil, and something called an “air fryer.” The air fryer allows you to skip the mess, and potential health value related to oil-fried food.

Here’s where we talk about the extras that your outdoor chef might want, along with the bigger outdoor cooking installations mentioned above.

In this griller’s gift guide, you’ll see our take on items like knives, cutting boards, spatulas, salt blocks, and grill lights and thermometers.

In our blog post on grilling essentials, you’ll see more on grilling thermometers, brushes and various types of grill tools and outdoor cooking supplies for moving charcoal or doing other specific grilling-related tasks.

Outdoor Cooking Equipment: Cold Stuff
Outdoor ice machines and coolers can also be a great part of the outdoor cook’s arsenal. Suppose, for example, you’re cooking for dozens of people in a remote location, and you have all your gear set up to deliver aromatic, straight-from-the-grill meat or fish, or what have you. What about the cold drinks?

Even something as simple as a small ice maker can be essential for bringing that in contrast between sizzling hot food and refreshing cold water or other drinks.

For more on outdoor cooking equipment, check out everything that we offer at Chefs’ Toys, where we are “for chefs, by chefs” in a way that makes a difference. Have fun this summer!