Everyone’s got a brand or two they like to stick with. Some folks are 100% true-blue Ford, others Chevy. Valvoline or Pennzoil. Coke or Pepsi. iOS or Android. Over time, my backyard has come to resemble a Weber promotional photo shoot… but there’s a good reason for that; their products are reliable, affordable, and provide consistently great results. Along with the Weber grills mentioned below, here are few essentials you’ll always find on my patio:


Weber One Touch Gold – I learned most of what I know on this grill. It’s tough, tested, and has never failed me.

Weber Performer Gold – I upgraded to this model last year as it offers a large work surface, charcoal hopper, and storage areas.  Same 22.5″ grill and cleaning system as the One-Touch Gold. It’s aptly named, with excellent results with every usage.

Smokey Joe Silver – The best portable charcoal grill. Perfect for camping, tailgating, or for times when you’ve got a steak or two too many on the big grill.

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 18.5″– The most recent addition to my grilling setup,  worth every penny. There are three different sizes (14.5″, 18.5″, 22.5″); my research showed the 18.5″ is the sweet spot for the average fella like me smoking moderate amounts of meat.


I’m 100% charcoal. If I’m not grilling over a hardwood/charcoal fire, it just doesn’t feel like grilling to me. Tell me a porterhouse grilled on some shiny chrome gas grill tastes as good as one crusted over 800 degree hardwood coals. Anyway, here’s what I use on a consistent basis:

Stubb’s Natural Briquets – Good blue smoke,  consistent heat, and imparts superior flavor into meats.  Hands-down my favorite. I use it in both the grill and smoker.

Kingsford Blue – The blue standard. Everyone and their brother grew up on Kingsford, and it’s only gotten better over the years.  It doesn’t burn as hot as Stubb’s in my tests, but it definitely burns longer, making it the perfect smoker charcoal. I always have at least one bag of Blue on hand. Kingsford sells a number of variants – Competition, Hickory, Mesquite. I’ve heard good things about them, but haven’t used them yet. My main issue with Kingsford is the unspeakable abomination of Match Light; using Match Light is as bad as putting ice cubes into Macallan 15 Year. Just don’t do it.

Cowboy Hardwood Lump Charcoal – I don’t use this as much as I used to, but it’s still a great, commonly-available lump charcoal. Burns HOT (hotter than briquets), great for searing ribeyes. Extremely reactive to oxygen, so you’ll spend time dodging sprays of hot sparks while using it (part of the fun). Smells and cooks like a true hardwood fire. Eager to try out their new Premium version.

Fogo Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal – I coughed up the $40 or so for a 35lb. bag of this on Amazon last year, and it performed really well.  Didn’t burn quite as hot as the Cowboy Lump, but burned longer and more evenly.  Made from dense Central American hardwoods in a sustainable program that ensures reforestation. Will definitely use again.


In my backyard, there’s only one way to introduce fuel to the grill – a chimney starter stuffed with some newspaper.  My dad accomplished this with an old coffee can with the bottom cut out, and small holes punched along the bottom. No charcoal lighter fluid, ever. I’ve been using the same chimney since 2009, and it’s still going strong, the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter. Best $17 you’ll ever spend.

I grill a lot of steaks, mostly ribeyes and filet mignons (Safeway’s Rancher’s Reserve). A couple years ago I heard an ad on Adam Carolla about Mangrates, made in the USA, cast-iron grill grates used to impart a more restaurant-style sear/crust on beef. I use them every time a steak goes on the grill at this point. They’re fantastic, arrive pre-seasoned, and are easy to maintain.  They get better and better with age. They commonly have a half-off promotion with various radio shows or podcasts, so Google ‘mangrate coupon’ when shopping. Highly recommended.

That about covers it for my basic grilling/smoking essentials.  I’ll cover some usabilty tips and tricks picked up over time as well as further details on accessories like thermometers, grilling gloves, smoker wood chunks, chips, and planks in future posts.

Thanks for reading!


One thought on “Essentials

  1. Wow, lots of great information here. It also makes me realize what a grilling ignoramus I am. Must study and learn from the master.


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