There’s nothing like spending time outdoors with family and friends, especially when it includes cooking up and sharing an array of foods for a backyard feast. From grilled fare to smoked meats and beyond, the possibilities are near endless—not to mention endlessly fun and delicious to explore.
Sure, this summer may have been a little different than those before, but the great outdoors still calls and offers welcome respite from cooped-up conditions months prior. And the good news is, summer isn’t over yet.
From major equipment to the best accessories, make the most of the season with these top tools to achieve outdoor cooking mastery through Labor Day and beyond.
Cooking with Gas: Char-Broil Performance Black and Stainless 5-Burner Liquid Propane Gas Grill with 1 Side Burner
This propane grill is your go-to for all grilling needs. It boasts enough space to cook 28 burgers at once, meaning plenty of surface area to fire up all your favorite foods, whether you’re a party of four or 24. The porcelain-coated iron grates offer even heat distribution and retention, and are a breeze to clean. With an electronic igniter, all you have to do is push a button to light it up and get cooking, while the side burner is an ideal spot to prepare your go-to sides without warming up the kitchen.$249 Lowe's
Up in Smoke: Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 14-Inch Charcoal Smoker
Hands down, this smoker offers the best bang for your buck in the sub-$500 category, and at under $250, the 14-inch version will be the star of the outside show for any household. Grab your favorite charcoal and wood and you’ll be ready to go with this easy-to-use vertical smoker that holds temp like a dream, with an easy-access fuel door and adjustable airflow vent for added control. Even the smallest size available features two steel-plated cooking grates, providing ample space to smoking anything and everything from ribs to brisket to a whole turkey. It’s also available in 18- and 22-inch sizes, for even more space to smoke up all the foods for a crowd.$239.99 BBQGuys.com
Best Brickettes: Royal Oak 100% All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
This charcoal is unique in that it’s quick start but with no chemicals, making it a favorite among grilling enthusiasts. All natural, with no fillers, it’s is ready to go in 15 minutes, burns hot for excellent searing potential and lasts longer than other brands tested. It also produces less ash than more common charcoal brands, allowing for a cleaner, purer grilling expression.$12.97 Home Depot
Light it Up: Weber Rapidfire Chimney Charcoal Starter
If you’re using any kind of charcoal-fueled grill, you’ll definitely want to pick up a quality chimney starter. It’s the easiest and safest way to properly and evenly light up your coals and allows you to do so without harsh chemical additions of starters or lighter fluid. Weber is a benchmark name in grilling, so you can trust this chimney is well-built and durable in addition to featuring a solid, ergonomic handle. All you need is about 15 minutes to prep up a full batch of charcoal, though it also comes in a compact size for smaller or portable grills.$19.99 Home Depot
Wood You Rather: Camerons Gourmet Cherry Smoking Wood Chunks Kiln Dried BBQ Smoker All-Natural Wood Chunks
If you’re taking the smoking route for your fare, or just want to add some additional flavor to your standard grill routine via a smoke box, you’ll need to look into securing some high-quality wood to add to the mix. There are a variety of options available, including standard selections like mesquite, hickory, pecan and apple, and what you choose largely depends on your own personal preference. If you’re not sure where to land and want to start off with a mellow expression of the best of all worlds—a little sweet, a little nutty, a little spice—we recommend this crowd-pleasing cherry wood, in chunk form for longer, extended-release burns for when you’re going low and slow.$29.95 Amazon.com
Take a Temp: Classic Superfast Thermapen
This fast, functional and highly accurate instant-read thermometer comes from industry gold-standard Thermoworks. Made by hand and available in six colors to suit your personal preference, this water-resistant device provides accurate temps in 2–3 second readings. Will it make you a great cook? Maybe not. But it’ll make you a better one that at least won’t overcook a steak.$79 ThermoWorks
Basket Case: Cuisinart Grilling Basket
It may seem like a basic, and perhaps even unnecessary, tool, but a grill basket can actually be a lifesaver when you’re cooking up delicate fish or items easily lost between grill-grate slots, like asparagus or sliced onions. The long, head-resistant handle locks items securely into place, making anxiety over mid-prep turning a thing of the past, while the nonstick coating ensures your precious items will come out of the basket with ease.$19.99 BBQGuys.com