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11 Summer Grilling Supplies That Are Worth the Splurge

Original image
Get grillin'
Hammacher Schlemmer / iStock

Everyone has at least one family member just waiting for the right day to break out their grilling equipment. Now that we're finally getting a little bit of warm weather, grill aficionados can finally break out their best apron and tongs. If you're into outdoor cooking, check out these tools and devices that are worth spending a little bit extra on it.

1. CUSTOM BRANDING INITIALS; $58

Brander
Amazon

If you view grilled meat as edible art, then it needs the artist's signature. Let everyone know who cooked those perfectly seared steaks and burgers with an actual customizable branding tool.

Find it: Amazon

2. SPICE RUB COLLECTION; $60

Spice rub
Dean and Deluca

Having a fancy arsenal of spices to rub on your food is what's going to take your grilling to the next level. This kit comes with nine tins of Dean and Deluca's most popular spice rubs: barbeque, Cajun, Jamaican jerk, pork, poultry, Asian, rib, Moroccan, and Southwestern.

Find it: Dean and Deluca

3. A COOLER THAT YOU CAN DRIVE; $1000

Cool you can drive
Hammacher Schlemmer

Imagine rolling up to your grill spot while riding on a cooler filled with ingredients. Yes, that's right: You can drive your beer and condiments to the picnic at a breezy 12 mph. The motorized cooler comes with three wheels, a 1000 watt electric motor, and handlebars that have a throttle and brake lever. Beep beep! Time to barbecue.

Find it: Hammacher Schlemmer

4. NARWHAL SKEWERS; $46

Narwhal skewers
UncommonGoods

Grilling is about to get a lot more cute with the help of this pair of stainless steel narwhals. Their signature horns spear through cubed food and their tails double as handles. Normal skewers will do just fine and cost a lot less money, but can you really say no to something this charming?

Find it: UncommonGoods

5. GRILLBOT; $72

Grillbot
Amazon

Tired of cleaning the grill? Get the barbecue version of a Roomba to do the dirty work for you. The small cleaner works with most grills and has dishwasher-safe bristles. Choose from one of four colors: black, blue, orange, or red.

Find it: Amazon

6. STAR WARS TIE FIGHTER GRILL; $400

Star Wars grill
Amazon

Looking to add a sci-fi spin to your barbecue routine? How about a TIE fighter gas grill? This officially licensed piece of equipment is a compact option for grilling in small spaces. If the appearance isn't enough, the grill comes with a Star Wars logo that can be seared into the bottom of your meat.

Find it: Amazon

7. MARINADE INFUSING MEAT TENDERIZER; $50

Marinade Infuser
Hammacher Schlemmer

This interesting device is two tools in one: While it tenderizes your meat, it also has three needles that inject marinade directly into your food. To avoid marinating for hours, fill the plunger with 3 ounces of any sauce you'd like infused into your meat, and you can start grilling within minutes.

Find it: Hammacher Schlemmer

8. KEBAB CUTTING TOOL; $40

Clever Kebab
Amazon

Make 16 perfectly cubed kebabs with this gadget. Tightly pack in meat, vegetables, or fruits into the container—the slots allow a knife to cut through the food with guided precision. It comes with 32 bamboo skewers, a storage bag, and even a lemon juicer on top.

Find it: Amazon

9. THAWING PLATE; $60

Thawing plate
Amazon

If you're too impatient or short on time to wait for frozen meat to thaw, there's a kitchen tool for that. This thawing plate has embedded heating pipes so that any frozen foods placed on top will be ready for grilling in half the time. No electricity or batteries are required to make it work, meaning you can take it outdoors while camping or tailgating.

Find it: Amazon

10. LED STEAK THERMOMETER; $60

Steak light
Amazon

Instead of trying to understand an unreliable meat thermometer, get something a little easier: A device that lights up when your meal is ready. You can tell how done the meat is by the color of the light: green is medium rare, yellow is medium, and red is medium well.

Find it: Amazon

11. GRILL DADDY; $19

Grill Daddy
Amazon

Cleaning the grill is about to get a whole lot easier with the Grill Daddy. Using hot clouds of steam, the device makes quick work of grime and cooked-on food. And the gentle bristles won't damage porcelain, cast iron, or steel grill grates, making it the perfect cleaner for all grill types.

Find it: Amazon

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Big Questions
Why Can't Dogs Eat Chocolate?
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Even if you don’t have a dog, you probably know that they can’t eat chocolate; it’s one of the most well-known toxic substances for canines (and felines, for that matter). But just what is it about chocolate that is so toxic to dogs? Why can't dogs eat chocolate when we eat it all the time without incident?

It comes down to theobromine, a chemical in chocolate that humans can metabolize easily, but dogs cannot. “They just can’t break it down as fast as humans and so therefore, when they consume it, it can cause illness,” Mike Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, tells Mental Floss.

The toxic effects of this slow metabolization can range from a mild upset stomach to seizures, heart failure, and even death. If your dog does eat chocolate, they may get thirsty, have diarrhea, and become hyperactive and shaky. If things get really bad, that hyperactivity could turn into seizures, and they could develop an arrhythmia and have a heart attack.

While cats are even more sensitive to theobromine, they’re less likely to eat chocolate in the first place. They’re much more picky eaters, and some research has found that they can’t taste sweetness. Dogs, on the other hand, are much more likely to sit at your feet with those big, mournful eyes begging for a taste of whatever you're eating, including chocolate. (They've also been known to just swipe it off the counter when you’re not looking.)

If your dog gets a hold of your favorite candy bar, it’s best to get them to the vet within two hours. The theobromine is metabolized slowly, “therefore, if we can get it out of the stomach there will be less there to metabolize,” Topper says. Your vet might be able to induce vomiting and give your dog activated charcoal to block the absorption of the theobromine. Intravenous fluids can also help flush it out of your dog’s system before it becomes lethal.

The toxicity varies based on what kind of chocolate it is (milk chocolate has a lower dose of theobromine than dark chocolate, and baking chocolate has an especially concentrated dose), the size of your dog, and whether or not the dog has preexisting health problems, like kidney or heart issues. While any dog is going to get sick, a small, old, or unhealthy dog won't be able to handle the toxic effects as well as a large, young, healthy dog could. “A Great Dane who eats two Hershey’s kisses may not have the same [reaction] that a miniature Chihuahua that eats four Hershey’s kisses has,” Topper explains. The former might only get diarrhea, while the latter probably needs veterinary attention.

Even if you have a big dog, you shouldn’t just play it by ear, though. PetMD has a handy calculator to see just what risk levels your dog faces if he or she eats chocolate, based on the dog’s size and the amount eaten. But if your dog has already ingested chocolate, petMD shouldn’t be your go-to source. Call your vet's office, where they are already familiar with your dog’s size, age, and condition. They can give you the best advice on how toxic the dose might be and how urgent the situation is.

So if your dog eats chocolate, you’re better off paying a few hundred dollars at the vet to make your dog puke than waiting until it’s too late.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What is Duck Sauce?
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A plate of Chinese takeout with egg rolls and duck sauce
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We know that our favorite Chinese takeout is not really authentically Chinese, but more of an Americanized series of menu options very loosely derived from overseas inspiration. (Chinese citizens probably wouldn’t recognize chop suey or orange-glazed chicken, and fortune cookies are of Japanese origin.) It would also be unusual for "real" Chinese meals to be accompanied by a generous amount of sauce packets.

Here in the U.S., these condiments are a staple of Chinese takeout. But one in particular—“duck sauce”—doesn’t really offer a lot of information about itself. What exactly is it that we’re pouring over our egg rolls?

Smithsonian.com conducted a sauce-related investigation and made an interesting discovery, particularly if you’re not prone to sampling Chinese takeout when traveling cross-country. On the East Coast, duck sauce is similar to sweet-and-sour sauce, only fruitier; in New England, it’s brown, chunky, and served on tables; and on the West Coast, it’s almost unheard of.

While the name can describe different sauces, associating it with duck probably stems from the fact that the popular Chinese dish Peking duck is typically served with a soybean-based sauce. When dishes began to be imported to the States, the Americanization of the food involved creating a sweeter alternative using apricots that was dubbed duck sauce. (In New England, using applesauce and molasses was more common.)

But why isn’t it easily found on the West Coast? Many sauce companies are based in New York and were in operation after Chinese food had already gained a foothold in California. Attempts to expand didn’t go well, and so Chinese food aficionados will experience slightly different tastes depending on their geography. But regardless of where they are, or whether they're using the condiment as a dipping sauce for their egg rolls or a dressing for their duck, diners can rest assured that no ducks were harmed in the making of their duck sauce.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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