11 Summer Grilling Supplies That Are Worth the Splurge

Get grillin'
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

8 Surprising Uses for Potatoes

istock
istock

Potatoes are one of the world’s most common, and most beloved, vegetables—and they can be used for much more than just sustenance. In honor of National Potato Day, here are a few other ways to use a potato.

1. WEAR THEM

Potatoes come from a nightshade plant called Solanum tuberosum, which blooms with white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers. In the late 1700s, in an effort to inspire their starving subjects to plant the newly introduced vegetable—which the Spanish had brought to Europe from the New World—Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair, and her husband King Louis XVI wore them in his buttonholes. This inspired potato flowers to be a favorite of the French nobility for a time, but the ploy didn't work: The lower classes spurned the upper class's efforts to get them to farm the crop. 

2. MAKE ELECTRICITY

If you’re in a lurch, or perhaps a doomsday prepper, start stocking up on potatoes now. With just a few household items—wires, some copper, and a zinc-coated nail—and one of the tubers, you can power a clock, a light bulb, and many other small electronics.

3. GARDEN IN SPACE

In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable grown on the space shuttle. Raymond Bula of the University of Wisconsin spearheaded a project in which five Norland variety potato leaves were propagated in space. Bula’s research group monitored this project from Wisconsin, staying in constant contact with NASA, who stayed in contact with the crew on the space shuttle. When the shuttle arrived home, everyone was pleased to find that the potato plants not only survived the ordeal, but actually grew potatoes.

4. GROW ROSES

Gardeners can insert rose cuttings into a potato, and then plant the entire potato as if it were a seed or bulb. The nutrient-rich potato helps provide moisture and sustenance to the growing plant, giving the cutting a better chance to survive.

5. MAKE PLASTIC

Bio-plastics, as they’re called, can be made from corn, wheat, and—you guessed it—potatoes. The concentration of starches and cellulose in a potato can be used to make plastic, and the plastic made out of potatoes can be burned and composted with much less impact on the environment.

6. MEASURE TIME

Peru’s Incas used the potato for all sorts of things at the height of their civilization. Known for creative, forward-thinking agricultural practices, the Incas also studied time—and started using the time it takes to cook a potato to measure time.

7. REMOVE RUST

Have a knife with some rust spots? If you insert the knife into the potato and let it sit for awhile, you'll go a long way in removing the rust. Potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, which is used in many household cleaning products (in much greater quantities, of course). Oxalic acid also dissolves rust. To attack larger rusted surfaces with a potato, cut it in half, sprinkle baking powder on it or dip it in dish soap, and get to scrubbing.

8. MAIL THEM

Thanks to Mail A Spud, for only $9.99 everyone’s dream of mailing a potato to their closest friends and family can be a reality. The site advertises that it can send potatoes anywhere in the U.S., and that your choice of mailed gift will be sure to delight recipients. And, if not delight, at least confuse ... in a good way.

Additional Sources: Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent

This article originally ran in 2016.

Which Kind of Oatmeal is Best for Your Health?

iStock
iStock

Like a lot of nutritionally robust foods, oatmeal sometimes gets a bad rap for being boring. Even the sight of plain, cooked oats—often resembling a mushy kind of paste—can have people passing it up in favor of a sugary cereal or pancake stack. But oatmeal can wind up being one of the better breakfast choices, not only in taste, but also in its health benefits, Time reports. It all comes down to what type of oatmeal you buy and how you prepare it.

To determine your best oat option, it helps to understand that oatmeal isn’t really oatmeal. When oats are harvested, they’re wrapped in a hard husk that manufacturers remove to facilitate cooking. Inside is the groat, a complete grain full of fiber. When you buy oatmeal that’s labeled “instant,” "quick-cooking," "rolled," or "old-fashioned," the groat has been steamed and rolled flat to make it easier to cook. The mostly unadulterated oatmeal labeled “steel-cut” or “Irish” is actually made up of groats that have been chopped up but are otherwise whole.

Typically, the faster you can cook the oatmeal, the more it’s been processed and the less it resembles the groat from the field. Because they resemble kernels and remain thick, steel-cut oatmeal requires the longest preparation, simmering on a stovetop for 30 minutes or so. Processed oats are flaky and can easily be heated.

Nutritionally, both rolled and steel-cut oats have the same profile. Both are fibrous and high in vitamins E, B1, and B12. Steel-cut oats have a heartier texture, while instant tends to take on a loose, light consistency. But because steel-cut oatmeal keeps more of the whole grain intact, it tends to be higher in fiber and lower on the glycemic index and provides more of a slow-burn energy as opposed to the quick burst of the sugar found in flavored instant oatmeal packets.

If you want to opt for steel-cut oats but are short on time, there are solutions. You can soak oats overnight to reduce cooking time down to 10 minutes or so on the stove, or prepare a week’s worth so you can quickly re-heat portions. Topped with yogurt, peanut butter, or fruit, it’s one of the best breakfast choices you can make. And with a little foresight, you won’t have to sacrifice your busy morning to enjoy it.

[h/t Time]

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