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Published June 15 2013

Fire up the grill: Outfit your space with barbecue essentials

FARGO - All around Fargo-Moorhead, the scent of grilling fills the air.

It’s barbecue season, a time to head outdoors and enjoy summer by grilling up some burgers, brats or whatever else your heart desires.

This year, we wanted to make sure you barbecue gurus have the best grilling experience possible over the next few months.

So to learn more about the latest trends in outfitting our outdoor grilling space, we asked two local experts – Matt “Charpie” Charpentier of Fargo, who runs a blog called “Grilling Addiction,” and Kurt Engquist, a buyer at Nodak hardware store in Fargo.

Cookers and smokers

Charpie, who likes to keep several different grill models on hand for his grilling, says he’s seen two particular types growing in popularity: ceramic cookers and pellet smokers.

One example of a ceramic cooker is the Big Green Egg, which Engquist says his store is selling more of than ever.

“We’ve been carrying them for 10 years, and every year we’re selling more,” Engquist says.

Big Green Eggs have precision temperature control, which lets the griller adjust the temperature by controlling the amount of fresh air let into the grill.

The ceramic materials also help keep in heat better than typical grills, Engquist says, which means that models such as Big Green Eggs also work well for winter grilling.

“It covers all the seasons,” he says.

However, the ceramic cover means such cookers are heavier and more expensive than the kettle grill you might see in your neighbor’s backyard.

But, Engquist says, they’re worth every penny.

“They’re a blessing for someone that wants to do a lot of smoking,” he says. “It’s a grill that if you care for it, you won’t have to buy another one.”

The cost of a Big Green Egg at Nodak can range from $399 to more than $1,300 for the largest size, which includes a table.

Additionally, for someone who wants to move beyond traditional grilling, Charpie and Engquist say Traeger pellet grills are a model of smokers that have picked up in recent years.

The grill uses wood pellets and requires electricity. When it’s turned on, the igniter rod in the device is activated. An auger begins to feed pellets into the firepot, which are heated by the rod.

Once heated, pellet smokers can be controlled to precise temperatures during cooking.

“It’s nice and convenient,” Charpie says. “It’s just like an oven.”

The only downside to the pellet smokers, according to Charpie, is that an owner is locked into using one particular brand of wood pellets that are made specifically for one type of grill.

For its grills, Traeger produces a variety of wood pellets, including maple, cherry, apple and more.

At Nodak, Traeger smokers range from $399 to $799, depending on the size of the model.

Charpie and Engquist say there will always be more basic gas and charcoal grills, as well as the pros and cons that come with both.

Grilling with charcoal creates more flavor, Charpie says, while gas is just quicker and more convenient.

“We say that gas is our weekday grill, and charcoal is for the weekend,” he says.

Engquist calls his Green Big Egg his “weekend warrior.”

Important tools

Beyond choosing your grill of choice, Charpie says there are only a few other tools needed for successful grilling.

He suggests investing in quality sets of tongs to handle food.

“Good tongs are a necessity,” he says. “That’s the only tool you really need.”

Forks and spatulas – tools that some people use to grill – aren’t necessary or all that useful. Forks let out the meat’s juices, and spatulas are “like a one-sided tong,” he says.

Additionally, a thermometer can be helpful to let you know when your meat is done. Charpie prefers models that are instant-read, showing the temperature in seconds.

“They keep you safe, and they also help educate you on when a steak or something is done,” he says. “And eventually you learn to tell on your own when it’s ready to go.”

Depending on the brand, an instant-read thermometer can cost anywhere between $20 and $100.

Finally, a good pair of grilling mitts is also helpful during the grill process, and Charpie prefers leather brands, which cost about $30 each.

And that’s really all you need, he says.

“Grilling is a primal thing – preparing food on the most basic level,” he adds. “It doesn’t need to be complicated.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535