A grilling setup is a lot like a mechanic’s shop or a musician’s rig — it’s never quite finished! Many passionate BBQ chefs are constantly tweaking their space and their gear to perfect their workflow in front of the grill. From outdoor kitchens to cool accessories to upgrading your grill itself, there are tons of different approaches you can take.
Up ahead, we’ll cover seven cool ways to upgrade your grilling setup. Each one gives you the opportunity to make your grilling setup — and your BBQ creations — as unique as you are.
Make it part of an outdoor kitchen space.
If your time and budget allow for making substantial changes, consider setting up a whole outdoor kitchen workspace as part of your grilling area. Adding a sink, countertop, outlets and potentially even a mini-fridge to your grill space can turn it into a true master-quality setup. Plus, once you have electric power available, you’ll be able to use a pellet grill if you want to!
While a custom outdoor kitchen isn’t cheap, it’s an investment that’s worth every penny if you’re serious about grilling. Some folks choose to DIY an outdoor kitchen, but most use a professional hardscaping and patio contractor to ensure they’ve got the best expertise available.
Add a seating area near the grill.
Adding a nearby seating area to the space around your grill helps make grilling more fun and comfortable. With space for people to hang out nearby, it’s easy to stay in the conversation with your guests while keeping an eye on the grill. And if you’ve got a reputation as a master of outdoor cooking, people might want to watch you and pick up some tips!
Patio seating designs will vary widely. Some folks might like to set it up so the grill operator faces toward the seating area, making it easy to keep conversation flowing. If you’re designing a full outdoor kitchen area, you might also integrate bar seating for some casual comfort that makes guests feel like part of the grilling experience.
Upgrade to a kamado grill for a better charcoal experience.
Love charcoal, but don’t love the hassle and the cleanup? A kamado ceramic grill could be the next big addition to your grill setup. These ceramic-lined charcoal grills are known for their extremely consistent heat and their ability to keep food moist and tender. They’re also great for low-and-slow cooking, which makes them an excellent choice if you’ve been itching to experiment with charcoal smoking.
Kamado grills also tend to come in larger sizes, so a kamado can be a perfect choice if you’re often cooking for a crowd. If you’re concerned about the heavier weight and limited mobility of a kamado, remember that kamado carts actually make them quite easy to move. Plus, when you use the high-quality lump charcoal that kamados are designed to work with, they produce much less ash than other grills.
Make sure your grilling space is well lit.
Customizing the lighting in your grilling space can be both a practical and a visual upgrade. If you’re regularly grilling after dark (or you want to), definitely consider making this upgrade a priority. With high-quality lighting, you’ll be able to see when you’ve got that perfect dark-brown brisket bark, or when your steak has the ideal sear lines.
This tip is most applicable if your grill is integrated into an outdoor kitchen, but even a free-standing grill can benefit. Some companies offer grill lights that you can attach to your grill for a perfect view of everything inside. You might also think about adding some free-standing outdoor lighting, both to improve your view of your grill and to create a safer and more enjoyable patio.
Pick up some storage accessories to keep your tools and sauces close at hand.
Stop fumbling for your spatula or spritzing bottle at the key moments and get organized instead! It’s easier to stay in the zone when all of your sauces, seasonings, and tools are at your fingertips. A grill caddy is one popular way to keep it all in one place. Some even attach to your grill itself, although you should be sure to buy a model that’s compatible with your specific grill.
Grill caddies come with lots of different features, so choose one that fits your workflow. Some models are best suited to holding your collection of sauces and spices (or, yes, the beer you’re drinking as you grill). Others include features like hooks and/or magnetic strips for hanging knives and other tools. It all depends on your goals for an ideal grilling workflow.
Add another type of grill to your setup.
Maybe you’re a charcoal champion or a gas god who’s comfortable with your grill style of choice — but what’s life without a little challenge and surprise? Learning to cook using a different grill style will give you a whole new perspective and help you broaden your skillset as a grillmaster.
Adding a second grill will also expand your culinary possibilities so you can get the best of every cooking style. There’s nothing that sears like charcoal, just like there’s nothing that’s as fast and efficient as a gas grill. And for wood-fired flavor combined with options for smoking, you really can’t beat a pellet grill. If you want to keep your equipment footprint small, your best option might be a gas/griddle hybrid grill which still allows you to expand your outdoor cooking options. Consider what kinds of capabilities you’d like to add to your arsenal, and invest in upgrades accordingly.
Upgrade to a larger grill.
Sometimes, bigger really is better! That can be especially true if you’re frequently grilling for lots of people. Anyone who’s been feeling cramped by a smaller grilling surface should make it a priority to upgrade to a larger model. It can make grilling a lot more fun (and produce better results) when you’ve got plenty of space to work in.
Alternatively, look into adding extra cooking space to the grill you already have! Many grills offer accessories like extension racks and even additional burners. These offer an awesome way to expand your cooking space without springing for a whole new grill.
Every grilling setup is a work in progress, so embrace it and keep experimenting! Discovering new culinary horizons is one of the most satisfying parts of outdoor cooking, so don’t be afraid to change things up when you’re ready for something new.