Memorial Day: the official kick-off of grilling season, when you can finally haul that dusty old grill out of your garage and enjoy charred meat and vegetables and stand in the sunshine, observing your kingdom. Everything the light touches, you’ll whisper, until your friend busts you for being a grown adult who makes Lion King references. IT DOESN’T MATTER. This winter has been especially brutal, which means your BBQ skills might be a little rusty.
Here’s 9 essential items that will kick your very first BBQ of the year into high gear.
1. North Carolina BBQ T-Shirt ($25, The Social Dept.): The first thing you should take note of when hosting a BBQ is that people take BBQ very seriously, especially if they’re from the South. BBQ is basically a religion down there. If you’re hosting a bash for a bunch of Northerners who think anything with grill marks on it qualifies as BBQ, you’ll probably get away with wearing this shirt, which calls out a very specific version of BBQ from North Carolina. But, if you’re among BBQ purists and enthusiasts, you better be able to defend your t-shirt stance by knowing that BBQ technique varies by region, and North Carolina Eastern Style means that you enjoy the badassery associated with whole hog BBQ (using every part of the pig except the squeal), paired with a vinegar-based sauce.
2. Core Apron ($80, Knife & Flag): Face the facts—nobody is laughing at your “Kiss the Cook” apron. It’s time to update to something a bit more adult and a lot more sturdy, like this Core Apron from Knife & Flag. It’s got a ton of pockets to hold your various BBQ acoutrements and will protect you against the BBQ elements—sauce, smoke, and a shaken beer that was opened too fast.
3. Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee ($19, Amazon): One of the most important things about hosting a BBQ is menu planning. Some people think, “Oh, I’ll just fill up a cooler with some beers and throw some burgers and hot dogs on the grill” and then wonder why nobody shows up to their BBQs anymore. You’re not home alone, watching SportsCenter and planning on eating a bunch of hot dogs in your underwear. You’re having GUESTS over, and that means that you’re promising to present them with something they’ll want to eat. Chef Edward Lee’s Smoke & Pickles provides a ton of innovative BBQ recipes with a decidedly Asian twist, making you look like a culinary genius and making your guests leave your BBQ satisfied.
4. Pops Q Tool ($50): It’s easy to get carried away with BBQ tools, because there are so many on the market. But really, all you need is a quality spatula and a pair of good tongs. The Pops Q Tool provides both of those in one (plus a few more, including a BOTTLE OPENER), making it easier than ever for you to man the grill.
5. Stuart & Co. Dry Rub ($9, Mouth): The big star of the BBQ, of course, is whatever meat you’re deciding to serve (you don’t win friends with salad), and you should treat it right, with a rub, like this one (or a marinade, like the one below), which combines cayenne pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and a whole host of other spices to ensure the star of your meal will be delicious.
6. Apple Chipotle BBQ Bath ($9, Sweetwater Spice Company): If you decide to forgo a rub in favor of a marinade, look no further than this Apple Chipotle BBQ Bath, which is especially great for pork or chicken.
7. Universal Expert Bottle Opener ($22, West Elm): Aside from eating, there are other activities that obviously take place at a BBQ, like talking to loved ones, or drinking 700 beers. If you’re planning to do the latter (or have any guests who are planning to do the latter, like your Uncle Bob who never seems to be able to have enough drinks in his system), you’ll need to have a bottle opener handy. This one is very handsome and will get the job done. It even comes with a little strap, meaning it can hang from the end of the grill, the door knob of the door to your patio, etc.
8. Wood Slice Serving Board ($54, Orange & Pear): Once you’ve cooked all the food, you’re going to need something to serve it on. And trust this: even the extra-extra-extra-strength paper plates aren’t going to be able to handle a giant rack of ribs or a plate of 16 burgers. This rustic Wood Slice Serving Board will look great on a picnic table and look even better with delicious BBQ heaped on top of it.
9. Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale (Flying Dog): Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewery recently paired up with another Maryland staple, Old Bay seasoning, to create a crisp, clean summer ale that will pair EXCEEDINGLY well with any seafood you throw on the grill this weekend. Sure, your Aunt Mary will yell, “OLD BAY BEER, THAT SOUNDS DISGUSTING,” but pay her no mind. You and your beer geek friends will thoroughly enjoy this refreshing little number. I promise.
Amanda Waas is the creator of You’re Welcome, a gift guide site for all of life’s awkward occasions. Her writing has appeared in Every Day With Rachael Ray, Glamour, Made Man, AOL’s Shelterpop and DIY Life, and various others. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook and sign up for her succinct, not-annoying weekly e-newsletter for gift suggestions sent right to your inbox.