New products make outdoor cooking more fun and fail-safe
David Perry -- Casual Living, March 15, 2007
What are consumers looking for when they revamp their outdoor cooking and entertaining area? These days they want the same amenities for their outdoor rooms that they enjoy in their indoor kitchens.
That translates to improved technology such as digital key pads that make it easy to set times and temperatures, electronic probes that tell them when meat is cooked to the desired doneness, infrared searing that ensures the perfect cooked-at-home steaks rivaling those at their favorite restaurants, convection cooking that produces faster, more even heating, remote diagnostics and devices that warn when propane is getting low to prevent running out of gas in the middle of a barbecue. In short, they want features that will make outdoor cooking as foolproof as possible.
As more homeowners choose built-in grill models that can be dropped into islands, giving them work space and storage space, the numbers and types of islands available are increasing. Consumers can opt for knock-downs that can be shipped in a box and readily assembled on site, then finished with a variety of skins or exteriors. Numerous affordable prefabricated islands are available. Or they can select custom-built units made from beautiful woods that weather well, brick, granite, decorative stone, tile and endless other intriguing and beautiful but durable materials.
Islands can be not much larger than a cabinet for the grill, with a compact surround that provides a small amount of convenient work space. At the other extreme are entire kitchens large enough to build in everything from refrigerators, ice makers, wine coolers and wet bars to electrical outlets for a myriad of appliances, including outdoor sound systems and TVs that withstand inclement weather and can be washed off with a hose for easy maintenance.
Many of these features will be seen on products exhibited March 14–17 at the HPBExpo in Reno, Nev., which is a good place to find out what's new that you can offer your customers as you move into peak outdoor living season. Here is just the tip of the iceberg of products worth investigating:
New grills and products
Cal Spas Ultimate Outdoor Theater is the "stuff dreams are made of." It includes a 63-inch TV, a Cal-Flame barbecue grill, a martini bar that contains a cocktail center, blender, ice maker and a refrigerator or beer tap. Ready for enjoying even on a cool evening, it has two fire pits, an iPod docking station and waterproof recliners. You can purchase it as a complete theater, or select individual modules. calspas.com
Weber has made significant changes to its Ducane brand, long a quality name in gas grills. It is unveiling Affinity, a line with six new models that offer large cooking surfaces, a warming rack and large side tables. Priced from $349 to $549, the line offers tremendous value with many of the features found on significantly more expensive grills. ducane.com
The Kingsford Tailgating Grill is a small barrel-style portable grill that can be hitched behind a vehicle to go anywhere. It has a wooden shelf, temperature gauge, adjustable air dampers, a charcoal tray and, although trim, it provides 350 square inches of cooking space, all for $99 to $119 MSRP. masterbuilt.com
With smoking increasingly popular, Bradley has introduced a lightweight and portable Propane Smoker with all the features of its original smoker. It burns Bradley Flavor Bisquettes automatically with the power of AA batteries and propane. And it comes with its own sturdy carrying case. bradleysmoker.com
Fire and Flavor Cedar Grilling Papers let you soak, heat, smoke and eat. For super-moist meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit and even cheese, just wrap them in the Grilling Papers made from 100% natural Western red cedar and place them on the hot cooking grid. A subtle, all natural smoky flavor will be infused as the food cooks. Like planks, the cedar papers must be properly soaked before using, but they are not reusable, unlike the planks. fireandflavor.com
Great new barbecue cookbooks
Every barbecue retailer should offer a selection of cookbooks to help educate consumers, bring customers back for repeat visits, and enhance their own bottom line. Contact pigoutpublications.com regarding the bumper crop of new books.
New Outdoor Kitchen by Deborah Krasner features many types of grills and other outdoor equipment that can generate interest in additional outdoor products. Published by Taunton Press in hardcover at $30.
Lobel's Prime Time Grilling by The Lobel Brothers, Manhattan's million dollar butchers who include several generations of family members, all barbecue enthusiasts. They boast an impressive list of celebrities who are regular customers. Published by John Wiley and Sons, the hardcover book is $27.95.
Dr. BBQ's Big-Time BBQ Road Trip features favorite recipes from Dr. BBQ's travels across the United States, highlighting regional differences in what people like to grill and smoke. Published by St. Martin's Press, it is $16.95 in paperback.
Stubb's Bar-B-Q Cookbook is a tribute to C.B. Stubblefield who grew up "pickin' cotton" in Texas and opened a BBQ store in Lubbock where he served a free meal to anyone who was in need. This little book that doesn't look like much might be the kind of book that everyone has to have because the recipes are real "down home" and delicious. Published by John Wiley and Sons in paperback for $14.95.