Barbecues.
Equipment guide ... You've bought the barbecue, now what's next? Photo: Eddie Jim

Bob Hart

Barbecue paraphernalia is, annoyingly, one of the most obvious gift categories mined by family members responding to another family member's sudden interest in the dark art.

To barbecue expertly, whether over gas or charcoal, there are few essential tools required. Just these:

- A couple of barbecue mitts or leather gauntlets are vital, as there are one or two barbecue tasks that, frankly, should not be addressed bare-handed. These can include handling a chimney charcoal lighter or moving or adjusting a hot barbecue (inadvisable, actually). And one mitt or gauntlet is essential for working over a hot grill. Also - and do not underestimate the importance of this - a black leather gauntlet looks unspeakably cool.

- Equally essential is at least one pair of tongs, and preferably half a dozen. But do not buy flash tongs: the best ones - the easiest and lightest to use, and the only ones that lock tight, which is important - are the cheapest varieties that cost about $5 for a couple of pairs in any supermarket, or even less in Asian markets. Forget about stainless-steel or rubber-covered tongs, or any that look in the least bit flash. Quite simply, the cheap ones work best. And a long pair of these, also, is ideal for manipulating burning charcoal (while wearing a gauntlet, of course).

 - When it comes to cleaning your barbecue, you will also need another barbecue essential - a good, clean, wire brush. Weber makes triangular ones that last longer than most, but there are several varieties on the market that work just as well. Ensure you have one to hand at all times. And use them - before and after cooking.

- Clearly essential, and undeniably cool, also, is an instant-read digital meat thermometer. You will use one of these constantly when you cook larger cuts of meat, so buy a decent one.

- Instead of a spatula, buy a paint scraper with a large blade. But remember to keep it purely for barbecue duties - lifting and turning food and occasionally for scraping the grill.