All posts by Jeff Fidler

canada day bbq ideas

2018 Canada Day Low Carb BBQ Ideas

Celebrate Canada Day with an Amazing Low Carb BBQ Feast

Start inviting friends and family to your place for a big Canada Day celebration, because we’re going to give you all the tips and advice you need to put on a fantastic barbecue feast that everyone will enjoy. We’ve pulled together a great list of things to consider when planning your Canada Day barbecue that will help things run smoothly and ensure that everyone has something delicious to choose from before, during, and after dinner.

First, Know Your Guests

Planning a great barbecue for family and friends begins with knowing what kinds of things will be a hit and what things you may want to avoid. Food allergies and dietary restrictions should be considered first. Be sure to find out what types of foods and drinks are guaranteed to be safe for all of your guests. In addition, you’ll also want to be aware of any guests who may be vegan or vegetarian and take care not to cook their food on the same surfaces or with the same tools that have been used to cook meats. This includes setting aside a section of your grill for those foods and using a separate flipper and set of tongs. These guests will definitely appreciate your attentiveness and care.

Start with the Snacks

Canada Day parties tend to start earlier in the day when the sun is shining and there’s lots of time to laugh and play before dinner is served. This means that you’ll need to have a selection of snacks for your guests to munch on throughout the day until the big feast begins. Offering a selection of hot and cold appetizers to your guests will help make sure that no one will get too hungry through-out the day. Things like veggie sticks and dips are always a great fit and work for pretty much all kinds of dietary concerns. Chips and crackers are popular, too, and there are plenty of low carb options to choose from. Check out this article on great low carb appetizers for even more ideas for things to  keep your guests snacking on.

Stock up on Frosty Beverages

Keeping your cooler stocked up with ice cold drinks is absolutely essential on Canada Day, which is commonly one of the sunniest long weekends we have all summer, that is if mother nature co-operates. So be sure to have a variety of beverages for the kids to choose from, including sugar-free juice, sodas and kool-aid. For the adults, low carb beers, low sugar coolers and ciders, and a selection of mixed drinks will keep everyone refreshed and smiling throughout the day and long in to the evening. Here’s a great collection of sugar free drinks that are perfect for hot summer days.

Offer a Variety of Meats

When it comes to the main course of the meal, we recommend offering a variety of different meats for your guests to choose from. Your typical barbecue fare of hot dogs, burgers, sausages, and grilled chicken is always a great way to fill up your guests, but why not include a new option this year? Kabobs are fast and easy to make and are always a big hit at a barbecue. You can even do a make-your-own kabob station, where guests can skewer their preferred combo of meats and vegetables for you to grill up fresh and hot for them. Sure, this takes a bit more time and effort to prep, but for smaller groups of guests, it can also be a lot of fun.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and want to offer something totally different for your Canada Day menu, check out this fantastic selection of summer barbecue recipes that are guaranteed to have your guests cheering.

Don’t Skimp on the Salads

To go with your freshly grilled meat, you’ve got to have some cool salads to choose from. It’s important to note that not all salads are created equal, and many standard salad recipes can have hidden carbs in them that you may want to avoid. In general, stick with leafy green salads that include plenty of other vegetables, and let your guests dress their salad themselves.

Offer a range of healthy salad dressing so that everyone ends up happy.

Here’s a handy resource you can use for great low carb salads and dressings.

Scrumptious Sweets & Desserts

Once the main meal is over, it’s time to indulge your sweet tooth and enjoy a nice dessert. If the day has been sunny and hot, consider offering a selection of frosty treats like sugar-free freezies, ice pops, ice cream and milkshakes. There are dozens of low carb and low sugar dessert recipes you can choose from to suit any style and any taste, from creamy and chocolatey to fresh and fruity. Here’s an amazing set of low carb dessert ideas that you can use for inspiration.

Finish with a Bang

Everyone loves a great firework show once the sunshine fades and things start to get dark. This year, kick things up a notch and put on a fantastic show for the kids by asking everyone to chip in a bit of money and get some big fireworks to end the evening with a really cool light show!

Forget roadside stands or the multipacks available at convenience stores. Buy your fireworks online as you’ll get more “bang” for your buck. Some of the biggest retailers include Kaboom, K&H Fireworks, and Victory Fireworks.  You can even see videos of what the different named fireworks will look like, so you know what to expect.

From flashy and sparkly to big and loud, you can find something that will make everyone ooh and aah!

Conclusion

Here at The Low Carb Grocery, we are proud to be Canadian! We certainly hope that this collection of ideas and recipes has inspired you to try something new and fun during the Canada Day long weekend this year.

Hosting a big barbecue with family and friends can be easy with the right planning, and with these tips we’re sure that your menu will be getting rave reviews from guests of all ages. Happy Canada Day everyone!

road trip eating and snacking

Low-Carb Guide to Eating & Snacking on Road Trips

Ultimate Guide to Eating and Snacking Low-Carb on Road Trips

It’s hard enough to find healthy food on a road trip. Try sticking to a low-carb diet at the same time. While not impossible, it will test you, for sure.

When the weather warms, everyone throws off their winter wrappings and sets off to explore the world outside. For many of us, this entails getting out of the neighborhood and poking around far afield. This could involve a quick jaunt to visit friends and family down the highway. Or it might mean an all-out sea-to-shining-sea extravaganza where you hit every conceivable roadside attraction along the way.

Whichever way you go on your road trip, you’ll still need to take care of your nutrition. Going low-carb takes dedication. Even if you allow yourself the occasional cheat day, a multi-day journey will demand careful planning to pull it off the low carb way.

There’s so much to consider. Where you’re going. How you’ll get there. What you’ll eat along the way. And what you’ll keep on-hand in the car to fuel you between stops.

It’s a daunting task, but one you can manage with ease. All it takes is a little planning and preparation. But don’t worry. We’re here to help guide you through.

Prepare for your trip

The best way to stay on-plan while you’re on the road is to make sure you have a plan you can stick to. That means stocking up on snack food and filling a cooler, so you have something handy to snack on in the car. How much you’ll need depends on how far you’re going, how long you’ll be driving, and how many people you’ll have in the car with you.

If you’re going on an extended road-trip, plan to stop at a good grocery store every few days to restock the cooler. Relying on the snacks available at gas stations isn’t going to cut it. Your options can be severely limited. As much as anyone can love pork rinds, every so often your body just screams out for more variety.

Plan your route

Take meal planning to heart when you plan your route. Use a map service like Google Maps that will show your restaurant options along the way. If you’re unfamiliar with a diner’s menu, you’re already online. Just look it up. When in doubt, get the buffalo wings.

If you’re going to be on the road a while, also figure out where your favorite grocers are so you can restock the car cooler on a regular basis.

One feature of Google Maps lets you plan a route that goes by certain businesses. See if your fave food options aren’t too far off the beaten path.

It might sound a little nutty on the planning and organization front. But if you do it right, your belly will be much happier overall.

Try planning for a few meal options to choose from on each leg of the trip. That way you can stick to a tight schedule and still feel like you’re being spontaneous.

Know your options

It happens sometimes. You’re bombing down the Trans-Canada Highway in the middle of the prairies. And there’s literally no other option than grabbing lunch at a roadside rest stop. Relax. The world won’t end.

The secret to dealing with this thorny scenario is to know how to order at a fast-food restaurant. Even if their menu specifies no low-carb options, you’re the customer, and therefore always right. Tell them you want your burger wrapped in lettuce and see what happens. It can’t hurt to ask, and sometimes they’ll give you just what you want.

Some sandwich shops will let you order a naked sandwich or a sub-in-a-tub. It’s basically the stuff they’d put in the middle of a sandwich—minus the bread. Tell them not to skimp on the meat, cheese, or olive oil. You get a big bowl of food that’ll keep you going for hours.

Most of the burger chains have salad options, too. You can often get grilled chicken or steak to accompany your leafy greens. Maybe they’ll even have spinach or a sugar-free dressing. If you’re not happy with the dressing options, you can always swap it out for aioli, mayonnaise, or extra virgin olive oil. Pack a bottle of olive oil in the car cooler so you can order your salad to go if necessary.

Stay hydrated

Sometimes when you’re on the road, what you take for a sign of hunger is, in reality, your body telling you it’s dehydrated.

People often think of travel dehydration as something that happens when you’re flying. But it also happens with long car trips, too. Being in a car warms your body, causing you to sweat more. But you don’t really get a chance to notice you’re sweating. The air circulating around the car constantly removes the water from your skin. To compensate, your body sweats even more.

Add to that the water you lose when you breathe, and you end up losing moisture at a constant and rather alarming rate. It seems crazy because you’re baring exerting energy. But there you have it.

Studies suggest that dehydrated driving is a big problem on par with drunk driving or driving while sleep deprived. Dehydration leads to:

  • slow reflexes
  • tiredness
  • blurry vision
  • light-headedness
  • dizziness
  • lack of focus

All things to avoid behind the wheel. Stay hydrated.

Pack plenty of water along. If you’re trying to use less plastic, bring along a refillable bottle. If you’re not into the taste of water, you have two options. One, acquire the taste. It’s an essential building block of life, after all. Or two, jazz it up a bit. Throw in some wedges of lemon or lime. Maybe some cucumber slices. Or a cinnamon stick. Perhaps some Flavorall Liquid Stevia.

10 great in-car snacks

Here are some great low-carb snacks to put in your cooler. Some should remain cold. Put some ice packs in the cooler and make sure you consume the cold stuff first.

  1. Atkins Advantage Sweet & Salty Trail Mix
  2. Nuts
  3. Pumpkin seeds
  4. Hard-boiled eggs – peel before leaving if traveling without a copilot
  5. Fresh vegetables – carrot sticks, cucumber slices, etc.
  6. Beef Jerky
  7. Sugar-free chocolate
  8. Cheese – slices, cubes
  9. Crackers & chips
  10. Berries

When all else fails, splurge happens

Okay. You’re on the road. You’ve planned. You’ve prepared. You’ve kept your options open. And still, there will be that odd time you’re stuck with no low-carb options. Or—dare we say it—you say to yourself, “You know what, I’m on vacation, and I’m going to eat something bad for me just this once.”

Totally your call. You’re an adult, you’ve been driving all day—you have earned an indulgence. It’s okay to splurge a little on occasion.

Remember the adage: Everything in moderation. Don’t make it a common occurrence.

One tiny slip won’t ruin everything. Just stay disciplined and get back on-track next meal.

Road trips are all about staying fueled

Road food is rarely healthy, let alone low-carb. But whether your road trip lasts for a few hours or several weeks, you’ll be happier about it nutritionally if you do a little planning.

Stock a cooler with ice packs and lots of quick and easy snacks. Plan your route with food in mind. And know you have non-menu options if you end up somewhere the food pickings are slim.

Stay hydrated, and if you choose to give yourself a splurge meal, remember moderation is crucial.

It can be a nightmare task if you’re not the most organized, but this is your health we’re talking about here. Rise to the challenge, stick to the plan, and your stomach will be much happier in the end.

make low carb chicken parmesan

How to Make a Perfect Low-Carb Chicken Parmesan

Perfect Low-Carb Chicken Parmesan Directions

Chicken parmesan, or chicken parmigiana. Either way you say it, it’s an ooey-gooey little hunk of heaven. A cheesy, saucy, flavorful explosion of unparalleled delight. Quite possibly the tastiest thing you could ever put in your mouth.

But if you’re trying to follow a low-carb diet, it’s an automatic no-no, right? How can all those carbs be justified?

Of course, there’s no justifying the carbs. But ultimately, there’s a savory solution to this problem. Simple, effective, delicious ways, too. For those who feel they’ve been missing out, chicken parmesan is back on the menu.

The secret? You have to get creative about it. While it’s true that a traditional chicken parmesan has a lot of hidden carbohydrates lying in wait to throw off your daily carb count, all it takes is a little outside-the-box thinking to get everything back on track.

Traditionally, the biggest chicken parm-related controversy is about pork. Specifically, chefs are divided about whether it’s still chicken parmigiana if you add a slice of ham or bacon to it? If something like that is enough to get chefs riled up, imagine the heated debate that would ensue if you suggested substituting the breadcrumbs with pork.

That’s right. Pork-crusted chicken parmesan! Of course, if pork isn’t welcome on your fork, we also have some other breading alternatives for you to try.

Intrigued? Read on.

Where do the carbs come from?

In a traditional chicken parmesan, the biggest carb culprits are the breadcrumbs and the tomato sauce. The breading should come as no surprise to anyone who’s used to counting carbs, but the sauce might throw you for a loop.

Here’s the deal with tomato sauce. Tomatoes are sugary. They may not have as much fructose as mangos, but they still have a fair bit.

To make matters worse, many commercial sauces add sugar to their recipes. And it’s your blood sugar pays for it in the end.

So let’s break it all down, look at what’s throwing your blood sugar off, and come up with some viable, tasty alternatives to get chicken parm back on the menu for you.

Step 1: Getting the right tomato sauce

So how do you get a decent low-carb tomato sauce? Well, there are essentially four ways to go about it:

  1. buy a pre-approved sauce from a list compiled by someone who’s done rigorous research with a low-carb focus
  2. spend a lot of time reading labels
  3. make your own sauce from canned tomatoes
  4. if you’re particularly hardcore and have a bit of time on your hands, buy bulk raw tomatoes and do your own canning

As far as pre-approved lists go, you might want to try this one compiled by the good folks at Greatist. If you need help narrowing the list down, try one of the marinara sauces. That’ll give your parm that essential tangy zip to truly elevate it beyond the mundane. Or if you have time to place an order, try one of these great sauces.

If you opt to go the label-reading route, a good shortcut is to go straight to the ingredient list. Don’t waste time doing mental long division as you look at the nutritional info and try to deduce what a recommended serving will do to your daily carb allowance. What matters is learning what ingredients are inside the jar. Short lists are better than long ones. And simple, pronounceable ingredients are better than a list of chemicals you might need a Ph.D. to figure out. And put back any jar that says it has added sugar.

If you’ve got any skills in the kitchen, whipping up your own sauce from scratch is dead easy. Grab a can of diced or crushed tomatoes from the canned vegetable aisle and a recipe from the internet and off you go. That’s definitely one way to make sure no one’s slipping extra sugar into your sauce.

Canning your own tomatoes

Of course, the ultimate way to control your intake is can your own tomatoes. However, if you’re not already canning things, this method requires some time, money, and space. There’s a bit of a learning curve, too.

Timewise, you have to track down bulk tomatoes, wash them, prep them, and all the other stuff it takes to get them ready to jar. In some Italian families that take tomato sauce seriously, days on end are devoted to canning tomatoes every year.

And let’s not forget that doing it right requires a fair bit of gear. And storage space, too—a cold cellar might come in handy, though it’s not necessary.

Canning is by far the best method of controlling everything that goes into your food. But roll up your sleeves. It’s a lot of work.

Step 2: The perfect breadcrumb

We tracked down the perfect breading substitute over at the Tastaholics website. It turns out they also wanted to figure out how to make chicken parmesan fit into the low-carb lifestyle and did extensive research and testing to figure it all out.

They tried a number of things instead of breadcrumbs. Almond flour, coconut flour, more parmesan. But in the end, they discovered the best low-carb breading was . . . pork rinds!

That’s right. Whiz up some pork rinds in a food processor until it’s the consistency of breadcrumbs. Then mix it with grated parmesan. A half ounce of pork rind breading to every tablespoon of parmesan.

You can get the whole recipe, including a demonstration video, here.

Other breading alternatives

If you’re not sold on breading your chicken cutlet with pork rinds, there are other things you can try. The recipe above uses pork rinds because that’s what stuck best to the chicken in their testing. But if pork isn’t your thing, there are other options worth exploring.

Others have reported good results breading with almond meal, parmesan cheese, coconut flour, and panko. If you try parmesan, use the real stuff, grated fresh off the block. Testers have reported that the shaky parm doesn’t form a good crust. And Italian food enthusiasts will shake their heads when they see you buying it. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow. If it can be shelved at room temperature, it’s not real cheese. Don’t eat it.

Some have had good results with quinoa, but others argue that quinoa isn’t that low-carb. It’s better than breadcrumbs, but it’s definitely not suitable for a keto diet.

Step 3: Ditch the extras

Resisting the urge to add in extra carbs should be a given at this point. Sure, many of us fell in love with chicken parmesan served on a bed of white pasta. Still others were wooed by it baked in a pie. And let’s not forget how it wormed its way into the hearts of millions in its most carb-unfriendly incarnation yet, serving as the middle of a submarine sandwich.

If you’re going to go through the effort of finding or making a low-sugar tomato sauce and making your own breading out of pork rinds, why add extra carbs now?

Consider instead serving your chicken parmesan with a salad. Or, maybe brown rice. And if you’re going to use pasta, choose a good low-carb noodle.

Put the power of parmesan on your plate tonight

It’s tricky trying to figure out low-carb alternatives for all your old favorites. When you first try the low-carb lifestyle, it seems like you may never eat some of the things you love ever again.

Thankfully, some people living this lifestyle never surrender. They work tirelessly to find ways to bring all their comfort foods under the low-carb umbrella. And while some food faves may never be a good fit with this lifestyle, it’s good to know that breaded foods like the classic chicken parmesan—or chicken parmigiana—are now part of the program.

All it took was a little creativity.

cook bison the low carb way

Cooking With Bison The Low Carb Way

The Ultimate Guide to Low-Carb Cooking with Bison

What would you say to a great protein source that has fewer calories and less fat than beef, chicken, or pork?  One that’s also lower in cholesterol than chicken or pork?

The meat in question is bison. It’s the healthy red meat. Try it in a stir-fry, slow-cooked, or as the ground meat in your next pasta sauce and find out for yourself.

The important thing about cooking with bison is that it has an extremely low fat content which makes it very easy to overcook. As a result, many people come away from their first experience dining on bison with the impression that it’s tough. Not so. You just have to handle it right.

In this guide, we’ll show you the right way to cook bison to help you make the most of it. We want you to cook bison like a pro so you can wow your friends and enjoy all the benefits of eating this fantastic source of protein.

Eating bison for all the right reasons

Before we dive into the how-to section, let’s spend a little time examining the whys. There are several great reasons why you should eat bison. Here are the big four.

1.      It’s high in protein, low in fat

A 3-ounce serving of bison will give you 48% of your daily value (DV) of protein, making it an excellent source of complete protein. This same serving only has 3% of your DV for fat and 4% of your DV for saturated fat. Even grass-fed beef isn’t that lean.

2.      It’s a great source of minerals

This same 3-oz serving gives you the following minerals:

  • iron (56% DV) – vital to forming red blood cells that transport oxygen around your body
  • phosphorus (18% DV) – forms strong bones
  • zinc (21% DV) – enables your senses of smell and taste
  • selenium (43% DV) – essential to the production of DNA, helps prevent cell damage caused by free radicals

3.      It’s heart healthy

It’s official; the science backs it up. Eating bison instead of beef leaves you less likely to develop clogged arteries. A study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that eating beef leads to significant increases in both triglyceride levels and markers of inflammation, two clear indicators of heart disease. But eating bison instead led to a smaller increase in triglycerides and no increased inflammation.

4.      4. Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins

Bison is also a rich source of many essential vitamins. It’s a rich source of:

  • Riboflavin (22% DV) – an essential coenzyme
  • Niacin/B3 (40% DV) – deficiency can lead to nausea, lesions, anemia, headaches, tiredness, etc.
  • B6 (31% DV) – involved in macronutrient metabolism, among other things
  • Cobalamin/B12 (102% DV) – necessary for cell metabolism

The basics of cooking with bison

A cut of bison’s tenderness depends on how much connective tissue is within it. And the amount of connective tissue generally depends on two things. First, you must consider the original location of the meat. There’s more connective tissue in active muscle groups. Second, there’s the maturity of the carcass. In other words, there’s more connective tissue in older animals.

The key to cooking with bison is to match the cooking style with the tenderness of the cut. Do it right and your bison will be tender. Every time.

The most tender cuts of bison cook best using dry heat. Methods like roasting and grilling work best. For cuts of medium tenderness, try a combo of dry and moist heat. You can still grill them, but a marinade will help. And for less tender cuts, avoid dry heat entirely. This meat is best braised or in stews.

Compared to beef, bison has less fat and more moisture. As a result, bison cooks much quicker than beef. If you cook bison the same way you cook beef, chances are you will be disappointed. Avoid that pitfall—not all red meat is created equal. Bison has its own rules of engagement that must be respected, as we’ll discuss shortly.

Due to its inherent lack of fat, you won’t find the marbling in bison that you’re used to in beef. This marbling helps beef by locking in moisture in case it’s accidentally—or, God forbid, intentionally—overcooked. You don’t get the luxury of wiggle room with bison. When it’s medium, it’s done. End of discussion.

To avoid overcooking tragedies on the grill, it’s best to follow a few simple guidelines with bison. First, use lower temperatures. Second, use longer cook times. Third, do not exceed medium doneness—this can’t be said enough. And fourth, keep cooking less tender portions until they’re fork-tender. If you’ve got to work to get the fork in there, you’re rushing it.

Roasting tender cuts of bison

This method works well with tender cuts like:

  • tenderloin
  • top sirloin butt
  • prime rib
  • short loin
  • strip loin
  • rib-eye

Preheat your oven to 250°F – 275°F. If you prefer to season your dry roasted meat, do so now while the oven’s warming. Then, quickly brown the surface of the meat in a hot skillet. But don’t overdo it.

Transfer the meat to a roasting pan fat side up. This is so the meat won’t sit in its own juices while it roasts. Don’t add liquid, and don’t use a lid. Just slide it in the oven uncovered.

A meat thermometer will come in handy at this point. Your roast is done when it hits 160°F, but it’s best to get it out of the oven when it’s in the 150°F – 157°F range. The temperature will continue to rise a few degrees while the meat rests.

Let it rest for at least 20 minutes—30 if you can—before you carve.

Tender cuts on the grill or in a stir-fry

These methods work best with tender cuts like:

  • tenderloin steak
  • strip loin steak
  • t-bone steak
  • rib steak
  • top sirloin steak
  • ground meat
  • brochette
  • medallions
  • ground patties

Season your meat but don’t salt it. Heat up your grill, wok, etc. Cook until you’ve reached preferred doneness. Steaks vary from very rare at 130°F to medium at 160°F. Salt can be added after if desired.

When pan-broiling, thinner steaks usually take about 2–3 minutes a side.

When using ground bison, go for medium well doneness. That’s 165°F. The meat will be brown down to the center and the juices will run clear.

Cooking cuts of medium tenderness

Use these methods for medium tender cuts like:

  • sirloin tip steak
  • skirt steak
  • hangar steak
  • osso buco

These cuts can be broiled or barbecued, pan-fried or stir-fried.

Marinating is the key to getting medium tender bison to cook well. Steaks should be marinated at least 6 – 8 hours. Alternatively, you could use a basting needle to inject the marinade right into the meat.

If you want to use your steaks in a stir fry, partially freeze them. Then slice the meat thinly against the grain. Then marinate 6 – 8 hours.

Doneness can vary from rare at 140°F to medium at 160°F.

Cooking the less tender cuts

Typically, tougher cuts include:

  • braising steak
  • stew cubes
  • brisket
  • short ribs
  • chuck roll
  • shoulder clod
  • flank steak

These cuts work best braised, stewed, and pot roasted.

Pre-heat to anywhere between 250°F – 325°F. For stews, cube the meat. Season meat and pan-sear until brown. Put meat in the pan and add liquid, etc. until meat is covered. Put a lid on it and slide it in the oven.

Keep cooking until meat is fork tender. This takes time, so be ready to play it by ear. It may be necessary to add some extra liquid to the pot, so try to hold some in reserve.

Bye-bye, beef. Hello, bison!

If you’re looking to shake things up a bit in the kitchen, maybe it’s time you tried bison. It’s packed with protein, light on the fat, and bursting with vitamins and minerals. All that, and it tastes great, too.

You can use bison in just about any beef dish. Lasagna, chili, bourguignon. Just reduce the heat and extend the cook time slightly. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be whipping up impressively heart-healthy meals low in carbohydrates, fat, calories and cholesterol.

Make bison an integral part of your low-carb lifestyle today.

great barbecue tools & gadgets

Great Barbecue Tools and Gadgets

15 Awesome Barbecue Tools and Gadgets You Can’t Do Without

The warm weather’s here, I’m afraid you must barbecue now—it’s the law!

But seriously, there’s nothing more life-affirming than going outside and cooking your food. Barbecuing not only reconnects you with nature but the very history of human development itself. It’s an instant throwback to the days when an open fire was our only option for cooking. A simultaneous celebration of how far we’ve come while still honoring all those who’ve helped us get here.

To help cement our position in this noble continuum this summer, we’ve put together the ultimate list of barbecue tools, gadgets, and doodads.  They all come in handy, and some of them will kick your grilling game into orbit.

1.      Looftlighter Charcoal Electric Lighter & Firestarter

Propane might be quicker, but charcoal tastes better. To help speed up your charcoal fires, the Looftlighter gets those coals lit in almost no time. All without chemicals. Kiss the awful taste of lighter fluid goodbye for good. For added safety, the Looftlighter’s casing instantly cools after use. Safe enough to touch within seconds. As a bonus, it’s great for lighting wood-fires, too. But it needs an outlet which means you can’t take it camping.

2.      BBQ Dragon

This one’s a great companion piece for the Looftlighter. It’s a high-powered fan with an adjustable gooseneck clamp. When you’ve got your coals initially lit, the BBQ Dragon fans the flames, spreading it quickly to all coals. It’s battery powered, so you can take it to the grill no matter how far it is from the house. And when you’re done, it recharges via USB. Used in tandem, the Looflighter and the BBQ Dragon could have your coals ready to go in just 10 minutes. Somebody pinch me.

3.      Grill Daddy Pro Grill Brush

Most grill brushes get their cleaning power from elbow grease. But the Grill Daddy Pro Grill Brush unleashes the power of steam to get your grill clean as a whistle. Fill the handle with water, heat it up, and off you go. With its powerful stainless-steel bristles and the loosening power of steam, your grates will be spotless in no time. And it’s dishwasher safe.

4.      Steven Raichlen’s grilling grate oiler brush

And if you’re going to have a steam-powered grill brush, how about another brush that has a compartment full of oil in its handle. This one cleans the grill before you put your food on, dispensing your favorite cooking oil at the same time. Keep the grate well-oiled to prevent your food from sticking. Try using an oil with a higher smoke point, such as avocado or grapeseed oil. The brush is made of a heat-resistant polymer of plastic and silicone. Dishwasher safe.

5.      Himalayan Salt Plate

Salting meat is for amateurs. Real barbecue-ists grill their meat on a solid slab of Himalayan salt. Just pop it on the grill while it’s warming up and treat it like a griddle. It’s a great way to get indirect heat for more delicate cuts like bison. The food you cook is well-protected from the flames below. And the flavor it imparts to your food along the way is sensational.

6.      Charcoal Companion Stainless Grill Clips—Set of 4

Ever try grilling asparagus only to lose half of them falling through the grate? Well, suffer no more. These clips bunch your veg together, preventing unnecessary loss. The clips are made of brushed stainless steel with serrated teeth to grip your veg and a spring hinge to lock it down. Mind you, if you’re grilling a lot of veg you might need a couple of sets.

7.      Maverick Pro-Temp Commercial Grade Food Probe BBQ Thermometer

Take the guesswork out of doneness. Stop poking your meat and stick a trusty instant-read thermometer in to see what’s really going on. The Maverick Pro-Temp gives you an accurate temperature quickly to reduce the risk of overcooking. It’s LCD screen is high contrast, and it’s backlit, so you can use it at night, too.

8.      Grillbot

Perhaps the best part of the movie WALL-E was imaging a future where itty-bitty robots clean up after us. Well, as far as your barbecue is concerned, the future is now. Grillbot is programmed to dive into your post-grilling gunk and residue with its whirring brushes so you won’t have to. This is not a toy. It’s got a proper CPU and sensors and it can run completely autonomous. You can even set it and forget it, programming it to sound an alarm when it’s done. After use, the brushes pop out so you can put them in the dishwasher.

9.      Swashbuckler BBQ Sword

This one also gets filed under the not-a-toy category. At least, not a kid’s toy. What looks like a play sword comes equipped with a sharp carving fork at the business end. It’s only included here because International Talk Like A Pirate Day is September 19, so what better way to celebrate the end of summer? I wouldn’t trust the knuckle guard to be a viable heat shield, but at least it comes with a mask. You and your friends can take turns pretending to be the Dread Pirate Roberts. BBQ and cosplay, together at last.

10. Spruce Silicone Wine Glasses

Barbecue. Vino. A match made in heaven. But what if you drop your wine glass and it shatters all over the lawn? Not a problem. This stylish stemless glassware is made from silicone. Guaranteed shatterproof. They’re actually flexible, so don’t squeeze too tight while it’s full of liquid. And when you’re done, they’re dishwasher safe. Stylish, resilient, and eco-friendly. Plastic and paper cups are so passé.

11. Lynx Grills SMART30F SmartGrill

Okay, maybe an actual barbecue doesn’t qualify as a gadget, but this is the grill for gearheads. Why’s that? Because you can control it with your smartphone. From a distance. How cool is that? Or if you’re close enough to it, it has voice recognition. Control the heat without ever turning a dial. Now that’s progress.

12. Brookstone Handle-Mount Grill Light

One of the things stopping folks from grilling in the winter isn’t the snow. It’s the fact that the sun sets in the afternoon and you can’t see what you’re cooking. That changes with the Brookstone Grill Light. Just clamp it to the handle and you’re ready to barbecue around the clock. The durable LED bulb is good for 100,000 hours, which works out to over eleven years, so you shouldn’t have to worry about replacing it for a while. To extend its life even further, it has an auto shut off feature. And it’s weatherproof, to boot.

13. Maverick Redi-Chek Wireless Digital BBQ Thermometer

If you’re into low-and-slow old-timey Southern barbecue, you know nothing’s worse than some goof opening the lid every ten minutes asking, “Is it done yet?” This wireless thermometer stops all that nonsense. You insert it into your meat, you put the meat on, and then you only open the lid when the wireless receiver tells you it’s done. It has a 300-foot range. The LED display is also backlit so you can check on your brisket that’s cooking overnight without having to get out of bed, which should make a lot of barbecue spouses happier.

14. Sur la Table Stuff-a-Burger Press

The latest rage in burgers is stuffing. Not like turkey stuffing. More like cheese on the inside. Or onions. Or cheese and onions. Maybe some herbs, too. Well, Stuff-a-Burger lets you bring the strange wonder of stuffed burgers to your grill. Without unnecessary mess. Its ingenious design lets you make seamless stuffed burgers every time. The stuffing inside stays there until you bite into it.

15. Motorized Hot Dog Griller

This one appears to be kid stuff on first inspection. But it’s not. It’s called a hot dog griller, but if you have a straight-enough sausage, that’ll work too. with its built-in electric motor, the Motorized Hot Dog Griller keeps your dogs and brats turning on autopilot, so you can pay attention to the fancier aspects of dinner. Imagine a dog with no burns or cold spots. It could be yours.

You’ll wonder how you ever grilled before

Live fire cooking—it’s what separates us from the lower primates. That, and the cerebral cortex, possibly. But cooking with fire’s definitely still important.

And as our species continues to evolve, forever dreaming impossible dreams and reaching for unreachable stars, our barbecue gadgets evolve right along with us.

Try out some of these new innovations and take your grilling game to a whole new level this summer.

gift ideas for dad

Unique Father’s Day Gift Ideas

5 Unique Father’s Day Gift Ideas for 2018

The last thing your father wants is another tie. Got it? You get one day a year to say thanks for being my dad. Maybe try something different this year.

Our dads have done a lot for us. They put together our first bikes. They kicked around the soccer ball with us. They gave us sage wisdom. If we asked for it or not. So let’s treat them well this year.

We’ve put together a guide to figuring out what to get your dad this year. And if you’re still having problems figuring it out, we’ve also got a few suggestions for you to consider. So let’s figure out what to get your dad.

What to get dad this year

There are three factors to consider when shopping for your dad—your budget, his taste, and the potential for personalization.

What’s your budget?

Showing your dad how much you appreciate him doesn’t require a huge outlay of cash. If the gift you have in mind will cause you to default on your mortgage, reconsider. Remember, your dad was just starting out once, too. He knows how tough it can be.

On this occasion, it’s the thought that counts. Thought and effort—that’s the key. And if you can put a smile on his face while still staying solvent, he’ll know he’s taught you well. Can you imagine anything more rewarding?

What kind of man is your father?

Dads come in all flavors, and they’re all into different stuff. The key to unlocking that perfect gift is figuring out what makes dad tick and no one knows your dad better than you.

Is he an avid reader? An audiophile? A sports fan? Consider something tailored to his personal taste. Especially if he’s the kind of guy who loves something but never buys it for himself.

Browse the web for shops that sell rare, one-of-a-kind gifts. The world is full of quality second-hand specialty shops selling their wares online. They might have the perfect thing you never thought you’d get your hands on.

Do you have time to personalize it?

If you’ve given yourself enough time, you can make a gift for dad even better by having it engraved or monogrammed. Or anything else that adds a personal touch that makes your dad feel special.

Still looking for some more concrete suggestions? Keep scrolling. We’ve got a few ideas to help you narrow things down.

1.)   Consider male grooming needs

Whiskers. It’s the number one complaint kids have about their dads. But as we get older and our skin gets thicker, we learn to appreciate facial hair as part and parcel of the man who raised us. When thinking of gifts for Father’s Day, consider dad’s beard.

Does your pop like to keep his face clean shaven? If so, maybe he needs something high end in the shaving department. Is the old man using a disposable shaver from Bic or Gillette? Enough of that nonsense. Kick his face game into high gear with a traditional straight razor. Just like the one his father probably used. You get brownie points on thoughtful gifts that remind dad of his own father.

Men who use straight razors have fewer ingrown hairs and less razor burn. And it leaves the face impeccably smooth. Not sure where to start? See if the Bevel system is to his liking.

Maybe your dad has a beard. In that case, make it the most luxurious beard in town by getting him a beard care kit, complete with beard brush, shampoo, and conditioner.

Or perhaps your dad works too hard and never takes time for himself. Get him a gift certificate for a high-end barbershop. One that really pampers a man. Better yet, take him yourself and pick up the tab. Let him know he raised you right. Make him relax under hot towels for a few minutes before he gets a straight razor shave from a trusted professional. Make him feel like a million bucks.

2.)   For the barbecue lover

Meat. It’s been fueling our species for millennia. And it’s best cooked low and slow.

Dad knows the best things are those where time and consideration play a major factor. Yes, a quickly fired steak can be a wondrous thing, but nothing beats the refined yet rustic elegance of smoked brisket, pulled pork, or Kansas City-style ribs.

If your dad can’t spend enough time with his grill, maybe it’s time he came over to the smoky side. There are several kinds of smokers available. The most common are bullet, offset, and cabinet. An important factor to consider is how much downtime dad has. Bullet and offset smokers can keep a guy busy for hours keeping the fire just right. Cabinet smokers, on the other hand, are less time-consuming and labor-intensive. Several have auto-feeding fuel sources that can keep going for hours while the meat slowly cooks to tender, mouth-watering perfection.

A great starter unit is the Bradley 31-inch Vertical 4-Rack Digital Electric Smoker. It comes with lots of room to cook your ribs and a digital heat control, so you don’t wind up burning them.

Or you could simplify things, instead. Take dad out for great barbecue. As the demand grows, barbecue joints are popping up everywhere. To pick the best one, avoid the chains, then scout out your remaining options. Drive by each one when they’re open and roll your window down. Does it smell like a real wood fire? If so, consider making a reservation.

3.)   A fitness tracker

Many dads get the health bug, whether they’ve always been active or whether it’s a recent trend. It likely has to do with you. You’re an adult now and dad wants to maximize the time you can spend together. It’s a good thing.

Nothing helps dad get in shape, stay in shape, and maybe push himself a little further each day like a fitness tracker. Trackers keep track of everything these days. How far you’ve run. Your heart rate. Your sleep cycles. They keep track of statistics and goals and let dad track his progress and see how well he’s doing.

Depending on the functionality you want, trackers can get pricey. But a good, reasonably priced device is the Fitbit Versa Smartwatch. You can get is for around $250. Besides tracking dad’s progress, it also does wallet-free payments, music, and other apps. It’s even water resistant if dad’s preferred workout is swimming.

4.)   A cocktail shaker set

Some dads love their beer, and that’s okay. But maybe there’s a mixologist in your dad just dying to be released?

Nothing shakes up a cocktail party like actual cocktails. Get dad mixing up martinis for the whole gang. If he’s a little unsure of where to start, ask for a vodka martini à la James Bond. No one’s cooler than James Bond.

The great thing about getting dad a proper shaker set is that it’s the gift that just keeps giving. If it takes off, next year you can buy him some decent martini glasses. Maybe a quality bottle of gin over the holidays. Whenever you’re heading over, call ahead and see if you should pick up some ice along the way.

And they’re easy to personalize. You can pick up something everyday functional for the practical dad. Browse thrift stores and pawn shops for the dad who appreciates vintage chic. Or shell out for a designer name for the dad who already has everything.

5.)   Something to throw

Do your warmest, fuzziest memories of your father involve hanging out in the backyard or a park tossing something back and forth? Honestly, it’s the simplest things that affect us most deeply sometimes.

Have a Field of Dreams moment with your pop this Father’s Day. Even if you shell out the big bucks for a fancy present, bring along a ball. Or better yet, a frisbee. And go outside and toss it around with him. Just like old times. Sitting around and chatting in the living room is fine and dandy for a sewing circle. But this is Father’s Day we’re talking about, and that demands a deeper connection.

Make it a Father’s Day to remember

You get one day a year to show your dad how much you appreciate his guidance. Make it count. Figure out who your father is. What makes him unique? Then get him something that reflects his personality, customizing it as much as possible as far as your budget allows.

With a little thought, you can show your pop how much he means to you and never give him another crumby tie ever again. For some, that alone will ensure it’s the best Father’s Day ever.