I am here to tell you that you’re not doomed to a less-than-great cookout simply because you have a less-than-great grilling setup. There are only three things you need to take a shitty grilling situation to levels previously unknown to it. What’s more, they all cost less than $50.


Put simply, Kingsford instant light doesn’t cut it. They’re smothered in chemicals, produce absurd amounts of smoke and leave a weird amount of ash. They also don’t get as hot as their hardwood lump cousins, which, while typically being moderately pricier, burn far hotter, cleaner and with very little resulting ash. If you’re not feeling lump coal, try one of the few other great alternatives out there.


Building a faster, better fire is remarkably simple and cheap. This coal lighting chimney is a stupidly simple contraption that fixes the issue of imbalanced lighting, wind blowing out the coals and shaves off 10 or 15 minutes from the lighting process as a whole. Even if you’re not grilling this weekend, this is a charcoal grilling essential in the truest sense of the word.


Cast-iron grates are a way of life and to my mind the single easiest things you can do to improve a mediocre grilling setup. Average grills, as is their nature, are built with average materials — like wimpy steel grates. Cast-iron grates carry all the same attributes of the fabled cast-iron skillet: heavy, higher heat potentials and an ability to retain heat even when a cold 32-ounce tomahawk is dropped on them. These grates fit Weber’s classic Smokey Joe grill (and other grills its size), but quickly measuring your grill’s size and a minute of googling and you’ll find what’s needed.