I am here to tell you that you’re not doomed to a less than great July 4th cookout simply because you have a less than great grilling setup. There are only 4 things you need to take your shitty grilling situation to levels previously unknown to it. Four products, barely $100 altogether, make celebrating America a better time for all involved — including more and better char marks, a longer fire, meat worth buying and more.


Put simply, Kingsford instant light doesn’t cut it. They’re smothered in chemicals, they produce absurd amounts of smoke and they leave a weird amount of ash. They also don’t get as hot as their hardwood lump cousins, which, while typically being moderately pricier, burns 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 in a grill 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 for the 4th, this is a charcoal grilling essential in the truest sense of the word.


Porter Road is like the butcher down the street, but with better meat, lower prices and you don’t have to leave your house to get it. Porter Road is something of an anomaly in the world of meat and butchery — only recently available online, the Nashville-based operation owns the animals, the slaughterhouse, the aging process, the butchery process and the final sales point. This affords them a level of control over the final product that’s virtually unrivaled. Two pounds of dry-aged ground beef, six handmade hotdogs and three bratwurst come in the brand’s July 4th pack (choose express shipping to be sure of a July 4 delivery).


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.