PARMA, Ohio — Getting ready to fire up your grill for the 4th of July? Nearly ¾ of Americans will be celebrating with a BBQ, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. And most of those people have three or more accessories to help with the cooking.
So, we tested three products with tailgaters very familiar with grilling and having fun.
In fact, for a group that does this much partying on game day, it may be hard to believe they're up to grilling for more than 100 people at a shot.
I mean, these guys shoot raw hot dogs out of an air pump during their Sunday Fundays.
"We're kind of almost a nightclub on blacktop," said Jason Darwish founder of the Browns Bunch, a Cleveland Browns fan club.
When they told us about an incident they had with a grill, we questioned whether the Browns Bunch were barbecuers at all.
"We put the grill on the back of the pick-up the wrong way. So, we hit a bump and the lid blew open and the wind caught it and literally sucked it out of the pick-up," Darwish recounts.
But when we found out the group was voted “Best Tailgate” three times in the past five years by Cleveland Hot List, we asked them to hold a backyard barbecue of our own to test out some tools.
We brought along the MIU BBQ Grill Mat, a non-stick, heat resistant surface for mess-free meals, the Kona 360 Degree Clean Grill Brush, designed to clean every side of the grates with minimum elbow grease, and the Grill Daddy Pro Grill Cleaning Brush which uses steam to clean.
"It breaks up the burned on gunk and it also liquifies the grease," said Michael Wales, who invented the product.
We served up veggies, barbecue chicken legs, and burgers.
Darwish says, "The cheese is what really messes up the grill. That's a pain in the butt to clean."
But the mat made a huge difference for this gastronomical gala.
"Typically, when I cook up the burgers without the mat, the grease is just falling through the grill and it's just hitting the flame, and it's just shooting flames up which chars the burger. And that can lead to an unevenly cooked burger," explained Darwish.
But the MIU mat made for a moister, better burger, which he, and another Brown’s Bunch member, Giovanni Gabini, said they would buy.
"Typically, when I cook burgers on the grill they shrink. Those held its girth and its volume," said Darwish about cooking with the mat.
Gabini added, "And then when I was doing some of the actual flipping, some of the actual burger was falling off and also with the veggies. With the mat that didn't happen."
And of course, there was no clean-up.
But after grilling without the mat, we took the cleaning brushes head to head.
Darwish said, "They both work effectively. But that just looks way more fun,” referring to the Grill Daddy.
They liked how the long handle helped with the hard scrubbing work, saying it gives them more leverage.
And while they thought the steam was a cool feature, the water it needed to work was a problem for them.
"The water is dripping into my grill, which means it's going to drip into my drip pan, which means now you got wet oil," the men said.
The brushes on the Grill Daddy also didn't hold up as well as the ones on the Kona.
They showed us the brushes and said “It's crushed here. That one (the Kona) is holding together. So, longevity wise, this one (the Grill Daddy) may go quicker."
Bottom line, our Browns Bunch said all these cooking accouterments were winners. Which is exactly what they're saying about our team.
"Baker's taking us to the Promised Land," exclaimed Darwish.
I spoke to the Grill Daddy Pro people. They said the brushes are actually designed to bend a little, so they won't scratch the grates. As for the water issue, they suggested we may not have had the valve where you pour in the water fully in the off position. They added they have never had any complaints about that issue.