Gathering around a pit of intense heat and vigilantly turning pieces of food at perfectly-timed intervals, otherwise known as barbecuing, has to be one of man's longest and most widely-held traditions. But from singed steaks to chorizo sausages and wood chips to propane, everybody has a slightly different take on how to deliver the perfect feast. As the warmer months approach for many of our readers, and neighbors, friends and family prepare to don their aprons and fire up the grill, Gizmag has smoked out 10 outdoor entertaining innovations that will ensure your backyard cook-up is not one to be missed.
Light it up
We'll get things started with the Looftlighter, because getting things started can sometimes be the hardest part. For those that like to cook with charcoal, wood, briquettes, heat beads or similar, this nifty Swedish invention will speed up the lighting process by introducing super-heated air onto the heating material. As soon as sparks begin to appear, pull it back slowly and you'll be cooking in no time, no lighter fluid or chemicals required.
The company says the Looftlighter can ignite the material within 60 seconds and isn't limited to the grill. It doubles as a useful tool for the fireplace during the winter months as well. Price: US$79.99
Inner city grillin'
Narrow balconies and cramped courtyards don't typically lend themselves to hosting barbecues, but the BBQ Bruce Handrail Grill may be just the thing for cramped entertainment spaces. This stainless steel grill can be hung from a regular balcony handrail or even installed on a wall. Measuring 16 x 18.5 x 58.5 cm (6.3 x 7.3 x 23 in), Bruce is priced at $82.
Fun in the sun
If you're headed outdoors to cook up, then chances are there's a bit of sunshine around. The Solar Cooler, which we came across at CES earlier this year, is designed to use solar energy to keep your food and drinks at a cool 42° F (5.5° C) for over 24 hours. Fitted with handles, the cooler measures 16 x 14 x 17 in (41 x 36 x 43 cm), weighs 55 lb (25 kg) and has a capacity of 40 liters (10.5 US gal).
The user can set a desired temperature via a digital display on the cooler's side and extra power can be obtained by attaching additional solar panels or pre-charging the cooler through an electric outlet before use. The Solar Cooler is available for pre-order through Solar Cool Technologies' website for $950.
Catchin' some rays
If you're after some solar-powered heat rather than cooling then the SolSource cooker might be more to your liking for an entirely clean energy grilling experience. Bearing some resemblance to a satellite dish, this device uses metallic sheets to direct enough heat onto the cooking surface to reportedly boil a liter (0.3 US gal) of water in 10 minutes.
Made from carbon steel with stainless steel accessories, the SolSource cooker can be used with any cookware that works with a traditional stove. As for cooking conditions, the company says it will be able to generate enough power for grilling as long as you can see shadows. The SolSource cooker will set you back $399.
For after dark
It just wouldn't be proper BBQ if there wasn't a chance of it dragging from the late afternoon, into the evening and on into the night. Though after-dark grilling has it risks, these can be managed with the BBQ Grill Light and Fan from E&B Giftware. A lighting unit with four LEDS sits between dual fans that clamp onto the handle of your BBQ to keep the grilling surface illuminated and the smoke out of your face.
The light and each fan are operated individually and can swivel independently. The unit is powered by eight AA batteries, weighs 1.9 lb (0.9 kg) and will set you back $89.00.
An extra set of eyes
If your interpretation of hosting a social barbecue leans more towards the social aspects than the barbecue aspects, then the iGrill Bluetooth cooking thermometer from iDevice could be the sous-chef you need. A probe is inserted into the meat and connects via a heat-resistant cable to the iGrill unit, which in turn sends a notification via Bluetooth to the companion smart phone app when the meat is perfectly cooked. iGrill is powered by four AA batteries, has a Bluetooth range of up to 200 ft (61 m) and comes with two meat temperature probes. iGrill will cost you $79.99.
For your viewing pleasure
One for those whose ultimate entertaining space borrows elements from inside and outside the home, the Open Air Cinema is an inflatable projector screen designed for some open-air viewing. Available in four sizes ranging from 9 x 5 ft (2.7 x 1.5 m) up to 20 x 11 ft (6 x 3.3 m), it comes in what the company calls a Cinebox Home System.
This package includes an air blower for inflation and a projector at standard, 720p or 1080p definition, with options for a built-in PlayStation 3, DVD or Blu-Ray player. Prices start at $2,199 for the standard definition 9 x 5 ft Open Air Cinema package.
Projectors can be a poor option for outdoor daylight viewing, so if you're looking to get some screen time while the sun's still shining the 201-inch C SEED LED TV might be a better option. Dubbed by C SEED as the "world's largest outdoor TV," the unit features a foldable screen that allows it to descend into the ground when not needed. You will need to enquire with C SEED directly for specific pricing information, though the company tells us the cost can be compared to the retail price of a super sports car. Not one for penny pinchers.
An outdoor kitchen
The Open Bar from Italian design firm TAO is a sleek modern outdoor kitchen with everything you need for a pleasant backyard dining experience. Made from anodized aluminum with ultra-resistant polyester cover and PVC coating, Open Bar features a BBQ grill and sink and can be hooked up to water, gas and electricity mains. It also features a motorized, remote-controlled cover if the weather starts to impede on your food preparation. The company tells us that it prices its products "on demand", so you'll need to head over to its online store for further details.
To quench your thirst
The Metalco Outdoor Cocktail Bar is a portable cocktail trolley equipped with an ice maker to keep your drinks nice and cold, because grilling can be thirsty work. Able to churn out 25 kg (55 lb) of ice in 24 hours, this elegantly designed stainless steel unit features a black granite cutting board, bottle tray and cup holders. You'll need to contact Metalco for a price on this one.
Time to put the feet up
You didn't think we'd come all this way without something to help you clean up did you? Real estate agent Ethan Woods hit upon the idea for the Grillbot after he attached a wire scrubbing brush to his power drill to clear the grime from his grill. A series of prototypes later, Wood had in his hands a robot packing three electric motors that power three replaceable brushes to scrub clean your grilling surface.
Each Grillbot uses a CPU chip to control direction and speed and an LCD alarm and timer to let you know when the job is done. Powered by a rechargeable battery pack, they are available in black, blue, orange and red. Price: $119.95.