To throw a slammin' backyard barbecue, all you really need are great grilled foods and free-flowing cold drinks. Where to begin? With seven cool gadgets (and one robot) that will make your shindig a success.
Grilling Tool Belt Fair warning: You need to be a little bit Norm Abrams and a little bit Guy Fieri to pull this bad boy off: It's a tool belt, made just to hold all the grilling utensils you might need. Made by New Zealand-based company Grillslinger, the belt includes loops for the big utensils, and plenty of pockets and pouches to hold whatever you need to treat your meat. There are a few models available, but the original Grillslinger might be your best bet. It comes with a grill knife, tongs, spatula set, and membership to the "License to Grill" club. Yes, really. $US99.
Portable Grill If you're a city dweller like me with no room for a grill (or a backyard, for that matter) then look into a nifty portable propane piece like this one. The O-Grill 3000 Portable Gas Grill is amazingly light - under 14kg - and collapses into a sleek little carrying case for grilling on the go. Although it folds up tight, the cast-iron cooking grid still offers 1452sqcm of cooking space. $US163.
All-Weather Lighter It might be a bit more firepower than you need for the standard backyard grill, but since when was overkill a bad thing? The windproof, waterproof fire starter can ignite even in 100km/h+ winds. Before you get started, be warned: This lighter can instantly produce a 1093C flame, and we take no responsibility if you accidentally burn your backyard down. $US50.
Flexible Grilling Baskets For grilling veggies and other foods too small to lie across the grill, try a flexible grilling basket like this one from Crate & Barrel. The double-sided flexible netting conforms to grillables large and small, and lets you flip the whole gang by turning one handle instead of playing chopsticks with your tongs. The nonstick metal is dishwasher safe, and because it keeps foods off of the grilling surface, it might save you time on clean up, too. $US15.
Instant Read Thermometer When you're the one throwing the party, you don't want to be the one to mess it up. So what's the easiest way to ruin your grill out? Over-cooking or under-cooking the main dish. Make sure you're grilling to the perfect temperature with this instant read digital thermometer from Thermapen. The metal probe registers a temperature in three seconds flat. Plus: digital BBQ instrumentation = serious grill cred. $US93.
The Mini Outdoor Party Fridge It's inevitable. At some point during a backyard barbecue, you will have to walk inside to get another drink. What a drag. But not so if you have an Outdoor Party Fridge! A more sophisticated update to that foul dorm room mini fridge you haul out every time it gets sunny, this portable refrigerator holds 72 355mL cans or 26 bottles of wine. Plus, the thing is made for entertaining: With two side caddies and serving tables, it'll hold food as well as drinks. $US365.
Beer Me, Robot I'm willing to bet at some point you've asked yourself: Why would I do this myself, when I could have robot do it for me instead? Couple that logic with a Silicon Valley robotics studio, and you get the PR2 beer-delivering robot. The guys at Willow Garage made a few add-ons to an existing machine, (the PR2 can do a hell of a lot more than deliver beer) including a beer holder and bottle opener. Then, they outfitted the office fridge with a self-stocking rack, allowing the robot to make continuous deliveries without human help. To see the "Beer Me, Robot" in action, go here. $US400,000.
There are a million gimmicky bottle openers out there, but this one wins for its sleek design and dual functionality. Yes, it's not just a look: This bottle opener actually doubles as a usable 2-GB USB stick. Made by i-Ecko, the 100-percent stainless steel USB drive could also make a great host gift, if your barbecues are classy like that. $US20