I’m lucky enough to work with some of the world’s best chefs, though I’m careful not to abuse my access to these great culinary minds (i.e., I don’t show up on Jacques Pépin’s doorstep at 1 a.m. with a fallen soufflé, and I certainly don’t call Jean-Georges Vongerichten's cell phone when I need hors d’oeuvres inspiration.) But this morning I broke my own code of conduct and sent a desperate e-mail to grillmaster Steven Raichlen. Hear me out: I need to test a couple of his recipes this weekend (about the only thing the F&W Test Kitchen lacks is a charcoal grill), but some backyard bandit walked off with my well-worn Weber grill (this model, the 22-1/2-inch One-Touch Silver charcoal grill).
So now I need a new grill, and I figured this might be a great opportunity to try out a new model. I searched online for some potential replacements with some momentary cleverness, thinking that if I bought a grill that didn’t look like a grill, it might actually have a chance of surviving the mean streets of the Lower East Side. I found one that looks like a giant mosaic vase, another that moonlights as a toolbox—I even found an ersatz football and a keg of beer. But all of these had more style than substance, and I wanted my old workhorse back (If you see a black Weber thumbing a ride on the Long Island Expressway, tell it to come back home, okay?). I e-mailed Steven to see if he had a favorite inexpensive grill (I already know his deep-pocket picks). A few seconds later, he e-mailed me back from his Blackberry—a straight answer from the Smoky Oracle: "The Weber 22-1/2-inch kettle is the way to go." I felt vindicated, then guilty for doubting my Weber: I had been using the right grill all along. I'll pick one up tomorrow, along with one of these
(For more of Raichlen’s sage advice, check out his 10 steps to grilling enlightenment, from our June issue.)