The Grill Alert Talking Remote lets you know when your entree is ready - from 300 feet away.
updated 6/6/2005 9:48:25 PM ET 2005-06-07T01:48:25

Here comes my favorite time of year - barbecue season.  The yearly ritual of grilling and smoking of meat, fish, fowl, fruits and vegetables is my favorite time of year.  But, I’m always looking for new ideas and gadgets to help make my life easier.  This year I’ve found a bumper crop.

I will not get into the debate over gas versus charcoal or even electric grills.  I have my favorite.  You have yours.  Why chance an argument?  Let’s just enjoy the finished product.

I found all kinds of grills to tell you about: Big ones, small ones, portable, ones you need a truck to tow and even something called the $2,600 Tundra Grill which lets you cook with wood, charcoal, brushwood and pinecones.

That said, what about a grill that doesn’t need any standard fuel?  The European Solar Oven looks somewhat high tech and is powered entirely by the sun.  Specially designed mirrors collect solar energy and concentrate it onto a black absorber plate which heats the oven.  Food stays in its cookware and never touches the surface of the oven.   The manufacturers claim the oven heats enough to boil, stew, grill, or bake most foods in one to two hours without having to be constantly tended.

Hammacher Schlemmer
No charcoal, propane or extension cords?  This grill needs zero SPF.
I haven’t been able to get my hands on one to see if their claims that solar cooking results in more flavorful, healthy food.  I hope to soon.  They do say that a few clouds won’t interrupt the cooking but warn that dark colored cookware yields the best results

Fortunately, for your $299.95 the European Solar Oven comes with a cooking pot, roasting pan, instructions, and recipes; dark-colored cookware yields best results.  It’s available at Hammacher Schlemmer.

If you use gas for grilling, I found a much better way to gage what’s left in the tank than having to lift and weigh it.  The clever little Magnetic Propane Gas Level Indicator contains liquid crystals which indicate the level of gas in the container when the fuel is low.

The Barbecue Store
This little magnetic evice knows when you're running out of gas.
It’s magnetic so it’s easy to mount it on the lower portion of the tank.  When the gas gets down to those levels the liquid crystals change colors.   It works with propane and butane tanks.  You can find it online at the Farm and Home Supply Center and The Barbecue Store for around $6.

A great looking new BBQ gadget is the $75 Grill Alert Talking Remote Thermometer from Brookstone.  They say you can step away from the grill because their wireless belt-clip monitor tells you when your entree is ready from up to 300’ away.

Just insert the stainless steel transmitter probe into the center of the meat, select the type of meat, choose how you want it cooked and then walk away. A voice prompt alerts you when your entree is “Almost ready” and “Ready.”

When the weather turns rotten, you can use it indoors in your oven.  It’s even been awarded five stars from Good Housekeeping Magazine.

I’ve run across hundreds of interesting looking lighting fixtures for outdoor use, but none as interesting as what is called the All-Weather Outdoor Lamp.  It looks like a hand-thrown pottery lamp that belongs in a living room, but it’s really an electric light that can reportedly survive the most torrential downpour on your deck without fear of electrical shorting.

It looks like the manufacturer thought of everything.  The base is made from a space-age polymer treated to resist cracking, chipping, or breaking, even if knocked onto pavement. The weatherproof socket assembly makes the lamp utterly safe to operate and silicone-coated bulbs are water-resistant and shatterproof.

Hammacher Schlemmer
A lamp Noah would have loved - if he had electricity on the arc.
The lampshade is made of Sunbrella, a material designed for use on awnings and marine equipment.  It resists mildew and color fading that typically results from UV exposure.

There’s a high/low dimmer switch along with a 12 lb. weighted base that steadies the lamp in high winds.   This kind of engineering doesn’t come cheap.  Hammacher Schlemmer is selling the All-Weather Outdoor Lamp for $199.95.

I hate having to get in the car to go to the store and buy more ice.  It seems to happen at every BBQ I attend.  That’s why I love the idea of a portable, outdoor ice machine.

portable ice maker
This portable ice maker can make 35 pounds of cubes a day.
Improvements is marketing a commercial-quality ice maker that can start delivering ice in less than 10 minutes, and make up to 35 lbs. in 24 hours!

You choose from three different size cubes and you can use bottled or tap water. The $299.99 Portable Ice Maker has a 1-gallon water reservoir and no drain is required.

And this year there are a slew of different mosquito and flying insect controllers on the market.  Luckily, the prices are down from a few years ago.  One of the nicest devices I’ve run across is the Galaxie Power Vac Mosquito and Insect Control from Sharper Image. 

Sharper Image
Galaxie Power Vac Mosquito and Insect control needs no propane.
It uses a time-released octenol attractant in combination with black light, moving LED lights and a body-heat simulator to fool those nasty bugs into thinking the device is the most irresistible, tastiest warm-blooded human around!  Nearby mosquitoes are transported by a vacuum into a removable, see-through catch tray where they dehydrate and perish naturally.

The $199.95 Galaxie is said to keep a one acre area mosquito free for up to six weeks on a single octenol canister ($5.95).

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