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First Grill 2014 – Sponsors … A Closer Look

Our FirstLook of the items from our FirstGrill sponsors was posted yesterday. Today, we will take a closer look at the following sponsor items:

Most backyard grillers are familiar with the myriad ways to light charcoal: lighter fluid, electric starter, chimney. While lighter fluid can make lighting a big pile of charcoal easy, it can create an (exceedingly) unpleasant chemical taste on the food. An electric starter requires that the grill be within range of an outdoor electric outlet. The best way (and our personal favorite) is a charcoal chimney and some newspaper. The chimney creates a column for the charcoal, concentrates the heat, and allows the rising hot air to pull fresh air in from the bottom to fuel the burning of the briquettes. But the chimney isn’t good for starting piles larger than what it can hold.

The Bison Company took the principles from various fire-starting methods and created a portable, air-driven fire lighter they call the Airlighter. This device creates a jet of 4-inch flame that quickly ignites a pile of charcoal or wood. Once the fire has started, switch over to “blower” mods, which forces air into the unit to keep the fire burning and spreading the flames throughout the pile. Of course, the Airlighter is not just a great way to light BBQs, it should work well with campfires, wood fireplaces, and just about any other fire. Can’t do all that with a charcoal chimney and certainly wouldn’t want to do that using lighter fluid or an electric starter 🙂

In the box is the AirLighter, a canister of butane fuel, a USB charging cable, and directions. The AC adapter is not included, but any smartphone charger or computer USB socket will work.

For convenience, the AirLighter is designed with a continuous mode for the blower, an adjustable handle, a built-in LED light, and a hanging hook/bottle opener. For safety, the AirLighter has a two-step switch for igniting the flame.

A typical charcoal BBQ requires about 20 seconds of Airlighter burn time and then switching to fan mode. Typically, users will get about 15 minutes of burn time with a fully-fueled Airlighter. With a full tank of fuel and a full battery, users can expect about 25-40 fire lightings before a need to recharge. Those who want to go quickly from “cold-to-cooking” as fast as possible can expect about 10 fire lightings before needing to recharge. A typical re-charge from dead to fully charged is about 6 hours. As the Airlighter comes with partly charged batteries, the first charging will be quicker.

John Boos & Co have been around since the late 1800s and are well-known for their high-quality kitchen products. The next time you are in a William & Sonoma store, take note of that sturdy cart holding up some new kitchen gear; it is likely that it will be a Boos. We are thrilled to include John Boos in the sponsors list and to have one of their BBQ Set available for our guest to check out at FirstGrill.

The cutting board and utensils set comes with the following items:

  • Hard Maple Edge Grain Construction cutting board
  • Boos Block Cream Finish w/ Beeswax
  • 2-1/4″ thick, reversible, built-in handles
  • 7″ santoku knife
  • 7″ Forged stainless steel carving fork

The thick 20″ x 15″ cutting board is a large, stable surface for cutting, slicing, and dicing. The 7″ Western santoku knife and fork will be handy for serving up what comes off the grills. Note the riveted hardwood handles and full-tang construction on both pieces. Research has shown that close-grain wood such as maple is an excellent material for cutting boards because it is easier to keep clean than plastic ones, does not allow bacteria to multiply, and is less dulling on a knife’s edge.

Like many Western variation of the Japanese santoku, this Boos blade has the Granton-inspired (semi-circular scallops) design ground into the sides. The purpose of the design is to make cutting and release easier, whether it be meats, cheese, or vegetables. While we like the look, it is unclear whether they actually add anything to the cutting process. Still, as long as the edge is sharp, everything else is pretty much secondary.

Note there are no feet on this board, which means it is  reversible. The side with the groove is designed for cutting meat as the juices will be “caught” by the channel ringing the perimeter. Vegetarians who want a meat-free surface can just flip it over and have a fresh, groove-free, surface from which to work.

Also note that a santoku knife is shorter than the typical 8-inch chef’s knife. It is also thinner and lighter. Santoku in Japanese means “three benefits” or “three purposes.” So what are the three benefits? Why, cutting, slicing, and dicing, perfect for FirstGrill 🙂

With the number of high-end Shun knives available to the RainyDayKitchen folks, it is surprising how often they reach for the Kyocera Ceramic paring knife. This little workhorse is amazingly sharp, nimble, and comfortable to use.

The ceramic for the blade is made out of very hard, very tough ceramic, often zirconium dioxide (ZrO2). The ceramic in most knives of this type is made by dry pressing zirconia powder and firing them through solid-state sintering. Sintering is the process of forming a solid mass of material by heat and/or pressure without melting it to the point of liquification. The edge is sharpened by a diamond-coated grinding process. The resulting material has a mineral hardness higher than hardened steel, which is why a ceramic blade will stay sharp up to 10x longer. For this year’s FirstGrill, we are excited that both the 3.5″ paring and the 4.5″ utility ceramic knifes will be on hand for folks to try.

FirstGrill is first and foremost about getting together with folks for some awesome food. However, readers know that we won’t pass up an opportunity to work in a few gear demos and tests into the event 🙂 We’ll have a full write-up of their comments and reactions next week.

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