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For the Greater GrillTurn a folding potting bench into a multifunction food-prep station with little more than a few hooks and some storage accessories (all of which could easily be applied to a table you already own). Here, we lay out the assembly process step by step and provide some tricks and tools for smarter grilling. Get ready to savor the season.
It's made for the garden, but when accessorized appropriately, this collapsible wooden potting bench becomes the ultimate grill station. The four-foot-long counter has enough room for a fleet of kebabs or burgers, while the lattice and lower shelf provide space for tools. It arrives with a natural stain, but if you want to give it a custom look -- coordinating it, for instance, with your outdoor furniture -- apply a couple of coats of exterior paint.
Atlantic Decor potting bench, csnstores.com. Martha Stewart exterior satin latex paint, in Feldspar, homedepot.com/marthastewart.
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Hang It Up
The bench's lattice back is more than just a pretty backdrop. It provides square upon square from which to hang brushes, pot holders, and more.
Use metal S hooks to hang anything with a built-in loop (such as oven mitts and pans), as well as bins, racks, and grill baskets.
Corral small tools, such as basting brushes and meat thermometers, in stainless steel perforated bins and wire racks, which resist rust and won't collect rainwater.
Crown Bolt S hooks, homedepot.com. Stabil boiling inserts and Bygel wire basket, ikea.com.
Tip: Soak skewers Immerse bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes before grilling to keep them from burning. Even better, soak a bunch at once and freeze them in a plastic bag to use all summer.
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Add It On: Foil Dispenser
No more fumbling for the foil. Mount a dispenser to the counter's edge for easy access. As with all add-ons, secure it away from the counter's joints so it doesn't interfere with the folding of the bench.
Rationell Variera foil holder, ikea.com.
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Add It On: Tool BucketTo keep a bucketful of long-handled tools from toppling over, sink it into the countertop. To do so, choose a vessel that has a wider top than bottom, and then measure the pot's circumference three inches below its rim. Mark it on the counter using a compass, and cut out an opening with a jigsaw.
Galvanized vase (similar to shown), jamaligarden.com.
Tip: To get the grease out after washing natural-fiber basting brushes with soap and water, put them in a cup, bristle side down, and cover with coarse salt. Leave them for a day or two and the salt will wick away any leftover oil.
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Better Basics: Tool SetAs any grill master will tell you, cool tools are part of the fun. Here are a few essentials that offer a little something extra.
Measuring just 11 1/2 inches when folded, the long-handled utensils in the Cuisinart 3-piece grill tool set (cuisinart.com) fit neatly in a drawer and are easy to bring along to the neighborhood cook-off.
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Better Basics: Thermometer
The instant-read surface thermometer (outsetinc.com) indicates when the barbecue is hot enough for warming, grilling, or searing.
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Better Basics: Grilling SkewerWith this bendable stainless steel Fire Wire grilling skewer (williamssonoma.com), you can skewer foods before marinating them in a plastic bag or bowl.
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Kit It Out: File SystemUse the bottom shelf for anything that falls into the essential-but-clunky category, including cutting boards, a fire extinguisher, and a garbage can.
File away cutting boards, pizza peels, and cooling racks in a metal mail sorter, which holds them upright for easy access.
Mesh sorter, containerstore.com.
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Kit It Out: Extinguisher
Keep a fire extinguisher on hand for small fires; this compact one operates with the push of a button. A lesser-known fire fighter, a grill-cleaning brush (grease buildup can cause fire), can be hung from a hook. Fire extinguisher, by Home Hero; homedepot.com.
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Kit It Out: Garbage Disposal
Pick a garbage can that's made of metal -- a safe choice around the grill -- and has a tight-fitting lid, which keeps curious pets (and other creatures) from nosing around. Grill brush, williamssonoma.com. Knodd 11-gallon bin, ikea.com.
Tip: To streamline cleanup, line your garbage can with four or so bags at a time, so after you pull out a full bag you won't have to stop to reline the bin.
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Useful Untencils: Spatula
The extra-wide Stella fish spatula (outsetinc.com) is large enough to hold a whole fillet, letting you flip without fear of breakage.
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Useful Untencils: BasketKeep your stir-fry from falling between the grates with this mesh grilling basket (brookstone.com).
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Useful Untencils: Pizza PeelSliding a pie across a hot grill is a lot easier -- and safer -- with this wood-handled pizza peel (williamssonoma.com).
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Break It Down
When grilling season ends (which, happily, is months away), fold the bench flat and store your gear in sealed containers.
1. To protect the potting bench from the elements -- and ensure many summers of service -- store it under the eaves or in the garage.
2. Place long-handled barbecue utensils in a toolbox and everything else you need for the grill station in a plastic bin with a latching lid.
66-quart latch box (similar to shown), by Sterilite; homedepot.com. Toolbox, alicesupplyco.com.
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Tip: Cover Up
During the summer, simply cover the grill station with a firewood tarp to keep everything dry. (Lograck cover, improvementscatalog.com.).
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