The end of summer is just one big lead up to Labor Day weekend, the last big gathering before we all start thinking about autumn.
Having a three-day weekend means traveling, heading to the beach and, yes, backyard cookouts. It’s time to gather friends and family together to take advantage of the sunshine and warmer weather one last time in a big group.
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Whether you’re an aspiring grill-master or looking to upgrade your outdoor tech, we’ve found some of the best new products for your backyard, pool and patio. Pick these items up online now to inject a healthy dose of fun into the end of summer — and well into the fall.
Weber Genesis EX-335
When you think about grilling, there’s a good chance a traditional gas grill is the first piece of gear that comes to mind. We’ve been testing Weber’s Genesis EX-335, a lux gas grill whose extra features never get in the way of cooking meat and vegetables to perfection.
The three-burner grill was easy to assemble — we recommend asking a friend for help, though — and looks great once it’s put together. The EX-335 has 669 square inches of cooking space, which Weber says is enough room to hold around 20 burgers. In our experience, we could cook a mixture of dozens of wings, a handful of burgers, and an assortment of vegetables without running out of room. If you’re a fan of longer cuts of meat, think skirt steak or a full rack of ribs, you won’t need to sweat space.
What makes the EX-335 stand out is just how easy it is to use. Its burners ignite instantly, the grates get hot quickly, and its temperature is updated in real time on the grill’s LED screen, which is easy to read at a glance. The most important way to judge a grill is its heating consistency, and the EX-335 passed our tests with flying colors. Every part of its surface was heated evenly — so we never ended up with meat that was over or under done based on where we placed it on the grill. If you’re cooking for a crowd, this feature is key.
If you’re new to grilling, or like technology, you’ll appreciate the Genesis EX-335’s Wi-Fi connectivity. Stick one of the included meat probes into your cut of meat, and the Weber Connect app will let you know when it’s come to temperature. Just make sure to stick the probe directly into the center of your meat. If you don’t, you’ll get a bad reading.
The Weber Genesis EX-335 is an exceptional gas grill that never let us down. It’s a great addition to your backyard whether you choose to use its smart features or not.
Facebook / Spark Grills
Cooking food on a charcoal grill imparts a smoky flavor you can’t get from a gas grill, but they’re more annoying to set up, control, and maintain. The Spark One changes all of that.
Its fuel source is a single, specially shaped briquette that fits neatly into a pan held just below the grill. Spark offers an array styles of briquettes (Everyday, Quick, High-Heat, Low and Slow) designed for different temperatures and burn rates. This takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out whether you’re using too many or too few briquettes for your grill.
Many charcoal grills require lighter fluid or a chimney starter to get going, but the Spark has an electric igniter, which starts heating its compact briquette in seconds. You can select your target temperature by using a knob on the front of the grill, which control fans inside the Spark to manage its heat.
In essence, Spark has managed to bring the convenience of gas grilling to a charcoal grill. The most impressive part of this system is that it works flawlessly. We were able to cook several meals on the grill using its quick and everyday briquettes, and had a perfect result every time. We were especially pleased with how well its temperature management system worked in real world use.
Setting up the Spark One took about a half hour (we recommend using two people for the job), but was fairly straightforward thanks to Spark’s clear instructions. Cleaning the grill after each cook was also simple. After waiting for the briquette to cool completely, you dump it into a flame-resistant (ie. metal) container.
In terms of sheer ingenuity and design, we haven’t tested a better grill than the Spark One. It may even tempt long-time gas grillers to try out charcoal.
Cuisinart’s Clermont is an all-in-one grill and smoker whose multi-functionality actually works. The high-tech grill runs on wood pellets, which Cuisinart offers in an assortment of styles. The auger feeds pellets into the hopper at a sustained rate, so all you have to do is set the temperature, and wait for the Clermont to get hot enough.
In our tests, the Clermont performed very well. It takes a little while for it to get fully heated, but its temperature stays consistent after that. This smoker has three racks for a combined total of 1,400 square inches of cooking surface. This allowed us to cook a lot of food at once without crowding each layer. The only downside is that the Clemont is pretty large, measuring in at 64-inches tall and 58-inches wide. If you have the space, it’s well worth it.
We used the Clermont to grill and smoke meats, but were pleasantly surprised at the fact that somesmokey flavor was imparted onto meat from our shorter cooks. Whether you’re cooking an all-day brisket or burgers, you’ll get some smokiness. Like Weber’s Genesis EX-335, the Cuisinart Clermont offers meat probes with wireless connectivity via an app. The grill will let you know when your meat is done cooking, which is especially important during longer cooks. Again, we advise you to make sure the probe is inserted directly into the center of your meat.
If you’re intimidated at the prospect of having a smoker, Cuisinart’s Clermont is the ideal tool. It’s easy to use, incredibly simple to clean, and it even has notches to hold your cooking tools and paper towels. It’ll quickly become a staple piece of your backyard, and the results will speak for themselves.
Kenyon All-Seasons Portable Grill
Whether you’re cooking indoors or outside, Kenyon’s All-Seasons Portable Grill is the one we recommend. It runs on electricity instead of charcoal or wood, which means you never have to worry about running out of fuel — or lugging it around. Beneath the grills grates and heating element sits a tin foil tray, which you fill with water; It creates steam and catches drippings. This helps prevent the grill from creating too much smoke. You can swap out water for another liquid, or put in a couple of drops of liquid smoke, to impart different flavors.
In our tests, the All-Season’s Portable Grill worked flawlessly. We were able to grill meats and vegetables from inside a New York City apartment with outdoor grill-like results. Kenyon supplies a booklet for recommendations on how high to heat the grill based on what you’re making, and how long to cook it. This was a nice guide, and help us get the right results early on in our testing. If you’re worried about over or under cooking your meat, we recommend OXO’s meat thermometer, which offers a quick, accurate reading.
What we liked best about this grill was its (relatively) small size. It’s 21-inches wide, which is small compared to a full-size grill, but still large enough to cook a dozen hamburgers or a few steaks at the same time. We cooked strips of bacon to test it for hot or cold spots, and it did an even job cooking the meat. Kenyon’s grill heats up to 600 degrees at full blast, which allowed us to get a nice sear and grill marks.
It’s possible to store Kenyon’s grill in an apartment, and well worth keeping on your countertop if you like to grill a lot. If you’d like to bring it outdoors, the grill’s handles make it easy to carry. Another unexpected feature was the grill’s overall build quality, which was astonishingly good. This grill feels solid, from the handles to its hinges. We have no doubt it’ll last a lifetime.
If you don’t have the luxury of a permanent outdoor space, or want to grill indoors during the colder months, we can’t recommend Kenyon’s All-Seasons Portable Grill highly enough.
Ooni Fyra 12
There’s nothing that brings people together quite like a good homemade pizza night, and this season, we’re making all our pizzas in the Ooni Fyra, a super fast, efficient and easy-to-use outdoor pizza oven that delivers authentic wood-fired pizza taste.
Weighing just 22 pounds, with folding legs for easy storage, the Fyra is an ultra-portable pizza oven that’s as great for backyard parties as it is for the campsite. The oven uses wood pellets rather than gas, so it doesn’t need to be plugged in or connected to a tank. Once you fire it up, the quick-heating design gets the temperature inside the oven up to 932°F, with the slim and domed design helping to retain — and maintain — heat while cooking.
Ooni says pizzas are ready to go in as little as 60 seconds, though we found 2-3 minutes to be the sweet spot for authentic, stone-baked Neapolitan-style pies. The 12-inch cooking surface gets you enough room to bake up a medium-sized pizza, while the 0.4-inch stone baking board ensures even heat distribution (note: you’ll want to keep turning the pizza while it’s cooking to make sure the flames don’t lick one side of the pie too aggressively).
Because of the high temperatures, be aware that the crust will rise — and rise quickly. It’s best to really roll out your dough and start with a thinner crust to see how much it will rise in the oven.
We like the slightly smokey flavor that the wood pellets create, which makes the oven great for baking flatbreads, vegetables and desserts too (skillet banana bread anyone?) The sleek design of the Fyra isn’t just for looks — it also makes the oven super energy-efficient, doubling the temperature of household ovens in 20 minutes or less. Everything is housed in a durable, insulated, powder-coated carbon steel shell that holds up to repeated use with ease.
OXO Grill Turner and Tongs Set
We’re specifically highlighting the company’s new Outdoor Grill Turner and Tongs Set because they’re the two tools everyone should have. Both feel solid in the hand — the turner won’t bend if you flip a half-pound burger, and the tongs can turn wings, steaks, and vegetables with ease.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Oxo chose to make no-compromise versions of tools you may already have. We guarantee they’re better than the ones you’re using right now, and well worth the upgrade.
YETI TUNDRA 65
What’s an outdoor cookout without some drinks? If you’re a host who wants to satisfy a crowd without having to worry about getting more ice, we recommend Yeti’s Tundra 65. The full-sized cooler kept drinks cool for a couple of days in our tests thanks to its three-inch thick layer of “PermaFrost” insulation.
It’s large, but the Tundra 65 is the perfect cooler for a large outdoor gathering, whether it’s at the beach or in your backyard. We found that its handles felt solid, but somewhat soft to the touch. The latches stayed closed during our tests, but were easy to open when we needed to grab a drink, or replenish our supply. Yeti recommends using a 2:1 ratio of ice to cans for the best results, which were the guidelines we followed.
Yeti’s Tundra 65 lived up to the company’s sterling reputation, and it’s the only cooler we ever want to use. However, it does weigh 29 pounds empty, and is over two and a half feet long. If your adventures don’t involve as many people, the Tundra 45 or 35 may be a better fit. Regardless of the size you choose, if you’re going to get a hard cooler, get one from Yeti.
Xmcosy Outdoor RGB Lights
Your backyard party won’t be complete without the proper ambiance, which is why we’re recommending Xmcosy’s Alexa-enabled string lights. Available in both 49 and 98 feet sizes, the LED bulbs can be connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network and controlled by either an app on your phone, or a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo.
These lights are designed to stay outdoors, and have an IP65 durability rating, which means they’re immune to damage from rain. We recommend keeping them pretty high, though, to prevent them from hitting into things (or bothering tall guests). Our favorite feature is that you can change the color of these lightbulbs to truly set the mood.
FUNBOY Golf Cart Pool Float
Anybody can toss a foam noodle or inflatable tube into their pool, but to really take your party to the next level, you’re going to want to pick up a couple pool floats from FUNBOY, one of the original purveyors of oversized, irreverent, pop culture-inspired water toys and accessories.
This limited-edition Golf Cart Pool Float has consistently been selling out, thanks to its large, shaded design (that comfortably seats two adults) and its Palm Springs-inspired design. FUNBOY says the “vehicle” has actually been designed with an integrated backrest, that supports your spine as you lounge, while giving you enough room to fully stretch out your legs. Two cup holders let you take your drinks into the pool with you.
If you can’t install a set of permanent outdoor audio system in your backyard, your best option is to get a loud, powerful portable speaker instead.
Our top recommendation is Sony’s SRS-XG500 a big, party-ready speaker designed to please a crowd. It’s outfitted with custom-built drivers that deliver louder, clearer sound and better bass than most portable speakers. You can connect to the SRS-XG500 over Bluetooth, which means it’ll connect to anyone’s phone in seconds, and maintain a strong connection.
If your parties tend to run long, don’t worry, the SRS-XG500 gets up to 30 hours of battery life per charge. Sony is so confident in this speaker’s battery that it built two USB-A ports into the back of it, which allow you to use the SRS-XG500 as a portable battery pack.
The one thing to consider about the SRS-XG500 is its size. It’s about 18-inches long and weighs just over 12 pounds, so you probably won’t want to move it around very much throughout the night.
Most portable speakers aren’t good enough to provide great sound for a large, outdoor event, but Sony’s SRS-XG500 is a big exception to that rule.
Rollors Backyard Game
You can’t go wrong with classic outdoor games like corn hole or ring toss, but right now, we’re tossing our pucks into the ring with Rollors, an original lawn game that combines the elements of horseshoes, bowling and bocce in a game of skill and luck.
Rollors was created by US Air Force veteran Matt Butler, who says he developed the idea while between deployments. Butler developed a prototype for the game in his garage upon his return from combat, and tested it out with fellow servicemen and servicewomen at parties and barbecues. It’s quickly become one of the most popular new games for outdoor play.
Rollors can be played on any level surface from grass to sand, and is suitable for the whole family. This set includes two goals, six disks (three red and three blue), a measuring device and storage bag.
Hampton Water Rosé
If you can’t throw a Labor Day Weekend party in the Hamptons, you might as well bring the Hamptons to you. That’s the thinking behind Hampton Water Wines, an award-winning wine company started by Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse Bongiovi, along with famed french wine maker, Gerard Bertrand. The light, easy-drinking rose is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre grapes, and earned 90 points from both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast’s annual rankings.
You don’t have to be in the Hamptons to get your hands on a bottle of Hampton Water either. Order it through Drizly and get it delivered to your door in about an hour.
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