Grilling is a simple concept and it need not be overcomplicated, despite the hundreds of gadgets and gizmos that exist promising a better, tastier backyard barbecue. That said, there are some absolute essentials when it comes to grilling, along with some very useful tools and accessories you may not have considered but will make tickling those grill grates exponentially better.
I hauled in a boatload of grilling tools, utensils and other helpers to try and trim the fat — and there’s a lot of fat to trim. Some of these products have been updated and innovated upon from the original invention, but the goal here was utility and sussing out high-quality versions of the classics or seriously useful additions to your setup. Nothing superfluous.
Finding the right grill — be it, or a — may be the most important purchase you make, but if your barbecue gear has gotten crusty, rusty or outdated, these are a few of the best grilling tools your money can buy.
I tested a range of grilling utensils from the budget-friendly to the overly gadgety. You can definitely find cheaper grilling tools out there, but Weber’s three-piece set is worth the extra few bucks and was my personal favorite.
What I liked most about these — especially the tongs and spatula — is the length. If you work with a full-sized grill, you know that stubby kitchen tools just don’t quite get where you need them without putting your forearm at serious burn risk. Each Weber tool in this small yet mighty set has a comfy handle and hook with which to hang ’em. Plus, the spatula has a sharp edge that you can use to slice and dice while you’re working. If you don’t leave these sturdy grilling compadres out in the rain, they’ll definitely last you a good long time.
You may be used to using a comb-like this on your hair, but it doubles as a genius cooking alternative for serving kebabs. This “grill comb” combats the annoyance of reaching the middle of a skewer, either with your hand or your teeth. It makes removing your meat a cinch and ensures everything evenly cooks up to the right temperature, too.
When using this type of skewer, you’ll need to be a little more gentle moving them around the grill since items can fall off, especially when softened from cooking. That said, it’s worth it for a much faster and more user-friendly skewering experience.
Wood chips are an easy way to add substantial flavor to any grilled food and work equally well on gas and charcoal grills. To do that, you will need a box to hold the wood so they don’t catch fire but it’s simple: Just place the box on top of the heat source — gas burner or directly on the charcoal — and they should start smoking and flavoring your food with whatever type of chips you’ve chosen. Weber’s version is a good size for most grills and it’s got a nice sturdy build.
ThermoWorks’ Thermapen is about as accurate as meat thermometers get and for certain types of BBQ or when cooking expensive steaks, that’s rather important. Take this temp taker anywhere you flip meat, from your deck grill, a campsite, even to your Sunday tailgate party. Its portability makes it stupid simple to accurately measure the internal temperature of your meat, wherever. There are plenty of knockoffs and cheaper versions of the Thermapen but if you’re serious about your internal meat temps, it’s worth the extra coin.
I also tested several of the wifi-enabled smart thermometers including Yummly and Meater. I liked them both and they get points for accuracy as well as providing loads of information including temperature tracking and some useful grilling tips. But you have to do all your temp reading from a smartphone, which proved to be both annoying and convenient depending on my mood.
You know that moment, when the grilling is finished and you look around at all the sauce bottles, spices, utensils and say “what the heck just happened here?” A grill caddy will make it all go away with one breezy trip back to the kitchen. I didn’t know how badly I needed one of these until I got one, and this lightweight Cuisinart caddy with a built-in paper towel rack is my pick.
Lights don’t come standard on most grills and there’s a good chance your’s is positioned somewhere without great direct lighting. If that’s the case, a flexible lamp that attaches to the frame will make those late-evening and nighttime barbecue sessions far more enjoyable. The BBQ Dragon double light gives off plenty of glow but it’s not so large that it’ll get in your way. The two-headed approach means you can get bright light on both the grill surface and whatever is waiting beside it to go on next.
I’m not sure this one needs much explanation. So simple, yet somehow I didn’t think of it myself.
A glove is a staple any time you’re firing up the barbie. They help protect your hands and give you grip when you need it most — around a hot fire. That’s also why there’s a ton of new ones available on the market each season. These suede gloves will fit even the largest hands, handle heat very well and feel sturdy to the touch.
For charcoal grilling, a chimney becomes a must-have for your grill after you use it even once — especially for us impatient folks. It has two main functions: Keep the charcoal all together tightly to help the briquettes get hot both quickly and evenly before you spread them around. It’s a simple device but Weber’s is well-designed with a comfortable handle.
With a grilling basket, you can easily and quickly grill your veggies and give them that smoky, slightly charred taste and perfect texture without the hassle of having to pick one piece up at a time. You can also place a piece of chicken wire mesh on top of your grill so you can easily char foods that normally might fall through, like cherry tomatoes and other smaller vegetables or pieces of meat.
For grilling fish without it falling to bits and down into your grill you can either use grill mats or a basket. I like the basket because lets the flames hit the flesh and gives you that sexy summer char. Definitely go nonstick, as in this budget-friendly Cuisinart number. It opens and closes without much fuss and holds food securely over the flames. These are also great to bring along to a camping trip so you can cook right over an open fire.
Note: You can use these for veggies but some will inevitably sneak through the cracks and so I prefer something like the above model.