10 Essential Grilling Tools, According to Chefs

These simple grilling tools make cooking good food easier.

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Grillng Tools
Photo: Amazon; Lowe's

Kitchen tools don't necessarily make you a better cook, but good tools make cooking well easier. Barbecue and grilling tools are no exception. We looked at many grilling accessories, from the essential pieces to the "it would be nice to have" items, to find you the best products in these areas and in between. We also consulted four chefs to get their input on which tools are necessary, which are nice, and which won't elevate your grilling. Combining their input with our research and expertise, we arrived at the best grilling accessories across multiple categories. Our list includes the best grill brush, best grill thermometer, best grilling gloves, and more.

Our Top Picks

Best Spatula: Char-Broil Comfort Grip Spatula

Char-Broil Comfort Grip Spatula
Courtesy of Lowe's

Also available at Amazon.

Pros: It's well balanced, strong enough for heavy work, and suitable for more delicate food.

Cons: The handle could be slightly shorter to improve the user's dexterity.

A spatula dedicated to grilling is one of your arsenal's must-have tools and will be one of the most used. You'll want something that has a more extended handle than you would use for cooking indoors to keep your hands away from the heat. Next, look for a non-slip grip that is also dishwasher safe. Third, you'll want a head that is wide enough to flip a burger or piece of fish easily without too much overhang from the food, though a tapered tip is necessary for delicate items or working a crowded grill. Finally, you'll want a balance of all of these without compromising dexterity. A tool is no good if it is unwieldy. Weighing all of these, we suggest the Char-Broil Comfort Grip Spatula.

Although we'd prefer a slightly shorter handle for balance and control, the Comfort Grip offers all of the above details. The stainless steel construction is strong and easy to clean. The slip-resistant silicone handle is dishwasher safe and designed to stay cool when working over a hot grill. It offers a wide enough head for larger pieces of food, but its gently tapered design serves well for detailed work.

Best Tongs: OXO Good Grips 16-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs

OXO Good Grips 16-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Williams Sonoma.

Pros: The springs are strong, and the tapered tips are great for working with small items.

Cons: The locking mechanism can get stuck when new, and the heat-resistant coating could extend farther on the handle.

A good set of tongs is another essential item. Megan Walker, executive chef at Made by Meg Catering and La Venta Inn in Palos Verdes, Calif., forgoes many other tools that are more specialized in their purposes for the versatility of a set of tongs when doing onsite catering. Tongs are useful for small items needing precision work like shrimp or hotdogs, but also good for larger pieces like cauliflower or chicken legs. As with the spatula, you'll want to weigh the length, head size, and non-slip handles with the amount of dexterity the tongs allow.

The Good Grips are long enough to keep your hands away from the fire but not so long that you can't work with any degree of grace or nimbleness. The tapered tips bring this out to the front over other popular tongs. They allow you to grasp with more precision than squared-off tips. The slip and heat-resistant section at the far end are dishwasher safe and easy on the hands. The locking feature that keeps the tongs closed is nice when you want to maximize your work surface or storage without getting tangled.

Best Grill Brush: Grill Art Grill Brush and Scraper

Grill Art Grill Brush and Scraper
Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: The triple-head design makes cleaning faster, and the woven wire bristles have a longer life than many other brushes.

Cons: The scraper blade can get in the way of detailed cleaning tasks, and the handle can flex when too much pressure is applied.

Nobody likes to think that when the cooking is done and your family or friends are writing songs to your grilling prowess, you still have a dirty grill to clean. A clean grill will not only prolong its lifespan but also help prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. Those two critical factors aside, a clean grill helps prevent food from sticking and improves the overall flavor of your food, avoiding the burnt remnants of your last-cooked meal on the new one. A grill brush is going to make your life exponentially easier.

The Grill Art has three rows of brush bristles, tripling the coverage of each motion, that also offer 360-degree cleaning from a single head. It also comes with changeable scraper blades that tackle hard-to-remove buildup and deposits. The 18-inch handle keeps your hand away from the heat during hot cleaning and features a non-slip grip and loop for hanging when not in use.

Best Grill Lights: Permasteel PA-12002

Permasteel PA-12002 Grill Lights
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Lowe's and Wayfair.

Pros: It has a long gooseneck, a strong magnetic base, and nine bright LED bulbs.

Cons: The weather resistance of this model has some room for improvement, and we'd like to see a rechargeable battery option.

Grilling doesn't have to stop when the sun goes down; good grill lights make the job easier and safer. Rob Nelson, chef and co-founder of the restaurant group Good Gravy in Bentonville, Ark., recommends lights that will swivel at any angle to reach anywhere in your grill in low-light conditions. Nelson, who is also a member of a competition barbecue team, frequently needs this ability during all-night smoking at these events. While you may not find yourself in the same position as Nelson, the ability to see your food and see what is happening around you increases your chances of making better food and decreases the risk of injury. For this, we recommend the Permasteel light set.

The magnetic base of these lights will stick to almost any metallic object, and the long gooseneck allows you to direct the light without changing its location. It features a cluster of nine LED bulbs that put brilliant light on your grill or work area while allowing your hands to remain free.

Best Thermometer: Thermapen One

ThermoWorks Thermapen One Thermometer
Courtesy of ThermoWorks

Pros: The Thermapen offers accurate readings in a second or less and is waterproof.

Cons: The price is much higher than most other instant-read thermometers, and it is not as feature-rich as probe-style models.

A good thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking, especially when it comes to meat and poultry. To judge doneness, you could poke, prod, and cut open your food. You could also master the fine art of using a cake tester. Or you could just do this the easy way and put a thermometer in your food and see what it says.

There are a couple of schools of thought about thermometers. The first is that most grills and smokers work best when closed. The heat escapes when you open the lid, which lengthens cooking times or leads to uneven cooking. "Looking ain't cooking" is a common phrase in the vernacular of the grilling community. This idea is antithetical to an instant-read thermometer. You need to access the food to put the probe tip in. That's where remote probe thermometers come in. You just put the probe in the food and watch the temperature from a nearby wired or wireless unit.

Then there's the school that wants a quick, accurate temperature. A probe is excellent for bigger items, like chicken or pork butts, but isn't as handy for a steak or a burger due to their longer time to register an accurate temperature when first inserted. But you can use a quick-read thermometer with bigger or smaller items, even if it does require opening the grill. Because of that flexibility, we recommend an instant-read type thermometer like the Thermapen One.

I've used the Thermapen One in both professional settings and at home with good results. It's tough enough to handle the abuse of a professional kitchen while keeping its speed of reading in one second or less and accuracy with an approximate 0.5-degree margin of error. It also comes with a five-year warranty. One of its best features is the auto-rotating display, which eliminates reading the display upside down. It also features a motion detection for sleep and wake mode and is waterproof.

Best Chimney Starter: Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter

Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Home Depot and Target.

Pros: This rugged, long-lasting chimney provides good airflow for fast and easy lighting.

Cons: The handle can become very hot during lighting, and some may need a larger capacity for charcoal.

Chimney starters provide a safer, faster, more contained way of getting your coals ready to cook without the flareups and chemicals of lighter fluid. The bonus is that if you need more coals to finish cooking, you don't need to move your food off the grill and repeat the initial flaming stage of lighting charcoal under your grate. You can ignite the coals in the starter and add them under the grate when they are ready.

The Rapidfire Chimney Starter is a simple, straightforward, and easy to use. As a brand, Weber consistently rates high when comparing its offerings to others, and this chimney starter is no exception. On the surface, it's an aluminum tube, but it is designed with airflow in mind to get your charcoal ready quickly. To that point, the bottom section where you put paper or lighter cubes has venting on all sides that keeps the flow of oxygen to the fire moving. The conical grate where the charcoal sits increases airflow for fast lighting. Our only objection is common across the brand: the handle gets very hot and may require a towel or grilling glove to lift safely. These starters see frequent use in commercial settings, subject to more significant wear than most consumers put them through, and their lifespan is still great.

Best Barbecue Tool Set: Cuisinart Deluxe Grill Set

Cuisinart Deluxe Grill Set
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Crate & Barrel and Home Depot.

Pros: This set has the essential tools with most of the qualities that we look for. We like the addition of a fork-thermometer with thin tines.

Cons: Non-slip handles and a better grill brush would significantly improve this set.

After reading through the qualities we look for in the essential tools – tongs and spatulas – finding a set that fits the criteria can be challenging. Walker recommends the Cuisinart Deluxe Grill Set, and we can back it. The set checks most of our boxes and offers other features that balance the differences.

The spatula and tongs have the conservative length and tapered ends we look for in both. The tongs lock for storage. Conspicuously lacking are the heat-resistant, non-slip handles. But the set also includes a silicone basting brush with a long handle and respectably broad head, five skewers for meats or vegetables, a grill brush, and four sets of corn holders. There's also a suitable grill brush in the case.

The most notable addition is the fork that doubles as a thermometer. Contrary to popular opinion, sticking your meat with a fork won't drain all the juices, but poking holes in your meat will create a channel for heat to enter and create an environment for uneven cooking. This can be problematic when trying to hit precise temperatures, like degrees of steak doneness. We like tines similar in thickness to a thermometer probe, which this fork has. The thermometer is slower to register than the Thermapen, but it is perfectly adequate for the job at this lower price point. All of these tools come packed in a padded aluminum case for storage.

Best Grilling Basket: Lodge Dual Handle Grill Basket

Lodge Dual Handled Grill Basket
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Williams Sonoma and Walmart.

Pros: There's a large amount of direct-grill contact area, and the cast iron is not prone to warping.

Cons: It's heavy and will require the special cleaning that cast iron demands.

Grilling baskets can be great tools to keep smaller ingredients or cut vegetables from sliding between the grates and into the flames, never to be seen again. They can also be perpetrators of horrible cooking crimes. We'll explain. To grill food in a basket and get the char and flavor expected, the food needs to be touching the hot pan surface that is in contact with the grill grates. Piling the food up in a pan means the food that isn't in contact with the pan steams, neither grilling nor getting any of the charred flavor or texture you want. Cheaply made pans can also warp when subjected to heat, breaking that contact with the gill. Given those, the criteria we looked for in grilling baskets were construction and a size large enough for you to spread out your ingredients.

The Lodge Dual Handle Grill Basket is of a good size (12-inch diameter) to feed a group of four and get that charred texture and flavor from contact with the grill. The molded holes in the pan allow plenty of direct heat to flow through from the grill to the food, while the cast iron construction retains that heat, giving more char to your food. The cast iron won't warp unless you try very hard, and the pans come pre-seasoned for a long life and minimal sticking. Cast iron is heavy, and this seven-pound basket may require two hands to move safely on and off the fire. There are no extended handles, so lifting by the two cast iron handles will require kitchen towels, grill gloves, or something similar.

Best Grilling Gloves: Semboh Extreme Heat-Resistant BBQ Gloves

Semboh Extreme Heat-Resistant BBQ Gloves
Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: These gloves are stretchable and breathable while still offering significant heat and cut resistance.

Cons: The gloves are one-size-fits-all and may be too large or small for some.

Ask six chefs about the necessity of grilling gloves, and you'll get six different opinions. Nelson considers them essential equipment, while Matthew Dolan, executive chef and partner of 25 Lusk in San Francisco, believes they build a false sense of security in the person grilling. The nexus of agreement is that regular oven mitts have no place around a grill. Perhaps stating the obvious, many mitts are usually made of flammable materials. They are also bacteria traps, never getting completely cleaned on the inside. The mitten-like design does nothing for hand agility, either. This leaves us looking for a pair of heat-resistant, easy-to-clean gloves that allow you to use all of your fingers.

When it comes to heat resistance, the Semboh gloves are hard to top: the three-layer construction can handle heat up to 932 degrees Fahrenheit. The knobby outer layer provides an anti-slip grip with its silicone construction, preventing that greasy piece of pork butt from sliding out of your hands when you pick it up. The second layer of aramid provides not only heat but also cut protection. The third layer is a machine-washable, breathable cotton-poly blend for comfort. They also feature an over-the-wrist design that protects against heat and cuts.

Best Basting Brush: Consevisen Silicone Basting Brush

Consevisen Silicone Basting Brush
Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: These brushes have longer handles that are great for grilling, and the silicone construction is heat-resistant up to 455 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cons: Those used to traditional bristle brushes may find the bristles floppy.

The styles of basting brushes available on the market range from simple paintbrush designs to more high-tech options. Deciding on one for grilling bears some special considerations. You don't want handles or bristles made of flammable materials or handles that conduct heat. You also want a more extended handle that will keep your hand away from the heat but not so long as to be clumsy. Finally, because of the charred texture of grilled foods, you want a brush that won't pick up excessive crispy bits from the food or hold all of the sauce in the bristles.

The Consevisen brushes come in sets that include between two and five brushes of varying lengths. This selection is handy when cooking multiple items needing multiple sauces or for minimizing the chances of cross-contamination when switching between foods on the grill. The handle construction is silicone, with stainless steel reinforcement running the length. Similarly, the bristles are silicone and can withstand temperatures of up to 445 degrees Fahrenheit, making this a strong choice for grilling. A further advantage of the silicone bristles is the dishwasher-safe ease of cleaning.

Conclusion

Whether it's the essential Char-Broil Comfort Grip Spatula or the added protection of the Semboh Extreme Heat-Resistant BBQ Gloves, these tools will help you improve your cooking skills and make cooking easier. Yet, the best tool you can have is your mind, according to Oscar Cabezas, executive chef of Teleféric Barcelona in San Francisco.

Knowing the steps and processes of your recipes before you even light your grill is the first step toward success. Mise en place, organizing your selection of tools and ingredients in the order that you will need them, is your next step in setting yourself up to win. Combine those with tools that fit your needs from our guide, and you are well on your way to mastering the art of grilling.

Factors to Consider

Tool Size

We've mentioned that finding the right-sized tool that doesn't become unwieldy is an important factor in our selection process. The right size may vary from person to person. An equally important factor is the right size for your grill. If you're using a small, portable grill, a 20-inch handle on your spatula may feel very clumsy. The converse is equally true, where a 12-inch handle may get your hands too close to the flames in a larger grill.

Need

You are the judge of your grilling style and frequency. As a pro, I have tools that may sit around and collect dust for several years before I need them again. They make the job easier and more efficient when cooking for large groups of people. But as a rule, I eschew most tools for personal use that aren't going to see the light of day regularly. Equally, if you're going to be cooking burgers and hot dogs on a gas grill as your realm of grilling, you may not need things like a grill basket or heat-resistant gloves.

QA

Q: How often should you clean your grill tools?

A: Clean your tools every time you use them. Dirty tools can spread foodborne illnesses and affect the flavor of your food. If your tools live outside or in the garage, cleaning them before and after each use is in order.

Q: How should I store my grilling tools?

A: The best place to store your tools is inside. Put them away clean and dry, and, in the case of cast iron, carbon steel, or similar metals, with a light coating of vegetable oil to prevent rust.

Q: What is the best grill cleaning tool?

A: A grill brush is your best friend for cleaning your grill. Though some chefs prefer a scrubbing pad and soapy water, others rely on a ball of aluminum foil for cleaning.

The Research

Four chefs lent their insight and expertise to our in-depth research process. Rob Nelson, co-founder and culinary director of Good Gravy, whose flagship is Tusk and Trotter in Bentonville, Ark.; Megan Walker, president and executive chef of Made By Meg Catering and La Venta Inn in Palos Verdes, Calif.; Oscar Cabezas, executive chef of Teleféric Barcelona in San Francisco; and Matthew Dolan, chef, and partner of 25 Lusk in San Francisco. We then scoured the market for the best options based on their input and our own expertise. We weighed the grilling tools we found against several criteria, including value, ease of use, and quality of construction.

Our Expertise

Greg Baker is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and food writer with decades of experience in the food industry. For this piece, he interviewed chefs Rob Nelson, Megan Walker, Oscar Cabezas, and Matthew Dolan to find out what the pros look for in various grilling tools. He then used their insights and his own expertise combined with market research to curate this list.

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