11 Essential Tools to Grill at Home All Summer Long
Let this summer be the one where you truly master the grill. You don't need fancy gadgets and toolsets to cook up saucy kebabs or charred stone fruits – all you need are a few reliable grilling accessories. From lightweight, grip-able tongs to a simple piece of equipment that makes grilling small vegetables easy, most of these items come with an affordable price tag and play double duty in your kitchen. Here, our list of 11 tested and approved essential grilling tools.
1. Sturdy Tongs
While those grill sets make a nice, shiny gift, they're not very practical. Having the right tools that are durable, lightweight, and fit nicely in your hand is essential for efficient (and enjoyable!) cooking. The biggest offender? The giant grill tongs. We find these monster tongs to be too stiff to use effortlessly and much larger than you actually need. Plus, what do you do with them when summer is over? Our pick: the light, grippy 16-inch Oxo tongs. The extra length keeps your hands just far enough from the heat of the grill, but still affords you more control than longer, heftier tongs. When you're not grilling, they're also great for flipping blistered chiles and tomatillos under the broiler or snatching braised chicken legs from a bubbling braise.
Similar to the mega grill tongs, heavy-duty grill spatulas always seem like more than you need. Look for something with a little length to it, but that is still lightweight and easy to maneuver. This spatula from Weber has a wide-angled spatula that makes flipping burgers or delicate fish fillets easy.
Weber 6673 Original Wide Spatula, $16 at amazon.com
3. Metal Skewers
Metal skewers are worth the investment (and by investment, I mean less than $1 per skewer). They're reusable and therefore produce less waste than wooden skewers, plus you don't need to plan ahead and soak them in water before using them. These 12-inch stainless steel skewers can hold enough meat and vegetables to serve one person and they have an easy-to-hold circular handle at the end. For some grilling inspiration, check out our favorite kebab recipes.
Metal 12-inch skewers, $5 at amazon.com
4. Rimmed Baking Sheet
Rimmed baking sheets are a great way to organize all of your ingredients and get everything to and from the grill. The rimmed sides keep everything in one place and the metal surface makes them easy to clean and sanitize. We also like the rusticity of serving off of them at cookouts and outdoor meals. The Nordic Ware Baker's Half Sheets are sturdy, won't warp and the half-sheet size fits perfectly in a standard oven.
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Baker's Half Sheets, $25 at amazon.com
5. Cast-Iron Skillet
For the best grilled steaks or burgers, a cast-iron skillet is a grilling necessity. By placing a cast-iron skillet directly on the grill, you can get a phenomenal sear on your meat. In exchange for grill marks, you get an evenly browned crust and 10 times more flavor. When grilling meat over a grate, the fat drips down into the grill and causes flare-ups, which can make your food taste bitter (and, God forbid, like lighter fluid). If you're cooking in cast-iron on the grill, all of the juices stay in the skillet. The meat bastes in its own fat while also taking on the aroma of the smoke. We like the 12-inch Lodge skillet. It's iconic, durable, and solid cast-iron. Plus, the 12-inch size is just big enough to fit four burger patties. Another pro tip for grilling with cast iron? The thick walls provide enough insulation for baking on your grill. Pop a cast-iron lid on the skillet and it circulates heat like an oven.
6. Cooling Rack
A cooling rack is a magical, multi-purpose tool that you probably already have in your cupboard. Instead of spending money on one of those single-use grill baskets, turn a stainless-steel cooling rack upside down on your grill (feet up!) and arrange small vegetables directly on top. The cross-hatch pattern prevents asparagus, cherry tomatoes, or snap peas from falling through the grate. For the best grill marks, let the cooling rack preheat on the grill.
Stainless steel cooling grids, $14 at amazon.com
7. Charcoal Grill
While a gas grill is convenient, it doesn't give you nearly as much flavor as charcoal. Don't be intimidated: once you get comfortable with a charcoal grill and learn how to use a chimney to fire up your coals (it's easier than you think!), it only takes 20 minutes to get your grill going. Did we mention that charcoal grills are also a fraction of the price of a gas grill? When shopping for a grill, look for something with a large surface area – at least 22-inches - so you can set it up for two-zone cooking (a hot side for searing and a lower-heat side for slow cooking). You also want a grill with good ventilation so oxygen can circulate around your coals, making them burn hotter and more efficiently. In this case, a bottom grate for the coals to rest on is key. We love this sleek blue Deluxe Weber grill. It has a large grate, plus a generous workspace. It also has a lot of bonus features that you would expect from a tricked-out gas grill: Built-in thermometer, LCD removable timer, hooks for hanging your tools, a tuck-away lid holder, a one-touch cleaning system, and a quick gas-powered ignition to light your coals (no chimney needed!). If all of these extras don't appeal to you, the 22-inch Original Weber Kettle Grill is another favorite of ours.
Weber Blue Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, $459 from crateandbarrel.com
22-inch Original Weber Kettle Grill, $109 at amazon.com
A chimney is a quick and efficient way to get your coals going without using lighter fluid (no one wants their food to taste like gasoline!). To use one, simply pack the bottom with newspaper and top with your coals. Light the paper and the rising heat will ignite the briquettes while simultaneously pulling in oxygen helping the coals get hot fast. Look for a chimney with a 6-quart capacity (that is usually enough to cover a 22-inch Weber grill).
Weber 7429 Rapid Fire Chimney Starter, $25 at amazon.com
9. Grill Brush
A good grill brush is the secret to successful grilling. If your grate is clean, then your food will have clear grill marks and release easily (this is especially important if you're cooking skin-on chicken or fish). A crumpled-up ball of tin foil or a halved onion can work in a pinch, but it's worth investing in a brush. This brush from Kona BBQ has heavy-duty nylon bristles that are less likely to bend or break off. The three rows of brushes are also very effective at getting in between the grates and cleaning off any crusty melted cheese or burnt barbecue sauce.
Ceramic Nylon Grill Brush with Scraper, $20 at amazon.com
10. Carving Board
This carving board from Williams-Sonoma is made with reclaimed teak and is handsome enough to carry from the grill right to the table. The well on the perimeter of the board catches any juices, so you don't make a mess transporting your food into the kitchen. It's also just thick enough so it's sturdy and long-lasting, but without making it too heavy to schlep to the grill and back.
Williams Sonoma Teak Carving Board, from $30 from williams-sonoma.com
11. Meat Thermometer
An instant-read thermometer is a worthy investment for any type of cooking, but it's especially useful for grilling. When testing the doneness of a thick steak or a spatchcocked chicken, you need to move quickly so you don't waste propane or let your coals burn too low. Don't look like a noob and carve into your meat to check for doneness! Grill like a pro with the help of a reliable thermometer that gives you an accurate reading quickly. Our go-to pick is the Thermapen. It's an upfront investment, but will last you forever.
Thermapen Mk4, $99 from thermoworks.com