Our Guide to Grilling Tools Includes the Essentials and Some Extras

Marcus Nilsson

Nothing says summer quite like a grilled dinner. In addition to being the oldest and most universally used cooking method, grilling is also one of this nation's most loved pastimes. We mark our summer holidays with grilled hot dogs, burgers, and BBQ chicken. Like most things, grilling is a lot more enjoyable—and the results more delicious—if you have a quality set of tools to help get the job done. Some grillers get geeky about their gear, but you really don't need a vast collection of grilling tools to make perfect Smoky Baby Back Ribs or sweet Grilled Corn. There are, however, a few basics that pretty much everyone needs.

Whether you grill over charcoal or gas, the basic tools are the same: First, you'll need a set of spring-handled tongs, because if they don't stay closed, tongs are not a helpful tool. Next, you'll want a good spatula, which will help you turn food gently (piercing food with a fork should be avoided). An instant-read meat thermometer is another required part of any grilling kit, because guessing just doesn't cut it when your goal is to determine if rib-eye steaks, juicy burgers, or Grilled Pork Chops with Rosemary Gremolata are done. A grill brush for cleanup is a must, as is a grill basket, which is vital for cooking foods like vegetables or shrimp that are likely to disappear between the grates. And for grilling over charcoal, a chimney starter is essential.

Take care when selecting your grilling tools as there are many variations available and a lot are flimsy or poorly-designed. When you invest in well-designed grilling tools, you'll be well on your way to upping your grilling game and further enjoying your time at the grill. Read on for our picks for the essential grilling tools you'll use on the regular.

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oxo grilling tongs
Courtesy of Oxo

Essential for moving everything from sauce-coated chicken pieces to spears of asparagus, tongs get plenty of work as a grill tool. Look for a set with long handles to keep your hands far from the heat. Another feature we like is a locking mechanism, which means closed tongs stay closed and don't spring off the grill shelf.

Shop Now: OXO 16-Inch Tongs, $15.95, amazon.com.

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oxo grilling spatula turner
Courtesy of Oxo

Whether you opt for 12-inch or 16-inch, a sturdy spatula is another go-to tool for moving or turning food on the grill. Beyond size, consider how comfortable the handle is and how strong the spatula is for moving larger items like a whole chicken.

Shop Now: OXO 16-Inch Grilling Turner with Serrated Edge $12.99, oxo.com.

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Grill Basket

grillaholics metal grill basket
Courtesy of Grillaholics

A handy tool for cooking smaller foods like shrimp, strips of bell pepper, or slices of zucchini, a grill basket means you'll never have to worry about part of the meal slipping between the grates again. It's a low-maintenance alternative to threading them on skewers. A grill basket needs to be durable, and it should also have large holes for air circulation and plenty of contact with the grill, which means that food grills rather than steams. You'll also want to choose a basket that is large enough for the amount of grilled vegetables you like to make.

Shop Now: Grillaholics Heavy Duty Grill Basket, $21.95, amazon.com.

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Fish Spatula

grill fish spatula
Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

There are different styles of spatula available to you, and you may find you prefer a fish spatula to a flat spatula. It's flexible, slightly curved head makes it adept for moving delicate pieces of fish filets or seafood. Another option is to add both spatulas to your grilling tool kit.

Shop Now: Williams-Sonoma BBQ Fish Spatula, $34.95, williams.sonoma.com.

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Grill Cleaning Brush

weber grill brush
Courtesy of Weber

Clean grates are the best way to keep food from sticking to your grill. There are various designs of grill brushes and scrapers available, but we like this well-made Y-shaped brush because it's angled bristles can fit between grates. It's also important to note that the bristles on this brush are interwoven so they don't shed, which is a safety issue commonly experienced with inferior metal grill brushes.

Shop Now: Weber Three-Sided Grill Brush, $10.99, amazon.com.

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Pizza Stone

emile henry ribbed pizza stone
Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

Who doesn't want to eat grilled pizza? Made of French clay, this enameled pizza stone works on the grill or in the oven. The ridged surface helps conduct heat evenly for a crispy crust, and the addition of small handles make it easier to lift.

Shop Now: Emile Henry Ribbed Pizza Stone, $64.95, williams-sonoma.com.

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Basting Brush

oxo large silicone basting brush
Courtesy of Oxo

For applying barbecue sauce to chicken or ribs, a basting brush that can withstand the heat of the grill is a must. Look for a brush that's not too small or short handled and that won't shed bristles into the food.

Shop Now: OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Basting Brush, $12.99, oxo.com.

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Meat Shredders

original bear paw meat shredders
Courtesy of Walmart

If you make pulled pork, these handy meat shredders are just what you need. They allow you to tear the meat into shreds without handling it and to do that while it is still hot. Best of all, they do their job so much better than using two forks. They can also be used for moving large cuts of meat off the grill.

Shop Now: The Original Bear Paws Meat Claws, $12.99, walmart.com.

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Sheet Pan

nordic ware bakers half sheet
Courtesy of Target

Though it's not a grill tool specifically, as big fans of the sheet pan we see their value when it comes to preparing a grilled meal. They're incredibly useful for ferrying prepped ingredients to the grill or taking cooked food back into the kitchen for plating, and these pans from Nordic Ware are similar to the ones our test kitchen uses. We like that they are durable, have rim to prevent food from sliding off, and don't warp.

Shop Now: Nordic Ware Naturals Baker's Half-Sheet Pan, $10.99, target.com.

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Cast-Iron Skillet

Lodge 12" Cast Iron Skillet
Courtesy of Target

As another grill tool that's not made specifically for the grill, this is a very handy piece of equipment for outdoor cooking. Use a trusty cast-iron skillet to amp up the heat on a gas grill for cooking meat—the conduction powers of cast iron simply can't be beat. You can also use it for indirect cooking, to make campfire eggs on the grill, cook cornbread, or even a Berry Grunt on those days when it's simply too hot to turn on the oven.

Shop Now: Lodge 12-Inch Cast-Iron Skillet, $29.90, target.com.

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Instant-Read Thermometer

red thermapen for grilling
Courtesy of Thermapen

Even pros don't guess if their steak or chicken is done; they use an instant-read thermometer. The Thermapen is the top-rated instant-read thermometer, beloved by BBQ pros and home cooks. It's pricey, but we think it's a worthy investment because it gives fast readings and is extremely accurate.

Shop Now: Thermapen MK 4, $99, thermoworks.com.

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