Grilling is a lot more enjoyable and your results will be more professional—if you have a good set of grill tools. Sadly, many of them are flimsy, poorly designed, or gimmicky. To find the best grill accessories, we spent over 65 hours researching them, speaking with grilling experts, and testing over 90 different tools from tongs to thermometers to chimney starters. If you’re looking for a grill, see our guides to the best charcoal, gas, and portable grills.
In the most recent round of testing, we brought together the following food and cooking experts from Wire cutter and The New York Times for a backyard-grilling boot camp:
Wire cutter senior staff writer Michael Sullivan, a former curriculum developer and textbook editor at the International Culinary Center, and Sam Sifton, New York Times food editor and founding editor of NYT Cooking, whose accomplishments truly cannot be summarized.
To get ready for grilling season and pull off amazing barbecues, stock up on essentials that will help you up your grilling game. Here are some of my absolute favorite grilling items, ranging from handy tools to useful accessories, that you’ll want to snag before the season gets underway—trust me, they will sell out quickly once summer arrives.
Spatula: Mercer Hell’s Handle Large Fish Turner
After flipping over 100 burger patties with ten different spatulas, we believe the Mercer Hell’s Handle Large Fish Turner is the best grill spatula, providing flexibility and strength. It’s strong and maneuverable, with a large, super-heat-resistant plastic handle that’s easy to grip. We’ve found fish turners to be the most versatile spatulas in general over the years, and this large version is no exception. The Hell’s Handle’s stainless steel blade has a fine edge, a stable feel with just enough give, and a tapered shape that easily slid under our burger patties.
Tongs: Winco UT-16HT Extra Heavyweight Utility Tongs
We like the 16-inch Winco UT-16HT Extra Heavyweight Utility Tongs for cooking on a blazing-hot grill because they’re comfortable, easy to use, and sturdy—and long enough to keep your hands away from the flames. These top performers were described as “perfect” by Sam Sifton. As an added bonus, they are the least expensive tongs we tested. When open, the Winco tongs have a comfortable “spread,” and the spring provides just enough resistance to keep your hands from tiring out when grilling for a crowd; many other tongs are too stiff and quickly tyre out your hands.
Grill-grate brush: Best BBQ Grill Brush
Clean grates are the most effective way to prevent food from sticking to your grill. Leftover gunk on the grates, such as caramelized sauce and burnt food bits, adheres to food, making a clean release difficult. (Who wants to cook on a soiled grill?) In our tests, the Best BBQ Grill Brush removed the most stuck-on sauce and carbonized bits. It’s almost identical (aside from the different-colored handle) to our previous pick, the discontinued Qually United grill brush.
Chimney starter: Weber Rapid-fire
A chimney starter is the quickest and easiest way to light coals in one attempt, and it does not use smelly lighter fluid. We believe the Weber Rapid-fire Chimney Starter is the best because it has it all: a large size, ease of use, a reasonable price, and regular availability. The Weber chimney starter has a large main chamber measuring 9 by 734 inches and a 6-quart capacity, or approximately 90 briquets. When testing charcoal grills, we discovered that this is enough fuel to cook 12 burgers with some cooking time left over. The lighting chamber has enough space for a large wad of newsprint—our preferred igniting material—as well as large vents for airflow and easy match access.
Instant-read thermometer: ThermoWorks ThermoPop
We recommend adding the ThermoWorks ThermoPop, our pick for the best instant-read thermometer, to your grilling arsenal to ensure you’re eating meat and poultry cooked to safe internal temperatures. In our tests, the ThermoPop read temperatures quickly and accurately. The backlit display has digits that automatically rotate in four directions depending on the thermometer’s orientation, making it easy to read from almost any angle. The ThermoPop also has a large reading range (-58 to 572 °F) and a water-resistant body. It can also switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius with the press of a button. Although the ThermoPop was not the fastest thermometer we tested (by a few seconds), it covers all the basics for home cooks at an affordable price.
Probe thermometer: ThermoWorks Dot
The experts we spoke with advised using an instant-read thermometer rather than a probe thermometer: Instant-read models are faster and last longer because there are no exposed cables to deteriorate in the heat. However, if you prefer a probe thermometer that can remain in the meat while it cooks without having to open the grill lid, we recommend the ThermoWorks Dot. The Dot probe thermometer was the fastest and most accurate at reading temperatures in our tests. Its straightforward controls and simple design made it easier to use than the competition. We also liked the unit’s strong magnet on the back, which kept it securely attached to the side of a grill.
Basting brush: OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Basting Brush
A basting brush that can generously apply barbecue sauce without deteriorating over high heat is a must-have tool for grilling chicken pieces or multiple racks of ribs. We recommend the OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Basting Brush after testing four models. The OXO brush’s silicone bristles are heat resistant to 600 °F, so they won’t melt or leave stray bristles on your food (as most natural-fiber pastry brushes will). The brush can also be washed in the dishwasher.
Vegetable basket: Grillaholics Grill Basket
We believe that the Grillaholics Grill Basket is the best option for cooking diced vegetables on the grill. The Grillaholics basket’s grape tomatoes, diced zucchini, and eggplant had better color and developed more flavor than the competition’s vegetables. The larger perforations on this basket allow for better heat and air circulation, as well as more contact between the vegetables and the grill grate.
Grilling gloves: US Forge 400 Welding Gloves
Barbecue experts agree that using a pair of suede or split-leather welding gloves while grilling is the best way to protect hands from ambient heat. We continue to believe that the split leather US Forge 400 Welding Gloves provide the best balance of heat resistance, dexterity, and price. These gloves provide better heat protection than Nomex or silicone gloves while also being more dexterous than standard kitchen oven mitts. After years of using the US Forge gloves with high heat and sooty grill parts, we are confident that if used properly, they will keep you safe.
Slow ‘N Sear Deluxe is a totally indulgent luxury item
The Weber kettle grill’s popularity has spawned a slew of third-party innovations—basically, ways to “hack your Weber” to add even more versatility. One such item isn’t strictly necessary, but we can see why it’s popular among charcoal enthusiasts. The Slow ‘N Sear is also useful for “reverse searing,” or “searing in the back,” as Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com calls it. This method is ideal for thick steaks because it involves indirect cooking until the internal temperature is 15 degrees below your target, then searing directly over hot coals to get a crisp crust.