Over the past three years, we’ve spent 48 hours researching grill accessories, speaking with grilling experts, and testing 52 different tools to find the best for hassle-free outdoor cooking. You can buy grilling tool kits (we tested a few for this year’s update) and gift sets that come with a wide variety of hardware packed into them. Usually the tools included in such kits are of substandard quality or not well-designed (although we found one exception this year). We think, usually, that the smart money’s on buying the best of what you need piece-by-piece without bothering to pay for low-quality extras.
Gas and charcoal grills get much hotter than your stove top ever will, in most cases. In order to make grilling a safe, enjoyable experience, you need specialized tools with the appropriate reach, fire resistance, and durability to stand up to the high temperatures that come with cooking over an open flame.
In order to get a feel for all of the hardware featured in this guide, we ended up testing it in the only way that matters: We grilled enough food to feed an army. We spent a weekend flipping burgers, handling baked potatoes, slathering sauce on steaks and turning hotdogs and chicken on a charcoal grill to get a feel for how each tool performed. After the cooking was finished, we put each tool through the dishwasher to see how well it cleaned up and withstood prolonged exposure to high-temperature water. And we’ve continued to longterm test our winners over the past three years.
We talked to a pair of outdoor cooking experts, Steven Raichlen and Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn. Steven Raichlen has authored 28 books on grilling, hosted Primal Grill, recently finished a foodie-centric novel, and is the founder of Barbecue University, an annual workshop for outdoor cooking aficionados. In 2003 he was named Cooking Teacher of the Year by Bon Appetit magazine. (Full disclosure: Steven has his own line of BBQ tools.) Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn, editor-in-chief of AmazingRibs.com, has been a judge at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue and was a food columnist for the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.
To find great picks, we considered guides published by Epicurious, Legacy Pork, Canadian Living, Amazing Ribs, About.com, Popular Mechanics, Real Simple and Men’s Health. We also looked closely at reviews on sites like Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Target, Walmart and Lowe’s.
For the past three years, I’ve watched over The Sweethome’s guides to charcoal and gas grills, as well as grilling tools. I grill at least a few times a week all year (including in the dead of winter). I know a good grilling tool when I see one and am more than happy to call out a piece of junk when it presents itself.
Good tongs are great multitaskers. You can use them to transfer raw chicken from a plate to the grill, turn delicate veggies or plate a rack of ribs once they’re cooked to perfection. Our favorite are the 16-inch locking tongs that come in the $20 OXO Good Grips 2-Piece Grilling Tools Set. We don’t usually recommend sets, but both the tongs and spatula that come in this one beat a range of single tools in our tests. We like these tongs because of their excellent construction and delicately scalloped heads, long reach and grippy handles that feel good in a bare hand or a grilling glove.
If you don’t want to buy the set, we also recommend the OXO Good Grips 16” Locking Tongs, which are basically identical to our main pick, but they don’t have the large hanging loop that the ones in the set do. But at $15, they only cost five bucks less than the set.
At 16 inches, the OXO tongs are long, but not too long. They’ll keep your hand clear of the grill’s searing heat and the occasional flare-up. We’ve used a number of shorter grilling tongs in the past, and the OXO’s few extra inches are a welcome feature in dealing with high grilling temperatures. They’re made of thick, heat-resistant 430-grade stainless steel. That’s the same stuff that many mid-to-high-priced gas grills burners are constructed out of, so it’s a good bet that it’ll stand up to the heat of your grill’s cooking surface. They’re also easier to hold than any other model we’ve tried, thanks to grippy silicone accents on the handle and rolled-steel construction, which keeps them from bending under heavy loads.
The tips of the tongs boast wide, gently-tapering heads with a scallop pattern along their sides perfect for picking up delicate fare. But they’re also sturdy enough to handle thick cuts of steak. The spring strength is on par with the better tongs we’ve tested; it’s easy to compress and smartly snaps back into place when you let go of the tongs.
After about six months of being run through a dishwasher on a regular basis, the OXO tongs have shown less wear than other tongs we’ve tested. The metal ring makes them very easy to hang. Other tongs have similar lock mechanisms, but we haven’t found any that feel as sturdy as the OXO’s.
The OXO Good Grips 2-Piece Grilling Tools Set just came out this year, so we haven’t seen any editorial recommendations for it. But Amazon users give it 4.5 stars. Lisa McManus, the executive editor of equipment testing at America’s Test Kitchen, highly recommends OXO Good Grips 16” Locking Tongs for grilling. Expert Meathead Goldwyn told us that these are his go-to tongs. (He did tell us that the locking mechanism in his broke, but he cooks over a grill more than the average person would, and the tongs can be replaced with OXO’s lifetime satisfaction guarantee.) Men’s Health and Good Housekeeping also heap praise on them. They are the best selling tongs in Amazon’s Home and Kitchen Department, with 572 five-star reviews out of a total of 685 reviews.
We were disappointed by the tongs that come with Cuisinart’s CGS-134 3-Piece Grilling Tool Set with Grill Glove. The steel feels less sturdy, and the heads of the tongs don’t line up when the handles are compressed, making it difficult to grasp small objects and easy to tear the skin of a sausage or chicken. The low-quality vinyl-and-metal handles don’t offer enough grippiness for control. They also can’t be locked closed for storage.
Although we like the intuitive locking mechanism and sturdy, grippy handles on the tongs that come as part of the Weber Style 6707 2-Piece Stainless Steel Barbecue Tool Set, the scalloped heads on the tongs have sharp, angular edges, so they punctured sausage skin. The D-shaped tong heads are also a little more awkward than the symmetrical heads on our pick. We found the spring inside of the 6707s to be pretty weak, so the tool was slow to respond when we released pressure on it.
The tongs in the Cave Tools BBQ Grill Tools Set come with a small metal ring to keep them closed for storage but lack a locking mechanism. While we liked the large heads on the tongs, the heads are more like a slotted spoon and fork, which made it difficult to pick up smaller pieces of food. Also, the stainless-steel handles offer no grip.
Steven Raichlen’s Best of BBQ Forged Stainless steel tongs cost $17, and they’re two inches longer than the 16” OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs. But we’ve found that as the arms on your tongs get longer, your food gets heavier when you lift it.
OXO’s 18-inch set of Stainless Steel Barbecue Tongs are also too long and lack a locking mechanism.
Weber’s cheaper $14 Weber 6610 Original Tongs have handles that aren’t as thick or as well-made as the OXO’s, and the curve at the end of the heads makes them kind of ill-suited for getting underneath of a piece of meat on the grill.
Pass on the Outset Stainless Steel Locking Tongs. They’re too long at 17½ inches, and the locking mechanism on them felt a little flimsy. We were able to bend it slightly with a minimal amount of fingertip pressure.
Don’t bother with the freakishly large tong heads on GrillPro’s 40240 16-inch Stainless Steel Tong/Turner Combination or their flimsy construction.
The Cuisinart CIT-201 Folding Grill Tongs cost the same as our main pick and fold up for easy storage. But they’re an inch shorter, don’t lock, and have a predominantly plastic body.
The Weber Style 6441 Professional-Grade Chef’s Tongs cost three bucks less than the 16-inch OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs do, but their heads are cupped so it’s awkward to pick things up with them.
While these Brinkman Stainless Steel Grilling Tongs look like a steal at $7, when we tried them, their wooden handles felt cheap. The tips of the tongs are deeply recessed, making them great for picking up salad but crap for dealing with food on your grill.
The Messermeister 16-inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs cost $9. We found that they were made of flimsier steel than our OXO pick was and had heads that slipped in and out of alignment when we attempted to pick up smaller objects off our grilling surface. More troubling than this, the stainless steel of the tongs appeared to tarnish after a single run through the dishwasher.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $20.
Burgers and fish don’t deal too well with being compressed by tongs. That’s where a good spatula comes in handy. Our favorite is the one that comes in the $20 OXO Good Grips 2-piece Grilling Tools Set. As with the tongs in this set, the spatula performed better in our tests than ten other models we tried, thanks to its strong, flexible construction, a long, comfortable handle, and a wide head with both a bevelled edge for sliding under food and a serrated one for cutting grub as you grill.
The Two-Piece Grilling Set spatula is made of tough 430-grade stainless steel, making it strong, relatively light, and capable of taking the abuse of high temperatures or a dishwasher. The stainless steel head flexes slightly, just enough to wedge it under a piece of chicken stuck on the grill. But it’s also sturdy enough to handle the weight of heavier cuts. The shaft of the tool is folded into a ‘C’ shape, providing the tool with a little more durability without weighing the tool down. The stainless steel does take on water stains and fingerprints easily, though. The spatula’s 16-inch length is ideal for flipping burgers at the back of the grill without getting your hands too close to the heat. While other spatulas have serrated edges, they weren’t as effective as the OXO’s.
OXO’s Good Grips Two-Piece Grilling Set is so new that we weren’t able to find any editorial reviews on them. At Amazon, the $20 set has a 4.5-star rating, but at the time this guide was written, only 14 people had reviewed the hardware.
Our previous pick, the $11 OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Barbecue Turner, is being discontinued. If you can find it in stores or online, we think it’s great.
The spatula that comes with Cuisinart’s $19 CGS-134 3-piece Grilling Tool Set with Grill Glove is terrible. The metal shaft and head bent when we lifted a six-pound box (we were simulating lifting a heavy roast). You don’t want that.
We liked the full-tang construction of the Weber Style 6707 2-piece Stainless Steel Barbecue Tool Set’s spatula. In testing, we found that its head was well angled and just flexible enough to slide nicely over a grill grate without forcing you to get your arm too close to the heat. Unfortunately, there’s no beveling at the end of the spatula head, so it was difficult to slide it under food. The handle, although adequate, doesn’t match the secure grip of our main pick.
The Weber 6620 Original Spatula’s head didn’t glide underneath burgers as easily as the OXO spatula did, and it didn’t feel quite as sturdy. We were able to bend it a little further than we could the OXO hardware, and after our abuse, the spatula’s rubber handle wobbled more than it did before. The Weber also doesn’t have serrated edge.
While the spatula that comes with Cave Tools BBQ Grill Tools Set is made from strong, flexible stainless steel, the slick, polished stainless steel handle also offers no grip.
The Update International 7.5” Square-end Spatula was at one time mislabeled as the top-selling barbecue turner, but it is wicked short with a wooden handle. It’s really better for indoor griddling.
We picked up the Napoleon 70010 Professional Spatula for $20 ($19 on Amazon) and found that while we liked its wide serrated head, its metal handle wasn’t comfortable to hold when you’re handling heavier cuts of meat. Also, it’s the same price as our favorite two-piece set, so it doesn’t feel like a great deal.
And this Cuisinart 16-inch CIT-200 Folding Grill Spatula goes for $15, but it’s mostly made from plastic, and honestly, there’s no need for your grilling tools to fold down like that. We didn’t even bother calling it in.
Although there are less precise ways of determining the doneness of steak or pork chops, for best accuracy you’ll want a thermometer. When asked, both of our experts agreed that the only real way to tell if your meat is cooked is by checking the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Based on dozen of hours of research and testing 24 models for our guide to instant-read thermometers—as well as the input of our grilling experts—we highly recommend the $30 ThermoWorks ThermoPop Digital Thermometer.
Cheaper thermometers take 10, 15, or even 20 seconds to take accurate readings, but the ThermoPop gets you there in seven or less. Its probe is so precise that it reads within two degrees Fahrenheit up to 248°F, and within four degrees up to 572°F—high enough for anything you’ll cook on your grill or in your kitchen. That accuracy is due to the thermocouple sensor inside the long, thin probe. Generally, you’d have to spend at least twice the price for a thermocouple sensor, as you would for the much-revered $100 Thermapen. Cheaper models are nowhere near as accurate because they don’t have this technology. So the ThermoPop strikes a great balance of performance and price.
The ThermoPop is particularly suited for outdoor cooking, thanks to its large, brightly-lit LCD display that’s easy to read in the dark. The numbers on the screen rotate with the push of a button, so you can take readings from any angle. It’s highly rated for dirt and water resistance with an IP66 rating. Most instant-read thermometers have IP65 ratings, meaning they’re less water resistant. Should anything go wrong with the hardware, the ThermoPop is protected by a one-year limited warranty.
As an added bonus, the ThermoPop comes with a laminated guide to cooking temperatures. The guide (PDF link) covers every level of doneness for beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and seafood.
A lot of trusted sources love the ThermoPop. J. Kenji López-Alt, managing culinary director of food site Serious Eats, wrote it up as “the best inexpensive thermometer on the market.” A Newsweek reviewer found the ThermoPop “no sloppy seconds” and “a bargain at that price.” Good Housekeeping tested the ThermoPop for a travel cooking gear round-up, citing it as “super accurate.” Many cooking, (fancy) coffee, and barbecue blogs also endorse the ThermoPop, though most were also provided free models as part of an outreach program. And with 258 reviews as of this writing, the ThermoPop is averaging a 4.7-star Amazon rating.
If you’d prefer a probe thermometer for slow-cooking roasts like brisket, we like the ThermoWorks Chef Alarm ($59). It’s not cheap, but the probe and cord will withstand up to 700° (most probe thermometers only withstand up to 400°). It has an IP65 rating, so it’s slightly less water-resistant than the ThermoPop. We’ve been longterm testing the Chef Alarm, using it roughly once a week for the past year, and it’s proven very durable. It has a 4.5 average star rating with over 503 Amazon user reviews as of this writing.
Our previous pick, the $16 ThermoWorks RT600C, came recommended by, among others, Buffalo chef James D. Roberts, who bumps things and can’t afford to break a $100 thermometer; serious barbecue nerd Chuck Falzone; and Cook’s Illustrated, in a tie with the CDN DTQ450X. Its thin probe is useful, as are the splash-proof buttons. Negatives: The range is only to 302° Fahrenheit, the automatic shut-off is at one hour, and it lacks a clip to protect or pocket the probe.
You can see all the thermometers we’ve tested so far in our full guide.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $12.
A wire grill brush keeps the remnants of last week’s burnt-on grease from flavoring this week’s meal. For $8 at Home Depot or $7 from Amazon, the 18-inch Weber 6464 Bamboo Grill Brush will help you scour through the toughest grease, carbon, and grime. It’s less expensive than other similar grill brushes, and in three years of testing, many brushes we have yet to find one that works as well for as little money as the Weber 6464.
This brush is well-built and feels sturdier than the plastic or aluminum-and-steel wire handled brushes that we’ve tested. Its thick, beefy bamboo handle is easy to get a hold of. And the brush’s tough stainless steel bristles are anchored deep in the bamboo handle, so the chances of losing a bristle and finding it in your food are minimal. Its 18” reach, which is about two or three inches longer than most of the other grill brushes we’ve tested, is perfect for getting leverage on grill grates. And we found that the steel grill scraper, attached to the tip of the brush, worked well in tests on iron, stainless steel, and cast aluminum cooking grates of varying thicknesses.
We only found one editorial review for the Weber 6464 Bamboo Grill Brush, and it came from AmazingRibs.com’s editor-in-chief Craig ‘Meathead’ Goldwyn. He likes the metal scraper on the end of the brush head. It receives a 4.1-star rating on Amazon.
While the Amazon reviews for this grill brush are largely positive, some reviewers say they wish that it was longer lasting. We’ve used this brush for close to three years, grilling at least once or twice a week, and have only recently come to feel that it’s time to replace it. Given that it costs under ten bucks, we think that’s a pretty good run for the money.
Some user reviewers also mention that they’d like if the notched metal bar on the head of the brush were a little bit wider. We largely have to disagree with this, as a larger scraping head would make it difficult to clean the bars on some denser grill grates.
Finally, don’t use this brush on porcelain-coated grill grates. You’ll want to use a softer, brass bristled brush. We haven’t found a brass-bristled brush that we like yet, but we’re looking.
You can get a shorter 12-inch variant of the Weber 6464 18-inch Bamboo Grill Brush for a dollar less on Home Depot and Amazon’s sites, but we think that the extra six inches of reach and leverage you get for that extra buck is worth it, especially if you’re the type to neglect cleaning grates right after cooking on them.
We tested the $18 USA Kitchen Elite BBQ Grill Brush. It’s the bestselling grill brush in Amazon’s Cooking Equipment Accessories category, with a five-star rating from 491 customer reviews. Although it comes with a large, wide scouring head mounted on a sturdy 18-inch-long wire-and-plastic handle, it lacks a scraper of the sort that comes built into our main pick. After one use, we noticed that a number of the brush’s wire strands were pulling free from the head.
The Mr. Grill 18-inch Extra Strong Solid Oak Handle grill brush comes with a brass bristled head, making it a good choice for scrubbing down porcelain-coated grill grates that can sometimes be scratched by stainless steel. Its handle and shaft felt just as strong as our main pick and it only costs $8. Unfortunately, the brass bristles failed to scour much food from the steel grate of my portable grill even after allowing the debris to roast over hot charcoal for 15 minutes. It lacks the scraper head that our winning Weber brush has. So while its bristles might be gentle on the surface of your porcelain-coated grill grates, it’s likely too gentle to remove caked-on grease and food.
The Char-Broil 3385049 Brush Hawg Grill Brush with Replaceable Head sells for just a little over $12 on Amazon, but it’s not worth it. The brush’s plastic handle wasn’t as sturdy as the Weber 6464’s. Also, while replacement heads for the Brush Hawg cost $7 per two-pack, which makes it cheaper than buying a whole new Weber 6464, the bristles don’t go very deep into the plastic, which makes me worry about them winding up in food—an issue reported by a number of Amazon users.
We tested the $6 Rubbermaid G100 BBQ Brush with Steel Scraper, but can’t recommend it. There’s tons of other grill brushes out there that look just like it too, made by companies like Grill Zone and GrillPro, but they don’t last long, and just like with the Char-Broil Brush Hawg, the handles of these plastic brushes just can’t seem to keep hold of the bristles as well as a classic wooden-handled brush.
There are also T-headed brushes like Weber’s $16 6425 wire-handled T-Brush to consider but you should pass. The T-head design works great, but the bristles typically aren’t held in place by a few twists of metal wire rather than being glued in. They come out pretty easily.
We considered testing the $23 Grill Daddy Pro Grill Brush, which sounded like an awesome idea, in theory. It’s a grill brush that’s got a built-in water reservoir that pours water over your hot grill grates as you scrub them. However, we found a large number of complaints on Amazon and around the web about its water reservoir leaking after only a few uses.
There are a gazillion grill brushes out there that look and work the same as our winner the 18-inch Weber 6464 Bamboo Grill Brush, many of which can be found at your local hardware store. If it’s cheap and it looks sturdy, give it a try.
Our experts agree that the best way to go for grilling is to pick up a set of suede or split-leather welding gloves. To protect your hands from a grill’s searing heat, invest in a pair of US Forge 400 Welding Gloves. Made of thick heat-and-liquid-resistant split leather, they offer superior protection against contact with hot metal, steaming-hot barbecue sauce, and heat than a Nomex or silicone glove—or standard kitchen oven mitt—can afford. And priced at $13 from Amazon, they’re a steal.
These gloves have been our pick for the past three years. For this year’s update, in addition to using our gloves over the fires of a blazing charcoal grill, we also conducted a controlled test over one of the 2600-watt 8-inch coil elements of an electric range. After cranking the burner to its maximum setting, we checked its temperature with an infrared thermometer. It produced a maximum surface temperature of 620°F, approximately the same as the heat generated by the coals in a charcoal grill a few minutes after they’ve been poured out of a chimney starter.
Donning each of the four gloves we chose for testing this year, I held my hand roughly three inches above the coil element and timed how long it took before I felt an an uncomfortable level of heat. The shells of the gloves included in the test were made of a variety of materials including cotton, Nomex, Kevlar, silicone, Aramid, and split leather. Of the four gloves tested, we found that the leatherUS Forge Gloves provided the greatest amount of protection against the heat of the coil element, allowing me to keep my hand above the heat source for 29 seconds before it become painful. What’s more, the three other gloves we tested, despite having exteriors made with Nomex and Aramid, began to smolder, even before the heat became uncomfortable. The US Forge gloves, on the other hand (puns!), came away unscathed.
A thick top-grain leather exterior, soft cotton interior, and durable locked stitching will help these gloves stand up to years of occasional abuse. They’re also fire-resistant and comfortable. The cotton liner provides some additional heat protection, protects your hands from the glove’s stitching, and helps to wick away sweat. While any number of welding gloves offer similar features, we didn’t find any that were as inexpensive and as widely available through Amazon, and welding speciality shops as the US Forge gloves.
“I think silicone is guaranteed up to 500 or 550 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Steven Raichlen. “But typically when you’re direct grilling, or if you’re heating something on the grill, you’re going to be up above 600 to 700 degrees. So for me, I never trust the silicone. For me, I like welder’s gloves or suede gloves.”
Like Craig ‘Meathead’ Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com has pointed out to us, you can wash a pair of suede or leather gloves by washing your hands with the gloves still on, sending them through the washing machine or, if you’re feeling lazy, simply wait for them to dry and then brush dried grease and sauces off of them. You can get away with both of these cleaning methods with any split leather glove, but get sauce on a pair of Nomex or other fire-resistant fabric glove? Good luck getting the stain out without scrubbing them or putting them through the washing machine a few times.
The US Forge 400 Welding Gloves are one of the most popular sets of welding gloves on Amazon and boast an average rating of 4.6 stars, with 307 five-star ratings out of a total of 412 Amazon user reviews.
These gloves only come in one size. Some Amazon reviewers say they are either too big or too small, but most users don’t seem to have a problem with the size.
A few Amazon reviewers also complain that they’re not great for use with a grill. But without fail, all of these gripes come from individuals who seemingly expect the gloves to be heatproof, not heat-resistant. One reviewer was disappointed that he was only able to hold a scorching hot metal basket that had been on the grill for a mere 15 seconds before feeling heat. That’s not what these things are made for.
Despite these complaints, after using and abusing these gloves with high heat, dirty grill parts, and washing them under a tap with dish soap for close to three years and then subjecting them to this year’s coil element heat test, we feel comfortable in saying that if you use them like a responsible, reasonable individual, they’ll keep you safe.
We tested the $8 Weber 6472 Barbecue Mitt. It’s long enough to nearly cover my whole forearm, and with its cotton shell and polyester twill exterior, it took second place in our coil element heat test, shielding me from discomfort for 15 seconds and beginning to smoulder at 21 seconds. But being a mitt, it lacks our main pick’s dexterity, and as it’s made of 100 percent cotton, it allows liquids through, which could mess with its thermal protection. We’d be comfortable using it in the kitchen to take a roast out of the oven, but it’s less than ideal as a grilling glove.
The two gloves in Weber’s $30 6669 Premium Barbecue Glove Set come in a number of sizes and fit snugly, so they offer enough control to handle knives or a pair of tongs. Silicone grips also provide more control when you’re holding tools. But we found they offer minimal thermal protection. In our coil element heat test, we felt the heat through these gloves almost immediately. We had the same experience working with them over the grill.
I had high hopes for the $48 San Jamar KT0218 Kool-Tek Nomex Conventional Temperature Protection Oven Mitt, which is our favorite for kitchen use. It’s constructed from Nomex, Kevlar, and cotton and promises intermittent heat resistance for temperatures up to 550°F for 30 seconds at a time. Granted, that’s 70°F lower than what my coil element test allowed for, but in short bursts over the heat of a grill, the San Jamar mitt should be fine, right? Wrong. We were only able to wear it above the element for five seconds before we began to feel the heat and at the nine second mark, the mitt began to smoulder. Lesson learned. Also, it comes in one size, so far as we can tell, and it’s so big that we had serious issues holding on to any of the tools we were testing while wearing them.
If the lack of editorial on our winning gloves bothers you, you could go with a set of Ove’ Glove Hot Surface Handlers. Consumer Reports’ Theresa Panetta found that these took twice as long to ignite when held over an open flame. So that’s cool. Sweethome editor Christine Cyr Clisset has been testing them and tells me that it is possible to use them to pick up tinfoil packets off of hot charcoal. They also happen to be the top rated oven mitt on Amazon, with 377 five star reviews out of a total of 500. But I’d rather get the US Forge 400s because the Ove’ Gloves are made from Nomex and Kevlar, both materials that are woven and therefore subject to pulls and tears.
When you’re looking for a basting brush, forgo traditional hair and cotton mop-style brushes. No matter how well you wash them, either by hand or in a dishwasher, you’ll never get all of the sauce out of them, and that means that they’ll wind up contaminated with food matter to some extent.
Of dozens of silicone basting brushes we found and the four we called in for testing this year, we like the $12 OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Basting Brush best. In our testing, its thick, tri-layered, 2¼-by-1½-inch silicone brush head sopped up and spread more sauce over a greater area than any of the competition.
In order to determine how much sauce each basting brush we were testing could hold, we weighed each brush on a kitchen scale before and after its bristles were laden down with barbecue sauce. The OXO brush weighed 144 grams while dry and 163 grams when saturated with barbecue sauce—a 19 gram difference. By comparison, Elizabeth Karmel’s Super Silicone BBQ Grill Basting Brush with Long Angled Handle and Removable Head held 10 grams of sauce and the Weber 6661 Original Silicone Basting Brush held 9 grams. The OXO brush also felt more durable than the two other brushes that made it into our final testing round; in fact it was a good 50 grams heavier dry than any of the competition.
In addition to holding the most sauce, the brush also delivered the most sauce. After dunking each of our test brushes, we drew a line of sauce on a cutting board, stopping when the sauce was depleted from one side of the brush head and then continuing with the other side. The line of sauce produced by the OXO hardware was not only longer than the other two brushes I tested against it but, at 2½ inches wide, compared to the other brushes’ 1¾-inch width, it was also significantly wider.
The 14-inch OXO brush is an inch longer than the aforementioned Weber 6661 and and inch shorter than the Elizabeth Karmel brush. Like all silicone basting brushes, it’s rated to withstand temperatures up to 600°F, making it perfect for use with a grill. Its silicone-covered handle provides additional grip so you can comfortably use it while wearing a grilling glove and its slightly tipped head makes brushing marinade or sauce on a cut of meat at the back of a grilling surface slightly easier than a traditional straight brush can.
We didn’t find a single editorial review for the OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Basting Brush from a trusted source. However, Cook’s Illustrated loves the OXO Good Grips Silicone Pastry Brush, which uses an identical, albeit smaller, bristle configuration. The OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Basting Brush also did well with Amazon shoppers. The brush has a 4.6-out-of-5-star rating, from a total of 41 customers.
A few Amazon users complain about this brush’s bristles falling off after a few dozen uses, but they’re in the minority. All the same, I attempted to pull the brush’s silicone bristles free, but was unable to do so. We’ll continue to use this brush longterm and will update you if we have any issues with it.
The $10 Elizabeth Karmel’s Super Silicone BBQ Grill Basting Brush with Long Angled Handle and Removable Head was our pick for a grilling basting brush for the past two years. However, it was only able to hold nine grams of sauce compared to the OXO brush’s 19 grams.
The $9 Weber 6661 Original Silicone Basting Brush is a well-built brush, but it could only hold on to 10 grams of sauce at a time, nine less than our main pick. And with a head that was only 1¼ inches wide, it wasn’t able to match the coverage that our main pick could manage in a single pass.
The Weber 6701 Style Silicone Basting Brush feels pretty shoddy. Its silicone head was easily pulled from the stainless steel handle and fell apart upon further examination. We dismissed it without testing.
Lighting a charcoal grill with a chimney starter rapidly brings your charcoal up to cooking temperature without any nasty-tasting lighter fluid, makes it easy to place the charcoal in your grill’s bed for direct and indirect cooking, and can be used to measure how much charcoal you’re using. We recommend the $15 Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter.
There are many similar products out there made by companies like Charcoal Companion, Steven Raichlen, Char-Griller, and Broil King. They all work, to one degree or another, but none of them are as well-vented to allow air to circulate through your coals for faster ignition. The Weber 7416 is also constructed from thicker aluminized steel that’ll keep the outer layer of metal on the chimney from peeling under intense heater for longer. (I had this problem with a $7 no-name chimney starter from a local specialty shop, and it turned to a rusted mess after just one summer.) That thicker steel also provides better shielding from heat and sparks when the time comes to pour your hot charcoal. Its heat-resistant plastic handle also makes pouring the coals into the grill much easier (but seriously, wear gloves when you do.)
We’ve used a number of chimney starters over the years and the Weber 7416 provides far better balance than others. Despite its heavy-duty construction, the weight of the coals and the starter never feels like a strain, and it’s relatively easy to pour the coals. That’s not the case with the other ones we’ve used. The cylinder holds enough briquettes to prep the company’s 22.5” Kettle Grill. Meathead said that when you’re using Kingsford charcoal this translates into about 80 briquettes.
The Weber 7416 is far and away the most popular chimney starter sold on Amazon. It has a 4.8 star average rating, with 88% of 2,620 awarding it five stars. No other chimney starter on the site can even come close to matching this score. The next most popular chimney starter on Amazon is an older Weber version (although it’s no longer available) that has nearly as many positive reviews as the Weber 7416.
You can also use your charcoal chimney to cook small, thin cuts of meat or fish. Doing so saves you the trouble of having to fill your grill with coals if you’re only cooking for one or two people, making for less to clean up. Just ignite the charcoal briquettes in your chimney, wait for them to turn white with ash, place a grate on top of the chimney to use as a cooking surface, and you’re good to go. Meathead Goldwyn does it; because the heat and fire from the charcoal inside of it is focused and shooting straight up through the tube, it’s like cooking on a miniature jet engine. Meathead says he and his wife can cook a steak over the coals in a chimney starter within a few minutes.
And if you have a smaller, portable grill, such as the Weber Smokey Joe Premium, consider picking up the smaller Weber 7447 Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter instead. It’s sized to hold just enough charcoal briquettes for a portable grill, but is made of the same materials as our larger main pick. I’ve been using one for years when I cook on the beach or while camping. It never fails to get my charcoal up to temperature in a timely manner.
Although we haven’t tried the $17 Char-Broil 3184803 Sure Fire Canister Style Charcoal Starter we think it looks like the chimney Darth Vader would use to start his grill at Galactic Empire company picnics. Many people that bought it on Amazon complained that the chimney’s coating started to peel off after only using it a few times, so we passed on testing.
The same can be said for the $17 Charcoal Companion Silver Chimney Charcoal Starter. It costs more than the Weber chimney does, and many user reviews complain about the hardware’s durability. Plus, it hasn’t been reviewed many times on Amazon, especially in comparison to the Weber hardware, and the reviews that exist are less than enthusiastic.
After speaking with our experts we found that you don’t need a special grilling fork. For flipping and grabbing meat and veggies, use tongs. When it comes to grilling, a fork can actually harm your food.
As grilling cookbook author Steven Raichlen explains,“I don’t normally recommend a BBQ fork, because it’s too easy to abuse it by stabbing the meat. Look, a steak is not going to puncture like a water balloon, but… if you poke it repeatedly, it’s going to let some of the blood and juices out.” When we asked him if there were any situations where using a fork was preferable over using a set of grilling tongs, he told us that of the 4,000 recipes that he’s collected, cooked, and written about, only one requires you use a grilling fork: provoleta asada. It’s an Argentinian dish that involves throwing a huge chunk of cheese on a grill. In order to turn the melted cheese over, you need a fork to pry it free of the grill grates.
Over at Amazing Ribs, our guest expert, Meathead Goldwyn, talks about what happens when you stab your meat with a fork. He doesn’t feel that you lose a whole lot of the juices from a piece of meat when puncture it with a fork, but he reinforces the fact that poking at your meat to access whether or not it’s cooked doesn’t work.
(Photos by Seamus Bellamy.)
Originally published: August 12, 2015