The Best BBQ Tools
And I’m talking basic utensils that you can’t do without.
Who’s this stuff for?
Anyone that just bought a new grill, or anyone who has owned one for a while and feels like they could stand to upgrade their existing arsenal of accessories.
Why not just use the stuff you already have in your kitchen?
Barbecues are way hotter than your stove top will ever hope to get in most cases. And they puke up fire on purpose. Your stove and oven, if running correctly, shouldn’t do that. You need specialized tools with appropriate reach, fire resistance and strength to stand up to that sort of abuse.
What Tools Do I Need?
Shortly before I started researching our Best Charcoal Grill piece last year, I bought a $25 Mr. Bar-B-Q 18-piece Stainless Steel Grill Tool Set to use with my Weber Smokey Joe.
Having used it for a year, I can tell you that the utensil kit is a raging disappointment and made of cheap metal.
The tips of the tongs don’t line up, so they suck for even basic things like picking up a hotdog from off the grill, and I’m scared to trust them with a good cut of meat. The rest of the tools are made out of the same low-grade steel. The spatula strains under the weight of a burger, and the wooden handles on the utensils that I use on a regular basis are all missing chips of wood and are largely stripped of their varnish. In other words, although it didn’t seem like it would matter much, the utensils I bought were a letdown.
So I interviewed a few BBQ experts to find out more about what makes a quality BBQ tool, which tools are essential and which are not useful.
According to my research, these are the grilling tools that everyone who uses a barbecue should own:
A set of long-handled spring-loaded tongs for handling the food
A long handled stiff wire grill brush for cleaning the cooking grate
Optionally, a basting brush
And if you own a charcoal grill, a charcoal chimney to light it with.
Who told me to get these tools? I first spoke with Steven Raichlen, who has travelled the globe in pursuit of grilling knowledge from around the world and has written 28 books on the topic. He was the host of Primal Grill, recently finished a foodie-centric novel and is the founder of Barbecue University, an annual workshop for outdoor cooking aficionados where he passes on a few of the grilling secrets he’s uncovered over the past few decades. If that’s not enough for you, in 2003 he was named Cooking Teacher of the Year by Bon Appetit magazine. What I’m saying is that he knows what he’s talking about. (Full disclosure: Steven has his own line of BBQ tools. We are going to check them out in the future, but they are not featured as picks in this piece.)
I asked the same question of outdoor cooking fanatic Craig ‘Meathead’ Goldwyn. He’s the owner 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. Meathead named all of the same hardware that Steven did.
How Did You Choose?
I started with the advice from Steven and Meathead, and made a list of what to look for when shopping for BBQ tools. I also went looking for a little extra input, finding some pretty decent guides published by Epicurious, Legacy Pork, Canadian Living, Amazing Ribs, About.com, Popular Mechanics, Real Simple and Men’s Health.
I found that, almost universally, most of these guides advocated extra hardware that isn’t what you’d call a basic ‘need.’ Do I need a bottle opener for my beer, so I can drink it while I cook? No. How about flat, stainless steel barbecue skewers? Perhaps a rack for cooking jalapeno poppers… Will buying a BBQ fork with a meat probe built into it improve my cooking? How about a Pizza Stone for my grill—that’s a must-have, right? Probably not, even if they’re nice to have on hand.
That’s why I went with the basics.
To find great picks, I turned my attention to sites like Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Home Depot, Target, Walmart and Lowe’s. When people go looking for grilling tools, if they’re anything like me, they take the path of least resistance: going to a store where you can find everything you think you need in one place (or at the very least visiting its website). I looked at the hardware available online that matched up with our experts’ criteria, and then delved into the user reviews for each piece of kit. I automatically disallowed anything that had a three-star rating or less. Next, I disqualified crazy grilling sets that come with a gazillion tools in them—if you look at them, they all offer more hardware than you really need to barbecue, and they’re typically made of low-grade materials in order to keep costs low. For the same cost of the crazy $25 BBQ kit I bought last year that’s already falling apart, I could have gotten a few high-quality tools that would have lasted me for years to come.
After 13 hours of research, I wound up deciding on testing a group of tools made by Weber, OXO Good Grips, Cuisinart, Mr. Bar-B-Q, Napoleon, Outset, Coleman, Brinkman, and GrillPro, as well as gloves made by a number of different manufacturers.
The Best Tongs
They’re indispensable. You can turn your food with them as it’s grilling, flip a piece of meat over, place a potato away from the hotter side of your grill to let it bake in the hardware’s indirect heat or plate a rack of ribs once they’re cooked to perfection. Meathead stressed to me that you want to find a set of tongs with a long reach of at least 16 inches so that you’ll easily be able to reach right to the back of your cooking surface with them without exposing your hand or arm to the barbecue’s heat. He also told me that in addition to a long reach, you’ll also want your tongs to have a spring inside of them, so that their natural position is to be opened, so that you don’t have to fight to get them around your food. He also mentioned that it’s a good idea to buy a set of tongs that have silicon grips on them, so that it’s equally easy to get a good grip with your bare hands or with a set of BBQ gloves on. Steven added that you’ll also want to be sure that the steel arms of your tongs are rolled into a ‘U’ or ‘C’ shape so that they’ll have more strength—that’s important when you’re lifting heavy objects on and off of your grill. You’ll also want them to have large heads made of strong, thick metal so that you’ll be able to use your tongs to pick up the smallest of objects, while retaining the strength and size to do bigger jobs too.
But let me get back to justifying our pick.
They’re long but not too long. With a 16-inch length, you’ll never have to worry about being in danger of burning your hand or arm in a flare-up.
They’re strong and well designed. Made of thick, 430-grade stainless steel with grippy rubber accents, the OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs are easy to hold, even when they’re gripping something heavy. And thanks to their rolled-steel construction, they won’t bend under heavy loads of food as you take them off of your grill. The tips of the tongs boast wide, gently-tapering heads with a gentle scallop pattern along their sides. This makes them perfect for picking up delicate fare (like a scallop from your grill) but keeps them beefy enough to also handle thick cuts of steak. They also have a strong spring that’s easy to compress and smartly snaps back into place when you let go of the tongs.
They’re easy to clean and store. Being constructed from stainless steel and silicone means that they’re dishwasher-friendly, and, as their name implies, OXO Good Grips 16” Locking Tongs have a locking mechanism built-in. Squeezing the tongs closed and pulling up on the hanging ring built into the end of the utensil lock the tongs shut, making them easy to store in your kitchen drawer.
Our friend Lisa McManus at America’s Test Kitchen recently reviewed them and loved them. She said that the 16” version (they also come in 9” and 12” variants) are the perfect length and that “The pincers picked up single asparagus spears with precision, as well as multiple spears in one swoop. They cupped corn firmly, and didn’t damage tender rib meat.” She also quoted another ATK tester as having said that they could perform heart surgery with them.
Meathead uses them as well, and and told me that “OXO Good Grips is making such good kitchen tools nowadays. They seem to have really taken over the kitchen accessories segment.” They’ve also had praise heaped on them by Men’s Health and Good Housekeeping. Additionally, OXO’s Good Grips Locking Tongs are by far the most popular cooking tongs on Amazon with 233 five-star reviews out of a total of 288 reviews.
Overall, the Good Grips Brand has been killing it of late. They won The Sweethome’s top spots for Best Kitchen Scale and Best Vegetable Peeler. The OXO brand’s also won a ton of awards for their other homeware products going back as far as 1991 from notables like BBC Good Food, Consumer Reports, the Good Housekeeping Institute, Industrial Designers of America, Bon Appetit and The Gourmet Products Show, just to name a few. So I think it’s safe to say that they know what they’re doing.
But like everything else we review here, our tongs have their flaws. As much as Meathead likes his, he told me that the broke the locking mechanism in his. But you’ve got to remember that he cooks over a grill more than most of us ever will. It’s also worth noting that some Amazon customers complained that the rubber grips on the tongs started to fail after a few years of use. But the complainants are a very small minority.
There’s a ton of tongs out there that you could buy instead of the OXO Good Grips 16” Locking Tongs, but I don’t know why you would.
Let’s start with some of the other tongs that OXO makes.
You could save a few bucks by investing in the 9” or 12” versions of the Good Grips Locking Tongs (priced at $12 and $13 respectively) but I wouldn’t, unless you’re grilling over a small portable grill like the Weber Smokey Joe. With a full-sized grill, you’ll want a longer reach.
But not too long. 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 I’ve found that the longer the arms on your tongs, the heavier your food gets when you lift it. Lisa McManus agrees, and recently wrote that the 16” OXO tongs were “…the perfect length of these tongs! With a tool longer than 16 inches we had to work to lever heavy foods or contort our arms to stand close enough to work over the grill.” So I’d pass.
OXO also makes an 18” set of Stainless Steel Barbecue Tongs that go for the same price as the Good Grips Locking ones do. But after using them, I can say that Lisa is right. Compared to the 16” tongs, they feel just a little too long to be comfortable for working in close to your grill. What’s more, the 18” Stainless Steel Barbecue Tongs don’t have a locking mechanism like the 16” OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs do, so they’re a pain in the ass to store when you’re not using them.
You could go with Weber’s cheaper $14 Weber 6610 Original Tongs but I wouldn’t. They only received seven reviews on Amazon, which isn’t enough of a pool to draw a conclusion from. But in my time using the tongs, I found that while they were constructed as well as the OXO Good Grips were, the handle just didn’t feel as thick or as well-made to me, which makes me worry about longevity. Additionally, they’ve got a curve at the end of the tong’s heads, which makes them kind of ill-suited for getting underneath of a piece of meat on the grill. So that sucks.
I was able to find these Napoleon 55012 Stainless Steel 12” Tongs locally, and as you can see, they’re available on Amazon too. But I can’t find any online evidence of their being a 16” iteration of the things, and to be honest they felt pretty cheap in my hand, with the arms of the tongs wobbling freely on the rivet that holds the works together.
Then there’s the Outset Stainless Steel Locking Tongs. Pass on them. They’re too long at 17.5 inches. I also found that the locking mechanism on them felt a little flimsy. I was able to bend it slightly with a minimal amount of fingertip pressure.
You also don’t want to 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 the 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” OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs do, but their heads are cupped so it’s awkward to pick things up with them.
The tongs that come in this Coleman Three Piece BBQ Tool Set are flimsy, short and have no lock.
And while these Brinkman Stainless Steel Grilling Tongs look like a steal at $7, their wooden handles felt cheap to me. The tips of the tongs are deeply recessed, making them great for picking up salad but crap for dealing with food on your grill.
Here’s an interesting lead we are tracking down for testing: WIRED’s Joe Brown is a former chef and charcoal-grilling fanatic. He told us that he really likes the Messermeister 16” Stainless Steel Locking Tong. They only cost $9. A lot of other heavy users that cook for themselves and in competition prefer the Messermeister tongs to the OXO Good Grips because they contain higher-quality springs and the tong heads are better aligned than what you get with the OXO Good Grips, according to Joe. But they haven’t received a lot of reviews on Amazon, and I can’t find anyone else in authority talking them up else. But when it comes to grills, Joe’s word is gospel, so I’ve ordered a pair to see how they rank compared to the OXO tongs.
The Best Spatula
Why a spatula instead of just getting away with tongs? Well you can use your tongs to turn a piece of steak or a pork chop over on your grill, but more delicate grub like burgers and fish don’t deal too well with being compressed. That’s where a good spatula comes in.
So what makes a good one? Our pair of experts agreed that you’ll want your spatula to be made out of stainless steel, so that it’s strong, relatively light and can take the abuse heaped on it by the high temperatures it’s exposed to by your grill and dishwasher. According to Steven, you’ll want the head of the spatula to have holes in it. Aside from looking pro and lightening the weight of the hardware, the holes also let some of the steam out from the bottom side of your food. When you go to turn a burger, you don’t want to lose the crust to steam and moisture.
Despite being made of a strong metal like stainless steel, you’ll want to make sure that the head of your spatula has a thin or tapered leading edge to allow you to easily jam it between your food and the grilling surface. And while it’s not a must, many spatulas come with a serrated edge designed to let you cut your food while it’s on the grill. You’d burn your hands if you were forced to use a conventional kitchen knife.
Our pick meets these criteria and is better than the other models we looked at.
It’s well made. Like the Good Grips 16” Locking Tongs, the Good Grips BBQ Turner is made of tough 430-grade stainless steel. That’s the same stuff that many mid-to-high-priced gas grills have their burners constructed out of, so it’s a good bet that it’ll stand up to the heat of your grill’s cooking surface. And like the rest of the Good Grips line up, the Barbecue Turner has a chunky rubber handle that’ll let you comfortably control the tool no matter whether you’re working with it in gloves or with your bare hands.
It’s long. With a 16” reach and a 3” neck, you’ll be able to flip burgers and chicken breasts at the back of your grill without getting your vulnerable bits and pieces too close to the hot metal of your barbecue’s cooking surface.
It’s got a few clever features to make your cooking the best it can be. As Steven pointed out earlier, it’s important to have holes in your spatula’s head so that steam can escape and not ruin the crusty exterior of grilled food. The Good Grips BBQ Turner has that going for it, and the holes are small enough that only moisture can escape from them, not your food. And because a knife with a 16” reach is called a sword (a tool typically frowned upon for backyard entertaining) OXO was kind enough to place a sharp, serrated cutting edge on one side of the BBQ Turner’s spatula surface, so you can cut into meat and other foods on your grill without getting too close to the heat for comfort.
For some reason, the OXO Good Grips BBQ Turner isn’t the review rockstar that the OXO Good Grips 16” Locking Tongs are. I haven’t been able to find any editorial reviews for them, and only 21 people on Amazon have left their opinion of them. That said, 19 of those 21 reviews were positive, so there’s that. I can also tell you that of all of the barbecue spatulas I tested, the OXO Good Grips BBQ Turner felt the best in my hand. Its cushy handle proved more than capable of handling the weight of the food I put on its head. And while its stainless steel head proved to be a little flexible, it wasn’t enough that I’d say the tool was compromised. Rather, it provided juuuuust enough flex to let me jam it under a piece of chicken that had gotten stuck on my grill. Perfect. There’s also a slight ‘C’ shape to the Barbecue Turner’s neck, which provides it with a little more durability without weighing the tool down.
My only real complaint about the hardware is that the Turner’s stainless steel takes on water stains and fingerprints insanely easy. It hasn’t looked clean since I got it. But it works and feels great, so who cares?
The closest competitor to the OXO Good Grips Barbecue Turner I could find was the Weber 6620 Original Spatula. It costs a buck less than the OXO Barbecue Turner. But the number of reviews attached to the Weber Original Spatula is even lower than it is for the OXO Barbecue Turner. Only seven people bothered reviewing this hardware, and I couldn’t find anything good or bad about the Weber spatula. So I tested it out. It worked well, but it wasn’t as good as the OXO hardware. I found the Original Spatula’s head didn’t glide underneath my burgers as easily as the OXO Barbecue Turner did, and it didn’t feel quite as sturdy. I was able to bend it a little further than I could the OXO hardware, and, after I flexed it, the spatula’s rubber handle proved to have a little more wobble in it than it did before. It’s also worth noting that the Weber doesn’t have a serrated edge on it, so you can’t easily cut food on your grill with it. That said, it’s still a good barbecue spatula. If you can’t get your hands on a 16” OXO Good Grips Barbecue Turner, you can get this one instead and likely be happy with your purchase.
There’s also the Update International 5.5” Square-end Spatula but you should pass on it, even if it’s only six bucks and is the most popular BBQ spatula on Amazon. It’s got a huge flat head that can flip anything you would dare to throw at it, and a full metal tang construction that runs up to the end of its handle, so it won’t snap off on you while you’re using it. Also, it’s wicked short. It might be fine for flipping pancakes over a skillet on your stove, but you want some length in your BBQ tools to keep you hand away from your grilling surface, especially if what you’re cooking is prone to flare ups. It also has a wooden handle, which provides less of a grip than you’ll get from a rubber one. No like. There’s also a 16” long version of this bad boy that sells for $1.50 more. But I have to advise you to take a pass on it as well as it doesn’t have any steam vents built into it, has the same wooden handle, and, following the same path astray as the Weber, no serrated edge.
This $9 Kingsford Memphis Spatula doesn’t have a cutting edge either, and while it has a full tang design, I could move the handle around on the spatula’s stainless steel body with minimal effort, so it was kind of disappointing.
The Mr. Bar-B-Q 02820X Skyline Series Spatula is a short-handled, flimsy metal bag of hurt with a head that was difficult to get underneath food.
I picked up the Napoleon 70010 Professional Spatula for $20 (but you can get it for $18 on Amazon) and found that while I liked its wide serrated, well-vented head, its metal handle wasn’t comfortable to fold when you’re handling heavier cuts of meat. Also, it was $7 more expensive than our pick.
And this Cuisinart 16” 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.
The Best Instant-Probe Thermometer
Why do you need one of these? Well, every time I talk hardware with Meathead, he tells me about how much he hates the built-in thermometers. You’ll usually find these cheap bimetallic thermometers built into the lid of the barbecue, and that’s where the trouble begins.
“The temperature in the dome,” explains Meathead, “is different than the temperature down where the meat is on the cooking surface. My advice is to just get some black spray paint and cover it over, because it is really misleading and it can ruin you.” If this wasn’t bad enough, the built-in grill thermometers have also proven to be wildly inaccurate versus what you’ll get from a modern digital thermometer. It’s also worth mentioning that Steven and Meathead agree that the only real way to tell if your meat is cooked is by jamming a thermometer’s probe into it to gauge the cut’s internal temperature.
When you’re looking for a digital thermometer, you’ll want to remember a few things. First, it should read your food’s internal temperature almost instantly: standing over your grill holding a probe in your food is fine for a few seconds, but even with barbecue gloves on, things can get a little warm after that. You’ll want it to be water resistant, so that you can wash it after using it. It also comes in handy if you accidentally drop it in a pot of BBQ sauce (not that I’ve ever done that). And because you don’t want to have to sink any more money into it anytime soon, it should have a long battery life and be well built.
Our pick does all this.
It’s an inexpensive choice that’s backed by a company with a reputation for excellent customer service and it performs just as well as many more expensive options.
It’s fast and accurate. The RT600 can give you an accurate reading of your food’s internal temperature in just five seconds’ time, and comes with a temperature probe capable of taking an accurate reading of temperatures up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit (300 degrees Celsius). What’s more, it’ll save the data on your highest and lowest readings since the last time you reset its hardware, making it easy to keep track of the internal temperatures of the food you’re cooking.
It’s efficient. The RT600 boasts a crazy 2,000-hour battery operating life, so it’ll likely outlast most of the grills you’d care to use it with. And if you’re too busy to remember to turn it off, it’ll shut itself down after one hour.
It’s easy to use. With only two prime operating buttons, the RT600 can be mastered by anyone. Just turn it on, jam it in your food for a few seconds and you’ll know how close your meal is to being ready to eat.
It’s durable. With its IP65 rating, it has enough water resistance to be dunked in your sink and washed by hand, or to take a trip through your dishwasher.
In their 2010 roundup of inexpensive instant-read thermometers, Cook’s Illustrated awarded the RT600C the runners up position to the $96 Thermoworks Thermapen Meat Thermometer, which like the $76-cheaper RT600, reads the temperature of whatever its probe’s jammed into. The big differences between the two? The Thermapen reads temperatures two seconds faster than the RT600 can manage, and when you’re done using it, the Thermapen’s probe can be folded away, making it a lot more compact. Closing or folding out the probe also turns the Thermapen off and on. In the case of the RT600, you have to push a button to turn it off or on and when you’re not using it the probe needs to be sheathed inside of a plastic cover. The Thermapen’s nice, but for most people, I just don’t think it’s worth $76 more than the RT600.
As part of his Amazing Ribs accessories buying guide, Meathead awarded the RT600 a gold seal and explained that the thermometer’s water resistance has saved his bacon more than once, saying “… the waterproof part really got my attention. More than once I have dropped a thermometer in a pot of custard or bowl of chocolate, and then I get to lick it off before I throw it away. Not this one.”
It also happens to be the one of the most popular digital-probe thermometers on Amazon, with an average of 4.4 stars and 277 five-star ratings out 396.
It does have a few things wrong with it though. I’ve owned one for over a year, and I can tell you that while it’s durable and waterproof, its plastic shell has started to discolor. This doesn’t affect it’s operation, but I thought you should know. I’ve also seen some instances of RT600 owners complaining about the fact that the probe easily breaks away from the body of the thermometer. But you have to bear in mind that this is a slender, delicate piece of hardware. To counter this, I’d invite anyone skeptical of the hardware’s build quality to read through some of the four, three and two-star ratings (there aren’t that many) for the RT600 on Amazon. There’s a ton of reported instances of ThermoWorks stepping up to either replace or repair the damaged hardware with minimal complaint. Reports of that level of customer service make me feel that much more confident about the RT600, especially since I own one.
You could pick up the ES432 Ultra-Fast Water Resistant Pen-Shape Stem Thermometer for a couple of dollars less than the RT600, but its probe cover doesn’t snap into place like the ThermoWorks hardware does and the ES432 can only read a maximum temperature of 392°F. The $14 Taylor 9842 Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer has similar features to the RT600 but at a lower price. But again, it can’t register as high a maximum temperature as the ThermoWorks hardware can, and according to some Amazon users, it can take up to 10 seconds to take an accurate temperature reading. I’ll pass, thanks.
The $18 CDN DTQ450X ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer has a five-year warranty, which is far and away better than the RT600’s single year of coverage. But like the rest of the similarly-priced hardware we’ve talked about here, it can’t read temperatures as high as the RT600 can, and its not water resistant, so you’d have to be really careful washing it or using it around any sauce or marinade.
There’s also a whole lot of fancy multiple-probe units out there that’ll let you check the internal temperature of a number of pieces of the food you’re cooking at the same time. Some, like the $80 Maverick Et732 will even let you walk up to 300 feet away from your grill, sending you temperature reading via a radio signal. It sounds pretty sweet, but we’re talking basic grilling accessories here, and while having the ability to leave your grill and fart around the backyard while you watch your food’s temperature remotely sounds pretty sweet, it’s a feature that’s definitely more of a want than a need.
In the end, for $20, the ThermoWorks RT600 Waterproof Digital Thermometer has all of the features you need in order to cook a great meal, and outclasses anything else I could find in it’s price range.
The Best Grill Brush
Barbecuing is messy. Even if you don’t wind up slathering your dinner in sticky sauces as it cooks, the blood and other juices from the meat you’re cooking will drip onto your grill surface. As it cooks and vaporizes, it will coat the metal in a greasy, crusty black film. You’re going to want to clean that up before you grill your next meal, and the best way to do that is with a wire grill brush.
The best time to scrub your grill clean is while it’s still hot, so you’ll want your grill brush to have a long sturdy handle to keep your hands clear of the heat. You’ll also want it to have a wide, but skinny stainless steel or brass scrubbing head, that’ll be able to scrub down multiple bars on your grill grate at the same time, but still be small enough to slide between the bars of the grate to route out filth.
Our pick meets this criteria.
It’s well built. The brush’s thick, beefy bamboo handle is easy to get a hold of. And the brush’s tough stainless steel bristles are anchored deep in the 6464’s bamboo handle, so the chances of losing a bristle and finding it in your food is minimal.
It’s well designed. Weber didn’t try to do anything clever here. The 6464 looks like the grill brush most of our parents used in the backyard, boasting a classic design that’s been proven over the years to work. The 6464’s 18” reach might be a little too long if it belonged to a pair of tongs or a spatula, but it’s perfect for getting some leverage on your carbon and grease-caked grill grates. Put on your barbecue gloves and start scouring. If need be, the handle is long enough to get both hands working with the brush—one on the handle and one on the brush’s head. (Although you won’t want to do that for too long; things will get kinda warm pretty quickly.) It’s also got a steel grill scraper attached to the tip of the brush head to help get tough carbon deposits on your grill grates off so that you can clean up just a little bit faster.
I was only able to find one editorial review for the Weber 6464 Bamboo Grill Brush, and it came from Meathead. He didn’t have too much to say about it other than the fact that he recommends it and that he likes the metal scraper on the end of the brush head. It managed to get a four-star review on Amazon, but only 67 people bothered to talk about why they did or didn’t like it. I can tell you that I’ve used it and it worked well. At $7, it was less expensive than other similarly-specced grill brushes I’ve seen. (And after researching this piece, man have I seen a lot of them.)
There’s a lot of competition to try and I didn’t find any better contenders. You can get a shorter 12” variant of the 6464 for a dollar less on Home Depot and Amazon’s sites, but I think that the extra 6” of reach and leverage you get for that extra buck is worth it, especially if you’re a lazy tool like me that neglects to clean his grates right after he cooks on them.
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. It’s got a 19” reach and a scraping blade with multiple notches and nooks for getting in between your grate bars. It also comes with a replaceable head. But once I got my hands on it, I found that the brush’s plastic handle wasn’t as sturdy as the Weber 6464’s was. 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 my family’s food—an issue reported by a number of Amazon users.
I used to own this Rubbermaid G100 BBQ Brush with Steel Scraper, but I can’t recommend it. You can find it on Amazon for six bucks. There’s tons of other grill brushes out there that look just like it too, made by companies like Grill Zone, GrillPro and Brinkman. 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 like the Weber 6464.
There’s also T-headed brushes like Weber’s $16 6425 wire-handled T-Brush to consider but you should pass. The T-head design allows you to scrub down a wider area than most conventional grill brushes can, and you can turn it on its side to get into hard-to-reach areas, so that’s cool. They work great, but the bristles typically aren’t glued in but rather held in place by a few twists of metal wire. So they come out pretty easily. Additionally, the thin handle on most T-Brushes aren’t designed for really harping on like you can with the Weber 6464. In all likelihood, you’ll either wind up bending or breaking the brush if you try.
The $23 Grill Daddy Pro Grill Brush sounds 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. This creates steam which will help you make short work of the mess you made cooking dinner. It’s earned a four-star average review on Amazon with 130 out of 231 buyers awarding it five-stars. But it suffers from shoddy craftsmanship. I was able to find a large number of complaints on Amazon and around the web about its water reservoir leaking after only a few uses. And honestly, if you’re willing to spend $23 on a grill brush that does the same job as a brush that costs less than half the price can if you put a bit of elbow grease into it, you’ve got more spare cash than I do.
There’s a gazillion grill brushes out there that look and work the same as the 18” Weber 6464 Bamboo Grill Brush can, many of which can be found at your local hardware store. If it’s cheap and it looks sturdy, give it a try. But of all of the ones I was able to find online for you, the Weber 6464 when bought from Home Depot for $7 is best value out there for keeping your grill clean and ready to cook on.
The Best BBQ Gloves
For that, I’d pick up a pair or US Forge 400 Welding Gloves.
You’d think that gloves are optional for the most casual grilling, but they’re cheap so you might as well grab a set for those days you’re doing a lot of cooking. At $7 from Walmart or $11 from Amazon, they’re a steal.
Why welding gloves? Well, Meathead and Steven agree on the fact that the best way to go is to pick up a set of suede or split-leather welding gloves. As Meathead explains, there are a few reasons for this.
Steven pointed out to me that while silicon gloves are fine for the kitchen, grilling over gas and charcoal is considerably hotter than most stovetops and ovens.
“I think silicon is guaranteed up to 500 or 550 degrees Fahrenheit,” explains Steven. “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 silicon. For me, I like welder’s gloves or suede gloves.” It’s also worth mentioning that if you get the dirty with ash from your grill or sauce, you can throw a pair of suede gloves in the washing machine or wear them under a running tap and lather them up just like you would your hands.
When you’re looking for a set of gloves, you’ll want them to be thick and able to reach up your arm as far as possible to protect your hands, your wrists and your forearms from heat flareups or direct contact with any hot food or metal surfaces. You’ll also want them to be protective without being too cumbersome so you won’t be deterred from slipping them on and off.
Our pick does the job.
I wasn’t able to find any editorial reviews for these things, but again, both of our experts preferred leather welding gloves over silicon heat resistance grilling gloves due to their durability, grip and ease of maintenance. But 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 82 five-star ratings out of a total of 108.
They’re well made. Their thick top-grain leather exterior and soft cotton interior will stand up to years of occasional abuse. And because they’re sewn together using a locked stitch for added strength, you won’t have to worry about them falling apart anytime soon.
They’re fire resistant. They’re comfortable. While the cotton liner provides some additional heat protection, it also protects your hands from the glove’s stitching and helps to wick away sweat.
They’re easy to clean. Like Meathead has pointed out to us, you can wash a pair of suede or leather gloves by hand, or, if you’re feeling lazy, simply wait for them to dry and then brush dried grease and sauces off of them.
If the lack of editorial on these gloves bothers you, you could go with a set of Ove’ Glove Hot Surface Handlers. Consumer Reports’ Theresa Panetta found that that it held up better against prolonged exposure to heat than a conventional oven mitt or silicon glove can, and took twice as long to ignite when held over an open flame. So that’s cool. 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. A set of heavy leather gloves like the US Forge 400s will prove to be a whole lot more resilient over time.
One More Thing: A Basting Brush!
When you’re looking for a basting brush, you’ll want to forgo traditional hair- and cotton mop-style brushes. It’s not that they don’t work well; they’re just not sanitary. 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 being contaminated with food matter to some extent. For this reason, silicone basting brushes are a great option. They’re dishwasher-friendly, and the material simply refuses to absorb sauce.
We like Elizabeth Karmel’s 15-inch Super Silicone Angled Barbecue Brush. It costs $8.
It’s sanitary. Made from heat resistant, non-stick and shed-proof silicone bristles that refuse to absorb liquids, it’ll do a great job of slathering your food sauces and marinades, and it’ll come completely clean when you wash it by hand or throw it in a dishwasher.
It’s cleverly designed. With a 15” reach, you’ll be able to paint marinades and sauces on your food without getting too close to your cooking surface. The brush’s handle is angled too, making working with a piece of chicken or bison at the back of your grill easy. (You don’t have to move the cuts of meat in front of it or to the side first.) And to make cleaning it a little bit easier, the brush’s head is detachable, so you can snap it off and wash it without having to find room for its long handle in your sink or dishwasher.
The grilling fanatics at Cook’s Illustrated likes it for its ability to pick up “sticky, viscous barbecue sauce.” And when I asked Meathead what silicon brushes he likes, it was the first and only brush he mentioned by name. I haven’t had the opportunity to take it for a spin yet, but with two excellent reviews from sources we trust, I’m willing to take it on faith that it’s a great product until I do. I’ve currently got one on order along with a number of other silicone brushes, and I’ll let you know how it performs as soon as possible.
The Best Charcoal Chimney
If you own a charcoal grill, it can be a pain to get up and running. You have to light the charcoal and get it up to temperature before you can cook.
“You gotta have a chimney starter,” says Meathead. “So much easier. So much faster. None of that nasty solvent smell.” A charcoal chimney is a long steel tube with a handle on it that’s open at the top and has a number of vents at the bottom. You dump your charcoal briquettes into the chimney, crumple up some newspaper and set it on your grill, light the paper on fire and set the chimney on top of it. The fire will set light to the charcoal briquettes at the bottom of the chimney, and they, in turn, will set fire to the rest of the charcoal sitting on top of them. Depending on the kind and the amount of charcoal briquettes you use, you’ll have a blazing white hot tube full of coals ready to pour over into your grill and cook with.
Aside from being able to rapidly light your charcoal without using any foul-smelling chemicals, there’re other benefits to using a chimney starter as well. For starters, they’ll only hold a finite amount of fuel. So if you use the same brand of charcoal briquettes on a regular basis, you get to know how many your chimney holds, and in turn, how far you need to fill it up in order to cook.
Our pick is well-built and it has to be, as it’ll be filled up with white hot coals on a regular basis. The 7416 is constructed from aluminized steel with a heat resistant plastic handle, so that no matter how hot things get, you’ll still be able to grab it (but seriously, wear gloves when you do.)
It’s lightweight. So when you’re ready to dump your hot charcoal into the grill bed of your barbecue, you won’t be forced to contend with any extra heft.
It’s big enough to get the job done. The Weber 7416 can hold enough coal to prep the company’s 22.5” Kettle Grill. Meathead said that when you’re using Kingsford charcoal (a brand that Joe likes as well,) this translates into about 80 briquettes.
Unfortunately, this is another one of those things that everyone who uses it loves (but editors haven’t bothered to review).
But I can tell you that Joe Brown likes the Weber 7416, due to the fact that it lasts longer than other chimney starters. He told us that others he’s used in the past have quickly rusted out. But not the Weber. I have to agree with him: When I bought my Weber One-Touch grill last year, I thought I’d save a bit of money by buying a $7 no-name chimney starter from a local specialty shop. After using it three or four times, I noticed that the aluminum finish on it was flaking off from exposure to the extreme heat of the coals inside of the chimney. By the end of the summer, while it was still usable, it was a rusted out mess.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Weber 7416 is by far the most popular chimney starter available on Amazon, with 695 customers awarding it five stars out of a total of 771 people who bought the hardware.
What’s the next most popular chimney starter on Amazon? An older version of the hardware made by Weber. But it costs more money and doesn’t have as many positive reviews as the Weber 7416 does.
You could also look at the $17 Char-Broil 3184803 Sure Fire Canister Style Charcoal Starter but I wouldn’t. I haven’t tried it myself, but it comes with a heat shield to protect your hand, and it uses a heavy-duty zinc coating instead of aluminum on the chimney’s exterior. It looks like the chimney Darth Vader would use to start his grill at Galactic Empire company picnics. But a lot of people that bought it complained that the chimney’s coating started to peel off after only using it a few times, so I’d pass.
The same can be said for the $17 Charcoal Companion Silver Chimney Charcoal Starter. It costs more than the Weber chimney does, and there’s a lot of people talking about their concerns for the hardware’s durability. Plus, it hasn’t been reviewed many times, especially in comparison to the Weber hardware. And what reviews there are are less than enthusiastic.
So yeah, I’d go with the Weber 7416.
By the way, you can also use your charcoal chimney to cook over. Joe Brown and Meathead do it, and on their say so, I plan on getting around to trying it out too. 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. The last time I was on the phone with Meathead, he told me that he and his wife can cook a steak over the coals in a chimney starter within a few minutes, and Joe, who takes his meat very seriously, measured the temperature coming off the chimney with an IR thermometer and found it was putting out heat above 650°F.
What About a BBQ Fork?
Me? I like having a BBQ fork for flipping the meat on my grill at breakneck speeds, or spearing a piece of roasted pepper out of a grilling basket to see if it’s cooked. But Steven’s against them.
“I don’t normally recommend a BBQ fork,” he explains, “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.” And that blood and those juices go a long way towards making BBQ taste the way that it does. When I asked him if there were any situations where using a fork was preferable over using a set of grilling tongs, he told me that of the 4,000 recipes that he’s written about, only one requires you use a fork: provoleta asada. It’s an Argentinean 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, Meathead talks about what happens when you stab your meat with a fork too. He doesn’t feel that you lose a whole lot of the juices from a piece of meat when you jam a fork into it, but he reinforces the fact that poking at your meat to access whether or not it’s cooked doesn’t work.
So, given that a set of tongs will turn your meat just as easily as a fork can along with the fact that there’s no real culinary reason to own one, and as it’s useless for telling when you’re food’s cooked, I’m going to argue that there’s no need to buy one. Save your money for something else.
Grill Precision: OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs, America's Test Kitchen, March 25, 2013,"The perfect length of these tongs! With a tool longer than 16 inches we had to work to lever heavy foods or contort our arms to stand close enough to work over the grill. Any shorter and we risked getting scorched. Also, there’s a super-cool knob on the end of the handle, which locks the tongs closed when you pull it for storing them, or to make them easier to carry. When you push the knob in (you can just pop it down on one hip, like a gunslinger), it pops the tongs open, ready to use."
Best Grilling Gear, Men's Health, Nor Available,"These grabbers have it all: sturdy stainless steel, beech wood handles, spring-loaded action, locking mechanism, scalloped edge for grip."
Originally published: July 1, 2013