10 Essential Grilling Tools to Make You Master of the Flame

Everything you need (and nothing you don’t) for a summer of perfect grilling

byMax Falkowitz| PUBLISHED Apr 27, 2017 9:00 PM
10 Essential Grilling Tools to Make You Master of the Flame
Michael Turek
Despite the light rain, the grills stayed ablaze, turning out great dishes like this merguez sausage.

The grill you have. The grilling recipes are covered. Your sides are set. But how well equipped are you? If you’re still struggling with regular kitchen tongs and don’t have a tall stack of hand towels at the ready, consider this guide your helping hand. When it comes to great grilling, we’re big believers in minimalism: there’s a lot of stuff out there you just don’t need. But some tools are truly essential, and these are the ones we wouldn’t want to grill without.

Stainless Steel Tong

Unless you like the smell of singed knuckles, you need a set of tongs of the grill. Really long ones, longer than your normal kitchen set. These 16-inch stainless steel tongs will keep your hands at safe distances and are sturdy enough to handle flipping steaks, chickens, pork chops, and even big roasts and briskets.

360° Clean Grill Brush

Proper maintenance is just as important to grilling success as proper technique, and a clean grill is a happy grill. Grates coated with carbonized gunk cause fish and chicken skins to stick like mad and add unwelcome sooty flavors to everything you cook. So after every grill session, run a sturdy brush like this—one with thick bristles—up and down your grates until they gleam. You may need some elbow grease the first time around, but once you start regularly cleaning your grill, it gets faster every time.

All-Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal

If you take one piece of advice away from this guide, let it be: use natural charcoal. Yes, it's a little more fiddly than briquettes. But it burns hotter—way hotter—for better searing, and cleaner for steaks and burgers that taste smoky and flame-kissed, not sooty and charred. Since natural charcoal burns faster than some briquettes, you may need to use a couple helpings. Which leads us to...

Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter

Notice what's not on this list so far? Lighter fluid. Because if you have a chimney starter, you'll never need a squeezey bottle of the gasoline-smelling stuff again. Load the chimney with charcoal, wad up a lightly oiled sheet of newspaper underneath, and set it aflame. In 10 to 15 minutes, your charcoal is ready to go, and you can use your starter to prime more charcoal once your first batch starts cooling down.

Meat Thermometer

There's a lot of restaurant tricks out there for approximating the doneness of your meat as it cooks, but in truth, nothing's better or more accurate than a thermometer. Though it's pricy, the Thermapen is the ne plus ultra of instant-read thermometers: accurate to within a degree or two in two to three seconds, with an easy-to-read digital display. A worthy investment for outdoor and indoor cooking.

Kitchen Towels

The dirty, unavoidable truth of grilling: it's dirty work. Which is why restaurants always keep a generous supply of towels just like these on hand to keep workspaces—and your hands—clean. Loop one through your apron strap, keep another near your grill, and have a few more waiting in the wings. These are 100% cotton, which makes them nicely absorbent and long-lasting, and less likely to burst into flame from a free-floating ember than a polyester blend.

Deluxe Grilling Basket

We're big believers in all-grilled meals, and a sturdy vegetable basket is just the thing for grilling shellfish, vegetables, and other small ingredients.

Mixing Bowls

These are a must for any kitchen, but they have an added benefit for grilling. If you have a troublesome thick steak that's taking too long to cook, or a burger that needs some cheese melted over the top pronto, invert one of these over whatever you're cooking to create a miniature steam oven. The bowls will accelerate cooking to keep you from burning your investment, and are durable enough to stand up to the heat.

Trigger Spray Bottle

Trouble with flare-ups? Not anymore. Keep one of these filled with water to keep flames at bay. (Also handy for cleaning the grill.)

Thai Charcoal

Andy Ricker of Portland's Pok Pok is also the emissary of Thai-style charcoal, a log-shaped charcoal made from a variety of oak that combines the best aspects of lump charcoal and briquettes. Like lump coal, it burns blazing-hot—up to 900 degrees—but it also stays hot more like a briquette. An investment over natural chunk charcoal, but one that's worth getting to know.