Apr 17, 2024

The Best Grill Tools and Accessories for 2023

We’ve updated this guide to include our new meat thermometer pick, the ThermoWorks ThermoPop 2. Our former pick, the original ThermoPop, was discontinued.

Grilling is a lot more pleasant—and your results will be more professional—if you have a set of grill tools that do their jobs well.

Unfortunately, a lot of them are flimsy, poorly designed, or gimmicky.

We’ve spent over 65 hours researching and testing more than 90 different tools—from tongs to thermometers to chimney starters—to find the best. If you’re also shopping for the grill itself, check out our guides to the best charcoal, gas, pellet, and portable grills.

To test these tools, we gathered four cooking and grilling experts to combine forces at a backyard-grilling boot camp: Wirecutter senior staff writers Tim Heffernan, Lesley Stockton, and Michael Sullivan and New York Times assistant managing editor Sam Sifton (founding editor of NYT Cooking).

Over the course of four days, we cooked more than 100 burgers, 20 chickens, and 10 pounds of vegetables on nine different grills. We discussed the usability, quality, durability, and price of every tool, and we're confident that our picks will be top performers throughout grilling season.

You might notice the absence of grilling sets in this guide. They’re popular, but we’ve found that the tools in such sets are usually of substandard quality and poorly designed. We think the smart money is on buying only what you need, choosing tools of top quality, instead of paying for low-quality extras that inevitably turn into clutter.

With a fine edge, stable blade, and tapered shape, this spatula represents the perfect marriage of strength and flexibility.

After flipping more than 100 burger patties with 10 different spatulas, we think the Mercer Hell’s Handle Large Fish Turner is the best spatula for the grill, offering flexibility and strength. We’ve found fish turners to be the most versatile spatulas in general, and this large version is no different. In our tests, the Hell’s Handle proved to be the one spatula that testers kept reaching for, prompting Sam Sifton to exclaim, "Holy cow, it’s a good tool."

The stainless steel blade on the Hell’s Handle has a fine edge, a stable feel with the right amount of give, and a tapered shape that seamlessly slid under our burger patties without resistance. Though it’s very flexible, the blade is still strong enough to help transfer whole chickens from grill to cutting board. The tapered shape of the spatula allowed us to work successfully on a full grill, easily slipping in between burgers to get a clean flip. This wasn’t the case with large rectangular turners, which offered less agility in our tests.

The Hell’s Handle is still strong enough to help transfer whole chickens from grill to cutting board.

The wide polypropylene handle (which can withstand temperatures of up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit) felt secure in the hand and provided more leverage than most of the competition. The spatula also boasts a limited lifetime warranty.

We also like the Winco TN719 Blade Hamburger Turner for lifting hefty burgers off the grill. This heavy-duty turner excels at smashing burgers Shake Shack–style on a griddle with minimal effort.

More affordable and precise than competitors, these 16-inch stainless steel tongs offer the best balance of comfort and dexterity for cooking over open flames.

For cooking on a blazing-hot grill, we like the 16-inch Winco UT-16HT Extra Heavyweight Utility Tongs because they’re comfortable, easy to use, and sturdy—and also long enough to keep your hands a comfortable distance from the flames. Sam Sifton called them "perfect." A bonus: They’re also the most affordable tongs of all the models we tested.

The Winco tongs have a comfortable “spread” when open, and the spring provides just enough resistance, so your hands don’t get fatigued when grilling for a crowd; many other tongs are too stiff and quickly tire out your hands. Among the tongs we tested, the narrow angle of the Winco model’s scalloped heads provided the most control when grabbing skinny asparagus spears or slippery sauce-laden chicken pieces. In contrast, the wide-angled heads on many competitors don’t let you pick up small stuff.

The only tiny flaws with the Winco tongs are that they don’t have a ring for hanging or a lock for storage. We don’t think these are dealbreakers, though, because you can just sling them over the nearest handle on your grill.

This grill brush has three rows of thick wire bristles that let you quickly scrape burnt gunk from hot grill grates, which is good news for your hands.

Clean grates are the best way to keep food from sticking to your grill. Leftover gunk on the grates, like caramelized sauce and burnt food bits, adhere to food, making it difficult to get a clean release. (Also, who wants to cook on a dirty grill?) In our tests, the Best BBQ Grill Brush removed stuck-on sauce and carbonized bits the quickest.

With its three rows of thick-gauge wire bristles, the Best Grill Brush covers a lot of surface area with each stroke, and its sturdy construction refused to bend during tough scraping tasks. Unlike the coiled metal pads on some other brushes, the Best’s steel bristles stayed intact and upright with no signs of breakage or shedding. That, combined with a comfortable 10-inch plastic handle, made the Best Grill Brush stand out.

We’d be remiss if we failed to mention that there’s some fear surrounding wire grill brushes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published reports on nonfatal injuries due to ingestion of wires from grill brushes. Although the number of cases is relatively low, the risk is worth noting.

Keep in mind that grill brushes only loosen carbonized food and soot—they don’t clean the grate. Before you start grilling, always run a wet rag (an old cotton one can do the job) after scraping your preheated grill to clean any remaining debris, including possible errant wires, from the grates. Also, if your brush is visibly deteriorating, buy a new one.

The beveled edge of this wooden grill paddle takes on the pattern of your grill, becoming a custom scraper that hugs the grates.

If you’re hellbent on "no wire brushes," The Great Scrape's Woody Shovel is our favorite wire-free grate-cleaning option. This hardwood paddle has a straight tapered edge that takes on the pattern of the grates by branding them in while the grill is hot. We used the Woody Shovel on both the Weber Spirit E-310 and the Weber Genesis II E-310 (because they have identical grates), and it did a good job of clearing sticky cooked-on sauce and charred bits alike.

The hole in the handle on the Woody Shovel is an upgrade over the solid grip on The Great Scrape's Woody Paddle because it offers a more stable hold. But if you want to save a few dollars, the Woody Paddle offers the same cleaning functionality.

An upside to using the Woody Shovel instead of a wire brush is the pleasant smell of burnt hardwood every time you use it. The Woody Shovel is good if you have only one grill, as the grooves form to a specific grate shape; multiple grills would require a dedicated Great Scrape tool for each, and that can get costly.

This simple lightweight tool can scrape, lift, and rotate grates, and it’s also handy for kicking around charcoal in the firebox.

The GrillFloss isn’t just a scraper—it’s also an all-around grill-grate grabbing and rotating tool that Sam Sifton calls his "secret weapon for summer grilling."

The GrillFloss is simply a metal pole with a small, rounded hook jutting out the end. This hook can scrape rod-style grates (such as on our charcoal-grill pick, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22″) clean on every side, but it doesn’t work on flat cast-iron grates. And we’d pair it with one of our other grill brushes for a faster cleanup, as cleaning each grate rod individually is pretty slow.

The hook also lets you get a secure hold on a hot grate for maneuvering it on and off the grill and flipping up side hinges to add more charcoal. And the hook is replaceable—if it ever wears out, a new one costs just a few bucks.

The GrillFloss is also an ideal tool for kicking hot charcoal around the firebox, a job usually reserved for tongs that eventually touch the food.

Sheet pans are just as useful by the grill as they are in the kitchen, and our durable pick is an excellent value. It’s so versatile, you’ll want to stock up.

Sheet pans don’t necessarily come to mind when people talk about cooking outdoors, but you do need a platform for transferring food to and from the grill. Our long-standing favorite, the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet (as well as the Baker's Quarter Sheet), is durable and notably useful. The design sports a tightly rolled lip and a generous 1-inch rim that’s comfortable and easy to hold with one hand, important when you’re working fast over the grill.

The Nordic Ware sheet is an excellent value for the quality, performing as well as pans twice the price.

Our affordable pick has two handles to securely dump hot coals, and a big 6-quart chamber.

A chimney starter offers the fastest, easiest way to light coals in one attempt—and doesn’t rely on smelly lighter fluid. We think the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter is the best, because it checks all the boxes: a generous size, ease of use, a good price, and regular availability.

The Weber chimney starter has a spacious main chamber with a 6-quart capacity, or about 90 briquets. We found that this is enough fuel to cook 12 burgers and still have some cooking time to spare. The lighting chamber has ample room for a large wad of newsprint—our preferred igniting material—and big vents for airflow and easy access for matches.

The Weber Rapidfire has two handles, so you can securely dump hot coals into your grill. The main fixed handle has a heat-resistant plastic grip; the second is a swinging wire handle that adds stability and control. That design feature isn’t unique to Weber, but the Rapidfire was the only model to offer all of these features at an affordable price with wide availability.

This affordably priced instant-read thermometer impressed us with its speed and accuracy, generous temperature range, easy-to-read display, and splash-proof body.

To ensure you’re consuming meat and poultry cooked to safe internal temperatures, we recommend adding the ThermoWorks ThermoPop 2, our pick for the best instant-read thermometer, to your grilling arsenal.

In our tests, the ThermoPop 2 was quick at reading temperatures, and very accurate. The easy-to-read display is backlit with digits that automatically rotate in four directions depending on the thermometer’s orientation, so it’s convenient to read at almost any angle. It also has a generous reading range (–58 to 572 °F) and a splash-proof body. It can switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius at the push of a button, too.

Although the ThermoPop 2 wasn’t the fastest thermometer we tested—we’re talking a difference of just a few seconds—it covers all the basics at an affordable price.

This was the fastest and most accurate instant-read thermometer we tested. It also offers a rotating screen with a bright backlight, a huge temperature range, and serious waterproofing.

Price includes shipping

If you want the fastest instant-read thermometer, one beloved by the pros, we recommend getting the Thermapen One. Like the ThermoPop 2, the Thermapen has a reading range of -58 to 572 °F and a backlit, rotating digital screen; it also comes with a two-year warranty. The Thermapen, however, is unmatched due to its speed, unparalleled accuracy and waterproof casing. Barbecue and grilling expert Rick Browne, creator, host, and executive producer of PBS’s Barbecue America television series, told us that 50 teams were present at the last barbecue competition he attended, and "48 of them used a Thermapen, or another device just like a Thermapen."

The Dot probe thermometer quickly responds to temperature changes with unparalleled accuracy. It’s affordably priced, easy to use, and equipped with a strong magnet that keeps it securely attached to the side of a grill.

The experts we spoke with recommended an instant-read thermometer over a probe thermometer: Instant-read models are faster, and they generally last longer since they have no exposed cables that could deteriorate in the heat. But if you prefer a probe thermometer, which can remain in the meat so you can monitor the temperature while it cooks without having to open the grill lid, we recommend the ThermoWorks Dot.

In our tests, the Dot probe thermometer was the fastest and most accurate. Its simple design and straightforward controls made it easier to use than the competition. Also, we liked the strong magnet on the back of the unit that kept it securely attached to the side of a grill.

The probe has a temperature range of -58 to 572 °F and a cable that’s heat resistant to 700 °F, considerably higher than the 400 °F resistance that other models offer. Since it can withstand higher temperatures, the Dot can also monitor the ambient temperature of grills and smokers (ThermoWorks sells affordably priced grate clips and air probes separately).

This silicone basting brush is heat resistant to 600 °F, so it’s ideal for applying barbecue sauce to meats on the grill.

Whether you’re grilling chicken pieces or multiple racks of ribs, a basting brush that can generously apply barbecue sauce without deteriorating over high heat is a necessary tool for the job. After testing four models, we recommend the OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Basting Brush. The silicone bristles on the OXO brush 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 is also dishwasher safe.

The brush has two types of bristles: round outer bristles, and a set of flat perforated bristles in the core of the brush. Between them, they held enough sauce that we didn’t have to continuously reapply. And they were neither too stiff nor too wobbly, with just the right amount of flexibility to create a smooth, even layer of barbecue sauce over the surface of the meat. Among all the silicone brushes we considered, we didn’t find any others with this kind of combination-bristle design.

Though the handle was shorter than those of some other brushes we tested, we found that it still provided enough distance from the grill to keep our hands safe. Also, the slight bend at the base of the large handle provided a convenient angle for scooping generous amounts of sauce and easy basting.

We also tested the small OXO Good Grips Silicone Basting Brush, but it has a shorter handle than our main pick and brought our hands too close to the high heat of the grill.

The large perforations on this basket provided the most contact with our grill grate, so vegetables achieved more color and flavor than with the competition.

The best option for cooking diced vegetables on the grill is the affordable Grillaholics Grill Basket. The grape tomatoes, diced zucchini, and eggplant we cooked in the Grillaholics basket had better color and developed more flavor than the vegetables we cooked with the competition. The larger perforations on this basket offer better heat and air circulation and allow the vegetables to have more contact with the grill grate. The less contact that vegetables had with the grill, the more they steamed. Over time, we think the stainless steel Grillaholics basket will stand up to the rigors of high-heat grilling better than the nonstick Williams-Sonoma pan we tested. And since it's dishwasher safe, it’s also easier to clean. Additionally, we liked the curved handles, which made it easier for us to move the pan around the grill using tongs.

These thick, cotton-lined leather welding gloves offer better protection and remain easier to clean than Nomex or silicone gloves, and they come at a better price than similar welding gloves.

Barbecue experts agree that the best way to protect hands from ambient heat while grilling is to use a set of suede or split-leather welding gloves. We still think the split leather US Forge 400 Welding Gloves offer the best combination of heat resistance, dexterity, and price. These gloves offer better heat protection than Nomex or silicone, and better dexterity than standard kitchen oven mitts. After years of using the US Forge gloves with high heat and sooty grill parts, we feel comfortable in saying that if you use them within their capacity, they will keep you safe.

It’s important to remember that these gloves are heat resistant, but not heatproof. Don’t think that you can plunge your hands into a glowing coal bed or hold scorching-hot metal without feeling heat. In addition to gloves, we suggest using tongs or cheap terry bar mops for a secure grip and better heat barrier if you want to grab and move scorching-hot metal grilling baskets and grates.

A thick top-grain leather exterior, a soft cotton interior, and durable lock-stitching on the US Forge gloves will help them stand up to years of abuse. They’re also fire resistant and comfortable. The cotton liner provides some additional heat protection, guards your hands against the gloves’ stitching, and helps to wick away sweat. Unlike oven mitts, these five-fingered gloves allow for better dexterity, which translates to a better grip on tongs, spatulas, and basting brushes. Though any number of welding gloves offer similar features, we didn’t find any that were as inexpensive and widely available through Amazon and welding specialty shops as the US Forge gloves.

Other gloves we tested included the Weber 6472 Barbecue Mitt, the San Jamar Kool-Tek Conventional Oven Mitt, and the ‘Ove’ Glove Hot Surface Handler. None of these are as heat-resistant as our pick. Plus, mitts limit dexterity, and woven-fiber gloves let liquids penetrate, which can hamper their thermal protection.

We also tested GrillGrates, which consist of anodized aluminum plates that link together in sections and rest on the existing grates or grate holders. They're available to fit most common grill brands, and we tried them out on both charcoal and gas grills.

Although GrillGrates are hugely popular with professionals and grilling enthusiasts, we were less impressed. They claim to deliver a better sear and higher heat than the grill manufacturers’ grates, while also eliminating flare-ups. But we found that they blocked a lot of the heat source due to their mostly solid design. Steaks we cooked on GrillGrates were seared only where the meat made contact with the grate, leaving the rest of the surface pale, and asparagus spears barely showed any grill marks at all.

While the GrillGrates did manage to eliminate any chance of a flare-up, we’d rather have more contact with the high ambient heat from the firebox to get the browned crust and crispy, rendered fat cap we look for in a grilled steak, or the nicely charred surface that makes for great grilled veggies.

The Slow ’N Sear Deluxe charcoal basket lets you easily smoke large cuts and sear steaks and veggies on a kettle grill.

The popularity of the Weber kettle grill has invited a lot of third-party innovations—essentially, ways to "hack your Weber" to add even more versatility. One such item is hardly a necessity, but we can see why it’s a favorite among charcoal enthusiasts.

The Slow ’N Sear Deluxe turns any 22-inch kettle grill into a more capable and versatile smoker, and makes indirect cooking and high-heat searing simple. This half-moon charcoal basket, which has an integral reservoir that holds 1 quart of water, fits flush against the side of the grill, so it’s easily accessible from the hinged cooking grate. You can find other, less expensive charcoal baskets, but none we researched offered the range of functionality of the Slow ’N Sear, which Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn—one of the leading voices in professional grilling—calls “the single best accessory for the Weber kettle ever.”

We used the Slow ’N Sear several different ways in our tests. First, we did the "fast" method for baby back ribs. We filled the basket with hot coals from the chimney starter, topped with peach-wood chunks, and filled the reservoir with water. During the three-hour cook, we added hot coals once around the 1½-hour mark to maintain a temperature of roughly 325 °F. The resulting baby back ribs were smoky, juicy, and tender.

For the second test, we tried the "low and slow" method on St. Louis–style ribs. Instead of filling the Slow ’N Sear with hot coals, we lit a dozen briquets on one end of the basket. Once they were ashed over, we filled the rest of the basket with unlit coals, topped with peach-wood chunks, and added water to the reservoir. Throughout cooking, the coals and wood smoldered like a cigar, from one end to the other. After four hours at 275 °F, the St. Louis ribs were juicy, with delicious, lightly charred bits on the ends.

Then we turned to high-heat cooking—the "sear" part of the Slow ’N Sear. Fire-roasted salsa usually involves blackening vegetables in a screaming-hot cast-iron skillet under your oven’s broiler. We wanted to see if we could get similar (or better) flavor and texture on the grill using the Slow ’N Sear. We charred tomatoes and onions directly over freshly lit, red-hot coals, and put a foil pack of garlic and oil off to the side in the indirect zone. After charring, we moved the vegetables to a metal sizzle plate in the indirect zone to cook with the grill covered for 20 minutes. We then whirred everything in a Vitamix (with a large handful of fresh cilantro and salt to taste). The result was some of the best salsa we’ve ever made, without turning the kitchen into a sweatbox with a hot oven.

If you want a simple way to add brilliant smoking and searing ability to your kettle grill, it’s an investment worth considering.

The Slow ’N Sear is also good for "reverse searing," or as Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn of calls it, “sear in the rear.” Ideal for thick steaks, this method involves cooking the meat indirect until the internal temperature is 15 degrees below your target, and then searing directly over the hot coals to get a crisp crust.

At $100, the Slow ’N Sear Deluxe isn’t a small-ticket item. Less-expensive, less-controllable, and less-versatile options, such as Weber’s plain grill baskets, exist—heck, as Sam Sifton of The New York Times quipped, you can just "use three bricks" to corral the coals if you’re doing only indirect cooking (they cost about 60¢ apiece). But the Slow ’N Sear Deluxe offers deft heat control from the lowest to the highest temperatures, the utility of a water reservoir, lengthy set-it-and-forget-it cook times on a single load of coal, and dead-simple setup and cleanup. If you’re a regular griller/smoker or plan to be one, these qualities may justify the expense.

This article was edited by Raphael Brion and Marguerite Preston.

Lesley Stockton

Lesley Stockton is a senior staff writer reporting on all things cooking and entertaining for Wirecutter. Her expertise builds on a lifelong career in the culinary world—from a restaurant cook and caterer to a food editor at Martha Stewart. She is perfectly happy to leave all that behind to be a full-time kitchen-gear nerd.

Michael Sullivan

Michael Sullivan has been a staff writer on the kitchen team at Wirecutter since 2016. Previously, he was an editor at the International Culinary Center in New York. He has worked in various facets of the food and restaurant industry for over a decade.

Tim Heffernan

Tim Heffernan is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter and a former writer-editor for The Atlantic, Esquire, and others. He has anchored our unequaled coverage of air purifiers and water filters since 2015. In 2018, he established Wirecutter’s ongoing collaboration with The New York Times’s Smarter Living. When he’s not here, he’s on his bike.

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