Editor's Note: We pride ourselves on our grilling expertise at Serious Eats, but when we have a grilling question that we haven't yet answered on our own, we turn to our friends at AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Case in point: this roundup of top grilling accessories. Sure, we could have called in hundreds of products and conducted months upon months of testing, but we probably would have ended up telling you what Clint Cantwell and his colleagues at Amazing Ribs already know, since they spend their days testing these tools into the ground. So we took the efficient approach and asked Clint to share his knowledge with you here.
Whether you're a novice griller or a serial tamer of the flame, weeding through the seemingly endless list of available grilling tools and accessories can be a daunting task. To make it easy for you, the team at AmazingRibs.com have sorted through the good, the bad, and the ugly to bring you this list of grilling essentials. Collect them all, and you'll have pretty much everything you need for years of cookouts to come.
The Best Fire Starter: Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter
Sure, you could squirt lighter fluid all over your charcoal to light it up...and your food just might end up tasting like it, too. A much better approach is to use a charcoal chimney, which keeps the coals stacked in a narrow cylinder. Simply place a balled-up sheet of newspaper—or, better yet, a Weber Lighter Cube—under the chimney, then allow the charcoal to heat. It's impressive just how quickly it can get a large pile of briquettes raging-hot.
The Best Grate Brush: Weber Three-Sided Grill Brush
One of the keys to successful grilling is keeping your grate clean—if you don't, your food will stick more and get gunked up with carbonized residue. There are a lot of grill brushes out there, but many of them fall apart quickly, leaving dangerous wire threads behind. Just imagine the damage that could be done if a stainless steel bristle hitched a ride in your hamburger.
Our favorite model is the Weber Three-Sided Grill Brush. Unlike cheaper brushes that shed bristles, this Y-shaped brush features interwoven bristles that stay on the tool and out of your food.
Note that this is not the grill brush originally recommended by Amazing Ribs, which is an AmazonBasics model that's since been discontinued. However, the design of the Weber brush is very similar, so it'll stand in just fine.
The Best Upgrade for Gas Grills: GrillGrate High-Heat Grill Surface
If you've ever used a gas grill and grown frustrated with unfixable hot and cool spots and overall weak performance, this tool is for you. Made from hard anodized aluminum, the GrillGrate system sits directly on your existing grate, amplifying and evening out the heat, which allows for more even cooking, flare-up resistance, and exceptional sear marks.
It works its magic thanks to a series of holes that are large enough to allow hot air and smoke to rise up from below, but small enough to trap heat underneath so that it builds up (unlike the wide spaces of a traditional grill grate, which allow the heat to flow upwards unimpeded). The aluminum material, meanwhile, is one of the better conductors of heat out there, which translates into killer grill marks.
Though it's a must for any gas grill, it can also work wonders when used with pellet smokers and charcoal grills (especially when you're cooking thinner cuts of meat or fish). The interlocking panels come in a variety of lengths, making it easy to customize a set for virtually any grill—visit the GrillGrate site to find the configuration that's right for your grill.
The Best Grilling Basket: Culina Stainless Steel Mesh Vegetable Grilling Basket
The worst part of grilling thin vegetables, like asparagus and sliced peppers, and small proteins like shrimp, is that they're prone to falling through the grill grate into the fire below. You could thread them on skewers, but even then you often have to contend with each individual vegetable piece and chunk of meat spinning around on the skewers as you try to rotate them.
A grill basket solves all of these problems, so effectively that we often forgo skewers in favor of tossing everything loose into the grill basket, allowing it to act like a mesh frying pan. A good grill basket should be durable, with a tight enough weave to allow very small foods to be cooked without risk of getting lost. Finally, it's worth hunting down one that's sizable enough to cook large batches of food in one go.
One of our favorites is the simple Culina stainless steel basket. The metal mesh keeps even the smallest food items up on the grill grate where they belong. You can even toast or smoke nuts in it.
The Best Long-Handled Spatula and Tongs: OXO Good Grips Two-Piece Grilling Set
A quality spatula and tongs are essential for good grilling. Seek out ones with long handles, such as OXO's two-piece grilling set, to keep your fingers as far from the heat as possible. The nearly flat, scalloped edge on the OXO tongs (a feature Serious Eats also liked in its kitchen tongs review) is especially appealing—it's extra easy to slide the tongs under meat, vegetables, and other ingredients on the grill. They're also among the more durable tongs we've tested, and have comfy rubber grips and a spring-locking mechanism for storage.
The Best Instant-Read Thermometer: Thermapen Mk4
It's possible to know the doneness of a grilled steak or chop just by prodding it with your finger, but it takes a lot of practice, because every cut behaves differently. Even if you can confidently decide that a burger is done without taking its temp, most folks are unlikely to accurately guess when a larger roast or a very thick steak is ready.
To ensure more consistent results and less fussing and fretting about the grill, you'll need an instant-read thermometer. We have yet to find one better than the super-fast Thermapen Mk4, which delivers the most accurate readings in a mere two to three seconds. Our experience has proven it to be a workhorse that can take a beating and keep on reading.
If the price is a little higher than you'd like to pay, Serious Eats has also given high marks to ThermoWorks' more affordable ThermoPop.
Read Amazing Ribs’ full review of this and about 200 other thermometers, as well as Serious Eats' review of the best inexpensive digital thermometers »
The Best Probe Thermometer for Grilling: Maverick XR-50 Remote Four Probe Thermometer
An instant-read thermometer is helpful for rapidly checking the temperature on quick-cooking foods, like steaks, but a probe thermometer is essential if you want to nail the internal temps of slow-cooking foods and larger roasts, like brisket or pork shoulder, without babysitting them the entire time. Just slide the probes into the meat and walk away: The thermometer will track the temps and alert you when the target is reached. When Serious Eats reviewed probe thermometers for a wider range of applications, the Maverick XR-50 didn't win because it gave spotty readings at low temperatures. But for grilling and barbecue, we've had nothing but great experiences with it.
One of the things we love about the Maverick is that it comes with four hybrid probes that can be used interchangeably to measure the temperature of food or the ambient temperature of your grill or smoker. Few probe thermometers offer this flexibility, instead requiring you to buy separate probe and ambient thermometers. Also included with the Maverick is a transmitter that sends current temp readings to a receiver, so you can monitor your food's progress while you sit by the pool.
The Best Grill Gloves: Pitmaker High Heat Meat Handling Gloves
Stand next to a hot grill long enough, and your skin can really start to feel it. Get even closer, and your arm hair can singe off. To be comfortable in such close proximity to the heat, you need some kind of protective glove or mitt.
For us, the best option is Pitmaker's High Heat Meat Handling Gloves. Unlike mitt-shaped potholders that limit your dexterity, and fabric options that can't come in contact with the food itself, these one-size-fits-all gloves are USDA-approved and nonporous, making them perfect not just for shielding your paws from the heat, but also for allowing you to grab a blazing-hot grill grate or a sizzling 450°F roast without so much as flinching.
If you want another glove option that will shield your hands from a grill's ambient heat, but won't allow you to directly touch the food, Serious Eats has always been a fan of leather welding gloves, such as these US Forge welding gloves.
The Best Meat Shredders: Bear Paws Shredder Claws
In addition to making you look like Wolverine, shredder claws make quick work of pork butts (hello, pulled pork!), smoked chicken, smoked chuck roasts, and other meats, allowing you to tear the meat into shreds in no time. Sure, you could try doing it with forks, but you'd better have a lot of time on your hands.
Our favorites are the Original Bear Paws Shredder Claws, which are solidly built and effective, turning what was once a tedious task into a speedy and fun one. They're also handy for lifting large cuts of meat off of the grill without having to get your hands dirty.
The Best Spice Grinder: Krups Electric Spice, Herb, and Coffee Grinder
Making your own dry rubs from fresh whole spices is always better than shaking some dusty old pre-ground stuff all over your meat. The Krups Electric Spice, Herb, and Coffee Grinder is one of the more affordable and effective options out there, a fact that our own in-depth review confirmed. It blitzes spices into a fine powder quickly, and manages to do so without finely ground spices getting jammed up under the blades, a problem common to a lot of other spice grinders on the market.