Table of Contents
Barbecue isn’t just a cooking method — it’s a lifestyle. Anyone who’s ever fired up a grill knows how it feels to stand by and salivate as a juicy burger cooks over an open flame. Once you’ve gotten a taste of what you can do with food on the grill, it’s hard to go back to anything else for your summer soirées.
Beyond the superior smoky flavor that grilling imparts, it’s also a great excuse to get outside and revel in the sunshine as you whip up a mouthwatering meal. And as the weather warms and you start gearing up for backyard barbecue season, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Whether you’re a BBQ beginner or a seasoned “pitmaster,” there are some tools you’ll need to make the most of your grill and anything you’re throwing on it. From grill tongs to burger presses and grill brushes, we’ve chatted with experts and researched the most essential products for taking your backyard BBQs to the next level.
Read on for the best grilling accessories for all budgets and barbecue needs — you’ll be charring in style in no time.
OXO Good Grips Grilling Turner and Tongs Set
This spatula definitely lives up to its name, offering a solid, cushioned grip that makes it a breeze to maneuver. We love that the 16-inch handle helps keep your fingers protected from the flame, but doesn’t interfere with your ability to control your movements. Whether you’re flipping burgers or pushing around pizzas, this offers a sturdiness that any top-notch spatula should provide.
In addition to its easy handling, this spatula stands out above the rest for its incredible value for the budget-friendly price. Thanks to handy design features like a serrated edge and super-sharp top edge, it holds up compared to far pricier options.
You’ll also get a pair of tongs with this set, which you’ll most certainly need when grilling. “Every grill master needs tongs — sturdy tongs!” says Rebecca King, a pork-loving pitmaster and founder of The Bad Jew, a Los Angeles-based barbecue pop-up, who adds, “Can’t live without ‘em!” Tongs are easily one of the most popular and necessary grill tools, as they’re irreplaceable when it comes to turning or transferring large cuts of meat, or even moving small spears of asparagus around.
Price at time of publish: $23
Best Grill Grate Brush
Grillart Grill Brush and Scraper
To get the best use out of your grill, it’s crucial to make sure it’s clean first. Beyond reducing potential fire hazards, using a grill brush prolongs your grill’s life. Not to mention, it helps ensure the freshest taste possible for whatever you’re cooking, removing any residue of yesterday’s burgers.
This three-in-one brush maximizes your cleaning power while taking up minimal space. Its sturdy, rounded grip makes it ultra easy to use and allows excellent freedom of movement thanks to the 18-inch handle, so there’s no problem cleaning up after a round of juicy steaks. Three round heads of wire bristles overlap and are easy to squeeze into tight spaces, all the better to reach hidden grease. They cover quite a wide area, which also helps to minimize cleanup time. On the flip side, there’s a scraper for added convenience, featuring a long edge and a sharp edge to help remove any remaining gunk. To keep your brush clean, be sure to wash it with hot water between uses.
Price at time of publish: $17
Best Sheet Pans
Chicago Metallic Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated Sheet Pan
Sheet pans are generally a great do-it-all tool to have in your kitchen, and they show off their versatility once again on the grill. Ideal for aiding in heat distribution across your food, they ensure everything cooks evenly. The key is to invest in a thick, heavy-duty aluminum or stainless sheet pan — and a nonstick one at that, as otherwise they can typically only withstand up to 500-degree temperatures. Chicago Metallic’s sheet pans are ultra durable and offer top-notch heat conduction, with sturdy wire rods reinforcing the rims to prevent warping. To further avoid warping, be sure to spread food evenly over the pans and bring them up to heat slowly. This set of two is also a breeze to clean since it’s dishwasher safe, although hand washing will ultimately help extend the life of the sheet pans.
Price at time of publish: $23
Grill Armor Gloves Extreme Heat-Resistant Oven Gloves
Grill gloves are an essential protective tool for any level of backyard barbecue warrior, whether you’re a novice or an expert. While most gloves offer dual-layered protection, Grill Armor offers three: silicone outer grips for sturdy handling, a cut-resistant synthetic fiber that’s four times stronger than leather, and fireproof and melt-proof insulation that can withstand temperatures as high as 932 degrees. The extended wrist guard also helps ensure your hands and forearms stay safely removed from the flame. We love them because they’re also machine washable — just note they must be fully dry before use with the grill.
Price at time of publish: $20
Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo Digital Instant Read Thermometer
You don’t want to roll the dice when it comes to the temperature of your meat, so a high-quality grill thermometer is a key accessory. Ash Fulk, the director of culinary operations for Fox Lifestyle Hospitality Group and formerTop Chef: Las Vegas and Beat Bobby Flay contestant says a thermometer is his most essential tool. “I know I am a chef and I am supposed to say, ‘My fingers are thermometers and my heart is a timer,’ but I love a thermometer.” He swears by the Thermapen, citing its large screen and one-second read time as reasons it’s worth the investment. However, if you’re in need of something a bit more affordable, we like Lavatools Javelin Pro. It boasts a user-friendly auto-rotating display that makes this a great ambidextrous choice. It also populates reads in under three seconds and can take a temperature range of -40 degrees to 482 degrees Fahrenheit.
Price at time of publish: $56
Best Basting Brush
Williams-Sonoma BBQ Basting Brush
Two heads are better than one, which sets this silicone brush set above the rest. One is thinner and the other thicker, so you can rely on these for everything from light vinaigrettes to thicker sauces. The dense bristles can hold an impressive amount of marinade, helping coat your meat in just a few dips. Like with most grill tools, a long handle is necessary protection, and this offers more length than most others on the market. While boar bristle looks great, it can be more difficult to clean than silicone brushes, which offer more heat resistance. Plus, this happens to be one of the sleekest brushes around.
Price at time of publish: $28
Best Chimney Starter
Weber 7416 Rapidfire Chimney Starter
If the prep work of gas grills puts you off, a chimney starter will change your mind. Never mind fussing with briquettes or contemplating lighter fluid — this will get your charcoal red-hot in around 15 minutes. Thanks to a convenient second handle, it’s easier to keep steady when top-dumping the hot charcoal, ensuring the placement is exactly where you want. Excellent ventilation around the aluminum cylindrical base is also key to helping the starter burn more quickly, as is the conical internal grate that separates the charcoal and the starter. One of the best features is the thermoplastic handle, which stays cool in extreme temperatures.
Price at time of publish: $30
Grill baskets are a great way to cook up diced veggies, potatoes and other small foods that could otherwise slip through the grill grates. “I love any tool that gets you outside cooking on a grill,” says Fulk, who recommends grill baskets for more delicate foods. “It is super helpful with the small items that might slip through.” To make the most of your grill basket, he suggests pre-heating it. “One trick to get a better char on the foods you grill in a basket is to leave the basket on the grill to get hot first, then to drop in your food,” he explains.
The tight grid style of this model from Shizzo protects most foods from falling out while still allowing it to rest on the grates, ensuring a perfect char on your favorite veggies. It’s spacious enough to fit a good amount of food, but still small enough to fit comfortably on the grill with the lid closed, which helps to maximize the smoky flavor. Note that the detachable handle makes for easy tossing and turning of food, but can occasionally come undone if you’re trying to turn the basket upside down, so you’re better off using grill gloves to pour out the basket by hand.
Price at time of publish: $37
BearMoo Barbecue Skewer
With a 2.3-inch clearance, these racks offer almost double the space from the grill than usual, ensuring your kabobs won’t burn.
Reusable, easy to clean, and even easier to handle, this set of six stainless steel skewers and two racks is perfect for grilling veggies or small chunks of meat. The racks’ 2.3-inch clearance sets it nearly twice as high as most of its counterparts, elevating your food above the grates so that there’s no risk of it burning. The ergonomic handle is designed for comfortable, extended use and provides a non-slip grip to help you better maneuver the kabobs — and it’s a full 17 inches long, which allows you to adjust the food at a safe distance from the flames. Just note that when you’ve fully loaded the rack, it can get a bit shifty when poked at, so be careful when rotating or adjusting the food. The blades of the skewers themselves are 0.35-inches and are 360° rotatable for full rotisserie capabilities — plus, they feature a sharp, pointed end to help poke into thick cuts of meat with ease. The whole set also comes with a convenient carrying pouch for easy organization on the go.
Price at time of publish: $22
Best Barbeque Smoker
Weber 14-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker
Lightweight and relatively small, this is a great travel companion — and it’s surprisingly spacious, with two large racks inside so you can smoke more of your favorite foods at once.
“Low and slow” is the cherished motto of all true barbecue lovers, and smokers are unequivocally necessary for making that magic happen. If your mouth waters when you picture a fall-off-the-bone brisket, then you’ll want to look into getting a smoker for yourself. But if you’re not a committed pro, you’re better off starting with something a little more affordable to get the hang of your own technique and needs before investing in a smoker that could easily run you upwards of $1,000.
One of the most trusted names in grilling, Weber offers one of the best value picks on the market thanks to its relatively small, portable size which still boasts an impressive amount of cooking space, thanks to double cooking grates that can comfortably fit a turkey and two racks of ribs at the same time. While there aren’t any particularly fancy features, this covers all your bases: There’s a built-in thermometer, a porcelain-enameled lid for rust-resistance and maximal heat retention, plus adjustable dampers to maintain precise control of the temperature of the smoker. One of the most practical features is the removable fuel door, which makes it a cinch to add charcoal and wood while smoking.
Price at time of publish: $279
Best Burger Press
Cuisinart CSBP-100 Burger Press
Sure, you could press burger patties with your hands, but if you’re looking for perfectly round patties of uniform thickness that will cook evenly all around, a press is a great tool to have in your grilling arsenal. This three-in-one model from Cuisinart allows you to customize the type of burger you’d like, whether you’re in the mood for 0.25-lb. sliders, 0.5-lb. stuffed burgers or 0.5- to 0.75-lb. extra large patties. It’s also a breeze to clean thanks to a nonstick coating that is dishwasher-safe and helps burgers slide right out without leaving a mess or needing to whip out the wax paper. While we love the versatility this tool offers, it also requires multiple parts, so type-A organizers may prefer to just get a single-piece press.
Price at time of publish: $12
Carbona 2-In-1 Oven Rack And Grill Cleaner
You already have a grill brush, so why do you need grill-cleaner too, you might ask? Because in order to truly penetrate some of that lingering grease that builds up over time, you need to target it with something stronger than a good scrub. Semi-regularly cleaning your grill grates can help prevent risky flare-ups, plus cleaner grates mean better flavor for whatever you’re cooking.
While it’s a bit pricey for one-time use, Carbona’s 2-in-1 Oven Rack and Grill Cleaner is super easy to use (it works while you sleep!) and requires very minimal scrubbing. All you do is place your cooled-off grates inside the spacious plastic bag provided and fill it with the full bottle of solution. You’ll want to move it around a bit to make sure the solution is evenly distributed before letting it soak overnight. By morning, you can remove the grates and gently wipe them clean. The solution is non-toxic, so it’s safe to rinse it down the drain afterwards.
Price at time of publish: $14
GrillingPlanks 12-Pack Cedar Planks
The planks need to be soaked in water for 3-4 hours prior to use, so if you’re not one for planning ahead, these aren’t your best bet.
While grilling planks are an excellent way to impart delicious, smoky flavor to all sorts of meat and veggies, they’re truly a must-have for fish lovers. These will immediately level up any preparation of grilled salmon, as the natural cedar will keep the fish moist as it soaks up all the smoke. It’s important to keep in mind size when purchasing grill planks, as you need them to be large enough to fit whatever you’re cooking. This set of 12 is 11 x 5.5 inches, which is perfect for spacing out a few fish filets. We love that you can use them in the oven as well as on the grill — just note that while they can be reused after going in the oven, they’ll likely need to be disposed of after grill use. Also be sure to soak them in water three to four hours before you plan to use them, which will help keep the fish from drying out. Anyone who is looking for a mild smoky flavor will appreciate these budget-friendly planks, which don’t impart a cedar taste.
Price at time of publish: $19
Best Long-Handle Fork
New Star Foodservice Commercial Grade BBQ Fork
Barbecue forks can be controversial, with some purists insisting that the sharp prongs risk tearing the meat, in turn losing some of the flavor and moisture. However, in general, they are quite useful when it comes to flipping or moving pork chops and other large cuts of tough meat. This extra-long 21-inch fork is an excellent value, boasting a sturdy, lightweight construction that makes it simple to maneuver over a hot grill and to avoid singeing your fingers or sleeves. The wooden handle keeps cool while in use, and is comfortable enough to hold for extended periods. Keep in mind that it is hand-wash only and that there’s no built-in loop to hang it from, which is an inconvenience that could be remedied easily enough.
Price at time of publish: $15
Best Meat Injector
Cave Tools Stainless Steel Meat Injector Kit
This three-in-one injector is the secret weapon to juicy, tender brisket. The variety of needles means you can apply any type of marinade to your meat: One 6-inch syringe has a larger opening for chunkier seasonings (think herb-heavy salad dressings), while the other 6-inch syringe has 12 holes throughout it to evenly distribute liquid marinades or to baste a turkey. The smallest 3-inch needle boasts a super-sharp precision tip to securely spear smaller pieces of meat. The clear plastic window also ensures that you can accurately measure your desired amount of marinade, allowing for more precise control of the flavor and texture. For those days when you’re lacking inspiration, you can always flip through Cave Tools’ recipe book to start whipping up new marinades in no time.
Price at time of publish: $25
Best Tool Set
Cuisinart 20-Piece Deluxe BBQ Grill Tool Set
Whether you’re new to grilling and need a full set of tools to get started or you’re a pro who just needs something a little more streamlined and travel-friendly, this ultra-convenient carrying case from Cuisinart covers all of your bases. Packed with 20 essential grill accessories, it’s your one-stop-shop for all of your barbecue needs. The high-performance, durable pieces include a stainless steel spatula and tongs, a digital temperature fork, silicone basting brush, four pairs of corn holders for perfect corn on the cob, five skewers, and an 18.5-inch cleaning brush.
The aluminum carrying case is as handsome as it is handy, with anti-scuff bumpers, secure latches, an ergonomic carrying handle and individual internal loops to keep all of your tools organized. Anyone who loves to grill while traveling or camping will appreciate this lightweight set’s portable size.
Price at time of publish: $49
Weber Universal Stainless Steel Smoker Box
“If you have a gas grill, you need a wood smoker box,” says Fulk, who recommends those made by Weber. “You throw some chips on and you can get that extra layer of smoky love on your food, which is sometimes missing with a gas grill.” Just make sure you follow the instructions before using; for this model, you’ll need to let the wood chips heat for over 20 minutes to ensure you create enough smoke to generate a strong cloud that will give your food that desired flavor.
Why Trust PEOPLE?
Sophie Dodd is a lifestyle and travel writer who doesn’t believe summer is complete without a bi-weekly backyard barbecue. For this article, she interviewed Ash Fulk, the director of culinary operations for Fox Lifestyle Hospitality Group and former head chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market in New York City and Rebecca King, pitmaster and founder of The Bad Jew, a Los Angeles-based barbecue pop-up. She also spent time researching the best grill tools on the market and the best value picks for barbecue lovers of all skill levels.