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If you’ve read Toolmonger for more than a few days, you’ve probably noticed that we really love grilling out — especially in the spring and fall, which are pretty much the only times it’s not hotter than the sun or cold as Mars here in Texas.  We think we know a thing or two about grilling, but we want to know what you think: What makes up the perfect set of grill tools?

I personally seem to be able to turn out pretty nice steaks with a poker — ok, an old jack handle — a grill brush, tongs, and a basting brush, but we’d like to know what you use on a regular basis.  Should we buy one of those fancy sets, or is it better to pick out the perfect tools individually?

What we’re looking for here is your collective knowledge regarding grill tools.  Educate us in comments!


30 Responses to What BBQ Tools Should Every Griller Own?

  1. Jesse says:

    A genuine Weber chimney starter. Not the knockoff cheap ones. I had one and it just did not work, I ended up drilling larger vents in it to get the same performance of the Weber one. The Weber one works great. Just crumple a sheet of newspaper in the bottom of it and fill it up with charcoal, light it and come back in 30 minutes and the charcoal is ready. It is the perfect size for a 22-inch Weber kettle grill. In addition, if you are grilling for more than an hour you can start a fresh batch of charcoal in the starter and then add it to the grill when necessary. One word of caution, do not put too many match light charcoals (the ones with lighter fluid already in them) in the starter because it will melt the handle off. At less than $12 at Amazon, it will pay for itself in a few bottles of lighter fluid.

  2. John says:

    Here’s my short list of must haves for the charcoal kettle

    Chimney coal starter – to start the coals
    newspaper – to light the chimney starter
    old wad of clean aluminum foil – I keep old clean foil I use in the kitchen and wad some up to scrape the grate using the long handled tongs. Grill brushes just get so gross with char and grease. With the foil, I wad some up, scrape down the grates, and then toss it away. Using cleaned pieces I’ve used previously in the kitchen makes me feel ok about tossing it, since it’s on its second use and would have been tossed before anyhow.
    oil and paper towel – After the foil cleaning, I oil down the grates so food doesn’t stick
    tongs (extra long handled) – use to clean with the foil, apply the oil with the paper towel, and handle food on the grill.
    Spatula – for burgers and fish, everything else is done with tongs, no forks allowed.
    flashlight – I always seem to end up cooking as the sun goes down, so this helps me see what I’m doing.
    instant read thermometer – I use the poke/feel method with the tongs to gauge doneness, but the wife sometimes needs additional confirmation that the food is safe to eat, especially with chicken. The thermopen instant read provides this without having to cut up the chicken and drying it out.

  3. JSF says:

    If you use charcoal you should have a chimney starter. No nasty lighter fluid smell and pretty cheap at about $15.

  4. Buck says:

    A chimney style coal starter is a must.

    Not only is it the fastest way* to get nice, evenly heated coals going, but if you seriously need to sear something, you can cook directly on it.

    I’m not so big on fancy tool sets. I have a shiny stainless steel set that looks like something a Klingon would carry into battle, but they’re no more useful than normal kitchen utensils, which are much cheaper and easier to clean.

    *that doesn’t involve liquid oxygen

  5. Brad says:

    Everyone else has already dais it, but I’ll do it again. Chimney starter is a must have. Other than that, clean cooking grates, some tongues and a spatula, and an instant read thermometer and you’re ready to go.

    I suppose fuel should be considered a must have as well. My fuel of choice is lump charcoal. Quoting Wikipedia here:

    “Commercially, charcoal is often found in either lump, briquette or extruded forms. Lump charcoal is made directly from hardwood material and usually produces far less ash than briquettes. While some briquettes are made from a combination of charcoal (heat source), brown coal (heat source), mineral carbon (heat source), borax (press release agent), sodium nitrate (ignition aid), limestone (uniform visual ashing), starch (binder), raw sawdust (ignition aid) and possibly additives like paraffin or lighter fluid to aid in lighting them, other “natural” briquettes are made solely from charcoal and a binder. Extruded charcoal is made by extruding either raw ground wood or carbonized wood into logs without the use of a binder. The heat and pressure of the extruding process hold the charcoal together. If the extrusion is made from raw wood material, the extruded logs are then subsequently carbonized.”

    Look at all the crap that goes in to the briquettes. Borax…. Yummy.

    One last note. Anyone else find it amusing that nobody this far has said anything about gas grills. Is the good ole fashion kettle grill a required Toolmonger accessory?

  6. Brad says:

    Wow. I really fat fingered that comment. Did I really misspell “said”, and say that “some tongues” were required grilling accessories? It’s tongs, stupid! Note to self… proofread before you submit. Where’s the edit button at? :p

  7. Mike K says:

    Well, I guess I’ll be the first to fess up to using a gas grill (I know I’ll get pummeled for it), but I’m impatient and lazy.

    My list:

    – Grill brush: A grill brush is a grill brush. When it starts to look like a greasy opossum’s pelt, throw it out and spring for another from the dollar store.

    – Tongs: Must open wide i.e. 4 inches or more. Not the scissor type.

    – Spatula: I’m with John, no forks. My wife got me one of those sets from the “self-indulgent cook”. I only use the spatula, which by the way would take the arm off a grizzly, and is surprisingly easy to clean

    That’s it. No basting brush, I marinade. BBQ sauce just burns, warm it on the stove and let everyone serve themselves. No thermometers, use your finger and learn what your steak feels like when it done to your preference (read: rare).

  8. Rob says:

    well I’ll chime in for gass grills

    I use a propane grill just because I don’t what to light charchol ever other day
    I live in BC and the weather here is mild enough to grill all year round and I do
    I have my bbq on the back porch under cover so even when it rain or snow’s I can still grill I have been know to Grill in my shorts at 3:00 am in january

    but really tongs and some times the big fork
    and a flipper/spatula are and basting brush are the nessary things for me

    I am not say propane is better than charcol guys I don’t want a debate here
    I just find it more conivent I have had charcol grills even made my own charcol a couple of times now if I’m after a certain taste a few smoker chips
    in a small pan on the warming rack in the grill does it

  9. Nate says:

    A paint stirrer – excellent for leveling out coal pyramid after the coals are lit. Gets charred at the end, but it makes an excellent fire stick. Simple, cheap (free), and effective.

  10. Nate says:

    Silicone basting brush – very easy clean up – excellent heat resistance – i use a 8″ one that is completely coating in silicone – large brush on one end / small on the other — i need to get one that is slightly longer

  11. KMc says:

    A headlamp, absolutely.

    I first used one while camping and cooking at dusk. Now I find mine indispensable for late-day grilling at home.

  12. Crispy says:

    The last time we had a thread about grilling a bunch of people talked about using heatguns or hairdryers to blast their coals with. I can heat up a set of charcoal briquettes (sorry, I’ll get hardwood later) in 5 minutes. Its excellent because I don’t have the chimney yet and I don’t have to wait 20 or 30 minutes for my coals to heat up.

  13. Steve Thompson says:

    There’s only one set of tools for any Toolmonger – one from Craftsman: http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?cat=Grills&pid=00941629000&vertical=LAWN&subcat=Barbecue+Tools&BV_UseBVCookie=Yes

    That said, I’ve been given a number of sets of grill tools throughout the years, and no matter what tools they contain, I always go back to only two of the set: tongs and spatula. I have a nice All-Clad set someone gave me once, and I like the spatula from that set, but as far as tongs are concerned, I like the cheap standard stamped metal ones you get at the restaurant supply store. I have a half dozen pairs around the kitchen and I use them everyday – inside and out

    Other than the two necessities, I always need a thermometer – either instant read or the leave-in alarm type, great for long roasts or smoking.

    And the ultimate grill accessory…the beer bottle opener.

  14. Kurt Schwind says:

    1) Grill Brush (dirty grills do not make yummy food)
    2) Tongs. Oxo makes a locking 12″ set. It’s mostly important to go with a LONG comfortable tong with ‘scallopped’ ends. Here is the one I have used for nearly 5 years http://www.amazon.com/OXO-28581-12-Inch-Stainless-Steel-Locking/dp/B00004OCK1
    3) Spatula. Mostly I only need this for a few foods where the Tongs don’t work well. Large fish filets for example.
    4) A good themometer. You don’t need this for steaks or hamburgers. But you do need it for larger roasts and birds.

  15. Lee Gibson says:

    Seconded on the OXO tongs. Go for the 16″ pair and keep the hair on your knuckles. You also need a spatula with a bottle opener on it.

    Spatula for fragile foods.

    I use a remote-read thermometer, particularly when I’m running the rotisserie. I have the temperature probe threaded through the handle and the transmitter rubber-banded to the skewer, so the transmitter is outside the heat. RF means no wires twisting.

    I have a cast iron firebox for wood chips that I put directly on one of my burners.

    I use a gas grill too. If you don’t like it, no ribs for you.

    Oh yeah, and an electric smoker.

  16. MarkH says:

    Weber chimney start! It reall does work with just one sheet of newspaper, and it gets the charcoals ready with no stinky lighter fluid!

  17. Clyde says:

    Another gas griller here because I use it almost daily. The three requirements are a cast iron box to hold wood chips, a selection of wood chips (mesquite, hickory, alder, etc.), and cast iron grates (wire rod grids are a poor substitute). On my to-buy list is a pressure guage for the propane bottle but they are hard to find.

  18. KaiserM715 says:

    One tool that I use (for charcoal, of course!) that I did not see mentioned, is a metal garden trowel. I use it to redistribute coals prior to cooking as well as to clean out the ashes after they have cooled down.

  19. Freddie says:

    I use a fork.
    If I don’t have a fork I use my fingers.

    I turn the coals over by shaking/kicking.

    Expensive sets look nice but are a total waste of money.

    A stick and some cheap tongs and you are set.

  20. Rick says:

    Wanted to third on the Oxo Tongs..

    I’ve been using them going on 6 years… love them.. got my dad and my in-laws in to them too..
    and like others have said.. NO FORKING FORKS.

    btw.. I am partial to gas for the convenience of it. I’ve got a Weber Genesis that’s lasted me 2 years so far and it still looks and works like new.

    Charcoal or Gas, you can’t go wrong with a Weber.

  21. Eric says:

    I’ve tried the tools from some of these fancy BBQ tool kits, and I haven’t been very pleased. The tongs not not have enough gripping power, and the spatula was weak. I ended up buying some resaturant tongs (like you would see on a buffet) that were longer than normal – about 14″. I get plenty of leverage and grip. I keep 2 at my grill – one for food and one for handling charcoal (adding charcoal to the fire or moving hot charcoal around). And I found a nice stainless-steel spatula with a black rubber grip insert at Home Depot – look for the grill tools that you buy individually, not in a set. It has good heft and can handle a big burger with ease. And “ditto” for me on the chimney starter! A must if you’re going to do any sort of slow cooking or barbecue and have to refresh your fire.

  22. Ray says:

    Ok, I will hang my head in shame and state up front that I use gas mostly I will admit it. That being said

    #1 A good grill! After years of using various craptastic hand-me-down gas grills I got a good grill a few years back. Wow what a difference, no hot/cold spots and temperature control, who knew!

    #2 Restaurant grade tongs, surprisingly cheep at the supply house.
    (Simple rule the more “manly” the grill tool looks, the less useful it is)

    #3 A remote probe thermometer, the kind with the the metal clad wire running from the probe to a remote display. Put the probe in the meat and leave it there, a must for smoking. Keep an eye on your temp while keeping the lid down.

    Lastly a question for the group. Do those gas bottle pressure gauges work at all? Since the propane is stored in the bottle as a liquid wouldn’t the gauge just report the vapor pressure of liquid propane (128 psig on a nice grilling day) until all the liquid was gone? At that point your pretty much out of gas any way? Do these provide enough warning to be even remotely useful?

  23. ambush27 says:

    There is only one thing I would add to the original article, a spatula, for burgers and stuff. but I’m not the first person to mention this.

  24. Bruce says:

    Steak hook. Primitive, yet quite useful.

  25. Norm says:

    To add my little piece (and yes I primarily use gas!!) My set up is on the upper deck right out of the kitchen on a covered porch. (Sitting out here now typing this!) and I cook almost daily on the grill. I use the restaurant tongs (Make a handy bottle opener in a pinch) and of course I got a nice stainless spatula. I use the Vacuum sealer to marinate meats (Because I never know what I will feel like eating until I am ready to eat). I love the remote thermometer. Can set it up and go about my business with the remote part on my belt. I don’t use a basting brush much but I am looking into a silicone one with some length to it. On the charcoal grill (Weber 22″ Kettle I got for free at the local dump. Power washed it and got a new grate. Works excellent when I want to cook with coals. I have the starter for it and it works excellent.
    I am looking to try the aluminum foil idea and trying some different charcoal. Thanks for the ideas!!

  26. wvpv says:

    I’ll plug my Pampered Chef Turner and Tongs. Best I’ve ever had. They’re stinking awesome. And no, my wife doesn’t sell them.


  27. Kris says:

    Years ago my Dad picked up one of these contoured spatulas http://barbecue-store.com/contouredspatula.htm
    at the local hardware store. I’ve tried many others since, but this thing is FANTASTIC! Anything stuck or falling between can be fished out with ease.

  28. Bob says:

    Another vote for the genuine Weber charcoal chimney starter. My variation: I don’t like the initial cloud of newspaper smoke, so, I use a little mint tin filled with a few tablespoons of denatured alcohol, under the starter. It burns clean and doesn’t leave any odor. When I have wood shavings from hand planing, I’d use those. They burn really hot, really quick.

    I have a Simpsons commemorative 22″ Weber Gold. I’ve upgraded with the cast iron grate, charcoal rails for indirect cooking, the lid holder, and a little second story grate. All work as advertised. I cook year ’round in Seattle, under the carport. Baskets are good for loose vegies. The last thing I bought for the grill was a digital thermometer/timer/alarm. It’s great for roasts on the grill.

  29. Leslie Wong says:

    Though not a physical tool, I find the “FAQ OF THE INTERNET BBQ LIST” is essential.

  30. coso says:

    lol, the guy in the picture has no idea what he’s doing

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