What is this – a backyard cookout or a hardware store? There’s so much grilling equipment out there, you can get carried away. Skip those fancy sets of tools, and go with a few well-chosen basics. Most are cheap – and one handy tool is even free.
1. Scoop. If you have trouble with charcoal not staying lit, it’s probably time to clean out your ashes. Deep ashes cut down on airflow and attract moisture that causes rust. Our favorite scoop: Take a 1-quart disposable plastic milk jug and cut off the bottom. It has a handle, the flat edge gets under fluffy ashes, and you can bend it flat for getting around the edges. When it wears out, just make another one.
2. Charcoal chimney. If you cook with charcoal, you really do need one. It’s much better than lighter fluid or those briquettes that light with a match.
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3. Strong tongs. Save the fancy locking tongs for the kitchen. At the grill, you need tongs that are long, to keep your hands from the heat, and sturdy enough to lift things like a rack of ribs or a whole chicken.
4. Flat skewers. The round ones let your food spin around when you turn them. Flat ones are easier to handle, and they’re often sturdier.
5. Disposable foil pans. Use them as drip pans to save on cleanup, as water pans when you smoke food, and as holders if you want to simmer something in a sauce or marinade.
6. Heatproof brush, for glazes and marinades. The silicone ones with rubber bristles are good for easy cleanup, although a paintbrush with natural bristles also does a good job and you can throw it away when it starts to fall apart.
7. Wide, sturdy spatula. We like a spatula that’s wider than one we’d use in the kitchen, for turning whole fish or delicate things.
8. Thermometer. Whether you use a meat thermometer, an instant-read or a digital one, you need to make sure food is cooked through.
9. Mitts – maybe. We have mixed feelings about them. They can be clumsy, and if you have long tongs, you don’t need to get your hand that close to the fire. If you do use them, get something sturdy, like leather or suede.
10. Grill scrubbing brush. It doesn’t have to be pretty – it has to be sturdy. The best way to clean a grill rack is to rub it down quickly as soon as you take food off, while the rack is hot and stuck-on food is still fresh.