What Are the Best Grilling Tools?

Some of the country’s best pitmasters weigh in.

Collage of various grilling tools.

Whether you’re new to ‘cue and looking to build your grilling toolbox from scratch, or you’re a seasoned smoker looking to upgrade her rusty tongs, we went to a dozen of the country’s best pitmasters who took part of 2017’s Big Apple Barbecue and had them share their go-to gear with us. (Note, Father’s Day is upon us, and a lot of these gizmos, gadgets, and can chicken-roasting racks would make great gifts.)

John Stage of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, New York City

John Stage and the Handle Light and All-Clad cookware set.

“This light is perfect for the home grill. It turns on and off as you open and close the lid to the grill (so you don’t have the touch the controls with dirty hands). The light also illuminates the entire cooking area of the grill so that you see the true color of your food, no matter what time of day.”

BUY: Weber Grill Out Handle Light
$24, Amazon

“All-Clad grill utensils are heavy, sturdy, weather-resistant, good-looking, and easy to clean. The rounded handles are shaped for comfort and secure gripping. The grill brush is sturdy and keeps the grill clean, which is essential to good grilling.”

BUY: All-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Set, 4-Piece
$120, Amazon

Ash Fulk of Hill Country Barbecue, New York City

Ash Fulk and the spray bottle and smoker box.

“You need this! It has a couple great uses. Fill it with water to quickly squirt out any flare-ups—too many flare-ups can make your food taste a bit acrid. Or fill it with your favorite vinegar-based mop to add that extra spritz of flavor to your food. This squeeze bottle is durable and hard to clog. You can also set the exact amount of liquid to dose as well.”

BUY: Harris Professional All-Purpose Spray Bottle
$13, Amazon

“I’m a pit guy who loves smoke. This smoker box by Cave Tools is a great alternative to a full smoker. A little oak chips on your grill can breathe new life into your ‘cue. This box is made from heavy aluminum to prevent warping and has a large capacity, so you are not changing chips as often. Smoke is the secret seasoning that can take your barbecue from good to great.”

BUY: Cave Tools Smoker Box
$22, Amazon

John-Paul Bourgeois of Blue Smoke, New York City

John-Paul Bourgeois and the Weber Jumbo Joe, Red Boat Salt, and BBQ Dragon.

“For the apartment dweller, the Weber Jumbo Joe is perfect for grilling on the sidewalk, fire escape, or common space. Eighteen inches of grill space gives you enough room for one rack of baby back ribs, or three rib-eye steaks, or four half-pound burgers. It is functional and effective at grilling and smoking.”

BUY: Weber Jumbo Joe
$70, Amazon

Red Boat salt is often my secret ingredient when making interesting dynamic rubs. I will either replace salt completely with this salt substitute, or cut it into the salt in traditional rubs. Red Boat is known for making fish sauce. Once the barrels of fish sauce have been emptied, they allow the salt to crystallize on the inside of the barrels. The barrels are then scraped, harvested, and packaged. The salt is delicious—sharp with a big punch of umami.”

BUY: Red Boat Salt
$16, Amazon

“The BBQ Dragon is a fire starter’s best friend. This easy-to-use little gadget will clip onto any grill or smoker and assist you in getting those coals burning fast and evenly.”

BUY: BBQ Dragon
$40, Amazon

Amy and Mike Mills of 17th St. BBQ, Murphysboro, Illinois

Amy and Mike Mills and the Thermapen, mop, and smoker.

“Thermapen digital thermometers give an accurate, instant read, and they are backlit, so you can see in the dark. The MK4 model is the industry gold standard. If you’re really getting into barbecue, invest in a more high-tech solution and get the ThermoWorks Smoke model with two probes.”

BUY: Thermapen MK4
$119, Amazon

“A string mop will soak up a good bit of liquid, making it easy to mop the meat with sauce. You can wash them in the dishwasher a few times, but they’re inexpensive and come in a box of 12, so you’ll always have one at the ready.”

BUY: Magnolia Barbecue Mop (Individual Mop)
$10, Amazon

“For true barbecue, the little Red Box cannot be beat. Small and affordable, this insulated, double-walled, reverse-flow smoker is perfect for the terrace or deck of an apartment, or as an addition to your cooker arsenal. Don’t let the size fool you, though. The three racks can accommodate four slabs of ribs, two small brisket flats, two Boston butts, or three split chickens.”

BUY: Lamberts Sweet Swine O’Mine Red Box Charcoal Smoker
$430, Amazon

Leslie Roark Scott of Ubon’s Barbeque, Yazoo City, Mississippi

Leslie Roark Scott and the grill and sleeve.

“This little grill is really cool when you’re in a tight space. It’s the perfect size for a couple of steaks, and holds heat like a champ.”

BUY: Fire Sense Large Yakatori Charcoal Grill
$37, Amazon

“If you’re going to be spending a long time at the grill, these can save the day. These sleeves will protect your arms from extreme heat.”

BUY: Magid Glove & Safety Protective Sleeve
$23, Amazon

Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina

Rodney Scott and the grill brush.

“This is one of my have-to-have items. These heavy-duty brushes are essential for maintaining the buildup of grease and debris on the grill, both of which can affect the taste of the meat.”

BUY: Qually United Grill Brush
$22, Amazon

Nick Pihakis, Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q, Birmingham, Alabama

Nick Pihakis and the roasting rack.

“This is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to cook a chicken. Not only is upright roasting the optimal position to roast a chicken (fat drips away, heat surrounds the chicken 360 degrees, skin crisps up better), this cooking method allows the steam and vapors to flavor the chicken from the inside cavity out, helping it to stay moist. This pan is functionally designed to hold the bird upright, and features a drip pan and handles, which allow you to easily place it on the grill. It’s a must-have.”

BUY: Cave Tools Beer Can Chicken Roasting Rack
$25, Amazon

Patrick Martin of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Nashville, Tennessee

Patrick Martin and the cooking gloves and cooler.

“With the work we do with whole hogs, there really is no better tool than your hands — but things get hot, so a pair of good heat-resistant gloves are a must.
Anyone who’s ever tried to pick up a brisket with a pair of tongs knows what I’m talking about. I order industrial-strength gloves, since we’re in the pit every day, but these gloves from Artisan Griller are a good option for the home-barbecue enthusiast.”

BUY: Artisan Griller Insulated Cooking Gloves
$28, Amazon

“When you’re smoking whole hogs, you can’t go for a beer run, so you need a good cooler that’s going to keep your beer cold for the night. These Yeti coolers hold our product better than anything on the market. Nothing beats a Yeti. I guarantee when you reach for a beer, it’s gonna be good and cold—just like it should be.”

BUY: Yeti Roadie Cooler
$200, Amazon

Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur, Alabama

Chris Lilly and the chimney starter and the charcoal.

“Using a charcoal chimney is the easiest way to light your barbecue grill. This large-capacity chimney made by Weber holds plenty of charcoal to get your grill hot, while protecting your hands from the extreme heat.”

BUY: Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter
$15, Amazon

“A charcoal grill will hands down turn out tastier food than cooking with gas. The new Kingsford Long-Burning has become my go-to charcoal. These briquettes have the same great flavor as original Kingsford, but burn 25 percent longer and yield less ash.”

BUY: Kingsford Long-Burning Charcoal
$20, Amazon

John Wheeler of Memphis Barbecue Co., Southaven, Mississippi

John Wheeler and the grill grates.

Grill grates help to prevent flare-ups and distribute heat evenly. What I like most about them is the great grill marks they leave.”

BUY: Grill Grates, Set of 3
$80, Amazon