Before you fire up your grill, make sure your outdoor kitchen is stocked and ready with these must-have grill tools.

grill tools on table: gloves, thermapen, spatula, tongs, cast iron

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There is no need to overdo it with grilling utensils. Sure, you can buy some of those fancy kits with a collection of grill tools, but all you really need is a long-handled spatula, a pair of long tongs and a few other essentials.

Grill spatulas: Size and strength matter

When looking for a spatula, there are four things to consider: length, strong construction, a wide head and a soft grip. If it has a hook to hang it on your grill, that’s a bonus, too.

The reason length is important is that it’s best to keep your hands far from the heat of the grill when you’re flipping and rotating food. Grill tools that are at least 16 inches long give you added safety.  

To test the construction strength, try to bend the spatula. If you feel too much give, pass. A weak spatula won’t hold up to big, heavy pieces of meat.

When looking at the head size, consider what you’ll be cooking. Most grill spatulas are wide enough for flipping burgers. If you plan to flip large pieces of grilled fish or grilled whole chicken, get a second spatula with a larger head. Again, make sure it’s strong.

GREAT BUY: I love this fish spatula from BBQ Guys. It's large enough to flip fish and strong enough to lift heavier pieces of meat. 

3 pair of grill tongs showing different lock styles.

Grill tongs: How to find the best fit

There is quite a bit of variety when it comes to tongs. You’ll want to test a pair out to see what’s most comfortable for you.

First, look at the tips of the tongs. They can come with scalloped edges to softly grip food or more pointy edges for a secure grip. A good pair of tongs offers both options and you just flip them to whichever grip you prefer at the moment.

The other end of a pair of tongs includes a locking mechanism with a spring that keeps them opened when unlocked. There are three common locking styles.

The first is a piece of metal that pulls out to unlock the tongs and pushes back in to lock them closed.

The second locking style is a piece of metal that slides over the full set of tongs. When it’s pulled toward the handle, the tongs open. When it’s pushed toward the tips, the tongs are closed.

The third type of locking mechanism is a lever on the end of the tongs. The lever allows you to open or close them with one hand. Just hold the tongs and press the lever against your leg to unlock them.

Although not as common today, there are also scissor-handled tongs. These don’t lock at all. They open and close manually and don’t have the pressure of a spring.

The last primary feature of a set of tongs is how wide they open. If you have smaller hands, you want to avoid a pair of tongs that opens super wide, because it will be uncomfortable and require more hand strength to control.

GREAT BUY: For a reliable set of tongs combined with a grill spatula and tool rest, try this 3-pack grill set from Oxo. 

meat thermometer measuring meat temp.

Get it right with a digital meat thermometer

To succeed at grilling and barbecuing, you must understand proper finished cooking temperatures. This not only ensures your food is cooked through and safe to eat, but it also makes sure your food isn’t overcooked, so it’s nice and juicy.

The best tool for measuring this is a digital meat thermometer. There are a few different styles and they vary in price.

The most trusted digital meat thermometer is a Thermapen One made by Thermoworks. It’s a handheld precision tool that will give you an accurate reading of your food in just one second.

There are other brands on the market that offer the same basic technology, but they are not as precise, nor as fast.

“When it comes to arming yourself with the grill tools you need, it’s best not to overthink it, but also, not to skimp. Quality will last. I love my Thermapen instant-read meat thermometer, a great set of long tongs, a good sharp knife and all-natural fuel. I love Cowboy all-natural charcoal and their fire starters so my food always has the great flavor of wood and not chemical lighter fluid.”

– Kita Roberts, Girl Carnivore

Instead of using a handheld thermometer that requires you to probe your meat over and over, you can also use a leave-in meat thermometer. These are ideal for larger pieces of meat like smoked brisket or pork shoulder.

To use this type of thermometer, you insert the probe through the side into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone. The probe has a wire that runs out of the grill and into the thermometer that provides the instant reading. Some grills come with a built-in thermometer using this same technology.

There are also wireless thermometers on the market that send a signal to your phone. Their accuracy varies, depending on how thick the walls of your grill are and how far you are from your grill.

pork chops searing in cast iron skillet.

A cast iron skillet will change your grill game

A grill can be so much more than just a grill when you add versatility with a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is ideal for grilling because it can withstand direct heat.

By placing a skillet directly on the grill grate, you turn your grill into a stovetop. If you cook over gas, adjust the burner temp for the recipe you’re cooking. When cooking over charcoal vary the amount of coals under the grate to vary the temperature.

When looking for a cast iron skillet, consider the size of your grill. If you have a smaller round grill, a cast iron skillet with a long handle probably won’t work because the lid won’t be able to close.

Fortunately, you can find cast iron skillets with two smaller side handles. A 12-inch skillet will fit on almost any backyard grill and is great for reverse-seared steaks or for sautéing veggies.

GREAT BUY: My favorite cast iron skillet is the Lodge Combo Cooker. It includes a 3-quart pot and a 10.25-inch skillet that doubles as a lid. 

Once you start grilling with cast iron, you’ll probably want to add a griddle for smash burgers and a sauce pot for boiling rice or pasta or for making sauces.

When you’re done cooking, be sure to clean your cast iron properly so it’s ready for your next meal.

“In the heat of the summer, I hate to turn on my stove and oven and make my hot house even hotter. I love to use my grill to cook and bake some of my favorite dishes outside. By using grill-safe dishes like a cast iron skillet, I can turn my grill into a stovetop or oven and make everything from pizza to roast potatoes and so much more.”

– Michelle Price, Honest and Truly

Cast iron recipes

3 types of gloves every pitmaster needs

There are three types of gloves that are essential when grilling.

First, a good pair of heat gloves are must. They’ll protect your hands while using grill tools when you’re reaching toward the fire or coals. They’re also great when you want to grab a hot pan or a grill grate.

The second pair of gloves that are super helpful are nitrile gloves. Nitrile is a synthetic rubber. It’s stronger than latex and resists punctures.

These gloves should fit pretty tightly on your hands. They really come in handy when touching raw meat.

Just wear the gloves, prep your meat and take the gloves off. Your bare hands will be free of contaminants so you can continue cooking without having to run inside to wash them.

PRO TIP: By far, my favorite brand of Nitrile gloves is Gloveworks. They are thick and textured, giving you a great grip on food and grill tools. They also come in a variety of colors. 

The last pair of gloves are glove liners. Some pitmasters call them hand savers or hot hands. These are knit cotton gloves that are worn under the nitrile gloves. They provide a barrier so you can touch hot food without burning yourself.

They don’t replace heat gloves, because they’re not as heat resistant and the outer nitrile gloves will melt if you grab a grill grate. But they’re excellent for shredding pulled pork.

When buying glove liners, look for ones to match your hand size, and choose a pair made of knit cotton, not synthetic materials. Glove liners made of polyester can melt when exposed to high heat.

If you equip yourself with these essential grill tools, you’ll unlock the secrets to grilling perfection.

Visit my GCG Shop and product reviews page for even more recommendations.

Christie Vanover is a championship pitmaster and certified barbecue judge from Las Vegas. She’s cooked on dozens of grills, including the nearly 30 in her backyard. She shares her expertise in grilling and barbecuing through her website, Additionally, Christie has developed her own line of award-winning rubs that are sold internationally.

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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christie vanover standing against wood wall.

Hey BBQ Family

I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and top 10 category finishes. I’m an expert grill reviewer for BBQ Guys, and I have appeared on the Food Network and Ninja Woodfire Grill infomercials. I established this website in 2015 to share my BBQ tips and recipes.

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