Grilling season is right around the corner — in some parts of the country, it’s already here — and there’s no better excuse to go out to your backyard or patio and enjoy the nice weather.
We spoke with Peter Agostinelli, culinary director at LaBelle Winery and former executive chef of Grill 23 & Bar in Boston, and Los Angeles-based cookbook author and chef Gaby Dalkin about their must-have tools for a perfect grilling experience and how to use them to make wow-worthy meals. Below, you’ll find expert-recommended picks for getting the most out of your grill this season.
Agostinelli, who oversees cooking hundreds of steaks a night, says, “Let your steaks, or your meats, come up to room temperature and heavily salt them about 10 or 15 minutes before you want to cook them. The salt will dissolve and almost create a brine on the outside of the meat.”
If you're in a time crunch or just forgot to take the steaks out for dinner, this board helps speed up the thawing process so you can get to grilling faster.
Dalkin, a longtime grilling enthusiast, says her must-have while grilling is “a really incredible marinade or vinaigrette that I can use to marinate food in, like my basil vinaigrette recipe.”
Agostinelli prefers to stick with a tabletop classic, saying, “Worcestershire sauce is probably my secret ingredient” when grilling, but “I love it on vegetables, too. Like a little olive oil, salt and pepper, a dash of Worcestershire almost on anything is going to be great.”
And he’s super selective: “It’s got to be Lea & Perrins, though.”
Both chefs agreed that grilling tongs are key for managing your cookout. As Dalkin explained, “You need something that can reach that food at the back of the grill without singeing your hands and arms.”
These 16-inch tongs from Oxo are perfect for working a hot grill because of their easy lock and unlock function, and the extra length ensures your hand won’t get too close to the fire.
Both chefs also put an instant-read thermometer high on their lists, since it can tell you the temperature of your meat quickly, ensuring that the food you’re eating and serving is safe and perfectly cooked. This fast and easy-to read Thermapen One won out in our testing with a hinged probe and ergonomic design that lets you comfortably find the perfect angle, whether you’re reaching into an oven or trying to avoid getting singed by a hot grill.
The accurate, stable and easy-to-read Chef Alarm is the most versatile leave-in thermometer we tested, with an easy-to-use alarm and timer, and magnetic and stand mounts let you place it anywhere.
Grilling isn’t just about meat and fish. Crisp and smoky grilled veggies can be a real standout when cooked properly. Agostinelli has an easy (and budget-friendly) tip to cook veggies on the grill.
“I really like to make a foil packet,” he says. “And you can do this with corn on the cob or sliced potatoes and onions and herbs. You want to put three or four layers of aluminum foil on it. And then I like to bury those right in the hot coals and let them roast right in the coals while I’m grilling on top of it.”
Another way to toss a bunch of veggies on the grill comes from Dalkin, who says that this grilling basket is one of her favorite tools to use on a daily basis in the summer.
“Load it up with all your favorite veggies and place it on the grill to get that incredible char on everything,” she says. “Just be sure to toss things around every few minutes for even cooking.”
A good knife set can not only make your cooking more efficient but safer too. Whether you’re slicing up steak for a beautiful presentation, doing pre-cook prep work or reaching for a dinner knife that lets you dig in, this Chicago Cutlery Fusion Set comes with 14 knives that are ready for any and all kitchen tasks.
Protect your kitchen counters and work surfaces from stains and scratches with a sturdy cutting board. This Teakhaus Professional board is our top pick for best cutting board and an excellent choice for any home grill master. Resistant to stains and knife cuts, easy to clean, heavy enough to stay in place while you work and reasonably priced, the Teakhaus board is perfect for carving up some prime filet mignon or slicing veggies for colorful skewers.
Once you’ve got all your prep work done, you’ll need a way to carry it all to the grilling station. A baking sheet, like our top tested pick from Nordic Ware, is sturdy enough to handle large loads and the sheet’s raised edges prevent vegetables from rolling off onto the floor. Likewise, they’re equally as good at hauling your food back to the table for serving once it's off the grill.
Agostinelli, showing his New England roots, says a fish spatula is important to keep on hand for great grilling. This classic fish turner from Oxo has beveled edges for easy flipping.
When it comes to grilling veggies, Dalkin is very enthusiastic about one tool. “Don’t bother with the wooden [skewers]; they are too easy to light on fire,” she says. “Having a great set of metal skewers means you can make kebabs left and right and reuse the skewers on the daily.”
A chimney starter is “absolutely mandatory if you have a charcoal grill,” says Dalkin. “Never mind the fact that your backyard might look like it caught on fire, you need one to get the coals hot before you disperse them into the grill and add meat.” This starter, with a 5-pound capacity, features a wood handle and heat shield to protect your hands from the heat.
According to our chefs, charcoal burns hotter and drier than propane, producing a better char and a more savory crust. This charcoal chimney has a trigger that releases the charcoal out from the bottom so you can quickly and easily get grilling.
Like any piece of cooking equipment, your grill also needs to be regularly cleaned if you expect it to perform properly. Hence why a dependable grill brush is an essential for your outdoor cooking setup. This Kona BBQ Grill Brush earned our top spot for best grill brush due to its large brush head and long handle, which let you quickly tackle grime while your grill is still hot.
Before each use, you should check your grill for signs of damage or rust. If a spot of surface rust does pop up, as is common on welded joints, you can remove it using a nonacidic oil like WD-40. And to help prevent rust, you should give your grill a deep clean at least once every three months.
Unless you live in good weather all year round, your grill is likely out of service for a good part of the year. If you don't have space to move your grill inside a garage or shed, a tight-fitting grill cover will help prevent moisture from getting in
If you prefer a gas grill over charcoal, this three-burner Weber Genesis E-325s gives the clean results of the best gas grills, plus an extra-hot searing burner for the char effects that can be hard to achieve otherwise.
For grilling in small spaces or on the go, this Yak grill can be used almost anywhere, even on a tabletop. The well-designed stainless steel device is not just easy to use but also simple to clean.