With the loosening of pandemic-related restrictions, many Americans will gather around an outdoor grill this weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July, deploying an arsenal of grilling tools to barbecue burgers, steaks and vegetables.
But which tools are actually essential?
“It really is trial and error, and understanding what you need to be successful,” said Derek Wolf, an open-fire cooking enthusiast in Nashville and the author of “Food by Fire.”
“You can spend hundreds — or thousands — of dollars on gear, setting yourself up,” Mr. Wolf said, but most people don’t need an elaborate collection of utensils.
His list of requirements includes a good pair of tongs, a grill brush and a thermometer — and, for the hands-on pitmaster, perhaps a pair of welding gloves.
“At the end of the day, you can cook with nothing more than charcoal and your hand, if you’re not afraid of flipping a steak,” Mr. Wolf said. “And I’ve got plenty of friends who do that schtick.”
How long should tool handles be? Although some grilling tools are so long they resemble yardsticks, Mr. Wolf said, “I personally like medium-size ones” — around 16 inches long — “mostly because the closer I am to the meat, the more control I have over it.”
Do you really need a thermometer? “If you’re not cooking to temp, you always run the risk of either overcooking or undercooking your food,” he said, which can be disappointing and even dangerous.
What kind of grill brush is best? Mr. Wolf likes metal brushes, but loose bristles can be a hazard. To knock any broken bristles off the grill, sweep it with a scrunched up piece of aluminum foil after brushing, he suggested, or use a bristle-free brush.
Quad Spring Safety Double-Helix Bristle-Free BBQ Brush
Bristle-free metal grill-cleaning brush
About $19 at Brushtech: 518-563-2401 or brushtechbrushes.com
Tail-Gater Three-Piece Barbecue Set With Bag
Stainless-steel tools with walnut handles and brass rivets
About $65 at Lamson: 413-642-8135 or lamsonproducts.com
BBQ Croc Tongs
Aluminum tongs with coated handles
From $16.50 at Lee Valley: 800-871-8158 or leevalley.com
Ash Four-Piece Grill Set
Stainless-steel tools with pakka-wood handles and storage box
About $100 at Schmidt Brothers: 201-666-3717 or schmidtbrothers.com