Over the past four years, we’ve spent 65 hours researching grill accessories, speaking with grilling experts, and testing more than 90 different tools to find the best for successful grilling. We’ve used spatulas, tongs, grate brushes, basting brushes, vegetable baskets, instant-read and probe thermometers, and replacement grates on gas and charcoal grills. We’ve also tested a charcoal basket (for indirect cooking) and our favorite chimney starter for folks who prefer to cook over glowing embers.
In a new round of testing in the spring of 2017, we gathered the following food and cooking experts from The Sweethome and The New York Times (parent company of The Wirecutter and The Sweethome) to combine forces at a backyard-grilling boot camp:
- Sweethome editor Tim Heffernan, who has worked on our grill coverage for the past two years
- Sweethome staff writer Lesley Stockton, a classically trained cook with extensive experience grilling and smoking over mesquite wood in the Texas heat
- Sweethome staff writer Michael Sullivan, a former curriculum developer and textbook editor at International Culinary Center
- New York Times food editor Sam Sifton, whose accomplishments honestly can’t be summarized
Over the course of four days, we tested these tools while cooking more than 100 burgers, 20 chickens, and 10 pounds of vegetables on nine different grills. We discussed the usability, quality, durability, and price of every tool, and we are confident that our picks will be top performers throughout grilling season.
We tested these tools while cooking more than 100 burgers, 20 chickens, and 10 pounds of vegetables on nine different grills.
You might notice the absence of grilling sets in this guide. They’re popular, but we’ve found that the tools in such sets are usually of substandard quality and poorly designed. We think the smart money is on buying only what you need, choosing tools of top quality, instead of paying for low-quality extras that inevitably turn into clutter.
Table of contents
- The essentials
- Grill-grate brush
- Sheet pans
- Chimney starter
- Instant-read thermometer
- The extras
- Basting brush
- Vegetable basket
- Probe thermometer
- Grilling gloves
- Not as impressive: Replacement grill grates
- And one last totally indulgent luxury item
These are the tools you’ll definitely need for a successful grilling experience.
After flipping more than 100 burger patties with 10 different spatulas, we think the Mercer Hell’s Handle Large Fish Turner is the best spatula for the grill, offering flexibility and strength. It’s sturdy and maneuverable, and it has a wide, super-heat-resistant plastic handle that’s comfortable to hold. Over the years, we’ve found fish turners to be the most versatile spatulas, and this large version is no different. In our tests, the Hell’s Handle proved to be the one spatula that testers kept reaching for, prompting Sam Sifton to exclaim, “Holy cow, it’s a good tool.”
The stainless steel blade on the Hell’s Handle has a fine edge, a stable feel with the right amount of give, and a tapered shape that seamlessly slid under our burger patties without resistance. After handling all the spatulas, Sifton said, “It’s a little more flexible than the [runner-up pick] Victorinox in the crucial initial entry of the spatula under the food… As a result, there’s a silky follow-through that gets it off the grill.” Though it’s very flexible, the Hell’s Handle is still strong enough to help transfer whole chickens from grill to cutting board. The tapered shape of the spatula allowed us to work successfully on a full grill, easily slipping in between burgers to get a clean flip. This wasn’t the case with large rectangular turners, which offered less agility in our tests.
The Hell’s Handle is still strong enough to help transfer whole chickens from grill to cutting board.
We liked the wide handle on the Hell’s Handle spatula because it felt secure in the hand and provided more leverage than most of the competition. According to a representative of the manufacturer, the polypropylene handle can withstand temperatures of up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It also boasts a limited lifetime warranty.
If you prefer a thinner, lightweight handle, we recommend getting the Victorinox Chef’s Slotted Jumbo Fish Turner. The blade on this spatula is nearly identical to that of our main pick, and it performed similarly in our tests, but the tang is almost 40 percent narrower, which could lead to some stability issues when you’re lifting heavy foods. The wooden handle isn’t dishwasher safe and doesn’t promise the same heat resistance as that of the Mercer. But we still think the Victorinox spatula is a great option if our main pick isn’t available.
We also like the Winco TN719 Blade Hamburger Turner for lifting hefty burgers off the grill. This heavy-duty turner excels at smashing burgers Shake Shack–style on a griddle with minimal effort. (For more recommendations, see our full guide to the best spatulas.)
Some of the other spatulas we tested, such as the Winco TN249 Blade Flexible Turner, were more rigid and didn’t make a clean separation from the grill. And while the Mercer Hell’s Handle Square Edge Turner has a sharp edge and a sturdy blade that performed admirably in our tests, its bulky size hindered agility on a crowded grill.
This year we were able to test more tools, with more experts, on more grills, and we reached a lot of new conclusions. We found that the rigidity, length, and handle angle of many popular designs for home grill spatulas did not perform as well as the fish spatulas we tested. For example, the Weber Style 6705 Stainless Steel Turner and our former top pick, the OXO Good Grips 16″ Grilling Turner With Serrated Edge, offered no flexibility and had long, awkwardly angled handles that made flipping burger patties more challenging compared with our new top pick.
For cooking on a blazing-hot grill, we like the 16-inch Winco UT-16HT Extra Heavyweight Utility Tongs, because they’re comfortable, easy to use, and sturdy—and long enough to keep your hands a comfortable distance from the flames. Sam Sifton called these top performers “perfect.” A bonus: They’re also the most affordable tongs of all the models we tested. The Winco tongs have a comfortable “spread” when open, and the spring provides just enough resistance, so your hands don’t get fatigued when grilling for a crowd; many other tongs are too stiff and quickly tire out your hands. Among the tongs we tested, the narrow angle of the Winco model’s scalloped heads provided the most control when grabbing small, skinny asparagus spears and slippery sauce-laden chicken pieces. In contrast, the wide-angled heads on many competitors don’t let you pick up small stuff. Sifton noted, “The 16-inch is your standard summer go-to for summer grilling, and I use them interchangeably inside and outside.” Winco’s heavy-duty stainless steel tongs are sturdy enough to securely grip large cuts of meat and are dishwasher safe.
The only tiny flaws with the Winco tongs are that they don’t have a ring for hanging or a lock for storage. We don’t think these are dealbreakers, though, because, as Sweethome editor Tim Heffernan put it, you can “just sling them over the nearest handle on your grill.” With a price well below $10, the Winco tongs are an excellent value.
If you need locking tongs with a hanging loop, the OXO Good Grips 16″ Grilling Tongs are a good alternative to our top pick. The locking mechanism doesn’t slip, and the roomy hanging loop lets you easily hang the pair on a grill side table. Even though the OXO tongs had the widest “spread” of all the tongs we tested, which all our testers found cumbersome, the lightly tensioned spring was easy for us to close. That means less hand fatigue—a real issue when you’re cooking a grill’s worth of food.
The narrow angle of the Winco’s scalloped heads provided the most control when grabbing small, skinny asparagus spears and slippery sauce-laden chicken.
The scalloped heads aren’t as tightly angled as on our top pick, so small items aren’t as easy to grip; during testing with the OXO tongs, we had a few asparagus casualties. OXO’s tongs also include the cushioned grips that have become synonymous with the Good Grips line. For our testers, this feature prompted longevity concerns, leading Sam Sifton to point out, “Rubber and high heat have no place in the same sentence. It’s a perfectly acceptable pair [of tongs], but the rubber is going to fail first.”1
We also tested the Weber Style 6441 Professional-Grade Chef’s Tongs. We found these tongs to have too wide a spread, and testers experienced the most hand fatigue while using them. And among all the tongs we tested, this pair’s heads had the widest angle, resulting in the flimsiest grip on food.
To prevent food from sticking to your grill, it’s important to have clean grates. Leftover gunk on the grates, such as caramelized sauce and burnt food bits, adhere to food, making it difficult to get a clean release. (Also, who wants to cook on a dirty grill?) In our tests, the Qually United BBQ Grill Brush was the best at removing stuck-on sauce and carbonized bits.
With its three rows of thick-gauge wire bristles, the Qually United model covered the most surface area of any brush we tested, and its sturdy construction refused to bend during tough scraping tasks. Unlike brushes with coiled metal pads, Qually United’s steel bristles stayed intact and upright with no signs of breakage or shedding. All of that, combined with a comfortable 10-inch plastic handle, made the Qually United stand out among the brushes and scrapers we tested.
We’d be remiss if we failed to mention that there’s some fear surrounding wire grill brushes. Consumer Reports and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published reports on nonfatal injuries due to ingestion of wires from grill brushes. While the cases are relatively low—1,700 cases over 13 years, according to Consumer Reports—the risk is worth noting.
Sweethome staff writer Lesley Stockton has been using wire grill brushes, personally and professionally, for over 15 years and has never had this issue. It’s important to remember that grill brushes only loosen carbonized food and soot, and don’t “clean” the grate. Before you start grilling, always run a wet rag (an old cotton one can do the job) after scraping your preheated grill to clean any remaining debris, including possible errant wires, from the grates. Also, if your brush is visibly deteriorating, spring the $18 for a new one.
If you’re hellbent on “no wire brushes,” The Great Scrape’s Woody Shovel is our favorite wire-free grate-cleaning option. This hardwood paddle has a straight tapered edge that takes on the pattern of the grates by branding them in while the grill is hot. We used the Woody Shovel on both the Weber Spirit E-310 and the Weber Genesis II E-310 (because they have identical grates), and it did a good job of clearing sticky cooked-on sauce and charred bits alike.
The hole in the handle on the Woody Shovel is an upgrade over the solid grip on The Great Scrape’s Woody Paddle. We think this new ergonomic design allowed us to get a stable grip, but it comes with a small price bump. If you want to save a few dollars and don’t mind losing the enhanced handle, the Woody Paddle is a good option and offers the same cleaning functionality.
An upside to using the Woody Shovel instead of a wire brush is the pleasant smell of burnt hardwood every time you use it. The Woody Shovel is good if you have only one grill, as the grooves form to a specific grate shape; multiple grills would require a dedicated Great Scrape tool for each, and that can get costly. We haven’t seen any reviews of diminished scraping abilities with use, so we’ll be long-term testing the Woody Shovel this summer to see how it holds up to frequent use.
The GrillFloss isn’t just a scraper—it’s also an all-around grill-grate grabbing and rotating tool that Sam Sifton calls his “secret weapon for summer grilling.” The GrillFloss is simply a metal pole with a small, rounded hook jutting out the end. This hook can scrape rod-style grates (such as on our charcoal-grill pick, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22″) clean on every side—but it doesn’t work on flat cast-iron grates. The hook lets you get a secure hold on a hot grate for maneuvering it on and off the grill and flipping up side hinges to add more charcoal. And the hook is replaceable—if it ever wears out, a new one costs just a few bucks. The GrillFloss is also an ideal tool for kicking hot charcoal around the firebox, a job usually reserved for tongs that eventually touch the food. Even though the GrillFloss can scrape grill grates, we’d pair it with one of our other grill brushes for a faster cleanup, as cleaning each grate rod individually is pretty slow.
Other grill brushes we tested but dismissed include the Tool Wizard Barbecue Brush, which uses replaceable woven wire pads to clean grates. Although this model is a Cook’s Illustrated “Recommended with Reservations” pick, in our tests the scour pads unraveled quickly and loosened from the head when we tried scrubbing off stubborn messes. The Weber 6493 3-Sided Grill Brush didn’t offer the stability or coverage of our top pick. The thick-gauge steel of the Bayou Classic Grill Scraper was heavy and awkward for us to hold, and the hook wasn’t as defined as the GrillFloss’s, so it didn’t clean our grates as well. And finally, although the Qually United horizontal-style grill brush was a crowd favorite, it now looks to be discontinued.
Sheet pans don’t necessarily come to mind when people talk about cooking outdoors, but you do need a platform for transferring food to and from the grill. Our long-standing favorite, the Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet (as well as the Baker’s Quarter Sheet), is durable and notably useful. The design sports a tightly rolled lip and a generous 1-inch rim that’s comfortable and easy to hold with one hand, important when you’re working fast over the grill. In our tests, the 18-gauge uncoated aluminum construction avoided warping at high temperatures, up to 500 °F.
The Nordic Ware sheet is an excellent value for the quality, performing as well as pans twice the price. Since baker’s sheets offer so much versatility in the kitchen and by the grill, you’ll want to stock up. As Sam Sifton said during our testing, “Melissa Clark has a great line about sheet pans, which is, ‘If you have one, you need another. If you have two, you need a third.’” Sweethome staff writer Lesley Stockton has six in various sizes at home and always needs more during big cookouts and dinner parties.
For more recommendations, a look at other options we considered, and the reasons the Nordic Ware stands apart, see our full guide to cookie sheets.
A chimney starter offers the fastest, easiest way to light coals in one attempt—and doesn’t rely on smelly lighter fluid. In our research, we found the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter is the best, because it checks all the boxes: a generous size, ease of use, a good price, and regular availability. The Weber chimney starter has a spacious main chamber that measures 9 by 7¾ inches and has a 6-quart capacity, or 90 briquets. When testing charcoal grills, we learned that this is enough fuel to cook 12 burgers and still have some cooking time to spare (we used our runner-up charcoal pick, Stubb’s All-Natural Bar-B-Q Charcoal Briquets). The lighting chamber has ample room for a large wad of newsprint—our preferred igniting material—and big vents for airflow and easy access for matches.
The Weber Rapidfire has two handles, so you can securely dump hot coals into your grill. The main fixed handle has a heat-resistant plastic grip, and the second, swinging wire handle adds stability and control, allowing you to dump the lit coals with confidence. That design feature isn’t unique to Weber, but it’s not the only reason we chose this model. Chimney starters can range in price from $10 to $60, and the Weber consistently hovers around the $15 mark. It’s available at most major retailers, including Amazon (where it’s the most popular model, with a rating of 4.9 stars out of five across more than 4,600 reviews), Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, and Walmart.
We didn’t physically test any other chimney starters, because our research showed that the Weber Rapidfire offered all the features we needed at an affordable price with wide availability. Aside from the aforementioned high Amazon rating, the Weber is the chimney starter of choice at AmazingRibs.com, a popular barbecue and grilling site.
Other chimneys we looked at but didn’t test include the Char-Griller Charcoal Chimney Starter with Release. It has a trigger release in the handle that drops the hot coals from the bottom. This design raised a lot of safety concerns for us, filling our heads with visions of grillers unwittingly releasing a load of glowing coals on the ground or on their feet. Other comparably priced chimneys, including models from Char-Broil, Charcoal Companion, GrillPro, and Lodge, lacked a second helper handle. We also considered the Rösle Charcoal Starter, but $60 is too much to pay for what amounts to a simple steel pipe.
To ensure you’re consuming meat and poultry cooked to safe internal temperatures, we recommend adding the ThermoWorks ThermoPop instant-read thermometer to your grilling arsenal. In our tests, the ThermoPop was quick at reading temperatures, and very accurate. The easy-to-read display is backlit with digits that automatically rotate in four directions depending on the thermometer’s orientation, so it’s convenient to read at almost any angle. The ThermoPop also has a generous reading range (–58 to 572 °F) and a splash-proof body. It can switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius at the push of a button, too. Although the ThermoPop wasn’t the fastest thermometer we tested—we’re talking a difference of just a few seconds—it covers all the basics for home cooks at an affordable price.
If you want the fastest instant-read thermometer, one beloved by the pros, we recommend getting the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4. Like the ThermoPop, the Thermapen has a reading range of -58 to 572 °F and a backlit, rotating digital screen; it also comes with a two-year warranty. The Thermapen, however, is unmatched due to its unparalleled accuracy and waterproof casing. Barbecue and grilling expert Rick Browne, creator, host, and executive producer of PBS’s Barbecue America television series, told us that 50 teams were present at the last barbecue competition he attended, and “48 of them used a Thermapen, or another device just like a Thermapen.” Browne continued, “It’s almost universal. Nobody used any other kind of thermometers.”
Since it’s significantly more expensive than our main pick, the Thermapen is best for grilling and cooking enthusiasts. For more recommendations, see our full guide to instant-read thermometers.
While not absolutely essential, these accessories are nice to have.
Whether you’re grilling chicken pieces or multiple racks of ribs, a basting brush that can generously apply barbecue sauce without deteriorating over high heat is a necessary tool for the job. After testing four models, we recommend the OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Basting Brush. The silicone bristles on the OXO brush are heat resistant to 600 °F, so they won’t melt or leave stray bristles on your food (as most natural-fiber pastry brushes will). The brush is also dishwasher safe.
The brush has two types of bristles: silicone outer bristles, and a set of flat perforated bristles in the core of the brush. Between them, in our tests they held enough sauce that we didn’t have to continuously reapply. The full bristle set on the OXO brush had just the right amount of flexibility—neither too stiff nor too wobbly—for creating a smooth, even layer of barbecue sauce over the surface of the meat. Among all the silicone brushes we considered, we didn’t find any others with this kind of combination-bristle design.
Though the handle was shorter than those of some other brushes we tested, we found that it still provided enough distance from the grill to keep our hands safe. Also, the slight bend at the base of the large OXO handle provided a convenient angle for scooping generous amounts of sauce and easy basting.
If you prefer a brush with a longer handle, we also recommend the Le Creuset Revolution Basting Brush. In our tests, the bristles of the Le Creuset brush held a good amount of barbecue sauce and created an even coating over the meat. The removable silicone head is heat resistant up to 480 °F (compared with our main pick’s resistance of up to 600 °F) and dishwasher safe. If you care about the aesthetics of your grill tools, we think the Le Creuset brush is nicer looking than the OXO, due to its wooden handle and silicone bristles, which come in a variety of colors (six in all).
We also tested Elizabeth Karmel’s Super Silicone Angled BBQ Basting Brush, which had an extreme angle to the handle that made it difficult for us to control the application of sauce. The long handle was also awkward to hold. The small OXO Good Grips Silicone Basting Brush has a shorter handle than our main pick and brought our hands too close to the high heat of the grill.
We think the best option for cooking diced vegetables on the grill is using the affordably priced Grillaholics Grill Basket. The grape tomatoes, diced zucchini, and eggplant we cooked in the Grillaholics basket had better color and developed more flavor than the vegetables we tried with the competition. The larger perforations on this basket offer better heat and air circulation and allow the vegetables to have more contact with the grill grate.
In our tests, the less contact that vegetables had with the grill, the more they steamed. Over time, we think the stainless steel Grillaholics basket will stand up to the the rigors of high-heat grilling better than the nonstick Williams-Sonoma pan we tested. Since the Grillaholics basket is dishwasher safe, it’s also easier to clean. Additionally, we liked the curved handles on the Grillaholics basket, which made it easier for us to move the pan around the grill using tongs.
If our main pick isn’t available, we also recommend the comparably priced Cave Tools Vegetable Grill Basket. This model is nearly identical to our top pick, and it performed similarly in our tests, but since its perforations are narrower, it doesn’t offer quite as much contact with the grill grate.
In addition to the baskets, we tested the Williams-Sonoma High-Heat Nonstick Steel Grill Fry Pan. Aside from being expensive (it’s about $10 more than our top pick), we found that its small perforations permitted only minimal contact with the grill grate, providing less color and flavor. We found that its detachable handle wasn’t very useful and took up more space on the grill than necessary. Also, since the Williams-Sonoma grill pan has a nonstick coating, you can’t use metal grill tools with it or put it in the dishwasher.
The experts we spoke with recommended an instant-read thermometer over a probe thermometer: Instant-read models are faster, and without exposed cables that deteriorate in heat, they last longer. But if you prefer a probe thermometer—the advantage is that it remains in the meat, so you can monitor the temperature as the meat cooks without having to open the grill lid—we recommend the ThermoWorks Dot. In our tests, the Dot probe thermometer was the fastest and most accurate at reading temperatures. Its simple design and straightforward controls made it easier to use than the competition. Also, we liked the strong magnet on the back of the unit that kept it securely attached to the side of a grill.
The probe has a temperature range of -58 to 572 °F and a cable that’s heat resistant to 700 °F, considerably higher than the 400 °F resistance that other models offer. Since it can withstand higher temperatures, the Dot can also monitor the ambient temperature of grills and smokers (ThermoWorks sells affordably priced grate clips and air probes separately). If you’re looking for probe thermometers with more features (such as timers, backlit screens, and volume adjustment), you might also consider the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm and the ThermoWorks Smoke. Keep an eye out for our full guide to probe thermometers coming soon.
Barbecue experts agree that the best way to protect hands from heat while grilling is to use a set of suede or split-leather welding gloves. After four years, we still think the US Forge 400 Welding Gloves are the best for blocking a grill’s searing heat. Made of thick heat- and liquid-resistant split leather, they offer better protection than Nomex or silicone gloves—or standard kitchen oven mitts—against contact with hot metal, steaming-hot barbecue sauce, and other extreme heat. After using and abusing these gloves with high heat and dirty grill parts, and washing them under a tap with dish soap for close to four years, we feel comfortable in saying that if you use them like a responsible, reasonable individual, they will keep you safe. And priced around $10, they’re a steal.
A thick top-grain leather exterior, a soft cotton interior, and durable lock-stitching will help these gloves stand up to years of abuse. They’re also fire resistant and comfortable. The cotton liner provides some additional heat protection, guards your hands against the glove’s stitching, and helps to wick away sweat. While any number of welding gloves offer similar features, we didn’t find any that were as inexpensive and widely available through Amazon and welding speciality shops as the US Forge gloves.
“I think silicone is guaranteed up to 500 or 550 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Steven Raichlen, author and founder of Barbeque University. “But typically when you’re direct grilling, or if you’re heating something on the grill, you’re going to be up above 600 to 700 degrees. So for me, I never trust the silicone. For me, I like welder’s gloves or suede gloves.”
As for cleaning suede or leather grilling gloves, Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com offered us some tips: Wash them with soap and water, or simply wait for them to dry and then brush dried grease and sauces off them.
It’s important to remember that these gloves are heat resistant, not heatproof. Don’t think that you can plunge your hands into a glowing coal bed or hold scorching-hot metal without feeling heat. Grilling gloves protect your hands from ambient heat while you’re working in the firebox and dumping hot coals from a chimney starter.
Other gloves we tested included the Weber 6472 Barbecue Mitt, Weber 6669 Premium Barbecue Glove Set, San Jamar Kool-Tek Conventional Oven Mitt, and ‘Ove’ Glove Hot Surface Handler. None of these are as heat resistant as our pick. Plus, mitts limit dexterity, and woven-fiber gloves let liquids penetrate, which can hamper their thermal protection.
Not as impressive: Replacement grill grates
We also tested GrillGrates on both charcoal and gas grills. Though they are hugely popular with professionals and grilling enthusiasts, we were less impressed. GrillGrates, which consist of anodized aluminum plates that link together in sections and rest on the existing grates or grate holders, are available to fit most common grill brands. They claim to deliver a better sear and higher heat than the grill manufacturers’ grates, while also eliminating flare-ups. But in our tests, we found that they blocked a lot of the heat source due to their mostly solid design. Steaks we cooked on GrillGrates were seared only where the meat made contact with the grate, leaving the rest of the surface pale, and asparagus spears barely showed any grill marks at all. And while the GrillGrates did manage to eliminate any chance of a flare-up, we’d rather have more contact with the high ambient heat from the firebox to get the browned crust and crispy, rendered fat cap we look for in a grilled steak, or the nicely charred surface that makes for great grilled veggies.
And one last totally indulgent luxury item
The popularity of the Weber kettle has invited a lot of third-party innovations—essentially, ways to “hack your Weber” to add even more versatility. One such item is hardly a necessity, but we can see why it’s a favorite among charcoal enthusiasts.
The Slow ’N Sear Plus turns any 22-inch kettle grill into a more capable and versatile smoker, and makes indirect cooking and high-heat searing simple. This half-moon charcoal basket, which has an integral reservoir that holds 1 quart of water, fits flush against the side of the grill, so it’s easily accessible from the hinged cooking grate. We tested the Slow ’N Sear Plus using “fast” and “slow” indirect-cooking and smoking methods, and we also blackened vegetables for salsa over direct heat (sear). You can find other, less expensive charcoal baskets, but none we researched offered the range of functionality of the Slow ’N Sear Plus, which Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn—one of the leading voices in professional grilling—calls “the single best accessory for the Weber kettle ever.”
We used the Slow ’N Sear Plus several different ways in our tests. First, we did the “fast” method for baby back ribs. We filled the basket with hot coals from the chimney starter, topped with peach-wood chunks, and filled the reservoir with water. During the three-hour cook, we added hot coals once around the 1½-hour mark to maintain a temperature of roughly 325 °F. The resulting baby back ribs were smoky, juicy, and tender.
For the second test, we tried the “low and slow” method on St. Louis–style ribs. Instead of filling the Slow ’N Sear Plus with hot coals, we lit a dozen briquets on one end of the basket. Once they were ashed over, we filled the rest of the basket with unlit coals, topped with peach-wood chunks, and added water to the reservoir. Throughout cooking, the coals and wood smoldered like a cigar, from one end to the other. After four hours at 275 °F, the St. Louis ribs were juicy, with delicious, lightly charred bits on the ends.
Then we turned to high-heat cooking—the “sear” part of the Slow ’N Sear Plus. Fire-roasted salsa usually involves blackening vegetables in a screaming-hot cast-iron skillet under your oven’s broiler. We wanted to see if we could get similar (or better) flavor and texture on the grill using the Slow ’N Sear Plus. We charred tomatoes and onions directly over freshly lit, red-hot coals, and put a foil pack of garlic and oil off to the side in the indirect zone. After charring, we moved the vegetables to a metal sizzle plate in the indirect zone to cook with the grill covered for 20 minutes. We then whirred everything in a Vitamix (with a large handful of fresh cilantro and salt to taste). The result was some of the best salsa we’ve ever made, without turning the kitchen into a sweatbox with a hot oven.
If you want a simple way to add brilliant smoking and searing ability to your kettle grill, it’s an investment worth considering.
The Slow ’N Sear Plus is also good for “reverse searing,” or as Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com calls it, “sear in the rear.” Ideal for thick steaks, this method involves cooking the meat indirect until the internal temperature is 15 degrees below your target, and then searing directly over the hot coals to get a crisp crust.
At $115, the Slow ’N Sear Plus isn’t a small-ticket item. But if you want a simple way to add brilliant smoking and searing ability to your kettle grill, it’s an investment worth considering. Less-expensive, less-controllable, and less-versatile options, such as Weber’s plain grill baskets, exist—heck, as Sam Sifton of The New York Times quipped, you can just “use three bricks” to corral the coals if you’re doing only indirect cooking (they cost about 60¢ apiece). The Slow ’N Sear Plus offers deft heat control from the lowest to the highest temperatures, the utility of a water reservoir, lengthy set-it-and-forget-it cook times on a single load of coal, and dead-simple setup and cleanup. If you’re a regular griller/smoker or plan to be one, these qualities may justify the expense.
1. The material on the OXO tongs is actually thermoplastic elastomer (a mix of plastic and rubber), but point taken. Jump back.