Two of South Carolina's best pit masters share their essential grilling tools


There's nothing like moving your kitchen outside to put the joy back in cooking, and to get the most out of your outdoor grill, you need the right tools. The best grilling tools are primarily made from stainless steel and are designed to suit your individual cooking style.

Although I'm always the grill master at my own barbecues and cookouts, I decided to reach out to some professionals to learn more about what actual pit masters use when they grill. I spoke with two experts in Carolina-style barbecue: Tiger O'Rourke of Henry's Smokehouse and Sarah Nelson, co-owner of Bobby's BBQ.

When it comes to grilling tools, both experts are firm in their belief that stainless steel is usually the best choice in terms of material, since it's rust-resistant, can withstand high temperatures, and is easy to clean.

"Stainless steel tools are my favorite. They seem to last forever, and if they happen to get any rust on them, you can scrub them with some steel wool and they are like new again," advises Nelson.

While few grilling tools are made entirely from stainless steel, look for those that are made primarily from it — especially the parts that will be touching either your food or the surface of your grill. In certain cases, cast iron is also a good choice, especially for grill presses.

Both chefs agree that a thermometer and a good pair of tongs are two of the most important tools in any grill master's kit.

"Tongs obviously are great for flipping and moving food around. Thermometer to make sure food is at the proper temperature," notes O'Rourke.

If you like to grill over charcoal, Nelson insists that a quality charcoal chimney starter is another must-have item: "It’s much easier than trying to use a fire starter or lighter fluid, which can leave a nasty taste on your food. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration with a chimney starter!"

Below, I've rounded up 11 of the best grilling tools you can buy on Amazon, whether you're a professional chef or an enthusiastic home cook. Instead of choosing a bunch of sets, I've zeroed in on the best individual pieces so you can build your own grill kit, though there's also a well-reviewed 20-piece option for those who prefer to buy all of their essentials at once.

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.

1. The charcoal chimney starter

An essential item for anyone who uses a charcoal grill, this Weber charcoal chimney starter has a compact design that's easy to use. In fact, it's the one I've used for the past four years, and now I can't imagine grilling without it. It's made from durable steel with an ergonomic handle, and it gets charcoal ready to cook over in around 15 minutes. Because it is on the smaller side, it's best for smaller grills, or low and slow cooking styles that require you to replenish your charcoal often.

One reviewer wrote: "This is the perfect chimney for lighting a small [number] of briquettes for those low and slow cooks...One full chimney equates to almost exactly 40 briquettes [...] I see myself using this new compact version a LOT more than the full size."

2. The stainless steel tongs

A good pair of stainless steel tongs is another essential tool, since you'll want to be able to move your food around on the grill to hit different heat zones. These Weber tongs have a near-perfect overall rating of 4.8 stars from Amazon shoppers, with many commenting that the tongs are durable, easy to clean, and easy to hold. They have soft-touch handles that won't get too hot, and the design of the tongs makes it simple to grip everything from steaks and burgers to corn on the cob. These tongs are also dishwasher-safe.

One reviewer wrote: "These things are beasts, and we love them! They can handle any bbq job you have. We have used them for 1.5 lb steaks, burgers, hot dogs, you name it. They are rather large compared to most tongs, but that's what makes them amazing. We love them!"

3. The high-end meat thermometer

If you want a deluxe meat thermometer with pro-level features, this is the one to get. It has a wireless, dual-probe design that lets you monitor your meat from as far as 300 feet away, and it comes programmed with a variety of USDA temperature presets. There's also a kitchen timer function and a large, easy-to-read LCD screen. This thermometer runs on AAA batteries, which are included, and the probes and wires can withstand temperatures of up to 716 degrees Fahrenheit. Note that it should not be run through the dishwasher.

One reviewer wrote: "This thermometer is great! I used it today to cook a brisket. I put one probe in the meat and the other in the smoker. Set the alarm to go off at 160 degrees and it worked perfectly. I love having the receiver in the house while it cooks outside. Great product."

4. The budget meat thermometer

This digital meat thermometer will give you all the critical features you need without any of the ones that are just nice-to-have, and at a $15 price point, it's perfect for most casual cooks. It has a wireless, auto-rotating design that's good for both right- and left-handed users, and the backlit LCD display is easy to read even in low light. It takes a single AAA battery, which is included, and can handle temperatures up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit. The probe should be hand-washed after use.

One reviewer wrote: "When one pulls out the probe, the ThermoPro turns on, it has a backlit display with large easy to read numbers. The background is orange, and the numbers are a very dark black. When you return the probe to its "home" position the ThermoPro turns off. BUT THE BEST FEATURE is that this thermometer is NEVER upside down. It knows top from bottom, and will always acclimate the display so it's upright for one to read. I don't remember the last time I was so happy with a product."

5. The grill brush

In order to make great-tasting food on your grill, you'll need a good grill brush to keep it clean. This bristle-free stainless steel grill brush has over 4,700 five-star ratings on Amazon, with many fans claiming that it's one of the best they've ever used. The unique, extra-rigid design is meant to be used on a pre-heated grill after being dipped in water, and it's sturdy enough to handle stuck-on food and char. Since it's made from stainless steel, you can also toss it in the dishwasher.

One reviewer wrote: "I bought this grill brush because America's Test Kitchen rated it the best. There are no bristles so it's safe, and it works REALLY well [...] they recommend wetting it frequently so the hot grill produces steam around the wire rings that for the cleaning surface and it does appear to make a difference. It's easy to use and gets the scale off the grill, too."

6. The meat turners

These Teppanyaki-style stainless steel spatulas can handle all of your grilling needs, and they come in a set of three with an additional stainless steel bench scraper. Their long, flat designs are perfect for turning and searing all kinds of proteins and vegetables, and since they come in three sizes, you'll find one that's perfect for every task. They have sturdy wooden handles, and nearly 2,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. This is the style of grill spatula I love to use, since it's a little more versatile and easy to handle than standard slotted versions.

One reviewer wrote: "They work the way they are supposed to. They are sturdy and do not bend while using. They clean up very easily. The three sizes meet any of your cooking or grilling needs. Highly recommend."

7. The basting brushes

This set of basting brushes is made from stainless steel, and it comes with two extra silicone brush heads in case one gets worn out from regular use. The handles are lightweight and easy to hold, and they have a ring at the end for convenient hanging. The set comes with both an 8-inch and a 12-inch brush, and all of the parts are dishwasher-safe.

One reviewer wrote: "Love them!!! Great that they go in the dishwasher and that there are additional brush tips as well. Having both the black and orange tips ensures I don’t mix things up while in the midst of cooking. It’s nice having two different handle lengths as well. I use the short one for flattop cooking and the longer one for basting in the oven. Great quality for a great price!"

8. The reusable skewers

A set of reusable stainless steel skewers is a must for anyone who likes to make kabobs or kofte, and this set is a fan-favorite on Amazon with over 2,300 five-star ratings. It comes with 10 16.8-inch skewers and two 14-inch skewers, as well as a carrying case and silicone tip protectors. The skewers have ergonomic handles with rings at the end and a flat design that's ideal for a wide variety of uses, and they're dishwasher-safe.

One reviewer wrote: "These are great. We had been using bamboo skewers but I was tired of throwing things away after years. They are sturdy and they go right in the dishwasher. I like that they come with rubber tips to keep them from stabbing people while they’re being stored, and the nylon bag they come in makes a great storage place while the skewers are in use."

9. The grill basket

A grill basket is a convenient tool for smaller items like shrimp or chicken wings as well as larger proteins like steaks or a spatchcocked chicken. This one is made from stainless steel with a 12.6-by-8.2-inch cooking surface that's great for most home cooks. It has a heat-resistant wooden handle and comes with a basting brush bottle and a grill mat. Since the handle is made from wood, it should be hand washed.

One reviewer wrote: "This grill basket allows us to not only grill fish, shrimp, lobster tail but we've used this for burgers, sliders, filet mignon, bacon wrapped chicken, a variety of vegetables and even were able to fit 2 steam bakes in this grill basket. Didn't have to worry about grabbing the foil wrapped food and having it collapse and spill into our grill. We've used this on propane and charcoal and with either barbecue, our food has come out amazing."

10. The cast iron grill press

If you want to get perfect grill marks and a good sear on all your grilled foods, a grill press is a solid investment. This cast iron press from Lodge comes pre-seasoned, so you can use it as soon as you get it, and it's perfect for everything from steaks and vegetables to making grilled cheese and bacon on your indoor stove. It has a spiral handle that stays cool to the touch and over 5,200 five-star ratings on Amazon. Since it's made from cast iron, it must be hand-washed.

One reviewer wrote: "Hamburgers, Steaks, Fish and Hot Dogs all come out better and cook more evenly with this. No more meat that balloons in the middle or fish that cooks unevenly. I don't know how I did without it."

11. The 20-piece set

If you want to get all of your basic tools in one shot, get this grilling tool set from Cuisinart. It comes with a spatula, tongs, grill brush, digital temperature fork, basting brush, grill brush, and sets of both corn holders and skewers — all in a sleek stainless steel carrying case. The tools are primarily made from stainless steel, and most of them are dishwasher-safe.

One reviewer wrote: "We use all the pieces and it is perfect for all our grilling needs. The quality is great and the hard storage case is a great way to keep everything together and pull out each time we grill. It would be a great gift for someone with a new grill or to have for yourself to have a complete grilling set."


Tiger O'Rourke, Henry's Smokehouse

Sarah Nelson, co-owner of Bobby's BBQ