All About Grill and Barbecue Utensils

barbecue utensils The right barbecue utensils can make your fun at the grill even easier and more fun. Trying to cook with inferior or inappropriate grill utensils can be frustrating and even lead to burns, damaged food and even food dropped on the floor! Don't fool yourself thinking you can cook a chicken on the grill with standard forks or basting brushes. You'll burn your hands, sear the hair off your arm and likely have a very hard time getting your roast on and off the grill.

Make your job (or play, depending on how you look at it) easier with barbecue utensils designed specifically for grilling. Here is an overview of some of the basic utensils every grill-master should have. I've tried to give pointers on which are best for various grilling jobs and how they can make your grilling easier. You could make it easy and buy a grill utensils kit from here!

  • Tongs - A good pair of sturdy barbecue tongs is probably my personal favorite and most versatile of barbecue utensils. With a little practice you can use your tongs to add and remove food from your grill, move things on your grill and flip them. You want to make sure you have a sturdy pair that closes well. If they scissor at all you'll get frustrated and drop food! A tongs is not perfect for everything though. For fish and other more delicate or thin foods, other grill utensils may benefit you. Read on!
  • Spatula - A spatula is perfect for carefully lifting food on the grill to flip or remove. While a tongs is fine for this for larger, hearty cuts of meat like steaks, chicken and roasts, a spatula really shines for thinner and more delicate grilled foods. For example, fish meat tends to flake and break apart easily once cooked. Try grabbing a fish fillet, skin or not, with a tongs and you'll shred it! The same may be true for some softer vegetables. A spatula allows you to gently slide beneath your food and lift it away from the grill. This can also be useful for food that is somewhat stuck to the grill, gently scoot this barbecue utensil under the food to free it gently. Pulling from above with a tongs could lead to tearing.
  • Fork - Alone, I use my barbecue fork the least often of grill utensils. However, paired with other barbecue utensils, like a tongs, in one hand (your dominant hand) and a fork in the other, you have much better control in manipulating foods on your grill. Flipping or moving small foods and large awkwardly shaped meats (like a whole bird) is clumsy with only one hand. With the tongs and fork pairing you've got more control and can do what you want without dropping your food. I also use the fork to poke thick pieces of meat to test for doneness. The fluid from chicken or pork which is thoroughly cooked through should run clear when poked deeply with a large fork. It will be red or pink if it still needs time.
  • Basting Brush - I've said elsewhere that when cooking meats on a grill, particularly if you cooking for an extended period of time, such as a whole roast chicken over indirect heat, basting is critical to help keep your food moist and flavorful. It adds a nice caramelized glaze on the surface which is delicious! A basting brush is the best way to apply your basting liquid. There are a couple things to consider when buying a basting brush barbecue utensil:

    • Size: Do not use a standard kitchen basting brush as a grill utensil. They are generally very short and you will burn your hands and sear your knuckles trying to baste your roast thoroughly. Barbecue basting brushes are much longer, like your other barbecue utensils, allowing you to comfortably baste your food without charring yourself in the process!
    • Type: There is more than one type of barbecue basting brush. In general they are separated into two types. Standard brushes are made with fine hair, fiber or plastic bristles which are similar in size and appearance to a paintbrush. These are ideal for more thin, liquid basting mixtures, for example, basting with wine, vinegar, olive oil, etc. However, these get gummed up and don't spread heavy, thick sauces, like teriyaki and barbecue sauces, as well. There are now basting brushes specifically designed for this. They have fewer, thicker bristles, usually made from plastic or rubber. The larger, sparser and more flexible bristles easily pick up and spread thick sauces on your grilling foods.
    • Improvise!: It is okay, and actually beneficial in some cases, to improvise a basting brush! In particular, when cooking with whole fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and savory, I often make an herb brush out of whole branches of fresh herbs tied to a skewer or long handle. This allows you to baste your food with a natural, flavor-infusing mix of herbs, enhancing the flavors both by the basting mixture as well as by the herbs. You can see an example of this in action in my Fire Pit Rotisserie Roast Leg of Lamb Recipe!
  • Grill Cleaning Brush - When the grill party is over, you do have to clean up, unfortunately. Leaving caked-on, charred food bits on your grill grate will be harder to get off later and can corrode your grill faster. A grill cleaning brush is a barbecue utensil which makes clean-up easy. It quickly bushes off the grate, dislodging stuck food on all sides of the metal bars. One note to think about though is that most grill brushes are made with metal bristles. If your grill grate is porcelain-coated, metal bristles can damage the coating. Use a stiff natural brush in these cases to avoid scratching.

For information on other types of grill accessories, such as meat thermometers, smoker boxes, charcoal starters and more, go back to my Grill Accessories page.

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