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 like a brine on the outside of the meat.”
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 sticks with a 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 that ensures your hand won’t get too close to the fire.
With a silicone handle, a big grip on one side and a smaller grip on the other, these heavy-duty tongs will allow you to reach the back of the grill with no problem (or burns).
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.
We named this the best meat thermometer of the year because it was the fastest and most accurate thermometer we tested, and had the easiest-to-read display.
You won’t need to worry about under- or overcooked meats with this instant-read thermometer, which has an antimicrobial casing to prevent the growth of bacteria, an important feature for professional and home chefs alike.
This professional-quality thermometer tells temperature within 0.9 degrees and has a rotating probe to allow access to all areas of cooking meat, making it a kitchen staple for these chefs.
This tool 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.”
According to our chefs, charcoal burns hotter and drier than propane, producing a better char and a more savory crust.
This starter, with 5-pound capacity, features a wood handle and heat shield to protect your hands from the heat.
We love this starter for one simple reason — it collapses. If you’re short on space and want a reliable starter for your charcoal grill, this is the one for you.
This charcoal chimney has a trigger that releases the charcoal out from the bottom so you can quickly and easily get grilling.
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.
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.”
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.”
Knowing how to clean your grill can be tough, but this cleaning block, with its pumice-like texture, can get your grill clean in no time.
Another grill scrubbing block made from recycled materials, this kit comes with two blocks and a handle for easy cleaning.
This Kona brush is our top pick for best grill brush. It’s bristle-free so you won’t get metal bristles falling into your grill when cleaning. Plus, it’s got a long handle and a sturdy build so it’ll last for years.
Slim, light and completely portable, this is a grill you can use indoors or outdoors once the weather is nice enough.
Basic but mighty, this charcoal grill can hold up to 13 burgers at a time.
If gas is more your speed, this three-burner pick has two shelves and porcelain cooking grates that are super easy to clean.
With a built-in thermometer, foldable grate and detachable ash catcher, you’ll have everything you need to step up your grilling game this summer.