BBQ accessories like a meat thermometer or an instant-read thermometer, heavy-duty barbeque gloves, a boning knife, and tongs are some of the most essential tools in a pitmaster's arsenal.
I have been using these tools to prepare and host weekly family barbecues for the last ten years. One thing I've learned is that the tools you employ must be easy to use and help you execute a task as efficiently as possible.
There are many accessories in the market advertised as must-haves. However, not all of them are essential. In this article, I will discuss the most common grilling accessories you will find and how they make your grilling and smoking experience better. Let’s get to it:
A few attempts at grilling will give you an idea of what you need to add to your grilling tool kit, however, the opposite is also true. You could end up overspending on a bunch of things you end up not using. Let's begin with the absolute essentials.
The key to slow and long meat smoking is maintaining a low temperature. Anything that can keep the temperature range constant for around eight hours of cooking time, is worth buying right?
For this reason, a meat thermometer or an instant-read meat thermometer should be the first tool on your list.
The major difference between the two is that a meat thermometer is designed to remain inserted in the meat throughout the cooking session while an instant-read thermometer allows you to take instant temperature readings.
Both options help you maintain a consistent temperature when smoking food, so the choice comes down to personal preference.
My top recommendation would be the ThermoPro Wireless Meat Thermometer which has an accuracy of +/- 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
It also comes with a Bluetooth connectivity range of 500 feet and two meat probes allowing you to get real-time readings and monitor your meat from just about any point in your home that’s within this range. You can also program an alarm on this thermometer to alert you when your meat is done.
A simple digital meat thermometer may seem insignificant. However, until you have smoked brisket to perfection by maintaining a steady low temperature for ten hours straight, you don't know what you're missing!
If you need a bigger range, check out the ThermoPro TP930 Wireless Meat Thermometer which has a range of up to 650 feet and four meat probes.
When I barbecue, I prefer to prepare the meat myself, instead of having it done at the butcher shop. Even if your meat comes ready to cook, you will find that you have some trimming to do and fewer things are as frustrating as a knife that won't cooperate.
The best cutting tool for meat is a narrow, curved, and viciously sharp boning knife. I recommend the Victorinox 6-inch Curved boning knife which cuts through meat and fat like hot cheese. The Mercer Culinary 6-inch Boning Knife is also an excellent choice.
Aluminum foil or butcher paper is another accessory you can't do without. You will need it to line the drip tray to collect that delicious gravy, wrap your meat in a Texas Crutch to keep the meat moist or wrap meat leftovers for storage.
For barbecue purposes, the strength of regular aluminum foil is too weak to get the job done. It tears easily and may not stand up to the heat involved in smoking meat for long hours. Get heavy-duty aluminum foil or pink butcher paper instead. It is a worthwhile investment.
A quality butcher's block is one accessory you don't want to overlook. It comes in handy when rubbing spice over your ribs, pulling pork, trimming a brisket, de-boning a pork shoulder, filleting your fish, or carving your done barbecue. In these instances, you will appreciate having a strong, sturdy, large cutting board.
A butcher's block will save you from excess spillage and make cleaning up a breeze. I use Bamboo Cutting Board. It's large enough to hold a whole turkey and has a ridge running all around the edges that traps runoff juices. A similar good quality option to consider is Home Hero X Butcher Block. It comes with a knife, sharpener, and cleaning brush.
Having a reliable pair of barbecue gloves will keep your hands safe when handling hot equipment and replenishing your fuel. Barbecue gloves come in different colors, sizes, and fabrics so there are a few things you should consider when selecting a pair.
There are several materials used to make the outer side of barbecue gloves. Namely, leather, silicone, neoprene, and fabric. Typically the inner material is made of cotton or polyester.
Barbecue gloves should be easy to clean, resistant to high temperatures, and affordable.
I recommend gloves made of neoprene or nitrile on the outside to best protect your hands from the heat.
Thicker gloves will offer more protection from heat compared to thinner gloves. For this reason, most manufacturers will list the heat resistance level of their gloves. Some are good for up to 400°F while others can get to 1000°F undamaged.
The easiest way to decide which one will serve you best is to consider the maximum temp of your smoker. Some smokers offer a maximum temperature of 500°F while others can get to 650°F and above.
Don't forget to check the sleeve length. Most times when working the grill, even your cuffs get exposed to heat, so err on the side of caution by going for long sleeves that conform around the cuff.
BBQ gloves come into contact with a great deal of grease, sauces, marinades, meat juices, and fuel. With this in mind, go for gloves that are easy to clean.
Fabric gloves tend to soak up a lot of fluids and can easily get stained. Fabric gloves will demand regular, thorough cleaning.
I recommend silicone, nitrile, or neoprene as the outer layer because all you have to do is run them under your faucet after grilling.
The last thing you need in your BBQ kit is a pair of gloves that are too tight to allow you to handle tongs or comfortably flip your brisket. Similarly, if your gloves keep coming off, they are more of a hazard that can leave you with burnt hands.
The perfect pair of gloves will fit snugly on your hands while giving your hands freedom of motion. I use Nechtik BBQ Nitrile Gloves and so far have no complaints. If you prefer disposable grill gloves, Oklahoma Joe's Disposable BBQ Gloves are a solid choice.
Grilling can get messy, which is why you should don an apron. It protects your clothes from smoke grease, fluids, dirt, food splatter, and burns. The best apron for grilling is canvas. Some are waxed while others are not. Waxed canvas aprons are easy to clean, often requiring a quick wipe with warm, soapy water.
Waxed canvas aprons are also far less flammable compared to regular aprons. I am partial to my AFUN Chef's Apron because it has multiple pockets that hold my phone, kitchen cloth, and headphones without getting too bulky.
If this is not to your liking, Tobyan No-Tie Canvas Apron is another stylish, functional option.
If you're a fan of marinades and wet rubs, a basting brush is a handy tool. It's ideal for smaller cuts of meat like pork chops, chicken breasts, and turkey legs.
A basting brush will get you that even, scrumptious-looking finish on your meat's crust. There are several types of basting brushes made for different types of cooking. Some are great for pastries while others are built for the grill.
Grilling brushes usually feature a larger handle and are made of heat-resistant material like silicone. When purchasing a basting brush, get one that is easy to clean and has a sufficient volume of bristles to soak up a good amount of sauce.
I recently acquired the Le Creuset Silicone Craft Series basting brush and so far, I love it. One feature I appreciate is the removable head which is dishwasher-safe.
You're probably wondering why you need a mop when you already have a brush. Well, a brush works well on smaller meat cuts and with thinner sauces like tomato-based marinades.
However, a basting mop will help you cover more ground when you're working on bigger cuts of meat like pork shoulder and whole turkey and with thicker sauces such as honey or maple-based rubs. A good option is Miso 18'' Grill Basting Mop. It has a removable mop head and comes with four extra replacement mop heads.
A grilling spatula is an essential part of a pitmaster's toolkit. For starters, it's great for flipping burgers, vegetables, and pizza. Secondly, how else are you going to get under delicate foods like fish without tearing into them?
The best spatula for your smoking needs should have a long handle to keep your fingers protected from the heat and have a sizeable base that can handle different sizes of meat. Again, when purchasing a spatula, consider the size of your grill. A long spatula on a small grill will be more trouble than it's worth.
For larger grills, a spatula like Broil King 64010 Supper Flipper is exactly what you need. Its base is made of stainless steel which is very easy to clean. The handle is made of residue resin that doesn't heat up quickly and is fitted with a bottle opener, so you can enjoy a cold beer without sacrificing your teeth or the edge of the table.
For smaller grills, try a smaller spatula. I recommend Cuisinart CIT 702 grill spatula.
You need a good pair of tongs when you're manning the grill. The tongs allow you to position your meat just right and achieve evenly-smoked corners on your barbecue. They give you a solid grip on your steak when searing over high heat, when positioning sausages, and flipping bacon strips.
Tongs specifically tailored for grilling are long enough to protect your arm from heat and have a serrated design to grip food better than other cutlery.
I use Grillhogs 16'' Barbecue Tongs. They are made of stainless steel which is easy to clean and have a silicone grip that makes the handle heat-resistant. Understandably, this pair might be too long for small smokers, so if that is the case, try OXO Good Grips 12'' Locking Tongs.
If you like the smokey taste of charcoal-smoked food, you need to get a chimney starter. Gone are the days of waiting when cooking with heated charcoal. With a chimney starter, getting your fuel up and running takes only a few minutes.
Chimney starters vary in material, size, and ventilation. The right charcoal chimney for your smoking largely depends on how big your cooker is and the type of fuel you prefer.
For smaller smokers like kettle grills and Kamado grills, don't go for a large charcoal starter. Similarly, if you mostly use briquettes, a smaller chimney starter will serve you better. Briquettes are smaller and easily stackable. The same cannot be said for lump charcoal and wood chips.
Also, ensure that the chimney starter has enough evenly-spaced holes to allow for better ventilation. If you're shopping for one, consider the Weber Rapid-fire Chimney Starter or Kingsford Heavy Duty Charcoal Chimney.
A pellet smoker tube is an essential accessory, especially for those of us who love a deep smoke flavor on our barbecues. Whether you're working with a charcoal or gas grill, utilizing a pellet tube can up your grilling game by creating a heavy smoke that will smother and penetrate your meat. It creates an unmatched, aromatic experience.
Pellet tubes come in various sizes and shapes, so you have to take into account your grill setup before buying one. I use Kona Wood Pellet Smoker Tube because I typically smoke meat for around 7-8 hours. If you're working with a smaller grill, consider LIZZQ Pellet Smoker Tube which yields around 5 hours of smoke and is very easy to position.
Whether you only barbecue during Thanksgiving or are a die-hard enthusiast, it's essential to clean your grill grates after every smoking session. This will prevent built-up gunk, contributing to the longevity of your smoking gear.
Cleaning can be a bummer especially, after enjoying a BBQ, so invest in a grill brush that will make it easier. A great brush for your grill should have flexible bristles that can get into every nook and cranny without chipping your grates.
The main issue I have with wire grill bristles is that once the bristles get loose, they could end up in your barbecue. For this reason, my top picks are the Kona Safe Grill Brush because it has no bristles. If you want to have bristles, consider the Grillart Grill Brush and Scrapper which features three rows of bristles and an integrated scrapper for a thorough cleanse.
A grill basket is a metal pan that's perforated on all sides to let in smoke, while keeping small pieces of food from falling into the flames.
Most grill baskets look like cake pans. Some are like mesh baskets made of metal, and others have a closed lid top that you can clamp up. These are especially useful when you need to flip fish or vegetables without breaking them.
The Weber Deluxe grill basket is an ideal option for vegetables. I find Cuisinart CQM-195 Quesadilla Grilling Basket ideal for fish and small meat cuts. It has a large capacity and a long handle that I can flip with ease. Both are made of stainless steel which is not hard to clean.
The humble rib rack is a simple tool that can supercharge the number of ribs you can smoke, regardless of the size of the smoker.
Rib racks hold your ribs upright to help them cook evenly. Like many accessories, rib racks come in many designs, and shapes. They are made of different materials but they all work the same. I recommend stainless steel rib racks since they are an easy clean.
I am partial to UNCO Rib Rack because it's what I normally use, and so far so good. You can use this rack on a pellet and charcoal grill. A great rib rack for a Big Green Egg and Kamado grill is an 18'' BBQ Rib Rack because of its concave shape that resembles that of kettle grills.
This class of BBQ accessories should not put a strain on your budget just yet. They are not necessary but go a long way in improving your grilling life. Think of them as add-ons that you can acquire one by one:
Ditch the fork with the next smoked pork belly and use meat claws. Sure, the classic fork works but meat claws are more efficient for yielding evenly pulled pork. Other than for shredding meat, bear claws are also used to lift heavy meat cuts like whole turkey and brisket.
If you're excited about the idea of this accessory, check out Cave Tools Meat Claws. They are dishwasher-safe and designed to be very precise. They also feature non-slip handles that can withstand heavy lifting.
If you don't fancy this design, consider 1Easylife Metal Meat Shredder Claws. These babies are heat-resistant up to 1112°F with beautiful oak handles designed for comfort. The blades are made of stainless-steel so cleaning them should be a breeze.
In the absence of a charcoal starter and lighter fluid, fire starter cubes are the next great option to get your grill fired up and ready to go in a jiffy. The best fire starter cubes should be non-toxic, odorless, and smokeless.
I love pizza and as such, I must advocate for a pizza baking stone. A preheated pizza stone jolts the pizza dough with a burst of warmth making it puffy, which yields a delicious crispy crust that is not a challenge to the teeth.
They are made of materials that absorb and radiate heat like ceramic, cast iron, cordierite, or clay. This means that the pizza gets evenly cooked all through the sides and the bottom.
I sprung for the Cuisinart CPS-445 3-Piece Pizza Grilling Set because it came with a stainless steel pizza peel and a cutter. Who doesn't love a good deal? An equally good but more expensive pizza stone is Weber Gourmet BBQ System Pizza Stone.
A smoker cover will do you a solid when it's raining or snowing. The elements aside, grill covers protect your appliance from dust, pollen, bird droppings, and tree sap, keeping it in tip-top condition.
With most smokers, the smoker cover is sold separately. Unfortunately, it will be priced higher compared to other covers online.
The grill cover you pick should fit your smoker like a glove and be made of a protective material that can stand up to the elements. This is why I recommend SunPatio Waterproof Grill Cover which is compatible with most kettle grills.
For a charcoal grill, try Comnova Grill Cover. When in doubt about the size, purchase the cover made specifically for your grill model from the manufacturer.
Skewers are the only way to thread cubes of meat, veggies, and fruits before placing them on the grill to make delicious kebabs. There are metal and wooden skewers each with its pros and cons.
Wooden skewers are not reusable so expect to spend on them. On the other hand, they make the cleaning job easier. Metal skewers are a hazard, especially around kids and pets, but they are reusable. If you regularly need skewers, metal is the way to go. That said, the choice is entirely yours.
If you fancy wooden skewers, Weber 6608 Original Bamboo Skewers are very affordable and sturdy.
If you prefer metal skewers, take a look at Grillart Kabob Skewers. They are 17" long which gives you sufficient space for many kabob pieces and have a slider that serves to uniformly remove the food from the skewers. These skewers are made of stainless-steel, making them rust-resistant and easy to clean.
Smoking a rack of ribs is a wonderful way to spend the night with friends and family.
It really sets the mood. While you could turn on a flashlight, it will only provide you with a beam of light and give you an extra item to juggle.
Turning on the lights will illuminate your barbecue area but having light directly on the grill will give you the best visibility. Grill lights are especially helpful when you're out camping, fishing, tailgating, or even when the lights go out.
I recommend the Permasteel PA-12002-AM grill light for three reasons. It has a gooseneck that makes it flexible enough to adjust at will, and it fits most grills. Additionally, these grill lights have a magnetic base that allows you to place them safely on the grill.
If this model caught your eye, you should also consider IMAGE Ultra-Bright Bbq Grill light because they share similar features.
Now that you have your list of barbecue essentials, let's address why should have them. It boils down to 5 reasons: They are:
Safety first! Many smoker accessories serve as a buffer between the pitmaster and the fire. Such accessories are tongs, aprons, spatulas, and barbecue gloves.
Some grill accessories are simply geared toward achieving convenience. They are not necessary but it sure does feel like it. They include a pizza stone, grill lights, and meat claws.
The inescapable clean-up job is the dreadful part about smoking meat. Nonetheless, with the right accessories, it can be simple and quite satisfying. Barbecue accessories that make this possible include a canvas apron, a grill brush, a butcher's block, and pink butcher paper or aluminum foil.
These grill accessories introduce order to your workspace simply by maximizing it, which increases your efficiency. Great examples include a basting mop, basting brush, rib rack, grill basket, and grill lights.
Some of the most important grilling tools like meat probes and digital thermometers provide precision that makes the monitoring and control of internal temperature easier.
Smoker accessories can be sectioned into two: absolute essentials and add-ons. The ones you need are tools that will make your barbecue life easier and more enjoyable.
What about grilling meat regularly intimidates you? Is it the cleaning, risk of injury, or lack of prowess? Whatever it is, the right combination of grill accessories is the confidence boost you need to turn it around and live your best grilling life.