This article is part of a product-testing series called Food52 Approved, a column where we thoroughly try, test, and review the kitchen and home products you’ve always wondered about. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
You won’t find a lot of reviews for grill tool sets out there. In fact, Wirecutter deliberately sidesteps them, noting they’re “usually of substandard quality and poorly designed.” (Usually.) J. Kenji López-Alt even once wrote at Serious Eats, “And please, don’t even think about buying those ‘grill kits.’ Not even as a gift.”
Challenge accepted! While these skeptics have a point—if you’re only looking for a new spatula or want to fully customize your grill getup, there’s no need to buy a set. (Also, you probably don’t need fillers like salt and pepper shakers and metal straws in a “complete” 30-piece set like this.) But there are plenty of moments in life when buying a tightly curated set might make the most sense, especially because you can find a one-and-done kit of very good quality.
Maybe you want a set that matches and stores away in a tidy case. Maybe your old tools corroded over the winter. Maybe you’re just getting into grilling or have a home with outdoor space for the first time.
Or, perhaps most often, you need a graduation, wedding, or housewarming gift for folks in any of these situations, and you want to know you’re getting them tools that will last and make their time at the grill relaxing and joyful. We’re here to help.
How We Tested
We tried out 13 sets (a total of 68 tools!), including the Food52 community’s favorites. We were looking for clever, easy-to-use designs that addressed our community’s main gripes: namely, handles that are either too short, too flimsy, or too bulky and tools that aren’t durable or entirely heat-proof.
All sets came with two essentials—tongs and spatulas—and some brought along additional forks, basting brushes, or other bells and whistles. Each set had to pass three major trials: maneuvering skinny asparagus (tongs), flipping burgers (spatulas), and flipping and basting a spatchcocked chicken (fork and tongs for flipping, brush for basting).
We are not a scientific lab, but we are a community of home cooks plus one obsessive researcher and food writer (hi). One more note: This happens to be a category the Food52 Shop is very well-stocked in, so there are a lot of winners from within our ranks.
From Our Shop
Best for All-Hours Grilling: Grillight Stainless Steel Grill Tools, 2-Piece Set, $25+
Includes: tongs and spatula
Pros: This set’s calling card is its brilliant built-in LED flashlight to help you see when your burger’s actually done, but the tools are impressively well-designed even beyond that. They’re lightweight and just the right length, and the tongs feature a one-handed, gravity-based locking mechanism so you don’t have to set down your platter (or your beer) to open them. They’re also dishwasher-safe once you remove the flashlight, and, if you forget to remove it before tossing it into a sink full of soapy water, no problem—the flashlight’s waterproof, too.
Cons: You do have to remember to remove the flashlight before sending them through the dishwasher.
Best Flashy Gift: Schmidt Brothers Carbon 6 Grill Tool Set, $119
Includes: tongs, spatula, fork, and basting brush
Pros: Buy this set if you want to feel the heft of sturdy, high-carbon stainless steel as you flip steaks and char eggplants—and look really good while doing it. The tongs have a similar smart one-handed locking mechanism to Grillight’s and deeper-than-average grooves for rescuing errant vegetables. The spatula is an ideal, wide (but still easy-to-maneuver) size. The fork is strong, sharp, and almost disturbingly satisfying to stab into large hunks of meat for turning. And the basting brush is, well, a basting brush, with an intriguing angled head. All tools have long, elegant handles for keeping a safe distance.
Cons: The set isn’t dishwasher-safe, save for the removable silicone basting brush head. And for grillers with small hands, the tools might be on the heavier or more awkward side. (Not a problem for me, a woman of relatively average hand size.)
Best Basic Set: OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Grilling Tool Set, $27
Includes: tongs, spatula, and tool rest
Pros: This community favorite is the least expensive of the lot, but it’s not lacking in thoughtful details. The tongs and spatula are lightweight, easy to maneuver, and come with a silicone tool rest that keeps your grill (and tools) cleaner and cleverly holds the tongs in a ready-to-grab position. The tongs also feature a handy bottle opener in a much tidier position than other sets, which put the bottle opener in the paddle of the spatula. The whole set is dishwasher-safe.
Cons: The tongs’ locking mechanism requires two hands and, at least on my set, took some force to lock and unlock, though the tong holder on the tool rest was an easy substitute. If you run into a similar issue that seems like a defect, OXO has a refund or replacement guarantee.
Best for Gadget-Heads: Dreamfarm BBQ Tool Collection, 4-Piece Set, $25+
Includes: tongs, spatula, basting brush, and magnetic tool hanger
Pros: If you love a why-has-no-one-done-this-before gadget, this is the set for you. The tongs (“Clongs”) have a unique click-lock mechanism you can easily tap against your hip or the grill with one hand. The flexible spatula (“Chopula”) has a serrated edge for slicing in to check for doneness (that isn’t so sharp it feels hazardous for an otherwise carefree evening, like some other sets). The basting brush (“Brizzle”) has a built-in reservoir for holding more glaze or marinade and curves to scrape the bowl clean. The whole set is dishwasher safe and features a handy kink in the handle to keep messy bits away from the surfaces you set them on.
Cons: The tongs don’t have as much spring tension as some others, so your hand might tire out holding them after a while. The magnetic tool hanger (with built-in bottle opener) didn’t stick to my aluminum grill so I wasn’t able to test it in the way it was intended.
Best Fully Loaded Set: Cuisinart 20-Piece Stainless Steel Grill Set, $70
Includes: tongs, spatula, basting brush, eight corn holders, five skewers, grill brush with replacement brush head, and digital temperature fork with LED light
Pros: Unlike tricked-out sets with more clutter than you really need, this one actually has extras that are likely to come in handy, like a grill-cleaning brush, skewers, and a fork with a built-in thermometer and light, especially if you don’t already have a digital thermometer (or don’t want to rush inside to find yours while your salmon’s in the hot seat). And they all pack away in a sleek, handled carrying case so you’re less likely to lose them between seasons.
Cons: It’s unclear if this set is dishwasher-safe—I don’t see why the all-stainless steel pieces wouldn’t be (though definitely not the digital thermo-fork). The tongs’ locking mechanism requires two hands, but they open and close smoothly and were otherwise some of my favorites. The spatula’s angle is a bit shallower than others, putting your hands closer to the heat. The built-in bottle opener is located on the paddle, the messiest part of the spatula, but in a pinch, you probably won’t mind.
From Our Shop