They always say that you have to have the right tool to get the job done. While this is certainly true for barbecue & grilling, finding the right tool among the hoards of barbecue accessories can be a challenge. It seems that every idea, good or bad, finds it's way to the grill section of the store without anyone thinking about whether it's useful or not. I blame Father's Day. Every year thousands of people set out to get dad a gift. Not knowing what he'd really like they pick out a generous selection of grilling accessories. This leads to a market that has no idea what really works and little care to produce a good, usable product. Also these stores need to have new and interesting items every year to all those misinformed Father's Day shoppers.
It is for this reason that I have assembled a list of the grilling tools I think you really need. Of course what works for me might not work for you. I know an excellent backyard chef who gets by with a long wooden stick and a pair of ice clamps. So go with what works, not what's stylish and remember it should be simple, easy to use and comfortable both in you hand and on you pocket book.
Tongs: I like tongs. I have a pair of heavy iron tongs I use for moving coals, picking up hot grates and generally getting a hold of hot things I don't plan on eating. I also have a pair of stainless steel tongs that I use for flipping steaks, sausages and anything else the holds together well enough on the grill. These tongs are light weight, spring loaded and easy to squeeze
Spatula: Get a large bladed, bent handled spatula. You want something that you can get under foods easily and that is large enough to flip a fish fillet. You can find the cheap and small spatula practically everywhere, but you really owe it to yourself to get a good quality spatula that will work well and last you a good long time.
Skewers: There are a lot of skewers on the market these days. Just when I think that no one can come up with a new design, someone does. Aside from all the fancy handles, bent designs and artistic impressions there are basically two kinds of skewers you can choose from. Long metal skewers should have a flat blade design rather than the simple metal sticks. If the skewer is a long thin blade then food won't turn on the skewer when you try to flip things over. You can use a hot pad to pick these skewers up or you can buy the ones with heat resistant handles. Watch out for wooden handles because they tend to get burned up. The other skewer option is bamboo skewers. These are cheap and tend to come in packages of 50 or 100 and a variety of lengths. They may not be fancy like the metal ones but if you don't want to bother with cleaning they go with the bamboo.
Brushes: It's a good idea to have a couple of brushes on hand. You can buy these as pastry, basting or paintbrushes, you decide which is cheaper. Don't spend a lot on these because they don't tend to last even if you take goof care of them. You should have one brush dedicated to oiling surfaces. Using a brush to put a coat of oil over your cooking grate it a good way to go. The brush will get the oil over the surface of the grate quickly and easily. You need to keep this brush separate from other brushes, since you don't want to use this one for basting foods. In addition to you oiling brush, you need a brush for basting. If you grill a lot of different kinds of foods you might want several. Some flavors just don't seem to wash out.
Wire brush: You will need a wire brush for cleaning off the grate after you finish grilling. It really is important that you do this after you finish grilling because the foods haven't had a chance to dry on. Over the years I have had some nice wire brushes. The expensive brushes last about as long and work just as well as the cheap ones you find in a bucket on the floor of the hardware store. I suggest you get the cheap ones.
Thermometer: The difference between the perfect meal and a trip to the emergency room can be only a couple of degrees. Having a good, working thermometer is a must. There are a whole host of good thermometers on the market, but remember, accuracy is the most important factor, so when buying a thermometer it's better to bypass cool features in favor of reliability. Test your thermometer in boiling water. The water needs to be at a rolling boil and remember the altitude. Water boils at a lower temperature the higher the altitude.
Mitts: Whether it's a heavy towel, fireproof gloves, or a kitchen mitt, you should always have something close by that will let you pick up the hot stuff. You can buy fireproof grilling mitts that not only let you pick up flaming hot metal cooking equipment, but they won't catch on fire when the flames hit them. Having a kitchen mitt catch fire while you have it on your hand is not a fun experience, trust me.