Our Annual Grilling Guide

Do you have everything you need to get grilling this summer?

There are many reasons to look forward to the warm-weather months—but cooking outdoors is at the top of my list. The grill becomes my go-to for everything from simple, flavorful vegetables to smoky, slow-cooked meats. Do you have everything you need to get grilling this summer? Our winning grill tongs are both surprisingly nimble and long enough to keep your hands safely away from the flame, and our top-performing grill light will illuminate your grill setup long after the sun goes down. Swap your traditional oven mitts for a pair of protective grilling gloves, which have individual fingers for better dexterity. Happy grilling season!

—Carolyn Grillo, Senior Editor, ATK Reviews

The convenience of gas plus the flavor of charcoal make this grill a worthwhile (albeit pricey) upgrade from the basic model. Built around our favorite 22.5-inch Weber kettle is a roomy, easy-to-roll cart (much sturdier than the kettle’s legs) with a pullout charcoal storage bin; a lid holder; and, most significant, a gas ignition system that lights coals with the push of a button—no chimney starter needed.

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Weber’s versatile, well-designed classic kettle was an expert griller and maintained heat well, and its well-positioned vents allowed for excellent air control. The sturdy ash catcher makes cleanup a breeze, and it was the fastest and easiest model to assemble and move. We appreciate this model's updated, sturdier leg attachment system with metal tabs that snap together more securely. Our only wish is that the hinged portions of its grate were slightly larger.

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A good grill has gotten even better. The Weber Spirit II E-310 put a crisp, brown crust on burgers and steaks and rendered tender pulled pork with real smoky flavor. Weber kept the heavy-duty cookbox of thick cast aluminum and enameled steel with just one narrow vent across the back, which makes it easy to maintain steady heat and distribute smoke. The angle of the lid when open helped channel smoke away from our faces. Among the changes: The burner design was tweaked to increase the evenness of heating from front to back on the grill surface, and Weber now offers a 10-year warranty on the ignition system. One side table now folds down for easier storage, an open cart with a handy shelf replaces the cabinet, the grease tray is easier to access, and the grill rolls on two larger wheels rather than the previous model’s four smaller ones. The control knobs now have a red line indicating their position, making them more intuitive, and notches in the Flavorizer bars give a view of the flames.   More on this test

With 106 bristles, this basting brush picked up an impressive volume of sauce. It’s a little heavier than we’d prefer, but it’s still easy to maneuver. Its wide head is great for providing quick and even coverage on larger items, though it’s a touch less precise when applying sauce to the nooks and crannies of chicken pieces. As with many of the other brushes we tested, its bristles are heat resistant to a high temperature, but its handle is not—it melted when we rested it against the side of the grill.

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Originally made for camping, this durable, waterproof light can conveniently be left on the grill when not in use. Testers loved its sturdy, simple clamp, which took seconds to clip on to any grill handle and didn’t budge. It could also be configured to stand freely on a side table for grills without handles. Unfortunately, its brightness was concentrated like a spotlight in the middle of the grill, producing glare and making it hard to get a good look at the food.

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The smooth, well-proportioned surface of this cast-iron press seared single steaks, salmon fillets, and burgers to perfection. Because it’s a tad heavier than other models, it flattened our grilled cheese sandwiches more than we would have preferred, but otherwise its performance was excellent. And while slightly slippery, its coated steel handle stayed surprisingly cool, at least for short stints on the stove. Arriving preseasoned, this press needed no maintenance, though you’ll have to wash and dry it by hand to prevent rust.

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Our winning grill brush's short metal bristles and triangular head shape made for a winning combination. We could easily clean grill grates by sweeping the top of the grill or by holding the brush at an angle and wedging it between the bars. The short handle made it easier to leverage, putting our hands closer to the heat but not uncomfortably so, and the absence of a scraper allowed us to clean even the very ends of the grates.

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Right out of the box the base paired automatically with the receiver, making it ready to use in seconds. Both base and receiver had bright, clear displays that could be read easily in both bright and dim light; both also have backlights for operating in the dark. The unit maintains a connection for up to 300 feet and alerts you when you go out of range. When you go back into range, it automatically reconnects, and its alarms were loud and easy to set. While we used it primarily for grilling, this thermometer can read up to 572 degrees and transmits temperature data from the probe to the base in 8 seconds, which also makes it useful for candy making and deep frying. It can be made to work with a smartphone by purchasing the Smoke Gateway ($89); however, we found it difficult to set up and the app glitchy.

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This grill spatula aced all our tests. Its front edge is just 3 inches across, so it can fit between the most closely packed burgers on the grill, but the head then flares out toward the handle to support wider items such as grilled pizza. Its comfortable, rounded handle with a silicone grip never became slippery, and at a moderate weight of 8¼ ounces, it wasn’t fatiguing to use for extended periods of time. It lifted 10 pounds with ease and survived abuse testing looking good as new. 

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The heavy, corrugated stainless-steel grate of this solidly designed, compact grill spread heat evenly. (It's like a Ruffles potato chip, with tiny holes along the base of the V’s to drain fat.) Straightforward to use, with excellent heat control, it produced juicy, evenly cooked burgers and steak with crisp grill marks; grill-roasted pork loin to perfection; and fit a 4-pound chicken under its lid with room to spare. While it had just one burner, we were able to preheat the grill and then turn down the flame to slowly roast the pork without overcooking it, since its low, narrow vent and thick cast-aluminum construction efficiently trapped heat inside. At 20 pounds, with big side handles, it is easy to lift and transport; plus, its simple, accessible parts made cleanup easy, so we didn’t mind storing it indoors. An adapter for full-size propane tanks is available separately.

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This cleverly designed, supercompact, and extra-lightweight grill is easily the most portable of the grills we tested. With a rectangular steel body and a handle on top, it feels just like a tackle box. Curved steel legs swing up to latch the lid. Narrow vents slow the escape of heat and smoke and help the cook box stay hot, as does the griddle-like grate that resembles an enameled broiler pan. It doesn’t create impressive grill marks, but it gets the job done, and it’s extremely simple to clean.

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We fell head over heels in love with rotisserie grilling after discovering how easy it was to produce extra-juicy, crispy-skinned chicken and beautifully roasted, juicy lamb with this kit. Key design elements made it perform better than its rivals and made it potentially more durable: Its motor has more than twice the wattage of the other models and never struggled. The food-securing forks on its spit have two (not four) prongs, which made it easier to center food so that it rotated smoothly. The all-important screws that anchor the forks to the spit have large heads that were easy to grab and turn and unique brackets that helped the screws stay firmly in place. We loved that this model had fewer parts: A simple pair of deep grooves on the spit held it in place horizontally on the ring and supported the weight of the food. By contrast, the others added extra pieces that didn’t work as well—one of these pieces even obstructed the spit’s turning, and both models’ motors supported the pointed end of the spit, forcing them to work harder and potentially wear out sooner.

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We made great food with this kit and loved the extra-long power cord that avoided the use of a separate extension cord to plug in the motor. Its rim fit snugly on the Weber kettle grill. The metal bracket supporting the motor was a bit thin and bendy, sagging away slightly when the grill got hot, which may have caused the spit to detach from the motor while we were roasting lamb. We also had some trouble with a part called a bushing on the spit; it’s meant to support the spit on the ring of the rotisserie kit near the handle end and reduce friction as it turns. But its protruding screw poked the grill lid every time the spit turned; we had to stop cooking and tweak it while the grill was red-hot. The forks that secure food to the spit each have four prongs, which we thought would be better than two but actually made it slightly harder to spear food evenly and firmly.

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Weighing less than a deck of cards, this model is small but mighty. The highly serrated 4Flex four-armed pot support ensured that our backpacking pots and pans sat securely on the stove—no slipping or sliding. Plus, the pot support is removable and collapsible, making this backpacking stove ultracompact. The Soto also lived up to its “windmaster” claim, boiling water in an astonishingly fast 4 minutes and 19 seconds when set near a fan blowing 8-mile-per-hour wind. Heat control was the only feature that the Soto struggled with; to raise and lower the heat, we had to turn the fuel-adjuster knob around and around before the flame grew or shrunk. However, we were still able to gently sauté onions and scramble eggs like pros and simmer grocery-store backpacker Alfredo without a hitch.

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Our favorite aspect of the Jetboil MightyMo stove was its fuel-adjuster knob, which provided nuanced and even heat control, going from low to medium to high heat smoothly. It made delicately scrambling eggs and simmering a pot of grocery-store backpacker Alfredo an easy and refined experience. The built-in piezo igniter was another great feature; to get the stove started, we just opened the fuel-adjuster valve and pressed the igniter. On the downside, we had some difficulty extending and folding the pot supports after multiple uses—the metal seemed to warp slightly and catch on the bottom of the burner. Also, when faced with steady wind, the stove took more than 10 minutes to boil 2 cups of water. The pot supports were also slightly less grippy than those of other stoves, so some cookware slid around. However, Jetboil sells a pot and a skillet separately that promise to solve these issues. We tested both and found that the skillet sat very stably on the stove, and the pot did decrease the time to boil water against wind, boiling in 4 minutes and 33 seconds. This was slightly slower than the Soto model, but not by much. Overall, we recommend buying Jetboil cookware for your Jetboil stove for the best results.

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The Weber Smokey Mountain, or WSM, has been around for 40 years, and for good reason: It’s a durable, well-designed charcoal smoker that makes great-tasting, competition-worthy barbecue. Like most charcoal models, this cylindrical bullet smoker does have a learning curve: You’ll need to monitor the temperature inside and periodically adjust the air intake vents in order to get the heat level you want. (A port built into the side of the smoker makes it especially easy to insert a probe for monitoring those temperatures, and a large water pan helps keep those temperatures steady once you’ve achieved them.) A generously sized charcoal basket lets you smoke for long periods without having to replenish your fuel or wood—we were able to cook for 10 hours easily. If you do need to add briquettes or wood, the process is simple: Just open a door in the body of the smoker and chuck them in. We wish the door sealed more tightly, as smoke and heat escaped easily around its edges, making us burn through briquettes and wood faster. While disposing of charcoal is messy, the smoker separates into three parts to make it easier to access those ashes for disposal. The WSM comes in three sizes. The 22-inch model we tested is the largest. With two grates arranged one over the other, it can smoke multiple racks of ribs, many pork butts, and at least two spatchcocked turkeys at a time. It’s easy to assemble and comes with a warranty that covers different parts for two to 10 years.

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