holiday gifts 2022

The Best Gifts for Grilling Enthusiasts, According to People Who Grill

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist

Grilling is a pursuit just about anyone can partake in, whether they have a fancy gas Weber in their backyard or have to tote a cooler full of hamburger patties to a local park with communal burners. No matter the setup, the grill aficionado in your life is sure to appreciate a gift to support their favorite hobby — even if they’ll have to wait a few months to put it to use. The only problem? There are a lot of tools to choose from. Do they really need those seven-in-one gadgets for flipping and scraping and who knows what else? What about ridiculously long tongs? In short, the answer is no. So to help you find the best gift for the grilling enthusiast in your life — you know, the stuff that’s actually super useful and special — we talked to more than a dozen passionate grillers, chefs, and pitmasters about the items they think would be nice to give (or receive), then combed our archives for even more standout stuff. We’ve picked out pans and cookware, superb charcoal and handy grilling tools (some of which would make great stocking stuffers), a few meats and marinades, and even grills themselves. If you have an idea of the type of gift you seek, you can click on any of the links in the previous sentence to jump straight to that category of products. Otherwise, just start scrolling. And for even more thoughtful gift ideas, head here to peruse all of our carefully curated lists.

Pans and cookware

$45

With enough determination, entire meals can be made on grills — mains, sides, even dessert. That’s why you should give the gift of a carbon-steel pan, which conducts heat beautifully and can easily withstand the high temperatures inside a grill. “I use mine for everything from paella to pressing Cubanos, because they are quite heavy,” says chef Jordan Wallace, the culinary director of Denver’s Pizzeria Locale. “And over a coal or wood fire, these are clutch.”

Strategist contributor Steven John recommends a grill basket, “which can be placed atop any sort of grill (charcoal, gas, or even wood fire) and filled with loose veggies, shrimp, fries, and so on.” It keeps these more delicate ingredients from sticking to the grill’s grates. This one is from tried-and-true brand Weber, which comes in two sizes and can be thrown in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.

This cast-iron griddle is “the indoor grill that’s closest in spirit to firing up the charcoal” and a favorite of professional chefs, including New Orleans–based chef and restaurateur Alon Shaya. Of course, it can be set directly on your grill, too, if you want to turn the grates into a flattop. The shape makes it particularly easy to store.

Marcos Campos, the executive chef at Bonhomme Hospitality Group, put us onto this carbon-steel paella pan for our story on where to buy seafood online. The carbon-steel material — the preferred metal for both paella pans and woks — “heats fast,” according to Campos. “And because its surface is bigger than most pans, you can get a nice sear and caramelization. It also retains its temperature so you can use it to serve in, too, and it will keep warm for a long time.”

Charcoals and grilling tools

Strategist contributor Regan Stephens discovered these charcoal logs after eating “the most tender, wildly delicious poultry” at Philadelphia-based restaurant Laser Wolf. According to Stephens, chef Andrew Henshaw deemed Thaan the best choice after testing it alongside nearly a dozen other varieties. Charcoal can sometimes overpower meat with smoky flavor, but Thaan, Henshaw told Stephens, imparts “just the right amount of smokiness.” The bricks are also the “perfect size and shape, with a thin tunnel through the center of each narrow one that allows for airflow, which in turn allows the bricks to burn evenly,” she writes. They’re also a more sustainable choice than traditional charcoal, “because they’re made with wood from rambutan fruit trees, which are a renewable resource.”

Dylan James Ho, a photographer and founder of the popup Tori! Tory! Toré!, recommends binchotan, the traditional style of charcoal used for making yakitori (more on the style of grill you’d need to do that below). Like the logs above, these have a “longer, more rectangular” shape and are perfect for building a controlled heat source.

If your recipient prefers “long, low, and slow cooking,” John told us that “few — if any — things are better than these behemoth charcoal briquettes.” They burn for up to eight hours, which he says is plenty of time to grill anything from ribs to brisket to big cuts of pork.

A charcoal chimney may seem common, but cook and recipe developer Lee Kalpakis says a lot of people think they can get away with not using one. While that’s technically true, “they’ll be blown away by how much this improves the experience,” she says. “It saves so much time. They’ll be able to prep so many other things while the charcoal is prepping itself.” She also notes that this jet-black version is particularly sturdy and won’t show rust.

Speaking of prep, a plastic cutting board is a must for anyone who grills a lot of meat because “best practice is to keep the raw stuff away from wooden boards,” Kalpakis explains. While any board will do, she thinks one from Material Kitchen — beloved by many professional cooks — would make a particularly lovely gift. “It doesn’t feel chintzy,” she says. “The colors are beautiful, and it’s just really high quality.”

Proudly southern chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois calls the BBQ Dragon, “a fire starter’s best friend. This easy-to-use little gadget will clip onto any grill or smoker and assist you in getting those coals burning fast and evenly.”

This cookbook by legendary chef Francis Mallmann (who specializes in cooking over a live fire) is “maybe not the kind where someone is going to follow each recipe to a T,” Kalpakis says. “But it’s really inspiring and informative. It shows how he does things that are a little outside the box. I find that so many people interested in cooking outside gravitate toward it.”

Writer Caitlin M. O’Shaughnessy was introduced to these pit gloves by her mother, who used them to take a full turkey out of the oven. “The cotton-lined gloves are coated with neoprene rubber and designed for true-blue barbecuers who have to handle hot meat on the smoker — that means they’re waterproof, stainproof, and (most important) greaseproof.” They also come recommended by Patrick Martin of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville, who actually prefers these heavy-duty gloves to tongs, especially when working with big cuts of meat, like whole hogs.

Lecki echos the importance of heavy-duty gloves, especially when working with whole animals. She loves this elkskin pair from Danner. Of course, they’re useful for when your hands are close to the heat source, but they also “protect your hands from splinters when you’re cutting wood,” she notes.

$96

Although Kalpakis owns some lightweight, brightly colored linen aprons for cooking indoors, she says a heavier-duty, waxed, darkly colored one is a must when grilling because “there’s a lot of ash and splatter and fat and fire.” Hedley & Bennett is a chef-favorite brand and even lets you customize this apron with embroidery or a patch to make your recipient feel extra special.

A meat thermometer that quickly and easily detects when meat is properly cooked to temperature is a must-have accessory for any grill enthusiast. As Strategist editor Maxine Builder wrote in her review of the Thermapen, it stands out from other kitchen thermometers for “its speed and accuracy.” According to the manufacturer’s website, the Thermapen can detect the temperature of whatever you’re trying to measure within 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit in under one second. That speed makes a noticeable difference when you’re hovering over a hot grill. And while it should be noted that Builder reviewed the previous model of the thermometer, the Mk4, she’s not the company’s only fan: Amy and Mike Mills of 17th St. BBQ in Murphysboro, Illinois, also say that the Thermapen would make a great gift.

$56

A headlamp isn’t something you’d necessarily think you need when grilling, but Kalpakis says it’s one of the most useful accessories for when you start cooking in the daylight, it suddenly gets dark out, and your food isn’t ready. “I have string lights up where I grill,” she says, “but being able to focus in and have that precision is really important.” She has tried cheaper models but says they can be dinky and not bright enough. This one, though, is powerful and has both adjustable brightness and a strap to fit perfectly around your head.

Lecki loves this cheap and handy tool for more than encouraging cheese to melt on top of her burgers (though it’s excellent for that too). “It captures smoke on vegetables and keeps food warm when it comes off the grill,” she says.

“If someone is using their cast-iron pan on the grill, this just such a great addition,” Kalpakis says. She uses her grill press for smash burgers, grilled cheeses, spatchcocked chicken, and anything else that could benefit from being weighed down over the heat.

GIR is our experts’ preferred brand when it comes to spatulas — and its silicone brushes are just as durable. This one is perfect for applying marinades and sauces while food is on the grill because of the long handle and heat-resistant silicone (which also makes it a breeze to clean).

“This isn’t talked about very often — perhaps because grilling tends to be male dominated — but tending to my skin when I’m over an open flame a lot is such an issue for me,” says Kalpakis, who found this replacement for her regular moisturizer after the fire started to take a toll on her face and hands. The thick, oil-based salve made with olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, and pomegranate-seed oil does the trick.

Meats, spices, and marinades

Author Meena Harris, the CEO of Phenomenal, actually got her first meats from Cream Co. as a gift. Now, she “pretty much exclusively” buys meat from this brand. “The cuts are really high quality and fresh,” she says.

Novelist and Strategist contributor Ivy Pochoda calls Heritage Foods “the gold standard in ethical, ancient-breed livestock meats. She says the Single-Bone Rib-Eye Roast “is just the right size for a celebratory dinner” — that, if you’re lucky, the griller in your life will share with you.

Started by butcher (and Strategist contributor) Cara Nicoletti, Seemore offers sausages loaded with veggies, cheeses, and seasonings with distinct flavor profiles like “Chicken Parm” and “Loaded Baked Potato.” They come already cooked (so there’s no stress in knowing when they’re done), but a few minutes over the flame will give them a distinct char and impart smoke.

Good steak needs so little to shine: just salt, pepper, and olive oil. Consider using something special for that last ingredient, like this bottle from Frantoio Grove, which Emily Lycopolus, olive-oil sommelier and author of The Olive Oil and Vinegar Lover’s Cookbook, calls her “steak oil.” It has peppery and slightly bitter notes, and she uses it both to sear a cut of meat and to make a chimichurri to accompany it. “If your oil is fresh, you won’t get a lick of smoke,” she says.

In his roundup of the best condiments you can buy on Amazon, writer Hugh Merwin recommends this boiled cider, which is “kind of pure apple essence,” he explains. But that sweetness is what makes it an excellent addition to a barbecue tool kit, according to him. “Grillmasters use it at the base of marinades, where it tenderizes meat and its mildly tart and subtle flavor blends in with wood smoke.”

The Spice House, which we’ve written about a couple of times before, sells a quartet of smoky, tangy, and peppery blends meant to complement meats, whether used in a dry rub or a marinade.

Chef and Strategist contributor Lauren Joseph is a fan of New York Shuk’s Preserved Lemon Paste — a versatile ingredient she loves to pair with grilled foods. Whether swirled in a dip to go alongside smoky vegetables or used in a marinade for meats, the “funky, salty” condiment packs a lot of flavor.

Grills

People who love grilling likely already have at least one proper grill on which to do it. But true obsessives know that different equipment can yield different results, so you might be thinking about splurging on a new thing they can use for their favorite hobby. The Big Green Egg is one of those grills that real heads geek out over. Tayari Jones, a grilling fan and the author of An American Marriage, calls it “the Cadillac of grills,” telling us she loves to “fire this baby up several times a week for old-school BBQ chicken, brisket cooked slow and low, and even pizza.”

Recommended by Leslie Roark Scott of Ubon’s Barbeque in Yazoo City, Mississippi, this large yakitori grill is ideal for those in a “tight space. It’s the perfect size for a couple of steaks, and holds heat like a champ.”

If you want to splurge on your gift, Ho says he has heard great things about this sleek yakitori grill from Yak — and recommends these two books for anyone looking to get into this style of grilling.

If they want to grill on the go, John says this grate will allow a grill master to cook over any open flame. Made from welded steel, it is sturdy enough to handle the hottest fires and support a heavy Dutch oven. The extra-large size, he adds, “has enough room for racks of ribs, multiple Texas-size steaks, or a whole lot of kebab skewers.”

This flattop grill, which comes recommended by food writer and avid cook Amiel Stanek, is similar to the above model (but less expensive). “It’s essentially a propane-powered restaurant plancha,” he says. This gives you the pleasure of cooking outside, just like with a gas grill — but with way more ease of use and flexibility. “Because it’s just one big surface, you can move things around, cook more than one food at a time, have some burners on and some off. It’s perfect for everything — smash burgers, pancakes, a whole plancha meal, steak,” he says. “Plus, it’s collapsible if you ever need to put it away or take it with you somewhere, and super-easy to clean.”

Z Grills ZPG-7002E
$443

As John explains, “a pellet grill is a barbecue grill that uses an automatically fed supply of wood pellets to maintain a pre-established temperature and infuse the cooking foods with smoke aroma and flavor. Your fuel source is also your smoke source.” That means your meat takes longer to cook, but it also gets a smokier flavor. After testing some pellet grills, John liked this one from Z Grills, in part because “you can load up enough wood pellets for hours of smoking with minimal refills required.”

On a long hunt for the “best, not-too-massive city grill,” former Strategist senior writer Lauren Levy discovered that the best barbecue grill is actually this digital smoker from Masterbuilt. That’s according to Myron Mixon, the winningest man in barbecue, who explains, “It’s a digital smoker, so you can actually punch in the temperature you want and it takes you right there from 100 degrees to 275 degrees in just a few minutes.” He continues, “The truth is, everything that someone would want to barbecue you can cook with the Masterbuilt smoker, and it’s much more delicious.”

BioLite FirePit+
$210

If they like to grill, they probably also like fire. The gift of a BioLite FirePit would not only allow the griller in your life to keep warm outside on chilly nights but to cook dinner, too. According to Strategist contributor James Lynch, the appliance is super-easy to use because it is compatible with an app. “After lighting newspaper or other kindling under the wood, just tap a button in the app and airflow in the burn chamber increases automatically,” he says. While it’s not the biggest grill, Lynch says it can fit eight good-size hamburgers or three steaks, explaining that “it gives you the type of cooking control you might expect from a gas grill but with the added flavor of charcoal or wood.”

This mini-Weber is perfect for the person in your life who doesn’t have a lot of room — it can fit easily on a small patio or balcony. Mark Jenner, the editor-in-chief of barbecue site FoodFireFriends.com, says even though it’s small, “you can set up two-zone grilling, banking coals to one side more easily. This allows you to have high heat one side, low heat the other, and have more control and precision over your cooking,” he says.

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The Best Gifts for Grilling Enthusiasts