How to Choose the Best Grilling Tongs

Poorly designed grilling tools can be the difference between a great grilling experience and a lousy one. Here is a side by side comparison of 4 different barbecue and grilling tongs. The first 2 are from grilling tool sets. The last 2 are sold individually. I've never seen a grilling tool set where each piece was well designed and worth the money. (Chances are, if steak knives are included, you probably want to pass.)

1. How it all comes together

Tong comparison 1

  • Upper Left (UL) -- The handles are touching but the tongs tips aren't even close to touching. Seems like a problem to me.
  • Upper Right (UR) -- The tongs tips only come together on the bottom edge. This works fine with some food, but is quite unstable for others. This is the only one of the four that has flat arms. This causes the tongs to be a bit flimsy compared to the others.
  • Lower Left (LL) -- The tongs only come together at the very tip and there is a large space behind that. This works ok with large pieces of meat such as barbecuing a pork shoulder. Other than that, it's pretty much useless.
  • Lower Right (LR) -- There is contact at the top and bottom edges of the tongs and the handles are close together when closed.

2. The business end

  • UL -- Only has teeth on the bottom edge. The tip is cut on an angle, which does improve the angle of use.
  • UR -- Similar to the upper left, teeth on the bottom edge and cut on an angle.
  • LL -- The scalloped edge of this tong is quite common. It works well as an all-purpose design, but doesn't work particularly well with pieces of meat, which can be slippery.
  • LR -- The style of top on this tong is called VersaGrip. The square end and teeth on the top and bottom make it very easy to pick cuts of meat off the grill at whatever angle to need to work at. It grips large cuts of meat and also can pick up burger patties and sausages (although I do prefer a turner for burger patties).

3. Get a grip!

Tong comparison 3
  • UL -- The hollow metals handles are reasonably comfortable to hold but if you hold them over the grill for too long, they heat up pretty fast because they are metal. Also, they are prone to rusting from the inside out (even though they are stainless!)
  • UR -- Wooden handles have long been the norm. They don't heat up like the hollow metal ones but they aren't particularly hygienic. Given the fact that meat is grilled more than other types of food, I don't want to risk cross contamination. They also have to be washed by hand rather than in the dishwasher. I'll pass.
  • LL -- These handles are a type of rubber. Very comfortable to hold and they stay cool over a hot grill. Not bad.
  • LR -- The handle of this tong is made of silicone rubber that is heat-resistant up to 180 degrees. It is also a dipped handle so there are no seams and it won't slip off. Agion antimicrobial technology helps to prevent cross contamination issues.
In case it was hard to tell, my favorite is the lower right. It is the Vollrath 16" VersaGrip Grill Tong. It's made in the USA and available here. I spent a year searching for the best tongs and this is the only tong that I can comfortably endorse. To learn more about my grilling tongs of choice, click here.