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

  • 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!

  • 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 in the Shop.  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.

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About Raun Lauterbach

Optimistic realist, life enthusiast, outdoor cook, Midwest traveler, husband, father... Follow me: Twitter | Facebook | Get updates in your email
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  • Josh Bulloc

    Thank you for the explanation. Now I understand why I keep making some silly mistakes in grilling. The tongs are not appropriate. 

  • Raun Lauterbach

    Glad to be of service! I’ve singed my knuckles a few too many times and lost plenty of food through the grill grates because I wasn’t using the right tool for the job. It’s amazing how enjoyable anything can be when you don’t have to fight against it.

  • Gbuxton3

    I run a fish bar and use tongs continually, my favorite are self locking ones, you point the tongs up to lock and down to open, very handy.

  • Raun Lauterbach

    I like that feature as well. There are 2 potential issues with them, though. I’ve had a couple of (stainless) tongs rust at that joint. The second is the potential for food particles to get stuck in the mechanism, which doesn’t look good at a food safety or HAACP audit. Thanks for chiming in!

  • BBQ Tools Roundup – The Best BBQ Tools We've Found ← The Pit Boss BBQ Tool Belt

    […] Tongs – Tongs are great.  You can flip things with them.  You can move things with them.  You can pick things up.  More importantly, they don’t puncture the meat so you won’t lose those precious juices.  Tongs just might be the most versatile BBQ tool out there.  Three things to look for in a tong:  1)  How the tongs come together (i.e. how well do the tips touch when you squeeze them?)  2) How well is the business end of the tong set up to grip your meat? (insert joke here…), and 3) How effective is the grip?  We were going to spend a bunch of time testing a bunch of tongs, but this guy already did it for us.  Behold the perfect tong. […]