It’s not quite summer yet, but early spring is a good time to get ready for the grilling season. To help you prepare to spend more time outside, we’ve compiled a list of the best gear for culinary adventures on the porch, deck, patio or backyard. We’ve reviewed and tested a wide range of grills and other devices, and we’ve selected a group of products that will help you stay on top of your BBQ game. There are other items too, with selections that should help you serve up delicious food all year long and expand your skills in the process – including your pizza making abilities.
Traeger Timberline and Timerline XL
Last year, Traeger went all out for its smart grills. The company completely redesigned its high-end Timberline series, turning its premium pellet grills into outdoor kitchens. While the cooking chamber may look like any other Traeger grill, the company decided to put these new models on a rolling cart instead of four legs. Of course, this gives you more storage, but it also makes it easier to empty the pellet hopper. There’s a rail system on the front and sides of the grill to hold a range of accessories from paper rolls, to sauce and rub compartments.
In terms of tech, Traeger swapped out the basic controls from its previous WiFi-equipped D2 grills in favor of a color touchscreen. There are more sensors inside to keep tabs on the cooking process and added lighting to help you see the cooking surface better after dark. The new Timberlines will also work with a specially-designed version of the wireless Meater probes (Traeger bought Meater in 2021), so you’re not reliant on the corded version that comes standard. Perhaps most importantly, the company added what it says is the first outdoor-rated induction burner for sauces, sides and searing.
All of those upgrades lead to a starting price of $3,500. If you can forgo some of those niceties (I’d argue your grill doesn’t need a touchscreen, for example), the first-gen Ironwood has been a workhorse for me since I reviewed it in 2019. It still runs like a champ and works well with the company’s full-featured app. It’s a great option for someone looking to dive into pellet grills, offering a bit more than the entry-level Pro series from Traeger. The company still sells the original Ironwood even though it updated the model for 2023, and you can get the larger size for $2,000 less than the smallest of the new Timberlines.
Weber Genesis II EPX-335
In 2021, Weber introduced its first smart gas grills. After developing its Weber Connect platform for the SmokeFire pellet grills and the Smart Grilling Hub, the company brought its Wi-Fi-connected cooking to a more widely used fuel source. Last year, the company refined things a bit with PureBlu high-heat burners, sear zone, side table, expandable top cooking grate and “Nightvision” LED lighting. If the 2022 EPX-335 doesn’t suit your needs, there are other options that come in three- and four-burner configurations with porcelain enamel or stainless steel finishes. Plus, there are both propane and natural gas models, and some come with a side burner if you need it.
Of course, the main attraction here is the Weber Connect integration. Just like it does on the SmokeFire pellet grills and the Smart Grilling Hub, the technology can guide you through every step of the grilling process. A mix of instructions and videos inside the Weber Connect app offer assistance to grillers of all skill levels, right down to when to flip your steak. What’s more, the system offers real-time food temperatures and estimated readiness countdowns right on your phone so you can better time side dishes (and keep the hangry crowd at bay). On its gas smart grills, Weber Connect can also keep tabs on fuel level so you’ll know when it’s time to swap tanks.
Weber has also introduced a host of accessories that expand the capabilities of its gas grills. The company makes searing grates, a grilling basket, rotisserie items and a pizza stone. There’s also a griddle insert that allows you to make everything from breakfast to smash burgers. And if you want to transform the entire grilling area, Weber has a full-size griddle accessory that will do just that.
Ooni pizza ovens
Ooni has built a stellar reputation for its pizza ovens, and rightfully so. The company’s gear is easy to use and it helps you create restaurant-quality wood-fired pies at home. Its latest oven, the Volt 12, is an electric model that can be used indoors but still has the capability we’ve grown to count on from Ooni. In terms of solely outdoor ovens, the Karu 16 can accommodate multiple fuel sources and has room for larger pizzas. Out of the box this model can burn wood or charcoal, but Ooni sells gas burners for $120 and $150 (propane and natural gas versions).
In addition to overall size, the Karu 16 also has some conveniences that differentiate it from Ooni’s other ovens. First, a hinged door allows you to see what you’re cooking through a glass window. Second, there’s a front-mounted digital thermometer that shows the ambient temperature inside of the oven. Like other Ooni pizza cookers, the Karu 16 heats quickly, reaching 950 degrees Fahrenheit in about 15 minutes. And of course, the larger cooking area will allow you to make things besides pizza. If you can stand a smaller oven and analog thermometers, the company recently introduced the Karu 12G that still has the glass door, increased fuel efficiency and can be outfitted with a gas burner add-on ($100).
Thermoworks Thermapen One
Over the years, a Thermapen has become my most-used grilling tool. I rely on it like a sous chef to make sure I’m cooking things to the correct temperature, especially chicken. It’s a versatile tool at the grill and in the kitchen. ThermoWorks’ Thermapen One is the follow up to its massively popular Thermapen Mk4. This new model shows temps lightning quick, giving you a reading in one second. ThermoWorks also improved accuracy and used a brighter display than the previous model. An automatically rotating screen makes the numbers easy to see no matter how you hold it, plus an auto-wake and sleep feature preserves battery life and IP67 rating protects it from accidental spills.
A wireless meat thermometer may seem like overkill when there are so many great (and affordable) wired options available. I too was skeptical at first, but I can assure you that not having to avoid those metal cables when you’re flipping or wrapping a large cut of meat is definitely worth the investment. For the Meater Plus, the Traeger-owned company extended the Bluetooth range from the original model. Each probe has two sensors, so you can keep tabs on both internal food temp and the ambient temperature of your grill. Stats are sent to the company’s app, and you can set target temps, view an estimated completion time or get some help with a cook if you need it.
Anova Precision Cooker Nano 3.0
The latest version of Anova’s Precision Cooker Nano still offers sous vide in a compact form factor. It’s an updated version of the device I’ve been using for a long time thanks most to its accuracy and reliability. The company has swapped Bluetooth connectivity for dual-band WiFi so you can venture further away from the Nano 3.0. This model also has a two-line touchscreen display, so time and temperature can be viewed simultaneously. Manual controls are ever present here too, if you want to bypass the iOS or Android apps. That software will provide you with recipes and step-by-step guidance, so it’s good to consult it even if you’re experienced with this cooking method.
In order to make the most of your sous vide setup, you’ll want to also invest in a vacuum sealer. I have the FoodSaver FM2000. It doesn’t have some of the flashy features of more expensive units, but it covers the basics just fine. If you prefer something more robust with options like automatic bag detection, retractable handheld sealer and a dry/moist setting, I’d recommend the FoodSaver V4400. With both, you can use them to seal leftovers for the freezer or store other goods you don’t want air to get to in addition to sous vide cooking. I’ve also found vacuum-sealed packs handy for reheating things like pulled pork. When you reheat with a sous vide, the meat doesn’t dry out like it would in the microwave. Sure, you could just use Ziploc bags, but I’ve done that, and a FoodSaver is worth the investment.
Stanley IceFlow Tumblers
I’d argue one of the most important grilling tools is a cold beverage. And as the days get hotter, you’ll need to plan your drinkware carefully so your monster cocktail or water supply remains at a frigid temperature. I’ve tried a number of insulated aluminum cups over the years, but Stanley has been the best. The company is known for its classic thermos, but its lineup of cups, bottles and more are affordable and do a great job of keeping drinks cold for hours at a time.
Stanley has a ton of options that serve as alternatives to popular brands like Yeti, but the IceFlow Tumblers have been my go-to this spring. The larger 30-ounce cup can keep drinks cold for up to 12 hours while the 20-ounce version can do so for up to seven hours. There’s a solid handle and the built-in flip-down straw means the drinking area isn’t exposed to the elements quite as much. At $25 and $30 each, these are a fraction of the cost of the most expensive options, and they have better ice retention than some of those too.
Brumate Hopsulator Duo and Trio
Brumate’s Hopsulator products are warm weather essentials for me. I originally got one for the beach, but it has become a staple in my grilling arsenal too. The company’s Hopsulator Trio is a 3-in-1 option that holds 16-ounce cans or 12-ounce cans with a cold insert you keep in your freezer. It also comes with a lid so you can use it as a travel mug. The Hopsulator Duo also doubles as an insulated cup, but it’s designed for 12-ounce cans and doesn’t come with any cooling accessories. What’s more, Brumate has a third model for slim cans. So if hard seltzers are more your thing, there’s an option for you too.