Even if using the grill is a regular part of your cooking routine, it’s possible you’ve never considered a grill basket, let alone which is the best grill basket. Part of the almost primitive allure of cooking on the grill is just how few accessories you need to do it: a spatula, some tongs, and a bag of charcoal will usually do. Simply throw a slab of protein on and let the fire do the rest. But the best grill baskets transform your grill into a tool that can cook just about anything with ease (and likely less cleanup than you’d face in your kitchen).
Grill baskets are high-sided perforated metal pans that let the smoky flavor and heat in but keep small foods from falling through the grates and incinerating in the flames below. With a grill basket on deck you can use the grill to cook delicate foods or produce cut into small pieces. Think cut zucchini, sliced peppers and onions for fajitas, diced chicken and vegetables, and shrimp.
Most grill baskets look almost like square stainless -teel cake pans but with sloping sides and lots of holes or slits. Others are less like pans and more like metal mesh baskets. And then there’s the closed-top kind, with a slim profile and a clamping lid, good for keeping fish in place so it’s easy to flip without falling apart.
Do these design variations make a difference in performance? What about basket features like nonstick surfaces or enamel coatings? We gathered up different baskets in a range of designs and materials and put them to the test to find out which ones get the job done with the least amount of hassle.
Table of Contents
Best grill basket overall
Best grill basket for fish and seafood
Best affordable grill basket
What we looked for
How we tested
Other grill baskets we tested
Best grill basket overall: Charcoal Companion Nonstick Shaker Basket
Wide and deep, this basket has a large surface area so it can hold plenty of food without crowding. But best of all, the mesh design really lets the food get good and browned. It got our broccoli florets gorgeously charred in no time since the mesh allows for maximum heat circulation. It also allows food to come in contact with the grates, leaving our chicken deliciously charred not steamed. Even the smallest pieces of chicken didn’t fall through. It’s low-profile, so we had no trouble closing the lid. Plus, it has a removable handle so it doesn’t get in the way and allows for a tight seal.
The long handle hooks onto the side of the basket for shaking and tossing, but it’s not great for turning the food out of the basket since it’s easy for it to get unhooked. It’s better to use oven mitts and grip the side handles to pour out the food instead.
Charcoal Companion Nonstick Shaker Basket
Best grill basket for fish and seafood: Cuisinart Simply Grilling Nonstick Grilling Basket
Unlike other fish grill baskets that also have a top that closes, the lid on this one adjusts from low to high, so you can ensure enough clearance and not squish the flesh on your fish fillets or scallops, at least at the back side of the basket. We found it worked well on thick salmon fillets as well as sea scallops and shrimp. Some of our shrimp wanted to slip through the mesh squares a bit, but once we carefully laid them out and locked the lid in place, they didn’t fall. The lid allowed us to easily flip the foods all in one go too by turning the entire basket.
The mesh design allowed for contact with the grates and good heat circulation. The long handle isn’t removable but stayed cool and away from the heat of the grill, while the part that got sandwiched between the lid and grill box was thin enough to allow for a good seal and no heat loss. It provided easy cleanup too thanks to the nonstick coating, even when we used a gloppy marinade.
The one flaw in this basket is the clasp that locks the lid down. The height at this part isn’t adjustable, so food arranged near this side of the basket can get squished if it’s thick. This was only an issue with our thickest salmon fillets but could be a problem with chunky potatoes too. Also, the clasp is hard to lift up to open when using pot holders, and after grilling, it gets too hot to use your bare hands. Grill mitts work best. Otherwise you need to allow everything to cool before unlocking.
Cuisinart Simply Grilling Nonstick Grilling Basket
Best affordable grill basket: Grillux
If you’re on a budget, this classic grill pan works great. It’s square, open-top, and perforated with holes like so many other brands, but it’s one of the least expensive out there. Still, it doesn’t feel cheap—it’s thick and sturdy enough not to warp on high heat and it cleans up easily with a scrubby sponge. Like other similarly designed baskets we tested, this grill pan doesn’t have as generous of a surface area as the shaker basket. The perforations are also smaller, which means the food doesn’t come in contact with the grates. As long as you preheat it your food will brown, but it won’t get the kind of crispy, charred edges you may want when cooking on a grill.
Grillux Grill Basket
What are grill baskets used for?
Grill baskets are ideal for cooking small items that might otherwise fall through the gaps between grill grates. A basket allows you to cook these things outdoors and give them a smoky touch, just as you do with large cuts of meat or vegetables. Delicate items like flaky fish have a tendency to stick and fall apart when placed directly on the grill, but a closed-top grill basket allows you to flip the fish for even cooking without worrying.
What we looked for
Can the metal stand up to high, direct heat and live flames? To withstand the high temperatures and live flames of the grill, the baskets needed to be made of heat safe materials. They need not be super heavy-duty, but they should be made of something like stainless steel or carbon steel that won’t warp easily when used over direct heat.
Can the coatings be used on high heat and are they tough enough to withstand metal utensils? We were curious to try pans with coatings that would help food release and make clean up easier. But any coatings needed to be tough too. We placed the coated pans over high heat and used our usual metal grilling tools on them to see if they got damaged.
Do the dimensions of the perforations make a difference? Most grill pans were perforated with holes to allow smoke, heat, and flames to come through. But some were more open than others, some had lined perforations, some had holes, some were essentially a stiff mesh. We evaluated the differences to see how well the perforations allowed for browning and charring, how the dimensions of the pans affected crowding of food, and how easy or difficult the baskets were to clean.
Do closed baskets work with a wide range of foods? No one wants a one-trick pony in their grilling tool kit, so any closed-top baskets had to work with everything from thick fish fillets to chopped vegetables. Those that weren’t adjustable were the least versatile.
How we tested
Each grill basket was put through three tests—broccoli florets, large-dice marinated chicken, and sliced peppers and onions. We made sure to use the same amount each time, and all foods were coated in olive oil. We also used the two closed-top baskets to cook salmon fillets, medium shrimp and sea scallops. For each test, we used a gas grill heated to medium-high, and let the grill baskets preheat for 5 minutes.
We evaluated each basket according to how well they contained small foods, how well the foods browned, how long it took to brown or at least cook through the food, how easy they were to use, and how well the baskets cleaned up.
Other grill baskets we tested
The All-Clad grill basket has essentially the same design as our budget pick, but it cost a whopping $80. It’s definitely heavier duty, with thicker stainless-steel construction as well as tall handles that are easier to grab with thick grill mitts on. It did a nice job browning chicken, especially once it was preheated, but its performance wasn’t so much better than the Grillux that it justified the high price.
We were intrigued by the black enamel coating on the Kona grill basket. Again, it had the same square, open top, perforated hole construction as many of the other brands we found, but the brand promised easy cleanup thanks to the nonstick enamel coating. However, foods didn’t stick to this one any less. And even though the black coating is good at hiding the brown stains from burnt-on oil, it also makes it harder to see where the pan needs to be scrubbed clean. More than once we dried it and found there was still food stuck on.
Although Weber grills are trusty standbys, as are many of its other quality bbq accessories, Weber’s open-top grill basket was a bit disappointing. It differentiates itself with a pattern of long perforated slits instead of circular holes. But the slits didn’t improve the performance at all. In fact, foods in this basket browned the least and the slits made the basket harder to clean than baskets with circular patterns.
The Weber 6471 original stainless steel fish basket was also a bit problematic. Although we liked how its network of springy metal wires allowed the basket to flex to accommodate thicker fillets, it’s really best for whole fish with skin on to protect the flesh from the pressure of the wires. The hinges that connect the top and bottom don’t allow for enough lift so the top really presses down once the basket is closed.
Grill baskets are good tools for maximizing the versatility of your grill, giving you a way to keep small items like cut vegetables and meats, or seafood like shrimp or scallops, from falling through the grates. But baskets with limited surface area and too few holes aren’t that efficient at browning and charring (one of the main purposes of cooking with a grill). That’s why the wide, deep, mesh design of the Charcoal Companion Shaker Basket is our top pick.
For delicate foods that stick and need to be turned, like fish fillets and scallops, baskets with a top that closes are the way to go. The Cuisinart Grill Basket worked best to keep foods in place without squishing and allowed for great heat circulation.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious