If you watch home improvement shows, your mental picture of a "chef's kitchen" probably skews toward stone countertops and sleek, stylish appliances. Those things definitely add value to your home, but the things that make or break the experience of actual ... you know ... cooking are often the little, overlooked tools like tongs.
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You're going to use a turner for a lot of foods like eggs or maybe fried fish, but tongs can be a versatile alternative when you're turning bacon, searing small pieces of meat or vegetables, or cooking on the grill. This guide explains what you should look at when you're deciding on a pair of tongs, and which ones we think are the best cooking tongs on the market.
What to Consider When Purchasing Tongs
Some tongs are designed primarily for serving, like salad tongs or the mini-tongs you see at some buffets. For this guide, we're sticking to the ones you'd use for cooking and grilling, though they're mostly suitable for serving as well.
So what makes the difference between good tongs and bad tongs? Well, they should be solid enough to hold up under normal usage, but not so heavy that they're uncomfortable to use. Their spring should provide gentle resistance when you squeeze them, but not make you squeeze too hard. And, of course, they should feel comfortable in your hand. A few other points to consider include:
Food-Contact Surface: The default material for most tongs is stainless steel, and the food-gripping ends are often just plain steel as well (this is what you'll usually see in restaurant kitchens). Bare steel can damage nonstick surfaces, though, so you'll also see tongs that are covered at the "business end" with nylon or silicone. Nylon costs a bit less, but silicone is better for high heat. A potential downside is that there are often hard-to-clean crevices where the coating meets the steel frame of the tongs.
Grip: Again, the shaft and hand grips of many tongs are plain, unadorned stainless steel. That's great for cleaning purposes (the tongs are usually dishwasher-safe) but it means they can be slippery in your hand, especially if your hands are wet or greasy. Plain steel can also get uncomfortably hot in extended use. Heatproof grips, typically in nylon, silicone or—for barbecue or toast tongs—wood, make tongs more comfortable to use and less likely to slip in your hand.
Length: The length of your tongs has a lot to do with how you use them. Shorter 6- and 7-inch tongs are nimble, great for turning small pieces in a crowded pan or lifting hot appetizers from a baking sheet. Mid-sized 9-inchers are good for multipurpose use. Foot-long tongs work for big pans and deep pots. Longer 14- and 16-inch tongs are great for the grill. For purposes of this guide, we've largely stayed with 9-inch tongs, but you can find longer versions of most of the featured models.
Locking Mechanism: Most tongs come with some sort of locking mechanism to keep them closed. That's mostly for easy storage when they're not in use, though you might occasionally want to lock them onto a piece of food (it saves you holding the tongs closed). The simplest lock is a ring that slides down and holds the tongs closed, but that's pretty rudimentary. Better models have a "pull-to-lock" mechanism at the hinge, and some manufacturers have their own unique designs.
The ultimate test of tongs is how well you like them once you're actually using them with your own hands in your own kitchen. Fortunately, kitchen tongs are inexpensive enough that you can try a few and settle on the ones you like best. Most of the tongs on our list range from low cost to very low cost, and there's only one that could be classified as a "splurge."
The Best Overall Tongs
OXO Good Grips With Silicone Heads
The OXO brand made its name on simple, reliable kitchen tools that feel good in your hand. These tongs are a perfect example: They're a little bit sturdier (and therefore heavier) than most competitive brands, but they're balanced and feel deceptively light in your hand (and the spring offers just the right amount of resistance for most users). The silicone-covered food contact surfaces are safe to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, won't damage nonstick cookware, and food won't stick to them either. The silicone handles have comfortable thumb grips, and won't get hot. The lock works well, and the tongs are dishwasher-safe. There's a slightly cheaper version of these tongs with nylon instead of silicone, but we think heatproof, nonstick silicone provides better value.
The Best Value Tongs
Hot Target Silicone-Tipped Stainless Steel Tongs (Set of 3)
If you're looking for good value in kitchen tongs, it's hard to do better than this set of three from Hot Target. You'll get one 7-inch for fine work, a 9-inch for general use, and a 12-inch for deep pots or high-heat cooking. All three have colorful silicone grips and food-contact surfaces, and a pull-type lock at the hinge. Like our best-overall OXO tongs, they're heatproof to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. So what are you giving up by using these instead? Well, they're not as sturdy as the OXO model, and the grips aren't as comfortable. On the other hand, their lighter weight might make them a better match for some users. They won't hold up under use the way the OXO tongs do, but at this price, they don't really need to.
The Best Locking Mechanism Tongs
Rösle Lock and Release One-Handed Locking Tongs
These tongs from German manufacturer Rösle are the polar opposite of cheap 'n' cheerful value tongs. They're a sleek, seamless, solid-steel design, with none of the hard-to-clean nooks, crannies and crevices you'll see on lower-priced tongs (and they're dishwasher-safe, too). These don't have padded grips, but the design is ergonomic and comfortable to hold. The Really Big Deal with these tongs, though, is their unique one-handed locking mechanism. Hold them with the tips pointing down and give them a squeeze, and they'll unlock on their own. Point them up, and they lock again. They cost a lot more than any other tongs on this list, but if you have a high-end kitchen and want the longest-lasting kitchen tongs, they're exactly what you're looking for.
The Best Grilling Tongs
Grillhogs 16-inch Barbecue Tongs
You could use any of the tongs on this list to turn a steak or chop in a frying pan, but grilling is a special use case. You don't want your hands to be too close to the heat (let alone directly over the coals), so you'll need something sturdy, at least 14 or 16 inches long, and with heatproof grips. These tongs from Grillhogs fit the bill admirably. They're robust enough to handle the biggest steak, with their sturdy stainless steel construction, and their heatproof oak grips mean they'll fit in beautifully with the wood-on-steel aesthetic of most grilling tools. The only potential downside here is that, because the grips are natural hardwood, they won't hold up well in the dishwasher. You're better off handwashing them in order to maintain their beauty.
The Best Spatula Tongs
The standard types of tongs are versatile all-rounders in the kitchen, but a well-equipped cook will often have one or two extra tongs for special purposes. Spatula tongs meet one of those special purposes. They're like your regular kitchen tongs, but the tips consist of small spatulas or "turners" rather than the usual oblong variety. There are a couple of reasons for this design. The obvious one is that it means you only need one tool to do both jobs (dogs and burgers on the same grill, for example). The other is that a spatula-type tip is ideal for delicate foods that might break while being turned, like fish or hand-formed patties. We're partial to the ones in this set, which combine sturdy steel construction with comfortable heatproof grips and light weight. The set offers solid value, providing 9-inch tongs for general use and 12-inch tongs for high-heat cooking or grilling.
The Best Scissor Tongs
HINMAY Stainless Steel Scissor Tongs (Set of 2)
Regular tongs are the most versatile for general-purpose use, but you might also want to keep one or two pairs of scissor-style tongs in your kitchen. They'll let you apply a bit more force for any given amount of squeeze, and their design makes them the perfect implement for plucking ears of corn from the boiling pot or turning individual hot dogs on the grill or a griddle. This twin-pack from HINMAY offers great value for the dollar, with 9-inch tongs and 12-inch tongs for all-around kitchen use (you can get longer ones for the grill, as well). The comfortable soft-grip silicone handles stay cool even after extended sessions at the grill or in the depths of a large pot, and the steel food-contact surfaces are heatproof to over 1100 degrees Fahrenheit (perfect for that outdoor pizza oven you splurged on).