Grill Brushes

From Spicing Up the Backyard Barbecue

How we tested

Lately we’ve been noticing that the replaceable steel scrubbing pads on our favorite grill brush from our 2008 testing have been fraying after a few uses, forcing us to replace them more often than we’d like. We decided to return to the backyard to test nine grill brushes in a range of styles, priced from about $8 to $41; that included our old favorite, as well as our former runner-up, which has a similar design but features a wooden handle and a pair of scrub pads rather than a single pad. After baking a messy paint job of barbecue sauce, honey, mustard, and molasses onto cooking grates, we went to work.

Here’s what we concluded: The less complicated the brush the better. Brushes fitted with multiple scrubbing mechanisms usually meant that one was in the way when we tried to employ the other. Hand position also mattered. Our tested method is to preheat the grill to loosen residue before scrubbing, and brushes with short handles got us too close to the heat. However, excessively long handles subtracted scrubbing leverage and often flexed under pressure. Brushes that wore out quickly also lost major points. We also downgraded brushes with bristles that became loose during testing. The Centers for Disease Control warns consumers to be aware that loose bristles left behind on a grill can become lodged in food and ingested, posing a health hazard.

Our former top performers were again the leaders, offering good leverage and thorough scrubbing without undue effort. Still, the scrub pads on our previous favorite, though effective when new, frayed and shredded within a few uses once again. In contrast, the pair of tightly woven steel pads on another brush—our new winner—seemed barely used by the end of testing. A pack of four replacement pads cost $16.95, but you won’t need to change them often. (They also come off for a quick cleaning.) It isn’t cheap, but our winning grill brush is an investment for the long haul.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.