Barbecuing baskets are used for all manner of grilling. Hand held baskets can adjust to any thickness for holding and flipping thick steaks, chopped vegetables and everything in-between. Baskets can be hand held and baskets can attach to other bbq accessories to augment barbecuing. Rotisserie baskets can hold the form of a chicken, cornish hen, turkey breast and for small parts like fish sticks, chicken fingers, wings and tumbling vegetables.
In general, you should choose a basket with a long handle that has a wooden or plastic grip to it so that you don’t burn your hands. Many barbecuing baskets are dishwasher safe, and if you plan to run yours through the dishwasher, get plastic handles instead of wooden. If you choose a basket that doesn’t have a non-stick coating, you might try brushing the inside of the basket with a bit of oil before you put the food in to keep it from sticking.
If you buy and adjustable basket, make sure it has strong hinges, particularly if you want to cook something thick like thick steaks or “spatchcock” chicken (grilled whole, butterflied chicken). The hinges can pop off if they aren’t strong and you try to force the basket closed around something thick.
One of the best uses for a basket is cooking fish. The grid forming the basket is usually more closely spaced than the grill itself, so you don’t risk flakes of fish dropping off into the fire. Additionally, you don’t have to try to flip the fish with a spatula. The baskets are double-sided, so you turn the basket over to turn the fish over.
Shish kebab baskets are long and thin and you place the vegetable and meat chunks in a row just as if they had a skewer in them. But with a basket, the pieces won’t fall off the skewer. When they’re done, you just open the basket and slide the veggies right onto the plates.
Shaker baskets for barbecuing are used for grilling loose, small foods like shrimp and chopped up vegetables. With a shaker basket, you place the foods you want to cook inside, and place the basket on the grill. Many shaker baskets have removable handles so that you can close the grill completely. Then you can periodically re-attach the handle so that you can shake up the contents of the basket for even cooking.
Grill toppers are another way to extend the uses of your grill. They look like griddles or woks with small holes. The holes allow the heat through from the grill through to get the smoky flavor, but they aren’t big enough to let the contents fall through. Grill toppers are mainly used for stir frying vegetables, shrimp, and scallops on the grill, but the flat ones can also be used for searing steaks because you get more heat conduction through the grill-top griddle than through the air under the barbecue hood. Grill topper woks are like the griddles, except that they have angled sides so you can stir and toss the food.
You can use a wok type grill topper for grilling potatoes, too. You get a result similar to home fries or hash browns, only with a bit more of a smoky flavor to them.
Baskets and toppers are available with three basic surface options. You can get them in plain stainless steel, or you can get them coated with a non-stick surface, or porcelain coated. It’s hard to say that one of these options is clearly superior to the others, because each of them has advantages and disadvantages.
Non-stick surfaces are probably going to be best for those foods that don’t spend a lot of time on the grill, like thinner fish and chopped up vegetables because the non-stick surface doesn’t stand up to high heat as well as the others. Porcelain coated baskets and toppers get high marks for being easy to clean, and many people praise stainless steel for its good heat distribution. It’s really mostly a matter of personal preference.
If there is one single accessory that would change your grilling habits most, it would probably be a tie between the fish basket and the wok topper, depending on how much you like grilled fish. Having the option of grilling fish easily opens up a lot of new possibilities for cooking out, but then again, so does having the wok. If you have a decent size grill, you may have room for both, in which case your options multiply even more.