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How to Select a Wooden Grill Brush

So, now you know - Wire bristle grill brushes are a BBQ buzz kill.  They wreak havoc on your grates, pollute your food with foreign objects, and endanger the safety of family and friends you cook for. So, what are you waiting for?  Throw it out before it hurts someone.

Now is the time to switch to a wood grill scraper.  It’s the only all-natural and safe way to clean outdoor grill grates. It’s also likely to be the first wood grill brush you’ve purchased since the category is relatively new, so here’s a primer on how to select a wooden grill brush.  There’s a long form version and a snap shot. 

Version 1 for consumers who prefer short and sweet …

  1. Plan to spend between $20 - $30 for a moderate to high quality wood grill brush.
  2. Select a brand that is sourced, manufactured and supported from within the U.S.A. It’s likely to be higher quality.
  3. Buy at the high end of your budget range. Hardwoods like hickory may cost up to 25% more, but they often last 5X longer than softer cultivars.   
  4. Closely examine product listing photos for details reflecting quality craftsmanship and finish work such as rounded edges, sanded cut-outs, clean lines, and the thickness of leather hang straps.
  5. Consider product design and features such as tapered vs. beveled scraping blades and ergonomic handle shapes that ensure comfort and control.
  6. Make sure the company stands behind the product with a sufficient warranty provision, satisfaction guarantee and/or return policy.

Version 2 for consumers seeking more detail and insight …

DON'T BUY BASED ON PRICE

You’ll find the price of wooden grill cleaners range from as little as $10 to as much as $40.  Higher prices don’t always mean you get a better product, but low price almost always guarantees a dud. There is some truth to the saying “you get what you pay for”.  The main factors influencing price are the source country of origin (where it’s made), the wood material used (what it's made from), and the level of craftsmanship that goes into making the product.  Don’t let your purchase decision be guided strictly on price alone. Instead, consider how you feel about the price. If a product priced at $40 looks nicer, performs better, and lasts longer - and you value those characteristic - then it’s likely worth the premium you pay for it.

Conversely, if you’re ok with replacing your wood grill brush every season like the wire brushes you’ve used over the years, then the product at the lower end of the market could be just right for you.

WHERE IT'S MADE MATTERS

The reason so many US companies outsource manufacturing and production overseas is because it’s cheap and allows for greater profit margin. Short sighted manufacturers favor “cheap”, but it’s rarely in the consumers best interest.  Product quality and durability nearly always suffer from cheaply made products produced in great volume to compete primarily on price. Look for wood grill scrapers made in the USA where high quality source material, skilled labor and pride in workmanship combine to deliver great value.  You’re near certain to get a higher quality product from USA-based manufacturers that source, produce and service exclusively from within the United States.  As an added benefit, you’ll be serving an important role powering the growth of our domestic economy.

NOT ALL WOOD IS CREATED EQUAL

Wood scrapers are available from a variety of tree specimens including oak, cedar, beechwood, hickory and even bamboo, although technically bamboo is a grass, not a tree. Don’t underestimate the importance of the material the grill brush is made from.  Most consumers view wood as a commodity – with all woods being the same.  That perception is misguided. The reality is all woods are different -  in hardness, strength, machining quality, grain characteristics and availability, domestically and abroad.  Look exclusively for products made of hardwoods (i.e. hickory) versus softer woods (i.e. cedar). They’ll perform better and last longer, and in the case of hickory grill scrapers, the grain patterns can be wonderfully unique and interesting, providing novelty and distinction as a gift.

LOOK FOR QUALITY FIT AND FINISH

Opportunity attracts attention and the market for wood BBQ cleaners is no different.  It’s very crowed and suffers from having a high number of low-quality producers all trying to capitalize on demand by competing on price.  The result is a category flooded with marginal look-alike products of inferior quality and finish. When shopping online for a wooden grill brush, browse and rollover product photos to magnify the image.  Carefully examine the product finish.  Do the edges appear smooth and rounded or sharp and rough?  Check for knots and splits in the wood.  Select a grill brush finished with food-safe mineral oil. It’s an extra step in the manufacturing process and added expense to make, but it helps to preserve and protect the wood. Do the photos look like pictures you have seen on another listing?  It’s entirely possible and likely the products where manufactured in China and branded with different logos here in the states.  Want to check?  Visit Alibaba.com and search "wood grill scrapers".  If you see multiple versions similar to the product you're interested in, then it's all but certain to be made in China.  

Look for clues in the photos.  For example, is the hang strap leather and of sufficient heft and thickness to hold up in the elements?  Is the logo laser printed or engraved into the wood? Premium producers want to build enduring brands and take pride in how their “mark” is displayed and holds up over time.  At the end of the day, you’ll know for sure if you bought quality or not when you hold it in your hand. The cheap brands tend to be light products with a rough feel.  You’ll burn through those grill scrapers in a couple of weeks, unless you throw it away sooner because you’re tired of digging out splinters.

STYLE AND DESIGN SET THE LEADERS APART FROM THE LAGGARDS

Most wood grill scrapers lack originality in their design and features.  Remember, most are trying to keep their cost down and their profits up. It seems boat oars, fraternity paddles and putty knives inspired many of their designs.  If you’re shopping around, you’ll notice the similarity among competing brands.  Solid block handles, square or triangular, even the contoured type, are bulky and clumsy to hold.  Handles that resemble old-school bike pumps force an uncomfortable split between your fingers resulting in hand fatigue and soreness.

On the other end of the design spectrum, you’ll find products of true distinction – grill scrapers tastefully engineered to meet consumer needs. Look for ergonomically designed handles that would appear to be comfortable and accommodating for any size hands.  Shovel-style handles are proven to work well and are most desirable. Dual handles are better than single handles, as they provide more options for light and heavy-duty cleaning and control.  When in doubt pause and consider … would I get more scraping power from an open hand push or a close-fisted punching motion?

Truth be told, regardless of your budget, design or wood preference, there’s a wood grill scraper for everyone.  Let your needs and common sense be your guide in selecting one that keeps your grill clean, and your food and family safe.


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