All About The Science Of Barbecue, Grilling, And Outdoor Cooking. We Can Up Your Game!
"Food is important and if you don't know how to cook, it's tragic." Julia Child
You have come to the best place in the world for everything related to outdoor cooking, for barbecue recipes, for grilling and smoking techniques, for mythbusting, and the for world's best buyer's guides to smokers, grills, thermometers, and grilling accessories. You need this. I hope you brought napkins.
Not just ribs
I named this site AmazingRibs.com because pork ribs are the holy grail of backyard chefs and mastering them gives you the tools to master almost all outdoor cooking. But there is much much more here. You'll learn meat science, the thermodynamics of cooking, about charcoal, wood, food safety, thermometers, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, hot dogs, potatoes, chile peppers, beans, slaws, and the table of contents grows steadily. You can even find the definitive answer to the ancient questions: Charcoal or Gas?
We are a technologically advanced society and with new tools we have learned that a lot of the old ways are just old husbands' tales. So there is a strong scientific bent to this website. We want you to understand the theory and not just follow the steps of a recipe. Just about anything you can cook indoors can be cooked outdoors if you know how things work.
Myth: Boil ribs to make them tender
You wouldn't boil a steak would you? When you boil meat and bones, you make flavorful soup. That's because water is a solvent that pulls much of the flavor out of the meat and bones and makes the meat mushy. Boiling also removes vitamins and minerals. That's why the water is cloudy when you're done. That's flavor in the water. DOH! Taste tests have shown that ribs are most flavorful when roasted. If you are in a hurry, you are better off steaming or microwaving ribs and then finishing them on the grill or under the broiler. Just don't boil 'em if you want max flavor! If you boil ribs the terrorists win.
Barbecue judges agree: Properly roasted ribs are tender but still have some chew, similar to a tender steak. They don't fall off the bone. If they do, chances are they have been boiled. Click here to learn what the experts think Amazing Ribs taste like.
Myth: Thermometers are for sissies
I don't care what the TV chef said, you cannot tell anything about the temp of a grill is by holding your hand over the grate and counting "1001, 1002, 1003" until your palm bursts into flame. Each of us reacts differently to heat, and the heat 1" above the grate can be significantly different than 6" above. Maybe an old pro who cooks 100 steaks a night can do this parlor trick, but you cannot.
Likewise, you may have also heard that you can tell the doneness of a steak by poking it and comparing the bounciness of the meat to the flesh between your thumb and forefinger. As if everyone's hand has the same firmness and bounciness! As if a filet mignon has the same firmness and bounciness of a sirloin! Lookit, almost all professional chefs carry a meat thermometer in their chef's coat. There's a reason.
Finally, you cannot rely on popup thermometers in turkeys, and most dial thermometers built into grills are waaaaay off, often 50°F, and the temp in the dome is different than the temp on the cooking surface.
Myth: Soak wood before using it
When I soaked wood chunks overnight, they gained about 3% by weight. Chips gained about 6%. I cut the chunks in half and penetration was only about 1/16". DOH! That must be why they make boats out of wood! Wood doesn't absorb water! If you toss wet wood on a hot grill, the small amount of water on the surface will evaporate rapidly, negating any effect of soaking. On charcoal, the wet wood cools off the coals when it is important to hold the coals at a steady temp. But most important, wood combusts at about 575°F and it can't get there until the water evaporates at 212°F. Learn more about the Science of Wood.
Myth: The juices from a steak are blood
If the juiceswwere blood they would be dark dark red, almost black, like your blood. And they would be thick and coagulate. The blood is drained during slaughter. The juices on your plate are water tinted pink by a protein called myoglobin, so stop grossing out your kids by calling it blood. Click here to read more about meat science.
Myth: Always use tongs, never forks
Don't worry about poking holes in the meat. A steak is 70% liquid, so if an 8 ounce steak is about 6 ounces of water. If you poke a hole in it and it and it loses 1/4 ounce of juice, you'll still have 5 3/4 ounces of fluid left. When you cook, however, you can lose up to 20% from evaporation and dripping. That's almost 2 ounces. Still, we recommend you use a good set of tongs. Click here for my favorite barbecue and grilling tools and toys.
Here are some more myths debunked on these pages: Searing seals in juices. Pink pork is undercooked. If there is red in chicken it is undercooked. If you're lookin' you ain't cookin'. Cooking time depends on the weight of the meat. The bone adds flavor. Oil the grates before putting food on them. Flip burgers only once. The Stall is collagen melting. High heat is the best heat. Whole chicken tastes better than chicken cut into parts. Beer can chicken is the best chicken. Melting fat penetrates the meat. Grilling causes cancer. Grill marks are important. Medium and medium rare are the same thing. Stainless steel grills are better. Cast iron grates are the best.
Many more within. You can rely on your grill's built in thermometer. Ground beef is the riskiest food for pathogens. Barbecue sauce is always red. Marinades add a lot of moisture to meat. Start with the Table of Contents.
Great tested recipes
Let's skip ribs and talk turkey. This is no ordinary turkey preparation, pilgrims. Follow these (excessively) detailed steps and you will never have a dry, stringy, cardboardy, boring bird again. Nor will you ever risk life and limb nor stain the patio while deep frying a turkey again. This will be the best turkey you've ever tasted. Best of all you can do it on a smoker, any old backyard grill, or even indoors (without the smoke). But remember, when you cook the bird outdoors, you not only get great flavor, you free up the oven for all the other dishes.
World's Best Barbecue Buying Guide & Meathead's Hotstuff Awards
For the coolest in tools and toys, check Meathead's Hotstuff Awards. I don't sell anything. I just tell you what works and what doesn't.
An example: The Smokenator. You can easily convert a standard Weber Kettle into a smoker capable of making restaurant quality smoked ribs, pork shoulder, brisket, turkey, or salmon. If you have a Weber, you need a Smokenator. Less than $75.
Before you buy, check out the reviews in our Buying Guide. There is nothing in the world like this section. Just about every backyard grill, smoker, and pig roaster available is listed, and many of them have links to discount suppliers.
There's a section devoted to the best grills, best smokers, best BBQ tools and toys, best BBQ sauces, best thermometers, required kitchen tools, bar necessities, corkscrews, and the book reviews section covers the best references available.
Last Meal Ribs
Cut to the chase: Here's how to make the best ribs you've ever tasted.
There's classic side dishes here, including the best baked beans you've ever tasted (with Bourbon), several classic slaw recipes, real lemonade, cheesy grits, blue cheese potatoes, and potato pancakes.
The different cuts of ribs. For complete descriptions, click here.
All kinds of barbecue recipes
Occasionally I hanker for something other than ribs. Check out my recipes for Perfect Pulled Pork and Texas Brisket, Lamb Loin Chops, the Classic Chicago Hot Dog, Italian Beef Sangwitches, Korean Kalbi: Grilled Beef Ribs, a dozen BBQ Sauce recipes, real Grilled French Toast, the Ultimate Smoked Turkey, Schmancy Smoked Salmon, all the classic Cole Slaws, Potato Salads, Bourbon BBQ Baked Beans, Soused Apple Slices, Caramelized Onion Pizza on the grill, Jalapeño Poppers, and as they say on the commercials, much much more!
Finally you can master brisket
Here's what Barry Sorkin of Smoque Restaurant in Chicago says: "Great article on brisket. That's a better explanation than I've seen in any of the cookbooks, and I've read a lot of them. It does a great job of making one of the most complex and difficult cuts of meat simple and approachable. My only concern is that if everyone learns how to make brisket, how's a poor schmuck like me going to make a living?!?!"
Huge hot dog section
More than 25 articles (!) on the best ways to cook hot dogs, buns, chili sauce, recipes for the regional styles (Chicago, NY, Detroit, Cincinnati, West Virginia and more), and a hot dog road trip! Click here for everything you need to know about hot dogs.
Huge hamburger section
Take a tour of all the regional hamburger styles, the secrets of killer steakhouse steak burgers, the secrets of crispy diner burgers, the science of buns, burger condiments and secret sauce, recipes for specialties like the New Mexico Chile Cheeseburger, and more.
Huge pizza section
You can get that fabulous wood-fired grill flavor in your own back yard. It's a bit tricky, but once you master grilling pizza you'll never be able to order delivery again. Start with a great all purpose pizza crust for the grill and just for kicks, take a tour of all the world's great pizza styles.
How to Grill Great Steakhouse Steaks
Steaks are easy. Hard to mess up. Regardless of what cut you cook, there are some basic tips and techniques that can raise your game, and when you master them, you will have your guests reeling in deliria.
In this all new article, in my typically exhaustive style, we focus on the best cuts, the best grades, thickness, prep, cooking method, testing for doneness, serving, accompaniments, and much more. Click here to learn the secrets of great steakhouse steaks.
Ribeyes. Just typing the word makes my keyboard cower in fear of drool. Ribeyes are, in my humble opinion, the best steaks on the steer. And Chef Jamie Purviance agrees. Jamie is the well known author of several cookbooks, most recently the New York Times bestseller, Weber's Way to Grill: The Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling.
Jamie and I got together last month with two identical Weber Kettle charcoal grills to answer the kind of question that keeps steak lovers like us up all night: When is the best time to sear a steak, when you start cooking, or at the end of the cook? Believe it or not, when you sear the steak makes a huge difference in flavor, texture, and juiciness.
Dueling grills, dueling ribeyes cut from the same roast side-by-side. May the best steak win. Completely unrehearsed, watch the video and see what happened.
Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steaks
Originally settled by Mexican cowboys called vaqueros, Santa Maria, on California's beautiful Central Coast, has an international reputation for their local specialty, tri-tip steak, the unique grill they invented to cook it, and the clever way they carve it to make it tender. Click here to learn about buying and cooking tri-tip steaks.
Tips & Techniques for Amazing Barbecue
Here's where you can find the science of barbecue. Techniques teaches you about the different cuts of ribs, what happens to meat as you cook it, the thermodynamics of cooking, the best food temperature guide, when to add the sauce, how to tell when the ribs are ready, all about wood, all about charcoal, how to skin 'n trim a slab, a glossary of barbecue terminology, a handy dandy cooking log, the secrets of the Texas Crutch, and much more.
Best charcoal barbecue grill setup
Don't do it the way Weber tells you to do it. Click here to see how to do it right.
Best gas grill setup
The secret is in a pan of water between the meat and the heat.
Our Meat Temperature Magnet has won first prize, Best New Barbecue Tool !
The prize for "Best BBQ Tool" at the 2012 The National Barbecue Association conference did not go to a fancy grilling gadget. It was a simple inexpensive, indispensable, refrigerator magnet by Yours Truly. Hey, I've always known I was a tool, now I'm the best tool!
The AmazingRibs.com Meat Temperature Magnet is a comprehensive guide to meat temperatures. Click the red link for ordering info and a detailed explanation of meat temps.
It includes the latest USDA recommendations as well as chef recommendations (and they often differ) as well as color photos of the different stages of doneness for red meats. Designed for grillers' quick reference, the temperatures are the same for both indoor and outdoor cooks.
Most cookbooks contain outdated meat temperature info since the USDA has changed its recommendations several times. Knowing the best temps is essential to cooking safe and great food. The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses, (often mistakenly called "stomach flu,"), and 3,000 die. And nobody knows how many millions of dollars were wasted on overcooked food.
"Meathead converted me after 30 years of poking my meat with my finger and throwing out a lot of overcooked steaks," laughs Brad Barrett, manufacturer of GrillGrate, an innovative cooking surface for grills. "I was so impressed by the guide on his website that I converted it to a magnet and got exclusive rights to sell it." Barrett offers it for $5.99 on Amazon.
Cooking without a thermometer is like driving without a speedometer. A good temperature guide like this and a good digital thermometer are essential for every cook, especially backyard cooks.