Barbecue Accessories, Tools, And Toys:
A Buying Guide With Reviews And Rating
"He who dies with the most toys, wins." Anonymous grillmaster
Here's a list of tools, equipment, gadgets, and toys that can help make you a better cook. Click here for a list of kitchen tools we love.
Click the red links for current pricing and more info. Many are available on Amazon.com which pays us a small referral fee if you buy from them. It works on anything from grills to diapers and it has zero impact on the price you pay.
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If you have a Weber Kettle grill, you need a Smokenator. For less than $80 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 limited budget or limited deck space, there is no need to buy a standalone smoker. Click here for a whole page of tips on how to use and order the Smokenator. - Meathead
The Vortex is a piece of 20 gauge 304 grade stainless steel shaped like a cone with its top cut off. It is designed to work in Weber Kettle and Kamado style cookers and can be used four different ways to create two zones of direct and indirect heat. The four setups are simple and straightforward. You can put charcoal inside the vortex or around the ourtside of the Vortex and you can set the Vortex in your cooker with the wide side up or down.
It is sturdy and should last just about forever. It does a great job of setting up two zones in a kettle cooker (I even use it in a Hasty Bake 256 Gourmet). The Vortex makes for a somewhat small but extremely hot sear zone. You'll need to flip a steak every 30 seconds, or less. It's also great for making wings or other small pieces of meat that can be set around the perimeter of the grate.
The Vortex is great for searing, but not so great for indirect cooking, certainly not as good as the Smokenator on a Weber Kettle. First, because of the shape of the Vortex it is hard to fit more than one hunk of meat in the indirect zone if you have pork butt, whole chicken, turkey, or brisket on the menu. Check out the photograph below and you tell me how to get another piece of meat in that cooker. The second thing we don't like is the limited water pan options using the Vortex. In the photo below you'll see the water pan is inside the Vortex. This limits the size of the water pan and prevents you from having separate water pans and drip pans. Finally, it is not very good as an indirect tool on a kamado because they distribute their heat so evenly.
Because of these limitations we find ourselves using the Vortex most often when we want to concentrate heat for searing. We should point out that Meathead's afterburner method, which uses a charcoal chimney, works just as well for searing. For low and slow smoking we feel you will be better served by the Smokenator. - David "Pit Boss" Parrish
Smoke EZ Grill Conversion Kit
Here's another clever way to turn your inexpensive Weber Kettle into a smoker. The Smoke EZ kit contains a large powder coated 20 gauge steel ring that sits between the lid of your kettle and the bottom. Powder coating is pretty durable and should protect the ring from rust for years. Inside the ring are brackets to hold two standard round Weber grates or if you prefer, their hangar rack that allows you to hang whole fish, ribs, sausage, hams or food up to 22" long.
In the bottom half of the Kettle you place a fire ring and pour the coals around it in a C shape. You light a few coal on one end with a FireStarter Cube and the C shape of coals burns slowly and gently around the ring for long low and slow cooks that last many hours. Then there is a water bowl/drip pan that you can set inside the ring to catch drips and add humidity to the environment.
Add this to a Weber One Touch Gold and you have an easy ash cleanout. The Smoke EZ has handles making removal of the center section easy, and they will come in handy on really long cooks because there is no door in the side to add charcoal or water as there is on the Weber Smokey Mountain. The fire ring configuration allows greater fuel capacity than the WSM.
These plates and other party and picnicware are sooooo much nicer and more elegant that paper plates, and they are fully biodegradable and compostable because they are made from leaves! Best of all, they don't leak or get floppy when wet! Approved by FDA for food contact, they are made from fallen palm leaves, pesticide free, no chemicals, colors, sealants, or binders, and fully sterilized. They are a big hit with my guests, and we throw them in the compost bin rather than the trash. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com click here - Meathead
The Hovergrill increases the cooking surface on Weber Kettles and it can also be used to lift coals for searing steaks
Made by the Smokenator people, this is a quality stainless steel grate with legs can do two great things for your cooking.
1) It stands on top of your Weber Kettle's cooking grate pretty much doubling its capacity.
2) I place it below the cooking grate when I cook steaks because I want to raise the charcoal to right below the cooking surface to get max heat focused on the meat. Click here to read more about making steakhouse quality steaks. - Meathead
The concept is so very clever on so many levels. GrillGrates amplify heat, prevent flareups, make turning foods easier, produce great grill marks, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, wood smolders right below the meat, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. Click here to read more about what makes these grates so special and how they compare to other cooking surfaces. - Meathead
Cook a turkey or prime rib or pork loin properly and you're going to end up with a lot of juice on your cutting board. If yours has only grooves, it's going to overflow and ruin the table cloth. So I built my own by cutting a hole in a board and putting a pan underneath. Then the most famous cutting board company stole my idea (well, maybe they figured it out on their own). This one is 18" on both sides, and it is reversible. The groove is deep enough that it won't overflow. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Help break our addiction to oil! Reduce air pollution! Or just get your charcoal started faster, cheaper, and without that petrochemical smell.
This Weber chimney holds enough briquets to start most cookers, about 5 quarts, or about 80 briquets. Click here to read why we think this is the best way to start a charcoal fire hands down, and see other methods you might consider (but reject). For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Real heavy duty suede gloves with cotton lining that are 15" long and go almost to my elbow (I have short arms). I use mine to lift hot grates, push coals around, reach into the fire box to place logs, lift food from deep down inside the Weber Smokey Mountain. I have even used it to pick up hot coals.
They beat oven mits because they have fingers making it much easier to manipulate tongs and handle grates. I have two pairs, one for lifting food, and one for all else. When they get dirty I just put them on and wash my hands with a bar of soap. Ranked #1 by Cook's Illustrated.
I had high hopes for these silicone gloves. Although they are easy to clean they are not as heat resistant as suede golves, they are stiff, making it hard to fully flex my fingers, and slippery when wet. Worse, they will melt at more than 500°F. They are also really small and will not fit large hands. - Meathead
For pricing and direct ordering of the Suede Barbecue & Fireplace Gloves from Amazon, click here.
I have designed have a range of aprons with pockets, T-shirts, mugs, and more with scores of humorous sayings from "BBQ God", "Got Ribs?", "Eat Me", "Chef is Prime and Well Aged", "Nice Rack" and many more. Sold through CafePress.com, click here to see the whole line. - Meathead
Silicone brushes are the best thing to happen to barbecue since the charcoal briquet. I long ago relegated my natural and nylon bristle brushes to cleaning computer keyboards. Silicone brushes load up with lots of sauce, deliver it evenly, and are easy to clean and decontaminate. They are dishwasher safe. We have three: One for barbecue, one my wife uses for egg washes and other baking, and one for whatever. There are many brands on the market.
Whatever you do, please don't buy those rustic looking corded mops. They look authentic down home barbecue, but they are impossible to clean properly and they're a tummy ache or worse waiting to happen.
For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
These handy plastic paws are designed for shredding pork but they are also helpful for lifting large roasts and birds. I've tried all manner of gadgets for pulled pork, and these are the best. They are sharp and not for children. They also come in pink with a portion of sales going to support cancer research. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Wood is how we get seductive aromas and flavors into our grilled and smoked foods. It comes as logs, chunks, chips, pellets, and sawdust. Click here to read about the options and for links to suppliers.
These are designed for banking coals into two piles on a Weber grill, but you should not pile coals on both sides of the grill. One side only. I use mine for something else entirely. I have a second bottom grate that I put on top of the rails, and the coals go on top of this elevated grate. That puts them at the perfect height for searing steaks, just below the cooking grates.
Yes, if you're cooking red meats, the secret is a very hot fire, and raising the coals just a few inches makes a huge diff. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Here's how you can fit four slabs of ribs on a small grill like a Weber Kettle or Weber Smokey Mountain. Good rib racks hold the slabs upright with enough airspace between them to allow airflow and smoke penetration. Bad rib racks hold the meat too close together so they don't cook properly (see my article on rib racks). For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Like the pellet smokers MAK makes, this best of class stainless steel rack for eight slabs of ribs is built to last with thick rails. The gap between the rails is a whopping 1.75", wide enough for the thickest slabs and to allow adequate airflow. I left mine outdoors for months and there was no rust. Easily the best I have ever seen. For pricing and ordering direct from MAK, click here.
There are pros and cons to using a cover.
Pros. They keep rain, snow, wasps, birds, and other vermin out. If you have a shinyt stainless steel rig, it will keep it shinier. An expensive grill under cover will attract fewer thieves.
Cons. They are a bit of a pain because you have to wait til the grill cools and they gather rain when left off. But they can also trap moisture and humidity underneath and actually encourage rust and mold growth. For these reassons I cover only my grills and smokers that can collect water on the inside like my Weber Smokey Mountain and Hasty Bake.
Cheapo covers last only a year or two. A good cover will last five years or more. All the plastic or vinyl ones I've tried cracked and fell apart in two to three years. The canvas covers rotted in a few years. The best were canvas laminated or impregnated with polyurethane or PVC. Check out the pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
The Cold Weather Jacket is silicone coated jacket is designed to insulate your 22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain while cooking and it can easily be adapted for a Weber Kettle. Great for use in cool, rainy, and windy conditions or as as a weather cover while not using your cooker. - Meathead
Grill toppers are essential for grilling and smoking small objects such as slices of onion and peppers, nuts, and I prefer them for small chunks of meat rather than skewers. On skewers it is hard to keep the meat from spinning around, and getting the meats and veggies on the same skewer together is almost impossible.
With a basket, when the mushrooms are done, pull them out and leave the meat in. I also prefer the mesh type because they let in more smoke and flavor. My fave is the Mr. Bar-B-Q Stainless Steel Mesh Roasting Pan.
Have you ever had a delicate piece of expensive Chilean Sea Bass stick to the grates and disintegrate when you try to lift it off, or try to grill small things and have them fall between the openings into the fire?
Here's a great cheap solution: Frogmats, a sturdy wire mesh with a non-stick coating capable of resisting high heats, yet easy to clean. I use mine for jalapeno poppers, onion rings, potato slices, mushrooms, bacon, biscuits. They are great for smoking nuts and dehydrating tomatoes and peppers. I've even used mine to wrap a meat loaf so I could crisp it on all sides.
Frogmats come in a variety of sizes, even large enough for a whole hog, and you can cut them to fit. When you are done, just roll them up. They cannot handle extreme heat or direct flame, however. Click here to order Frogmats.
Weber Style 6435 Grill Pan
Another favorite is Weber Grill Topper, and I was pleased to see the folks at Cooks Illustrated agree. It has plenty of slots for smoke to travel through, and plenty of surface to brown things like salmon cakes.
You need a good cast iron griddle. Especially if you like fish, burgers, grilled sandwiches, home fries, or pancakes. Coat the flat side with oil, and you can sear fish so it is golden and crispy on the outside just like that great pan-seared fish you get in restaurants. Throw some dried herbs onto the flame, and you'll get a whisp of smoke in the meat.
You can even bring it indoors and it will straddle two burners. Use the flat side for pancakes. Flip it over and you get grill marks and conduction cooking from the ridges on steaks, burgers, or asparagus, and the fats and juices drip into the grooves where they vaporize and flavor the meat and cook by radiation.
This is a very handy tool. One word of caution. You may need two. If you use it for fish a lot, the flavor will remain on the surface, even after cleaning, so you won't be able to use it for pancakes.
I have two of them by Lodge, known for quality cast iron, and I use the ridged sides of both, one on top and one on the bottom, for making paninis. And my spatchcocked (butterflied) Cornish game hens pressed between the flat sides are unbelievably crisp and juicy in only 20 minutes. It is 20" x 10 7/16". For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
These flat weights are great for making grilled cheese sandwiches and other paninis, and even bacon. When I make sandwiches I preheat the press on high on the side burner, and then put the sandwich on the grill grates and the hot press on top so I can cook both sides at once. You can use them for keeping bacon from curling up on the grill with these, too. The Lodge model is preseasoned. Although the handle is supposed to provide heat protection, wear a glove.
I keep a cooking diary. In it I write down vital info about every cook so I can learn what works and what doesn't. OK. So I'm anal. But being anal got me this gig. The two most important variables to track in any cook are time and temp. So I used to wear a stopwatch around my neck when I cooked. Click when I fire up. Click when it is up to temp. Click when the meat goes on. Click when I add more wood or charcoal. Click when I turn. Click when I sauce. Click when I take it off. But have you seen the new digital stopwatches? They are a real pain with faaaar too many features and bells and whistles. My last one sat in my desk between cooks and beeped every hour and the only way I could make it shut up was with a hammer. True story. Now I use the very sinple user friendly Timestick.
It can count down or up and when a count down alarm sounds, the count up timer starts so you can see how much time has elapsed since your alarm. It's range is 99 hours 99 minutes and 99 seconds, there is a keypad lock so you don't accidentally screw things up, there's a lanyard so you can wear it around your neck, it comes in nine colors, it's splash proof, and it has a magnet on back so I can stick it to my grill, fridge, or oven. Operates between 32 and 104°F. Best of all, you won't need to read the manual. Love it.
If you prefer a bigger timer that can stand on the counter as well as stick to the fridge, with a keyhole mount on the back so you can mount it on a wall, and an alarm that you can hear in a noisy commercial kitchen or when you are downstairs doing laundry at home, this is the 110 decibel choice. Thank goodness you can adjust the volume. Other than that, it has pretty much the same features as the timestick. - Meathead
GrilLit is a new, best in class light that easily attaches to hood handles on most gas grills. Five very bright LEDs affixed to the end of an aluminum tube extend downward far enough to clear the bottom of the hood and deliver more light than one might expect from a compact, battery powered device.
Grill handle lights are a good BBQ accessory and much easier to use than the corded, goose neck utility lights masquerading as "BBQ lights". Many have weak clamping mechanisms and most have weak light. GrilLit sent us a unit to test and we compared it, side by side on the same grill with one of the best: Weber's Grill Out Handle Light. GrilLit won, lights out.
Both are weather and heat resistant and both are in the same price range. Both have a manual on and off switch and automatic tilt sensor switch that activates the LEDs when the hood is opened. The difference in illumination is dramatic: Weber's light is soft and fell off toward the sides and back of the grill. With three AA batteries, GrilLit is much more powerful and illuminated the entire cook surface. It can be angled back and forth to adjust the target, but on our test grill with over 450 square inches of cook surface, that was unnecessary. Weber's handle light comes in different models meant to fit specific Weber grills with round, oval or flat handles. GrilLit has an adaptable clamp that can open and close down to accommodate different shaped handles. Just be careful to follow the instructions for installing. The nut that holds the screw is not standard and you ca get into trouble, as Meathead did, if you remove the screw.
GrilLit was created by a team of BBQ loving, award-winning product designers and engineers called BOLTgroup. By day GrilLit has an elegant, aesthetically pleasing design. By night it provides a surprising amount of light and you don't have to plug it in or store it away from the elements when not in use. Gril-Lit is a new product and only available at their website or HSN. - Max Good
Weber's Grill Out Handle Light uses three small LEDs to focus illumination directly on your cooking surface. Affixed to the lid handle, it's activated by a tilt sensor switch when the grill is opened, or turned on and off manually with a push button.
Grill Out is water and heat resistant, and runs on three AAA batteries. If your space is pitch-black, you'll need more light than Grill Out can provide. But even with my deck's subdued lighting it was an asset after dark, although brightness dropped off and couldn't cover the entire 450 square inch grill surface. Grill Out lights come in diffeent models made specifically for the different handles on Weber Q, Spirit, Genesis and Summit gas grills. They will fit some other brands, but you'll have to research to determine compatibility. A better option is the GrilLit. - Max Good
Well, you can pay an electrician to mount spotlights on the exterior of your house only to discover that your shadow makes it hard to see the food. Or you can buy a light to mount on the grill like the ones above. But the best way to see what is on the cutting board, on the grill, on the smoker, and where that wing you dropped went, is to mount a really bright light just above your eyes.
Don't use jaccard blade tenderizers on food that will not be cooke beyond 160°F
These nifty devices are designed to tenderize meat by slicing through tough fibers. You place it on top of the meat and press it down plunging thin razor sharp blades into the meat, and in the process plunge microbes on the surface deep into the interior. They work.
But there is a danger. A piece of meat often has contamination on the surface, but it rarely penetrates to the interior. When you cook, the flame pasteurizes it by killing everything on the exterior. If it has been worked on with a blade tenderizer, there is a much higher risk because the blades could essentially innoculate the interior by pushing in contamination on the surface. To be safe, you need to cook the meat to more than 160°F. That means that if you are cooking to medium rare, 130°F, this device can be dangerous. On the other hand, if you are doing a tough cut such as beef short ribs or beef brisket, which are cooked to 180°F and above, you can use the jaccard, and in fact, I recommend it. You should also avoid commercial meats that have been blade tenderized if you intend to cook it to less than 160°F. - Meathead
I really really wanted to like this thing. There is clearly a lot of clever thought and engineering in it and the owner of the company is a real sweet guy. And it works in some cases, but not so much in most cases.
There is a rod that connects to your grill's rotisserie motor, if you have a rotisserie. Then there are two brackets that go on the rod, each with four arms. The arms hold slotted shelves that hold your food. Turn on your motor and round and round they go like a food Ferris wheel. Well this is the exact same concept used in large commercial restaurant smokers because the heat and smoke enter them from a small area at the back, and the Ferris wheel allows the food to move around in the cooking chamber in and out of hot spots so all of it cooks evenly.
On most home cookers, there aren't hot rear or front hot spots like this. On a gas grill, if there are hot spots they are usually on one side or another, especially if you turn off burners to keep the temp low. In those cases the Ribolator is worthless because you have a hot and cold side. Not good if the food is on a rotisserie and one side is exposed to heat and the other is not.
On the other hand, if your burners line up front to rear, and few do anymore, it works nicely. And it can increase your capacity slightly on a drum or kettle or bullet smoker, but not as much as rib holders.
I have tried a demo the manufacturer sent me on several cookers and I just don't see that there is any way, theoretically or in practice, that it improves quality.
To set it up you have to remove the cooking grates on most grills, and it is a bit of a pain to assemble and clean. But worst of all, if you are cooking ribs, it can only handle narrow slabs that can be confined within the shelves. Wide spareribs bang into the other shelves and spill the contents out. And if you are only cooking one slab, you have to counterbalance the opposite shelf with rocks or something. Then the meat drips on them.
Bottom line, if you are looking to increase the capacity of your drum, kettle, or bullet smoker, these may do the trick, otherwise, pass. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
These are a rip off of the famous French recliner by Lafuma. I own two of them, and, man, are they comfortable. This model is cheaper. Park it next to the cooler, pour a cold one into your stein, set your Maverick remote temperature monitor on top of the cooler. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
The Park Catalog has some nice lawn furniture and sturdy picnic tables designed for parks and recreation services. Click here to see their offerings. - Meathead
Order the all-weather AmazingRibs.com Meat Temperature Magnet, the 2012 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 all-weather 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 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.
This is the digital age folks. If you are still relying on the piece of crap bi-metal dial thermometer that your grill maker tossed into the hood as an afterthought, you have no chance of ever becoming a good cook. And if you are holding your hand over the coals to gauge the heat, you are kidding yourself. And if you are gauging the doneness of your steaks by poking them you are wasting money. And if you are looking for clear juices in your chicken, you are risking the health of your family.
This is the digital age folks. A good digital oven thermometer will shock you when you see how far off the thermometer on your grill is. And a good meat thermometer will guarantee you properly cooked safe food 100% of the time.
Best of all, in the digital age, there are some amazing new thermostats that can be attached to your grill. Set it and forget it, regardless of the weather.
Check out your options on my Buyer's Guide to Thermometers and Thermostats.
I love these bamboo steak markers. They come in a pack of 500 and include five temperatures: rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, and well. They are 3.5" long and you insert their sharp points in the side of the steak so the meat can be flipped easily. If they don't char, you can wash them and reuse them.
In recent years there have been perhaps a dozen new products brought on the market to hold wood and add smoke to the cooker. I have played with a number of them, and the one that impresses me the most is this clever design, especially for use with gas grills.
It is a pouch of fine mesh 304 stainless steel that holds wood chips or pellets. The airspaces in the mesh are small enough that they limit the amount of air that gets in so the wood smokes and never bursts into flame. It puts out plenty of white smoke, usually within a few minutes. Best of all, it smokes just by putting it on top of the cooking grate or you can stand it on edge and slip it between the grates and the back of your grill. You don't have to squeeze it in down by the burners although you can if you need to space on top of the grates. And it works. It holds enough wood for about 15 minutes for short cooks, but you need to refill it, or buy a second pouch, for long cooks like pork shoulder and brisket. Refilling can be tricky since the steel gets hot and stays hot for a while. If you have good gloves, no problem.
I have a drawer full of really expensive German and Japanese cutlery, so don't tell my professional chef friends, but the knife I reach for most often is my Rapala Soft Grip. This cheapo has a thin flexible blade, with a dangerously sharp blade, a wicked sharp tip, and it's under $20. It's great for slicing tomatoes, removing silverskin on meat, boning, cutting ribs on hot peppers, and, of course, filleting. It is not strong enough for cutting through bone, but there is nothing better for cutting things off bones. When it is dirty, it goes in the dishwasher. When it's dull I sharpen it. When I can't get as sharp as new, I get a new one. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
For cutting large hunks of meat into thin slices, like prime rib or brisket I reach for my Messermeister Meridian Elite Forged 10" Slicer. The kullenschliffs (dimples) on each side of the knife reduce drag and prevent food from sticking to the blade.
The best way to store food more than a week is in the freezer. Foods lose few nutirents and little quality when frozen. But if they are kept for longer than a few weeks, meats can oxidize, fats can get rancid, and the surface can harden from freezer burn. Especially pork and seafood. Oxygen is the enemy. So I pack food for storage is with a vacuum sealer like the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer. You put the food in a plastic bag, insert it into the machine and it sucks out the air and seals the bag. Make sure you mark the date on the bag. It is a great way to store cooked foods too. Put your pulled pork in the bag, add a little sauce and seal. When it is time to serve, place the bag into a pot of simmering water. It reheats rapidly and tastes almost as good as when it came out of the smoker. - Meathead
Normally I am not interested in gimmicks, and I normally advocate against burger presses because they compress the meat too much. Loosly packed meat has more pockets for the juices to hang out.
So when this piece of plastic arrived, I was pretty skeptical. I am no longer skeptical. It helps make a pretty good stuffed burger, and stuffed burgers can be very juicy and tasty, with the cheese on the inside, not on top. Or bacon, or peppers, or onions, or mushrooms, or or or.
Here's how it works, You take a ball of ground meat and drop it in the Stufz. You set the handle to one position, and it presses the meat into a disk. Then you adjust the handle and it presses a pocket in the center. Add your cheese or whatever, plop another ball of meat on top, adjust the handle again, and press again. You get beautifully formed thick burgers with a stuffing. Occasionally you need to do a little manual touchup to the top and bottom joins to prevent leaks, and for that matter, you could do the whole process by hand easily enough, but the gadget does make it a bit easier, and you get nice uniform pucks, helpful when you are timing a bunch-o-burgers. Having the cheese in the center helps prevent overcooking the patty while you get the exterior nice and dark. Bottom line, they taste great.
One word of caution: The center is molten and hot, so you need to warn everybody to be careful. But molten cheese is better than limp cheese lounging on top.
Working with it was a bit awkward at first, especially when my hands got meat on them, and if you're making a lot, it would be nice to have some help, say one person to make the meat balls, and another to run the press. I'm not sure how long the plastic will hold up, but if you're a cheeseburger burger fan, splurge on this. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click Stufz Gourmet Stuffed Burger Maker. - Meathead
Use a Grill Grabber to lift your hot and dirty grill grates, even if there's the food still on them. I use mine when I need to add coals, wood, water to water pans, or to rescue food that has dropped through the grates. This may seem like a frivolity, but it is a thoroughly useful tool. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
So what do you do with the ash from your grill? Wood ash is high pH (highly alkaline), and, in small quantities, can be used as a substitute for lime to correct acidic soil. But the fine particle size can clog pores in soil causing drainage problems.
There is a debate over use of charcoal ash, however. Charcoal has additives that some say may be harmful to the garden, lawn, or compost, but it is not clear to me how much, if any remain after combustion. I have heard that if sent to the landfill it actually helps decomposition of trash. I have also heard that putting it around the edges of gardens and patios will keep grass from encroaching. When my fire cools, I dump my ash in a galvanized ash can. This summer I'll try some along the edge of the patio. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Not much more than a glorified fish scale, but it works just fine. An empty tank weight five pounds, and a full one is 20 pounds. Hoist your tank and the gauge gives you a pretty good guesstimate of how much is left. I take mine when I exchange empty tanks for full ones. You'd be surprised how many are underfilled. Of course you do have a backup tank, don't you? And you do backup you computer don't you (one copy on premises and one copy off premises)? Click here to order the Grill Gauge from Amazon.com. - Meathead
Capacious (67 cans), with can holders in the lid, large wheels, a long tow handle, and a drain plug.
It is sturdy enough to sit on, keeps ice for several days at ambient temperatures up to 90°F.
Most importantly: You can keep your meats and marinades in it when you need a faux cambro (a very important tool). For discount pricing on the 40 quart and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. For discount pricing on the 50 quart and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
If your grill didn't come with a side burner, here's how to make up for the deficiency. Butane burners like this get very hot very fast, and are great for keeping sauces warm or even for frying side dishes. My only complaint is that it does not come with a carrying case. Note that the butane tanks do not come in the box and they are hard to find in hardware stores, but they are easy to find in Asian groceries where these burners are popular. Make sure you have a source for fuel before you buy one of these. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Made of rugged 1/8" thick aluminum, with four serious rivets, there are no springs to pop, and they show zero signs of wear or weakness while lighter tongs all end up in the recycling bin. Well, actually, I have dropped them so many times, run them through the dishwasher so many times, and tossed them in the gadget drawer so many times that the red paint is chipping. But that's all. I use them on meats, hot charcoal, burning logs, and with the mechanical advantage that the scissor design creates, I can easily pick up a whole packer brisket. Click here to order the 20" BBQ Tongs.
Dishwasher safe stainless steel with OXO's popular nonslip rubber handles, they are the winner of the Tylenol/Arthritis Foundation Design Award. They are spring loaded and the ends are scalloped for better gripping. There is a loop for hanging and a mechanism that locks them in closed position for storing (which has failed after several years on all three pairs that I have). Regardless, they are still my faves. I just store them with a cardboard toilet paper core over the ends.
For discount pricing on the 12" tongs and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here.
The 18" tongs don't have the locking mechanism, but they are necessary if you have a deep pit. But be warned, the longer the tongs, the less leverage you have and the harder it is to get a grip. For discount pricing on the 18" tongs and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here.
I also recommend their nylon tipped tongs for use on non-stick cookware. For discount pricing on the 9" tongs and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
A jumbo hybrid of tongs and spatulas, this is the proper tool for flipping fish, burgers, and other crumbly foods. Rosewood handle protects you against the heat, and there is a leather loop for hanging. They come with a lifetime warranty. I find them to be indispensable. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Stiff Metal Spatula
Spatulae come in slotted and solid, and I recommend the solid with a good insulated sturdy handle. The solid is best for pressing things down on a griddle, like when you are making Diner Burgers on a griddle or in a frying pan.
I like the Weber Style 6446 Professional-Grade Fish Turner. I took mine down to the basement and ground the edge very sharp with a grinder. Now it slips easily under food that is stuck to the grates. - Meathead
These kits sure look cool, but I've never seen one with all the tools I need, and the ones I've looked at up close came with poor quality tools or unnecessary tools. I buy them a la carte. - Meathead
Here's how to make two perfectly toasted panini style grilled sandwiches at once. Use this old fashioned double pie iron, originally designed for filled pies, for everything from Grilled Cheese to Pulled Pork.
Just butter your sandwich on the outside, open up the hinged mold, insert the sandwiches and put it over the coals, campfire, or gas grill. This Old Mountain cast iron double square pie iron is 4 1/2" x 8 1/4" and is pre-seasoned and ready to use. The long handle allows you to grill in comfort away from a camp fire. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here . - Meathead
My wife hasn't noticed the burn hole yet. It's pretty substantial. For the life of me I don't understand why the deck didn't go up in flames and take the house with it. Must be some sort of flame retardant in the wood. But a hunk of charcoal somehow jumped from my grill and tried to escape before I caught it. But not before it burned a serious hole.
My wife hasn't noticed because I covered the burn with a Grill Pad. A little late, but not too late. This lightweight flexible fiber cement pad protects my deck from runaway coals, spills, and grease dropping from the grease pan on my gas grill (have you emptied yours lately?). Grill Pads come in a variety of sizes, shapes and logos. I got mine with a Florida Gator logo, my alma mater. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Forget the fancy high end pricey Le Cruset French Oven, this is the one you want for cowboy cooking and camping, and it comes in handy around the house. It's perfect for whole chickens or slow braising in the oven or in the grill.
You can even sit it on top of coals and shovel more coals on top of the flat lid with a raised rim, and you can cook classic chili, baked beans, cornbread, casseroles, and even cobblers. It is 13" wide x 7" high, weighs 21 pounds and includes a perforated aluminum basket for steaming, frying, or boiling. Click here for a complete list of all cast iron pots and pans available on Amazon.com. - Meathead
You want good stiff scissors for cutting a chicken apart, for snipping herbs, cutting pizza, butcher string, opening packages, and many other tasks. Get sturdy stainless blades so you can cut through the ribs of chickens.
The best models come apart at the hinge so they can go in the dishwasher and you can get them really clean. Try the Henckel Take Apart Kitchen Shears from a respected German knife maker or my favorites, the OXO Good Grips Professional Poultry Shears (above). - Meathead
When a recipe calls for garlic to be crushed, minced, or pressed, I use a garlic press. A good garlic press releases more oils and flavors than mincing with a knife and pressed garlic coats the food more evenly than mincing.
A good garlic press is an important kitchen tool. Get one that is sturdily built, that is easy to grip, that is easy to clean, and has a large hopper to hold big cloves. Avoid non-stick models. I have a well-used Trudeau Garlic Press and I recommend it. - Meathead
Adjustable pepper mill
The Kyocera Everything Mill Adjustable Grinder came into my life after trying many many pepper mills. This one is easy to adjust the size of the grind, and that is really important. I want coarse grind for some things, like steaks, and fine grind for use in sauces. Yes, the size of the grind is important. It influences flavor. And yes, freshly ground pepper is better than the pre-ground stuff in the metal box.
I don't know how I lived without a good, accurate digital kitchen scale for so many years. It is so important. Look at salt for example, 1 cup of table salt has almost twice as much salinity as a cup of Morton's kosher salt because Morton's kosher salt has more air space between the grains. But a pound of all salts contain exactly the same amount of sodium chloride.
Without a scale, making a brine requires a calculator. Flour and sugar have the same problem. Packed brown sugar or loose brown sugar. Big diff. Ever try to measure a tablespoon of honey? Did you get it all into the bowl or leave a lot of it on the spoon. There are plenty of conversion tables out there that help you convert. My favorite is the OXO Good Grips Stainless Food Scale with Pull-Out Display. It can weight accurately up to 11 pounds as well as fractions of an ounce. Push a button and it converts to metric. Put the bowl on the scale and push a button and it zeros out so the bowl's weight is not included. The top comes off for easy cleaning. It will significantly improve your cooking. - Meathead
Now here's one of those slap your forehead and mumble "why didn't I think of that" ideas. For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
Injecting meat is faster, cheaper, more versatile, and more efficient than brining. There are several good products on the market. Click here to read tips on injecting, some recipes, and my reviews of several injectors including a moroized model!
This is a fun little gadget that makes ice and doubles as a wine chiller or cold serving bowl. It's a blue plastic bucket with a snap-on lid surrounded by a frosted silicone orb with 21 ice pods molded into the surface. Add water to the fill line of the orb then push the bucket inside. It displaces the water, forcing it into the pods. Snap on the lid, freeze and you get 21 ice cubes or an iced serving vessel. Store creamy dips and pints of ice cream, then use as a serving bowl. Or serve chilled wine. The orb accommodates 750 ml and 1.5 L bottles.
Water must be poured precisely to the fill line. Overfilling can cause the lid to freeze to the orb, and then it's hard to pop the bucket out and retrieve the ice cubes. A good old fashioned ice bucket can supply larger quantities of ice, but orbs add a nice touch for a small gathering and work well as freestanding chilled servers. It's an interesting design with a cool look. Click here to check prices on Amazon.com - Max Good
I first heard about this from a competition cook. To say I was skeptical is an understatement. A spot remover that will remove the grease stains on almost all my shirts is something I considered to be as elusive as unicorns and perpetual motion machines. So I bought a 2 ounce bottle and tried it on one of my t-shirts.
The instructions say that all you need is just a drop. Sure. I used three drops. My shirt came out so clean I could not find where the stain had been originally. So I tried it on a dress shirt, but fearful it would ruin it, I used only one drop. Again, the grease was gone! So I hauled out all my saucy and greasy shirt, 11 in all, put Grandma to work, tossed them all into one tub, and before long, I had a new wardrobe. Utterly amazing stuff. And just for the record, I have been doing my own laundry since I went away to college, even through 40 years of marriage. May be a contributing factor to our longevity.
Even my wife is impressed with Grandma. She has used it on some of her finery including her Mom's table cloth with ancient spaghetti stains, stains that Oxi-Clean, her go to remover, couldn't handle.
The label says it is good for "oil, grease, paint, makeup, grass, inks, blood, baby formula, tar, spaghetti sauce, coffee, rust, beadine, tumeric, fabric bleed, and pet stains". The only caveat on the label is to "check garment for colorfastness." For discount pricing and direct ordering from Amazon.com, click here. - Meathead
This is a clever way to cook ribs in two hours on a gas grill, but if you have a few hours, you can cook them better without the Ribalyzer (it does not take eight hours to make great ribs on a smoker as the inventor claims - here's how to cook Last Meal Ribs the proper way). Essentially the Ribalyzer is a device for smoking then steaming.
Here's how it works. Start by putting a spice rub on the meat. It works best with the straight bones of St. Louis cut ribs rathere than baby backs. You throw a lot of wood chips or chunks on the flavorizor bars of your grill, or in a perforated pan under the cooking grate. Then you place the bottom half of the Ribalyzer on top of the grates and pour in liquid. The inventor likes to use soft drinks and beer, but I could not taste a difference between beer and water in the pan. The dominant flavors are the rub and the sauce. In goes the rib rack, then the ribs, which sit just above the liquid but below the lip of the pan. Fire up the grill, and drop the lid. Let it smoke for 45 minutes with the liquid simmering but not boiling hard. This gives the ribs decent smoke flavor, but it is more pronounced on the upper half that is not in the pan. Then you add more water and put the cover on the pan which seals the meat in a steamy environment, like an extended Texas Crutch for another hour and 15 minutes.
The results are very soft meat, I find them a bit mushy, and not quite as rich in flavor as if they had been dry roasted. The biggest drawback: No bark. Bark is the dry crunchy crust that you get with dry smoke roasting and I think one of the best reasons to smoke ribs low and slow. And you can do it on a gas grill if you follow my instructions without wasting a lot of aluminum pans and cleaning a rib rack. Bottom line: Ribalyzer makes good but not great ribs in about half the time. - Meathead
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