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If you like AmazingRibs.com, please save this link and use it every time you go to Amazon. Amazon and many other websites pay us a small referral fee when you click our links and purchase from them. It works on everything from grills to diapers, Amazon never tells us what you bought, it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site!

Digital Thermometers:
Stop Guessing!

thermopop bbq thermometer

Gold BBQ AwardA good digital thermometer keeps me from serving dry overcooked food or dangerously undercooked food. You can get a professional grade, fast and precise splashproof thermometer like the Thermopop (above) for about $24. The Thermapen (below), the Ferrari of instant reads, is about $96. It's the one you see all the TV chefs and all the top competition pitmasters using. Click here to read more about types of thermometer and our ratings and reviews.

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Support the website that supports you and get some nifty benefits:

A Comprehensive Food Temperature Guide Magnet that sells for $9.95 on Amazon.com.
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Click here for details.

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GrillGrates Take You To
The Infrared Zone

BBQ_grill_grates

Gold BBQ AwardGrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping 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, smolder wood right below the meat, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips or pellets or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill and pellet smoker needs them.

Click here to read more about what makes these grates so special and how they compare to other cooking surfaces.

The Smokenator:
A Necessity For All Weber Kettles

smokenator bbq system

Gold BBQ Award If you have a Weber Kettle, you need the amazing Smokenator and Hovergrill. The Smokenator turns your grill into a first class smoker, and the Hovergrill can add capacity or be used to create steakhouse steaks.

Click here to read more.

The Pit Barrel Cooker

pit barrel c ooker bbqAbsolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world.

This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers in the hardware stores because temperature control is so much easier (and that's because smoke and heat go up, not sideways).

Gold BBQ AwardBest of all, it is only $289 delivered to your door!

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them.

scissor tongs

Best. Tongs. Ever.

Gold BBQ AwardMade of rugged 1/8" thick aluminum, 20" long, with four serious rivets, mine show zero signs of weakness after years of abuse. 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 read more.

Amp Up The Smoke

mo's smoking pouch

Gold BBQ AwardMo's Smoking Pouch is essential for gas grills. It is an envelope of mesh 304 stainless steel that holds wood chips or pellets. The airspaces in the mesh are small enough that they limit the amount of oxygen that gets in so the wood smokes and never bursts into flame. Put it on top of the cooking grate, on the burners, on the coals, or stand it on edge at the back of your grill. It holds enough wood for about 15 minutes for short cooks, so you need to refill it or buy a second pouch for long cooks like pork shoulder and brisket. Mine has survived more than 50 cooks. Click for more info.

steak knives for bbq

The Best Steakhouse Knives

Gold BBQ AwardThe same knives used at Peter Luger, Smith & Wollensky, and Morton's. Machine washable, high-carbon stainless steel, hardwood handle. And now they have the AmazingRibs.com imprimatur. Click for more info.


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Charcoal Grills And Wood Burning Grills: Buying Guide, Reviews, And Ratings

By Meathead Goldwyn

Charcoal grills and wood burning grills are less expensive than gas, produce more smoke and therefore better flavor, and, with the exception of gas grills with small sear burners, charcoal and wood burn hotter, so they are better for searing steaks.

Here are some of the things to look for when considering a charcoal grill and links to related articles that will inform your decision to help you make a choice that will suit your cooking needs and budget. At the bottom of the page is a link that will take you to all the all the charcoal grills and wood burning grills currently in our database.

Important features on charcoal grills

Start your shopping by doing some reading. How to Buy a Grill is a detailed checklist of things to look for and things to look out for on all grills. Then read my article pitting the pros and cons of charcoal grills vs. gas grills will help you decide which is best for you. Even if you think your mind is made up, this article exposes the strengths and weaknesses of both systems.

My article on the thermodynamics of cooking will explain the different types of heat and how they impact food and what is important to know about heat before you make a choice. It will also explain how charcoal grills cook.

You should also check out charcoal smokers because many of them are also good at grilling.

Temperature control. You cannot be a good cook unless you know your oven temp and can control it. Indoors, your oven can be set for a temp and it will stay pretty close to it. Outdoors? Good luck! Temperature control on charcoal grills depends on: A lid, dampers, the ability to adjust the distance between the coals and the food, thermometers, and practice.

Lid. You must have a lid to capture heat, and the tighter it fits, the better. Click here for an article about when to cook with the lid on or the lid off.

Dampers. Charcoal grills need at least two dampers, an intake and an exhaust. You control the temperature primarily with the intake damper. That's how the oxygen gets in to feed or choke the fire. Make sure the damper fits tightly so you can accurately choke off oxygen when you want to lower the temp. Most of the time you will leave the exhaust damper wide open so smoke and gases can exhaust. Click here to read my article on using the dampers.

Adjustable. Another way to control temp is by raising and lowering the charcoal. Temperature drops off as the coals drop down. I love to start cooking burgers and many other meats on a low temperature and then at the end, raise the coals and sear the surface to create the deep complex flavors that occur with the Maillard reaction and caramelization. Click here to read my article on cooking temperatures.

Thermometers. Cooking without good digital thermometers is like driving at night without headlights. Dial thermometers are technology from the 1800s. Without good digital thermometers there's a good chance you'll be making lame excuses for overcooked meat, undercooked meat, or, worst of all, apologies in the hospital as your guests recover from food-borne illness. Thermometers pay for themselves in a hurry. Here's what you need to know about thermometers for grills and smokers as well as food thermometers.

2-zone cooking capability. One of the most important techniques an outdoor cook must learn is how to create a 2-zone setup. This allows you to move the food off the flame into a cooler area where it roasts from convection and indirect heat. To do this you need to be able to push the coals to one side. So a good grill must have space to move the coals to one side. If your grill doesn't allow 2-zone cooking, you will be handicapped. First read my article on 2-zone setup and then read my article on how to set up a charcoal grill for 2-zone cooking.

Access to charcoal. It is important to be able to easily add more charcoal or move the charcoal around. Some grills have a door that allows you to add charcoal or move it around. This is a very nice idea for helping you keep temp under control.

Ash removal. It is nice to have a good ash removal system. Ash is an excellent insulator, so if you don't remove it, it will absorb heat and reduce performance.

Grates. You want a good cooking surface, and often the cheap wire grills are the best choice. Cast iron? A pain to maintain, and they mistreat the surface of meat. Yes, I know you've been told just the opposite and you really don't want to have me bust the cast iron mystique, but they are rarely a good choice. You want something that doesn't block radiant heat and airflow and doesn't darken just parts of the meat. Grill marks are overrated. You want an all over even color. Click here to read my guide to grill grates. Click here to read my discussion of how to clean them.

Click here to see all the charcoal grills and wood burning grills currently in our database.

This page was revised 4/2/2013


Please read before posting a comment or question

grouchy?1) Please use the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help, then please post your question on the appropriate page.

2) Please tell us everything we need to know to answer your question such as the type of cooker and thermometer you are using. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can't help you. Please read this article about thermometers.

3) If you post a photo, wait a minute for a thumbnail to appear. It will happen even if you don't see it happen.

4) Click here to learn more about our comment system and our privacy promise. Remember, your login info for comments is probably different from your Pitmaster Club login info if you are a member.

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About this website. AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, spareribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best buying guide to barbecue smokers, grills, accessories, and thermometers, edited by Meathead.

This site is brought to you by readers like you who support us with their membership in our Pitmaster Club. Click here to learn more about benefits to membership.

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© Copyright 2014 by AmazingRibs, Inc. AmazingRibs.com is published by AmazingRibs, Inc., a Florida Corporation. Unless otherwise noted, all text, recipes, photos, and computer code are owned by AmazingRibs, Inc. and fully protected by US copyright law. This means that unless you have written permission to publish or distribute anything on this website you have committed a Federal crime. But we're easy. To get reprint rights, just click here. You do not need permission to link to this website. Note. Some photos of commercial products such as grills were provided by the manufacturers and are under their copyright.