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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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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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*Based on 4" raw burger with 1/2" space on all sides

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These articles give you important info about different cookers, things to look for, things to avoid, and checklists.

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Best BBQ accessories

Cook-Air Wood Burning Grill

By Meathead Goldwyn

Manufacturer: Cook-Air

Cook-air is a Canadian Company that makes a unique, portable, wood burning cooker.

Cook-Air Wood Burning Grill

top ten trophyMeathead loves the Cook-Air Wood Burning Grill. Here is his review:

This is the coolest new grill I've seen in a long time. Although it can cook anything, it's unique design makes it the ultimate lean mean steak machine. Keen observers will note that I have recently downgraded my rating from Gold to Silver because, the more I use it, the more I recognize some minor drawbacks.

Still, it is by far my favorite grill for steaks and chops under 1" thick, and it is by far my favorite small portable tailgater.

Strengths. It cooks only with large hockey puck sized pellets or 2-3" chunks of hardwood, it is steakhouse hot in 5 minutes (700°F), it will produce a 1" ribeye with edge to edge even color and an all over mahogany crust, cleanup is zero bother, and it is so lightweight it goes anywhere. It may be the best ever gee whiz camping grill, tailgate grill, or balcony grill ever.

Cook-Air is only 12" tall and 17 pounds, a portable powerhouse with a round 13" cooking grate, large enough for three good sized steaks. And it costs under $200.

The combustion chamber is about the width of a quart of whiskey and 1/3 the height. Just toss in a wad of paper and light it or use the firestarter sticks they give you (cardboard permeated with steraine, an extract of animal fat). When it catches, give it 30 seconds, and turn the fan to 1. Put the wood into the combustion chamber, crank the fan to 3. Within a minute or two the wood is totally involved. Turn it to 5. Within 5 minutes it is well above 700°F, and if you put the max amount of wood in there and give it 7 to 10 minutes, the deflector plate between the flame and food is almost 1000°F in the center (edges seem to be about 200°F lower). Them's steakhouse temps! In a hurry.

If you've been fighting the fajita wars with thin skirt steaks (as have I), ending up with well done meat by the time the outside has any color, Cook-Air's your solution. I crank it to 5 and leave the lid off for cooking thin meats so the heat is focused on one side only. And because it cooks so fast, very little moisture weight is lost although I have seen some shrinkage from proteins contracting under the high heat. For 1" thick steaks I cook on 3 or 4 so the exterior doesn't burn waiting for the interior to come up to temp and I turn them every minute or two. For thicker steaks, I put the lid on for a few minutes to reflect heat down. One of the great advantages of the system is the thin wire grate that allows the entire surface to brown. For thick cuts of meat you probably will need to add more wood after about 15 minutes depending on the fan setting.

Because this baby gets so hot, things cook fast. You will need to stand by your grill, as Tammy Wynette once sang, and a fast digital meat thermometer like the Thermapen is an absolute must.

Surprisingly, it does not give food an overly smoky flavor because the wood is so thoroughly consumed by the fire. The manual wants you to do the smoking at the end, but I prefer to do it at the beginning to prevent the meat from overcooking while smoking.

The only assembly is two screws that attach the lid handle. It comes with a power cord and adapter, a 12 volt cigarette lighter adapter, tongs, a wire brush for cleaning, and a nice supply of compressed sawdust wood pucks for perhaps 10 cooks.

cook-air grillCook-Air is so efficient there is very ash left when you are done (see picture at right after two cooking sessions). To clean it, you just turn the fan on low, wipe the surface with the brush they supply, turn it upside down, shake, and wipe with a damp cloth. It is made with 304 stainless steel, so there is not going to be any rust.

The manufacturer says you must burn their wood pucks, ordered from Canada, or untreated and unfinished hardwood from any source you can find. The pucks are made from compressed sawdust. I've been using oak from a recent flooring job in my house. I have had good luck with Mojo-Bricks. They are also sawdust compressed into chunks, a bit more tightly than the Cook-Air pucks. Best of all, Mojo-Bricks come in a variety of wood flavors. Cook-Air says you cannot burn softwoods like pine or charcoal or wood pellets. Softwoods are full of resins that make noxious gases and you never want to use them on any grill or smoker. So I tried some Kingsford Competition Charcoal (the brown bag, not the regular blue bag). I chose the Competition because it produces less ash. It burned well and cooked well, but there was a distinct solvent smell, far more ash than when cooking with hardwood, and ash can block the air holes, and the meat had a solvent taste. I plan to test lump charcoal next.

Weaknesses. The manufacturer wants you to remove as much external fat as possible, and pat dry the surface before cooking to prevent flareups. I can attest that this is good advice. The manufacturer recommends putting on the lid to smoke the meat, but I do not recommend using the lid for long. It deposits thick gray soot on the surface. You cannot turn the fan off or to 1 or 2 either. Same problem. I now cook at only 3 and above.

Beware. When the meat is done you want to leave the fire burning and fan on low until the fuel is used up and the grease is totally burned off. This doesn't take long, but if you forget, as I have done, the fan will run all night. When it is cool you can put the power cable, handle, and brush under the lid, put the heavy duty black vinyl waterproof cover, cinch the drawstring tight, and the handle on the vinyl makes it easy to carry around. Also, you don't want to leave it sitting around without the vinyl cover if it rains. Water can easily get into the works and damage the mechanisms.

Although there are 5 speeds, high speed, is the best, putting out the least soot. I now use it only for red meats. It deposits too much smoke on chicken and fish for my taste. This noted, it is by far the best way to finish sous vide cooked meats, of any color. And I never turn it below 3 or the smoke is too black. I use the lid only for about a minute or two because that can overcook it and oversmoke it. I turn the meat every minute or three to prevent it from burning and shrinking. But once you get the hang of it, you will have amazing smoky steaks. If you have a sous-vide machine, cook the meat to about 115°F in the water bath, and then sear it on 5 on the Cook-Air. Incredible tenderness and flavor

Price: 

$149 Manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), actual price may vary.

Where To Buy (Buying from these suppliers supports this website): 

FireCraft: Free Shipping

Amazon

Primary Function: 

Grill

Tailgater

Fuel: 

Logs

Primary Capacity: 

132 square inches ( about 6 burgers )

Manufacturer claims that all or practically all of this device is made in the USA

No

Review Method: 

Cooked On It

We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.


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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.

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