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Meathead the Barbecue & Grilling Lover Cartoon

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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 is 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.

bbq thermapen

GrillGrates Take You To
The Infrared Zone


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. 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 $269 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.

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 imprimatur. Click for more info.

Kansas City: America's Barbecue Capitol

Note: I plan a major rewrite of this article with more detail and photos. I'll let you know in Smoke Signals when it is done.

By Meathead Goldwyn

Arthur Bryant'sKansas City is Mecca for barbecue lovers. Barbecue is to KC what pizza is to Chicago. It's been years since I was there last, so I put together a road trip that took me there to judge at the Great American Barbecue cookoff with stops along the way in the growing Downstate Illinois wine region, St. Louis barbecue joints, and Hawgeye's Barbecue in Iowa on the way back.

I started at the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago at which I had a really informative chat with Stuart of Cookshack. Such a knowledgeable and candid fellow. He confirmed my conclusion that the electrics are best for large meats like shoulders and briskets. He cooks his ribs on a Fast Eddy (FEC) pellet smoker.

I then went downstate to Murphysboro, IL where I had lunch with Mike "The Legend" Mills at his 17th Street Bar and Grill. Mike is outgoing pres of the NBBQA and three time Memphis in May Grand Champ. He serves some excellent food and really knows his stuff. We were joined by a man with a BBQ joint in Australia! A lively afternoon of tales!

I hit a wine fest at Alto Vineyards. There are more than a dozen wineries in the hills of southern IL, and they make some nice wines. No threat to Napa yet, but good Vins de Pays. The star was Pomona Vineyards, all fruit wines. Best apple and strawberry wines I've ever tasted (and yes, I like fruit wines in the right context). Along the way I photographed the world's largest ketchup bottle in Collinsville, IL.

Then I hit Super Smokers in St. Louis. They use a FEC and made some of the best ribs I had on the trip. They used to have several locations but they're down to the original chicken barn. Got some nice pix of a 2 year old girl chowing on a bone.

In KC I hit Arthur Bryant's (they let me behind the counter to shoot - I'm proud of my shots there), and had lunch with Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk. They really know their stuff. Bryant's had a new mustard sauce that I much preferred over their original. The food was great and the feeling of being on hallowed ground was ethereal.

Then I hit Gates (shiny, corporate), LCs (slimy, gritty), BBs (Rockin' with live music), and Jack Stacks by the train station (elegant and upscale). All very different experiences, all good ribs, but sadly, not as good as you and I can make at home. I suppose that's because they have to make so many and hold them so long, that they are almost always overcooked by the time we get them. This is one case when home made is better than restaurant made.

Other highlights were: The friendly people at LCs who turned it into a communal experience with all the tables arguing about their favorite barbecue joints. The bluegrass and party atmosphere at BBs, the baked beans and cheesy corn at Jack's as well as the knowledgeable bartender.

Perhaps the best meal was the KC strip steak (BEEF!!!) at the Golden Ox, a classic steakhouse built on the site of the stockyards in 1949. Got some nice shots there too. I went there with Myron Mixon and his Jack's Old South (Vienna GA) cooking team. Now there's someone who can cook.

The Great American Barbecue is a good cookoff. Teams from across the nation and some fine Q. I had a chance to visit with some, including Ray Lampe (Dr. Barbecue) and Dave Klose of Klose Cookers. I took a balloon ride and got some aerial shots.

There were many more places I wanted to visit, but after judging at the Great American Barbecue, frankly I was sick of smoked meat. But not so smoked that I didn't make time to hit Hawgeyes in Alkeny and Claxon's in Altoona. Hawgeyes has a nice retail store with a great selection of hard to find rubs and sauces from across the nation.

You may want to look at the pix I took. I haven't had a chance to write detailed captions, but the titles tell you the place they were shot.

Please read this before posting a comment or question

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. 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! If you are not using a good digital thermometer we can't help you. Please read this article about thermometers, then buy a good digital, and then, if the problem persists, hit us with your questions.

MISSING COMMENTS. On March 16, 2014 the company that supplied the software for our comments section went out of business and thousands of previous comments were lost. Then there were more fubars. So we must begin again...

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About this website. 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, rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best buying guide to barbecue smokers, grills, and accessories, edited by Meathead.

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