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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.

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. 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 $299 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.

tailgater magazine

Extreme Steak: Wild And Crazy Ways To Get A Killer Sear

ribeye grilled on a charcoal chimney

By Meathead Goldwyn

In my article on how to make great steakhouse steaks I discuss the importance of getting a good sear on the exterior and how to do it best. Here are four offbeat methods that work amazingly well: The Afterburner Method, the Vigneron Method, the Caveman Method, and the Stripsteak Method.

The afterburner method

afterburnerSo I was doing some 3/4" ribeyes the other night. I started some charcoal in a chimney to toss on my trusty Weber Kettle because I wanted max heat for that great dark whiskey colored exterior.

When I looked at the chimney and noticed it looked like the afterburner of a fighter jet. Big blue and red flames, hardly visible. So I put a cast iron frying pan on top and read the temp in the pan with an infrared laser thermometer. Almost 800°F! So I took the pan off, put a wire rack right on top of the chimney, and tossed the meat on.

Perfect dead on sear, deep mahogany brown, in less than three minutes per side and cooked perfectly to medium rare in the center!

Now keep in mind that cooking at Warp 10 is not right for all steaks. It works best only on steaks 1/2 to 3/4" thick. It is ideal for skirt steaks for fajitas. The secret is that it puts massive amounts of heat on one surface at a time and cooks it so quickly that the interior doesn't get too hot. At lower temps the heat progresses through the surface to the interior, and by the time you have a good dark sear on the outside, the inside is overcooked. That's the problem with fajitas. You have such a tasty piece of meat in the skirt steak, but the center is almost always grey. Nevermore.

A few tricks: Make sure to salt the meat but don't pepper it. The heat will carbonize the pepper and make it bitter. Make sure you pat the meat dry first otherwise it will steam the surface. In fact, if you want to paint the surface with a little oil, that will help crisp it even more. When the meat is on, move it around a bit because the wire grate can brand the meat with some serious black grill marks, too black. Just make sure you have all the side dishes cooked before you put on the meat because it cooks in about 2 to 3 minutes per side. For slightly thicker steaks, you can cover them with a metal bowl so the meat will cook from the top by convection.

Postscript: I'm a huge fan of the Food Network's Alton Brown, and readers have pointed out that in a 2010 episode titled "Porterhouse Rules" he attempted to duplicate the extreme heat that steakhouses use to broil steaks with heat from above. He took a chimney, fired it up, lifted it, dusted off the grate, placed the steak on the grate, placed the chimney above the steak, cooked for 1 minute, flipped the steak and repeated. Well I tried this and, as AB warned, the steak got a light dusting of ash and a coal fell onto it. Sorry, AB, my method is better. I can flip the steaks often on top, and there is no ash.

The vingneron method

weber grill burning vinesThen there is a method I call the vigneron method. I learned it when visiting wineries in Bordeaux, the French region that makes wine perfectly designed for steaks.

In the winter vineyard owners prune away most of the branches, called canes. They then have huge piles of grapevine wood, much about the thickness of a pencil. During the fall harvest season vignerons, grape growers, will take a big stack of dried canes, and set them on fire. They quickly burn down to a glowing mound, and the workers grill meats over the scorching hot embers. The flavor is exquisite. My hosts called this method sarment (pronounced sar-MOHN).

In many states in the US, grapevines abound wild in the woods and grow on fences along the roadside. To insure a steady flow of grape wood, I planted five Himrod vines (the best green table grapes I have ever tasted). I get enough fruit for a few snacks and enough wood for about three cooks. I've also done this with twigs from my neighbor's cherry tree. Of course he expects to be fed in exchange.

To start, I take out the bottom grate from my Weber Kettle and open the lower vents. I crumple two sheets of newspaper and put them in the bowl. Then I stuff as many dried vine prunings as I can fit on top of the paper, all the way to the level of the upper grate. On goes the top grate. I light the paper through the bottom vent holes, and the whole thing goes poof in about two minutes with very impressive 5' flames. I once came close to melting the television cable running overhead.

Within a few minutes I have glowing white hot embers. But the embers are gone in a hurry because the canes are about the size of kindling. I've got a window of about 15 minutes between the time the flames disappear and the embers go cold. I wait until I can no longer see yellow flame. Then I scrub the grate and on goes the meat.

In France I had small butterflied quail over grape wood, but at home I completely blackened Cornish game hens when I tried it. The skin is too fatty. Even though they're smaller than standard broiler chickens, they're still too thick, so steer away from poultry. I now use this method primarily for flank steaks because they are about the right thickness, under 1", and beef loves heat and smoke. I pat the surfaces dry so they don't steam, and use only salt. Pepper just scorches. Never any marinades. They just steam the meat.

I leave the lid off, turn the meat every minute or less, and it's usually done in less than 10 minutes. The burning fruitwood creates temps in the 800 to 1,000°F range and gives beef a fine flavor. That's Warp 10, Mr. Spock.

Caveman steaks

Here's a showstopper. A bit of a parlor trick, but I know you will want to try it. Once you get your fire down to glowing embers, take a magazine and fan he coals so any loose ash is blown away.

Take a steak about 1" thick, pat it really dry, salt it, and lay the meat right on the coals. You heard me. Right on the coals.

Surprisingly, when you turn it in about three minutes, there will be very little ash stuck to the meat, and it produces a very dark all-over sear in a hurry. But the operative words are very little ash. Every time I've tried it, small amounts of ash and even whole coals have stuck to the surface and there have been scorched dry spots. The ashes are easily brushed off, but I still can't recommend this method. It is much better to place a wire rack on top of the coals or very close to them. Then you can check the meat, and there is less scorching and no ash. Live in the stone age if you wish, but know things are better in the iron age.

The Stripsteak method

steaks in butterIn the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Chef Michael Mina's Stripsteak has a unique technique for reaching perfection on thick steaks.

stripsteaks on grillStripsteak begins by immersing the meat in baths of clarified butter at about 120°F. Clarified butter is unsalted butter that has had the water and milk solids removed. It is also called ghee. Click the link for info on how to make it.

After about an hour the meat is an even 120°F throughout, and when an order comes in he lifts it gently from the butter, shakes a bit off, turns around, and lays it it on a screaming hot topless Santa Maria style grill burning mesquite logs.

After a few minutes and several turns, the meat comes off the grill a deep dark almost black, but never burned, and the center, as you can see, is perfect medium rare, about 130°F, with almost no color variation.

Interestingly, the butter does not penetrate much so the butter flavor is minimal. It does contribute to a deep brown nutty crust, however. The steaks are among the finest I've ever tasted. But be careful if you attempt this at home. At 120°F bacteria flourish, just not in an airless environment. To attempt this you must have really fresh and clean meat. I do not recommend this method for home use.

grilled steak medium rare

This page was revised 6/29/2011

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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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