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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


The Science of Cheeseburgers

By Meathead Goldwyn

In 1924, according to his obit in TIME magazine, 16 year old Lionel Clark Sternberger, "experimentally dropped a slab of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger while helping out at his father's sandwich shop in Pasadena, thereby inventing the cheeseburger."

Thank you Mr. Sternberger for a great taste combo and an American icon.

A cheeseburger can be crafted from practically any other hamburger style with the simple addition of cheese, and many cheeses will do. There are only two important guidelines:

1) The cheese must be melted. It cannot be cold or hard.

2) The chosen cheese must enhance the composition of the sandwich, not clash with it. There are two ways to go with adding dairy to your cow: Melting cheese, or spreading cheese.

Let's discuss the melting method first.

How to add the cheese

Whatever cooking method you use, the cheese is the last thing to go on. Most of the cheeses below melt quickly, within 2 minutes. So you should only apply it after one side is finished cooking, when you are within 2 minutes of finishing the other side.

If you are grilling your burger, lay the cheese on top, and then close the lid so the cheese will melt. Depending on the cheese, 2 to 3 minutes should do it. Be careful not to overcook the meat while melting the cheese. You might even want to move the patty off direct heat while you melt the cheese. Another trick is to cap the burger like they do in some diners. Just add the cheese, put a metal mixing bowl over the burger, and it should melt in as little as 30 seconds. A coffee can or baking pan will work fine.

In a frying pan, put the lid on, but not tight. Leave a good sized crack so steam can escape. If you don't have a lid, cover the pan with a metal baking pan or cookie sheet.

On a griddle, use a metal bowl or pan to trap the heat and melt the cheese.

Under a broiler, pull the burgers out, lay on the cheese, and slide it back under the broiler, about 2" below the heat source. Leave the door open and stand there and watch, because it can melt quickly. As soon as it starts to bubble, you're done.

Here's another trick. If you are using caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, or even raw onion, put them on before the cheese. As the cheese melts it will help anchor the toppings in place so they don't fall off as easily.

Cheeses for melting

The issues surrounding the selection of a cheese are: Taste, meltability, color, and cooking method.

The prototypical American cheeseburger has a slice of bright yellow American cheese or cheddar. My fave is sharp cheddar for flavor and tradition. Better still, a smoked cheddar.

But there's no reason why you can't use another melting cheese. Smoked gouda, Muenster, jack, pepper jack, brie, provalone, cambozola, and havarti are good choices. Just don't mask the meat with too much. Slice it 1/8" thick (or grate it and pile it on 1/4" thick because there's a lot of air in grated cheese). Add more if you wish, but remember, the thicker the cheese, the longer it takes to melt, so factor that into your cooking time.

Gruyere is nice but it doesn't melt well, so grate it first. Crumbled blue cheese is popular, although it doesn't melt well either. It is especially good if you can put it under a flame to broil and brown it a bit, and I like it best on top of thin apple slices and caramelized onions.

Cheeses for spreading

Another approach is to use a spreadable cheese that doesn't need to be melted. It can go on the underside of the bun top, or right on the patty in a blob so it can spread with heat and pressure from the bun.

Pimento cheese spread is very popular in the South, particularly South Carolina and Georgia. My faves are my home-made boursin (laced with garlic), or herbed fresh chevre (herbaceous and tangy). The Cherry Cricket in Denver is famous for their Cricket Burger with a slab of cream cheese and some minced jalapeño on top.

Other options include cheddar spread with port wine, blue cheese spread, beer cheese, or amp it up by mixing cream cheese with chili sauce or horseradish. Or try the chevre with a balsamic reduction instead of ketchup.

Toppings and bottomings

On a Steakhouse Steakburger, this burger fan, keeps it simple. But if I'm having a cheeseburger, I go for a sharp cheddar, thick smokey bacon, caramelized onions, and Meathead's Burger Glop.

For more ideas

Hard core cheeseburger lovers will get a few more laughs and learn a thing or two from Kevin Pang's The Cheeseburger Show.

The Cheese & Burger Society is a fun site sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese and it has some creative combos and beautiful pictures.

This page was revised on 5/25/2010

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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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