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Digital Thermometers:
Stop Guessing!

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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

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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

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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.

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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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Everything You Need To Know About Vinegars

"Oil and vinegar have nothing in common, yet we make them date each other. But everybody knows that the vinegar is the dominatrix." Meathead

By Meathead Goldwyn

oil and vinegarI'm a vinegar fan. She wields a painfully pleasurable whip. Some men collect Playboy magazines. I collect vinegars. There are typically a dozen or so in my pantry. I tell my wife they are all essential because most foods need acidity for brightness and to balance richness and sweetness. Sugar/acid balance is one of the core concepts of recipe development. That's my story.

It's a complicated process. Yeast each sugar, generate heat, belch up carbon dioxide, and pee alcohol. If left exposed to air, acetobacteria can get in and eat the alcohol and pee acetic acid, a.k.a. vinegar. Commercial vinegars typically range from 4 to 6% acidity and most give you an idea of their strength on the label in small print.

Any sweet juice can be the starting point of the process and the raw material contributes complex flavors. The right vinegar can be like a magic wand, bringing a recipe to life.

Some vinegars are not pasteurized so they can be cloudy or grow a skin of acetobacter on the surface. They are perfectly safe. In fact, you can use these as a starter for home made vinegar. For years I added leftover wine to a small wooden barrel with a "mother" of vinegar bacteria scavenged fro a French wine vinegar, and drew it off for marinades and dressings. After a while the romance disappeared as I realized that it was often possessed of acetone and other unpleasant contaminants. I now leave vinegar production to the pros. Besides, I rarely have leftover wine anymore.

Balsamic vinegar. A decade ago only professional chefs had heard about balsamic vinegar. Today the most mundane supermarkets stock several brands as well as a growing selection of balsamic vinegar salad dressings. You can buy it in bulk from some olive oil specialty stores, and every Italian restaurant worth it's red sauce offers an item or three made with balsamic. Chefs and foodies consider balsamic as essential as extra virgin olive oil. I keep cheap balsamic on hand for marinades and sauces, and the expensive stuff for drizzling like a syrup. I also buy cheap balsamic and reduce it to syrup for drizzling. I have even been known to drink the good stuff like wine or Cognac. Although they can be north of 6% acid, they don't taste it because it is sweet and complex. Prices for a bottle range from $5 to $500. How can that be? What is the difference? Click here to read all about Balsamic Vinegar.

Cider vinegar. Cider vinegar and distilled vinegar are the two most common in the US. They are sold in large bottles. Cider vinegar made from apple juice, it is straw colored, and it is more flavorful than distilled vinegar. It is essential for many red barbecue sauces. Usually you should not substitute if the recipe calls for distilled because the flavors may clash and because sometimes it is slightly sweetened. It is typically 5% acidity.

Distilled vinegar. This is the first choice for pickling, some dressings, and sauces. It is not vinegar that has been distilled, rather it is vinegar made from clear distilled spirits, like vodka. In the US the distillate is usually corn. It as clear as water and it has a neutral flavor and is best used to add acidity and brightness to dishes. I prefer it in most slaws because the others can be too strong and mask the vegetables. It is at the core of many barbecue sauces from the Carolinas. In East Carolina, many barbecue sauces are simply distilled vinegar, hot pepper, salt, and pepper. And in Western North Carolina it is pretty much the same with a little ketchup added. You can buy it in jugs, and it is also good for cleaning windows. Really. About 6-8%.

Flavored vinegars. Vinegar is a strong solvent, so put something in it and in short order it will extract flavor. Tarragon and other herbs are used, as are chile peppers, and even fruits and vegetables.

Malt vinegar. Made from malted barley, the first step in making whiskey or beer. Not well known in the US but it is very popular in England where the brown liquid is splashed on fish and chips, fish being fried filets and chips being French fries. I like it on fries, and you'll often see it served with fries in Irish pubs, but next time you bake a potato, skip the butter and sour cream, and sprinkle it with malt vinegar and wake up to a surprise. About 5%.

Raspberry vinegar. There are three distinct types: Vinegar made from raspberry wine, raspberry juice added to vinegar, or raspberry flavored vinegar. You can even find raspberry flavored "balsamic" vinegar. All three have a bright fresh fruity aroma and flavor great for a lot of salad dressings. They are especially nice on spinach salad or dark bitter greens. About 5%.

Rice vinegar. Made from rice wine, the plain unflavored versions are pale straw colored and not as strong as other vinegars. There are some seasoned versions amped up with herbs, and a few rare versions are made with molasses or sorghum and are black. I use delicate unseasoned rice vinegar in slaws often. About 4%.

Sherry vinegar. Made from Spanish sherry wine that has been aged in oak, it is brown, woody, rich, and complex, and it has become the darling of chefs. About 7%.

Wine vinegar. Made from inexpensive red or white wine, they have more flavor than plain clear vinegars. I keep red and white wine vinegars on hand for salad dressings. They have distinct rich flavors.

Others. I have heard of, but not tasted vinegars from, cane juice, dates, raisins, coconut, all manner of fruits, and with all manner of flavors. But I'll get to them eventually.

This page was revised 2/22/2014


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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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