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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

jackie hite's pits

Building A Hog Pit From Concrete Blocks

"One disadvantage of being a hog is that at any moment some blundering fool may try to make a silk purse out of your wife's ear." J. B. Morton, English humorist

By Meathead Goldwyn

Above are some of the old school concrete block pits at Jackie Hite's Bar-B-Q in Batesburg-Leesville, SC. Below are plans for building your own no-frills pit suitable for a butterflied 75 pound hog, enough to feed about 35 people. It is designed so it can be a temporary structure or you can make it permanent. If you cut the head and remove the trotters at the knees and elbows, you can fit a 100 pounder or more on this rig. But don't throw away the head and trotters. Just place them on the stretcher next to the torso. If you plan on cooking larger hogs, you can scale this plan up. You must cook with indirect heat. Click here for instructions on how to prep and cook the hog.



  • 54 concrete blocks 16" x 8" x 8" (actually 15.75 x 7.75 x 7.75"). This will get your hog 24" above the embers, plus a course to hold the lid. Cost about $54.
  • 4 x 8' sheet of 1/4" plywood, cut down to about 44 x 60" for the lid. Note that Hite uses sheets of cardboard for his lids as seen in the photo above, but I strongly advise against this. He is a master of fire control, and if yours burn, they could ruin the hog. And then you have no lid. Cost about $10.
  • Half of a 4 x 8' sheet of 1/4" plywood cut down to 20 x 36" for the optional heat shield. Cost about $10.
  • 2 rolls heavy duty aluminum foil. Cost about $30.
  • 4 lengths of 48" each of 3/8" rebar. You can use a sheet of expanded metal rather than rebar if you wish. Cost about $5 per 10' bar, 3 bars needed.
  • Non-climbable uncoated fence wire or rabbit wire at least 14 gauge, 46 x 72". Do not use galvanized metal because it can give off noxious gases. Cost about $30 for a 50' roll.
  • 2 boards 1" x 2" x 6' each. Cost about $2.
  • 100 bare wire loop ties, 6" each. Cost about $2.50.
  • 2 pieces lightweight sheet metal for dampers, about 20" x 10" each or you can use sheet pans. Cost about $15.


  • More rebar to pound from the top down into the ground to prevent the blocks from shifting. Cost about $15.
  • Mortar to lock the blocks permanently into place. Cost about $10.
  • Lightweight sheet metal for the lid, about 44 x 60". Cost about $30.
  • Lightweight sheet metal for the heat shield, about 30 x 48". Cost about $30.
  • 20 bags (40 pounds each) premix concrete for a 3" thick slab. Cost about $40.


  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Wire cutter.
  • Level.
  • Hack saw.
  • Hammer.
  • Chisel.
  • Utility stapler and plenty of staples.
  • Wheel barrow, steel drum, or charcoal grill to start coals.
  • Shovel.
  • Garden hose or buckets of water or fire extinguisher.
  • Good digital oven thermometer.

About the pit

Keep the pit at least 10' from buildings and overhanging trees in case there is a grease fire. Keep a fire extinguisher rated for grease on hand. Fire extinguishers rated ABC can handle most everything except combustible metals. Beware, they contain a yellow powder that can damage electrical devices.

Start by clearing a base that is 4' x 5' by removing grass and prepare an all dirt or sand base at least 2" thick. You will need to discard some of it when you are done because fat and meat drippings may get in the dirt. The dogs will roll in it and it will attract insects, mice, you name it. If needed, you can buy sand at a hardware store. I recommend lining the pit with aluminum foil.

Make sure the ground is level. Stack the concrete blocks 4 rows high, 3 full lengths and then turn one block on each course, staggering the blocks so they overlap as in the illustration. Notice that I have left out a block on the head and tail side so you can add coals and wood and rake them around. Cover these wholes with a board and a concrete block when they are not in use.

Make notches in the blocks with a hammer and chisel deep enough to hold the rebar so the next course of blocks will lie flat on the course below. Put the rebar on top of the fourth course of blocks. Don't put the top course of blocks on yet.

About the heat shield

I specified a sheet of plywood cut down to 20 x 36" for an optional heat shield. If you bank your coals to the sides and corners properly you may not need it, but I recommend you have it on hand in case something starts to brun or overcook. This goes on top of the rebar and beneath the stretcher to shield the hog from direct heat. This size leaves space between the shield and the inside of the pit so hot air can rise alongside the shield and bounce off the lid. You will remove it late in the cook when it is time to crisp the skin. Wrap it in aluminum foil and staple down the foil. Don't worry, it won't burn unless you have a grease fire because the pigsitter fell asleep or spent too much time in the toilet. If the pit is to be a permanent structure, make your heat shield from sheet metal, preferably aluminum because it won't rust.

The cover

Cover the bottom of the plywood lid with foil. If you wish, you can use a sheet metal top instead of plywood.

The stretcher

To carry the hog and hold it in place on the pit, you need to build a stretcher, with two poles for the stretcher bearers, and a wire mesh sling in between for the hog. Some folks just use wire without the handles for smaller hogs. You can do this, but you will need gloves to keep the wire from gouging your hands and burning them when it is hot. I recommend building the handles. You don't want this baby to slip and hit the dirt.

Non-climbable fence wire is heavier gauge and sturdier than chicken wire. You can use chicken wire for but it would be a good idea to use two layers. Make sure the wire is not coated with plastic. For something more permanent, use heavy duty expanded metal mesh. Do not use galvanized, it can create toxins.

Make a sling of the wire wide enough to hang over the edges of the pit by at least 1' on either side. Attach two 6' lengths of 1" x 2" boards for handles with staples and reinforce them with the wire loop ties.

Other designs for whole hog cookers

hog cabin

Here's the "Hog Cabin" built by Jacob Hanson of Tucson, AZ. Notice the innovation : He used half width blocks along the sides and put scalloped garden edging to hold the rebar. He also put an access door with an angle iron header. The wood frame holds a removable pitched roof, not shown.

brownfield's hog pit

James Brownfield of Kansas City built this beauty from concrete blocks. On the left is the hog pit and on the right he tacked on a separate vertical smoker. on the right. The hog pit side is a little larger than my design: 66" long (4 blocks), 47" wide (3 blocks) and 35" tall (4 blocks) with a 2" top cap. The interior measure 52" long by 32" wide. The cooking grate is 20" above the coals and he has another grate 10" under the cooking grate on which he can cover with foil and/or cheap catering pans to catch the grease. Both grates are simply expanded metal that rest on rebar. There's some pretty nifty metalwork for the pit top, chimney, doors, and smoker shelving. The whole shebang sits on a concrete slab he poured.

jims hog pit

From Jim S. This guy build a simple quick and dirty pit, below. Click here for 24 photos of the setup.

carl herbert's pit

Carl Herbert built this pit. The insert shows the access door on the other side.

David Wm. Reed of Texas A&M has a good article on roasting cochon au lait, French for suckling pig, and a novel design for a pig roaster with the hog hanging by his hind legs.



This page was revised 8/4/2013


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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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