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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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Click here to read more about what makes these grates so special and how they compare to other cooking surfaces.

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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.

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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).

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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

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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

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Skin 'n' Trim

By Meathead Goldwyn

The first step towards Amazing Ribs is skin 'n' trim.

There are two sides to a slab of ribs. The meat side is convex and meaty (doh!) and the bone side is concave and you can see the bones (double doh!). The bone side has a silvery membrane that should be removed. You will often hear that the membrane is like a condom, that it prevents flavors from the rub, the marinade, or the smoke from reaching the meat. Yet another barbecue myth.

The thick latex-like membrane is part of the pulmonary pleura, a layer that encloses the lung cavity in both hogs and humans. Contrary to myth, it is highly porous and smoke can easily pass through it. Ditto for rubs.

The membrane can also get very tough and chewy, especially if you cook hot, and if you cook low and slow, it can get rubbery. In addition there is a layer of fat under the membrane, and removing it lets it melt and drain.

You can just make slits in the membrane and some fat will drain, but you still have the texture issue. In competitions, if you leave it on, you lose. In some subcultures it is common to leave it on, especially if it is cooked to crunchy. A lot of restaurants just can't be bothered to remove it. But more and more people expect you to yank it and if you don't they think your a rube or impolite. It's like de-veining a shrimp. Skip it at the risk of deprecation.

I think removing the membrane is like Japanese kaiseki. In Japan the haut cuisine is called kaiseki. When guests come over you can cook the same food as you do every day, but you take special care to make sure everything is precise. Chopped foods are all exactly the same size. Presentation is immaculate. It is a sign of respect for your honored guests. I think removing the skin is like that. An extra step of respect for guests. Here's how to do it.

Many stores sell their slabs already skinned, but it's hard to tell when the slab is strapped into a styrofoam tray. Ask your butcher if the membrane has been removed, and if the answer is "no", ask if it can be removed.

If the answer is again "no" or if you get the slab home and discover the back is smooth and shiny, it's time to skin and trim. It's not hard, once you get the hang of it.

If you are unable to execute this maneuver successfully, take a sharp knife and cut slashes through the membrane every inch so some of the fat will render out during the cooking.

Remove the flap meat.

Step 1. This is a St. Louis cut. Turn the slab to the bone side. There is a flap of thick meat from the diaphragm that most chefs remove. Some set it aside for stir frying, some use it in sausage, but I just toss it in the smoker and munch on it a few hours into the cook. I call it "Chef's Bonus."

Square up the ends

Step 2. If the slab is irregular at the ends or too long to fit on the smoker, trim off a bone or two. Cook them with the slab. They'll be done in a couple of hours. More Chef's Bonus.

Insert a knife under the membrane

Step 3. Insert a butter knife or, as this cook is doing, an ice pick, between the membrane and the meat at one end.

get your hand under the membrane

Step 4. Work your fingers around under it to loosen it so you can get a grip on it.

Peel off the membrane

catfish skinnersStep 5. Gently begin peeling it off, trying not to rip it. I like to use a paper towel to help me grip the slippery dang thing. Some folks like to use needlenose pliers or, better still, catfish skinning pliers.

Pull it all the way down

Step 6. If you work it right, you should be able to pull it all off in one long strip. Discard it.

Remove excess fat.

Step 7. After you pull the membrane, you'll see a thin layer of fat and some chunks. With a sharp filleting knife, cut and scrape some of the excess off and trim excess fat from the other side too. Some competition cooks trim off a bit of the meat where it is thick, in order to make the slab uniform so all the ribs are cooked to exactly the same doneness. I leave it on. You are now ready to apply the rub and start cooking.

This page was revised on 4/16/2007


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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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