BBQ Tool Chest

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A little over a year ago I read an article from epicurious.com about how to cook pulled pork BBQ.  Since summer had just started and I had recently purchased a new grill, I decided to give it a try.  After following the recipe and ending up with some pretty good chopped pork BBQ I started reading more.  It wasn’t long before I landed on the Virtual Weber Bullet website and started reading about how to cook BBQ properly.  While I am a fan of epicurious.com, the article I read was close but missed the target by a pretty big margin.

Here are some helpful hints I have learned over the past year of cooking pulled pork BBQ, ribs and various other foods that find their way to my smoker.

Smoker?  Yes, the first thing I would say to anyone considering getting into BBQ or preparing ribs is to get a smoker.  Your grill is great for steaks and burgers but it has several limitations that keep it from being an effective tool for preparing amazing BBQ.  Yes, you can cook ribs on your grill and I’m sure your ribs are amazing.  But, after the first time you cook your ribs on a smoker, you will never cook ribs on your grill again!

The first thing I will share with you is that smokers are not easy to find in retail stores.  I have occasionally seen them in Home Depot or Lowes but, not very often.  That being said, I purchased my first smoker, a Brinkman, locally from Lowes.  I tend to be a bit impatient at times.  However, after plenty of reading I knew I wanted a Weber Smokey Mountain.  My Weber Smokey Mountain came from Amazon.com.  If you watch the website over the course of  a month or so, you will find the price fluctuates quite a bit.  I saved about $30 on mine by just waiting until it was on sale.  For what it’s worth, Weber has the best support I have ever experienced.  My Smokey Mountain arrived with some damage.  One simple call to Weber and I had replacement parts in a couple of days.  If you have been keeping score at home, you now realize I have two smokers.  I still use them both.  The Brinkman is smaller than the Weber and is great for camping (it fits in my Coleman Popup Camper pretty easily) and it makes a great second smoker when I’m cooking for large groups.  There are also times when I want to cook ribs and pulled pork.  Having two smokers comes in handy in many ways.

If you are in the market for a smoker you might want to consider the new 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain.  When I purchased mine, there was only an 18″ version available.  While I have cooked a lot of food on my smoker at a time, there have been times when I wish I had a bit more room.  The 18″ should be plenty big enough if you are just cooking for a family of four or five.  But, I often cook for groups as large as fifty.  

Now that you have the basic tool needed for BBQ there are several ancillary tools you will want to go along with it.  I will break these down into “Must have” and “Nice to have” categories.  

Must Have:

  • A Charcoal Chimney.  Never use lighter fluid when cooking BBQ (ok, I have once when I forgot my chimney while camping and it wasn’t horrible).  
  • Welding gloves for handling hot Smokers, Charcoal Chimneys, Grills, and anything else hot but not food.  I purchased mine at Lowes and love them.  Most any pair will work.
  • Rubber gloves for food handling.  I found mine at a local Ace Hardware store.  I picked a pair with some texture to them so it is easier to hold slippery food.  The best way to clean these is to wash your hands while wearing the gloves.
  • Large commercial grade aluminum foil.  I usually get mine at Costco.  While normal kitchen aluminum foil will work, you will eventually want the large commercial grade stuff.
  • Spices purchased in bulk.  Buying spices at the grocery store is very expensive.  Penzeys sells nothing but spices.  I’m lucky that there is a retail store local to me.  Their website will let you know the closest location to you but, you can also order online.  I recommend subscribing to their free catalog.  I buy paprika by the pound now that I BBQ.
  • Large tongs, you don’t want to use a fork to flip your food.  Puncturing the meat allows moisture to escape.
  • A meat thermometer.  While any meat thermometer will work, I really like my wireless Maverick ET-7.  BBQ is a game of waiting. It’s nice to be able to monitor what’s going on in my smoker from inside my house.  Make sure you check out their newer wireless thermometer.  
  • Kosher Salt.  I realize this is covered in other articles of mine about BBQ but I feel it is so important I had to include it in the “Must have” section of tools.

Nice to have:

  • Chaffing Dish, stand and food trays.  I purchase mine from Costco and use them anytime I’m cooking BBQ or ribs.
  • Mop used for putting BBQ sauce on ribs and shoulders.
  • Rib Rack for cooking more ribs than will fit on your smoker.
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