Mouth-watering barbecue. Photo by Peter Hellebrand.


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PHYLLIS HASKINS, who teaches and writes on the fine art of barbecue, is the co-owner of Teddy Bear’s BBQ in Monroe, Washington. She and her husband Konrad have won more than 70 awards in BBQ competition since 2002. To study BBQ with the masters, e-mail Phyllis.



June 2006
Updated May 2009

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Meat & Poultry

How To Make Barbecue

Page 2: Barbecue Grill & Thermometer


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Tools Of The Trade: Barbecue Grill & Thermometer



All you need is a grill. Almost any grill will work. We’ve cooked great barbecue on cheap propane grills and small portable charcoal kettle grills. An experienced pit master can get great results with nothing more than four bricks, the shelf out of an oven, and a bag of charcoal. Better equipment makes life easier, of course.

  • The benchmark of better equipment is not price.  For propane cookers we look for temperature control and a design that will avoid flare ups. 
  • For charcoal and wood cookers we look for an airtight design that does not need Cookshackfrequent fresh fuel and will maintain a constant temperature between fuelings.  Any product made by Weber fits the bill. (Exception:  The Go-Anywhere by Weber, their cheapest model and one to avoid.)
  • Our cooker of choice:  The Cookshack FEC-100, an electric pellet smoker with a temperature dial that goes from a low smoke setting up to 350°F. With its vertical cabinet design, this smoker can handle briskets, pork shoulders, chickens, and ribs—all at the same time. The stainless steel surface is easy to clean, and the pellets provide a sweet smelling, clean burning heat source.  (Editor’s Note: This is a $2,900 smoker oven for caterers and competition cooks, holding up to 100 lbs. of pork butts, 80 lbs. of brisket, 60 lbs. of ribs or 24 chickens.)

Learn Your Grill’s Sweet Spot

Whether your grill is $150 or $1,500, your first step is to find its “sweet spot.” Buy the cheapest generic store brand biscuits, the kind found in a roll in the refrigerator case. Preheat your grill to its lowest setting (225°F to 300°F). After it is preheated, lay the biscuits out equidistant from one another all over the cooking grate.  Close the lid and check every 15 minutes.  You will be able to see which biscuits are nicely browned, which are burning, and which are not yet cooked.  This test will clue you to the cool and hot spots of the grill.

Meat Thermometer: A “Must Have” Tool

A meat thermometer tells you two things: the internal temperature of the meat and how tender the meat is, based on how easily the probe goes into the meat. In this day and age digital thermometers are far better than the old dial thermometer. Regardless of type, a regular check of calibration is the best route to food safety. A cup full of ice chips and water at 32°F/0°C is a better test than boiling water, where the temperature changes with altitude.

Our Favorite Thermometers

  • The inexpensive choice is Taylor Digital.
  • The intermediate choice is Thermapen: you are paying for an accurate reading in 1 second instead of waiting for 10 seconds with the Taylor.
  • The deluxe choice is BBQ Guru: the Ferrari of thermometers developed specifically for barbecues.

The low-end thermometer will keep your charcoal cooker on temperature. The mid-priced model will control your charcoal cooker’s temperature, monitor the meat temperature and drop into a hold mode when the desired meat temperature is reached. The deluxe model not only monitors what’s going on in the grill, but controls the temperature with a separate fan (shown in the photo below, right) so you don’t have to be present to tend to the cooker.

Taylor Tru-Temp   BBQ Guru
TruTemp Instant Read Digital
Click here for more information or to purchase.
  BBQ Guru. From $125.00 for an entry level control to $600+ for a wireless (radio) control. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Prices subject to change.


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