This year, the best barbecue-related gift of all will be actual barbecue. Restaurants need the support, so we urge you to order from one of the many joints that offer chilled whole briskets, turkey breasts, pork shoulders, and racks of ribs for pickup. If the backyard barbecuer in your life is farther away, choose from the long list of Texas restaurants that ship their barbecue anywhere in the U.S. But once you’ve finished that barbecue meal you ordered, you might realize you need to work on your smoked meat game at home. The following items will help home pitmasters cook more efficiently, precisely, and deliciously.
Support Your Local Pitmaster hat, Robert Sierra, $30
San Marcos pitmaster Robert Sierra has designed a line of hats in various colors with a timely reminder to support your local pitmaster, and now you can wear the message to remind others. Request yours from Sierra directly via Instagram or email at [email protected]
Rapidfire chimney starter, Weber, $19.99
First, you’ve got to start the fire. There are plenty of products that plug into an outlet or a propane tank to get a charcoal fire going quickly, but the cheapest option is still the most foolproof: get a charcoal chimney; crumple newspaper to line the bottom; then pour some charcoal into the top before lighting the paper. Come back in twenty minutes and you’ll have plenty of hot charcoal. Instead of paper, you can also place the chimney directly on the gas burner of a propane grill, because you’re not using that grill for anything else.
Thermapen Mk4 instant-read digital thermometer, ThermoWorks, $99
A successful barbecue cook requires accurate temperature readings, and getting those readings rapidly is even better. (Using an analog thermometer means you likely have to leave the smoker lid open, which adds time to the cook.) This digital thermometer probe reads the internal temperature of smoking meats almost instantly. Use it to check the progress of your large-format meats, and to check for the proper doneness of meats and steaks alike.
Leaf blower, Ukoke, $65
I own this $65 cordless leaf blower with a rechargeable battery. Of course it can be used for blowing around tree detritus, but the primary purpose of this machine is to stoke a fire like a modern-day bellows. If you’ve ever gone neck deep into a smoldering firebox to blow until you’re light-headed, only to retreat with a throat full of smoke, you’ll understand why using a machine to blow on your fire is preferable. A leaf blower will boost the heat output of any fire or bring a dying one back to life with the pull of a trigger.
Meater Plus wireless thermometer, Meater, $99
There aren’t any wires on this thermometer, which means no lid lifting whatsoever. It stays in the meat as it cooks and the temperature display is visible through an app on your phone. Thanks to high heat resistance, it will also work for grilling steaks. The first generation is less expensive but has a far shorter range for the bluetooth signal, so I suggest paying extra for the “Plus” version and its range of up to 165 feet.
Non-contact digital infrared thermometer, Etekcity, $27.99
This one doesn’t check the internal temperature of the meat, but rather the temperature of the air around it. Use it to check the accuracy of the thermometer that probably came with your smoker, or to find the hot and cool spots within the smoker. Point and pull the trigger just as with the temporal thermometers that check body temperature, but this one has a temperature range from minus 58 degrees to 716 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grill and smoker, Nomad, $599
It’s not cheap, but this is truly the “go-anywhere” grill. The double-wall design keeps the exterior cool enough to cook on your deck or a wooden picnic table. There’s no easier grill to operate, or to store away when finished, and it’ll be great for when we get back to gathering for tailgates. As a plus, it’s strikingly handsome.
Tundra 45 Hard Cooler, Yeti, $299.99
This cooler isn’t exactly an unknown item, but I suggest you use it to keep things hot rather than cold. Getting a brisket done early means you need somewhere to keep it hot until serving time. A brisket tucked inside this cooler will stay hot for hours (the Tundra 35 also works for this, but the 45 is long enough for ribs), and will get even more tender during that time. It’s also the perfect size for using my faux-vide method to reheat that barbecue you had shipped in.
C-60 Pit, KBQ, $1,440
Designer Bill Karau calls this pit the inverted firebox, which means the wood fire is above rather than beside the cook chamber. An electric fan draws the heat and smoke down to the food in the smoke chamber, so it does require an extension cord, but it depends entirely on wood for heat. It requires less attention than a traditional stick burner, so consider this the lazy man’s stick-burning smoker. The results never taste like dirty smoke thanks to the design, and whatever I’m cooking seems to get done more quickly in a KBQ. Plus, Karau builds them in his Southlake garage.
Pit Mitt gloves, Charcoal Companion, $19.99
Sometimes you don’t want to reach for a shovel to move around an errant flaming log. A welder’s glove would suffice, but these gloves provide better dexterity and have remarkable heat resistance. Whether I’m out by the smoker or in the kitchen, I have a pair of these gloves nearby. They stand up to even the hottest cooking grates or firebox doors, but keep in mind that they’re not great for handling cooked meat since their insulating quality doesn’t mix well with liquids.
Tortillas twelve-pack, Flores Tortillas, $10
Made with smoked brisket fat, these flour tortillas, handmade in Whitney, are the perfect pairing for a brisket taco. Owner Michael Wyont will also guarantee that just about anything you smoke at home will taste better in one of his tortillas. They ship well too.
Holy Trinity BBQ Candles, Meat Fight, $45
When it looks like there’s no saving the barbecue, the only thing left to do is pray. Light these barbecue prayer candles featuring Tootsie “Our Lady of the Smoky Meats” Tomanetz, Aaron “BBQ Jesus” Franklin, and, embarrassingly, me, and they might be your only hope.
More from our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide: