May 16 is National Barbecue Day in recognition of the American approach to low, slow smoky cooking.
To purists, BBQ is not to be confused with grilling, a quick method of cooking over a heat source like charcoal, lump coal, propane or natural gas. BBQ is not to be confused with smoking, which is usually lower and slower. And BBQ is not to be confused with tomato- or vinegar-based finishing sauces. The sauces come after the BBQ cooking and they’re optional.
Whatever BBQ you favor, this collection of tools and culinary items below will take you from Memorial Day to Labor Day and beyond. HINT: Think Father’s Day gifts, too.
Defining the BBQ point on a spectrum from grilling to smoking can be difficult, says Tim McCoy, education director at Loretta Paganini School of Cooking in Chesterland. “People who are involved in all three like to argue the nuances of that definition. That’s a fool’s errand,” says the chef. “When you look at BBQ, it’s an umbrella that extends over a lot of activity.”
The choices don’t end with definition. BBQ has various flavor profiles depending on where you are in the United States. These change with choice of meat, firewood and sauces. Four popular flavor profiles include:
- Kansas City style requires a sweet seasoning and finishing with a thick, sugary sauce. Brown sugar is the base ingredient of Kansas City rub.
- Memphis style BBQ has two options – wet and dry – as well as a thin sauce that uses both ketchup and vinegar. For “wet” ribs, pitmasters brush the meat with sauce before, during, and after smoking. For dry ribs, they’re rubbed with a seasoning mixture and served without sauce.
- Texas style BBQ is usually served without sauce.
- Carolina style BBQ varies by location in the two states. It commonly requires a thin “mop sauce” brushed onto cooking meat. South Carolina is known for a tangy, mustard-based sauce. North Carolina BBQ has two sauces – both vinegar and tomato.
Here’s the equipment to help rock your barbecues all summer long:
The Royal Gourmet charcoal grill with offset smoker ($156.99) can be used for grilling, smoking and BBQing. Just keep the grilling chamber closed as much as possible.
This Traeger wi-fi grill and smoker ($799.95) is wifi-enabled and allows control with the Traeger app. It simplifies the BBQ process.
Also: Two-barrel smoker grills are available from Home Depot online, starting at $249
Not sure which wood brings out the best in your meat? Experiment with five options — mesquite, apple, hickory, pecan and cherry — in the Wood Chunk variety pack ($36.95). Or, use packaging suggestions to mix and match. To maximize the natural flavor, cook with the lid closed and do not use lighter fluid.
Alder firewood chunks ($32.99) create a hot fire with glowing coals and smoke. They add a subtle and slightly sweet flavor to salmon, poultry, pork, shrimp, lamb and vegetable dishes.
Omaha Steaks has a 7-pound, bone-in pork butt ($69.99) laced with flavorful fat that’s perfect for low-and-slow BBQ cooking. The novice pitmaster can turn this into a pulled pork masterpiece.
What would BBQ be without ribs? Omaha Steaks offers both baby back ribs ($37.99/rack) and St. Louis style spare ribs ($34.99/rack). Baby back ribs are tender and leaner, while spare ribs are meatier and larger.
This grass-fed Picanha beef roast ($71.85) is known for its thick fat cap, which renders out and bastes the meat as it cooks.
This 12-pound brisket ($174.99) is party-sized. The roast is aged at least 28 days to maximize tenderness.
Play it safe with Thermapen One ($78.75, originally $105), an instant-read, digital meat thermometer. You don’t have to guess or cut open the meat for a visual indicator. The key for beef is rare at 120-130ºF, medium rare 130-135ºF, medium 135-140ºF, medium well 145-155ºF and well 155ºF and up.
Several different thermapens are available
When you cook, you know your oven temperature. This Barbecue Grill Thermometer/Heat Indicator ($10.99) tracks your grill temperature.
Walk away from the BBQ and continue tracking the temperature of your meat from your phone using this wireless, smart meat thermometer ($46.99).
BBQ tools & accessories
BBQing can be sloppy. Stay clean and share your sports colors with a Cleveland Browns double-sided apron ($29.99).
Choose your favorite team apron
These Cleveland Browns spirit series BBQ tools ($54.99) keep you more than an arm’s length from the heat.
Get your team-themed BBQ tools for your favorite squad
This 25-piece stainless steel BBQ tool set ($29.99) includes everything you can think of. Enlarged handles make them easier to grip.
Buy a few tools or an entire collection
Designed for the pitmaster, these grilling gloves ($27.99) are made with food-grade neoprene rubber. They have insulated and textured palms to ease management of wet or greasy BBQ.
Silicone BBQ gloves ($22.99, originally $44.49) are lined and handle extreme heat without a burn. One size fits most.
This cotton basting mop ($8.92, originally $20.85) will help you make the best Carolina wet BBQ.
Whether you’re an experienced pitmaster or a wannabe, the Low & Slow: Ultimate Pit Boss Spice Collection ($58.99) has eight seasoning blends so you can experiment with regional flavor profiles. The Carolina High Country BBQ Rub has barbeque flavor with a little cayenne kick. Meanwhile, the Black Dust Cowboy Coffee Rub is pepper and Earthy with bittersweet, smoky, cocoa notes.
This Texas Rub ($4.21, originally $12.38) is made with brown sugar, molasses and select spices. It adds flavor to brisket, ribs, chicken or pork. Apply generously, let rest in the refrigerator for three hours, then BBQ.
Rubs and sauces are available for a variety of meats
Whether Rufus Teague was a real person is hard to tell from a Google search. Rufus Teague Kansas City-style BBQ sauces ($42.85/6-pack) though, are very real.
Rufus Teague brand has a number of BBQ products
Folks like the Memphis-style BBQ sauce from Charles Vergos Rendezvous restaurant ($26.96/3-pack) so much that they bring it home from the restaurant. This collection includes original, hot and select.