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BBQ Essentials

Essential Lessons

Essential Lessons are those critical lessons that are not pertinent to one specific cook but cross the spectrum of multiple cook types and methods.  As we progress through this journey together, we will update and add additional essential lessons as they arise.  In no specific order, below are critical pieces of information that will help guide you to a successful journey.

  • When cooking proteins, we cook to a specific temperature, not a duration of time.  Meaning, our journeys tell you to remove proteins from the grill/smoker/oven when the internal temperature of the protein reaches a specific temperature.  For example, when cooking a pork shoulder for pulled pork, the internal temperature needs to reach 205° Fahrenheit.  This can take 8 hours or it can take 12 hours.  Every cut of meat is different and therefore has different cooking times.  By cooking to a specific temperature, we are ensuring that the meat is both fully cooked to consume safely and not over-cooked and dry.​

  • Below is a temperature guide of when a type of protein is safe to consume:​
    • Fish: 145° ​Fahrenheit
    • Poultry: 165° Fahrenheit
    • Pork (exception of Pork Shoulder/Butt: 145° Fahrenheit
    • Pork Shoulder/Butt: 205° Fahrenheit
    • Beef (exception of brisket)
      • Rare: 125° Fahrenheit
      • Medium Rare: 135° Fahrenheit
      • Medium: 145° Fahrenheit
      • Medium Well: 155° Fahrenheit
      • Well: 160° Fahrenheit
    • Beef Brisket: 205° Fahrenheit   
  • When smoking proteins, it is critical to maintain steady temperatures.  You do not want your temperatures bouncing all over the place as this can significantly impact a cook.  If you are using a traditional smoker, this takes time and experience.  Don't beat yourself up if this happens early on in your journey to grillmaster. 
  • When placing your thermometer into a piece of meat, ensure that it is in the center of the thickest part of the protein.  You don't want to be too close to an edge as that will give you a higher reading than the center.
  • Making mistakes is okay!  Make notes and share with our community what went wrong and what you learned.  Making mistakes helps everyone learn together.


Essential Tools

Essential Tools is exactly what is sounds like.  This are tools that are highly recommended to help you be successful on your journey.  

  • Thermometer: This is by far the most important tool to own.  As mentioned above, we cook to specific temperatures.  There is nothing worse than an over-cooked steak or dried out turkey at Thanksgiving.  In order to avoid that, I really insist that you get a good thermometer. Personally, I use Thermoworks products.  They are the best in the market for a reason and they are extremely accurate.  The Thermapen Mk4 is used daily in my household and is worth every penny.  Not only do I use it for proteins but also oil when frying or melting sugar for syrup.  The Thermapen is perfect for every day use.  For longer cooks, particularly when smoking proteins, I prefer to use a dual thermometer that can return both the internal temperature of any given protein but also the ambient temperature inside my smoker.  As mentioned above, knowing and maintaining a steady temperature is critical.  For these types of cooks, I use my Thermoworks Smoke.  Whatever product you use is fine as long as it is accurate.

  • BBQ Gloves: Highly recommend investing in a good pair of gloves.  When cooking at 450-500°, metal baskets and skewers get extremely hot!  Gloves are also far easier to work with and hold items than oven mitts or towels.  Frankly, I use my gloves instead of oven mitts regularly.  I like the Weber Gloves as they are quality and have a grip.

  • Basic BBQ Tool Set: Every griller needs a few very basic items such as a spatula, tongs, fork and basting brush.  Note that these are designed for the grill, more heavy duty and longer than typical kitchen items.  This Nexgrill Tool Set has the basics needed. 

  • Charcoal Chimney: For those of you not using charcoal, you can skip this.  But, trust me, as you develop your barbecue skills, there is no better way to cook than charcoal.  It really does just taste better.  That aside, a good quality charcoal chimney is needed as we do NOT use lighter fluid to start our charcoals.  I have this Weber Chimney and have had it for many years. 

  • Measuring Cups: Fairly self explanatory.  We are following recipes that call for specific measurements.  Get yourself a decent set that can clean easily and is durable.  OXO creates good products and I prefer their Stainless Steal Measuring Cups.     

  • Spray Bottle: Many recipes, especially in barbeque, call for the ability to spray the protein with liquid to keep it from drying out.  This can range from apple cider vinegar to beer.  A good, dedicated, cooking spray bottle is highly suggested and this Evo Oil Sprayer works great.  

  • Here are a few other suggested items to have on-hand as you continue your journey and attempt new cooks:

    • Butcher Paper: used to wrap certain cuts of meat

    • Aluminum Pans: fantastic to have around.  Used when liquid is involved in a cook.

    • BBQ Aluminum Foil: this is a little heavier and wider than traditional foil.

    • Mason Jars: great to have on hand for sauces.

    • Poultry Shears: Probably should be listed above but these are worth their weight in gold and make cutting a chicken in half a piece of cake.

    • Garlic Press: just makes life easier when dealing with garlic.

    • Wood Planks: good to have on hand for plank cooking.

    • Meat Tenderizer: a fork works too but this is designed for tougher cuts.

    • Wire Baking Rack: you'll be surprised how often this will be used.

    • Kitchen Twine: used to truss a chicken or tie a stuffed cut of meat.

    • Tooth Picks: more useful than just getting food unstuck from your teeth.

    • Meat Claw: makes shredding pork very easy.

    • Grill Basket: very versatile for veggies and fish.

Essential Ingredients

Essential Ingredients is pretty self explanatory.  These are some of the most popular ingredients in barbecue and good to always have in stock.

  • Spices

    • Salt​

      • Kosher Coarse Salt, Kosher Fine Salt, Sea Salt

    • Pepper​

      • Coarse Ground Pepper, Peppercorns

    • Garlic:

      • Granulated Garlic: I prefer granulated as opposed to powdered for rubs. ​

      • Powdered Garlic: I prefer powdered as opposed to granulated for sauces.

    • Onion:

      • Granulated Onion: See above

      • Powdered Onion: See above

    • Paprika

      • Regular and Smoked

    • Cayenne Pepper​

    • Chili Powder

    • Chili Flakes

    • Ground Mustard

    • Brown Sugar

      • Light and Dark​

    • Dried Herbs​

      • Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, etc.​

  • Condiments​​

    • Organic Ketchup: I prefer organic as it does not contain high fructose corn syrup which can burn easily.​

    • Mayonnaise: Go full flavor, reduce your calories elsewhere.

    • Mustard

      • Yellow, Dijon and Brown​

    • Honey​

  • Liquids​​

    • Apple Cider Vinegar​

    • Apple Juice

    • Lemon Juice


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