BBQ 101


The Tools of the BBQ Trade – Hardwood Lump Charcoal

Hardwood Lump Charcoal
The great thing about grilling is that you don’t need too many tools to be successful. If you have a grill and a fuel source you pretty much have all you need to take a few ingredients and turn them into a delicious meal. We’ve already done a couple posts on grills and smokers so we thought it was time to take a look at charcoal (our preferred fuel source for grilling and smoking). The two main types of charcoal you’ll see at the store are hardwood lump and briquettes and we believe your best bet for a great fuel source is hardwood lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal is the end product of the process of burning chunks of hardwood in the absence of oxygen. It is almost like your sticking a piece of oak or hickory in the grill so it is the most natural and pure form of charcoal you can buy. We think lump charcoal gives food a much better flavor than briquettes and it lights easy (don’t forget to use the charcoal chimney to light your charcoal – if you don’t want your food to taste like lighter fluid don’t use lighter fluid), burns hotter (and is very responsive to the oxygen flow you provide making it easier to control your fire’s temperature), and produces far less ash than briquettes.


Charcoal briquettes are made from sawdust and other wood by-products that are compressed and held together with a binder and other additives (Additives that don’t make your food taste very good like limestone, borax, mineral carbon, sodium nitrate, brown coal, paraffin or petroleum solvents!). Briquettes are cheaper than lump charcoal, but is a few pennies saved worth imparting your meal with a chemical taste and smell?

So next time you head to the store to stock up on charcoal give hardwood lump charcoal a try – we think you’ll be pleased with the results.


Recommended Minimum Internal Cooking Temperatures For Meat

Many of the best pit-masters can tell when the meat on their smoker is done just by sight and touch.  For those of us that don’t have BBQ ESP we have to rely on a meat thermometer.  When cooking a pork shoulder, brisket or chicken a meat thermometer is an essential tool for the backyard griller.

Here’s the recommended Minimum Internal Cooking Temperatures for various meats:
  • Fresh ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork 160 degrees F
  • Beef, veal, and lamb – roasts, steaks, and chops
    • Medium rare 145 degrees F
    • Medium 160 degrees F
    • Well done 170 degrees F
  • Fresh pork – roasts, steaks, and chops
    • Medium 160 degrees F
    • Well done 170 degrees F
  • Ham
    • Cook before eating 160 degrees F
    • Fully cooked, to reheat 140 degrees F
  • Poultry
    • Ground Chicken or Turkey 165 degrees F
    • Whole Chicken or Turkey 180 degrees F
    • Chicken or Turkey breasts and  roasts 170 degrees F
    • Chicken or Turkey thighs and wings Cook until juices run clear.
    • Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165 degrees F
    • Egg dishes, casseroles 160 degrees F
    • Leftovers 165 degrees F

Information courtesy the U. S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service


Product Review – Charcoal Chimney

Charcoal Chimney

Besides your grill, the single most important BBQ tool you need to be a successful pit-master is a charcoal chimney!  What’s a charcoal chimney you ask?  A charcoal chimney lets you quickly light your charcoal without having to use any lighter fluid.  Ensuring from the start that your food won’t taste like lighter fluid is a good thing!

To use the charcoal chimney you simply place some old newspaper in the bottom and then fill the chimney with charcoal and then light the newspaper through the vents at the bottom of the chimney.  A short 15 minutes later your charcoal is ready for grilling!

There are several benefits to lighting your charcoal this way: 1) its faster – you’ll have hot coals in an instant; 2) there is no need for lighter fluid – meaning your food won’t taste like chemicals.  Bottom line – you’re cooking faster and it tastes better!  Charcoal chimnies cost about between 10 and 20 bucks and last for about five  BBQ seasons depending on frequently you use it.  Go pick one up today!

The charcoal chimney gets a 100 out of 100 rating for it’s ease of use and ability to allow every pitmaster to throw away their lighter fluid!

Don’t forget to visit Pork Barrel BBQ on the Internet for all your BBQ sauce and dry rub needs.


Char-Griller Smoker

Char-GrillerI love Weber Kettle Grills as much as Heath, but I have been the proud owner of a Char-Griller Smoker for the last five years.  This is a really great starter bbq smoker for anyone starting out.  I bought mine for around $150 at Lowe’s and have been very happy with the purchase.  I have always thought I would upgrade my smoker, but my wife and friends always ask for seconds when I grill so I figure I’d better not mess with success!

What I really like about this smoker is that the folks at Char-Griller offer a wide selection of add-ons and replacement parts.  Any smoker that gets used as much as mine is going to need things replaced, and they have everything you could possibly want!  Char-Griller does it up right.

The major downside of the Chair-Griller is temperature control and the amount of fuel it goes through due to it’s lack of insulation. With that being said it is still a great starter smoker for anyone looking to dip their toes into the world of BBQ.

We give the Char-Griller Smoker an 80 out of 100 due to it’s affordability and excellence as a starter smoker.

There is a wide range of grills and smokers out there – drop us a line at and let us know about your favorite grills and smokers.  Don’t forget to visit Pork Barrel BBQ on the Internet and pick up some of our Pork Barrel BBQ All American Spice Rub.