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Meathead
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I am a Barbecue Whisperer and Hedonism Evangelist. An eater, drinker, writer, photographer, and teacher based in the Chicago area, I run AmazingRibs.com. Bacchus is my personal deity. That's my lab above. The key to the cookers is below.

2010-06-26-rib_lab3.jpgAlong the way I have tried to share my love of the sensory. I have written hundreds of articles about food and drink for consumers as a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Restaurant Hospitality magazine, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, and now Huffington Post.

I hosted the Food & Drink Network on America Online for nine years, and I have taught at Cornell University's famous Hotel School in Ithaca, NY, and at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago. As the founder of the Beverage Testing Institute I produced seven books on wine, beer, and spirits.

My photos have been bought by a lot of folks from TIME to Playboy, and my first one man show was at the gallery at Robert Mondavi Winery. I've had the privilege of judging barbecue from Kansas City to Memphis, and wine from California to Italy. It's a dirty job, but...

Meathead's Lab
Readers often ask what kind of grill I use. Well, I test recipes on several different cookers trying to anticipate the problems you might encounter. In addition, manufacturers frequently send me cookers to test. As of 5/17/2010, my current inventory:

(A) Char-Broil Quantum Commercial 4 Burner with GrillGrates
(B) 22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker/Grill with a Rock's Stoker
(C) 22.5" Weber Kettle with GrillGrates and Smokenator with Hovergrill
(D) Memphis Pellet Grill/Smoker/Oven
(E) Cobb Portable Charcoal Grill
(F) MAK Pellet Smoker/Grill/Oven
(G) Char-Broil Big Easy Gas Roaster
(H) Brinkmann Gas Smoker
(I) Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
(J) Fire Extinguisher
(K) Storage box for charcoal, wood, accessories
(L) Cast iron Hibachi
(M) Ash Can
(N) Weber Go Anywhere Portable Propane Grill
(O) Newcastle Ale
(P) Molly the Border Collie

Entries by Meathead

The Top 10 Best Value Grills and Smokers

(4) Comments | Posted April 8, 2014 | 4:46 PM

As we awaken from the worst winter hangover in memory, our thoughts turn to flower blossoms, chirping birds, and replacing that rusty old grill and smoker.

To help you find your next pride and joy, my associates and I at AmazingRibs.com have named our Top 10 Best Value Charcoal Grills,...

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LBJ, BBQ Diplomacy, and the Great BBQ That Never Happened

(0) Comments | Posted February 24, 2014 | 9:52 AM

2014-02-17-lbj_buffet.jpgBarbecue has been used as a tool in American political campaigns for more than 150 years. Old newspapers frequently document huge events with hundreds of guests eating for free at the expense of a candidate. But no politician ever used the conviviality and...

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Grilling & Smoking In The Cold, Tips & Techniques

(0) Comments | Posted February 14, 2014 | 3:17 PM

Cold, rain, snow, sleet, and wind may not delay the mail but they can sure delay the meal.

When the exterior of your grill or smoker is cold the metal absorbs heat from the warm air inside lowering the cooking temp. Whether you are using gas, charcoal, or pellets, in...

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Slate Errs Big Time in Article on BBQ & Cancer

(1) Comments | Posted January 31, 2014 | 9:37 AM

Dear Brian Palmer:

You missed the mark by a pretty wide margin in your article in Slate on 1/22/2014 titled "Cooking Up Cancer? It wouldn't be crazy to give up grilled, smoked, or fried food." And the headline is downright irresponsible. This sort of stuff can really damage...

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Buying A Smoker: Top 10 List

(23) Comments | Posted May 21, 2013 | 1:06 PM

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How to Buy A Grill: Print This and Take It Shopping

(29) Comments | Posted May 1, 2013 | 12:29 PM

A grill is "the remote starting-point, the very genesis of our art... gradually intelligence supplanted rude instinct; reason began to deduce effects from supposed causes; and thus cooking was launched upon that highroad along which it has not yet ceased steadily to advance." Auguste Escoffier, called the "king of chefs...

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Analysis: Easier Meat Labels? My Butt

(68) Comments | Posted April 5, 2013 | 1:21 PM

Meat names are confusing, to say the least, so Thursday's announcement that The Beef Checkoff Program, the National Pork Board, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have agreed to new labeling standards in an attempt to "make things easier on the consumer" should elicit unbridled joy from a...

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Make The Ultimate Ham on Your Grill

(67) Comments | Posted March 25, 2013 | 11:34 AM

2013-03-25-wet_cured_ham.jpgThe world of hams is confusing, and that's an understatement, but it is worth getting a handle on things because a little knowledge will make your ham dinners much much better.

Hams are cut from the top of the rear legs of hogs,...

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World's Best Pitmaster? Hint: There's Lipstick On That Pig!

(6) Comments | Posted November 20, 2012 | 3:25 PM

On November 10, Kingsford Charcoal broke new ground in the rapidly growing world of competition barbecue and wrote a check for $50,000 to the winner of the first annual Kingsford Invitational, a showdown designed to unify the title and name one pitmaster the best in the world.

It...

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The Iconic Weber Kettle, 60 Years Old, But A Long Way From Retirement. How Old Is Yours?

(15) Comments | Posted July 9, 2012 | 4:32 PM

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2012-06-12-bonfire.jpgGrilling has been around since the first time a forest fire trapped a wild hog and a band of homo erectus hunters noticed a wonderful scent wafting from the rubble.

It probably wasn't long before the tribe...

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'BBQ Pitmasters' Finale: A Fine Finish As We Pay Cheeky Respect To The Godfather

(6) Comments | Posted July 2, 2012 | 2:58 PM

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Let's begin by noting that for six weeks one of the producers of the Kingsford "BBQ Pitmasters" has been telling me the finals will be broadcast on the new Destination America network on July 8, a fact I have published in...

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Hamburger Secrets: How The Zen Master Prepares A Real Happy Meal

(32) Comments | Posted July 2, 2012 | 1:32 PM

"Give a man a burger and he will gladly pay you Tuesday. Teach a man to make a burger and he will feed his family as if every day is Sunday." Meathead

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Close your eyes and think of the best hamburger you've ever...

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Debunking Beer Can Chicken: A Waste Of Good Beer (And It Is Dangerous)

(208) Comments | Posted June 28, 2012 | 6:27 PM

"I think Beer Can Chicken is a religion. We need a little separation of faith and science here." Sterling Ball, BigPoppaSmokers.com

2012-06-28-beer_can_chicken.jpgThink about this: You've never seen a fine dining restaurant serve Beer Can Chicken, have you? That's because...

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BBQ Pitmasters Week 5: Finalists Set, But Where Are The Big Guns?

(0) Comments | Posted June 25, 2012 | 8:24 AM

Sunday, June 24, was the last of the prelims of the Kingsford BBQ Pitmaster series, and now we know who the five finalists will be.

The broadcast was shot in late April in Salisbury, MD, at Pork in the Park. The Maryland-Delaware peninsula is a virtual henhouse with more than...

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BBQ Pitmasters Week 4: Is This Traditional Barbecue?

(9) Comments | Posted June 18, 2012 | 8:25 AM

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A full figured family man who scrapes together a living selling barbecue from a trailer has won the fourth of five prelim cookoffs in the Kingsford BBQ Pitmasters and will advance to the finals airing on July 8. He and four others will...

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BBQ Pitmasters Episode 3: Pulling The Trigger; All According To Script; And Is This Really Blind?

(5) Comments | Posted June 11, 2012 | 8:54 AM

Sunday was the airing of the third of five preliminary cook-offs in season three of the BBQ Pitmasters. The contest was in Thomaston, GA, in early April at a larger competition called Smoke on the Water.

The cooks were, in order of finish:
1) Johnny Trigg, Smokin' Triggers, Alvarado...

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Melissa Cookston Wins BBQ Pitmasters' Best Show Ever

(4) Comments | Posted June 4, 2012 | 10:38 AM

Last week, in episode 1 of season 3, BBQ Pitmasters unveiled a new and significantly improved format. Click here to read my review. This week it aired the best show ever in the series.

2012-06-04-ScreenShot20120531at6.00.02PM.jpgTaped in Memphis in late March, three...

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Finally, 'BBQ Pitmasters' Gets It Right

(20) Comments | Posted May 31, 2012 | 12:47 PM

After three seasons of practice, BBQ Pitmasters, a reality cooking competition that is decidedly not Top Chef, has finally found the recipe.

The broadcast premiered on Wednesday, May 30 and will settle into a new time slot starting this Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Last year's version was great fun,...

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Cooking with Charcoal vs. Gas: The Definitive Answer

(3) Comments | Posted May 17, 2012 | 7:06 AM

The flame war between charcoal grill purists and gas grill hotheads burns brighter than the debate between Mac and PC users. You should read some of the slop slung on the barbecue message boards. On second thought, don't. Let me try to sort it out for you with a few...

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The Ultimate Mint Julep Recipe

(135) Comments | Posted May 4, 2012 | 9:37 AM

Bourbon is the quintessential American whiskey and the drink of choice of many Southerners. Made primarily in Kentucky, mostly from corn, when properly made, filtered, and aged, Bourbon can rival the finest Cognacs in richness, depth, and complexity.

Mint is a weed. Plant some now and you'll be engulfed by...

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