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Few types of cooking define American cuisine like Texas barbecue. Depending on where in the state you’re eating, it’s origins can be attributed to Mexican farmhands, emancipated enslaved people, and German immigrants. Yet no matter which style of Texas barbecue you’re talking about — barbacoa, sausage, brisket, or anything else — there’s no denying that it’s worth traveling to the state just for a taste.
Of course, can head down to Texas every time they’re craving pulled pork and brisket — unless of course you already live in Texas, in which case, lucky you. The rest of us have to recreate the smoky flavors of Texas barbecue at home. Gifting the barbecue enthusiast in your life with any of the tools of the trade makes mimicking the flavors a little easier. And as an added bonus, there’s a good chance you’ll get to benefit from the fruits of their labor when they use said tools.
From a hefty pair of tongs to a trusty meat thermometer and a flavorful rub, these Texas barbecue tools are exactly what anyone interested in cooking their own Texas barbecue feasts needs.
To bring the smoke and spice of Texas barbecue home, you need the right combination of seasonings. True, you can, and when possible should, make your own barbecue rub. In Texas, barbecue rubs combine the smoky spice of chili powder and cayenne pepper with the sweetness of brown sugar alongside classic flavor boosters like onion and garlic powder and black pepper. Ready made options, like this one from RubWise, can make life easier and ensure a perfect balance. It’s designed especially for brisket, a Texas speciality. Rub your uncooked brisket with this seasoning mixture, then marinate for ideally 24 hours.
Buy now: Texas Style Brisket BBQ Rub by RubWise, $15
Gas grills are a common sight in garages across America, but if you’re serious about barbecue specifically, you need a charcoal smoker. Charcoal is ideal for low and slow cooking, and gives more flavor than a gas grill. This smoker from Weber makes the perfect barbecue easy with a water pan to add steam for moist meats. Plus, it’s big enough to smoke a whole turkey.
Buy now: Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, $349
Spatula and tongs
A reliable set of spatula and tongs are essential to the pitmaster’s toolkit. An ideal pair of tongs are easy to grip and use, and hit the Goldilocks zone of long enough so you don’t burn your hands and short enough that you don’t lose control. And of course, you can’t properly flip a burger without a spatula.
This convenient set of barbecue tools includes all the necessary accessories in a case for easy organization. It also includes a sturdy grill cleaner, so that your work space stays clean after each use.
Buy now: Wood-Handled 9-Piece Barbecue Tool Set, $38
In Texas, the meat tends to take center stage when it comes to barbecue, and most pitmasters rely less on a heavy sauce to compliment their creations than folks do in say, Kansas, where barbecue sauce is embraced more readily. In fact, in some regions you won’t see sauce used at all. Central Texas barbecue, for example, uses a simple rub of salt and black pepper and skips the sauce entirely. But that doesn’t mean you should rule out serving sauce on the side with your own version of Texas-style barbecue.
Texas-style barbecue sauce usually incorporates some combination of lemon juice, mustard, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and brown sugar, among other ingredients. If you’re not confident enough in your cooking skills to make your own, legendary brand Stubb’s makes a variety pack that highlights both spicy and smoky Texas barbecue flavors.
Buy Now: Stubbs Texas BBQ Sauce Sampler, $25
Serving undercooked meat to your family or dinner party guests isn’t just dangerous — it’s also a sure sign that you haven’t mastered the grill or the smoker yet. Avoid the embarrassment of looking like a barbecue newbie by equipping yourself with a reliable meat thermometer. The Thermoworks Thermopop does the job without getting to complicated, and is fast and easy to read.
Buy now: Thermopop, $35
Cast iron skillet
A cast iron skillet isn’t redundant just because you’ve got a grill. This hardworking pan will elevate your grilling and barbecue game. Cooking meat like steak and burgers in a cast iron skillet on top of a hot grill imparts the perfect sear, and as an added bonus the meat cooks in all its juices and fat, capturing all that flavor rather than it going to waste as it drips through the grates on the grill. You can easily roast vegetables in it, too.
Buy Now: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet 12 inch, $45
Wooden cutting board
After the barbecue is done cooking, it’s essential that you allow it to rest. If you cut into a slab of brisket for instance, all the juice will flood out, leaving the meat you worked so hard to prepare unpalatably dry. The meat should rest for at least 15 minutes, allowing the juices to redistribute in the meat. The result is a succulent and tender cut.
The best place to rest your cooked barbecue is on a classy wooden cutting board that’s big and sturdy enough for you to maneuver and carve up the meat. Inevitably, some juice will leak out of the meat, no matter how long you let it rest. The key to this cutting board is it’s “juice groove.” Wrapped around the perimeter of the cutting board this deep ridge catches juice, reducing messes and making clean up easier.
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