Posts Tagged ‘Tools’

A match made in heaven

September 16th, 2012 No comments


So today I had a quick project where I needed to secure a couple of things to the side of my foundation using some Tapcon screws. I would have had to run an extension cord about 150 feet from one side of my house to the other. Instead I just grabbed my little 800 W generator, checked to make sure my drill wouldn’t overpower it, and plugged it in. The specifications plate on the drill says it draws about 800 W peak – just at the top range of the generator. Sure enough, I plugged it in and it all works fine. I drilled 4 holes without having to unroll and wind back up 150 feet of extension cord. And the generator still runs fine. I’m still glad I bought it, and this is exactly the kind of use I had in mind for it.

Categories: Tools Tags: , ,

Harbor Freight 800 Watt Generator

July 21st, 2012 No comments
This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Generator

Harbor Freight 800 Watt Generator

I needed a small generator for an upcoming camping trip. And my every other day Harbor Freight sales e-mail arrived in my inbox. So I took the plunge on this popular little generator. The first one didn’t work out so well (ahhh, Harbor Freight, you never fail to fail). But the second one seems to be working. Read all about it – I gave the generator its own review page here.

My BBQ Arsenal

July 31st, 2011 No comments

I was talking with someone earlier this week about what the most versatile type of grill or cooker is. I realized that I’ve opted for specialized cookers, rather than a single versatile one. This prompted me to think about an inventory of all my major hardware. Here’s what’s on my patio and in my shed right now:

  1. Char-Broil RED 4-burner gas grill. I bought mine in 2008, right as the economy was taking a dump. At the time, Char-Broil was making a run at a higher end market, but the recession seems to have killed that idea.

    4-Burner Char-Broil RED Grill. Circa 2008.

    The differences between my 3 year old RED and the current version sold under the same name are incredible. For example, mine actually has a red enamel finish as shown in this picture. The current model is made from cheap stainless steel. Mine also has some built-in electronics like a thermometer with probe and an electronic propane gauge. The current one doesn’t, but it does have a couple of built-in lights. The main difference in in the weight … my older model is heavy gauge steel, while the current version is light and flimsy. The other difference is that the new version is also about $300 cheaper. You can see the new version here. I still think that my version of this grill is one of the most versatile gas grills I have ever seen. I’ve done everything from searing steaks to making really good bar-b-que ribs in this one device. If I could only have one cooking appliance, this would be it.

  2. Modified NBBD Smoker

    New Braunfels Black Diamond offset smoker. Also known as the NBBD, this is a legend among low-price deadicated BBQ pits. Mine is old enough that it was still made in Texas by the New Braunfels company themselves. They were subsequently sold to Char-Broil and this smoker is now sold, virtually unchanged, as the Char-Broil Silver Smoker. My smoker is heavily modified with a custom chimney, internal baffle plates, custom sealing, and some additional goodies.


    Bradley 4-Rack Digital Smoker
    Bradley 4-Rack Digital Smoker (from

    Bradley Electric Smoker. Mine is a 4-rack digital model. I bought this for convenience when I wanted to make smaller meals for just myself and maybe one other person. I’ve also used it to cold smoke foods like home made bacon. It’s not a cheap investment, but for some things it’s perfect. Like bacon, salmon, and chicken. The “set it and forget it” convenience can’t be beat. I find that I don’t even mind using their pre-made bisquettes to generate the smoke. I’m currently perfecting a version of Myron Mixon’s cupcake chicken recipe in this for my annual BBQ.

  4. An old Brinkmann Smoke-n-Pit. Years ago, this was the name Brinkmann used for their vertical water smokers. Now they use the smoke-n-pit name for their offset smokers and call their verticals the Cook’n Ca’jun. I’ll admin that I haven’t used this as all since I got my NBBD back in 2002, but I keep it around because it was the first smoker I learned to BBQ on. I got a used one from an old friend of the family and I spent days with a wire brush and a can of black hi-temp paint getting it in shape. I used to smoke whatever I could find cheaply on branches from two apple trees that I had in my back yard.

    One Touch Silver 18.5″

    18.5″ Weber Kettle. Everyone who cooks outside needs a Weber Kettle grill of some sort. I went small and simple because of all the other things I have, but there really isn’t much out there more versatile for the money than a Weber. With a single chimney of lump charcoal I cab get the grate over 800° F to sear a steak, or I can build an indirect fire to grill more delicate things. The grills are built very well and are sturdy. If you can only afford one grill, I’d recommend a Weber charcoal grill as your first purchase.

  6. Mt La Caja China

    My La Caja China

    La Caja China #1 Roasting Box.  You can read about it in this post. Basically an aluminum lined outdoor over that roasts with charcoal on top of the food. Originally designed by a Cuban immigrant to Miami to imitate boxes that his father had seen Chinese workers using, they have really perfected the design. I first encountered one at my father-in-law’s house about 10 years ago, when a Cuban friend of his introduced it to us. This is an amazingly versitile piece of equipment. For a good idea what this can do, you can read about my arctic luau or get the definitive guides to this amazing roasting box, La Caja China Cooking by Perry P. Perkins or his follow-up book, La Caja China World.

That’s it for all of the major cooking equipment. I do have a bunch of accessories that I’ve collected over the years which I’ll describe in the future. Happy BBQ.

A Yankee’s Guide to Bar-B-Que – Part 2 (The Tools)

December 31st, 2009 No comments
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Yankee's Guide to BBQ

So, you’ve read my core-dump on the basics of bar-b-que, right? Or maybe you got here after reading about my Bradley Digital Smoker. Maybe you’ve even decided the type of pit you’re going to use. Now it’s time to really get started.

One of the questions I get asked a lot is what other stuff do you need to create bar-b-que? Mostly, I get this question around Father’s Day or at the beginning of Summer, when people are looking for gifts. So I thought I’d take a look in my grilling and bar-b-que toolbox. (Yes, I’m including grilling in this.) And for what it’s worth, mine really is a toolbox. I keep everything I commonly use in a Stanley Fat Max toolbox which lives during the summer in a storage cart on my patio.

The good news is that you don’t need much. Like everything else in the bar-b-que world, things can be done well with little expense.

So here’s my list, in rough order of importance:

  1. ThermaPenInstant-read meat thermometer. I currently use a splash-proof Thermapen by ThermoWorks, which I must admit is a fantastic thermometer. It’s faster than any other I’ve used, and the thin tip really allows an accurate temperature in cuts of meat that are thin (like spare ribs). But at $96 list price, you have to really like cool gadgets to want it. Don’t get me wrong, the NIST traceable calibration certificate you get with the thermometer really appeals to the chemist in me, but you can get more than satisfactory results with a less expensive thermometer. Prior to the Thermapen, I used a cheap Polder instant-read, which they don’t make anymore. But the next generation replacement is only $19.95.
  2. Remote thermometer. You don’t really need both kinds of thermometers, but a remote thermometer is nice to have, especially for shoulder. I use a RediCheck Remote when I want to monitor the pit from a distance. With this kind of thermometer you can monitor the temperature of your food without disturbing the temperature of the pit by constantly opening and closing the door.
  3. Silicone Gloves. Bar-b-que involves holding a lot of hot greasy stuff. For my money, nothing beats a nice pair of silicone gloves. Not only do they protect you from heat, but they clean up in the dishwasher so all that grease and sauce isn’t a problem. I use a set of two like these for ~$20.
  4. Basting brush. Most people are going to want to mop their meat at some point. And I find that a silicone basting brush works best for this. It can handle the heat of a grill  and is easy to clean in the dishwasher. I’m currently using a couple of different ones I picked up at the hardware store or supermarket.
  5. Towels. Speaking of messy … there will be a lot of mess to clean no matter what you’re making. So rather than using roll after roll of paper towels, I simply bought a bag of utility towels at BJs (I think I paid $45 for a bag of 50 towels 5 years ago) and I’ve been using them ever since. I still have 35 of them. They clean up in the washer and are way more useful than paper towels. Not only do they absorb more, but they can also be used to grab hot things. Absolutely indispensable.
  6. Cooking spray oil (like PAM). Useful mostly for keeping things from sticking on the grill or smoker. I buy the bulk size at BJ’s.
  7. Spatulas & Tongs. Not much to say here. There are millions of different brands. Buy something strong and cheap.
  8. Radio. I keep a Sirius satellite radio receiver in the box because bar-b-que is a slow process. And there is always a need for tunes while waiting 14 hours for a shoulder to cook.

Bonus tool: an infrared thermometer. I have a cheap Harbor Freight infrared thermometer that I keep around. It’s useful for judging whether there are hotspots on the grill or in the pit.

So there you go … you really don’t need any of this stuff, but it’s all helpful and relatively inexpensive and it can make your life easier.


Categories: Grilling/BBQ Tags: ,