When we talk about American BBQ, we mean hot smoking - or cooking 'low 'n' slow' - anywhere from 4 to 24 hours of cooking over a low heat, in a smoke-filled chamber. The best known classics are whole hog BBQ, pulled pork shoulder or 'butt', and pork ribs. It's a style of cooking that is about making tough cuts delicious, and less about detailed prep work than enjoying beers with family and friends.
We've pulled together a list of products to get you started with low 'n' slow hot smoking. Along with a little practice, some coal and a rack of ribs or two, they are all you might need to take you through to catering for huge parties, and perhaps even international competition level. And when you've got all the kit lined up and ready to go, click through to our Top 10 Tips for American BBQ to really perfect your art.
1. A Smoker BBQ
We like the American-style 'bullet' BBQ smokers from ProQ - the shape says it all!
The ProQ Excel and ProQ Frontier are designed with a bottom section for coals, with a door for easy access, and then with two separate stacked levels for slow cooking meat. The ProQ bullets are portable, the stacked levels mean it's incredible easy to check on the meat while it's cooking, and there is also a built temperature dial in the lid to help you control your coals. One or two levels can be removed, and the bullet smokers double up as a perfect kettle BBQ for quick grilling, when dinner is just flipping a burger or two.
The large ProQ Excel is for the more serious BBQ competitor, used by BBQ competition teams worldwide, with an incredibly robust body and space to cook a massive 30kg of meat, or eight whole large chickens. Enough for even the largest extended family gathering... The ProQ Frontier is its baby brother - slightly smaller, fantastic value - and the one I have in my back garden, making a ribs & margarita party for 15 people an absolute breeze.
The ultimate starter kit is the Everything Hot Smoking kit which combines the ProQ Frontier BBQ, a BBQ cover, hot smoking chips, a smoker basket, cocoshell briquettes, wood chip box (which helps the wood chips smoke for longer), wood chips, and even a US Champion-winning BBQ rub.
2. Wood Chips for Smoking
Hard woods are the best chips for smoking. In America, hickory is the choicest of chips - giving a bold sweet smoke, and is mostly used for pork butt and brisket. Combining hickory with fruit woods - such as apple or cherry, also works well. Apple or cherry alone are milder, and good with chicken and ribs. Mesquite can become overpowering. Beware! A good place to start is with a selection of chips, and then see what you prefer.
3. Chimney starter
Lighting coals is worlds easier with a chimney starter. Just pop the right number of coals in the top, and some crunched up paper in the base - plus a fire lighter or two if you struggle to get it going, though they shouldn't be necessary. Light the paper, and the coals will be ready to pour into your BBQ in around 20 minutes. See article Top 10 Tips for American BBQ, for more details about lighting a BBQ for low 'n' slow hot smoking.
4. The right fuel
If you're cooking low 'n' slow, you need coals that will last, rather than ones that burn through quickly. The ProQ Cocoshell briquettes burn are a revolutionary new barbecue charcoal - they burn up to three times longer than standard lump wood charcoal. And because they’re made from compressed coconut shells, they’re also a sustainable option.
5. Rib racks
A rib rack makes your BBQ space go even further. Stack 5 racks of ribs on just one level, or use two to smoke 10 racks of ribs at once. The rack is also good for fish and corn on the cob will fit neatly onto the spikes!
6. Thermapen thermometer
BBQ pros will continually check the internal temperature of the meat to tell them when they might need to wrap the meat in foil, and when it's ready. The thermapen reads temperature extremely quickly - meaning less time with the BBQ open and cooling, if the meat is not quite done.
Make sure you know what the correct temperatures are for your meat by reading our quick meat temperature guide here!
7. Marinade Injector
Larger and tougher cuts of meet can benefit from being marinading before cooking to help tenderise and give more flavour to the meat. Injecting liquids directly into the meat means the flavour travels all the way through. Plus this marinade injector isn't just for BBQ - a water, salt and white wine brine is also great for the Christmas turkey!
8. Spices for Rubs
Rubs are a matter of both geography and personal taste. This American Champions BBQ rub set gives you three spice blends for trophy-worthy ribs, pulled pork and brisket. And for a sweeter blend, our Viking smoked salt mixed with a good amount of brown sugar is fabulous for pork ribs.
9. BBQ Sauce
BBQ sauces are most often bought in. We like to make our own, but sometimes start with a good quality BBQ sauce, and this Jamaican made jerk BBQ sauce is fantastic rubbed into pork ribs and left to marinade overnight. Fruit, fiery, and utterly delicious.
After a stage as a chef at a London Michelin-starred restaurant Nicola became obsessed with seeking the best flavours from around the world. She started Sous Chef in 2012, and is always sharing her knowledge of ingredients and writing recipes to showcase those products. Learning from the products, Sous Chef's suppliers and her travels, Nicola has written the majority of the recipes on the Sous Chef website, all of which are big on flavour.