Southern American barbecue is a genuinely unique cuisine. Each region within the South takes pride in its own style of slow barbecue cooking, and Tennessee is no exception. In the east, Tennesseans prefer pork shoulder and chopped whole hogs with a vinegar sauce. In Memphis, dry and wet pork ribs and pulled pork shoulder reign supreme. 

At Parks Realty, we adore every Southern barbecue style! Whichever way you prefer to cook your cuts, we hope you take advantage of these warm summer nights and turn your own back yard into a culinary destination, sending aloft aromas that will make mouths water all around your neighborhood.

If you’re a beginning pitmaster, the following list of backyard barbecue must-haves will equip you to turn out succulent ribs, pork shoulders, and whole spicy chickens from your first attempt. Our list was compiled after surveying skilled barbecue-savvy home chefs who have turned their passion for food into their main hobby. 

Whether you follow in their footsteps or continue with using your barbecue setup a few times each summer, here are the items you simply can’t do without.

1.) Prep Table

Equally useful for the pitmaster and afternoon picnic guests alike, an outdoor-ready food prep table will save you from making multiple trips to and from the kitchen, and your guests from precariously balancing their paper plates on your porch railing as they assemble their plates.

In fact, we suspect each back yard could use at least one of these beauties. 

2.) Headlamp Flashlight

In the tradition of barbecue, you’re likely going to be doing most of your pit hours in the dark. A good headlamp flashlight will shine light right where you need it while keeping both of your hands free. 

3.) Instant Read Meat Thermometer

After years of watching your barbecue, you’ll develop a gut instinct that will tell you when it’s the perfect moment to remove your meats. In the meantime, an instant-read thermometer will serve you just as well! Say so long to overcooked meals, and hello to impeccably timed barbecue. 

Remember to keep spare batteries on-hand, even if your thermometer is new. Somehow yours will fail you when you’re at a crucial ‘cue moment and every store in town has already closed.  

4.) Chimney Starter

No one likes tearing into a tender hunk of barbecued meat and tasting lighter fluid. To avoid this unpleasant experience, choose a chimney starter to heat your coals quickly. 

A chimney starter is a cylindrical container with a grate at the bottom and a handle on the side. Simply place charcoal on the grate, then crumple the paper and place it below the grate. Air holes below the grate will draw the flames up into your coals; after around 20 minutes, you’ll have hot coals ready to line your barbecue.

5.) Welding Gloves

When it comes to interacting directly with coals, hot grates, and sizzling skillets, the experts suggest skipping grilling gloves and opting for welding gloves instead. They offer more protection, hold up better over time, and will give you better dexterity, which will help you keep your grip when it matters most.

6.) Heat-Proof Silicone Food Prep Gloves

When you’re ready to move a rack of ribs, or need to lift a whole chicken, silicone gloves are going to be your best bet. When you’re finished using them, toss them in the dishwasher to be cleaned! They’ll come out looking like new over and over again.

7.) Long Cooking Tongs 

Useful for managing coals, moving smaller cuts of meat, and turning corn and potatoes, long cooking tons are a versatile and essential tool for the backyard chef. However, we think you’ll find at least as many reasons to use these in the house between barbecue sessions!

8.) Food Service Aluminum Foil

Barbecue requires heavy-duty aluminum foil, and plenty of it. Invest in a good food service roll, and it will likely last a couple of seasons.

9.) Water Bowl for Smoking

Yes, this style of bowl is an incredibly versatile food prep tool, but when you’re barbecuing, we recommend keeping one on hand to use just for smoking. Low and slow is your best friend in your backyard cooking endeavor, and water can be the key to achieving just the right temperature. 

Furthermore, water delivers moisture, and using a large steel water bowl can keep heat from working too directly on your meats. Keep the water bowl between the coals and your meat and top off your water as it evaporates. 

10.) Cast Iron Skillet

 If you’re a Southern cook, you likely already know why cast-iron skillets are magical. If you have one you use indoors, bring it outside and use it to cook flavorful vegetables toward the end of your barbecuing time.

We recommend Lodge cast iron, but an antique or vintage piece will work beautifully, even if it takes a little TLC to revive it.

11.) Barbecue Cookbook

The Barbecue! Bible by Steve Raichlen is the essential barbecue resource guide. This comprehensive book is packed with easy-to-learn recipes and serves as an excellent primer before one moves on to more complex offerings.

Southern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year-Round Guide to Grilling and Smoking by Chris Prieto has been hailed as the best barbecue cookbook ever written. Following his recipes, a home pitmaster or griller can create incredibly delicious meals every time, all while honing skills that will serve the chef in other cooking domains. 

His recipes are easy to understand, explained beautifully, and include a variety of sauces that will delight your friends and family.

We hope this guide serves as a springboard to launch you into a long, delicious hobby as a barbecue master. After all, there’s nothing like delicious food to gather friends and family together. May you create many backyard memories that bring you great joy!

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