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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 12/14/2010

Smoke Signals: 'Cue the gadgets

By Jim Shahin

Let's say you are one of those misguided types who believes that wintertime is not barbecue time. With Christmas approaching, you have two choices: 1) Consider barbecue gifts a way to warm the holidays with a little summertime anticipation; 2) Get over it.

Remember Snowmaggedon? Well, I’ve heard that there were folks out barbecuing even then. Of course, some of that had to do with their stoves not working, so they had no other choice. Still, the basic idea remains unchanged: These days, barbecue is a four-season sport.

Whether you are an all-season smoker or a fair-weather griller, the holidays are when novices and veterans alike can add to their gadget collections. Last week, I suggested three great barbecue books published in 2010. Next week, I’ll suggest ideas for the indoorsman, the rowhouse/apartment dwelling Washingtonian who can grill or smoke only in the house.

This week, some ideas for the outdoor ‘cue hound. Note: Prices are averages because of seasonal sales and because they can be found at various stores and online sources.

blog-grillalert.jpgA talking remote thermometer. “Hey, you. Yeah, you there, sleeping in your hammock with a beer can clutched to your heaving chest. Your meat is ready.” This handsome LCD-display belt-clip gizmo wirelessly transmits the temperature reading from your grill thermometer. With a range of 300 feet, it’s a little like house arrest. But, hey, when you barbecue you aren’t going anywhere – everybody comes to you. By Grill Alert, $70 at Brookstone.

blog-maverick.jpgA grill light. Serious about grilling and smoking? Then, you don’t let a little thing like darkness stop you. With a cordless grill light you can barbecue 24/7, stopping only to eat what you cook. There are a lot on the market, but this one provides good light, attaches to a shelf or your grill and has a long bendable neck. By Maverick, $40 at Amazon.

blog-brandingiron.jpgA steak branding iron. You know the guy who has everything? Bet he doesn’t have a way to serve a monogrammed steak. Well, now he does. Whether three diagonal initials or five straight ones, you can sear your meat not just with a hot fire but with a 100 percent stainless steel branding iron. $40-$70 at

blog-woodchips.jpgA selection of hardwoods. Charcoal is your father’s barbecue. Today’s grill master is less Paleolithic-man and more metrosexual-gourmand, as he tweaks the flavor of his foods with an array of subtle fragrances. No self-respecting barbecuer would be caught at his grill without an array of fancy chips and chunks: pecan, alder, apple, sugar maple, alder, olive, nectarine, lemon, etc., etc., etc. Buy three different types to really treat that smokin’ fiend, er, friend on your list. Prices vary widely. Purchase bags of chips or chunks at local hardware stores and supermarkets. Or special order from Barbecue Wood or Maine Grilling Woods.

blog-cajachina.jpgLa Caja China roasting box. You have a charcoal Weber charcoal grill and a gas grill. What next? An offset smoker? Sure, why not? Only thing is, to get a good one, you can easily pay upwards of a thousand bucks. (The ones that you get at hardware stores for around $200 are fine, but they leak a lot of smoke, making them inefficient.) The La Caja China rectangular wood box with the wire mesh top cooks a 70-pound whole hog or nearly a dozen slabs of ribs and takes up remarkably little space. Oh, and it looks cool – especially with a red bow tied around it. Several models to choose from; midrange Model #3 is around $240 at

By Jim Shahin  | December 14, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Smoke Signals  | Tags:  Jim Shahin, Smoke Signals, holiday  
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