If you want something different, try the ideas below. At this late hour, you might need to pull the ol’ note-in-a-box trick, but most are available in local stores.
Have a smokin’ Christmas.
iGrill. This app-enabled wireless thermometer monitors your food and alerts you via iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch when your meal is finished cooking. The product works up to 200 feet away, so you can enjoy your party in the house while your pork butt smolders away in the backyard. It doesn’t tend the fire for you, so it is better for indoor ovens and gas grills, where the temperature can be maintained over long periods, than charcoal grills. The app is free on iTunes; the grill probes are $99.99, available at Best Buy or online at www.igrillinc.com .
Fruita Wood. One of the toughest challenges for serious barbecuers is finding quality wood. Fruita, a Colorado company, cuts wood from orchards certified organic by Colorado’s Department of Agriculture. The wood is aged for several months and cut into chips, chunks and — here’s the best part — mini-splits (about 6 inches long) and splits (about 12 inches long), perfect for low and slow cooking over long periods of time. The company is well-known on the competition barbecue circuit, used by several top teams. Like the name suggests, Fruita’s specialty is fruit woods, and it carries nearly everything you could want — peach, apple, pear, plum, apricot, among others — but also sells such mainstays as oak and hickory. They offer a “U Pick ‘Em” option that allows you to select different varieties in a single order. Prices vary, depending on type and quantity. www.fruitawoodchunks.com.
BBQ Sauce Six-Pack. This one is DIY. Look, you can join a sauce-of-the-month club, but they can be expensive (up to nearly $75 for two sauces per month for three months, which comes to more than $12 per bottle) and, often, you don’t know the brands they carry. Rather than leave it to fate, choose six that you like — I mean, that you think your recipient will like and then slide them into an empty beer six-pack container. Voila. Fun gift. Don’t worry about shelf life. Barbecue sauce lasts for months. In addition to specialty stores, Whole Foods carries a good selection of boutique sauces.
Meatballs Grill Basket. When Vinny wants to add a touch of Bubba, he can reach for this basket to grill or smoke his world-famous meatballs for his legendary spaghetti sauce. There are several on the market, with the basket typically having a long wooden handle and wells for 12 meatballs. Prices vary widely. We suggest going with the well-built, and cheapest, model, sold (curiously enough) for $5.99 at Sur la Table.
Hogs for the Cause donation. If it’s better to give than to receive, then consider a gift to this nonprofit organization that helps families struggling with the financial burdens of pediatric brain cancer. Founded in 2009, Hogs sponsors an annual New Orleans barbecue competition and music festival. Last year’s raised more than $100,000. Put it on your barbecue destinations for March 24 next year. In the meantime, contribute a few bucks to help out.