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Special Thanksgiving Edition

UP IN SMOKE
SPECIAL THANKSGIVING EDITION
Dear Steve,

My wife and I were just married a month ago. We are hosting our first Thanksgiving in our first house. I wanted to help my wife by making a side dish on the grill that goes along with traditional Thanksgiving food…I appreciate your help with any ideas you have for newlyweds and their first Thanksgiving together.

Sincerely,
Nick I.
Schaumburg, Illinois

Dear Nick,

First of all, congratulations on your recent marriage and home purchase. Secondly, thank you for giving us a ready-made introduction to this Special Edition of Up in Smoke. Earlier this month, we promised subscribers recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes that could be made on the grill. Your letter came in over the cyber-transom at the perfect time.

Thanksgiving dinner is the most ambitious meal many Americans will make during the year. Oven space, counter space, and sometimes even standing room, are often in short supply. You wisely recognized, Nick, that you could relieve the pressure on the kitchen and your wife by preparing part of the meal on the grill. As a bonus, you’ll bring terrific smoke-roasted flavors to the table.

There are three strategies:

  • Smoke-roast the turkey and utilize the indoor oven for side dishes. The November 2005 issue of Up in Smoke is devoted to brining and grilling the perfect turkey;
  • Cook side dishes on the grill, freeing up indoor oven space for the turkey;
  • The Raichlen option: Cook the entire Thanksgiving meal, from appetizers to dessert, on the grill—easier if you have more than one grill. Forty-two per cent of us do. Extra points if you have side burners.

Most people overlook the cooking potential of their fireplaces, too, closer in spirit to the first Thanksgiving celebrated in this country. My book Indoor Grilling (Workman Publishing, 2004) covers the basics. It has more than 250 recipes, including a sandwich called “Elena Ruz” that puts Thanksgiving leftovers—turkey, cranberries, and cream cheese—to excellent use. (See page 313.)

Below are recipes for three dishes that will be on our table this Thanksgiving. In addition, I’ll likely be making the Grilled Corn Pudding from BBQ USA (see page 606).

Who knows? Dessert at my house could be a smoke-roasted pie with rum-spiked whipped cream. I’ll experiment, and share the results with you in a future issue of Up in Smoke.

Again, thanks for writing, Nick. I’m sure the rest of our barbecuing community joins me in wishing you and your wife the very best on this, your first Thanksgiving together.

THANKSGIVING SIDE RECIPES
Smoked Liver Paté
Even the eggs get the smoke-roasted treatment in this flavorful appetizer.

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 6 to 8 as an appetizer

5 large eggs
1/2 pound chicken or turkey livers
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Cognac or Madeira (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Grilled or toasted bread rounds, or crackers for serving

You’ll also need:
Skewers, like my Best of Barbecue two-prong bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour, then drained
1 1/2 cups Best of Barbecue Poultry Smoking Chips or other hardwood chips, soaked in water for 1 hour, then drained

1) Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Pierce a tiny hole in the end of each egg with an egg pricker or needle. Thread the livers on the skewers. Skewer the onion quarters.

2) Toss 3/4 cups soaked hardwood chips on each mound of coals or place in the smoker box of your gas grill. Place the eggs, livers, and onions on the grill. Smoke-roast the eggs until the shells are browned and the eggs are cooked through. (To test for doneness, spin one on your counter—if it spins easily, the egg is cooked.) This will take about 20 minutes.

3) Smoke-roast the onion until tender, about 20 minutes. Smoke-roast the livers until cooked to taste, 10 to 15 minutes for medium rare (still pink in the center).

4) Shell the eggs and cut in quarters. Rough chop the onions. Place the eggs, onion, livers, and parsley in a food processor. Grind the mixture to a coarse puree. Work in the oil and cognac, if using, and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the paté to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, or serve at once with grilled bread rounds or crackers.

Note: the ingredients can be smoke-roasted up to 2 days ahead of time.

Mushroom and Cheese Stuffed Barbecued Onions
Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 6

6 Vidalia or other sweet onions (each 10 to 12 ounces)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound fresh mushrooms (button, cremini, exotic or wild mushrooms, or a mixture), finely chopped (see Note)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or white cheddar cheese
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper

You’ll also need:
6 Best of Barbecue small grill rings, or 2-1/2 inch rings made of crumpled aluminum foil.
Best of Barbecue wine barrel staves, chunks or other smoking chips, soaked in water for 1 hour and drained (optional)

1) Peel the onions. Using a sharp paring knife and working opposite the stem end, cut a cone-shaped cavity in each onion by angling your knife about 1 inch down toward the center and cutting in a circle that is about 2-1/2 inches in diameter. Remove and finely dice the cores, and reserve. Set each onion on a grill ring.

2) Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms, thyme, and reserved onion cores until nearly all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms have cooked down, 4 to 6 minutes, or as needed. Stir in the flour, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually stir in the cream. Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring or whisking, until it thickens, 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. The filling should be highly seasoned.

3) Fill the onion cavities with the mushroom mixture. Break the remaining butter into pieces and place on top.

4) Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Place a large drip pan in the center. Add the wine barrel staves or chunks (if using) to the coals.

5) When ready to cook, place the onions on their grill rings in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the onions until they are golden brown and tender, 40 to 60 minutes. To test for doneness, pinch the side of an onion; it should be slightly soft when squeezed. Another test—you should be able to pierce the onion easily with a bamboo skewer. If the filling starts to brown too much before the onions are fully cooked, tent the tops loosely with aluminum foil. Carefully transfer the grilled onions to a platter or plates and serve at once.

Note: The easiest way to do this is to put the mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor. Finely chop with short pulses of the motor.

Squash with Wild Rice and Cranberry-Sausage Stuffing
I’ve called for acorn squash here, but you could also use a colorful variation, such as the orange “buttercup” and the variegated “carnival.” Feel free to substitute.

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 6 as a side dish

6 acorn squash
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
3 cups cooked wild rice blend, such as Lundberg’s
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter

You’ll also need:
6 Best of Barbecue small grill rings or 2-1/2 inch rings made from crumpled aluminum foil.
1-1/2 cups Best of Barbecue vegetable smoking chips, or other wood chips, soaked in water for 1 hour, then drained (optional)

1) If using small squash, cut the top third off each. If using large ones, cut in half through the stem end. Cut a small slice off the bottom so it will sit upright when served. Scrape out and discard the seeds and strings with a metal spoon.

2) Brown the sausage in a large frying pan over medium heat, breaking up with a fork or wooden spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. As the fat begins to render, add the onions and sage. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until the onions are browned, too. Remove from the heat. Drain the sausage mixture in a strainer to drain off the fat. When cool, combine the pork/onion mixture with the rice and cranberries. Season with salt and pepper.

3) Mound 2/3 cup stuffing in each squash and top with a thin slice of butter.

4) Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Set the grill rings in the center of the grate, and put the squash on them. If using wood chips, toss them on the coals or place in the smoker box of a gas grill.

5) Cover the grill and cook until the squash is tender and the stuffing is golden brown, 40 to 60 minutes. When done, the sides of the squash will feel soft when squeezed. Another test for doneness is the squash should be easy to pierce with a skewer. Remove from the grill rings, transfer to a plate or platter and serve at once.

MAIL BAG
Hi Steven,

I’ve been making beer-can chicken for some time now (thanks for writing the book) and have had great success with several variations. It’s always been a casual meal with my wife and I tearing meat right off the bird at the table. When cooking for guests, I’ve done the same thing and we all had fun. But have you done a whole “fine china” dinner with beer-can chicken? I’m thinking of serving a cut-up half leaned up against some mashed potatoes with some sort of sauce or glaze (and a glass of pinot). Serve a salad or some simple light appetizers, the chicken as an entrée and a simple dessert. Have you served a meal like this and what worked well?

I did a Fosters beer-can turkey dinner and it came out great. But at Thanksgiving the menu writes itself, there are so many classic dishes that go out. I want to do something different that will complement the flavors of the spices on the chicken. I also don’t want my guests feeling bloated afterwards.

Any thoughts here?

Craig W.
Morris Plains, New Jersey

Hi, Craig,

Glad to hear beer-can chicken is working out for you.

The perfect fine china dish is in the same book on page 77: Truffled Chicken. Truffles are hauntingly scented fungi from Italy, and they’re in season now. The sauce is a lovely, elegant truffle-and-garlic-scented cream sauce.

To make the dish look a little more elegant, you could use a stainless steel chicken rack (someone else’s or mine) instead of a beer can.

If it’s a really fancy crowd, I might quarter the bird in the kitchen.

Hope that helps.

SR

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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National Tailgating Month

UP IN SMOKE
NATIONAL TAILGATING MONTH
Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

The American Association of Tailgaters has declared this National Tailgating Month. Hopefully, you haven’t let any valuable friendships lapse during the year—i.e., friendships with season ticketholders. Below, Steven shares some of his best tips for achieving victory on the asphalt, including organizational strategies and new recipes.

As always, don’t forget to share your tailgating experiences and most successful recipes on the Barbecue Board. Thanks in advance.

Happy tailgating,

Nancy Loseke
Features Editor
Up in Smoke


NEWS FLASH
Steven recently taped a tailgating episode on the popular PBS show MotorWeek. The episode, entitled “Honda CR-V,” will begin airing in American markets on Friday, September 29. To check times in your viewing area, go to the Maryland Public Television website,www.mpt.org.

Elliot
Ribs Do Taste Better ON the Grill!
Michael Weisberg is the winner of the America’s Most Outrageous Rib Lover contest with his picture of 3-year-old Elliot enjoying a rack of ribs on the grill.

Thanks to everyone who voted on the BBQ Board. Michael’s entry got 41% of the votes, and he’ll be receiving a year’s worth of pork from the Pork Board (looking forward to seeing those pictures on the BBQ Board), an autographed copy of Raichlen on Ribs, Ribs, Outrageous Ribs, a t-shirt, an apron, a Best of Barbecue rib rack, and the Best of Barbecue sauce mop and bucket.

The 9 runners-up will be receiving an autographed copy of Ribs, Ribs, Outrageous Ribs and the Best of Barbecue sauce mop and bucket.

Thanks again to everyone who entered, and congratulations to our winner and runners-up!

TAILGATING TIME
To the casual observer, tailgating would appear to be nothing more than a big, rambunctious party in a parking lot. But scratch that beer-and brat-fueled conviviality, and you’ll discover a raw desire to win, to dominate, to conquer. Yes, tailgating itself has become a fiercely competitive sport. Is the real contest on the Astroturf, or on the asphalt? You tell me. In any case, it’s an American fall tradition.

Tailgating and football go way back together in this country, perhaps as far back as 1869, when Rutgers and Princeton played their first football game. Students gathered before the contest to drink and socialize, setting out their picnics on the lowered tailgates of their horse-drawn wagons.

Flash forward to 2006. Tailgating has been embraced by fans of soccer, baseball, and especially NASCAR. The American Tailgaters Association reports more than 20 million Americans attend these parking lot parties.

We’ve all seen or heard about elaborate tailgating set-ups—the limos and silver candlesticks, the stereo systems and plasma-screen TVs. There’s even a company in California that will customize your pick-up truck with a built-in grill and refrigerated beer kegs—but you really don’t need much to get started.

THE GAME PLAN
A vehicle, preferably one with a tailgate, is the first thing you need, followed by a sturdy but transportable grill. You certainly can’t go wrong with a 22-1/2 inch kettle. Another grill I like a lot is the wood burning Woodflame (www.woodflame.com) from Canada. Gas grillers will warm to the ultra portable Weber Q, which comes in multiple sizes. I personally prefer charcoal grills at tailgate parties, as you can smoke on them as well as grill. Not to mention the high testosterone thrill of playing with live fire. You may even want to bring multiple grills—a gas grill for bratwurst or burgers, for example, and a charcoal grill for beer can chicken.

Bring all the grilling tools you’d typically use if cooking at home: charcoal (preferably lump), or if you’re a gas griller, an extra tank of propane; a chimney starter or two; a long handled stiff wire brush for cleaning the grill; a grill hoe for distributing coals; tongs; grilling gloves ; spatula for turning food; basting brush; foil drip pans; smoking chips; an instant read meat thermometer; etc. Don’t forget the matches or butane lighter. It’s also important to bring a metal ash can so you can safely dispose of hot coals. These tools and more are available at the Store.

Tailgating is a lot like camping; it’s an adventure whose success depends on preparedness. So don’t rely on memory when packing up your party: Make a list. (Some people keep a laminated copy with their tailgating gear. I like to keep my list on my computer and refine it as needed.) Write down everything you’ll need for cooking, serving, and clean-up. Once you’re at the stadium, you can’t run back to the house and grab a forgotten item. Speaking of which, don’t forget to bring a fire extinguisher . . .

If you’re a seasoned tailgate warrior, you undoubtedly have a well-honed battle plan. You’ve mastered a few tried-and-true menus, and are able to relax with your beer and your guests while less experienced tailgaters struggle to put food out before game time.

Here are some tips for grilling competition-quality food—without being so busy you can’t enjoy the party.

  • Build your menu around a large chunk of meat that serves lots of people but needs relatively little tending. Good candidates include Brewmeister’s Chicken or Root Beer Chicken or Cousin Rob’s Cajun Chicken (see Beer Can Chicken, pages 38 and 55, respectively), Pastrami Turkey Breast (How to Grill, page 265), Rosemary Grilled Pork Loin (The Barbecue Bible, page 159); or Spit-Roasted Leg of Lamb (BBQ USA, page 310).All of these dishes are indirect grilled at medium heat (350 degrees), so you can cook them from start to finish in about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  • Everyone loves ribs. Focus on baby backs, which can be smoke-roasted on the grill in as short a time as 1-1/4 hours. Some of my favorites this time of year are the Maple Glazed Ribs, Chinatown Ribs, or Mint Julep Ribs—all in Raichlen on Ribs (pages 70, 77, and 73, respectively).
  • If you do go the low and slow route of true barbecue (for pork shoulders, briskets, and spare ribs), be sure you have enough time to finish it before the kickoff. Some parking lots have discouraging restrictions on when tailgaters can begin setting up. Check with them in advance. As an alternative, smoke-roast the meat at home and reheat it at the party.
  • As any Wisconsin Cheese Head will tell you, bratwurst is the ultimate sausage for tailgating. Sure, you can direct grill it (work over a moderate flame), but you’ll likely spend the afternoon dodging burnt casings and flare-ups. The easiest way by far to grill brats is by indirect grilling; the resulting sausage will be considerably more plump and juicy. Toss a handful of soaked wood chips on the coals and you’ll give the brats a whole new dimension. (Ditto for Italian sausage and chorizo.) And you can hold the cooked brats in an aluminum foil pan of warm beer flavored with sliced onions and melted butter.
  • For a lot of people, no tailgate party is complete without burgers. I like to enclose a pat of butter into the center of each patty before grilling. That way, you can cook the burger through—which you really should do anyway to eliminate the threat of e. coli—without drying it out. Contrary to popular belief, you should not press a burger with a spatula when grilling—this forces out the juices and dries out the burger.
  • Don’t let the party or the last play distract you from food safety. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. (The danger zone is 41 to 140 degrees F.) Wash your hands. Avoid cross-contamination of utensils, knives, cutting boards, etc. Use separate ones for raw and cooked meats. Dispose of leftovers that have been sitting at room temperature for more than an hour. Remember, “room temperature” on hot asphalt can be 95 degrees!

Here are a few final tips for tailgating.

  • Try to arrive at least 3 to 4 hours early if the parking lot allows
  • Tie a helium-filled mylar balloon to your car so everyone can easily find your party
  • Pack plenty of aluminum drip pans (I buy them by the case). Use them for marinating meats, as drip pans for indirect grilling, as serving platters, and for holding leftovers. When you’re done grilling, dump the hot embers or ashes into them and douse with water
  • Bring a separate cooler for beverages so people aren’t rooting around your raw chicken to grab a beer
  • Buy industrial strength trash bags, and bring plenty. They can double as impromptu rain gear, if needed
  • And of course, don’t forget to bring your tickets!

Below are two new recipes to add to your tailgating repertoire. Hundreds more are in my books, which are available through the Store. You’ll find Indoor Grilling (Workman Publishing, 2004) an especially valuable resource for ideas as each recipe includes instructions for portable grills.

Bangkok Wings

(with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce)
Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 4
Advance preparation: 2 to 4 hours for marinating the wings

6 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine or sherry
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or as needed
12 whole chicken wings (about 2 pounds)
3/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (see Note)

1) Make the marinade: Place the garlic, half the cilantro, salt, pepper, and coriander in a food processor and finely chop. Add the soy sauce, rice wine, lime juice, and sesame oil and puree to a smooth paste. Rinse the chicken wings under cold running water and blot them dry with paper towels. Cut the tips off the wings and discard them. Cut each wing into 2 pieces through the joint. Place the wings in a large nonreactive bowl and add the marinade, turning to coat the wings thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let marinate for 2 hours, or as many as 4. (You can also use a large resealable plastic bag to marinate the wings.) Do this at home before the game.

2) When ready to cook, set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high. Arrange the wings in the center of the grate, skin side up, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until the wings are sizzling, golden brown and cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes.

3) Transfer the wings to a foil pan and douse with the chili sauce. Toss to mix. Sprinkle the wings with the remaining cilantro and serve at once.

Note: Thai sweet chili sauce is available in the ethnic section of most supermarkets or from ImportFoods.com. One good brand is Mae Ploy.

Chipotle-Rubbed Flank Steaks
 

with Sweet Onion Salsa
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 4

1 large flank steak (1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons pure chipotle powder
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper
Sweet onion salsa (recipe follows)

1) Place the steak on a cutting board and lightly score on both sides in a crosshatch pattern. The cuts should go no more than 1/8 inch deep and be spaced 1/4 inch apart. Scoring fosters absorption of the seasonings and helps keep the steak from curling.

2) Season the steak on both sides with chipotle powder, salt and pepper. Let the steaks marinate for at least 5 minutes, and as long as 20 minutes.

3) Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

4) When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the steaks on the hot grate and grill until cooked to taste, 3 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare, depending on the meat’s thickness. You can also check the doneness by inserting an instant meat thermometer into the thin end of the steak. Medium rare will be about 140 degrees.

5) Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 3 minutes. Slice very thinly across the grain and serve on grilled garlic bread or rolls with the salsa spooned on top.

Sweet Onion Salsa 
Yield: About 2 cups

1 medium sweet onion, like a Vidalia or Walla Walla, finely chopped
1 large luscious ripe red tomato (the sort that goes splat when you drop it), seeded and finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced (for spicier salsa, leave the seeds in)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Place the ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss to mix, adding vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste.

Note: the salsa can be made up to 4 hours ahead of time, but it really tastes best served within 30 minutes of mixing.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Why Walk the Plank?

Dear Up in Smoke Reader,

There’s a perception out there that grilling on aromatic slabs of wood is a recent bit of gimmickry, or maybe a “get-rich-quick” scheme cooked up by a salmon fisherman and a logger over a campfire and beers.

Wrong!

Not only does this technique have an ancient precedent in North America, but it is one of the most fail-safe, flavorful methods we’ve found for cooking fish and other smoke-worthy foods on the grill.

If you haven’t added planking to your grilling repertoire, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. It will reinvigorate your end-of-the-summer barbecues. Below is everything you need to know to get started, including some fascinating historical background and sizzling new recipes from Steven.

By the way, we’d love to hear what you think of the experience. Post your thoughts, questions, or especially, any terrific recipes or photos you’d like to share with us on the Barbecue Board.

Yours in great grilling,

Nancy Loseke
Features Editor
Up in Smoke


WHY WALK THE PLANK?
Even the most intrepid grillers approach fish with caution. Much can go wrong. Fish has an annoying tendency, for example, to dry out or stick to the grate. Sometimes, delicate fillets break apart when you try to turn them with a spatula. But there’s an ingenious solution to this problem—grilling them on a cedar or other hardwood plank.

First, a little history.

As early as 4000 B.C., native aboriginal tribes in the Pacific Northwest were fastening salmon to split cedar poles (called piquin sticks), securing them with slender cedar pins, and propping them at an angle next to roaring alder wood fires. (For a detailed description of the set-up, see the essay on Tillicum Village on page 456 of BBQ USA . This attraction, on Blake Island in Puget Sound, hosts over 100,000 visitors a year to its exhibits and authentic Pacific Northwest Indian salmon bakes.)

Indians on the East Coast, meanwhile, used a similar method to roast the once-plentiful shad (a succulent but bony fish related to the herring). In this case, they used locally plentiful oak poles or planks, however. Interestingly, this is the model used for the famous political rally and shad bake held each spring in Wakefield, Virginia.

Planked fish baked in an oven was served in hotels in the Pacific Northwest during the latter half of the 19th century. Recipes for this preparation appeared in cookbooks by Eliza Leslie in 1857, and by Fannie Farmer in 1896.

This is where the trail goes cold. Someone, somewhere, in the last 60 years
had the brilliant idea to try plank cooking in a covered grill. We just don’t know for sure who deserves the credit (do you?), but we’re sure glad someone thought of it.

In any case, it’s undeniable that planking is one of the hottest trends in grilling today. Here are some of the reasons:

  1. Planking puts a theatrical spin on the intersection of fire, smoke, and food
  2. It’s an unbeatable technique for grilling fish: Planked fish doesn’t stick to the grill grates; it doesn’t break when you try to turn it…because it doesn’t have to be turned; and clean-up is a cinch
  3. Planking imparts incomparable flavor—especially when you use an aromatic wood, like cedar or alder.

Though the combination of salmon and cedar propelled plank cooking into the spotlight—the cedar’s subtle astringency mixes perfectly with fattier fish. Other candidates for planking from the seafood counter are scallops, shrimp, sea bass, and trout.

Experiment, and you’ll find other foods are suitable for grilling, too. On page 54 in BBQ USA, there’s a recipe for plank-grilled Camembert cheese with pesto sauce.

And Nancy thinks the technique would be great applied to Brie and the Grilled Pineapple Ginger Salsa on page 62.

Again, be sure to post any questions or success stories (pictures optional) to the Barbecue Board There’s already been a lot of discussion about planking. Click here to see one of the threads or search the site for all of them.

PLANKING TECHNIQUES
Before you get started, there are a few technical things you should know about planking:

    • Suitable woods are cedar (Western red cedar), alder, hickory, maple, mesquite, oak, and fruitwoods like apple, cherry, or peach. Never use softwoods like pine or spruce; they will transfer a resiny taste to your food. Only use untreated planks that are food-safe. (One of the ingredients in making pressure-treated lumber for outdoor use is arsenic, so be careful if buying your planks at a hardware store or lumberyard.)
    • Soak the plank in water for at least 1 hour before. I do this in a baking sheet with raised side, placing a brick or pot full of water on top to keep it submerged. Soaking serves two purposes: it generates a fragrant steam and helps keep the plank from catching fire.
    • Keep a spray bottle or water pistol filled with water at the ready in case the edges of the plank catch fire. Sometimes, rotating the plank with long-handled tongs, such as the Best of Barbecue Ultimate Locking Tongs will extinguish the flames. Never leave the grill unattended while plank cooking.
    • Planks should be large enough to leave at least a 1-inch margin around the food.
    • For extra flavor, put sprigs of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, parsley, dill, or thyme on the plank before topping them with food.
    • Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to 400 degrees; the high heat will help your fish develop a dark, flavorful caramelized crust. At lower temperatures, the planked food will steam rather than roast. Note: be sure to grill using the indirect, not direct method—fire and wood make more fire. Enough said!
    • To test the food for doneness, use an instant read thermometer or insert a metal skewer in the side of the food for several seconds; it should come out hot to the touch. Of course, I’m partial to my Best of Barbecue Instand Read Thermometer. Fish should be cooked to 135 degrees.
    • Transfer the planked food (on the plank) to a heatproof platter and serve it right on the plank. You want people to see and understand this singular method.
    • Yes, the planks can be reused (although at my house, we usually start with a fresh plank every time.) Wash well with water and a stiff bristled brush. Even after the plank is too singed for plank grilling, you can break it into pieces and use it for smoking.
    • Want to raise the general level of elegance? Several companies (including Best of Barbecue) sell square planks for grilling individual portions of seafood. Prepare one per guest and serve it in the well of a large dinner plate.

From now until September 15, receive a 10% discount on Steven Raichlen’s Best of Barbecue Cedar Grilling Planks in two sizes: Order two 7 by 14 inch cedar planks and also receive a can of Steven’s Mediterranean Herb Rub; or buy four 7 by 7 inch cedar planks perfect for individual portions. (The idea for them came to Steven when he had to feed 300 people at a food festival, and wanted a dramatic presentation.) Go to the Barbecue Store and input the code UPNSMOKE003 to claim your discount.

CEDAR-PLANKED SALMON WITH MISO GLAZE
Miso is a key ingredient in Asian-style barbecue sauces. It is made of cultured soybeans, but has a complex salty flavor that puts an exotic spin on everything it touches. Natural foods stores sell a variety of miso; you can probably find it in the produce or ethnic section of your local supermarket. Here, miso is paired with salmon in a recipe that’s been very well-received at BBQ U this year. Remember to soak your planks ahead of time, and you’ve got one of the easiest and best meals of the summer on the table in less than an hour.

Method: Indirect grilling on planks
Advanced preparation: at least 2 hours for soaking the planks
Serves: 6

6 salmon steaks (each about 1 inch thick and 4 to 6 ounces)
2 tablespoons sesame oil or olive oil
Miso Glaze (recipe follows)
Fresh basil or shiso leaves (the latter is a Japanese herb also called perilla or beefsteak leaf), optional

You’ll also need: 6 individual cedar grilling planks, each 7 by 7 inches (see Note), soaked for 2 hours in water to cover, then drained

1. Rinse the salmon steaks under cold running water, then blot them dry with paper towels. Brush sesame or olive oil on one side of each steak. Place one salmon steak, oiled-side down, at a diagonal on each cedar plank.

2. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high and make the glaze.

3. When ready to cook, spread the glaze mixture evenly over the top of the salmon steaks. Place the salmon steaks on their planks in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat, and cover the grill. Grill the salmon until cooked through and the glaze is golden, 20 to 30 minutes. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer through the side of a salmon steak: The internal temperature should be about 135 degrees F. Another test is to insert a slender metal skewer in the side of the fillet for 20 seconds: It should come out very hot to the touch.

4. Transfer the planks and the salmon steaks to heatproof plates. Garnish each with a sprig of basil or a shiso leaf, if desired, and serve.

Miso Glaze 
Yield: Makes about 1-1/4 cups

1/2 cup white miso (see Note)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Hellmann’s)
5 to 6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)

Whisk the miso, mayonnaise, sugar, lemon zest, and white pepper (if desired) in a bowl until smooth. (If the miso is particularly stiff, as some brands are, thin it a bit with 1 to 2 tablespoons of warm water, sake, or mirin.)

Note: Individual cedar planks are available from the Barbecue Store . (Don’t forget to claim your 10% discount. See details above.) If using planks from a lumberyard, make sure they are untreated. White miso is available in Asian markets and in the ethnic section of some supermarkets, or you can purchase it online from www.asianfoodgrocer.com, phone 888.482.2742.

CEDAR-PLANKED TROUT WITH LEMON AND DILL BUTTER
This is just the kind of meal that makes me want to reread A River Runs Through It and learn how to tie the flies trout find irresistible.

Method: Indirect grilling on a plank
Advance preparation: 2 hours for soaking the plank
Serves: 2

6 to 8 fresh dill sprigs plus extras for garnish
4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
1 trout, about 24 ounces (or 2 16 ounce trout), cleaned
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, 1 thinly sliced, 1 cut into wedges for serving
2 slices bacon, each cut in half crosswise

You’ll also need: 1 14 by 7 inch cedar plank, soaked in water to cover for 2 hours then drained (see Note)

1. Finely chop 2 or 3 of the dill sprigs, discarding stems, and blend them into the butter. Reserve remaining sprigs of dill.

2. Rinse the trout, inside and out, under cold running water, then blot it dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes to the bone in each side of the trout (this speeds up the cooking and allows for better absorption of the flavors). Generously season the trout inside and out with salt and pepper. Smear half the dill butter on the inside of the trout; half on the outside, placing most of the butter on the top side. Lay trout on the plank. Place several lemon slices inside the cavity. Lay dill sprigs on top of the lemon slices. Lay the bacon pieces on top of the trout running slightly on the diagonal.

3. When ready to cook, set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high. Lay the plank with the trout in the center of the grate, away from direct heat, and cover the grill. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. To test for doneness, insert an instant read meat thermometer in the side of the fish; the temperature should be about 135 degrees.

4. Carefully transfer the plank to a heatproof platter and garnish with remaining sprigs of dill and lemon wedges.

Note: Cedar planks this size are available from the Barbecue Store . (Don’t forget to claim your 10% discount. See details above.) If using a cedar plank from a lumberyard, make sure it is untreated.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Intro to Kebabs

UP IN SMOKE
INTRO TO KEBABS
Dear Up in Smoke Reader,

This month’s issue is packed with tips and recipes for kebabs—those irresistible combinations of bite-size pieces of meat (or seafood or vegetables or even fruit) and flavorings grilled on a stick. Kebabs are some of the oldest barbecue on record (you can read about them in Homer’s Iliad) and they’re certainly universal, embracing everything from Russian shashlik to Japanese yakitori. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about skewers, seasonings, and assembling kebabs.

Yours in great grilling,
Nancy Loseke
Features Editor


Intro to Kebabs
In the 1914 novel Our Mr. Wrenn, by Sinclair Lewis, the eponymous character escorts his landlady’s daughter, Lee Theresa Zapp, to an Armenian restaurant in Lower Manhattan. Once seated, she overhears a waiter call out an unfamiliar-sounding order to the kitchen.

Shish kibub?” Who’s ever heard of such a thing!” she exclaims.

“Kebab…. It’s lamb roasted on skewers,” Mr. Wrenn explains. “I know you’ll like it.”

Like it, indeed! Kebabs are truly a trans-cultural phenomenon. A Peruvian pushing tiny cubes of chili-marinated beef heart on a skewer has much in common with an Indonesian street food vendor weaving a strip of marinated chicken onto a bamboo skewer—both grilled on portable charcoal braziers. Look closely, and you’ll observe the same primeval flame flickering in their eyes, that same realization of the power of live fire and what it can do to transform raw food.

In fact, the invention of kebabs was one of three great leaps forward in the early evolution of barbecue:

1. Grilling meat on the embers (precursor to direct grilling)
2. Grilling meat on a rock next to the fire (precursor to indirect grilling)
3. Grilling meat on a stick over a fire (precursor of spit-roasting and shish kebab)

There are many variations on this ancient theme; over 100 different kinds of satés, for example, in Indonesia alone. For fun, take this quiz and see how many examples of kebabs you can match to their respective countries:

1. Yakitori A. Nigeria
2. Pincho B. Italy
3. Seekh kebab C. Poland
4. Brochette D. Peru
5. Souvlaki E. France
6. Spiedini F. Japan
7. Saté (or satay) G. Portugal
8. Shashlik H. Spain
9. Szaszlyki I. Greece
10. Espetada J. Malaysia
11. Antichucho K. India
12. Suya L. Russia

 

You’ll find the answers at the bottom of the newsletter!

In many parts of the world, skewered meats have military origins. The English culinary term, shish kebab, is a derivative of the Turkish words for “sword” and “meat.” Thus, Russian shashlik is often served theatrically on a sword. Portugal’s espetada comes from espada, the Portuguese word for sword. In Greek, souvlaki means “little sword.”

But mankind has discovered almost any slender, sharp implement will do—sticks, wires, even the tines of pitchforks.

TOOLS AND FUELS
I’m all for improvisation, but owning a variety of different shaped and sized skewers and matching them to the foods you’ll be grilling will help you overcome some of kebabs’ biggest technological challenges—the tendency of certain foods to slip, spin, fall off, or cook unevenly. Here are some of the options:

Asian skewers:

Slender round bamboo skewers: Sold in a variety of lengths. Good for grilling small Asian-style kebabs, like Japanese yakitori and Indonesian and Thai saté. Widely available.

Flat bamboo skewers: Used throughout Asia for grilling ground meat kebabs and watery vegetables, like cherry tomatoes. We’ve added two lengths to this year’s Best of Barbecue line: 6.5 inch and 12 inch, with a sharp point for easy penetration.

Two-prong skewers: Popular in Japan for grilling delicate foods, like tofu, and shellfish. Two lengths available in the Best of Barbecue line: 6.5 inch and 9 inch. These work particularly well for mini bell peppers and shrimp. Note: you can improvise by threading the meat or seafood onto two parallel bamboo skewers. (The skewers should be about 1/4 inch apart.)

Knotted bamboo skewers: When it comes to kebabs in Asia, small is definitely beautiful. Think of the garlic kebabs served with Korean barbecue, or Indonesia’s tiny saté lalat, literally “fly” saté, made with a tiny oval of spiced ground lamb not much bigger than a horsefly. You can use a large toothpick or our Best of Barbecue knotted bamboo skewer, with a decorative “knot” at one end.

Middle Eastern Skewers: Forged from metal (usually steel) and available in multiple lengths and widths; some are elaborately wrought.

Slender flat metal skewers: 3/8 inch wide—used for skewering chunks of lamb and other meats.

Medium flat metal skewers: 5/8 inch wide—used for skewering onions, mushrooms, peppers, eggplants, and other vegetables.

Wide flat metal skewers: 7/8 inch wide—use for skewering and grilling ground meats (to make dishes like Turkish koefta and Indian seekh kebab). Think of these kebabs as skinless sausages. Also good for watery vegetables, like plum tomatoes.

Skewer shields: Conventional wisdom holds that the best way to keep the exposed wooden ends of bamboo skewers from burning is to soak the skewers in cold water. Conventional wisdom has never done a simple experiment: place soaked and unsoaked skewers on a hot grill and watch them catch fire at about the same time. The most effective way to prevent the ends of bamboo skewers from burning is to slide a skewer shield under them. This can be a simple as a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil folded in thirds like a business letter. Or as sturdy as the stainless steel skewer shield I recently invented and added to the Best of Barbecue line. The raised fluted forward edge holds the skewers in neat alignment.

ADDITIONAL KEBAB TECHNIQUES

  • Never put a metal skewer to your lips or eat the meat right off a metal skewer. You’ll risk burning your lips.
  • One of the coolest ways I’ve seen to remove food from a hot metal skewer is to use a piece of pita bread, naan, or lavash like an edible potholder and carefully pull the food off the skewer.
  • Group foods that have similar cooking times. Turkish grill masters grill quartered onions on one skewer, diced eggplants on a second, plum tomatoes on a third, and the lamb on a fourth. The onions take the longest to cook, so they go on the grill first, then the eggplants, and finally the tomatoes and lamb. The result: All are cooked perfectly at the same time. It’s all about control.
  • When marinating kebabs, drain well before grilling. Otherwise, the meat will stew rather than grill. Never use a marinade that’s contained raw meat for basting or as a sauce to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Keep kebab accompaniments simple. A starchy side dish of rice, couscous, polenta, bread, or pilaf is all that’s needed. Dessert needn’t deviate from the kebab continuum; see the following fruit kebabs below.

RECIPES
Here are some easy and intuitive ideas for combining ingredients to make killer kebabs for your next cookout, plus two new recipes. But there are so many possible kebab equations; we are sure you’ll want to come up with your own. Just do us a favor and share your successes with the community on the Barbecue Board, or drop us an e-mail. And don’t forget, the Board is a great resource when you have grilling or equipment questions.

    • Strip rosemary skewers of their leaves and finely chop the leaves. Mince garlic cloves. Thread beef or lamb cubes on the skewers, alternating with segments of onion and bell pepper pieces. Brush with oil, and season with chopped rosemary, garlic, and salt and pepper.

 

  • Cut skinned salmon, swordfish, or tuna, or other firm fish into cubes. Alternate on flat bamboo or stainless steel skewers with wedges of lemon or lime and fresh bay leaves. Brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Thread large shrimp—peeled, tail-on—on double-pronged skewers (or use two slender bamboo skewers to stabilize shrimp) with pieces of fresh pineapple and green bell pepper. Brush with your favorite Asian style barbecue sauce. Of course, we’re partial to Best of Barbecue Shanghai Barbecue Sauce.
  • Cube beef tenderloin and marinate in Chimay ale (an aromatic Belgian beer available at liquor stores and many supermarkets) with bruised cloves of garlic. Drain beef, and season with salt and pepper. Thread onto stainless steel skewers with fresh mushrooms and wedges of red onion. Serve with a sauce made by mixing 3 parts sour cream with 1 part prepared horseradish. Add dry mustard, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Many fruits lend themselves well to skewering and grilling: the short list includes fresh figs, apricot halves, quartered peaches, nectarines, plums, and chunks of fresh pineapple and bananas. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or our Best of Barbecue Dessert Rub. Serve over ice cream with caramel sauce, like the one in the Grilled Peach Caramel Sundae on page 281 of Raichlen on Ribs.

GRILLED SHRIMP WITH VIETNAMESE DIPPING SAUCE
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 4
Advance preparation: 1 to 2 hours for marinating the shrimp

24 jumbo or extra-large shrimp (about 1-1/2 pounds), rinsed, dried, peeled, and deveined

For the marinade:
2 large shallots or 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce (nuoc mam) or soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

for serving:
3 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

You’ll also need:
12 two-prong skewers or 24 bamboo skewers; skewer shield or 12 by 18 inch sheet of aluminum foil, folded in thirds

1. Skewer the shrimp on the skewers, two to a skewer if using two-prong skewers; two to a set of skewers if using single bamboo skewers. Arrange the kebabs in a baking dish.

2. Make the marinade: Place the shallots, garlic, and sugar in a food processor and finely chop. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, oil and pepper and puree to a coarse paste. Pour this mixture over the kebabs, turning to coat the shrimp on both sides. Cover the shrimp with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, turning several times to coat with marinade.

3. Make the dipping sauce (recipe follows).

4. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate.

5. Drain the shrimp kebabs well and arrange on the grate. Slide the foil shield or grill shield under the exposed part of the bamboo skewers to keep them from burning. Grill the shrimp until sizzling, browned and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

6. Transfer the shrimp skewers to a platter or plates and sprinkle the peanuts and cilantro on top. Serve immediately with the Vietnamese Dipping Sauce.

VIETNAMESE DIPPING SAUCE (NUOC CHAM)
Yield: About 1 cup

One 2-inch piece of carrot, peeled
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
1/3 cup Asian fish sauce (nuoc mam), or soy sauce (or more to taste)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 small hot red chile, thinly sliced, or 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Slice the carrot lengthwise with a vegetable peeler and pile the slices on top of one another, then slice lengthwise with a sharp slender knife into the thinnest imaginable strips.

2. Combine the water and sugar in a small bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved; stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, chile, garlic, and carrot strips (see Note). Taste for seasoning, adding fish sauce or sugar as necessary; the nuoc cham should strike a delicate balance between salty, tart, and sweet.

3. Serve the sauce immediately, or at least the same day it’s made.

Note: You can also blend the ingredients for the sauce by shaking them in a sealed jar.

YOGURT MINT LAMB, BEEF, OR CHICKEN KEBABS
Note: variations on this simple recipe are found throughout the Middle and Near East. Works equally well with lamb, beef, or chicken.

Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 4
Advance preparation: 1 to 2 hours for marinating the meat

For the marinade:
1 cup plain yogurt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 2 teaspoons dried mint
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
1 teaspoon each coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 pound lamb shoulder or leg or beef tenderloin or sirloin or boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion
1 bunch fresh mint leaves, stemmed
2 tablespoons melted butter (optional)

You’ll also need:
Flat metal or bamboo skewers (12 inches each)

1. Make the marinade. Place the yogurt in a large nonreactive bowl. Add the garlic, mint, and olive oil. Grate 1 teaspoon lemon zest with a Microplaner or fine grater and add it to the yogurt. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir in the meat and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, stirring several times.

2. Cut the onion into 6 wedges and cut each wedge crosswise in half. Break the resulting pieces into individual segments.

3. Drain the meat and thread it onto the skewers, placing a piece of onion and a fresh mint leaf between each.

4. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate.

5. Arrange the kebabs on the grate and grill until cooked to taste, about 2 minutes per side (8 minutes in all) for medium. For extra flavor, you can baste the cooked kebabs with melted butter. Serve at once.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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ANSWERS: 1. F; 2. H; 3. K; 4. E; 5. I; 6. B; 7. J; 8. L; 9. C; 10. G; 11. D; 12. A.


An Interview With Steven

UP IN SMOKE
AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN
Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

It’s out! Launch parties in New York City and Detroit officially celebrated the May release of Steven’s latest book, Raichlen on Ribs (Workman Publishing, 2006). You’d think a rest might be in order for him after months of writing, research, and recipe development. But Steven is three weeks into a 20-city book tour, and can be found at 30,000 feet nearly as often as he can be found manning the grill! I caught up with him long enough to snag a quick interview and get the lowdown on one of America’s favorite foods, ribs. Barbecuing ribs remind me of playing checkers…it takes about twenty minutes to learn the game…and a lifetime to master it! Below you’ll find a favorite recipe from the book, and also… one that’s never been published!

Nancy Loseke
Features Editor


Steven, the June issue of Food and Wine magazine calls you the “BBQ Guru.” Yet, your degree is in French Literature. How’d you get from there to here?

When I graduated from college, I won a Fulbright and Watson Foundation Fellowship. The Fulbright was to study medieval French manuscripts; the Watson was to investigate medieval cooking in Europe. (Tom Watson founded IBM.) That got me thinking about food as a window into culture, and I’ve been on this road ever since. Grilling is our most ancient and universal cooking method, so virtually every recipe tells us something about human history and culture. Of course, there’s also the fact that live fire cooking is so much fun and that grilled and smoked foods taste so terrific.

So, you’ve always been interested in food?

Ever since I can remember. My mother was a ballet dancer and a terrible cook—so in a way, it was a matter of self-defense.

Why a book devoted exclusively to ribs?

Ribs are the quintessential barbecued food, yet they’re surrounded by so much confusion and controversy. Pork versus beef? Dry versus wet? Gas versus charcoal? Fall-off-the-bone tender or cooked so they retain some chew? These are a few of the questions pit masters debate every time they fire up the grill.

The other reason I wrote the book is that despite the universal popularity of ribs, many people are intimidated by them and reluctant to try them. There are many different ways to cook ribs. All are easy when you understand the basic principles.

What is it, in your opinion, that makes people love ribs so much? And do other cultures revere ribs the way Americans do?

There are three reasons. First, because ribs are so damnably delicious. In general, meat found next to the bone tends to have the best marbling and flavor and rib meat is certainly next to the bone.
Second, ribs are universal. Travel the world’s barbecue trail and you’ll find some sort of rib dish prepared by virtually every grill culture.
Finally, ribs are fun to eat. People love foods they get to eat with their fingers and ribs are the ultimate finger food.

What do judges look for in a barbecue rib competition? In other words, what makes a rib perfect in their eyes?

Judges look for many things—some technical, some subjective. For example, a judge might evaluate the “bark” (crusty exterior) and the “smoke ring” (a tinge of pinkish-red just under the surface of the meat—the result of prolonged smoking at a low temperature). The rub and sauce should complement the flavor of the meat, not overpower it. The meat itself should be tender, but still have some chew to it. (Judges do not like rib meat so soft it falls off the bone.) Ultimately, judges are looking for a sense of harmony—the perfect balance between meat, spice, smoke, chew, and tenderness.

What are your techniques for creating perfect ribs?
Just as there are many types of ribs (pork, beef, lamb, baby back, spare, short), there are many techniques for preparing the perfect ribs. I personally like smoke-roasting (indirect grilling with wood chips at a relatively elevated temperature—325 to 350 degrees) for baby back ribs—I like the way the higher heat crisps the meat fibers. I prefer smoking the traditional way—low and slow—for spare ribs. For lamb ribs, I like spit-roasting, and for beef short ribs, I love the way Koreans slice the meat into paper-thin slices and direct grill it over charcoal.

You didn’t mention boiling ribs first before grilling. Some people do that. But not you?

If you’ve read my books, you know I’m a pretty open-minded guy, but there is one thing you should never do to a rib, and that’s boil it. Boiling removes flavor from the ribs and denatures the texture. Enough said.

There seem to be so many options when preparing ribs–rubs, marinades, mop sauces, glazes. When would you use each of them?

There are no hard and fast rules. I often use rubs with fattier cuts of ribs, like pork spare ribs and beef short ribs, but I’ve also used marinades. Both are applied before cooking and provide the base layer of flavor.
Mop sauces are swabbed on during cooking and are designed to keep the ribs moist and add an additional layer of flavor. Also, they give you something cool looking to do while drinking beer and waiting for your ribs to cook.

The glaze or sauce goes on right at the end. Often I’ll apply it, then move the ribs directly over the fire to sizzle the glaze into the meat. Never put a sweet sauce on ribs too early, or the sugar in the sauce will burn before the meat has a chance to cook through.

What advice do you have for someone who’s never attempted ribs before, and can you recommend a specific recipe for novices?

Well, the first piece of advice is to take a deep breath and remember that cooking isn’t brain surgery. (Although removing the skin from the back of the ribs will sharpen your surgical skills.) Then read the first 50 pages of Raichlen on Ribs—they tell you everything you need to know about ribs—the different types, how to buy them and prep them; how to season them; the various cooking techniques, grills and smokers and other equipment. I won’t pretend that there isn’t some technical information you need to master, but I’ve tried to lay it out in a clear, logical, user-friendly manner.

In terms of the first recipe to try, that would be the First Timers Ribs on page 54. You’ll learn a great master rub, master mop sauce, and master barbecue sauce, and the recipe is designed to take you step-by-step through creating terrific ribs. (It’s also failsafe—it’s one of the dishes I’m doing on tour and the food stylist in each city has made it perfectly.)

Does it matter if I have a gas or charcoal grill?

Depends on the rib. If you’re making ribs in the American tradition, chances are they call for smoking. It’s easy to smoke on a charcoal grill (or in a smoker, of course), and virtually impossible to smoke in a gas grill.
On the other hand, if you’re making ribs from Europe or Asia—regions where wood smoke is not part of the barbecue tradition, a gas grill will work just fine.
How do you know when ribs are done?

Very simple. When the meat has shrunk back about 1/4 inch from the ends of the bones of pork baby back ribs, and about 1/2 inch from the ends of spare ribs or beef ribs, the ribs are done. Another test—try pulling two ribs apart with your fingers. If the meat tears easily, the ribs are done. Note: if the meat falls off the bone, the ribs are overcooked.

Tell us about the recipe development process. How do you come up with your ideas, and then translate them into recipes that work reliably for the rest of us?

For me, this book, like all my books, began with travel. It might be a quick trip to Memphis or Kansas City to check out dry rub ribs (page 61) or wet ribs. Once I decided to write a rib book, I started traveling the world’s barbecue trail. To Argentina for the tira de asado (cross cut beef ribs) on page 199, or to St. Barthlemy in the French West Indies for the Buccaneer ribs on page 81. Or even to Korea to experience kalbi kui, grilled short ribs (page 191).

We also ran a Lip Smacking Rib Contest on Barbecuebible.com, and that turned me on to some of the amazing (and downright weird) flavor combinations rib enthusiasts use on their bones. Coffee, tea, bourbon, peanut butter, apple jelly, maple syrup, even chocolate syrup—if it has flavor, someone in our barbecue community has used it.

In terms of turning dishes I’ve eaten into workable recipes, that happens at Barbecue University where we have recipe testers with opinionated palates and access to more than 30 grills and smokers. Some recipes we nail on the first test; others require up to a half dozen variations.

What is the most off-beat recipe in the book? Which one is your favorite?

The most offbeat ribs in the book are probably the peanut butter ribs on page 107. When we ran the Rib Contest, I noticed a lot of people called for peanut butter. I had the idea to work in a Southeast Asian mode, adding garlic, ginger, cilantro, chili peppers, and soy sauce. It really works.

As for my favorite, that’s the “Sophie’s Choice” question. All my recipes are my favorite children, but a lot of my friends like the Buffalo Ribs that I’m sharing in this newsletter.

How can people find out if their community is one of your stops on your current book tour?

Visit my “home base”—Barbecuebible.com—and click on Steven’s Event Schedule. BTW, a book tour is hard work—I’m away from my home and family for weeks on end. One of the great pleasures of touring is meeting members of our barbecue “family”—like BBQ Bob and FedoraDave, who came to visit at a book-signing I did for Bed, Bath, and Beyond in New Jersey. You can see pictures of us here on the Barbecue Board.

My schedule makes it tough to keep up with all the e-mails I receive, so I’ve deputized the great moderators we have on the Barbecue Board. Please pose your barbecuing questions to them, especially if you need a quick answer.

The people photographed eating ribs in your book have one thing in common: They all look like they’re enjoying themselves! Who are they?

That’s one of the most fun things about the book. They all work at Workman Publishing. For example, my editor, Suzanne Rafer, is on page 50. Even the legendary Peter Workman stopped in for a rib and a photo. He’s on page 146.

Where can people find Raichlen on Ribs?

At bookstores and grill shops everywhere. And, of course, in our Barbecue Store.


BUFFALO RIBS
This riff on Buffalo chicken wings, the signature dish of a special city in New York state, is a favorite among my friends.

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
2 racks baby back pork ribs (4 to 5 pounds total)
1 to 2 lemons, cut in half and seeded
1 to 2 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce (preferably Frank’s Red Hot Original or Crystal)

For the butter sauce:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
1/2 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce

For serving:

Purchased blue cheese dip, for serving (or homemade)
4 ribs celery

Combine the salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, dry mustard, and cayenne in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Remove the thin membrane from the back of the ribs. Rub the lemon juice and 1 to 2 tablespoons of hot sauce over the ribs. Sprinkle the dry rub evenly over both sides of each rack. Transfer the ribs to a large resealable plastic bag and refrigerate. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325-350 degrees F).

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the 1/2 cup of hot sauce and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grate over the drip pan, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes, then lightly baste with the butter sauce. Continue cooking the ribs until they are well-browned and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours total, basting 2 times more. Serve with any remaining butter sauce (reheated), the blue cheese dip, and celery sticks.

VIETNAMESE STYLE COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS
Serves 4 to 6.

For the marinade:

2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 shallot, rough chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and rough chopped, or 2 strips lemon zest
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce or soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus oil for grilling the ribs

What you’ll need:

1-1/2 pounds country style pork ribs (bone-in or boneless)
1 large or 2 small heads Boston lettuce, broken into whole leaves and washed
1 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch sticks
1 bunch basil, washed
1 bunch cilantro, washed
1 bunch fresh mint, washed
2 ounces thin rice noodles, soaked in cold water for 1 hour, then drained
Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

Place marinade ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Marinate chops in this mixture in a baking dish in the refrigerator for 2 hours, turning several times to coat.

Place lettuce, cucumber, basil, cilantro, and mint on a platter. Make dipping sauce.

Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate.

Grill the ribs until crusty and brown on the outside and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side. To serve, thinly slice ribs or let each eater do it. Open a lettuce leaf and fill with rice noodles, cucumber sticks, basil, cilantro, mint leaves, and pork slices. Roll it up; dip in chili lime sauce, and take a bite.

VIETNAMESE DIPPING SAUCE (NUOC CHAM)
Yield: About 1 cup

One 2-inch piece of carrot, peeled
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
1/3 cup Asian fish sauce (nuoc mam), or more to taste
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 small hot red chile, thinly sliced, or 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced

Slice the carrot lengthwise with a vegetable peeler and pile the slices on top of one another, then slice lengthwise with a sharp slender knife into the thinnest imaginable strips.

Combine the water and sugar in a small bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved; stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, chile, garlic, and carrot strips (see Note).

Taste for seasoning, adding fish sauce or sugar as necessary; the nuoc cham should strike a delicate balance between salty, tart, and sweet.

Serve the sauce immediately, or at least the same day it’s made.

Note: You can also blend the ingredients for the sauce by shaking them in a sealed jar.

MAIL BAG
This past week, we received an ingenious suggestion from a rib-loving Canadian
BBQ U viewer, Bonnie B. of Ontario:

“I just watched the episode where you cooked the baby back ribs on the rotisserie. I agree that this is an excellent way to cook ribs. However, one rack of ribs doesn’t feed very many people. So I invented my “rib cage”. It is made from wire fencing, tied in a roll. I can tie up to 4 ribs on it. I rub them with Texas Beer-B-Q rub and let them cook (low and slow) for about 5 hours. I also add some canned wood chips for smoke about halfway through. I start the bottom burner just long enough to get it smoking. Everyone always loves the ribs and the drama when the rib cage is removed from the grill onto a platter.”

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Vegetarian Grilling

UP IN SMOKE
VEGETARIAN GRILLING
Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

Sorry for deviating from our editorial schedule: we promised a crash course in ribs this month to coincide with the release of Raichlen on Ribs. The book has been delayed a few days (don’t worry, it will still be out in time for Memorial Day), so instead, we’ve taken a 180 degree turn—an issue on vegetarian grilling.

Nancy Loseke
Assistant Editor


There was a time when the notion of a meal—particularly a barbecue—without meat sounded more like punishment than pleasure. Even cookbooks targeted to vegetarians had penitential-sounding titles like “Meatless Days” or “Diet for a Small Planet.” Meatless grilling would have seemed the epitome of sacrifice and self-denial.

Well, to quote one of my favorite musicians, “The times, they are a’ changin’.” Proof positive—the most requested recipe ever from my BBQ University show on PBS was for Mac and Cheese with Grilled Onions, Chiles, and Corn. We could barely keep up with the volume of e-mail. We eventually threw up our hands in a cyberspace version of “Uncle!” and posted the recipe.

We also had lots of requests for the recipes for two other meatless dishes: Portobello Mushroom “Burgers” and Ginger-Studded Tofu “Steaks”. People even asked for vegetarian recipes from past seasons such as Barbecued Bean and Cheese Chili Rellenos and Grilled Gazpacho.

Call it the carnivore’s capitulation or the vegetarian’s revenge, but interest in meatless grilling is growing. Below, you’ll find some terrific dishes for the vegetarian in your family or on your guest list. Use it to fill those “I feel like something light tonight” menu gaps, or in a supporting role to a more traditional meat-centric main course.

You probably know that I’m a carnivore and an enthusiastic and unrepentant one at that. What you may not know is that I also have some vegetarian street cred: wife Barbara and daughter Betsy were vegetarians when I was writing The Barbecue Bible. (Thank goodness they saw the light.) I even wrote a vegetarian cookbook (High-Flavor, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cookbook), which won a James Beard Award in 1996.

The fact is, most vegetables and many soy foods, like tofu and tempeh, respond spectacularly well to smoke and fire. (Remember my mantra: if something tastes good baked, boiled, fried, or sautéed, it probably tastes even better grilled.) The high dry heat caramelizes the natural plant sugars in vegetables, making onions, peppers, and their brethren taste even sweeter and smokier than normal. There’s even a health advantage: grilling preserves the vitamins and minerals that can be leached out by other cooking methods.

As a rule, vegetables with a high water content are good candidates for direct, high-heat grilling: the short list includes asparagus, endive, mushrooms, okra, scallions, tomatoes, and zucchini. All of these vegetables benefit from a light brushing of oil—extra virgin olive if you’re working in a Mediterranean mode, sesame oil if you’re feeling Asian—in either case, robustly seasoned with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Even dry, dense, or relatively low moisture vegetables—like potatoes or artichokes—do well on the grill. The secret is to grill them using the indirect method—adding soaked wood chips to the coals if a smoke flavor is desired—basting them with sweet butter or garlic butter or that elixir of life, extra virgin olive oil.

Below are 9 great tips for honing your vegetarian grilling skills this summer:

    1. When grilling moist vegetables, like quartered tomatoes or onions, skewer them on two prong skewers or flat metal skewers. This keeps them from slipping or spinning.
    2. When making vegetable kebabs, grill each type of vegetable on a separate skewer. Peppers and onions take longer to grill than zucchini or tomatoes—the separate skewers let you cook each the amount of time needed for perfect doneness.
    3. When indirect grilling round vegetables, like onions or artichokes, stand them upright in a grill ring. (The spike conducts heat to the center, speeding up the cooking time.) Don’t have a grill ring? Make one from a twisted ring of aluminum foil. Note: I’m normally not a big fan of grilling vegetables—or anything—wrapped in foil.
    4. One cool way to grill long slender vegetables, like asparagus, scallions, and green beans, that might otherwise fall through the bars of the grill grate, is to cut into uniform lengths, laid side by side, and pinned crosswise top and bottom with toothpicks or bamboo skewers to make a sort of raft. (It’s a lot quicker and easier to turn one asparagus raft than 5 individual stalks.)
    5. While we’re on the subject of toothpicks, the Japanese and Koreans make grilled garlic kebabs by impaling whole cloves on toothpicks.
    6. Smoke-roast large baking potatoes (use indirect medium-high heat and cover the grill) until squeezably soft, about 1 hour. Serve with your favorite toppings, like gorgonzola cheese and caramelized onions. Check out the very cool stainless potato grill rack to make this task even easier.
    7. A large platter of grilled vegetables is an easy way to make your life easy. It’s colorful and tasty, even at room temperature, so you can grill it ahead, which is always useful when entertaining. Select vegetables that are in season with good color and textural contrast. Brush with olive oil, season generously with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Grill over a hot fire. Dried basil or oregano optional.
    8. You know my enthusiasm for grilled corn, but remember to grill it naked. (The corn, not you.) Remove the husk and silk, brush the corn with melted butter or olive oil, then grill it over high heat until browned on all sides. Exception to the rule is what I call extreme grilled corn: Build a bed of glowing charcoal or wood embers and lay the corn in the husk on top. Grill until the husk burns completely off and the kernels are darkly browned. The resulting smoke flavor is absolutely incredible. (Don’t forget to brush with melted butter before serving.)

extreme_corn.jpg

  1. Speaking of “extreme grilling,” sweet potatoes and beets are fantastic grilled in the embers. Lay them in the coals and grill until charred on all sides. (This is a good dish for you grillers out there who have a tendency to burn things.) Cooking time is about 30 to 40 minutes—turn often for even cooking. For complete instructions, see page 390 in How to Grill.

TOOLS AND FUELS

Grilling mushroom slices, pepper strips, sliced garlic, or other small pieces of food? Get yourself a wire grilling grid, which keeps the food from falling through the bars of the grate.

Making kebabs? Load up on wide metal or bamboo skewers, which keep vegetables from slipping or spinning. Alternatively, use 2 prong skewers—again to keep the vegetables from slipping.

Grill rings are designed to hold whole vegetables, like onions or cabbages, or even fruits, like apples and pears, upright for indirect grilling. Alternatively, you can fashion donut-shaped rings out of aluminum foil, but the veggies won’t look as cool.

Yes, you guessed it, Steven’s Best of Barbecue line features all of these items, and a brand new Vegetable Grilling Kit.

RECIPES

We hope these tips and recipes inspire you to cook an entire vegetarian meal on the grill. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, it’s good every once-in-a-while to have a break from a relentlessly carnivorous diet. And you’ll definitely score points with the committed vegetarians in your circle as they will no longer have to bring their own soy to your cook-outs.

TOFU STEAKS WITH THAI SWEET CHILI SAUCE
Thai sweet chili sauce is available in the ethnic section of most supermarkets or from www.importfoods.com. One good brand is Mae Ploy.

Serves 4.

2 pounds extra-firm tofu, drained

For the marinade:

4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce (nuac mam or soy sauce)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus oil for the grill
3/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce

Cut each block of tofu in half through the short side to make to flat slabs or “steaks.” Arrange them in a non-reactive baking dish.

Make the marinade: Place the garlic, coriander root, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, salt, pepper, ground coriander, fresh lime juice, and oil in a blender container or the bowl of a small-capacity food processor and pulse until smooth. Pour over the tofu slices and let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 to 4 hours, carefully turning the tofu pieces several times to ensure even marinating.

When ready to cook, set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high. Brush and oil the grill grate.

Arrange the tofu steaks directly on the grate. Grill until sizzling and well browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side, brushing with half the chili sauce for the last 2 minutes. Continue to grill until the chili sauce is sizzling. Transfer to plates or a platter, pour the remaining chili sauce on top and serve at once.

SOYRIZO BARBECUED CABBAGE
According to our admittedly meat-loving editor Nancy, Soyrizo is the vegetarian equivalent of the Spanish sausage chorizo. It is available at health food stores, supermarkets, and at www.melissas.com.

Serves 6 to 8.

1 medium-size head of cabbage (about 1-1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ounces Soyrizo, about 3 inches, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Large grill ring or foil crumpled into a donut shape for steadying the cabbage

1-1/2 cups wood chips, soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained

Set the cabbage on a cutting board on its crown. Cut out the core by angling your knife about 3 inches down toward the center of the cabbage, and cutting in a circle that is about 3 inches in diameter. Pull out the core and discard it. The piece you’ve removed should look like a cone. Put the cabbage upright on the grill ring, cavity facing up.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Brush a little melted butter (about 1/2 tablespoon) over the outside of the cabbage. Add the onion, garlic, and Soyrizo to the skillet with the melted butter and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

Spoon the Soyrizo mixture into the cavity in the cabbage. Pour the barbecue sauce on top, and top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Season the outside of the cabbage with salt and pepper.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all the wood chips or chunks on the coals. Place the cabbage on its grill ring in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the cabbage until very tender, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours; when done, it will be easy to pierce with a skewer. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour, if the cabbage is not yet done.

To serve, peel off any dried-out or charred outside leaves and discard. Present the cabbage on its grill ring to your guests, then cut into wedges and serve.

MAILBAG

Vegetarianism, even when it’s occasional, is usually a matter of personal choice. Not everyone, however, has the freedom to make dietary choices as we were reminded this past week when we received a letter from Bob Richards of Longview, Washington:

“I enjoy watching your program and have gotten some good ideas from your show and also your web site. The reason I am writing is that in your rubs, on the steaks, I see you use course grain sea salt. This is great, unless you are like me, and the tens of thousands of other folks who have congestive heart failure. I am down to less than 1000 mg of salt a day per my doctor. Is there a rub that I can use, and those like me, so I get a great tasting steak that won’t send me to the hospital the next day? Thank you much and keep up the great work.”

The Salt-Free Lemonade Chili Rub from Kansas City barbecue great Paul Kirk, published on page 35 in Barbecue Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades was just what Bob was looking for.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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An Interview with Charles Pinsky

UP IN SMOKE
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES PINSKY
Dear Up in Smoke Reader,

In a departure from the format of past newsletters, we thought we’d give you an insider’s view of what it takes to shoot and produce a television series. You might think it’s a simple process. Not so, as you’ll learn in this exclusive interview with Charles Pinsky of frappé, inc., director and executive producer of BBQ U. “Charlie” has been a fixture on the set of BBQ U since the beginning. In his trademark baseball cap, usually barefooted, he micromanages, to great effect, every detail on the set straight through production, a process that takes months. He has worked on food-related programs with Maryland Public Television (the sponsor of BBQ U) for more than 20 years. Charlie has won five James Beard Awards and was recently nominated for a sixth.

The fourth season of BBQ U began airing April 1 in select PBS markets. The roll-out of the new series will continue in the coming weeks. The season features more than 50 all-new recipes by Steven (two previously unpublished recipes are reprinted for you below). You’ll also see bold new themes, novel ingredients, ingenious techniques, and the latest equipment. To check dates and times in your viewing area, log on to BBQ U. Nancy recently interviewed Charlie for this newsletter.

Charlie, you filmed 13 30-minute episodes of Season 4 of BBQ U last September. Please tell us what happens in the months between the show’s taping and its airing on PBS this Spring.

The taping of a TV series like BBQ U is literally the tip of the iceberg. We shot 53 recipes this season, and each and every take has to be screened in real time. We screened 106 hours of tape to arrive at the final 6-1/2 hours of tape. Next, using special software, we log the recipes and the exact time (down to 1/30th of a second). The editor then transfers the media from tape to digital disk—a process called “digitizing”—for each of the five cameras. The resulting material is roughly edited and returned to the producer. Steven also reviews these “roughs,” which have the audio and four different versions of video. One video version is selected, then each show is compressed until it’s exactly 26 minutes and 46 seconds long. Each show takes over 20 hours of sound-mixing. We make Steven’s words sound as clear as possible, and add music, “tease,” announcements, etc.

Once we have a “master,” we send it to the National Closed Captioning Institute in Virginia. Standard and high-definition versions are created. Then Maryland Public Television technically evaluates every single second of every show. (We always pass their stringent tests!) Finally, two copies are forwarded to the distributor and they are beamed via satellite to the PBS stations. As I said, shooting is just the tip of the iceberg.

Tell us about the equipment.

Essentially, we recreate at remote Howard’s Creek the technical capabilities you’d find in a big city studio. This requires a lot of engineering and a lot of equipment, which we truck to the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. In the control tent, we have computers and 12 monitors that capture each image in “isolation” from five cameras. One camera—the one that gets the overhead shots as well as the sweeping views of the Greenbrier property— hangs on a jib arm that can extend 32 feet. The operator controls it with something that looks like bicycle handlebars, although operating the jib is a bit harder than riding a bike. . . . Two additional cameras shoot from other angles. We also have two “micro-cams” that are operated remotely by a specialist in the tent.

Literally miles of cables are needed to hook up all the equipment. Add lighting, and the power requirements are gigantic. We work with the Greenbrier engineers to set up the circuits required to handle the huge electrical demand.

What’s the story on the GrillCam?

GrillCam started as a crazy idea in my head. I didn’t know whether it would work, or how, but Weber, one of Steven’s sponsors, got very excited, so prototypes were built. Over the last three seasons, we’ve learned a lot, including how to do time lapse. We can also show what’s happening inside a grill even when it is covered, although lighting it is tricky. Sometimes, we even tell Steven when the food is ready to flip since we can see what is happening from underneath.

GrillCam works so well that our audio man rigged up his own “at home” version so he can see what is happening on his grill while he preps for dinner in the kitchen.

Have you and the current crew worked together before, and how many people are on the set during the shoot?

We have an experienced crew when we show up each season to shoot BBQ U; most of us have been working together for years. Four camera operators (3 men, 1 woman) control five cameras. We have an audio man who monitors Steven’s wireless microphones and a stage director who relays information from the “truck,” although technically, the “truck” was swapped out years ago for a large tent, which is more comfortable. In the tent are the director/producer (me), the technical director, the remote camera operator, and someone who logs everything that happens on a computer. This person also has copies of Steven’s books and recipes so we can confirm quantities and cooking times.

Finally, there is a culinary team of four chefs who prep all the food, and a coordinator who interfaces between the two prep kitchens and the set. One person handles the formidable task of getting 50-some different grills and smokers assembled and delivered We also have “floaters” who keep the fires burning (including the one in the outdoor fireplace that appears in the show behind Steven), run errands, or do whatever is necessary. Usually, there are between 15 and 20 people on the set. Sometimes we have visitors—curious golfers, fishermen (there’s a trout stream next to the set), or horseback riders who are attracted to the scene out of curiosity or by the smell of good food. As you can see, BBQ U is truly a team effort.

charlie_steven.jpg

How do you cook a turkey or 18-pound beef clod in a 30-minute program?

Take your turkey example: The kitchen would prep at least 3 turkeys; maybe they’d even have spares. One would be raw, one partially cooked, and the third completely finished. The latter two are called “swap-outs.” A lot of forward thinking and coordination go into the successful filming of a recipe from start to finish.

What’s new in Season 4?

We’ve had four years together as a team, and have our “act” together. There are new graphics, new music, and new special effects. Also, the season was shot in 16 by 9 aspect ratio format so it can be broadcast in regular and hi-definition versions. Steven’s got a new look—he dropped the denim shirt for a chamois-colored one. He’s enthusiastic about demo-ing new techniques on new equipment (such as a Weber ‘Q, a Grand Turbo, and a cool built-in outdoor kitchen). You’ll see new recipes, too, some not in his books.

What are the unique challenges of directing and producing BBQ U?

Steven has to perform in front of the camera while risking life and limb (or maybe loin) to live fire. For me, the biggest challenge is maintaining technical control over an outdoor set. There’s not just the threat of inclement weather; there’s the ever-changing sun. We never want the sun to shine directly on Steven or the set. Instead, we light those areas to be in balance with Mother Nature’s backdrop. As the sun moves, we have to move. We use a giant “silk”—a sheer piece of white fabric suspended on a frame—to simulate natural light. The irony is that it takes a lot of work just to make the scene look “natural.” We want the viewer to see what the food really looks like at each stage of preparation. That requires a lot of skill and timing.

The food always looks fantastic on the set. Tell us it doesn’t go to waste.

If you’d ever been on a TV shoot, you’d know that TV crews are chronically underfed and over-hungered. They get first crack at the food, and if there’s anything left (there usually isn’t), it’s contributed to the staff meal at the Greenbrier.

Do you have a favorite recipe from Season 4?

I love anything pork, so the shows “Rib Master” and “High on the Hog” were right up there for me. (One of Charlie’s favorite recipes is below.)

Is it possible to buy copies of our favorite BBQ U episodes?

Not at this time, but we produced a DVD with highlights from the first three seasons of BBQ U which is available through the Barbecue Store. Next year, we’ll do the same for Seasons 4 and 5.

Charlie, you’re a multiple James Beard Award winner. Do you work exclusively on food-related projects?

charlie_julia.jpg

Every year I try to do at least one non-food related project. I’ve produced entertainment-related shows such as one for PBS about the history of sit-coms based on Carl Reiner’s life. But my bread and butter is food, and because each series is so different from the others, I never seem to tire of doing food TV. Shooting and staying at the Greenbrier is right up there for me and the crew—great digs, great food, and more relaxing than when we are traveling the world and taping the famous restaurants. It’s a tough life but somebody has to do it.

Thanks, Charlie!

RECIPES

TEX-MEX FLATIRON STEAKS
Con Mucha Cerveza

This recipe utilizes a hip, relatively new cut of steak called the flatiron. Also known as a “shoulder top blade,” it’s cut from the chuck in a way that bypasses the connective tissue that runs through the center. The result resembles a flank steak in shape. Crosswise cuts are made to create steaks. They’re reasonably priced, and have a very rich beefy, meaty flavor

Method: Direct
Yield: Serves 4
Advance Preparation: 2 hours for marinating the steaks

2 flatiron or skirt steaks (about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds, each about 3/8- to 3/4-inch thick)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bottle (8 ounces) dark Mexican beer
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped (for hotter steaks, leave the seeds in)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 bunches scallions, trimmed
4 to 8 jalapeño peppers
4 flour tortillas
Lime wedges
Your favorite salsa in an attractive bowl

You’ll also need:
2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably mesquite or oak), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained

Generously season the steaks on both sides with salt and black pepper. Place the steaks in a nonreactive baking dish just large enough to hold them and drizzle the olive oil over them. Turn the steaks a couple of times, rubbing them with your fingertips to coat with oil

Combine the beer, lime juice, onion, garlic, chopped jalapeno(s), and cilantro in a nonreactive mixing bowl and stir to mix. Pour the marinade over the steaks and let them marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 to 2 hours, turning them a couple of times so that they marinate evenly.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to high, then toss 1 cup of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the scallions and whole jalapenos on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned on all sides. This will take 2 to 3 minutes per side (6 to 9 minutes in all) for the jalapenos and 3 to 4 minutes per side (6 to 8 minutes in all) for the scallions. Transfer the grilled vegetables to a plate.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and drain, discarding the marinade. If using a charcoal grill, toss the remaining 1 cup of wood chips or chunks on the coals. Place the marinated steaks on the hot grate and grill until cooked to taste, 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare, rotating each steak a quarter turn after 2 minutes on each side to create an attractive crosshatch of grill marks. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. To test for doneness, use the poke method: the meat should be gently yielding. Transfer the grilled steaks to plates or a platter and let rest for 3 minutes.

Warm the tortillas on the grill, about 15 seconds per side, and transfer them to a cloth-lined basket. Serve the steaks with the grilled jalapenos, scallions, and tortillas and salsa on the side. To eat, wrap bite-size pieces of steak in a tortilla with some of the scallions, jalapenos, and salsa.

BRAZILIAN COCONUT ROTISSERIE RIBS
With Piri Piri Relish

Here’s one of Charlie’s favorite recipes from Season 4 of BBQ U. It comes from Steven’s latest book, “Raichlen on Ribs” which will be released next month by Workman Publishing.

Method: Spit-roasting/rotisserie
Yield: Serves 4
Advance Preparation: 4 to 12 hours for marinating the ribs

1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces (save the other half for the relish)
1/2 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (save the other half for the relish, recipe follows)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
Fresh ginger (1-inch piece), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup coconut milk or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro (or parsley), washed, shaken dry, stemmed and finely chopped (reserve 3 tablespoons for the relish)
2 racks of baby back ribs (4 to 5 pounds)
Piri Piri Relish (recipe follows)

Place the bell pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Puree to a coarse paste by pulsing the machine. Pour the lime juice and the coconut milk in through the feed tube and pulse again to mix. Add half the cilantro and pulse the machine to mix.

Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of each rack of ribs: Turn a rack meat-side down. Insert a sharp implement, such as the tip of a meat thermometer, under the membrane (the best place to start is right next to the first rib bone). Using a dishcloth or pliers to gain a secure grip, pull off the membrane. Repeat with the other rack. Place the ribs in a roasting pan. Pour the marinade over them, turning several times to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight—the longer, the richer the flavor.

Drain the ribs well and thread the ribs onto the rotisserie spit. Using a sharp, slender knife, and starting on the bone side, make starter holes in the meat between every two ribs. Twist the knife blade to widen the holes. This makes it easier to insert the spit. Use an over-and-under weaving motion to thread the ribs, through the holes, onto the spit. Set up the grill for spit-roasting and preheat to high.

When ready to cook, attach the spit to the rotisserie mechanism and turn on the motor. Grill the ribs, covered, until golden brown and cooked through, 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size. The ribs are done when the meat has shrunk back about 1/4-inch from the ends of the bones. Transfer the spit with the ribs to a cutting board. Carefully pull out the skewer. Cut each rack of ribs into 2 bone segments. Spoon a little Piri Piri Relish over the ribs, serving the rest on the side. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve at once.

Piri Piri Relish

Yield: About 1 cup

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 to 4 piri piri peppers (or other pickled hot peppers or fresh chiles), minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) or freshly ground black pepper

Place the onion, pepper, tomatoes, piri piri peppers, olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro in a bowl and stir to mix. Add salt and pepper and additional lime juice, if needed, to taste.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Super Bowl XL

UP IN SMOKE
SUPER BOWL XL
Premium seats are still available for the Super Bowl, that annual intersection of great food and championship football. And they’re yours for the taking—complete with birds-eye view of the action, instant replays, a ringside seat (your favorite chair) for half-time entertainment and potential wardrobe malfunctions. Free parking. Beer on demand. And the kind of food you’ve been craving since you made those ambitious New Year’s resolutions. Almost makes you feel sorry for the folks who have to spend February 5 at Detroit’s Ford Field.

Yes, Super Bowl XL is coming up fast, but you’ve got more than enough time to pull off a great party. And the best way to do that is—you guessed it— fire up your grill.

Piece of cake if you happen to live in Florida, like I do. But what if you reside in Detroit or some other place that doesn’t exactly boast ideal grilling conditions in January? You might do best to bring the barbecue indoors. Indeed, even if you live in the Sunbelt, you might consider doing some indoor grilling for your Super Bowl party. After all, you don’t want to be slaving over your outdoor grill when all the action takes place on the big screen indoors.

Fortunately, there are a lot of indoor grills and smokers to choose from. Each has its advantages—and more importantly, the foods it does best. Below is the cast of characters. For more detail and referenced recipes, I refer you to Raichlen’s Indoor! Grilling (Workman Publishing, 2004).

The fireplace: To judge from fire pits in the mouths of prehistoric caves, the fireplace was the original grill—and if you love the flavor of flame and wood smoke (not to mention the primal pleasure of building and tending a fire), it’s still the best. Use your fireplace for grilling steaks and chops—all you need is a Tuscan Grill (a cast iron grate on legs), or bring in one of the grates from your outdoor grill and set it up on some bricks. You can also roast potatoes and onions on bricks positioned in front of the embers. See chipotle salsa recipe below.

Built-in grills: Pioneered by Jennaire, these stovetop grills are the indoor analog of gas grills and are great for grilling smaller party items, like sates, yakitori (page 31), and kebabs. Marinate and assemble the kebabs ahead of time and grill them right before the kick-off, or during half- time.

Grill pans: When it comes to laying on tack-sharp grill marks, there’s nothing like these heavy frying pans with their raised ridges in the bottom. Beyond the obvious steaks (fish as well as beef) and chops, grill pans do a terrific job with tofu (yes, there are a few football loving vegetarians out there), and cheeses, like Greek halloumi (page 29) and camembert (page 27).

Free-standing grills: Built like inverted broilers, free-standing grills generally lack the firepower of other indoor grills (the newer models are getting better), but they have one important advantage: you can plug them in and use them in front of the TV. Use for quick-cooking finger foods like quesadillas and grilled shrimp cocktails (page 46).

Contact grills: Epitomized by the George Foreman and perfected by the Villaware Panini Uno, these electric grills cook from both top and bottom. Great for making panini (page 300) and other grilled sandwiches. Choose the model with highest possible wattage. See grinder recipe below.

Countertop rotisseries: Well-suited to spit-roasting whole chickens and turkeys (page 206), of course—good items to carve for a crowd. Thanks to the basket attachment, you can also use them to cook ribs, and even potatoes.

Stovetop smokers: Too cold to fire up your smoker? This rectangular stainless steel box smokes a mean brisket, pulled pork shoulder, and even beer can chicken. Despite its modest dimensions, it will prepare enough food for a crowd—with all the smoke flavors you hunger for outdoors. (Bayou Wings, page 37, are perfect Super Bowl party food.)

Again, for lots more information on using each of these indoor grills, check out Raichlen’s Indoor! Grilling (Workman Publishing, 2004).

Here are two of our favorite recipes from the book to get you started.

RECIPES

CHIPOTLE SALSA

This fiery chipotle-laced salsa beats jarred supermarket brands hands down. Grill the vegetables in a fireplace, a grill pan, or built-in grill (see Tools and Fuels for information on Tuscan grills). Lacking those, you can even roast the vegetables in a hot dry (un-oiled) cast-iron skillet. Serve with your favorite chips.

Source: Raichlen’s Indoor! Grilling by Steven Raichlen

Method: Grill pan (see other options above)
Serves: Makes about 3/4 cup (easily multiplied)

6 tomatillos (about 8 ounces total), husked and washed
5 plum tomatoes (about 12 ounces total)
4 cloves garlic, skewered on a wooden toothpick or small bamboo skewer
1 small onion, cut into quarters
1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers with 2 teaspoons of their adobo sauce, or more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

1. Grill the tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic, and onion, in batches if necessary, until darkly browned on all sides.

2. Transfer the grilled vegetables to a cutting board and let cool. Scrape any really burnt skin off the vegetables but leave most of it on; the dark spots will add color and character.

3. Cut the vegetables into 1-inch pieces and purée in a food processor, adding the chipotles with their adobo and the cilantro, lime juice, and sugar. Taste for seasoning, adding more adobo, and/or sugar and salt and pepper to taste. The salsa will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

GRINDERS

Here’s the grilled version of one of America’s most popular sandwich, the hoagie—and a great reason to fire up your contact grill.

Source: Raichlen’s Indoor! Grilling by Steven Raichlen

Method: Contact grill
Serves: 2 (can be multiplied as desired)

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
2 hoagie or submarine rolls, split
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 ounces thinly sliced Provolone cheese (about 4 slices)
2 ounces thinly sliced capicola or baked ham (about 6 slices)
2 ounces thinly sliced Italian salami (about 6 slices)
2 tablespoons hot pepper relish (optional)
1/4 head iceberg lettuce, cored and shredded paper-thin with a chef’s knife or in a food processor
1 medium tomato, very thinly sliced
A few paper-thin slices sweet onion (optional)
1 to 4 pickled hot peppers, thinly sliced (optional; see Note)
2 ounces thinly sliced mortadella (about 6 slices)
Best of Barbecue Smoky Mustard Barbecue Sauce (optional)
Cooking oil spray

You’ll Also Need: 2 pieces parchment paper or aluminum foil (each 16 by 12 inches)

1. Preheat the contact grill; if your contact grill has a temperature control, preheat the grill to high. Place the drip pan under the front of the grill.

2. Lightly butter the outside of the rolls. Spread 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise on the bottom half of each roll. Layer half of the Provolone, capicola, and salami on the bottom half of each roll in that order, making sure that they don’t stick out over the edges.

3. Spread 1 tablespoon of the hot pepper relish, if using, on the top of each roll and top each with half of the lettuce and tomato, the onion and hot peppers, if using, and the mortadella in that order, making sure that they don’t stick out over the edges. Leave the sandwich halves open.

4. Lightly brush the 2 pieces of parchment paper with butter. Place 1 piece, buttered side up, on a work surface with one of the long edges closest to you. Arrange the 2 halves of 1 sandwich on the left side of the piece of parchment paper, then fold the paper over them.
Repeat with the remaining sandwich halves and piece of parchment paper.

5. When ready to cook, lightly coat the grill surface with cooking oil spray. Arrange the paper-wrapped sandwiches on the hot grill at a diagonal to the ridges and close the lid. Grill the sandwiches until the bread is crusty and golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Leave the grill turned on.

6. Unwrap the sandwiches and assemble them, covering the bottom halves with the top. Place the sandwiches back on the grill and cook for 30 seconds, pressing on the grill to flatten them. Cut each sandwich in half crosswise and serve at once with Best of Barbecue Smoky Mustard Sauce, if desired.

TOOLS AND FUELS

The fireplace is the oldest indoor grill. The Romans called it a focus (hearth), and its central role in cooking, domestic well-being, and promoting general human happiness made it the literal and spiritual focal point of the home. Today, it is used sporadically, and almost never for cooking. And that is a shame. Because whether you’re charring bell peppers, sizzling a ribeye steak, or roasting leg of lamb on a spit, fireplace cooking, especially in the wintertime, is a soul-satisfying way to connect to simpler times.

Equipment for fireplace grilling can be as low-tech as a long-handled fork or a wire rack supported by bricks at opposite sides of the fire. But a cast iron Tuscan Grill will increase your cooking options exponentially. Plus, the “cool quotient” is higher. The one I designed for the Best of Barbecue line of equipment has removable legs so you can lay it on a conventional chrome-plated or porcelain-coated grate to get killer grill marks, or you can attach the legs and use it over a campfire or in your wood-burning fireplace.

To use the Tuscan Grill in the fireplace, light a log fire and let it burn down to glowing embers. Rake the embers into a pile about 1-inch deep. Position the Tuscan Grill over the hot coals and preheat for five minutes before grilling.

And to scoop out and discard the ashes, check out our galvanized metal Best of Barbecue Charcoal and Ash Scoop and Trash Can.
More complete instructions for fireplace grilling begin on page 10 of Raichlen’s Indoor! Grilling, and are followed by recipes for fine fireside suppers.

MAIL BAG

I receive hundreds of letters each year asking for grilling advice or recipes. We try to answer as many as time permits, but if your question is urgent, I recommend you post it on the Barbecue Board. Our moderators and members are extraordinarily capable grill masters, friendly as all get out, and eager to help.

From time to time, I like to post letters of general interest to our grilling community at large.

Willie M. of Bloomington, Indiana, writes:

“Steven, how can I break a friend’s habit of relying upon a timer when grilling…well…everything!?!?!? It’s gotten to be a nasty habit which I’d rather see him develop into his ‘touch’ for the grill. Any advice? Thanks.”

Encourage your friend to use the “poke” test to check for doneness:

  • Downright squishy: It’s still raw in the center.
  • Soft and yielding: It’s rare.
  • Gently yielding: It’s medium-rare.
  • Firmly yielding: It’s medium.
  • Firm and springy: It’s well done.

My staff and I hope your grilling year is off to a great start. And may your team win on Super Bowl Sunday.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Make Your Own BBQ Sauce From Scratch

UP IN SMOKE
MAKE YOUR OWN BBQ SAUCE
FROM SCRATCH
Happy Holidays! We’re in the middle of a snowstorm here in Martha’s Vineyard. (But that won’t prevent us from grilling.) So naturally, our thoughts turn to how to combine our great love of barbecue with holiday gift giving.

Walk down the condiment aisle of any grocery or gourmet store, and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of different barbecue sauces, incorporating everything from watermelon to premium brands of bourbon.

So why would I propose—as I’m doing now—that you set aside an afternoon or evening and make your own barbecue sauce from scratch? Simple. It makes a truly original gift (more on this below), it’s fun, and it’s a badge of honor, as the seasoned grillmeisters on the Barbecue Board can tell you.

Before I reveal my strategies for making great sauces, let me tell you about one afternoon that will go down in BBQ U history.

My friend, Dr. Rich Davis, accepted an invitation to be a “visiting professor” to conduct a sauce seminar at a recent session of BBQ University. If you’ve read BBQ USA (see page 694), you’re familiar with Dr. Davis: He is an icon in the barbecue and business worlds. In 1977, he left the medical profession and founded KC Masterpiece, the most successful premium barbecue sauce in the country. The brand was later sold to the Kingsford division of Clorox.

Dressed in a shirt that plots the American barbecue trail, the genial Dr. Davis had his audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he started discussing the history of barbecue sauce. (According to Rich, the first American barbecue sauce was salt water.) His knowledge of barbecue culture and lore astounded. And the fact that he looks at least a decade younger than his 80 years had everyone in the room wondering if the “Fountain of Youth” might be in Kansas City-style barbecue sauces.

A sauce tasting followed. Then we divided the BBQ U students into teams. We issued butane burners and basic recipes and a pantry of potential ingredients. The assignment? Develop a winning barbecue sauce, creatively named and labeled. First prize? A bottle of KC Masterpiece, symbolically spray-painted gold and autographed by Dr. Davis. And the once in a lifetime opportunity to have their recipe published in my next book, Raichlen on RIBS! (due out next spring). I’ll print a preview of the recipe for “Bunker Blast Barbecue Sauce,” which triumphed in the contest, in a future issue of this newsletter.

The event was educational and very entertaining—and talk about a theme for a party!

If you’re interested in developing your own barbecue sauce, here are Raichlen’s six simple rules for sauce success:

  • GET OFF TO A GOOD START: Many barbecue sauces begin with ketchup—the pit master’s equivalent of a blank canvas. Other pit masters start with a basic commercial barbecue sauce and “doctor” it up. Use only the best and freshest ingredients you can buy. Shop for spices where there’s a lot of turnover, and replace them every six months.
  • LESS IS MORE: Use restraint when adding strong seasonings such as hot sauce, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, etc. Position a container of disposable tasting spoons near the stovetop and taste your sauce often, making incremental adjustments. If you’re not sure an ingredient will be compatible, ladle a small amount of the master mixture into a cup, add a proportional amount of the new ingredient, and taste. That way, you won’t ruin the entire batch.
  • KEEP IT BALANCED: Like wine, the best barbecue sauces have parity between their sweet and acidic elements. Play the sweetness of brown sugar or honey against the tang of vinegar, wine, or lemon juice. Pair the fruitiness of apple cider or marmalade with the pungency of garlic and onion. Use water—yes, plain water—to smooth out the flavors.
  • THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX: Some of the best barbecue sauces I’ve tasted contained something completely wacky or unexpected, like coffee, grape jelly, soft drinks, and in one case, cough syrup! An oddball ingredient will give your sauce personality.
  • LET THE FLAVORS DEVELOP SLOWLY: Use a heavy pot over low to medium heat. (Sauces with sugar can burn easily.) A pancake turner or spatula used like a spoon maximizes contact with the bottom and sides of a pot, and works well with viscous, easily scorched ingredients. Most barbecue sauces improve with age. Try to give your sauce two or three days, or even a week in the refrigerator, tightly covered.
  • KNOW WHEN TO APPLY THE SAUCE: Generally, barbecue sauces should be applied the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking so the sugars don’t burn. Alternatively, they can be served (warmed or at room temperature, please) on the side.

For more information on making barbecue sauce, see Steven’s Barbecue Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades

As I mentioned earlier, homemade barbecue sauces make unique and appreciated gifts for friends and family. I asked my assistant, Nancy, to suggest some creative packaging ideas which you’ll find below the recipes. (I figured she’d be better in that department than me.)

Use the guidelines above, and you could be the next Barbecue Sauce Mogul. If you prefer to start with a tried and true recipe, my gifts to you this holiday season are two previously unpublished recipes for barbecue sauces from my new book, Raichlen on RIBS! (Workman Publishing).

RUMBULLION BARBECUE SAUCE

Source: Raichlen on Ribs by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2006)
Yield: About 2 cups

1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup ketchup

Place the rum, soy sauce, honey, sugar, lime juice, orange juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a heavy nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the ketchup and 2 to 3 tablespoons water and gently simmer the sauce until thick and flavorful, 6 to 10 minutes. Correct seasoning, adding more soy sauce if salt is desired, more brown sugar if sweetness is desired, more lime juice if tartness is desired, and more rum if you agree with Mark Twain’s claim that “too much” liquor is “just enough.”

Let the sauce cool to room temperature for serving. It can be refrigerated, covered, for several days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

SWEET AND SERIOUSLY HOT BARBECUE SAUCE

Inspired by Diana Fick of “The Princesses of Barbecue” team.
Source: Raichlen on Ribs (Workman Publishing, 2006)
Yield: About 2-1/2 cups

1-1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Jack Daniels or your favorite Tennessee whiskey
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pickled jalapeño pepper juice, or more to taste
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt

Place the ketchup, Jack Daniels, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, water, pepper juice, brown sugar, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, and celery salt in a saucepan and whisk to mix. Place the pan over medium heat and gently simmer until thick and richly flavored, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.

PACKAGING IDEAS

  • Collect cool-looking canning jars. Two good sources are Kitchen Conservatory, which stocks old-fashioned Ball canning jars, and Weck Canning, which sells European jars with clamped lids and rubber gaskets. If using Kerr canning lids, dress them up with circles of fabric or medium-weight art paper; cut circles 2 inches larger than the diameter of the jar lid, shape, and secure around the collar with jute twine, butcher’s string, ribbon, or copper or brass wire. Label the jars—and don’t forget to advise refrigeration. (Manila tags from office supply stores are large enough to write on and/or decorate.) Or design your own label and print it on a peel-off mailing label.
  • Suitable containers for your gift includes sturdy boxes, wine totes, plain handled gift bags decorated to order and stuffed with tissue paper, tin pails or lunch boxes, baskets, wooden boxes, pottery mixing bowls filled with excelsior, even an empty six-pack carton, spray painted and lined with tissue (tie a basting brush to the handle with ribbon or raffia). Tie a bandana, hobo-style, around a pint jar and affix it to a long-handled basting brush.
  • Combine your sauces with compatible gifts such as basting brushes, skewers, homemade or purchased barbecue rubs or brines, cookbooks, an instant-read thermometer, tongs, a rib rack, apron, insulated barbecue gloves, etc.

TOOLS AND FUELS

Many of you have written in requesting suggestions for barbecue “stocking stuffers.” We checked in with Jeff Wallace, who runs the Barbecue Store for us. Here’s what he recommends:

Extra Long Suede Glove Set: Use these extra-long gloves as Christmas stockings! They’re a full 18 inches long, and will protect your hands and arm from heat all the way up to the elbow. You’ll want to keep an extra pair by the fireplace.

Instant Read Meat Thermometer: Professional pit masters leave nothing to chance. They rely on meat thermometers when grilling or barbecuing. An oversized dial makes this thermometer easy to read.

Insulated Food Gloves: If you’ve ever “pulled” a pile of hot pork with your bare hands or tried to ease a barbecued chicken off a beer can, you’ll appreciate how useful these heavy-duty rubber gloves can be.

All of us at www.barbecuebible.com wish you happy holidays and a healthy, smokin’ 2006.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Brining for Thanksgiving

UP IN SMOKE
BRINING FOR THANKSGIVING
Welcome to the Thanksgiving issue of Up in Smoke. This time of year, I bet your thoughts are on turkey. To judge from the emails I have received and your postings on the Barbecue Board, Thanksgiving is an anxious time for grill jockeys. After all, it’s the one American holiday that’s all about food. Most of us can forgive a soggy stuffing or lumpy mashed potatoes. But serve a dry, tough, or overdone turkey, and your reputation is, excuse the expression, cooked.

It’s probably not even your fault. Turkey is a difficult bird to roast properly because of the way it’s built. By the time the internal temperature in the thigh reaches the recommended 180 degrees, or the embedded plastic “pop up” deploys, the delicate white meat of the breast is overcooked. To make matters worse, while you let the bird rest and make the gravy, the internal temperature of the meat continues to rise, finally stalling out at the “sawdust” mark on an instant-read thermometer.

There’s a simple solution to the problem—a two-part strategy that involves a little science and a little art. You brine the bird—I promised last month I’d tell you how to do this—then you smoke-roast it on the grill. If you want to bring what could be the best turkey of your life to the table this year, read on.

Scientifically, brining is a complicated process involving diffusion, osmosis, and a restructuring of the turkey proteins.

Practically speaking, it’s a slam-dunk simple way to improve the taste, texture, and juiciness of many foods—especially grill-worthy foods such as turkey and other poultry, leaner cuts of pork, and seafood such as shrimp and salmon.

In its simplest form, brine is nothing more than a saline solution (a mixture of salt and water). Often, other ingredients are added, like sugar, which promotes caramelization, and/or spices and herbs to enhance flavor.

Thanks to a process called osmosis (remember your high school chemistry?), unequal concentrations of liquids and solubles try to achieve equilibrium when a semipermeable membrane separates them. In other words, when you place a turkey in brine, the salt water flows into the meat until equilibrium is established. What this means from a taste perspective is that brined turkey meat will be noticeably more moist and flavorful than unbrined turkey.

My basic formula for brine is 1/4 cup Morton-brand kosher salt and 1/4 cup sugar to 1 quart water. (If using Diamond Crystal-brand kosher salt, increase to 1/2 cup per quart as the two salts measure differently.) Select a container large enough to hold the food for brining. To determine how much brine you’ll need, place the food in it and add enough water to completely cover the food by 3 inches. Pour out and measure the water. Then add salt, sugar, herbs, and spices as desired. Be sure to whisk until all the salt and sugar crystals are dissolved.

Brine small pieces of food, like shrimp, for 1 hour; medium-size pieces of food, like chicken breasts and pork chops for 2 to 4 hours; and larger pieces of foods, like bone-in turkey breasts and whole turkeys, for 12 to 24 hours.

Here are some other useful brining tips:

  • We recommend using kosher salt, but if you do use table salt, make sure it’s non-iodized and use only half as much as kosher. Otherwise, do not cut down on the amount of salt used in the brine. It is critical to the osmosis and diffusion. If you or people at your table are salt-sensitive, skip brining altogether.
  • The turkey and other foods should be fully defrosted before brining. Do so in the refrigerator.
  • Only brine foods that have not been commercially injected or enhanced with flavorings. Otherwise, they may become too salty. This includes Butterball-style turkeys, which are injected with salted chicken stock, and kosher turkeys, which have already been brined to draw out the blood and impurities.
  • Use cold water or a mixture of water and ice when making the brine, and promptly refrigerate the turkey. Bacteria love temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees.
  • Keep foods submerged in the brine by weighting them with a heavy pot lid or a zip-top type plastic bag filled with cold water.
  • Good containers for brining include large bowls and nonreactive stockpots, resealable zip-top type plastic bags, coolers, clean plastic buckets (line with a turkey roasting bag), and food grade containers, such as Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Cambro from restaurant supply stores. Do not use plastic garbage bags. They are not food-safe, and some have been pretreated with
    insecticides.
  • Make sure your container fits in your refrigerator. If using a cooler, replenish the ice or ice packs often.
  • Dry spice rubs often contain a lot of salt. Use them sparingly, if at all, on brined foods. Do not combine brining with injecting, or the meat could become mushy or overseasoned.
  • The extra moisture the turkey skin picks up from the brine can prevent it from crisping when it’s cooked. But there’s a simple remedy: Drain the bird, pat it with paper towels, and set it on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered, for several hours or overnight to dry the skin. (Nancy, Steven’s assistant, has been known to take a blow-dryer to her turkey to hasten the drying process.)

Those are the basics. If you have other questions about your holiday board, post them on the Barbecue Board, and our knowledgeable moderators (something else to give thanks for this year!) and the rest of the barbecue community there will bend over backwards to help you. We’ve got a thread just for Turkey Day!

There are several advantages to smoke-roasting your bird. The brine keeps the bird moist and flavorful, while the moderate heat of the grill cooks the turkey through without drying it out. The wood smoke adds a haunting flavor reminiscent of what the Thanksgiving-sponsoring Pilgrims and Indians must’ve enjoyed at the first Thanksgiving. Grilling the bird outdoors liberates your oven for the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. Last, but certainly not least, you get a signed excuse to spend the afternoon outdoors, beer or other drink in hand, bonding with people you like.

For best results, start with a fresh, not frozen turkey. Make sure the bird fits under the cover of your grill. Weber kettle owners can use the collar of their rotisserie units to raise the ceiling, if need be. Line up a container big enough to hold the brine and turkey, and have plenty of ice, charcoal, and wood chips at the ready. Gas grill owners should also have a spare tank of propane on hand. That’s all there is to it.

THE PERFECT THANKSGIVING TURKEY

And now the recipe, adapted from “The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey” recipe in BBQ USA This one is even easier if you opt to use one of my Best of Barbecue Brining Kits (There are four flavor combinations—American, Asian, Caribbean, and Mediterranean—choose the one that best fits your Thanksgiving.) Of course, you can always make your brine from scratch, following the recipe on page 411 in BBQ USA.

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 12 to 14
Advance preparation: 16 hours for brining and air-drying the turkey

1 turkey (10 to 12 pounds), thawed if frozen
2 Best of Barbecue American Brining Kits or brine recipe of your choice
1 cup maple syrup
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Maple Redeye Gravy (recipe follows)

You’ll also need:
3 cups hickory wood chips or chunks (such as Best of Barbecue Poultry Blend) soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained.

Remove the giblets from the neck or body cavity of the turkey and set aside for another use. Remove and discard any excess fat in the cavities. Rinse the turkey, inside and out, under cold running water.

Pour 2 gallons (8 quarts) of ice water into a large nonreactive container and add four packets of brine mix. Stir to dissolve. Add maple syrup and stir. Add the turkey. It should be completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the brine, knock off any whole spices, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Discard brine. Place the turkey on a cooling grate over a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate it, uncovered, for several hours to air-dry the skin. (It will crisp better on the grill if you take the time and trouble to do this.) Cover the wings with aluminum foil.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325 to 350 degrees). If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center, preheat the grill to medium, then toss 1 cup of the wood chips or chunks on the coals. (Tip for charcoal grillers: When adding fresh coals directly from a chimney starter, protect your bird from flying ash by shielding
it with a rimless baking sheet.)

Place the turkey, breast side up, in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Brush the turkey with some of the butter and cover the grill. Grill the turkey, basting with butter every hour, until cooked through, 2-1/2 to 3 hours. If using a charcoal grill, add fresh coals and wood chips as needed. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh (don’t touch the bone with the tip); the internal temperature should be about 165 degrees. If the wing tips or skin starts to brown too much or too quickly, cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Use heatproof food gloves to lift the bird off the grill (such as the Best of Barbecue Insulated Food Gloves).

Let the turkey rest at least 15 minutes before carving. Serve with Maple Redeye Gravy.

Maple Redeye Gravy

4 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup Madeira
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 to 4 cups turkey or chicken stock (preferably homemade)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook until it’s golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Watch it carefully; start over if it begins to burn.

Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the Madeira, coffee, cream, maple syrup, and the turkey stock. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking steadily. Reduce heat to medium and let the sauce simmer until richly flavored and reduced to about 3 cups, 6 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Use grill mitts or a grate grabber to lift the grate off the grill. Carefully lift out the drip pan; contents will be very hot.

TOOLS AND FUELS

Now that we’ve gone off Daylight Savings Time, night comes on fast. And you can’t achieve grilling greatness if you can’t see what you’re cooking. Enter the Best of Barbecue Grill Headlight complete with two halogen bulbs in a clip-on base. Be forewarned: Any oncoming traffic will want to be fed.

Every year at this time, a great debate erupts: what’s the best wine to serve with turkey, red or white? (Ever the diplomat, I’m serving both this year—a German Riesling and an Australian Shiraz.) If you love wine, you might want to consider a cool new fuel for smoking: our Wine Barrel Stave Bundles Cut from old red wine barrels, they give you smoke scented with oak and wine.

STUFFED ACORN SQUASH WITH MADEIRA AND MAPLE SYRUP GLAZE

Finally, one of our favorite Thanksgiving side dishes is acorn squash grilled with cornbread stuffing and glazed with maple syrup. Nancy has made a killer variation to my Madeira Grilled Acorn Squash that can be found on page 622 of BBQ USA. For roasting it on the grill, you can’t beat our Best of Barbecue Grill Rings. They come in sets of three and are designed to help you grill whole onions, Jack-Be-Little pumpkins, heads of radicchio, and even apples without tipping.

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 6

6 small or 3 large acorn squash
4 tablespoons salted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for dotting the tops of the squash
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup Madeira
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups of your favorite cornbread stuffing, prepared

You’ll also need:
6 Best of Barbecue Grill Rings or 2-1/2 inch rings made from crumpled aluminum foil.

If using small squash, cut the top third off each. If using large ones, cut in half through the stem end. Scrape out and discard the seeds and strings with a metal spoon.

Melt butter in a nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the maple syrup, Madeira, and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Boil until syrupy, 3 to 6 minutes.
Position the squash, cut sides up, on the grill rings. Brush the maple syrup glaze over the yellow-orange flesh. Mound 2/3 cup stuffing in each squash and top with a thin slice of butter.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Set the grill rings in the center of the grate, and and put the squash on them. Cover the grill and cook until the squash is tender and the stuffing is golden brown, 40 to 60 minutes. When done, the sides of the squash will feel soft when squeezed. Remove from the grill rings, transfer to a plate or platter and serve at once.

MAIL BAG

“What do you really think about brining?” write Tamara Krievins and Bob Peaston from Toronto, Canada. “We have the impression that it enhances the quality of certain food (chicken, pork) . . . but, what to do about the rubs? Should rubs be applied after brining? Should we eliminate the salt and sugar from the rubs? And when are you coming to Toronto??”

This newsletter should make clear my position on brining. I rarely use rubs with brines—it’s overkill. The flavor of the brine is compelling enough. BTW, I love Toronto and will get back as soon as I can. Keep an eye on the “Steven’s Event Schedule” page on the web site.

“Do you think that I can BBQ a turkey using the beer can recipe if I use a really big can of beer?” writes Lori Torres from Orange County, CA.

You sure can, Lori. You’ll need a large (30 ounce) can of Foster’s lager and a 10 to 12 pound turkey. The full recipe can be found on page 169 in the Beer Can Chicken Book.

“Your books are fantastic!” writes Leslie Gordon. “My family loves Beer Can Chicken and we’re hoping to make Beer Can Turkey for Thanksgiving. What kind of can will support a 22-25 pound bird?”

Thanks, Leslie. I’ve never beer canned a 25 pound bird. I’d do two 12 pound birds on Foster’s Ale cans. But maybe someone out there knows of a larger can—why not post a query on the Barbecue Board and find out.

“I am smoking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner following the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey recipe in BBQ USA.” Writes Michael Free from Candor, North Carolina. “The only difference is that I want to smoke two bone-in turkey breasts instead of the one whole turkey. Although the total weight may be the same, is there anything different I should do when brining or smoking these two breasts?”

Good choice, Michael. That’s how we’re doing our bird this year. I’d brine the breasts for 12 to 16 hours. Cooking time will be 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours.

Happy T-Day to all.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Smoking Low and Slow Meals

UP IN SMOKE
SMOKING LOW AND SLOW MEALS
Sorry for the delay since the last newsletter, folks. Steven has been incredibly busy this summer and into the fall. He has completed a 15-city book tour and finished the next book, tentatively entitled Raichlen on RIBS!

–due out next spring. He has also taught two more sessions of Barbecue University at the Greenbrier, taped Season 4 of the Barbecue University TV show (launching next April on Public Television) and designed 25 new products for the Best of Barbecue grilling accessory line.

Before I turn this month’s newsletter over to Steven, let me respond to those of you who have written or emailed to inquire about next year’s Barbecue University schedule. Dates have now been finalized. But if you or someone you know is interested in attending Barbecue University in 2006, please act quickly: Sessions I and II are already sold out and wait-listed, though there are still openings in Session III (August 31 – September 3) and Session IV (September 10 – 13.) For more information, visit the BBQ U page on our site, call 1-800-228-5049, or email cookingschool@greenbrier.com

And now, back to you Steven!

-Amy Lewis, a.k.a. Info@Workman

NEWS AND VIEWS

In the last issue, we covered “speed” grilling, as it were – how to make the best use of your grill if you have a big hunger for flavor, but precious little time for cooking.

In this issue, I want to cover the very opposite – the long, slow, low-heat cooking technique required to make authentic barbecue: smoking.

Smoking. The very word sparks visions of fragrant clouds of hickory or apple wood smoke. Of big rigs and offset barrel smokers, parked in your driveway or in your backyard, tantalizing the neighbors and making them envious. Of pork shoulders as dark as anthracite but tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. (Hey, that’s why they call it “pulled” pork.) Of glistening, smoke-infused briskets and spare ribs so good they make you want to cry.

If barbecue is a religion, smoking is one of its most sacred rites: to master all its fine points would be the work of a lifetime. So here’s a quick overview to get you started.

First, what smoking is not: It’s not direct grilling, in which food is cooked directly over the fire. Smoking is always indirect – the food cooks next to, not over, the fire.

Smoking is not indirect grilling, although the two are closely related. Indirect grilling is done at a moderate to medium-high heat (325 to 400 degrees). Smoking is done at a low heat (225 to 275 degrees-ideally between 225 and 250 degrees).

Smoking is not something you generally do on a gas grill (although there are gas-fired smokers). You can do it on a charcoal grill (set up the grill for indirect grilling, but use only half as much charcoal). But it’s really best done in a smoker – a device specifically designed to cook low and slow.

There are four basic types of smokers on the market.

The upright water smoker (which resembles the Star Wars’ robot, R2D2), typified by the Weber Smoky Mountain (affectionately nicknamed “the bullet”). The charcoal goes in the bottom; water in a water bowl in the middle; the food on the cooking grate under a lid with vents to keep in the smoke. A new upright that looks really cool to me is the Big Drum Smoker

The offset barrel smoker (typified by the Horizon Classic). This smoker features a horizontal barrel (or box) that serves as the actual smoke chamber and a smaller firebox set at a lower level and welded to one side of the smoke chamber. This design keeps the direct heat away from the meat, so the pork, poultry, beef, or fish cook low and slow, bathed in clouds of wood smoke. Look for the heaviest possible metal construction, so the smoker maintains its heat-even in cold weather.

The electric smoker (typified by Cookshack). It looks like a miniature refrigerator with an electric heating element to do the cooking and hardwood pellets to supply the smoke.

The big rig-the sort of smoker towed behind your 4×4 to barbecue competitions. If you own one, you likely know how to use it, and if you’re in the market for one, a good source of information, including where to purchase them, is the National Barbecue News

Getting started:

Once you’ve got your smoker, fire it up following the manufacturer’s instructions. Put the seasoned meat in the smoke chamber and the wood chips or chunks on the coals. Remember to keep the cooking temperature low: 225 to 250 degrees. Use the vents on the firebox door and the chimney or lid to control the temperature. (Open wide to increase the heat; more or less partially closed to lower the heat.) Replenish the coals and wood chips or chunks every hour. It’s that simple.

A few other tips:

  • Soak the wood chips or chunks in enough water to cover them for 1 hour before adding them to the fire. This makes the chips smolder rather than burn, maximizing the smoke output.
  • Avoid over-smoking: I generally apply smoke the first half of the cooking time and cook without smoke the second half. With larger cuts of meat, like briskets and spare ribs, I like to wrap them in foil the second half of the cooking time.
  • Mop the meat with a mop sauce to keep it moist. Foods can get dried out during the 4 to 12 hours you smoke them. An effective way to keep the foods moist is to apply a mop sauce every hour after the first hour. Unlike barbecue sauces, mop sauces tend to be runny and not at all sweet (see recipe below). So why are they called “mop sauces?” You swab them on with a barbecue mop. In the old days, legend has it that pit masters used cotton floor mops (clean, presumably) to keep huge hunks of ‘cue moist.
  • I don’t normally smoke chicken (especially beer can chicken) or small turkeys, preferring instead to cook them at a higher temperature using indirect grilling. The reason is simple: the skin crisps at a higher temperature, but becomes leathery at a lower temperature. Smoking large turkeys is a great way to keep them from drying out.
  • Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the cooking progress and doneness. Smoked meats are always cooked to well-done at 190 degrees. The key to tenderness is to achieve this temperature slowly.
  • Remember the adage: patience is a virtue. It takes 4 to 5 hours to smoke ribs, 8 to 10 hours to smoke pork shoulders, and 12 to 16 hours to bring full-size briskets to tender, smoky perfection.

TOOLS AND FUELS

While we’re on the subject of smoking, let me tell you about my favorite woods. I used to use a single variety of wood for smoking – oak for beef, for example, or hickory for pork. Then I started hanging around the competition teams at Memphis in May and the Kansas City Royal, and I quickly observed that many of the big winners use blends of woods – maybe hickory for the first hour, then apple or cherry after that.

That’s the inspiration behind my Best of Barbecue Smoking Woods. Each blend is designed for a different kind of meat. The Beef Blend leans to the robust flavors of mesquite and oak, for example, while the Pork Blend favors hickory and apple. The Poultry Blend combines fruitwoods and maple, while the Seafood and Vegetable Blend contains cherry and alder.

Don’t forget the resource that is your own backyard. Check out the information on the Barbecue Board about wood you may find locally that works great for smoking (as well as which trees to steer clear of!)

Some other useful tools:
Barbecue mop and mop bucket: For mopping those slow smoked briskets and ribs. The head detaches for easy cleaning (my wife Barbara’s idea), and the real galvanized steel bucket (with a food safe plastic liner) continues the mop metaphor. Use with the mop sauce below.

Instant-read meat thermometer: Helps you identify exactly when your smoked meats are cooked. Take smoked turkeys and chickens to 170 degrees. Smoke briskets, pork shoulders, and ribs to 190 degrees. And remember, insert the metal probe deep into the meat, but not touching a bone. (The bone conducts heat and will give you a false reading.)

RECIPES

So now that you’re a smoke master, here’s a recipe from my forthcoming rib book to try out.

LONE STAR BEEF RIBS

Serves 6 to 8

For the Lone Star Rub:

2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 tablespoons pure chili powder
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Coffee Beer Mop Sauce (recipe follows)

2 racks beef long ribs (5 to 6 pounds)

You’ll also need: 3 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably Best of Barbecue Beef Blend), soaked in water to cover for 1 hour, then drained; Best of Barbecue Mop or a basting brush; Best of Barbecue Rib Rack (optional)

Make the rub. Place the salt, chili powder, peppercorns, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne in a small bowl and mix with your fingers, breaking up any lumps in the garlic powder. Set aside 2 tablespoons rub for the mop sauce.

Prepare the ribs. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of the ribs: Turn a rack meat side down. Insert a sharp implement, such as the tip of a meat thermometer, under the membrane (the best place to start is right next to the first rib bone). Using a dishcloth, paper towel, or pair of pliers to gain a secure grip, pull off the membrane.

Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Season both sides with about 1 tablespoon rub per side, rubbing it into the meat. Cover the ribs and refrigerate while you set up your smoker.

Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 225 to 250 degrees. Place the ribs in the smoker and toss 1 cup soaked, drained wood chips on the coals. Note: if smoking on a charcoal kettle-style grill, set up for indirect grilling, using half as much charcoal as normal. Arrange the ribs on the grate over the drip pan away from the heat. If space is tight, stand the ribs upright in a rib rack.

Cook the ribs until dark brown and very tender, 4 to 5 hours. When the ribs are cooked, they’ll be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers and the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch. After 1 hour, start mopping the ribs with mop sauce and mop ever hour. Replenish the coals and wood chips every hour. However, after 3 hours, it will not be necessary to add more wood chips.

Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board and let rest for 3 minutes. Cut the rack in half or into individual ribs. Serve with the barbecue sauce of your choice. (Hate to be too much a booster for the home team, but our Best of Barbecue Chipotle Molasses Barbecue Sauce would be great.)

COFFEE BEER MOP SAUCE

Good for mopping any sort of smoked meat.

Makes 2 cups.

1 bottle Lone Star beer or other lager-style beer
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup brewed coffee
2 tablespoons Lone Star Rub (from above)

Place the beer, vinegar, coffee and 2 tablespoons Lone Star Rub in a nonreactive bowl and whisk to mix.

MAIL BAG

“One of your three tenets of barbecue is to keep the grill grate lubricated (well oiled),” writes Wade Spenader from San Jose, California. “But the literature from my new Weber grill says to lube the food, not the grill. Who’s right?”

We both are, Wade. Many grill jockeys like to brush or spray the food with oil right before it goes on the grate. (Among them, Bobby Flay and Bill Counts, the pit master at the Tadich Grill in San Francisco-you can read more on the latter on page 483 in BBQ USA.) I do this for foods that are particularly prone to stick to the grate, like fish.

But I also recommend brushing and oiling the hot grate itself-no matter what you’re grilling. The oil helps prevent sticking and it gives you better grill marks. So, all together now, repeat after me:

Keep it hot. Keep it clean. Keep it lubricated.

MAIL BAG

“Hi Steven,” writes Larry Greenly from Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Love your cookbooks.” Thanks, Larry.
“There’s an argument raging on the Food Lover’s Discussion Group about gas vs. charcoal grilling, which centers around whether the water given off when methane or propane is burned tends to ‘steam’ the underside of the meat (if you briefly hold a plate over a gas flame, you will see water condense at the rate of approx. 1.5 quarts per hour with a 40,000 BTU grill) unlike charcoal that has no water driven off. One side says gas is, in effect, ‘cooler’ than charcoal. What are your thoughts on the subject?”

I do agree that charcoal produces a dryer, hotter heat, and consequently better searing, but it takes a bit more work to cook on a charcoal grill than gas. So unless you master heat control when using live coals, you can quickly lose the charcoal advantage. Of course, when it comes to smoking, charcoal makes it a lot easier.

The new generation of gas “supergrills” like the Weber Summit, Viking, and Barbeques Galore Grand Turbo do get hot enough to sear steaks and chops the way we like them.

Bottom line: get both.

That’s all for now, folks.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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Some Raichlen Family Quickies

UP IN SMOKE
SOME RAICHLEN FAMILY QUICKIES

It’s been a busy summer, and I’ve been on tour for most of it. The bad news is too many airports (Try clearing security with a set of 20 inch tongs and the ultimate grill brush!) The good news is, I’ve had a chance to meet many of you in person at my various grilling demonstrations and book signings. It’s always a pleasure to put a face with the name of someone you read on the Barbecue Board. And if you haven’t yet been on the board, it’s a great way to get answers to your grilling questions and meet some of the other members of our barbecue community.

NEWS AND VIEWS

This month’s lead story was inspired by our own web mistress, Amy Lewis, better known to you as Info@Workman. “How about some recommendations for the working person who needs to cook and eat in a hurry?” asks Amy. We suspect Amy has an ulterior motive here–not only is she a working person, recently back on the job full-time–she’s also a new mom.

Well, take heart Amy, because grilling, by its very nature, is quick and easy (or “fast and furious” as you write in your email). Mrs. R. and I have grilled lots of meals this summer that took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Here’s some general advice.

1. Cook the whole meal on the grill. This can be as simple as a piece of grilled tuna or swordfish accompanied by grilled garlic bread as an appetizer, grilled corn as a side dish (using the same garlic parsley oil or butter for basting) and melted butter-brushed, cinnamon sugar-dipped peach halves for dessert. (For the recipes, see below.) This keeps the cooking in one place and outdoors, so you minimize your prep time and clean-up. It also keeps you focused, which is the best way to cook quickly and efficiently.

2. Use rubs for seasoning. The basic barbecue rub is equal parts salt, pepper, paprika, and brown sugar. The basic seasoned salt is 2 parts salt and one part each black pepper, oregano, thyme, and garlic powder or flakes. What we do at home is make up double batches of rubs or marinades, so we always have some on hand for impromptu grill sessions (Barbecue Bible Rubs, Sauces, and Marinades is a great source for recipes). And, of course, now you can buy our Best of Barbecue Rubs (All Purpose Barbecue, Java Rub, Island Spice, and Mediterranean Herb) ready-made. Simply sprinkle some on both sides of that chicken breast, pork chop, or salmon steak, and you’ll have electrifying flavors in minutes.

3. Indirect grill. Beer Can Chicken, from my book Beer Can Chicken, takes about 5 minutes to assemble, and you can assemble it while you’re preheating your grill. True, the cooking time is 1-1/4 hours, but once you have your grill lit and chicken on, there’s virtually nothing to do until it’s done. Ditto for Planked Salmon, which only needs 30 or 40 minutes. Use the waiting time to set the table, open the mail, pay bills, or play with your children. (Or conduct some quality control tests on a bottle of wine or beer.)

4. Grill ahead for tomorrow. While you’re direct grilling your New York strip or tuna steak today, also throw on a couple of bell peppers, green or sweet onions, mushrooms, eggplant slices, or even tofu. They’ll keep for several days in the refrigerator and are great served at room temperature as salads (Simply drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar).

5. Keep it simple. Grilling, by its very nature, adds character and flavor to food–especially when you grill over charcoal or hardwood. You don’t need a lot of elaborate sauces or condiments. Often, I use nothing more than a sprinkle of salt (a good coarse sea salt), some freshly-ground black pepper, and maybe a drizzle of olive oil. Regardless of what you put on, whenever you grill, you feast like a king.

Do you have any tips for keeping it quick, simple, and flavorful on the grill? Let us know on the Barbecue Board. Remember, web mistress Amy is counting on you.

GRILLS, GEAR, AND FUELS

Thanks to all of you who visited our newly designed Barbecue Store last month. Your enthusiasm made June our best month ever. You may be curious to know what our top sellers are. Allow me to introduce another member of the Barbecuebible.com team, Jeff Wallace, who runs the Barbecue Store. According to Jeff, our # 1 seller was the Best of Barbecue University DVD, followed by the Ultimate Tongs, the 30 Inch Ultimate Grill Brush (the bad boy I use on the BBQ U TV show), the All-Purpose Barbecue Rub, and the Marinade Turbo Charger.

The Turbo Charger is a cool tool, consisting of a row of slender stainless steel needles mounted in a plunger handle. You use it to make rows of tiny holes in briskets, tri-tips, pork shoulders, and other roasts to speed up the absorption of the rub or marinade. Please note: this is not a meat tenderizer. (I like to let the low, slow heat of true barbecuing do that.) It’s designed to channel the seasonings inside the meat.

Two other hot sellers are the Java Rub and Wine Barrel Staves–thanks to my grill buddy, Howard Stern. Java rub is a bold flavored coffee and cocoa-based barbecue rub, while the wine barrel staves are a grilling and smoking fuel made from aged California red wine barrels. Howard uses them to make Beer Can Chicken.

Do you have any favorite recipes using Java rub? Post them on the Barbecue Board and we’ll send the creator of the best sounding recipe a free can of rub. (Just be sure to post your recipe by September 1, 2005.)

TIPS AND TECHNIQUES

“I don’t own a gas grill (and damn proud of it, too),” writes Victor Campos of Northport, NY. (Come on, Victor, don’t be a snob–you can do some pretty awesome grilling on gas grills, too.) “I do own three 22 1/2 inch Weber kettles. Sometimes, when I try to make a tall beer can chicken or turkey, the lid fits too low in relation to the height of the grate. One day I purchased Weber’s rotisserie ring and a new world of possibilities emerged.”

The rotisserie ring, for those of you not familiar with it, is a sort of metal collar that sits atop the bottom bowl of a kettle grill, raising its height by 6 or so inches. Holes in the side accommodate a rotisserie spit and motor.

What’s interesting here is that Victor uses the ring (without the rotisserie attachments) to raise the height of the lid to accommodate tall beer can birds and other large roasts. One fringe benefit is that the ring keeps the metal lid high above the food, allowing for better smoke and heat circulation and more even cooking. Find out more about the Weber 2290 22-1/2-Inch Charcoal Kettle Rotisserie.

RECIPES
Some Raichlen family quickies.

All serve 4.

Grilled Corn

1) Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

2) Strip back the husks of 4 ears of corn, leaving them attached to the bottom, tying them at the bottom to form a handle, as pictured on page 362 in How to Grill.

3) Place about 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl and add 2 to 3 cloves minced garlic and 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or flatleaf parsley (This makes enough oil for both the corn and the garlic bread below.)

4) Brush and oil the grill grate. Lay the corn on the grate (with an aluminum foil shield beneath the husks to keep them from burning). Lightly brush each ear with garlic oil and season generously with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

5) Grill the corn until golden brown on all sides, 8 to 12 minutes in all, turning as needed, brushing with additional garlic oil ( You can certainly substitute garlic parsley butter for the corn.) Note: The Best of Barbecue Basting Brush, with its extra wide head and all natural bristles, works great for basting.

Grilled Garlic Bread

1) Using a serrated knife, cut a loaf of French bread sharply on the diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices. Lightly brush each slice of bread on both sides with the garlic parsley oil.

2) Brush and oil the grill grate. Grill the bread until darkly toasted on both sides, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t take your eyes off the grill—the difference between grilled garlic bread and burnt garlic bread is a matter of seconds.

Grilled Swordfish

1) Rub 1-1/2 pounds thick swordfish steaks on both sides with extra virgin olive oil and season very generously on both sides with your favorite herb rub (I, of course, am partial to our Best of Barbecue Mediterranean Herb Rub, but any herb blend, like French herbes de provence, will do.)

2) Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over both sides, patting it and the herb rub into the fish with a fork. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate.

3) Arrange the steaks on the grate and grill until darkly browned on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side, turning with tongs. Rotate each steak a quarter turn after 2 minutes to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks (For really pronounced grill marks, grill the fish on our Best of Barbecue Tuscan Grill).

4) Transfer the swordfish to a platter or plates and drizzle with more olive oil, another squeeze of lemon juice, and a spoonful of drained capers or chopped olives.

Grilled Peaches

1) Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Cut 4 ripe peaches in half and remove the stone. Cut 1/4 inch off the founded bottom of each peach half.

2) Brush each peach half on all sides with melted butter, then dredge in a bowl of cinnamon sugar (I like to do the brushing and dredging at grill side.)

3) Brush and oil the grill grate. Grill the peaches (starting cut side down) until caramelized and golden brown on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Serve the hot peaches over cold vanilla ice cream. I wouldn’t say “no” to a shot of peach schnapps on top.

So if you’ve every wondered what your faithful grill master eats at home on a night off, that’s a pretty typical meal, and the best part about it is you’ll have dinner on the table in 30 minutes or so.

Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen, Grill Master and Editor-in-Chief
Nancy Loseke, Features Editor

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