Newsletter Archive

Planked Fish Techniques


Summer is here, and the living is easy . . .

That’s how the song goes at least, but for many folks, summertime means burnt chickens, tough steaks, and fish that sticks to the grill grate.

You already know how to fix the first problem. (Beer can chicken, anyone?) I’ll address grilling the perfect steak in a future issue. So let’s focus on one of the easiest, most fail proof, delicious, and downright novel ways to grill fish: on a cedar plank.

The procedure is fantastic for at least four reasons. The hot wet cedar perfumes the fish with an amazing wood flavor. Indirect grilling spares you having to turn the delicate fish fillet, which is always a challenge on the grill. And because you’re grilling on a board, you never have to worry about the fish sticking to the grill grate. Best of all the novel presentation has maximum wow power: eyes truly pop and jaws drop when you present your beautiful fish.

You may be familiar with two planked salmon recipes already: the mustard and brown sugar planked salmon in my Beer-Can Chicken book (pages 223-224) and the lemon dill glazed planked salmon in BBQ USA (pages 456-457). (Or if you tuned into the “Today Show” on July 5th, you may have watched me demonstrate planked salmon.)

But that’s just a start. Check the recipe section below for three more planked seafood ideas.

So where do you get those cedar grilling planks? Check out the “Gear” section in our new BBQ Store!


And the news is . . . charcoal is back. Recent interviews with executives from the Chlorox Company (makers of Kingsford Charcoal) and the Weber Stephens and Viking grill companies have confirmed what I’ve been observing as I travel across the U.S. with the Barbecue Bus: More and more Americans are rediscovering the primal pleasure of grilling over charcoal.

Charcoal grills have at least three advantages over gas grills:

  • they burn hotter
  • they work better for smoking
  • food cooked on a charcoal grill has a fantastic flavor

Besides, it’s just plain fun to build and play with fire. So even if you’re a diehard gas griller or you own a $5000 gas supergrill, I recommend investing in an inexpensive charcoal grill for smoking.


So what kind of charcoal grill should you get?

Well, it’s hard to beat the foolproof simplicity of the basic kettle grill. The ash catcher, side baskets, and built in thermometer of the Weber One Touch Grill make it the perfect charcoal grill for beginners. Whichever charcoal grill you purchase, just make sure there’s enough room under the lid for a beer can chicken. (In terms of kettle grills, you need one that’s at least 22-1/2 inches across.)

If I could only use one grill for the rest of my life, it would be the Weber Performer, a 22-1/2 inch kettle grill with a propane ignition system set in a stainless steel cart. Light your charcoal with the push of a button (and without petroleum based lighter fluid). The metal cart gives you plenty of work space–always in short supply when grilling.

When it comes to the ultimate charcoal grilling experience, it’s hard to beat the Weber Ranch Grill. Described as a kettle grill on steroids, the Ranch measures 36 inches across (1004 square inches of cooking surface), with a massive, 1/4 inch thick, nickel-plated grill grate. We carry one of these bad boys on the BBQ Bus and it’s large enough to grill 3 briskets, 6 pork shoulders, 8 beer can chickens, or 100 bratwurst at one time.

What about folks with small balconies or terraces? For those who think small is beautiful (a group that includes most of the grill masters in Japan), there’s no better grill than a hibachi. The best one I’ve seen in a long time is made right here in America by the Lodge Manufacturing Co. The 410 Hibachi Iron Sportsman Grill has an adjustable cast iron grate and a nifty coal chute for adding fresh charcoal. Use it for grilling your dinner, or for keeping the food warm on the table.


Planked salmon originated in the Pacific-Northwest, where an abundance of great salmon and cedar and alder trees made its invention almost inevitable. The singular preparation may have been inspired by the traditional salmon “bakes” of the Northwest Indians, who would roast whole fish on cedar stakes in front of a giant bonfire.

To make planked salmon, you simply lay a salmon fillet on a 6 by 12 inch cedar board that’s been soaked for an hour or so in cold water. (You can also do this on alder or oak planks.) Note: you must use untreated lumber. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high (about 400 degrees). Place the board with the fish on the grill away from the heat and indirect grill until the fish is cooked, 20 to 30 minutes. I’’s that simple.


OK, so you have your cedar plank. You have your grill. And you have your technique. Here are three quick recipes to put it all together.

Planked trout: Place a whole trout on a cedar plank. Place some capers and lemon slices in the cavity. Generously season the fish inside and out with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lay strips on smoky bacon on top of and beneath the fish. Indirect grill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Planked scallops: Arrange a dozen or so giant fresh plump sea scallops on the plank. Generously season on both sides with salt and pepper. Place a dollop of garlic parsley butter on top and squeeze a little lemon juice over each. Indirect grill for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the butter is melted and the scallops are just cooked.

Planked bluefish: When bluefish is fresh, there’s no better fish on the planet. Make a simple glaze with 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/3 cup Dijon mustard, and any chopped herb you fancy. (A few drops of lemon juice don’t hurt either.) Arrange a generously salted and peppered bluefish fillet on the soaked cedar plank and spread the glaze on top. Indirect grill over medium-high heat until the glaze is golden brown and the fish is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. (To test it, insert a metal skewer in the side and leave it in for 15 seconds—the skewer should come out very hot to the touch.)

Do you have a favorite way of grilling on a wood plank. Let us know on the BBQ Board.


This is a long newsletter issue, so we only have space for a few questions. If you have a question, by the way, visit the BBQ Board for an immediate response. We have terrific deputies who can answer most questions and the dialogue on the board is truly stimulating. Finally, when asking a question, please tell us where you’re from.

“First, I love The Barbecue Bible,” writes Alice Hoodenpyle. (Thanks, Alice!) “I am brand new to this style of cooking, so my question is: Do you use a rub & also baste with a sauce? Or do you just marinate or only use a rub?”

Great question, Alice. Rubs and marinades go on before you cook. Bastes go on while you’re grilling. You can certainly use both techniques to create multiple layers of flavor.
By the way, I tend to use rubs with fatty foods, like ribs and briskets, and marinades with leaner foods, like tuna and chicken breasts.

“I got The Barbecue Bible as a wedding present five years ago and have cooked out of it at least once a week ever since,” writes Aaron Dees of Westminster, Colorado. “I wanted to share with you a little idea I had on soaking wood chips for the grill. I am terrible about remembering to soak my chips, so I usually just skip it. One evening I decided to try microwaving the chips. I took a handful of chips and placed them in a microwave safe bowl; I then added enough hot water to cover the chips and nuked ’em for about a minute. When I placed them on my charcoal, they smoked up as though I had soaked them for hours. These turbo-charged chips gave me great wood to smoke with in less than five minutes! Feel free to try it out and share with other grill jockeys.”

Thanks, Aaron. I LOVE this tip. Folks out there–let us know how it works!

That’s all for now folks. (Way more than I intended to write, but once I get started on BBQ, nothing can stop me.)

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

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Japanese Grilling

Spring is in the air and grills are coming out of the garage (in the unlikely event you actually stop grilling during the winter). That means it’s time to crank up the BBQ USA bus and hit the road. You’ll find my latest tour schedule at Steven’s Event Schedule on the home page. Please come out and say hello if you have a chance.

If you can’t make one of the events, then try to catch the new season of BBQ University, coming to a public television station near you soon. All of the information about when and where is in the event schedule link above.

So forgive the brevity of this month’s newsletter, because I have to get packed and on the road again! I hope to see you on my travels.


The big news this month is that my book has just been translated into Japanese! So my family and I boarded a plane for Tokyo, to bring the gospel of American grilling to Japanese television. It was an amazing week filled with new friends, new flavors, new challenges, and above all the realization that everyone–East and West–loves barbecue.

Of course, we did some major barbecue eating on our own and had some pretty remarkable grilling at yakitori parlors and robatayaki restaurants in Japan. Yakitori literally means “grilled chicken.” Yakitori bars tend to be small, casual, boisterous establishments where you can get every part of the bird grilled–wing, breast, leg, skin, gizzard, hearts, even cartilage. The seasonings are pretty simple: coarse sea salt or a basting of a sweet salty soy and mirin based barbecue sauce called tare. You wash it down with plenty of sake or beer and everyone has a grand time.

Robatayaki restaurants specialize in all manner of grilled fare–from asparagus to king crab to kobe beef to whole fish to ginko nuts. Ro means “hearth” and yaki means “grilled.” These restaurants are very theatrical–the cooks and waiters shout out every order and detail of the cooking. Two great addresses for robatayaki or Inakaya in Tokyo and Agatha in Kyoto. Below you’ll find two of my favorite Japanese barbecue recipes.


The Japanese are very particular about their charcoal. The most prized is a hard oak charcoal called bincho. I bought some at a shop in the Ginza area and actually paid $3 a chunk. The stuff burns very hot and very clean–it’s the Rolls Royce of charcoal. We’re looking into finding a source in the U.S., so stay tuned.

Speaking of charcoal, web site visitors John and Mary Hook inquired about lump charcoal versus briquettes–and in particular, does one burn faster than the other. It’s true: natural lump charcoal burns faster than briquettes–how much faster depends on many factors, including the brand, manufacturing process, and wood from which it’s made.

Lighting time in a chimney starter will be about 15 to 20 minutes, but this may be quicker if the lump charcoal is light and dry. Once spread out, you’ll get about 20 to 30 minutes of grilling time–as opposed to the 40 to 60 minutes with charcoal briquettes. By the way, the beauty of lump charcoal is that you can add fresh charcoal to a fire as needed without the acrid smoke associated with briquettes.

So where do you buy lump charcoal? Try your local grill shop or natural foods supermarket. Two good brands are Royal Oak and Natures Own.


A lot of you have been asking about wood and smoking. Wood comes in two forms for smoking: chips and chunks. For a light wood flavor, simply toss unsoaked chips or chunks on the coals (when you’re direct grilling). For a more pronounced smoke flavor, soak the chips or chunks in water (or a mixture of water and beer) for an hour, then drain them before adding them to the fire. The soaking causes the wood to smolder rather than burst into flames, so it generates more smoke.

If you’re cooking on gas, you can get the same effect with a smoking pouch. Just soak your chips as described above, create a pouch of heavy-duty aluminum foil, fold it over the chips and form a pouch. Poke a few holes in the top to let the smoke escape, and place under the grate over one of the burners. Preheat on high until you see the smoke rising, then lower the temperature (if you need to) and proceed with the recipe.

However, let me say, that even the worst charcoal grill generally does a better job of smoking than the best gas grill. If you’re at all serious about smoking–even if you’re a diehard gas griller–invest in an inexpensive charcoal grill for smoking.

By varying the wood, you can subtly vary the flavor of the food. Like the various spices, certain woods are better suited to some meats than others. Heavy woods, such as mesquite and pecan, have a stronger smoke flavor than fruit woods, like apple and cherry. The best all-purpose woods for smoking are hickory, oak, cherry, and apple.

Never attempt to smoke with softwoods, which put out an unpleasant sooty smoke, or pressure-treated lumber, which contains noxious chemicals.

What are your favorite wood/food pairings? Visit the BBQ Board and tell us what you think.


While we were in Japan, we had some terrific grilled vegetables. Here’s how they make grilled asparagus at the restaurant Inakaya.

Sesame Grilled Asparagus

This recipe contains only 4 ingredients (two of them are salt and pepper), but you’ll be amazed how they’re utterly transformed by the searing heat of the grill. This may well be the best asparagus I’ve ever tasted.

Serves 4.

1 pound asparagus (the stalks shouldn’t be too thin)
1 to 2 tablespoon Asian (dark) sesame oil
coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: large toothpicks or slender bamboo skewers

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

Snap the fibrous ends off the asparagus stalks and discard. Lay 3 or 4 stalks side by side to form a sort of raft and skewer crosswise in 2 places with toothpicks or bamboo skewers. This makes it easier to turn the grilled asparagus and it looks cool as all get out. Lightly brush each raft on both sides with sesame oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

Place the asparagus rafts on the grate and grill until nicely browned on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Serve at once–reminding each eater to remove the skewer.

Chicken and Scallion Yakitori

A classic at the thousands of yakitori parlors found under and near train stations in Tokyo, Note: like most of the world’s barbecue buffs, the Japanese prefer grilled dark meat chicken to white.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer; 4 as a main course

1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 bunch scallions, trimmed

For the sauce:

1 cup soy sauce (one good brand Kikomann)
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
3 tablespoons sake (Japanese rice wine
2 strips lemon zest (1/2 by 2 inches )

Special equipment: slender bamboo skewers (each about 6 inches long); a piece of aluminum foil folded several times into a rectangle the size of a business letter envelope to make a foil shield.

Cut the chicken across the grain into 1-1/2 by 1/2 by 1/2 inch strips. Cut the scallions into 1-1/2 inch pieces. Make tiny kebabs, alternating chicken and scallion pieces. Refrigerate until grilling.

Prepare the yakitori sauce. Place the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sake, and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer the sauce until thick and syrupy, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. Strain the sauce into a bowl and cool to room temperature. The recipe can be prepared ahead to this stage.

3. Set up your grill or hibachi for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the foil shield on the grill at the front. Arrange the yakitori on the grill so that the exposed parts of the skewers are on the foil to keep them from burning. Grill the yakitori until the chicken is cooked, 3 to 4 minutes per side, basting with the sauce after a minute or so on each side. Alternatively, have the sauce in a shallow dish. When partially cooked, dip the yakitoris in the sauce and continue grilling. The sauce should cook to a shiny glaze. Serve at once.


“This weekend we’re planning on having a few couples over and I have to cook for 6 to 8 people,” writes Michael Schaefer. “If I make burgers, dogs, and chicken pieces, I know I’m in safe territory. My question is, how would you suggest I prepare if I decide to go with ribs? I can only fit so many racks of ribs on my grill. Could I bake the ribs in the oven the night before and then just finish them on the grill with a little hickory smoke? Or grill them 2 racks at a time and keep them warm in the oven? Or is it simply not practical to make ribs for 8 with my setup?”

It’s eminently possible, Mike, and you don’t need to resort to baking the ribs in the oven. Simply invest in a rib rack–a nifty device that enables you to cook 4 racks of ribs in a vertical position, taking up about the same amount of space that one rack would take lying down. You can cook the ribs ahead. Simply direct grill them to reheat–brushed with a little barbecue sauce if you desire.

“Your books and web site have helped me tremendously,” writes Joe Knittel. “I have wrecked a lot of food in the past. Anyway here is my question: what is a non-reactive bowl or saucepan and why should I use one?”

A non-reactive bowl or saucepan is one made from stainless steel, anodized aluminum, glass, or porcelain. These materials remain inert when exposed to acids, like lemon juice, wine, or yogurt. In contrast to these materials, cast iron and aluminum tend to react when exposed to acidic foods and should be avoided for many recipes.

David has a question about the chicken under a brick in How to Grill and on the Barbecue University TV show. “After you flip the chicken, you put the brick back on. Doesn’t this risk cross-contamination since the brick had been resting on raw chicken and then placed on the cooked side of the chicken?”

The brick gets hot enough (thanks to contact with cooked side) to kill any bacteria. (I worried about that myself at first.) I’ve made the recipe hundreds of times and never had a problem.

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

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The Rite of Spring

When the composer, Igor Stravinsky, unveiled the Rite of Spring in Paris in 1913, it sparked a revolution. As this very cold long winter comes to an end (it’s even been colder than normal down here in Miami), I’ve been thinking about the barbecue rites of spring.

The first, for those of our Frost Belt brethren who put their grills in hibernation over the winter, is to haul your grill out of of the garage and get it ready for a new season. (That’s assuming you’re not one of the growing legions of “Winter Warriors,” who grill all year long.)

If you have a charcoal grill, first scrape any caked-on debris out of the firebox with a small garden shovel. (You should have done this at the end of the summer, but do it now if you didn’t.) Oil the vent covers so they open and close freely. If the grate is rusted, build a hot fire under it, then scrape it well with a wire grill brush. (This is a lot easier and faster than trying to remove the rust from a cold grate with steel wool.) Dip a tightly folded paper towel in oil and rub it across the bars of the hot grate to season it. Repeat as needed. That’s all there is to it.

For a gas grill, first, remove any spider webs or other unexpected creatures or debris from the burners and manifolds. Check the tiny holes in the gas tubes-if any are blocked, open with a straight pin. Hook up the gas tank and make sure there are no leaks. To do so, make a half and half mixture of dish soap and water. Brush it on the hoses and connections: giant bubbles will form if there are any gas leaks. Check the igniters-if they fail to spark, replace the batteries. Then clean and oil the grates as described above.


“I am about to purchase a new grill and I want to get exactly what you use on your BBQ University TV show,” writes Aaron. “What brands do you recommend?

Good question, Aaron. I have a policy of not recommending specific grill models, but I can tell you about some of the grills we use BBQ U. The gas grill on the show is a 6 burner Weber Summit; the charcoal grill is a Weber Performer. The giant charcoal grill I use for cooking whole salmons and small whole hogs is the Weber Ranch grill (it looks like a kettle grill on steroids). The smoker is a Brinkmann; the ceramic Kamado-style cooker is a Big Green Egg; the hibachi is a Lodge.

Of course, at the actual BBQ University school at the Greenbrier, we have more than 30 different grills, ranging from a Tuscan grill in a fireplace to a super hot-burning infrared TEC grill to a trailer towed smoker large enough to accommodate several whole hogs.

But more important than what I actually use in a particular show is what I look for when buying a grill. First ask yourself three questions:

  • What are your usage patterns?
  • Are you a charcoal or gas grill person?
  • What’s your budget?

If you’re just grilling for yourself and your spouse one or two nights a week, an inexpensive 2 or 3 gas grill will do fine. If you’re out there several nights a week and every weekend and you do a lot of entertaining, you’ll want to go with a large grill-at least 3, preferably 4 to 6 burners.

If you love wood smoke and true barbecue, a charcoal grill is a must (even if you already own a gas grill). Ditto if you’re into the sheer sport of grilling-building and messing with fire and waltzing food from hot spots to cold spots. In fact, if you’re at all serious about live fire cooking, I suggest you own both a gas and charcoal grill.

Finally, re budget. You can buy a decent charcoal grill for around $100. (Buy a grill that’s at least 22 inches in diameter with a lid high enough to accommodate a beer can chicken.) There are two strategies for buying gas grills—the first is to buy an inexpensive grill (under $200) and plan to replace it once every couple years. The second is to invest in a mid to upper range gas grill ($400 to $500 for a mid-range; $800 to $3000 for a stainless steel gas “super” grill) and plan to own it for the next decade. By the way, I personally own both sorts of grills and follow both of strategies.

Some other things to look for:

  • Sturdy construction and stable legs
  • A good warrantee (Remember, this is outdoor cookware. You want to make sure it lasts.)
  • Side tables (You can never have enough work space)
  • Hinged grates for charcoal grill grates (for adding coals for indirect grilling)
  • Built in thermometer
  • Built in gas gauge for a gas grill
  • Easy to use and clean drip pan for a gas grill
  • A rotisserie with a dedicated burner

By the way, my favorite material for grill grates is cast iron.

Finally, if at all possible, go to a barbecue store and “test drive” a few models before you buy one. Everyone’s taste is different and every grill performs differently. And there are some very expensive but very poorly designed grills out there. So it’s best to try what you’re buying before you plunk down your money.

An Electrifying Experience

“Ohmigosh, do I have a big problem!” writes John Hookey. “I have moved into an apartment complex that is absolutely unyielding in its opposition to both charcoal and gas grills. So I have been forced to switch to an electric grill. Alas, all the grilling literature ignores us poor grillers who are forced, not by choice, but by fiat, to use electric grills. Is there any hope for us? ”

Yes, this is a problem, but it’s not the end of the world. I’ve used the Charbroil electric grill (on the Regis Show no less). There’s even a picture of an electric grill in How to Grill. It’s okay for direct grilling, but it takes some manuevering for indirect.

Bottom line is any recipe in any of my books that’s direct grilled on charcoal or gas can be grilled on an electric grill (with the possible exception of really thick steaks, like a porterhouse). Preheat the grill well and keep it covered to hold in the heat.

If you must indirect grill on an electric grill, place a metal pie pan or cake pan open side up in the center of the grill and place another pie pan open side down on top of it. Place the food to be indirect grilled on top. (The pie pans create an air space that insulates the food from the heat.)

Finally, if you like the smoky flavor of true barbecue, invest in an electric smoker, like a Cookshack or Lure Jensen. I don’t think the condo commandos will bust you for that.

Incidentally, my next book focuses on indoor grills and grilling, so stay tuned!


“I was wondering how to start a charcoal grill,” writes Jesse Towry. “I noticed that on the show that you use a steel cylinder. Can you tell me what it is and where I can find one?”

Sure thing, Jesse. The steel cylinder is a chimney starter and you can find one at any grill shop or hardware store. Buy the largest one you can. It consists of an upright metal cylinder with a wire partition in the center. You put the charcoal in the top and a crumpled piece of newspaper (or better yet, a paraffin fire starter-also available at grill shops and hardware stores-in the bottom. Simply place the chimney starter in the grill (on the lower grate) and light the paper or paraffin starter. In 20 minutes or so, you’ll have perfectly and evenly lit coals. By the way, don’t use a chimney starter to light Match-Light charcoal.

There are at least 3 advantages to using a chimney starter:

1. It’s ecologically correct: You don’t need petroleum-based lighter fluid.
2. It lights the coals quickly, efficiently, evenly and uniformly.
3. It’s easy to dump out the coals into two mounds for indirect grilling or to build a 3 zone fire for direct grilling.

“I’m an avid griller and find your program very informative,” writes Bill Cohen. “The other day I saw your show on rotisserie chicken. I noticed the knot you tied when trussing. Looked very useful. Is it described or illustrated anywhere?

It’s a butcher’s slip knot, Bill, and it’s fully illustrated on page 204 in How to Grill.


Since this is the spring issue of Up in Smoke, let’s focus on the quintessential meat for springtime grilling: lamb. Lamb plays a central role in springtime holidays of three of the world’s great religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). For that matter, on any given day, probably more pit masters are cooking lamb than any other meat. (The barbecued lamb zone begins in West Africa and extends continuously across the Mediterranean to the Middle East, Central Asia, India, China, and as far east as Indonesia.)

There’s a simple reason for the popularity of lamb this time of year: in traditional agricultural societies, lamb born in the winter reached eating size in the spring.

Here are two recipes from my forthcoming book on indoor grilling. In honor of spring, both have been adapted for outdoor gas or charcoal grills.

Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops in the Style of Friuli, Italy

Serves 4

12 lamb rib chops (about 2 pounds)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, plus 1 long sprig of fresh rosemary to use as a basting brush

Generously season the lamb on both sides with salt and pepper. Drizzle a drop of oil on each chop on both sides and rub it into the meat. (You should use up about 1-1/2 tablespoons in all for the 12 chops.) Sprinkle the chops on both sides with garlic and rosemary, patting them into the meat. Let marinate for 20 minutes while you build your fire.

Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Under the best of circumstances you’ll be grilling over oak embers or charcoal (but gas will give you fine results, too).

Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the chops on the grate all going the same way. Grill until cooked to taste, 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare. Lightly baste each chop on both sides with the remaining olive oil, using the rosemary sprig as a basting brush. Serve at once. No sauce or garnish are needed.

Rotisserie Leg of Lamb with Lemon Mint Wet Rub

Serves 6

For the garlic-mint wet rub:

3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
2 strips lemon zest (finely chopped)
1 bunch mint, washed, shaken dried and stemmed (about 1 cup leaves)
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1/2 teaspoon cracked or coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 butterflied leg of lamb, tied into a cylindrical roast or the loin end of a whole leg (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)

You’ll also need: Butcher’s string; a grill with a rotisserie attachment

Make the wet rub. Place the garlic, lemon zest, mint leaves, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process to finely chop. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and process to a smooth paste.

Using the tip of a paring knife, make small holes in the roast on all sides about 1-1/2 inches apart. Using the tip of your index finger, widen the hole. Place a tiny spoonful of mint mixture in each hole, forcing it in with your finger. Spread the remaining mixture over the roast on all sides. Note: you can cook the lamb right away, but it will have even more flavor if you let it marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Set up your grill for rotisserie grilling and preheat to high. Place a drip pan under the spit. Skewer the lamb lengthwise on the turnspit. Place the spit and roast in the rotisserie. Cook until the roast is crusty and darkly brown on all sides and cooked to the degree of doneness you desire, about 1-1/4 hours for medium-rare, 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours for medium. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. (Don’t let the thermometer touch the skewer.) Medium-rare lamb will have an internal temperature of 145 degrees; medium, about 160 degrees.

Transfer the roast to a platter or cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes, removing the spit. Cut off and discard the string. Thinly slice the roast crosswise for serving.

Basic Barbecue Rub

“Could you please post the basic barbecue rub recipe on the web site again?” writes Robert Browning.

My pleasure, Robert. Here’s the Basic Barbecue Rub from my Sauces book. If you want to invent your own, combine equal parts kosher salt, sweet paprika, and brown sugar. Add as much pepper as you can bear up to an equal part. Then customize the rub by adding any of the following ingredients to taste:

Garlic powder
Onion powder
Celery seed


“Your books and web site have helped me tremendously,” writes Joe Knittel. “I have wrecked a lot of food in the past. My question is what is a non-reactive bowl or saucepan and why should I use one?

A non-reactive bowl or saucepan is one made from stainless steel, anodized aluminum, glass, or porcelain. These materials remain inert when exposed to acids, like lemon juice, wine, or yogurt.

In contrast to these materials, cast iron and aluminum tend to react when exposed to acidic foods and should be avoided for many recipes.

· “I’ve only been barbecuing for a few years now and I have found your books and TV programs very helpful,” writes John Heishman. “My neighbor, who’s from Alabama, and I have talked about competing in barbecue cook-offs. Do you have any suggestions on how we could get started?”

The best way to enter the wacky and exhilarating world of competition barbecue is to find some local contests in your area. Contact the organizers of the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest ( or the Kansas City BBQ Society ( Ask them for a list of sanctioned regional contests. The National BBQ News is another good source. You can contact them via: Let us know how it works out. We’re rooting for you!

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

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Greetings From the Grilling Guru

Greetings, grill jockeys, pit masters and mistresses, and smok-a-holics! Welcome to the third issue of Up In Smoke. And, of course, happy holidays to all! Winter is upon us. Down here in Miami, that means a dip in the temperature to 55 degrees. (Poor us!) In other words, perfect grilling weather.

Elsewhere in the country, winter is the true test of a grill master’s mettle—and commitment. As one barbecue fanatic in Minnesota put it, “When it snows, what do you shovel first: a path to your car or the path to your grill?!” (Tell us where you stand on this issue by voting at the BBQ Board Newsletter Poll.)

I got a taste of true winter grilling recently in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where I went to teach a series of grilling classes for The Cookbook Co. It was only late October, but a sudden storm dumped 3 inches of snow the night of my first class and 6 inches in total. The show must go on, so I borrowed a parka and, yes, I shoveled a path to the grills. I guess if it snowed in Miami, my car would sit under a snowdrift.

Obviously, you need to increase the cooking time in extreme cold. My beer can chickens took almost twice as long to cook in snowy Calgary as they would in Miami. I set up an extra charcoal grill and used it solely for stockpiling lit charcoal. I shoveled hot coals into the other grills every 15 minutes to keep the temperature up. The wood chips I had soaking in a bucket froze, so I had to move them next to the grill. We also had a large gas grill, and the trick here was to keep the lid down—even when grilling quick cooking foods, like shrimp.

Far different weather awaited me on my next trip—a long weekend in Buenos Aires. Winter in the U.S. means summer in South America, and when we got to this beautiful city—rightly hailed as the Paris of Latin America—the weather was perfect for grilling and dining outdoors in your shirtsleeves.

If you think Americans are grill maniacs, you should visit Argentina. Almost very street corner has its parilla, grill restaurant, with a massive stone hearth in the front window or right the dining room, where every imaginable cut of beef is charred to smoky perfection over blazing charcoal for all to see.

So what’d I learn? Well first of all, I experienced some new meat cuts, including a tira de asado (a long, slender rib steak made by cutting lower portion of the beef ribs crosswise instead of lengthwise (as is done in the U.S.) Ojo de bife (“eye of beef,” literally) is the leanest, meatiest portion of a rib roast, which is cut and cooked as a steak. Then, of course, there are animal parts most Americans don’t grill, but are really delicious, such as mojecas (sweetbreads), rinones (kidneys), and chinchulines (lamb chitterlings).

Argentinean beef is grass fed, not grain fed, and hormone free. As a result, it’s milder in flavor than American beef, and a bit tougher. Not that that’s a problem, as in Argentina, beef is always served with a tangy duet of condiments—chimichurri and salsa criolla. The former is a sort of vinaigrette made with oregano, garlic, olive oil, and wine vinegar. The latter is a sort of salsa made with diced tomato, red bell pepper, and onion. If Buenos Aires is in your travel plans (and it should be—it’s an excellent value these days), here are some good places to try Argentinean barbecue.

La Cabana (Rodriguez Pena, 1967): A high style remake of a Buenos Aires landmark. (The original closed in the 1990s after a half century of service). Located in the tony Recoleta district and operated by the Orient Express company.

La Cabana Las Lilas (Alicia Moreau de Justo, 516): A classic Buenos Aires chop house with scenic outdoor seating on a canal.

La Brigada (Estados Unidos, 465): Oozing with atmosphere in the colorful San Telmo district (although some of the meat here is a trifle tough).

Have you been anywhere interesting on the world barbecue trail?
Let us know on the Barbecue Board—especially if you’ve found some interesting dishes or restaurants.


It’s been an incredible year for your faithful grill master, an incredibly busy year, starting with the launch of my latest book, BBQ USA. As many of you know, I set out on a book tour across America in a brightly painted barbecue bus. (Our slogan: “Honk if you love BBQ.”) We started in Philadelphia and finished in Seattle, and our 8000 mile journey took us to more than 20 American cities.

Highlights of this amazing journey are almost too numerous to list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention:

  • A Johnsonville bratwurst barbecue at our presenting station, Maryland Public Television, in Owings Mills, Maryland to celebrate the launch of the BBQ U TV show.
  • Smoky, tender ribs at City Barbecque in Columbus, Ohio, where we stopped in for a book-signing. Pork shoulder at Super Smokers in St. Louis for another book signing. (We also managed to find time to eat some St. Louis fried ravioli.)
  • Lunch at Goode & Co. in Houston, during a four city swing through Texas. While in the Dallas area, magician, insurance mogul, and bbq fanatic Norman Beck brought us some smoked brisket from his favorite barbecue joint, Carter’s BBQ (on Martin Luther King between Malcolm X and Main St.).
  • In Santa Fe, New Mexico, we feasted on carnitas (grilled beef sandwiches) prepared at the pushcart of the legendary Roque’s in the Plaza Real. In Seattle, we chowed down at the Northwest Barbecue Festival (sponsored by the Seattle Post Intelligencer) and feasted on terrific grilled and smoked salmon at the Dalhia Lounge. I even got to chat with Kevin Costner about buffalo in Aspen, Colorado—site of the Food & Wine Classic, where I teach an annual barbecue class.

The most unexpected celebrity barbecue encounter was with Howard Stern—who turns out to be a grilling fanatic, running his oversized Viking grill like a race car at the Indy 500. Yes, I appeared on his show, and yes, I taught a private barbecue class for the Howard last summer. Below you’ll find a recipe we jointly developed for scallops grilled in smoked salmon.

In July, Japanese TV chef Kumahachi Moreno chef and a film crew came to visit with our family for a traditional American 4th of July BBQ in Martha’s Vineyard. (The menu included grilled lobster, smoked brisket, and cinnamon grilled peaches for dessert.) The following month, I was invited to Tokyo, Japan, to do BBQ battle with Iron Chef Roksbura Michiba.

The week leading up to contest was nerve-wracking, to say the least, but I had my step-son, Jake (chef of Pulse at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan) with me as back up. Chef Michiba prepared an incredibly theatrical dish of lobster and abalone grilled in a mountain of seaweed, but in the end it was no match for our downhome barbecued chicken and ribs!

Finally, in October, we returned to the Greenbrier resort in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, to tape year two of Barbecue University TV. Look for our stunning new “campus” at the Howard’s Creek Lodge, with its outdoor fireplace and spectacular backdrop of a golf course and the Allegheny Mountains behind it. Back this year is grill cam (a heatproof camera position in the firebox) and we’ve added time-lapse photography to give you a charcoal’s eye view of the action. The show launches on April 3, 2004. Contact your local PBS station for details (and to make sure they’re planning to air the show).

Finally, come April, 2004, the barbecue bus will be back on the road. Check the web site for more details as they become available.


Have a question about grills, tools, or fuel? In this issue of Up in Smoke we launch a new column to address your questions and comments about the tools of the trade. I’ll also be reviewing some of my favorite products from time to time.

“I searched high and low for the flat metal skewers Steven calls for to make ground lamb kebabs,” writes Edward Jaro from Raeford, North Carolina, ” I finally wound up going to a local metal fabrication shop that supports a local poultry plant. I bought 6 flat stainless steel skewers, each 18 inches long and 3/8 inch wide for $8! Was it worth it—the lamb kebabs turned out great. Thanks for making me a better grill master!”

If you don’t have a metal fabricator near you, you can order flat metal skewers for making Near East and Indian ground meat kebabs from Yekta Supermarket, tel. 301-984-1190.

Scott Hill from Charlotte, North Carolina, wants to know where to buy alder wood for smoking salmon.

Two good sources: BBQR’S Delight ( alder and other compressed wood pellets. And Nature’s Own/ Peoples Woods (

Eric Palander from Seattle wants to know where we get the lump charcoal we use at BBQ U.

Lump charcoal is made by burning whole logs or other solid pieces of wood in a kiln without oxygen. It’s a pure and natural product, unlike charcoal briquettes, which often contain borax, coal dust, and petroleum binders. Look for natural lump charcoal at grill shops and natural foods supermarkets.

Emily Marchetti wants to know where to buy the rib racks I used on the Rib Show on BBQ U (and that I call for in the various books).

Three good sources are:,, and


Also new this issue is a column on grilling tips and techniques.
I’ll get the ball rolling with a cool technique I picked up in Argentina. Please share your tips for upcoming newsletters on the Barbecue Board.

Like grill master everywhere, Argentineans are obsessive about cooking on a clean grill grate. They scrub the grill with a long handled stiff wire brush. The twist is they dip the brush in a bucket of salt water before scrubbing. The salt is supposed to clean and sterilize the grate and add a subtle flavor to the meat.
I’ve started dipping my grill brush in salt water, too.

“After reading your book, we were inspired to buy a smoker,” write Eric and Barbara Michaelson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We prepared spareribs following your Kansas City Sweet and Smoky Rib recipe, however, we couldn’t get the split logs to stay lit. They went out and the smoker never got above 150 degrees. What did we do wrong?”

Most home size smokers are designed to be fueled with charcoal.
Wood chunks or even small logs are added to produce a smoke flavor, but the heat comes from the charcoal. The next time, build a good, thick, hot bed of embers with natural lump charcoal. Toss the logs or soaked wood chunks or chips on the embers and replenish once an hour. This should give you both smoke and the requisite heat.


“You have a great show,” writes Pat Meier of Peoria, Illinois (a self-proclaimed charcoal fanatic). “I’ve always wanted to cook a large prime rib roast on my charcoal grill, but I worry tremendously about overcooking it. How can I make a prime rib and know exactly when to remove I, so that it’s medium-rare?”

Thanks, Pat. Timely question. I’m going to ring in 2004 with a smoke-roasted prime rib. Here’s my plan of attack.

New Year’s Eve Prime Rib

Prime rib is what I call a “millionaire” dish—a very little work and a not overly excessive capital investment make you look like a million bucks.

To season the mighty roast, make a paste of garlic (say 6 cloves), a handful each parsley, rosemary, and sage leaves, a tablespoon each salt, and cracked black peppercorns. Puree these ingredients in a food processor, adding enough olive oil or bacon fat to make a thick paste.

Now using the tip of a paring knife, make a series of 1/2 inch deep slits in the roast on all sides and force a little of the garlic-herb paste in each. Spread the remainder over the roast on all sides with a spatula.

Now for the smoke-roasting. If you’re working on a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect grilling, placing a large drip pan in the center. Toss a handful of soaked hickory chips on each mound of coals. If you’re working on a gas grill, place the chips in the smoker box or wrap in foil to make a smoker pouch (poke some holes in the top to release the smoke), and place under the grate over one of the burners. Preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

Place the roast over the drip pan. Indirect grill at around 350 degrees for 2 to 2-1/2 hours. The roast will be a perfect medium-rare when an instant read thermometer registers 140 degrees. (You’re actually looking for 145 degrees—but remember, the roast will continue cooking even off the heat.)

Serve it right away? Not on your life. Remember, roasts need to rest for 10 minutes or so to allow the meat to “relax.” Tent it with foil to keep it warm. Then cut the meat off the bones, thinly slice crosswise, and get ready for some of the best prime rib in your life.

So what do you serve with this regal prime rib? For starters, how about a horseradish sauce, made by mixing equal parts mayonnaise, sour cream, and freshly grated or prepared grated white horseradish?

Scallops a la Howard

Radio talk show czar Howard Stern is a huge grill buff, not to mention a great supporter of my books. This summer, I gave him a private grilling class. I wanted to show him how to make the Rosemary and Proscuitto-Grilled Scallops in How to Grill (page 343), but the Howard doesn’t eat red meat. He did have some smoked salmon in the refrigerator—the inspiration of these “Scallops a la Howard.”

1-1/2 pounds large sea scallops
28 to 32 fresh rosemary sprigs (each 3 to 4 inches long)
12 ounces very thinly sliced smoked salmon
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pull off and discard the small crescent-shaped muscle from the side of any scallop that has one. Strip the bottom leaves off the rosemary skewers to expose 2 inches of stem. Cut the smoked salmon into strips just large enough to wrap around the scallops (about 3/4 by 3-1/2 to 4 inches).

Lay a scallop flat on your work surface. Wrap a piece of smoked salmon around it and skewer through the side with a rosemary sprig. The idea is to pin the salmon to the scallop with the rosemary. Repeat with the remaining scallops.

Arrange the scallops on a plate or in a non-reactive baking dish.
Place the oil in a small bowl. Finely grate the zest (the oil rich outer rind) into the oil. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and stir with a fork. Brush the resulting lemon oil on the scallops on both sides. Let marinate for 15 minutes while you light the grill.

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

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the skewered scallops on the grate, placing a sheet of folded foil under the exposed part of the rosemary stalks to keep them from burning.

Grill the scallops until just cooked, 2 to 3 minutes per side. The scallops are done when they turn white and feel firm (but just barely; they shouldn’t feel hard). Serve at once.


Lots of mail this fall. And lots of great questions about grilling.

“What’s the proper way to wash basting brushes,” writes Scott from Federal Way, Washington.

First, soak the brush in a bowl of hot soapy water for 24 hours, changing the water several times. (Plunge it up and down like a plumbers’ helper to loosen any deeply imbedded debris.) Then place it in the dishwasher. Clean barbecue mops the same way.

Speaking of cleaning, “what’s the best way to clean a porcelainize grill grate?” writes Arnie from Michigan.

Preheat the grate as hot as it will go (this loosens the burnt on debris), then brush it vigorously a stiff wire brush. Normally, the enamel on grate is harder than brass brush bristles and preheating helps remove the debris. Of course, in the long run, you’re best off finding a cast iron grate for your grill.

Branden Rasmussen wants to know what “sweet” paprika is and where to find it.

It’s the same thing as regular paprika (“sweet” distinguishes it from “hot” paprika) and it’s available just about everywhere. The best paprika comes from Hungary and Spain.

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

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Tailgating Season

Programming note: Sorry, we’re not yet ready to discuss smoking yet, but we will devote a whole issue to it in the future. This issue, tailgating!

It’s hard to believe it’s October already. When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, October was the time to pack up the grill for the winter. We’d scrape out the ashes caked on the bottom and move the grill into the garage. (Or maybe we left it outdoors to rust during the winter, so we’d have a reason to buy a new grill come springtime.)

My, how times have changed! Few people I know, even if they live in Boston or Buffalo, much less Baltimore, would forgo grilling for a whole winter. No, October marks the start of tailgate picnic season. Then comes Thanksgiving (which just wouldn’t be complete without smoke-roasted turkey), then New Year’s, which gives you a perfect excuse to grill a prime rib. More and more people are grilling all year long–heck, most of us never stopped.

But back to October: when it comes to tailgating, you can’t beat the standbys–hot dogs, hamburgers, and bratwurst. Naturally, I have some strong opinions about each.

Happy grilling and warm wishes to all.
Steven Raichlen


Hot dog!
When I grill hot dogs, I like to slit them down the center (fat knockwurst also work well for this) and stuff them with sliced or chopped jalapeno peppers and cheese. (For a specific recipe, see the “Hot Dog” recipe on page 151 of How to Grill.) Other good fillings include minced onions and olives, pesto, or tapanade. One pit master I know likes to wrap his hot dogs in bacon prior to grilling. (Pass the Lipitor, please.) Another likes to split them lengthwise and grill them under a weight. This maximizes the surface area of the weiner exposed to the fire. What’s your favorite way to grill a hot dog? Let us know on the BBQ Board and we may publish the result in the next newsletter.

Cheeseburger in paradise!
Everyone loves cheeseburgers, and I have a new twist on an old favorite: grate the cheese (aged cheddar, pepper jack, or Roquefort work well) and mix it in with the ground beef before you make your patties. The melting cheese keeps the meat moist, even when you cook the burger through (which you should do in this age of ubiquitous bacterial peril). You’ll also get a great cheese flavor throughout the burger—think cheeseburger in surround sound.

A new way with bratwurst!
A great deal of ink (and possibly blood) has been spilled on the best way to grill bratwurst. Some folks parboil them in beer first; others use direct grilling, which may or may not result in some serious fat fires. If you do decide to direct grill, work over a moderate heat. The idea is to slowly roast the sausage, not cause it to explode. I’ve taken to smoke-roasting the brats, which gives you the predictability of indirect grilling (no flare-ups), plus a terrific smoke flavor. Here’s a simple recipe, along with a mustard that will definitely make you smoke. By the way, a tip ‘o hat to our friends at Johnsonville Sausage in Johnsonville, Wisconsin, (they make the world’s best bratwurst).

Smoked Bratwurst

Serves 4 to 8:

8 bratwurst

for the Fire Eater Mustard:
1 cup Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup scotch bonnet chili based hot sauce, like Matouk’s from Trinidad

8 hard rolls or hoagie rolls
2 tablespoons melted butter

1-1/2 cups hickory chips, soaked in water to cover for 1 hour, then drained (see Note below)

1. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. This works best in a charcoal grill.

2. Arrange the bratwurst on the grate over the drip pan. Toss the wood chips on the coals, half on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and adjust the vent holes to obtain a temperature of about 350 degrees. Smoke-roast the sausages until golden brown and cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, make the Fire Eater Mustard. Place the mustard in a bowl and whisk in as much scotch bonnet chili sauce as you can stand. (You may want to start slow and work up to the 1/4 cup mentioned in the recipe.)

4. Brush the buns with melted butter and lightly toast on the grill, placing them over the piles of embers. Place a smoked brat on each and slather with Fire Eater Mustard. You’ve never had bratwurst like this!

NOTE: Even if you’re a diehard gas griller, I recommend investing in an inexpensive, charcoal-burning kettle grill. It’s very difficult to get a great smoke flavor from a gas grill.

GRILL GEAR: Skewers and Roasters
Gary Ernsdorf, of Seattle, Washington wrote to tell me he’s been searching high and low for some of the skewers that I recommend in the ground lamb kabob recipe in How To Grill. These wide flat metal skewers (they look like steel ribbons) are used by pit masters of the Near East and Central Asia for grilling skinless sausages and ground meat kebabs known variously as kofta (in Turkey), lula (in Azerbaijan) and seekh kebab (in India). The flat shape keeps the meat from falling off the skewer. I get mine from the Yekta Supermarket, 1488A Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852, tel. 301-984-1190. (There’s a $50 minimum for mail order. Pick up some pomegranate syrup, rosewater, and other exotic Near East flavorings for grilling while you’re at it.)

If you are one of the last people on your block to try Beer-Can Chicken, maybe this neat gadget will convince you. “Captain” Steve Heidi, inventor of one of the most ingenious beer can chicken machines on the market, has started packaging his device with a copy of Beer-Can Chicken and an injector spice pack. Check out his web site:


A big thanks to everyone who’s been posting on the BBQ Board. We’ve had some really good questions.

From John Mansell in Hermiston, Oregon:
In your book How To Grill, you recommend salting (beef) meat prior to putting it on the grill. I have an old James Beard barbecue cookbook, and he cautions not to apply salt to beef until the meat is about finished cooking or apply after it is removed from the grill. He says salt “dehydrates” or dries the meat out during the cooking process. Do you think Mr. Beard’s contentious theory is correct?

SR: The theory behind this theory is that the salt draws out the liquid in the beef. This is true-especially over an extended period. Dehydrating inhibits bacterial action-indeed, salting was one of the first was early man preserved his food. We’re talking hours or days here, however, and when you salt a steak just prior to grilling, as I recommend in my books, no (or at least a miniscule) amount of dehydration takes place. On the contrary, I find that the salt helps form a flavorful crust on the steak. Sorry Mr. Beard.

From Tamara and Bob Peaston;
We have recently started to experiment with grilling fish . . . you know, trying to eat more healthy, and all of that. One question, would it be better to keep the cover of the gas grill open all of the time while grilling small pieces of fish? We were thinking that with the lid on, the result would be more “baked” rather than grilled. What would you suggest?

SR: You have anticipated Raichlen’s Rule of Palm, which states: “When grilling something thicker than the palm of your hand, close the grill; as thin or thinner than the palm of your hand, leave it open.” The reason is simple: thin cuts of seafood and meat cook so quickly, you want to monitor their progress during grilling. Thicker steaks and chops take longer, so by covering the grill, you cook them from the top as well as the bottom. This speeds up the overall cooking time.

From anonymous readers (Please tell me your name and hometown if you’d like credit for your questions!):
Is there such a thing as a sugar-free bbq sauce?

SR: Yes, there are dozens. Many of the traditional vinegar sauces of North Carolina contain no sugar. Ditto for the white barbecue of northern Alabama; the mojo of Miami’s Cuban-Americans, and the chimichurri (the garlic parsley sauce of Argentina). All four of these recipes can be found in my new book, BBQ USA.

I don’t drink alcohol. What can I use for substitutions in the recipes?

SR: Depends on the recipe. Grape juice, apple cider, and chicken broth all come to mind. Coca Cola, root beer, and iced tea all make a mean “beer can” chicken.

From Kathryn Lehrer:
I tried your Lean and Mean Texas Barbecued Brisket recipe mop sauce (not the
rub–I used my own) and cooking directions and I loved it! I was wondering if I could adjust the mop sauce to include barbecue sauce. I want to do it like this:

1 cup vinegar
1 cup beer
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper

I would appreciate it if you could give me your opinion.

SR: Rock on, Kathryn! It’s delicious!

Finally, I’d like to end with a testimonial from Greg Sands from Tennessee:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I purchased your book How to Grill after seeing you featured on Barbecue Boot Camp on Food Network. Since I live in Tennessee, pulled pork barbecue is thought of as almost being one of the four major food groups. Anyway, I saw your recipe and technique for making authentic North Carolina pulled pork barbecue and I decided to try it. It was an instant hit with comments like “to die for” and “makes you want to slap your Momma.” In fact, I have already been asked to do more pulled pork barbecue for a large party and even had a proposal of marriage! Thanks again!

I also have attempted the beef brisket, sweet and smoky baked beans, and one of the whole barbecued chicken recipes. Wow! I hit it out of the park every time. It’s amazing how your book breaks everything down and makes grilling so simple. I am gaining the reputation of an expert grill man and I owe it all to you and your book.

Thank you, Greg. Just let us know if your barbecue leads to marriage!

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

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Up in Smoke: First Issue

Greetings fellow barbecue fanatics! Welcome to the first edition of Up in Smoke. The object of this newsletter is to share grilling stories, recipes, tips, and adventures. To tell you what I’ve been up to and hear what’s been turning you on on the grill. I’ll try to answer some of your more frequently asked questions and bring you up to date on the latest techniques, grills, and gear.

After an unbelievably hectic June and half of July (I was on the Barbecue Bus Tour for 5 continuous weeks!), I’m finally back home in Martha’s Vineyard. For a week, at least, which lately is a long time for me to be in one place during barbecue season. So my wife, Barbara, and I have been grilling lots of summery New England foods-especially lobster, swordfish, and corn.

If you’ve never had lobster on the grill, buy yourself a couple of live lobsters and try it. Nothing brings out the crustacean’s briny sweetness like the high, dry heat of the grill. You can grill a lobster whole in the shell or cut in half. We prefer the latter. Parboil a 1-1/2 pound lobster for 3 minutes, then cut it in half lengthwise with a large knife. We cut off the claws and place them on a hot grill for 3 minutes. Then we grill the lobster bodies cut side down for 3 minutes, then the cut side up for 6 to 8, basting the lobster meat with plenty of herb butter. (Melted salted butter with your favorite fresh herb finely chopped.) If you’ve never had lobster cooked this way, you’re in for a revelation.

The swordfish on Martha’s Vineyard has been magnificent this summer-thick meaty steaks glistening with ocean freshness. We ask our fishmonger to cut steaks 3/4 inch thick. This is the size I prefer-thick enough to keep the fish from drying out, but thin enough to cook quickly. The local swordfish has been so fresh, we season it with nothing more than coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a whisper of extra virgin olive oil. A simple salsa of diced tomatoes, raw corn, olives, and scallions turns grilled fish into a summer feast.

And corn! I advocate grilling it naked (the cobs, not the griller). Brush with olive or melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Or do as the Japanese do: brush with melted butter and soy sauce and sprinkle the corn with sesame seeds and pepper. Mexicans slather it with mayonnaise and grated cheese, while Indians baste it with butter and lime juice and season it with cayenne pepper! In short, everybody loves grilled corn, no matter what the seasonings.

So what are you grilling this summer? Join this discussion at the BBQ Board. And don’t forget to enter the Great American Barbecue Contest. You might just win a gleaming stainless steel Weber® Summit® Silver A gas grill.

Beer-Can Chicken
Well, to judge from your emails and BBQ board postings, a lot of you are having fun with beer can chicken. Trust me, the bird will really fit under the grill lid provided you use a 12 ounce can and at least a 23 inch kettle grill. You should also know we had the process (cooking on aluminum cans) tested in a laboratory, so it is safe. Looking to cook with something other than beer? Cola, ice tea, and even cranberry juice work great.

Just about everyone reports that beer canning produces the most succulent, flavorful, tender chicken imaginable, with smoke-scented, crackling crispy skin. Try my Basic Beer-Can Chicken recipe for your first time out. If you’re a beer can chicken pro, try pushing the envelope with other birds, like quail, game hen, duck, even turkey.

Lemon Ginger Skirt Steak
Skirt steak is one of my favorite cuts of beef for grilling. It’s quick and easy to grill, intensely flavorful, and mercifully inexpensive. This recipe plays the Asian overtones of ginger and soy sauce against the Mediterranean scents of lemon and basil, so everyone comes out a winner.

Tip: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest (the oil rich yellow peel of the lemon) in thin strips from the rind.

Serves 4.

1-1/2 pounds skirt steaks
freshly ground black pepper and a little kosher salt

for the marinade:

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
4 strips lemon zest
4 fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs of basil for garnish
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sherry (cream or dry)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place the skirt steaks in a non-reactive baking dish and season on both sides with pepper and salt. (Heavy on the pepper, light on the salt, as the soy sauce is salty, too.) Place the ingredients for the marinade in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the marinade over the skirt steaks and marinate for 4 hours in the refrigerator, turning the steaks twice.

2. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the skirt steaks well and arrange on the grate. Grill the steaks until cooked to taste, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Serve at once, with lemon wedges for squeezing and basil sprigs for garnish.

GRILL GEAR: Mopping Up
They look really cool, and there’s nothing better for applying a thin sauce or a liquid flavoring agent to ribs or pork butts. Barbecue mops, which look like miniature floor mops, are available at most grill shops, cookware shops, and at an increasing number of supermarkets. (When pro pit bosses grill large quantities of meat, they use full-size floor mops–clean ones.)

For those of you who have enjoyed the grilled cheese recipes in Barbecue Bible and How to Grill (or have been meaning to try this), I just learned a great new trick from an Argentinean grill master to prevent the cheese from sticking to the grate. Dip it in flour first. (Be sure to shake off the excess.) You get gorgeous grilled cheese with a sizzling golden brown crust–without the sticking.

Another trick to prevent sticking in general–rub the hot grill grate with a cut onion.

Let’s hear your home remedies and tricks. Just post them under the Newsletter Feedback thread on the BBQ Board. I’ll review them and report on the best of the best in upcoming issues of Up in Smoke.

I’d like to hear from you for the next newsletter. Tell me what you’re grilling and what some of your favorite recipes are in the books. Is there any dish or technique giving you trouble? Is there something you’d like to see that I haven’t covered to date? Either write to me at, or post to the BBQ Board under Newsletter Feedback.

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

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