Newsletter Archive

Special Father’s Day Edition

Happy Father’s Day!

In an odd twist of protocol, mothers get breakfast in bed on their big day, but fathers, once they’ve opened their cards, are expected to grill for the family. Be careful what you wish for! So what does the Big Guy grill on his special day? Ribs or brisket if he’s feeling ambitious; burgers or brats if he wants to relax. But Dad’s real aspiration, I wager, is to grill the ultimate steak.

The perfect steak is both the easiest and toughest dish to get right. To judge from questions I’m asked at Barbecue University, it’s certainly a source of anxiety. There’s more to it than simply throwing a slab of meat on the grill, but once you know the rules of the road, it’s easier than you think.

Below, as an early Father’s Day gift, exclusively for Up in Smoke readers, are my ten best tips for grilling the perfect steak. As another Father’s Day gift, we’re offering a 10 per cent discount on steak-related items and accoutrements in the Barbecue Store, now through June 30th. Essentials like our new Ultimate Steak Sauce and Steak Barbecue Rub or our Lumatong (see Step 7 below—turn, don’t stab) and cast-iron Tuscan Grill Grate (unparalleled for killer grill marks) are all on sale.

Finally, check out the exclusive Steven Raichlen Beer Can Chicken Basket offered by our friends at

Treat Dad to a gift he can really use. I guarantee, he’ll enjoy a Tuscan Grill or Lumatongs more than another pair of bedroom slippers or a tie.


1. Choose the right steak: A Porterhouse is the best of both worlds, consisting of a New York strip and a filet mignon united by a slender bone. Other top cuts include rib eyes, T-bones, and new cuts, like the flatiron. Don’t overlook tougher, meatier cuts, like sirloin, hanger steak, skirt steak, and flank steak—just be sure to thinly slice across the grain before serving for ultimate tenderness.

2. Keep it in the refrigerator until grilling: This runs contrary to many theories, but no steakhouse worth its salt leaves meat out at room temperature in a hot kitchen.

3. Build a 3-zone fire: Use the hot zone for searing, the medium zone for cooking, and have a safety zone where you can move the steaks to dodge any flare-ups.

4. When it comes to seasoning, keep it simple: Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper are all you really need. Or if you want to get fancy, some of our new Steak Rub

5. Remember the grill master’s mantra: Keep it hot. Keep it clean. Keep it lubricated. A hot, clean, well-oiled grate prevents sticking and gives you killer grill marks.

6. Get good marks: Arrange the steaks on the grill grate all running the same way slightly on the diagonal to the bars of the grate. Rotate 90 degrees after 2 minutes to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks. To get the best marks, use a cast iron grate, like our Tuscan Grill.

7. Turn, don’t stab: Use tongs, like our LED light-equipped Lumatongs –not a fork to turn the steaks. The only purpose served by stabbing a steak is to drain out the juices. Enough said. By the way, look for beads of blood that form on the top of the steak a few minutes after it goes on the grill. That tells you it’s time to turn.

8. Poke your food: Use your index finger to poke the steak. If it’s soft and squishy, it’s rare; gently yielding, medium; firm, well-done. (Not that you really want to cook a steak well done, do you?) And remember, large steaks continue cooking even after they come off the grill.

9. Give it a rest: Always let steaks rest on a platter or plates for 2 to 3 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute—resting gives you a juicier steak.

10. Anoint thy steak: Gild the lily with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or a pat of butter or even a slather of our new Steak Sauce.

And finally, here’s a recipe designed to put the above tips into practice: It takes its cues from Argentina, where beef rules. Serve these steaks with grilled garlic bread, grilled sweet corn, and a salad. You’ll look like even more of a hero than you, the Pater Familias, already are.


Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 4

For the rub:

2 tablespoons of Best of Barbecue Steak Rub* (or 2 teaspoons each coarse salt, dried oregano, dried rosemary, and 1 teaspoon each hot pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper)

4 New York strips or long-bone rib eyes (each steak should be 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick)

For the chimichurri marinade/sauce:

1 bunch fresh parsley, washed, stemmed, and rough-chopped, plus 3 sprigs for serving
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, washed, stemmed, and rough-chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, or more to taste
1/4 cup cold water
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)

If making your own rub, place the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and mix with your fingers. Sprinkle the steaks on both sides with the rub, rubbing the mixture into the meat with your fingers.

1) Make the chimichurri: Place the parsley, cilantro, and garlic in a food processor and finely chop. Add the oil, vinegar, and water and continue processing to make a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste; the chimichurri should be highly seasoned.

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

3) Grill the steaks until cooked to taste, 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, rotating each a quarter turn after 2 minutes to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks. Cook to taste, using the poke test to check for doneness. Let the steaks rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon the chimichurri sauce onto plates or a platter, place the steaks on top. Top with parsley, drizzle with olive oil (if using), and serve at once.

*Available in the Barbecue Store

P.S. Stay tuned for new recipes and my take on the charcoal versus gas debate, exclusively in the next issue of Up in Smoke, coming out at the end of June.

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

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What Goes Around, Comes Around: Spit-Roasting and Rotisserie Grilling

When I wrote The Barbecue Bible back in the 1990s, spit roasting (also known as rotisserie grilling) seemed to be as out of fashion as Cadillacs with fins. When I was a kid in the 1960s, a rotisserie attachment was practically mandatory for suburban grillers: Not only did it play to guys’ innate need for gear, but it added a bit of theater to the ritual mating (usually on the weekends) of food and fire.

Maybe it’s thanks to all those new rotisserie chickens joints. Or maybe it’s the proliferation of churrascarias, protein-centric, Brazilian rotisserie restaurants, where spit-roasted meats (rodizio) rule. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased to report that rotisserie grilling is back.

Now, grillers are rediscovering the benefits of this ancient and universal cooking technique. Even Alain Ducasse, the intercontinental celebrity chef, installed a rotisserie at his Michelin 3-star restaurant—Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée in Paris. It’s a good sign.

Early on, man discovered he could impale meat on a green stick and roast it over an open fire. Suspending the stick between two sturdy Y-shaped supports relieved him of the responsibility of holding the stick himself, and he could more efficiently expose all sides of the meat to the heat. In his never-ending quest to save labor, he devised various ways of mechanically rotating the meat, most of them involving wind-up clockworks or scullery lads (or maids). One medieval manuscript I’ve seen shows the spit ingeniously being turned by a dog on a treadmill.

In many parts of the world, pit masters stand the rotisseries on their heads. Literally. Greek gyro, Turkish donner, and Middle Eastern shawarma are all cooked on vertical rotisseries with the heat source off to the side. Not that you have to travel that far, for Mexican tacos al pastor (shepherd style tacos) are available both in Mexico and in Tex-Mex communities in the U.S.

One low-tech method of vertically roasting rotating meat is still practiced in southern France: Called à la ficelle (“on a string”), the meat is trussed into a compact package and suspended from the ceiling or mantelpiece by a long piece of string. Like a yo-yo at its perigee, the meat rotates near the radiant heat of the fire, usually with only minimal aid. (This can also be rigged by a campfire using a long sturdy pole as a crane. Ask Nancy if you want to know more about this. She’s the staff camp cook. She attaches playing cards to the vertical string to catch the drafts.)

Horizontal or vertical, spit-roasting is a compelling grilling method for many reasons, and I’m glad it’s making a comeback.

Specifically, the slow rotation promotes steady, even browning and crusting (you know, the caramelization of those tasty meat proteins). The process is both mesmerizing and tantalizing. The fat is gently rendered, basting the meat as it turns. Meanwhile, the gentle motion continuously redistributes the internal juices. (In direct grilling, the juices are driven towards the center of the meat, which is why I always recommend letting meat rest for a few minutes before serving.)

Not only is spit-roasting the perfect method for larger cuts of meat—and even whole animals—but it is a distinctly social activity in a way that other grilling methods are not. In some cultures, this spit-sponsored conviviality is part of life—consider the spit-roasted lamb or pig in a noisy Greek taverna. Or a festive méchoui (spit-roasted lamb) in Morocco. Or the succulent babi gulig (spiced, spit-roasted hog) of Bali, Indonesia. Or even a beer and testosterone-fueled pig roast in an American backyard. Spit roasting makes meat the focal point, a reason unto itself for a party.

Other foods that lend themselves well to spit roasting are:

  • Fatty foods, like whole ducks, chickens, turkeys, or prime rib
  • Large, round, cylindrical foods, like turkey breasts, boneless leg of lamb, pork or beef roasts
  • Large whole fish (sometimes the rotisserie is used in tandem with an accessory like a flat wire basket)
  • Ribs (see How to Grill, page 144, for instructions)
  • Vegetables like artichokes, endives, radicchio, eggplant, peppers, onions, acorn squash, potatoes, etc. (again, positioned in a rotisserie basket)
  • Fruits such as whole pineapples (see recipe below)

The Specifics

For you gas grillers, in more expensive gas grills there’s usually a rear-mounted infrared burner with a spit apparatus mounted in front of it. Preheat to high, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on the model, you may need to close the lid to keep in the heat.

Lacking that, how you set up for spit roasting will depend on the burner configuration: If you have three front to rear burners, light the rear burner only. On a grill with left, center, and right burners, light the outside burners and spit roast in the center (sort of indirect grilling with a twist).

If you are a charcoal griller, your grill manufacturer probably sells a rotisserie ring and motor as an add-on. For example, Weber makes one for its 22-1/2 inch kettle grills that retails for about $120 and is available through The ring puts distance between the grate and the food being barbecued (useful on its own, especially for grilling turkeys), and the motor, of course, keeps the spit rotating. Set up the grill as for indirect grilling.

Many rotisseries come with a counterbalance—useful if the roast or chicken is heavier on one side than the other.

If you’re really serious about rotisserie-style grilling, check out, an Internet-based business started a few years ago by former chef Bruce Frankel. His “Beast,” predictably, a unit big enough to cook whole hogs, is a way cool tool to add to your arsenal. He also sells special fireplace rotisseries for spit-roasting indoors, which I mentioned in the February issue of Up In Smoke.

Ever found yourself on the wrong end of a sharp rotisserie spit or prongs? E-Z Que, Inc. has designed a rotisserie that requires no stabbing or skewering. The “cradle” is a sort of linear wire basket (versions are available for some of the most popular grill models) that can be gently clasped around chickens and even whole hogs. The main advantage here is you don’t have to pierce the meat or secure it to a spit, a process that can—especially with larger pieces—involve wire and curse words. For more info, check out

Here are a few additional tips for spit-roasting:

  • Always use a drip pan underneath the roasting food to gather the juices. Unless they get contaminated by ash, you can use these juices for basting or sauces.
  • Never position food directly over a burner or flames unless you enjoy flare-ups or pyrotechnic shows and “Plan B” (bologna sandwiches instead of barbecue).
  • Remember to put the first set of prongs on the spit (prongs facing inward) before you put the food on. Believe me, this is a mistake we’ve all made.
  • Most prong screws have wide, flat heads. To tighten and loosen, slide the tines of a fork over them.
  • Before loading it with food, first oil the spit for easy removal of the food and hassle-free clean-up.
  • When spit roasting poultry, truss the bird tightly with butcher’s twine to keep the package balanced and compact and to prevent flopping wings or legs from jamming the motor.
  • When unloading food from the spit, be ever mindful of the fact that it—and the spit—is extremely hot; poultry and other whole animals will collect steaming juices in the cavity which will invariably spill out when you tilt the spit; Use our heat proof food gloves (the rubber ones) to help you get the food off the skewer (not to touch the hot metal).
  • For specific times for rotisserie cooking, please check page 20 in The Barbecue Bible.

Spit-Roasted Pork Loin with Bourbon and Cherry Glaze
Method: Rotisserie grilling
Serves: 6

1 center-cut piece of pork loin (3 pounds)

For the rub:

2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika

For the glaze:

1 cup cherry preserves
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup bourbon
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced

For the stuffing:

1/4 cup Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cherry preserves
1 tablespoon bourbon

4 slices bacon

You’ll also need: Butcher’s string

1. Make the rub: Place the salt, sugar, pepper, and paprika in a bowl and stir to mix. (Actually, your fingers work better for mixing a rub than a spoon or whisk.) Set aside.

2. Make the glaze: Combine the cherry preserves, mustard, bourbon, grated ginger, and garlic in a large heavy nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking to mix. Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce simmer until thick and flavorful, 5 to 8 minutes. Set the glaze aside but keep warm.

3. Butterfly the roast, making a long deep lengthwise incision from the top. Butterfly each half. Season the inside of the roast with 1/3 of the rub. Spread the pork with mustard, then sprinkle with brown sugar. Spread cherry preserves on top, and sprinkle with bourbon.

4. Cut four 12-inch pieces of butcher’s string. Position the pieces of string on the work surface so that they are parallel and roughly 2 inches apart. Place a slice of bacon across the strings so that it is perpendicular to and in the center of them.

5. Set the roast on top of the bacon, positioning its long side parallel to the bacon. Place a slice of bacon on top of the roast. Press the remaining 2 slices against the long sides of the roast. Tie each piece of string together around the roast so that they hold the slices of bacon against it.

6. Skewer the pork loin on the turnspit and season the meat all over with the rub, patting on with your fingertips. Season the outside of the roast with the remaining rub.

7. Set up the grill for rotisserie grilling, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and preheat to medium-high.

8. When ready to cook, attach the spit to the rotisserie mechanism by inserting the pointed end of the spit into the rotisserie motor socket. If your rotisserie spit has a counterweight, position it so that it counterbalances the pork. Turn on the motor. Cook the roast until cooked through, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the center of the roast: The internal temperature should be about 160 degrees F. Start basting the roast with the glaze after 30 minutes, and continue basting every 15 minutes. If you are using a charcoal grill and the pork is not done after 1 hour, you’ll need to add 12 fresh coals to each side.

9. Transfer the cooked roast, still on the spit, to a heatproof cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes; carefully remove the spit. (Remember, the spit will be hot!) Then remove and discard the strings. Slice the roast crosswise and drizzle any remaining glaze over it or serve the glaze on the side.

Pineapple “Shawarma”
Method: Rotisserie grilling
Serves: 6 to 8

1 large ripe pineapple
1 cup Best of Barbeque Dessert Rub (or see Note below)

For the glaze:

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt

Vanilla ice cream for serving

1. Cut the rind off the pineapple leaving the leafy crown intact. I find a serrated knife works best for this. Even after you’ve removed the rind, you’ll notice some diagonal rows of “eyes” (brown spots); cut these out, making long, diagonal, V-shaped cuts to give the pineapple an attractive spiral effect.

2. Make the glaze. Place the butter, brown sugar, brandy, cream, and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan and cook over high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thick and syrupy, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Set up your grill for spit-roasting and preheat to high.

4. Using a long slender knife, make starter holes in the crown end and base of the pineapple, pushing the knife lengthwise through the center to facilitate inserting the spit. Working gently but firmly, insert the rotisserie spit through the pineapple. (Be sure to have the first set of prongs on already.) Tighten the prongs.

5. Evenly sprinkle the rub over the cut surfaces of the pineapple. Loosely cover the pineapple leaves with foil. Place the end of the spit in the rotisserie motor socket and turn on the motor.

6. Spit-roast the pineapple until golden brown and tender, about 1 hour, basting with glaze every 15 minutes. You should have about half the glaze leftover for serving.

7. To serve, carefully unspit the pineapple and remove the foil from the leaves. Show it off whole—then cut it crosswise into slices. Serve these over bowls of vanilla ice cream, with any leftover glaze spooned on top.

Note: Substitute, if desired, 1 cup turbinado sugar (also called Sugar in the Raw) mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom.

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

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Neither Sleet Nor Snow Nor…

Here’s a letter I received recently that introduces the topic of cold weather grilling even better than the barbecuers’ conundrum: When it snows, what do you shovel first? The path to your garage or the path to your grill?

Hi, Steven,

…I am a woman “grill master” and my family and I absolutely love grilled food…

I have tried grilling in the winter before but I find it is hard to keep the grill hot enough to get the same great results I get in the summer or in warmer weather.

On your show, BBQ U, I notice that it is always nice there….no rain or snow. I would love to see how you address grilling in cold winter conditions. What is the best wintertime grill and how would you set it up? Are some foods better to cook in the winter on a grill than others?

I am sure that you have some cool tips that could make winter grilling more successful…

Jean Klinedinst
Red Lion, Pennsylvania

Grilling a pesto-marinated spatchcock chicken after a December snowstorm in Martha’s Vineyard. (Recipe on page 224 in How to Grill).

Was the pun, “cool tips,” intended? As a matter of fact, Jean, I do have some tips for winter grilling I’d like to share with you and the subscribers of Up in Smoke. But before I do, I have to tell you the weather on the set of BBQ U has not always been “nice,” despite appearances. The first season, we had to film around three major rainstorms. The second season, wintry weather came early to the Alleghenies. During filming, the crew stayed comfy in down jackets and fur-lined boots while I stayed in “uniform,” a denim shirt. Between takes, I’d rush to The Greenbrier’s magnificent fireplace to warm up.

According to the National Pork Board, 61 per cent of Americans claim to be “extreme grillers,” i.e., they grill in the wintertime. Sounds a bit high. Somewhat more believable numbers come from the NPD Group, a market researching firm: They report that about 25 per cent of American households grill at least once every two weeks between the months of December and February—up from just 18 per cent in 2000.

Mastery of winter grilling has three major benefits:

  1. You and your family and friends can conceivably enjoy the incomparable flavors of grilled and barbecued food year-round, and not just for three to four months
  2. You’ll appear courageous and daring—a breed apart from “fair weather” grillers
  3. The primeval connection to our distant cave-dwelling ancestors is intensified in challenging weather, i.e., even if your kitchen stove is in perfect working order, you can pretend, while braving the elements, that were it not for you and the power of the fire you built, your family would be gnawing on a frozen joint of raw meat.
Snowy grilling on the set of BBQ U

A general word about safety: Grilling anytime of the year, of course, is a potentially dangerous activity, but some hazards are specific to cold weather. Winter clothing, for example, is not only bulky, but highly flammable. Be mindful of where you are in relation to the grill at all times. If you wear a long scarf, tuck the loose ends safely in your jacket. Wear grilling gloves, such as the Best of Barbecue extra-long suede gloves. Make sure footing is secure around the grill and free of slick or icy patches. (Sidewalk salt can help here.) Always have a working fire extinguisher at the ready.

Below are some other cold weather grilling tips (followed by a new recipe) to get you started on the path to winter grilling glory:

  • Position your grill in a wind-protected outside area (wind really reduces your grill’s efficiency) that is well-ventilated. Never grill in a garage, under a porch overhang, or other enclosed area. Not only is the potential for a fire great, but deadly carbon monoxide can build up. Clear any accumulation of snow off the grill.
  • If grilling with gas, check all lines and connections for leaks. In cold weather, parts become brittle or cracked. Make sure the control knobs are not frozen and turn freely.
  • Once you’ve started your gas grill or built your fire, replace the grill lid and preheat the grill for at least 20 minutes.
  • Line charcoal grills with heavy duty aluminum foil, shiny side up, to help retain and reflect heat; poke holes through the foil corresponding to the bottom vents.
  • Have plenty of extra fuel on hand. When charcoal grilling, I like to have a second kettle grill for lighting and holding live coals. Or have extra chimney starters at the ready on a heat-proof surface. (Not on your wooden deck!) Add coals every half hour, or as needed.
  • Heat escapes rapidly each time the grill lid is lifted; resist the urge to “peek.” A digital temperature probe can keep you apprised of what’s going on under the lid. Some charcoal grills come equipped with a built-in thermometer—very useful in the wintertime.
  • Allow extra time. Food will take longer to cook in cold weather—anywhere from 30 to 100 per cent longer.
  • Remember, winter days are short. If lighting around the grill is dim, supplement it with a Clip-On Grill Headlight or food-illuminating Lumatongs. At the very least, have a flashlight on hand.
  • Save the ambitious menus for friendlier grilling conditions. Select foods that can be cooked quickly—in 30 minutes or less— over direct heat. Steaks, chops, burgers, chicken breasts, shrimp, fish steaks or filets, kebabs, etc., are all good bets.
  • In my experience, smoking is very difficult to do in cold weather as many smokers are constructed of thin-gauge metal and do not retain heat well. You can smoke in a kettle grill if you maintain temperatures of 250 to 275 degrees by periodically adding fresh coals.
  • Rather than throwing soaked wood chips directly on the coals, which will immediately cool them, make a smoker pouch (see how on page 17 of How to Grill) and put it directly on the grill grate.
  • Gas grills with double-walled construction are better at holding in heat. Kamodo-type cookers, such as the Big Green Egg ( are extraordinarily heat-retentive, too.
  • My assistant, Nancy, has winter camping experience, and reports people unthinkingly touch hot surfaces when they themselves are cold. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t touch your hot grill without grilling gloves or other protection.

If you have any cold weather grilling tricks or tips you’d like to share, post them on the Barbecue Board. Thanks in advance from all of us.

Grilled Swordfish Steaks with Garlic Parmesan Butter
Serves 4

4 swordfish steaks (each about 3/4 inch thick and 6 to 8 ounces)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic Parmesan Butter (recipe follows)

1. Rinse the swordfish steaks under cold running water, then blot dry with paper towels. Place the swordfish in a nonreactive baking dish and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the fish, turning to coat both sides. Drizzle the olive oil over both sides of the swordfish. Let the swordfish marinate in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.

2. Set up the grill for direct grilling.

3. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the swordfish steaks on the hot grate, placing them on a diagonal to the bars. Grill the steaks for 2 minutes, then rotate a quarter turn to create an attractive crosshatch of grill marks. Continue grilling the swordfish until the undersides are nicely browned, about 2 minutes longer. Repeat on the second side. To test for doneness, press one of the swordfish steaks with your finger; it will break into clean flakes when fully cooked. Another test is to insert a metal skewer through the side of one of the steaks for 20 seconds: It should come out very hot to the touch.

4. Transfer the grilled swordfish to a warm platter or plates. Top each steak with a pat of Garlic Parmesan Butter.

Garlic Parmesan Butter
Leftover butter is great on grilled bread, potatoes, or vegetables.

Makes about 2/3 cup

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh curly parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon finely minced lemon zest
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Place the butter in a medium-size bowl and cream it using a whisk or wooden spoon. Add the garlic, parsley, cheese, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste and beat until the butter is light and fluffy. Transfer the butter to a square of plastic wrap or waxed paper, and form into a log-like shape. Tightly twist the ends of the plastic wrap or waxed paper to completely enclose the butter. Refrigerate or freeze until hardened. To use, unwrap, let warm slightly, and slice into pats.

On Super Bowl Monday, I received the following e-mail from intrepid winter griller Steve Hoch. I’m sure you’ll join me, once you read it, in saluting his winter grilling accomplishments and philosophical acceptance of his team’s loss.


You would have been proud of me this weekend, brother. I’m in Wheaton, Illinois, about 20 miles outside of Chicago, where it was -5 to -11 degrees below “0” all weekend. I’m pretty sure I was the only guy grilling in the area all weekend. On Saturday, I successfully pulled off 4 racks of baby back ribs using your brown sugar, salt, pepper, and paprika rub* (couldn’t go wrong there), along with some soaked hickory chips. I was concerned about the cooking time increasing due to the frigid weather; but to my surprise they were done in the usual hour to hour fifteen minutes on the old Weber 22.5” gas lit kettle! I haven’t used the gas igniter since I purchased your chimney starter. I just don’t need it; and besides, the regulators in the line usually freeze up in the extreme cold.

On Super Bowl Sunday in the same climate, I pulled off your Bratwurst Hot Tub to perfection right down to the grilled peppers I saved frozen from my vegetable garden last summer. It would have been a perfect day if our Bears had showed up. Maybe next year, as they say. Thank you for all you pass along. It is put to good use!

Steve Hoch
Wheaton, Illinois

* For information on rubs like this one, go to the December 2006 issue of Up in Smoke.

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

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Weather Outside Frightful? Bring the Show Indoors!

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber:

We’ve been in the deep freeze here in the Northeast. For days, high temperatures have been in the low single digits. (And can’t someone please tell the weather reporters we’d rather not hear about the wind chill factor?) Though I’ve never been afraid to grill outdoors in the wintertime—many of the recipes for Raichlen on Ribs were tested at this time last year in blizzard-like conditions!—the thought of grilling indoors in the fireplace is very appealing. It satisfies our craving for food cooked over live fire, and practically speaking, fireplace cookery is a useful skill to have if the power goes out, as it frequently does here. If you’re new to this method of grilling, Steven tells you below how to get started. If you’re an old pro, you can still learn some new tricks.

Warmest regards,

Nancy Loseke
Features Editor
Up in Smoke

In America, the fireplace has lost its useful purpose. Now akin to a vestigial organ, it was once the literal and spiritual focal point of the home (the ancient Roman word for hearth was focus), providing warmth, light, and hot food. The beginning of the end came in 1765 when the first iron cookstove was cast. During the next century, hearth-cooking became, as did many skills practiced by our forebears, a lost art.

Fireplaces, however, are still integral to family life in Europe; grilling in Italy (especially Tuscany and Friuli), Greece, Serbia, and other countries moves indoors when the weather turns chilly. In fact, winter is considered high grilling season in those parts of the world. Unless your fireplace has been outfitted with gas logs, you, too, can indulge in the pleasures of indoor fireplace grilling.

There are at least five benefits:

  1. It is the indoor grilling method most like grilling outdoors, especially if you routinely grill over wood or charcoal.
  2. You can cook over as hot a fire as you desire.
  3. You burn wood, which gives your grilled foods a subtle, smoky flavor.
  4. It enables you to enjoy grilled food without having to brave the elements.
  5. Best of all, you share in the primal sense of well-being that comes from gathering in front of a fire. In a word, it’s fun.

Special Equipment
Utensils with long handles are essential when fireplace grilling, as are grilling gloves, preferably elbow-length. As any Colonial-era woman could tell you, it gets hot in there! The telescoping fork I designed for my Best of Barbecue line extends a full 28 inches, and my trademarked Luma Tongs are not only long, they have a tiny halogen bulb attached to the handle—useful in dark spots like fireplaces.

A gridiron or cast-iron Tuscan grill increases your grilling options exponentially. The Tuscan grill is a square grate with legs that can be positioned above the embers. With it you can cook nearly anything you’d cook on your outdoor grill.

One of the niftiest fireplace grilling tools on the market is the SpitJack, a fireplace rotisserie manufactured in Italy that is elegantly reminiscent of nineteenth-century cookware. It’s perfect for roasting whole chickens or turkeys or large pieces of meat. Find it at

Another terrific source of fireplace grilling equipment is Lehman’s of Kidron, Ohio, which caters to the large Amish population there. It publishes a large print catalog—afte rall, most of its clients don’t have electricity, not to mention computers—and also sells from its website, You’ll find old-fashioned cast-iron implements such as pie irons, Dutch ovens, fireplace cranes, and corn poppers.

If you’re into low-tech solutions, I’ve seen gridirons improvised with fireproof bricks and an oven rack. Fireproof bricks can also be used as a base for roasting apples, onions, potatoes, peppers, squash, etc. Prop round-ish foods up with Best of Barbecue grilling rings, or aluminum foil twisted into doughnut shapes. Some foods can be roasted right in the coals. This is how we roast “Fireman’s Corn” at BBQ U (see BBQ USA, page 603). I’m also very intrigued by a recipe I heard about in Tuscany—though I haven’t tried it yet—where beans are cooked in the embers overnight in a recycled Chianti bottle called a fiasco (remember the kind with the straw-wrapped bottom?).

Building a Cooking Fire
I can’t emphasize this enough: Always use hardwoods like hickory, oak, alder, apple, etc. Softwoods like spruce or pine give off creosote, which can build up in your chimney and cause dangerous house fires. Also, never burn charcoal in your indoor fireplace as it gives off potentially lethal carbon monoxide and noxious chemicals.

If dripping meat juices and the potential for mess is a concern, line the floor of the fireplace and the apron in front of it with heavy duty aluminum foil, shiny side up to reflect heat.

fireplace.gifThe basic procedure for fireplace grilling is to light a log fire. (Don’t forget to open the damper first.) Split logs that are 3 to 4 inches in diameter work best. Have plenty of seasoned wood on hand (8 to 15 logs per recipe) as well as kindling. Wait until the flames die down—40 minutes to 1 hour. Rake the red hot embers into a pile about 1 inch deep (or for a two-zone fire—make a taller pile of embers on one side for high-heat searing and a shallower pile on the other to provide a more moderate cooking heat).

Position the gridiron over the embers and preheat it for 3 to 5 minutes. If your fireplace is large enough, you can build the fire on one side of the hearth or in the center and rake the embers under one or more gridirons on the side or toward the front of the fireplace.

Feed the fire as needed. My routine is to add a fresh log fifteen minutes after lighting the fire. Then I continue adding logs at the rate of one every five minutes. This way I’m assured of a continuous supply of fresh embers.

Here are some more tips:

  • Andirons or a raised fire grate make it easy for logs to burn down to glowing embers. If you have the room, place the andiron with the logs in back of the fireplace.
  • To reduce the risk of chimney fires, have your chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep at the beginning of cold weather. You need a fireplace that draws air well.
  • Let the fire burn out completely before removing the ashes. Make sure they are no longer warm and douse the ashes with water. Place the ashes in a metal ash can or trash can (not a plastic one), even if you believe they are cold–such as the day after cooking. It’s amazing how long embers can burn and spark.
  • Have a dry chemical fire extinguisher on hand. Take it to your local fire department once a year to make sure it’s fully loaded and operational. Minor flare-ups can be doused with a handful of salt. Keep an open container of it nearby.

And now, here are two new recipes for you to try in your own fireplace. Find 270 others in Raichlen’s Indoor Grilling.

Coffee-Crusted Porterhouse
Method: Direct Grilling
Serves: 2

1 porterhouse steak (1 1/2 to 2 inches thick)
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons Best of Barbecue Java Rub (see Note)

1. Place the steak in a nonreactive baking dish. Rub the steak on both sides with the olive oil. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of the Java Rub evenly on the steak. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, or as long as overnight.

2. About 40 minutes to 1 hour before you’re ready to cook, build a fire as directed above. Rake the red hot embers under the gridiron and preheat it for 3 to 5 minutes. You want a medium-hot, “4 Mississippi” fire.

3. Arrange the steak on the hot grate at a 45 degree angle to the bars of the grate and grill until cooked to taste, 7 to 10 minutes per side for rare (about 125 degrees F on an instant-read meat thermometer), rotating the steak after 3 to 4 minutes to create crosshatch grill marks.

4. To serve, I defer to the late James Beard, who in his 1953 book on outdoor cookery advised, “Carve the bone completely out of the steak with a sharp knife and hide it for yourself, then cut the meat in diagonal slices as thick as you wish. Slice right across the filet and the contra filet so that everyone gets a fine piece of each part of the steak.” If desired, drizzle a good quality olive oil over the meat before serving.

Note: Java Rub is available in my store. A similar rub can be made by combining 3 tablespoons of ground coffee, 1 tablespoon each of coarse salt and dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon each of sweet paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin. You’ll need 2 tablespoons for the steak. Store the remaining rub in an airtight container.

Smoky Eggplant Dip with Red Pepper and Feta
Method: Grilling in the embers
Serves: 4

2 long, slender eggplants (about 1 pound each)
3 red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
Pita chips or plain pita bread for serving

1. About 40 minutes to 1 hour before you’re ready to cook, build a fire as directed above. Rake the embers into a pile. Pierce the eggplants in a few spots with a fork. Place them directly in the embers and grill until the skins are charred and the flesh is very soft, 5 to 8 minutes per side (20 to 32 minutes in all).

2. Transfer the grilled eggplants to a plate to cool. Char the peppers in the embers until the skins are charred. Remove to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.

3. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, scrape any really burnt skin off the eggplants, but leave some of it on; the dark spots will add color and character. Coarsely chop the flesh. Scrape the charred skin off the red peppers (don’t worry if you don’t get it all), removing the seeds and stems. Coarsely chop.

4. Add the eggplant, red peppers, garlic, parsley, and red wine vinegar to the bowl of a food processor and finely chop the vegetables, running the machine in short bursts. With the motor running, add the oil. Stir in the feta cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or vinegar as needed.

5. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl. Sprinkle the scallions on top and serve with pita chips.

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

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Super Bowl XLI Special Issue

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber:

This special issue is my way of saying “thanks” for subscribing to my online newsletter, Up in Smoke. I’m sending you one of the recipes I’ll be serving for this year’s Super Bowl: Super Bowl XLI Wings with Thai Aioli. (For more Super Bowl recipes, see the January, 2006 edition of Up in Smoke at

Wings have become to Super Bowl Sunday what turkey is to Thanksgiving: in other words, preferred poultry. Of course, we all know and love the deep-fried wings developed in 1964—two years before the first Super Bowl—by Frank and Teressa Bellissimo, the owners of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. But you know Raichlen’s rule: if something tastes good fried or baked, it probably tastes even better grilled.

Marinated in beer and rubbed with ginger and other spices, these wings hit the grill with flavor to spare (Did you know the term “gridiron” actually comes from the football field’s resemblance to a grill grate?). They come off, 30 to 40 minutes later, in a haze of smoky glory and are doused, in a qualified nod to tradition, in melted butter and Thai hot sauce. An Asian-influenced aioli coolly accompanies them. They’ll be the hit of your party.

Again, thank you for reading Up in Smoke. Our next issue, which is devoted to indoor grilling, will be coming to you soon, followed by another with my best tips and tricks for grilling in cold weather. Keep an eye on your inboxes and…

May you have the winning number (or box) in the office pool!

With Thai Aioli
If grilling conditions are less than, well, super, on Super Bowl Sunday, these wings can be prepared on a contact grill or indoor built-in grill. They will take 4 to 6 minutes on the contact grill, provided the lid is down, and about 6 to 8 minutes per side on a built-in grill.

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 3 to 4 as an appetizer (makes 12)

12 whole chicken wings (about 2 pounds)

For the marinade:

2 cups dark beer
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
2 tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced

For the rub:

2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

To finish:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sriracha (Thai hot sauce; see Note)
1 1/2 cups Thai Aioli (recipe follows)

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

1. Rinse the chicken wings under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Cut the tips off the wings and discard them (or leave the tips on if you don’t mind munching a morsel that’s mostly skin and bones). Cut each wing into 2 pieces through the joint.

2. Make the marinade: In a medium bowl, combine the beer, honey, cilantro, ginger, and garlic, and whisk to mix. Place the wings in a large nonreactive bowl or resealable plastic bag, and add the marinade. Let the wings marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours; the longer they marinate, the more pronounced the flavors will be.

3. Make the rub: Place the salt, pepper, garlic, salt, ginger, coriander, and cumin in a small bowl and whisk to mix.

4. Drain the wings in a colander and blot them dry with paper towels; discard the marinade. Place the wings in a mixing bowl. Toss with the olive oil to coat. Add the rub and toss to coat the wings evenly.

5. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place all 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 all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.

6. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grate. Place the wings in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the wings, turning periodically, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, and the meat is cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes. To test for doneness, make a tiny cut in the thickest part of one of the larger wing halves. There should be no trace of red at the bone.

6. Transfer the wings to a clean shallow serving bowl. Pour the butter and sriracha over them and stir to mix. Serve at once with Thai Aioli and plenty of cold beer.

Thai Aioli
Makes: 1 1/2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise (preferably Hellmann’s)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sriracha (Thai hot sauce; see Note), or more to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
3 scallions, white and green parts finely minced

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, sriracha, cilantro, and scallions, and whisk to mix. Cover and refrigerate.

Note: Sriracha is a sweet Thai hot sauce—think turbocharged ketchup, rather than tongue-blistering hot sauce. It’s named for a city on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard and is available at most Asian markets, or through

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

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Ay, There’s the Rub

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for subscribing to Up in Smoke, Steven’s free monthly online newsletter. We hope you find it a valuable addition to your world of barbecue. Just as a reminder, past issues are accessible at Click on “Newsletter,” then browse the archive. There’s a wealth of information embedded there…barbecuing the perfect turkey, planning a SuperBowl party, Ribs 101, a primer on planking, and much, much more. In 2007, we promise to bring you even more “barbecue news you can use.”

Warm wishes to you this holiday season,

Nancy Loseke
Features Editor


I remember when few folks outside the competition barbecue circuit used—or had even heard of—dry rubs. Today, it’s hard to imagine grilling and barbecuing without these flavor-boosting, crust-forming blends of herbs and spices. Rubs have the ability to transform ordinary grilled food into something extraordinary.

There are dozens of commercial brands on the market, but the truth is, rubs are exceedingly easy to make from scratch at home. Inside of 30 minutes, you can have a trio of rubs lined up on your kitchen counter all ready for holiday giving. They’re a great way to indulge your passion for all things barbecue, particularly if the snow-clogged path to your grill hasn’t yet been shoveled. (OK, I know that’s unlikely among Up in Smoke readers.)

Now, you might wonder why a guy with his own line of commercial barbecue rubs would encourage you to make your own. Well, of course, you’re certainly welcome to buy and give my rubs (an idea I wholeheartedly endorse), but I know that this time of year, a lot of folks like the idea of giving a gift that’s homemade. As you may recall, I shared several ideas for homemade barbecue sauce and strategies for developing your own in the December, 2005, issue of Up in Smoke. Consider this your primer on dry rubs.

Simply defined, a rub is a mixture of herbs and spices used to season meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, or even tofu. There are many examples of traditional rubs in the world’s barbecue cultures. Some are downright exotic, such as Morocco’s ras el hanout, which can include as many as 100 ingredients. The term translates to “head of the shop,” and as you can imagine, every “head of shop” has a proprietary blend. Others are as elemental as Chinese five-spice powder (anise, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, fennel), or the French seasoning quatre épices (literally, “four spices,” which translates to white pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves).

In America, where pit masters use rubs with greater imagination and with a freer hand than anywhere else on the planet, rub preferences split along predictable regional lines, just like barbecue itself.

The ur American rub, which is a good place to start, usually contains roughly equal parts of salt, pepper, paprika, and sugar. It plays to a full range of flavors that can be perceived by the taste buds on your tongue. But just how you achieve those flavors lets you put your personal signature on the rub.

Sweet – sugar, brown sugar, maple sugar, or palm sugar;
Salty – table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, smoked salt, or any of the specialty salts now on the market;
Sour – lemon pepper, dried lemon or orange peel, sumac;
Heat – black pepper, green peppercorns, red peppercorns, Sichuan pepper, white pepper, dried chile flakes or powder, ginger, wasabi, paprika, smoked paprika.

Of course, there are many spices and ingredients you can use to tailor a rub’s texture and ethnic profile. Using an unconventional ingredient (in an intuitive way, of course) can make your rub really stand out. Some examples I’ve had luck with: coffee (yes…coffee) [page 82 of Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades], iced tea mix [page 130 of Beer Can Chicken], and even cocoa powder [page 266 of BBQ USA].

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with powdered versions of what are traditionally liquid condiments such as dried Worcestershire powder (available from and dried soy sauce []. I’m so pleased with the results that I’m introducing three new Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue rubs this spring: I’ll tell you when they’re ready in a future issue of Up in Smoke.

Here are some additional tips for dry rub success:

  • Buy the freshest possible spices and dried herbs. After 6 months, most dried herbs, especially tender herbs like chervil or tarragon, will have lost their punch. Buy replacements at a store that does a brisk business. If possible, grind the spices yourself right before you use them. A small electric coffee grinder reserved for this purpose is a help. Just don’t use it for coffee again…
  • Use a cautious hand when adjusting flavors. Remember—the male brain is wired to think, “If some is good, more must be better.” Too much of a good thing can ruin a great batch of rub.
  • Take your rub for a test drive. Remember, a rub will taste differently on your finger than it will on meat sizzling away on a grill or smoker. Try the rub on a neutral-tasting piece of meat, like a steak or chicken breast, so you know how it behaves on the grill.
  • Strive for balance. A good rub will play like a musical chord on the palate—it should be harmonious.
  • If not following a recipe, be sure to record the ingredients you use along with accurate measurements. You want to be able to replicate your successes. And share them with us and the good people on the Barbecue Board, of course!
  • If giving rubs as gifts, package in airtight containers or shaker jars. These can be purchased in some cookware shops or restaurant supply stores. Design a label—easy using a computer. Do include instructions for use.
  • As a general rule, figure on 2 to 4 teaspoons of rub per pound of meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Date the rub and indicate the shelf-life: If kept away from light and heat, most rubs will be at their best for about six months.

So, how do you use your rub? There are two ways.

You can use it as a seasoning, like you would salt and pepper, and apply it just before grilling. Sprinkle it on, or rub it in with your fingertips. (Hey, why do you think they call it a rub?) You can reapply some just before serving to reinforce the flavor.

But you’ll achieve a more complex flavor if you use the rub as a cure or marinade: Apply the rub to food several hours ahead of time (up to a day, if the cut of meat is large), and refrigerate, covered, until ready to grill. For more specific instructions on how to use rubs, consult Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades.

Rubs aren’t just for savory dishes. One of our most popular Best of Barbecue rubs is our “dessert rub,” a combination of turbinado sugar, also known as raw sugar, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. (There—you have the formula!) [Raichlen on Ribs, page 277] It’s fantastic on grilled fruit.

I hope I’ve lit a fire under you, so to speak, and that you’ll be inspired to try the following new recipes or develop your own. As always, please tell us about your successes and challenges on the Barbecue Board.

Michoacán Mole Rub
Chiles and chocolate are considered odd bedfellows by some Americans. But this rub, inspired by a traditional mole recipe from the Mexican state of Michoacán, will convince you of the culinary logic of the combination.

Makes about 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon good quality cocoa powder, unsweetened
2 tablespoons pure chile powder
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground clove
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The rub should keep for up to six months.

Greek Rub

Here is a scandalously easy rub that invokes the iconic flavors of the Grecian islands. Combined with olive oil and a splash of good vinegar, it becomes a marinade.

Makes about 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or medium-grained sea salt)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon oregano, preferably Greek
1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The rub should keep for six months.

Dear Steven,

I just recently found your website and am a very new BBQ’r…

I have been reading through a lot of your tips, tricks, and recipes, and am looking forward to lots of BBQ fun.

I have a question: I noticed you use bourbon in some of your recipes. I don’t drink, and thus never have bourbon. I was wondering if I could substitute something else…

Greg C.
Queen Creek, AZ

Hi, there,

Thanks for your excellent question, Greg. There are several flavorful liquids that can be substituted for bourbon. Apple cider, ginger ale, cola, or coffee are non-alcoholic options when making mop sauces, marinades, or barbecue sauces. What’s important is the layering of flavors; it’s what separates good BBQ’rs from great BBQ’rs.


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

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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.

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.

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.

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.


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

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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

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,

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!

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.

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 ( 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 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.


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

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.

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.

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, phone 888.482.2742.

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

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.

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.


  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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, 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”——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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.)


  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.


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.


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.

Thai sweet chili sauce is available in the ethnic section of most supermarkets or from 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.

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

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.


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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