Newsletter Archive

Special Fourth of July Edition


Dear “Up in Smoke” Subscriber,

According to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, Americans will be firing up their grills and smokers in record numbers this July 4th weekend.  Last year, a full 69 per cent of households celebrated with a cookout.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, and ribs lead the charge in most American back yards on Independence Day.  The Raichlen household—just in case you’ve ever stood over your grill or smoker wondering what’s on Steven and Barbara’s menu—will enjoy Cousin Dave’s Chocolate-Chipotle Ribs, Grilled Swordfish with Summer Salsa, Firecracker Corn, and Blueberry-Peach Crisp (to take advantage of the glorious blueberry crop on Martha’s Vineyard) with vanilla ice cream.  See recipes below.

From all of us, have a safe and wonderful holiday. 


Cut into individual ribs and serve as an appetizer, or cut into 3-rib portions if serving as a main course.  Warning: These are addictive!  Steven’s assistant, Nancy Loseke, has wondered aloud if there’s such a thing as “Rib Rehab.”  She prefers to use spareribs rather than the baby backs called for here.  The choice is yours. A rib rack (see is especially useful, particularly if you double the recipe.

Source: Raichlen on Ribs by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2006)
Method: Indirect grilling
Advance Preparation: At least 4 hours for marinating the ribs
Serves 4 as a main course, 8 to 10 as an appetizer

3 to 6 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, with 1 tablespoon of their juice
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus additional for garnish
1/2 ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely grated or cut into pieces
2 strips fresh lemon zest, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure chile powder, such as ancho
2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 racks baby back pork ribs (4 to 5 pounds total), papery membrane
from the back removed
Lime wedges, for serving

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

Place the chipotles and their juice, onion, garlic, 1/4 cup of cilantro, chocolate, lemon zest, brown sugar, chile powder, salt, and lemon pepper in a food processor and puree, adding enough oil to obtain a thick paste.

Using a rubber spatula or your hands, spread the chipotle paste on both sides of the racks.  Cover with plastic wrap or put into a large zip-top type bag.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325 to 350 degrees F).  Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill under the grate.

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 and away from the heat.  (If your grill has limited space, stand the racks of ribs upright in a rib rack; see above.)  If cooking on a charcoal grill and using wood chips, toss half of them on each mound of coals.  Cover the grill and cook the ribs until well browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers (1-1/2 to 2 hours).  When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/2 inch.  If using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals as needed.

Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board.  Let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the racks in half or into individual ribs.  Sprinkle the ribs with the remaining cilantro and serve at once with lime wedges.



Source: BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2003)
Method: Direct grilling
Advance Preparation: 15 to 30 minutes for marinating the fish
Serves: 4

4 swordfish steaks (each about 3/4-inch thick and 6 to 8 ounces), rinsed
and blotted dry
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Summer Salsa (recipe follows)
Fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish

Place the swordfish in a nonreactive baking dish and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper.  Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil on both sides; refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.  Brush and oil the grill grate.  Arrange the swordfish on the hot grate, placing the steaks at a diagonal to the bars.  Grill for 2 minutes, then rotate a quarter turn.  Continue grilling until the undersides are nicely browned, about 2 minutes longer.  Repeat on the second side.  When done, the swordfish will break into clean flakes when pressed with a finger.  Transfer to a platter or plates.  Spoon the salsa over the swordfish, garnish with the tarragon, and serve at once.


Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups

1 clove garlic, minced
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
Kernels from two shucked ears of sweet corn
2 red, ripe tomatoes, finely diced, with their juices
1 scallion, trimmed and finely chopped (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
3 tablespoons diced pitted black olives, such as kalamata (optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a mixing bowl.  Mash to a paste with the back of a wooden spoon.  Add the corn kernels and the tomatoes, scallion, tarragon, lemon juice, olives, if using, olive oil, and a few grinds of black pepper.  Toss gently just before serving, adding more salt and/or lemon juice as necessary.


Source: Recipe courtesy of Steven Raichlen
Method: Direct grilling
Serves 8 as a side dish

8 ears sweet corn, in the husk
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and very finely minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and very finely minced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon pure chile powder (optional), or more to taste
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)

You’ll also need:
Butcher’s string

Shuck the corn, stripping the husk back as though peeling a banana, but leaving the husk attached at the stem end.  Holding an ear of corn in one hand, gather the husk together so that it covers the stem and then tie it with a piece of butcher’s string.  This forms a sort of handle.  Remove the corn silk.  Repeat with the remaining ears of corn.

In a medium mixing bowl, blend the butter, garlic, jalapeno(s), red pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and chile powder, if using.  Add salt to taste.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.  When ready to cook, arrange the corn on the hot grate so that the husks hang over the edge of the grill (this keeps them from burning) or place a folded sheet of aluminum foil under the husks to shield them.  Grill the corn until nicely browned on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side (8 to 12 minutes in all), turning with tongs.

Transfer the corn to a rimmed baking sheet, and while the corn is still hot, slather it with the butter mixture using a knife, pastry brush, or flexible spatula.  Transfer to a serving platter and serve at once with the remaining butter.


Source: Adapted from BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2003)
Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 6-8

2 pints fresh blueberries, picked over
2 large ripe peaches (preferably freestone), peeled, pitted, and diced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled biscotti or shortbread cookie crumbs
1⁄2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
Pinch of salt
Vanilla ice cream (optional), for serving
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

You’ll also need:

One 8-by-10-inch aluminum disposable foil pan; cooking oil spray;
1 cup wood chips or chunks (preferably apple), soaked for 1 hour in water
to cover, then drained

Pick through the blueberries, removing any stems, leaves, or bruised berries. Place the berries and the diced peaches in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice and stir gently.  Add 1/4 cup of the flour and the granulated sugar, and the lemon zest and gently toss to mix.  Lightly spray the aluminum foil pan with cooking spray.  Spoon the fruit mixture into the aluminum foil pan.

Place the biscotti crumbs, brown sugar, and the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until a coarse powder forms. Add the butter and salt, then pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Spoon the topping over the filling.

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

When ready to cook, place the pan with the filling in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the crisp until the filling is bubbling and the topping is browned, about 40 minutes. Serve the crisp hot or warm, ideally with vanilla ice cream.  Garnish with mint.

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

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Build a Better Burger, and They Will Come

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

If ever you needed an excuse for a carnivorous indulgence, consider the perfectly grilled hamburger. That mouth-stretching first bite brings the crunch-squish of a properly grilled bun (sesame seed-studded, of course) with a soft, yielding middle; the beefy chew of the burger itself, salt and pepper-crusted, fire charred on the outside, with a sluice of meaty juices at the center. And, of course, the tang and crunch of well-chosen condiments: crisp lettuce, tart pickles, sweet onion, and sauces to suit your taste.

In other words, heaven on earth.

Too often, however, the dry, blackened disks that come off the grill are less than celestial, and are more reminiscent of the other place.

The following letter, from Judi B. of Meridien, Connecticut, summarizes the frustration of many grillers:

Hi Steven:

It seems that I can never really cook a great burger on my grill. I build a hot fire, let the grate get super hot, (but I) never really get the right grilled flavor. I have even added butter to make the flare ups and then put the burgers on, but to no avail. I was hoping that you could offer some insight… I REALLLLLY APPRECIATE IT as my husband and I both love burgers. Thank you.

Talk about coincidence: Judi lives not far from Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut—a centenary luncheonette that claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger.

The current owner of Louis’ Lunch, housed in a tiny but atmospheric red brick building, insists the hamburger was invented in 1898 by one Louis Lassen, a Danish blacksmith/preacher/short-order cook who subscribed to the “waste not, want not” school of thought.

Mr. Lassen couldn’t bear to discard leftover scraps of beef, so he ground them into patties, so the story goes, which he broiled over open flames and sandwiched between two slices of toasted bread. He didn’t believe in adulterating what he deemed to be the perfect burger with ketchup or mustard. No. To this day, you’ll brand yourself as an outsider if you ask for these condiments at lunch spot patronized by students from nearby Yale University for the better part of a century.

And mentioning the other Hamburger (someone from a city in northern German) at Louis’ is the grilling equivalent of trash talk. The story there, on the far side of the Atlantic, is that the hamburger was invented by German seafarers who decided to apply heat to the steak tartar they had enjoyed in trading ports in Russia.

We hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but as early as 1834, the legendary Delmonico’s in Manhattan listed “hamburger steaks” on its extensive menu. Interestingly, an order sold for the princely sum of $.10—twice the cost of a veal chop or roast beef.

In my opinion, the more likely fact is that hamburger-like grilled ground meat patties were, like fire or shish kebab, likely invented independently in many different parts of the world at once.

In my research for my forthcoming book, Planet Barbecue, for example, I’ve enjoyed bistekki, a beef and veal burger, in Santorini, Greece, mici, a mixture of ground, beef, veal and pork flavored with garlic in Bucharest, Romania, and what may be the world’s largest burger (at least largest in diameter), the plate-burying pljeskavica from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

But when made right, the numbers suggest that the classic American grilled hamburger trumps them all. hamburger_heaven.jpgAccording to
Hamburger Heaven: The Illustrated History of the Hamburger
by Jeffrey Tennyson, Americans consume at least 38 billion pounds of hamburger each year! If formed into patties and positioned side-by-side, you’d get a chain of hamburgers 1.8 million miles long!

It may seem simple to grill a good hamburger. But to quote a friend on playing checkers: “It takes 20 minutes to learn the fundamentals, but a lifetime to master the game.

I’m all for shortening the learning curve. Who wants to wait a lifetime for the perfect hamburger? Here, then, are my tips for nailing a great hamburger.

  • A great burger begins with great meat. I like a half and half mixture of chuck and sirloin—the former for flavor, the latter for style. You can also buy Kobe beef burgers from or even burger meat ground from dry aged steak, the latter available from the Montana Legend Company.
  • Fat is good. This may fly in the face of current nutritional wisdom (and my dietitian daughter, Betsy, is going to kill me), but a burger needs some fat to be luscious. I like a fat content of 10 to 15 percent fat.On the other hand, if you’re watching your fat intake (and listening to Betsy), you may want to consider a burger made with a lean flavorful meat, like bison instead of ground beef. Let the lusciousness come from that fat, juicy slice of ripe red tomato or even sliced avocado.Many purists, including the owner of Louis’ Lunch, insist on grinding their own meat from scratch. Try to find a butcher who can custom-grind meat for you. (That lets you spec the exact ratios you want.) Better still, grind it yourself. Some stand mixers, such as KitchenAid, come with optional meat grinders, or you can find old-fashioned, hand-cranked units at
  • Keep the meat cold (it helps to wet your hands with cold water), and handle it as little and as delicately as possible when shaping patties. Overhandling “bruises” the meat and over-compressing it will lead to dense, dry burgers.I like to make my burgers a few hours ahead of time and chill them on a plate covered with plastic wrap. This firms up the burger and helps it hold together during grilling.
  • Keep it simple. In general, I like to season my burgers with nothing more than coarse crystals of sea salt (lately I’ve been using Maldon salt from the U.K.) and freshly and coarsely ground black pepper. Save the fireworks for the garnishes.
  • Lightly brush the burgers on both sides with melted butter or extra-virgin olive oil just before grilling. This helps prevent sticking and adds an extra layer of flavor.
  • Of course, you’ll practice good grill hygiene by starting with a hot grilling and brushing and oiling the grate prior to grilling.
  • The proliferation of food-borne illnesses like E. coli—approximately 20,000 cases are reported to the Center for Disease Control each year— have made eating rare or medium-rare burgers the alimentary version of unprotected sex. Ground meats are especially susceptible to contamination—the surface bacteria normally killed by cooking a steak, for example, are dispersed throughout the meat. The USDA recommends cooking burgers to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (80 degrees centigrade).There’s only one sure way to make sure you’ve cooked a burger to a safe temperature. Use an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the patty. Insert it through the side of the burger, not through the top. Again, you’re looking for at least 160 degrees F. For more burger safety tips visit how do you keep a well-done burger from drying out? I like to place a disk of herb butter in the center of the meat patty. To make herb butter, mix softened salted butter with chopped parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon, or other fresh herbs, and perhaps a clove of minced fresh garlic. Form the resulting herb butter into a cylinder by wrapping it in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze it until hard. Then you can slice it crosswise into disks for placing in your burgers. (For precise directions, see How to Grill, page 98.) The butter melts as the burger cooks, so even a well-done burger will taste exceptionally juicy when you bite into it.Alternatively, make an inside-out cheeseburger. Coarsely grate cheddar, pepper jack, smoked mozzarella, or another favored cheese on a box grater and stir it into the burger meat. When you grill the burger, the cheese will melt, making even well done beef exceptionally moist.
  • Keep the burgers cold until the moment of grilling. Leave them in the refrigerator until the last minute, or place them a sheet pan over another sheet pan filled with ice.
  • Avoid cross-contamination, that is, never place a cooked burger on a cutting board, plate, or work surface where you’ve had raw beef. Never handle or eat a cooked burger with hands that have handled raw beef—unless you’ve washed them thoroughly with soap and hot water first. At our house, a bottle of Purell is almost as indispensable as a grill brush.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not press on a burger with a spatula while it’s grilling. All this does is squeeze out the juices onto the fire.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not overcrowd the grill. Follow the “30 percent” rule—leave 30 percent of your grill food free. That way if you get flare-ups, you have maneuvering room and a place to move the burgers if they start to burn.
  • Let the burgers rest, off the grill grate, for a couple of minutes before serving. This allows the meat to “relax,” giving you a juicier burger. (I also recommend this for steak.)Finally, lightly grill hamburger buns. Brush the cut sides with melted butter or olive oil and grill for 1 to 2 minutes. An ungrilled bun is like an un-pressed shirt.

Keep an open mind. In recent years, the concept of a “burger” has expanded to include turkey, pork, duck, salmon, tuna, lamb, and even Portobello mushrooms, recipes for all of which you’ll find in my books. Nancy recently did the following tally:From The Barbecue Bible (Workman, 2008):• Avocado, Sprout, and Salsa Burgers (page 225)
• Bulgarian Burgers (page 226)

From BBQ USA (Workman, 2003):

• Inside-Out Blue Cheese Burgers (page 338)
• “Sushi” Burgers (page 345)
• Portobello “Burgers” (page 574)

From Indoor Cooking (Workman, 2004):

• New Mexican Green Chile Burgers with Salsa Verde (page 158)
• Barbecue Pork Burgers with Honey Mustard Sauce (page 164)
• Lamb Burgers with Yogurt Cucumber Sauce (page 166)
• Oaxacan-Spiced Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Salsa (page 168)

If you have an ingenious twist on burgers, or your own trick for keeping burgers moist and juicy, even when cooked to well-done, please share it with us on the Barbecue Board.

In the meantime, folks, I don’t think you can do much better than these.


Source: The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2008)
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 6

For the burgers:

2-1/4 pounds ground beef (preferably ground chuck)
6 slices (each 1/2-inch thick) Vidalia or other sweet onion (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 hamburger buns

For the toppings– any or all:

Iceberg lettuce leaves
Sliced ripe tomatoes
Sliced dill pickles or sweet pickles
Cooked bacon (2 slices per burger)
Ketchup, Mustard, and Mayonnaise

Divide the meat into six equal portions. Lightly wet your hands with cold water, then form each portion of meat into a round patty about 4 inches across.

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

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.

If using onion slices, brush them on both sides with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the onion on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side, then transfer to a plate.

Brush one side of the meat patties lightly with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the burgers, buttered side down, on the hot grate and grill until the bottoms are nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Brush the tops lightly with some of the melted butter and season them with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, turn the burgers and grill until they are browned and cooked to taste, 4 to 5 minutes longer for medium. Meanwhile, brush the cut sides of the buns with the remaining melted butter and toast them, cut sides down, on the grill during the last 2 minutes the burgers cook.

Set out the toppings. Put the burgers and onion slices on buns and serve.


Source: Recipe courtesy of Steven Raichlen
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 6

2-1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 3-inch log of goat cheese, chilled
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
6 pita breads
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Wasabi Cream for serving (recipe follows)

Lightly wet your hands with cold water and divide the ground lamb into 12 equal portions. Form each into a round patty about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the goat cheese into six equal rounds.

Place a round of goat cheese on a lamb patty; top with another patty and seal the edges.

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

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Brush one side of the lamb patties lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the burgers, oiled side down, on the hot grate and grill until the bottoms are nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Brush the tops lightly with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, turn the burgers and grill until they are browned and cooked to taste, 4 to 5 minutes longer for medium. Meanwhile, brush the pita breads with the remaining olive oil and toast them on the grill during the last 2 minutes the burgers cook.

Split or slice the pita breads to accommodate the burgers. Serve with Wasabi Cream.

Wasabi Cream

Makes about 1 cup

1 to 2 tablespoons wasabi powder, or more to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more as needed)
1 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s preferred)

Combine the wasabi powder and lemon juice and mix until a smooth paste is formed. Let sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to develop. Add the mayonnaise and whisk to combine. Refrigerate until serving time.

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

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Grilling Safety

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

You know the scenario. The host of that Memorial Day cookout grabs the top of the LP tank (which he left connected to the grill at the end of last grilling season), and wobbles it optimistically, fingers crossed that there’ll be enough gas to take the barbecued chicken beyond its raw state. Then he’ll crank the starter burner to high and wait expectantly for that “whoosh” sound that either signals ignition…or conflagration.

Meanwhile, an equal number of charcoal grillers will haul their grills out of the garage, survey the cooked-on crud on the grill grate, and rationalize how it will “season” this year’s food. Then they’ll reach for the charcoal (oops, not much in the bag), lighter fluid (oh, good…plenty of that), and a match, preferably—but not always—in that order.

Nothing will ruin your reputation as a grill jockey faster or more completely than burning down the house or sending everyone home sick with food poisoning. With National Barbecue Month (May)—the official kick-off of the 2008 grilling season—upon us, what better time to get your barbecuing equipment in top working order and reacquaint yourself with the fundamentals of grilling and food safety? I know this may not sound as sexy as rubs or smoking, but that’s what we pros do, folks.

Getting Started
When I was eight-years old, my mother gave me an unforgettable lesson on the wrong way to light a charcoal grill. She threw a match on a pile of briquettes, then splashed gasoline on top. Only the quick reaction of a neighbor, who knocked the exploding gas can out of my mother’s hands, averted tragedy.

Incidents like this are not uncommon. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2005, gas and charcoal grills caused 3,400 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires in the U.S. resulting in property losses alone in excess of $137 million. So even if you normally skip safety warnings—read on.

Gas Grills

Make sure there are no insects or cobwebs under the burner knobs, in the grill manifolds, or in the connecting hoses. Replace any obviously crimped, brittle, cracked, or nicked connectors or hoses.

If the pinholes on the burner tubes are clogged, carefully unclog them with a straight pin or bent paper clip. Make sure the burner knobs turn freely; if they don’t, squirt the valves with WD-40. If your grill has an igniter switch, make sure it’s in working order. You may need to replace the battery—usually a single AA. Clean the drip pan in the highly unlikely event you forgot to clean it at the end of last season.

To clean the grill grates, preheat the grill and grates screaming hot, then brush with a stiff wire brush . Don’t forget to oil the grate with a grate oiler or a folded paper towel dipped in oil and drawn across the grate at the end of tongs. A grate is easy to clean when it’s hot, and almost impossible to clean when it’s cold. Then, throughout the season, keep your grate hot, keep it clean, keep it lubricated. The more you use the grill, the more the grate will resist rust and sticking.

Check the level of gas in the propane tank by weighing it; an empty tank will weigh about 18 pounds, a full tank, about 38. Another way to check the gas level in a propane tank is to pour a cup of boiling water over the side: the water will condense at the level where there’s gas. (Do not allow a supplier to overfill your tank as the gas needs head space.) Make sure the tank itself is in good condition and not showing signs of distress, bulging, or rust. Always transport it in an upright position—I’ve found a milk crate works well.

Reconnect the LP tank (which you removed from the grill last year and stored outside away from the house or other structures, right?).

Check all hoses and connections for leaks with a leak detection solution made by mixing equal amounts of liquid dish soap and water. Brush this mixture over the hoses and connectors. Open the shut-off valve, and if you see bubbling (which indicates a leak), immediately turn the gas off. Do not attempt to light the grill until the leak has been repaired. It’s not a bad idea to perform this test periodically, especially when lighting a grill after an extended period of disuse.

To light, open the lid of the grill, then turn on the gas at the tank. (Never light a gas grill with the lid closed—you’ll get a gas build-up and possible explosion.) Turn the burner knob to “high” or “ignite.” On some models, the igniter is slaved to a specific burner and you must light that tube first before lighting the rest of the grill. (Again, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)

For more tips on safe propane grilling, visit the Propane Education and Research Council website,

If the grill doesn’t light after a couple of clicks, turn off the burner control knob, turn the gas off at the tank, and wait 5 or 10 minutes before attempting to light it again. If everything seems to be in order but your grill still fails to light, call the manufacturer. And maybe make other plans for dinner.

Charcoal Grills

Get started by thoroughly cleaning your grill. (Of course, you did that the last time you used your grill, but just double-check.) Scrape out any congealed ash at the bottom of the firebox or kettle bowl with a garden trowel. Empty the ash catcher (if you haven’t already done so). Squirt any sticky vents with a silicone spray like WD-40. Treat minor rust or dings with a high-quality heatproof paint. If rust is beginning to eat through the grill walls, it’s time to say goodbye, no matter how many good times you’ve shared.

Clean the grill grate by heating, brushing, and oiling, as described above, or do as my assistant, Nancy Loseke, does—she buys a new grate for her kettle grill each year for about $15.00. There are also cleaning agents on the market formulated especially for barbecue grills. Check with your local hardware or grill store. Again, the more you use the grill, the more the grate will resist rust and sticking.

And while you’re at it, take inventory of supporting equipment. Do you need more or better chimney starters, long-handled tongs, grill brushes, or spatulas? How’s your supply of paraffin fire starters, disposable drip pans, or long matches? Do you have plenty of charcoal? (Store the latter in a tight fitting metal can to keep it from becoming damp.)

There are several ways to light a charcoal fire—the aforementioned lighter fluid (and a related product, self-lighting charcoal, which consists of briquettes soaked with lighter fluid), an electric starter, and a chimney starter.

The latter is my favorite. Charcoal goes in the top and a crumpled piece of newspaper or a paraffin fire starter, which you ignite with a gas lighter or long match, goes in the bottom. In 15 to 20 minutes, you have a cylinder full of evenly lit coals. The beauty of a chimney is that it lights the coals uniformly without petroleum-based starters. It’s easy to use and easy to transfer the coals where you need them.

When arranging the coals in the grill for direct grilling, leave at least 30 per cent of the grill coal free—this creates a safety zone where you can move food in case of flare-ups. And always wear long, heavy leather grilling gloves when handling chimney starters and coals.

General Grill Safety

· Position gas and charcoal grills 10 feet from walls, siding, deck railings, eaves, shrubbery, or other combustibles. Do the same with chimney starters. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, over one-third of all fires started by gas or charcoal grills begin on overhanging balconies or unenclosed porches.

·Place a large heavy sheet of metal under the grill or use a protective pad, like the one manufactured by DiversiTech to shield your deck from dripping grease or sparks.

· Never bring a barbecue grill indoors (charcoal or gas) or into any unventilated space like a garage. Carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and deadly.

· Keep children and pets away from the grill. I’d add rambunctious lawn games (such as football or soccer) and guests who have had one too many to drink. Make sure the grill’s on level ground and that its placement doesn’t interfere with normal foot traffic patterns.

· Wear fitted clothing—nothing loose. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are the preferred uniform of serious grill jockeys. And closed shoes, of course. The first time you step barefooted on a loose ember or a hot spark or dripping fat hits the top of a sandaled foot, you’ll appreciate this advice.

· Never leave a lit grill unattended. Remember the last of Steven’s Ten Commandments of Great Grilling: “Never desert your post.”

· Always have a bucket of water and a dry, fully-charged chemical fire extinguisher on hand. Make friends with your local fire department and have your extinguisher checked annually. A large box of coarse salt can be useful for extinguishing small grease fires. Sprinkle it on top. Call 911 without delay if a fire can’t be immediately controlled.

· Always use long-handled grilling tools to avoid leaning over the grill while cooking.


· Let charcoal cool completely—either let the coals burn down, or close the vents and the lid to starve the coals of oxygen. (Pouring water in the grill to douse hot coals is never a good idea. It results in hot and dangerous steam, and can damage the grill itself.) The charcoal and ash can I designed for my Best of Barbecue line is a perfect receptacle for hot coals, and a necessity if you’re a tailgater or “leave no trace” camper. Common sense dictates you should wait until the next morning to empty out ashes, and of course, never place them in a paper bag or plastic garbage can. A live coal can survive for more than 12 hours.

· Never attach or disconnect an LP tank or fiddle with fittings when the grill is on. If you run out of gas during a grilling session, turn off all the burners, reconnect the new tank, and light it afresh.

· After you’re done grilling and while the grill is hot, brush and oil the grill grate. Or if the grate is especially dirty, burn off the crud, then brush and oil the grate. Be sure to turn all the burners off (including rotisserie and smoker box burner—you wouldn’t believe how often people forget to do this, me included, and lose a whole tank of gas. Crank down the gas shut-off valve. Disconnect the LP couplings once the grill has cooled if the grill will be idle for several days.

Food Safety 101
A food poisoning strike at 3 a.m. will erase all memory of that great barbecue the night before faster than you can say, “ e. coli.” And unfortunately, food-born illnesses, like salmonella (present in as much as three-quarters of American chickens), have become a major concern in this country.

You can protect yourself, your family, and your guests from these scourges by developing good food-handling habits, such as the following, courtesy of the National Restaurant Association:

· Always wash your hands with hot water and soap before handling food, and between food tasks, especially if you’ve touched raw meat.

· Obsessively clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces (such as cutting boards or utensils) between uses.

· Don’t cross-contaminate, that is allow raw food (such as chicken) to touch or drip fluids onto cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

· Don’t use raw marinades (marinades in which raw meats have soaked) for basting cooked meats or as a sauce—unless you boil the marinade for at least 3 minutes.

Storage: Store perishable foods quickly and properly in the refrigerator after purchasing. Going to be out shopping all day? Bring an ice-filled cooler.

Preparation: Remember the Danger Zone (41 degrees F to 140 degrees F) and minimize the time food spends out between these temperatures.

Cooking: Cook food to its minimum safe internal temperature for the appropriate amount of time. (See below.) The only way to be sure about doneness is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. Insert it through the side of steaks, chops, chicken breasts, burgers, etc., not through the top. When checking for doneness in whole chickens or turkeys, insert the thermometer probe into the deepest part of the thigh meat, but not touching the bone.

Safe doneness temperatures:
Poultry: 170 degrees
Pork: 160 degrees
Hamburgers: 160 degrees

Holding: Hold hot foods at 140 degrees F or higher and cold foods at 41 degrees F or lower.

Cooling: Cool cooked food to 70 degrees F within two hours and to 41 degrees F (a normal refrigerator temperature) within four hours.

At Grill Side: Keep meats on ice or in an ice-filled cooler until you’re ready to grill them. Ditto for mayonnaise-based salads, like slaw and potato salad. (You’ll notice on the set of Barbecue University or Primal Grill we try to have meats on ice-filled sheet pans or in ice-filled bowls—and that’s not just for television.)



Insanely popular in Lima and in Peruvian communities in the U.S. For maximum crispness and to speed up the cooking process, the chicken is spatchcocked (butterflied). Note: in Peru, you’d use a fiery yellow chili called aji amarillo (use 1 to 2). This recipe approximates the flavor by mixing yellow bell pepper and habanero.

Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 2 to 4
Advance Preparation: 2 to 12 hours for marinating the chicken

For the marinade and sauce:

1 yellow or orange bell pepper
1 habanero pepper, or 2 jalapeno peppers, or more to taste
One small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s preferred)

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken (about 3-1/2 to 4 pounds)

Stem, seed, and devein the bell pepper and the habanero and chop roughly.

Combine in a blender container with the onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric, and vegetable oil. Blend until fairly smooth. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the marinade mixture (reserve the remainder) with the mayonnaise and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate the mayonnaise mixture until ready to serve.

Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. Using poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut through the flesh and bone along both sides of the backbone. Cut from the tail end to the head end and completely remove the backbone.

Open out the chicken (like opening a book) by gently pulling the halves apart. Using a sharp paring knife, lightly score the top of the breastbone. Run your thumbs along and under the sides of the breastbone and attached cartilage and pop them out. Spread the bird out flat.

Turn the bird over. Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the skin between the lower end of the breastbone and the leg, on each side, approximately 1/2 inch long (you’re trying to accommodate the end of the drumstick). Stick the end of the drumstick on that side through the slit.

Put the spatchcocked chicken into a nonreactive baking dish and pour the marinade over it, turning to coat completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the chicken on the grate, skin-side down. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes per side, turning once with tongs and a spatula. The chickens can be a little awkward to turn; you’ll need to use both utensils. If the skin browns too much, lower the heat or move the chicken to a cooler section of the grill. The chicken is done when an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 170 degrees F. Or to play it safe, you can indirect grill the bird—in which case, place it skin side up on the grill and indirect grill for about 40 minutes.

Let the bird rest for 3 to 5 minutes, then carve and serve with the mayonnaise sauce.


These spicy flat burgers turn up throughout the Balkans, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Flatten the burger to the thickness and size of a pita bread. The easiest way to do this is to flatten it on a metal or stone work surface, then pry it off with a slender metal spatula.

Method: Direct grilling
Serves: Serves 4
Advance Preparation: 1/2 to 1 hour for letting the meat rest

12 ounces ground beef, preferably ground chuck
12 ounces ground veal (or substitute more ground beef)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 to 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced (see Note)
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
Grilled pita bread for serving
Tomato slices and lemon wedges for serving (optional)

Combine the beef, veal, garlic, onion, serrano pepper(s), parsley, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl. Knead the mixture gently with your hands until thoroughly blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Divide the meat in four equal portions. Mold each into a large flat disk, like a pita bread, on the back of a metal baking sheet or stone countertop. Each burger should be about 6 inches across and 1/4-inch thick.

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

Loosen the burger from the baking sheet, sliding a slender metal spatula under it. Transfer it to the grill. Grill until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. The internal temperature on an instant read meat thermometer inserted through the side will be at least 160 degrees.

Transfer to a large plate or platter and serve at once with pita, tomato slices, and lemon wedges for squeezing.

Note: For a hotter pljeskavica, leave the seeds in.

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

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Barbecue: Feeding People Cheaply for Centuries

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

No matter what your net worth, there’s something supremely satisfying about feeding your family and friends well with limited resources. Anyone can drop $100 on a beautiful hunk of prime rib, but it takes talent and heart to turn low-cost victuals into a feast. Given the combination of a volatile stock market, tightening credit, and an uncertain economic forecast, I thought you’d appreciate a few suggestions for the grill that don’t break the bank.

Though barbecue is democratic in nature—enjoyed by high-born and low, rich and poor— it is a religion that has traditionally been preached in America from the pulpits of the budget-minded.

The slaves were among barbecue’s early practitioners in the American South. They quickly discovered that the meanest cuts of meat were much improved by smoke, spices, and low, slow cooking. The cooking was done over ember-filled trenches dug in the ground—the origin of the modern barbecue “pit.”

Political rallies during the 18th and 19th centuries were often organized around epic barbecues (they were called “pig pickin’s” in the Carolinas), and candidates duked it out over who provided the best comestibles. These barbecues were a way to feed a lot of people for not much money.

Yes, the history of live fire cooking is entwined with tales of thrifty people whose ingenuity led to some of our most beloved iterations of barbecue.

  • Charlie Vergos of Rendezvous fame, ran a sandwich shop in Memphis, Tennessee. One day, a meat salesman gave him a case of pork ribs to experiment with. (There was no market for baby backs in those days; the salesman couldn’t give them away.) Charlie direct-grilled the ribs high over blazing charcoal, mopped them with a mixture of vinegar, water, and salt, then he crusted them with a Greek-inspired seasoning he made up on the spot. Today, Rendezvous serves about four tons of its legendary ribs a week. They’ll ship ribs and their proprietary seasoning right to your door as you’ll discover if you visit their aptly-chosen website,
  • Another Charles—German immigrant Charles Kreuz (rhymes with bites)—founded a grocery store in Lockhart, Texas, in 1900, and did much to sharpen the state’s enduring appetite for beef shoulder clod, brisket, and sausage. At the end of each day, he barbecued any unsold meat over a wood fire and unloaded it at bargain prices. The business, though no longer in the atmospheric original location, is iconic in the world of regional barbecue.
  • Southern California’s favorite barbecued beef was once considered a cut too tough and fibrous to grill. The tri-tip was generally ground into hamburger or sold as stew meat…that is, until supermarket butchers Larry Viegas and Bob Schultz seasoned a tri-tip with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and threaded it onto a turnspit, never expecting that spit roasting was just what this maligned cut needed. That was 1952. Now it’s the signature barbecue of Santa Maria, about 170 miles north of Los Angeles—and indeed, is enjoyed throughout the West Coast.
  • Most pitmasters discard rib tips, the cartilaginous ends of trimmed spareribs. But as my friend Lindsay Shannon knows, they make a great gnaw when properly seasoned and lengthily smoked. Lindsay is the proprietor of one of my favorite Kansas City rib joints, BB’s Lawnside Bar-B-Q. (For a close facsimile of his recipe, see Raichlen on Ribs, page 156.) The restaurant’s heat-holding granite barbecue pit has been working its smoky magic since 1950.
  • Even charcoal briquettes came to the market through one man’s frugality. Henry Ford began manufacturing them in the 1920s using wood scraps from his Model T production line. The business was run by a distant relative, E. G. Kingsford. Does that name sound familiar?

Saving Money
As any shrewd shopper knows, bargains in meat, poultry, and seafood are getting harder to find. The industry claims corn and its importance to the alternative fuel ethanol is to blame in part for the steep price increases we’re seeing at the butcher and dairy counters. But supply and demand bear responsibility, too, and as more people smoke brisket and ribs at home, the price of these cuts rises. It doesn’t help things when star chefs like Thomas Keller feature beef cheeks, lamb tongues, etc., on their upscale menus.

So, how do you save money?

Well, first use neglected or overlooked cuts. Baby back ribs have achieved star status, but spare ribs and country-style ribs (the latter direct-grilled like pork chops) are still affordable cuts of pork. Beef long and short ribs (see recipe below) and lamb ribs are also quite reasonable and deliver huge flavor for your investment.

Brisket prices have crept up, especially for the lean center cuts. But a whole brisket, sheathed in fat, with point and deckle attached, is still quite reasonable—and it’s a lot easier to cook without drying it out than the leaner version. Even better, ask your butcher to order you a clod (whole beef shoulder). Cook it low and slow as you would brisket (see a recipe on page 164 in BBQ USA). The flavor will come as a revelation. And it will serve a crowd of 20 to 30 people.

Asians have evolved a sensible strategy that saves you not only money, but calories, cholesterol, and fat grams. They often use meat as a flavoring or condiment—rather than a huge, plate-burying hunk of protein. Consider the Thai Grilled Beef Salad (recipe below) where a single flank steak will serve 4 or more people. A single salad can be as satisfying as a steak dinner when it’s paired with such explosively flavorful seasonings as chilies, fresh basil, mint, cilantro, fish sauce, and lime juice. In addition to the recipe I’m sharing below, you can find more Asian-inspired recipes in my story on healthy barbecuing in the June/July issue of Best Life magazine.

BBQ U Mac & Cheese with Grilled Onions, Chilies, and Corn (Photo courtesy of Don Barto)

Finally, another way to trim the cost is to avoid meat entirely. Believe it or not, one of the most oft-requested recipes from my files is a rich grilled version of macaroni and cheese, made famous in “BBQ U” Season 4, that has the most unrepentant carnivores reloading their plates. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself with this recipe.

Get out of your grilling and barbecueing comfort zone and try your hand at unfamiliar cuts like the aforementioned rib tips, tri-tip, or beef shoulder clod. Or grill up skirt or hanger steak for authentic fajitas, or beefy-tasting flat iron steaks, a relatively new cut from the shoulder. Make friends with your butcher or fish monger and ask them to keep you abreast of good buys.

As always, for great ideas and information and lively discussions about grilling and barbecueing, visit the Barbecue Board.

Five-Spice Short Ribs with Shanghai Barbecue Sauce
Here’s a preview of one of the recipes on my new TV series, “The Primal Grill” with Steven Raichlen. Shows will begin airing in May on PBS. Meaty but value-priced beef short ribs get an easy but exotic rub before being smoked to tenderness, sauced, and sizzled.

Source: “The Primal Grill” with Steven Raichlen
Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 4 to 6
Advance Preparation: 4 to 6 hours for marinating the meat

3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs, bone-in

For the rub:
2 tablespoons Chinese 5-spice powder
1 tablespoon teaspoon fine grained sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground white pepper

For the Shanghai Barbecue Sauce:
1 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons rice vinegar, or more to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger
2 scallions, white and green parts minced

You’ll also need:
1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then

1) Make the rub: Combine the 5-spice powder, salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

2) Make the barbecue sauce: In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the hoisin sauce, wine, soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and scallions. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens (5 to 10 minutes).

3) Generously sprinkle the ribs on all sides with the rub. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them while you set up the grill.

4) Set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. Toss half of the wood chips on each mound of coals.

5) Cover the grill and cook the ribs until they are well-browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch.

6) Just before serving, brush the ribs on all sides with the Shanghai Barbecue Sauce and move them directly over the fire. Grill until the sauce is sizzling, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Watch carefully so the sugars in the barbecue sauce don’t burn.

7) Transfer to a large platter or cutting board and let rest for a few minutes. Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.

Spicy Thai Grilled Beef Salad (Yam Nua Yang)
In honor of the forthcoming 10th anniversary edition of Steven’s Barbecue! Bible (May 2008), here’s a recipe for Asian Grilled Beef Salad along with a photo from the new book.

Source: The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, May 2008)
Method: Direct grilling
Advanced Preparation: 2 to 8 hours for marinating the meat
Serves: 4

For the beef and marinade:
1 flank steak (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

For the dressing:
3 cloves garlic
1 to 6 Thai or jalapeno chiles, minced (seed the chiles for a milder dressing)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

To finish the salad:
2 large heads Boston or 4 heads Bibb lettuce, separated into leaves, rinsed, and spun dry
1 hothouse or English cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 small sweet onion, very thinly sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
12 fresh mint leaves (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1) Lightly score the flank steak in a crosshatch pattern, making the cuts 1/4 inch deep. Place the meat in a glass baking dish. Combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Pour this mixture over the steak and let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or as long as 8, turning several times.

2) Preheat the grill to high.

3) Make the dressing. Grind the garlic, chiles, and sugar to a paste in a mortar with a pestle. Work in the fish sauce and lemon juice. Alternatively, puree in a blender or small food processor.

4) Prepare the salad. Line a platter with the lettuce leaves and arrange the cucumber slices, onion, cherry tomatoes, and mint leaves (if using) on top.

5) When ready to cook, drain the steak. Oil the grill grate, then place the steak on the hot grate and grill until cooked to taste (4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare), using tongs to turn. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let cool slightly or completely. The salad can be served warm or at room temperature. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on the diagonal. Spoon the dressing over the salad and arrange the beef slices on top. Sprinkle with the cilantro and roasted peanuts and serve.

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

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Salt of the Earth

Dear Up in Smoke Subscriber,

Quick: name one ingredient no grill jockey in the world would be without. The answer is easy. Salt. From Spain’s salt-crusted rib steak to Vietnam’s salt and pepper prawns to Scotland’s smoked salmon, salt is not only a seasoning, but an integral part of some of the world’s greatest grilled and smoked dishes. If you think that salt is just, well, salt, it’s time to take a fresh look.

For most of recorded history, sodium chloride—an essential mineral for humans and animals—was a precious commodity. It played a huge role in the evolution of the world as we know it. Anthropologists posit that the first human settlements and cities first rose where there were natural salt deposits. Humans followed animals to salt licks, etching the first dirt roads, and ultimately, the path to the world’s first social barbecues. Roman legionnaires were paid in salt wages (Latin: salarium argentum), giving rise to the word “salary.” Salzburg, Austria, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Saltville, Virginia, are communities named literally for the salt deposits around them.

Although you’d never guess it to look at exotic salt prices at your local gourmet shop, salt is not rare. It is, in fact, one of the most plentiful minerals on earth. The deposits under Kansas alone could service the planet’s salt needs for the next 250,000 years!

For culinary purposes, there are many different types of salt. Here are some of the most common, along with their suggested uses:

Check out the New York Times bestseller Salt for a fascinating history of this important mineral.


Table salt– This form of sodium chloride is used in over 70 per cent of households in the U.S. It is available plain or with iodine, an element required in trace amounts by nearly all living organisms. (In humans, iodine aids healing, helps regulate blood pressure, prevents goiters, and elevates the IQ of populations that have ready access to it.) Each crystal is tiny and cube-shaped, meaning it packs tightly. (Note: you should use less table salt if substituting it for kosher or coarse salt in a recipe. For a helpful conversion chart, go to .) It is the least expensive of the culinary salts, making it a reasonable choice for preparations calling for more than a few tablespoons of salt, such as brining, which can require several cups. It is also good for baking as it dissolves easily in liquid.

Kosher salt – Kosher salt is table salt that has been compressed and then flaked. This process increases its surface area so it can draw out more moisture from food. The large flat crystals also dissolve more slowly than table salt—which is one reason I like it so much for grilling. It doesn’t dissolve completely, so you get little pointillistic bursts of flavor when you bite into a kosher salt-seasoned steak or chops.

Kosher salt has a crunchy texture and a clean flavor which makes it excellent for crusting grilled or barbecued meats, mixing into dry rubs, or rimming a glass for margaritas or a grilled shrimp cocktail. Like table salt, it is relatively inexpensive and also good for brining. (For specific information on brining, go to this archived issue of Up in Smoke) This is the everyday salt I reach for at the grill—especially when grilling meat.

Sea salt – Sea salt results when seawater evaporates—sometimes in sluices specially designed for the purpose, sometimes in natural pools in salt marshes and tidal basins. Its color and flavor vary depending on the coastal area where it was harvested. It can range in color from white to grey to brown.

Unrefined sea salt, which has a moist appearance and is usually sold in jars, often goes by its French name: sel gris (“grey salt”). It tends to form coarse, pyramid-shaped crystals, which are exquisite for seasoning grilled seafood. Fleur de sel (“flower of salt”) is the highest grade of sea salt. It comes from France, and is skimmed by hand from the top of salt marshes. Another great sea salt, this one dry, comes from England and is called Maldon. These salts do not come cheap, but their flavor and texture are richly rewarding.

A father and sons team of salt merchants in the famous salt flats of Trapani, Sicily. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Loseke.)

Specialty salts – Up to now, we’ve been talking mostly about everyday salts. Specialty salts come from the four corners of the globe and are used by the world’s grill masters for everything from Indian tandoori to a Hawaiian style luau.

The prize for the most distinctive incarnation of sodium chloride surely goes to Indian black salt, (actually, kind of purplish)—a coarse, unrefined mineral salt with a pungent, sulfurous aftertaste. Sounds off-putting, but nothing beats it for finishing certain Indian grilled lamb dishes.

Red salt, also known as alaea, is a specialty of Hawaii. The large crystals have a pinkish-orangish tinge (not unlike salmon), which the salt picks up from particulate volcanic red clay. Red salt is the traditional salt for a Hawaiian pit roasted pork dish called Kahlua Pig. See Barbecue USA, page 252, for a recipe.

Our features editor, Nancy Loseke, is especially enamored of Murray River salt, a delicate, pale apricot-colored salt from ancient underground rivers in the Murray/Darling River area of Victoria, Australia. The salt has, she says, a pleasing crunch, a pure taste, and has given her a reason to recall to active duty the antique salt cellars she inherited from her grandmother. Each diner gets one, as well as a tiny silver spoon.

She also alerted me to Danish Viking Smoked Sea Salt, a remarkable seasoning that is made by evaporating sea water over a smoky wood fire of juniper, cherry, elm, beech, and oak. Talk about a salt that’s grill friendly! Think of it as the Scandinavian version of American hickory smoked salt, which is made by infusing salt with natural hickory smoke and (sometimes) yeast. This salt, as well as the salts detailed above, are available in some specialty shops, or can be ordered from or

Curing salt – Technically speaking, all salts cure the foods exposed to them by drawing out moisture. (See the Asian-inspired fish cure recipe below.) But there are salts on the market that have been especially developed to cure meats quickly; they usually contain sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, and are familiar to barbecuers who like to cure and smoke their own bacon, hams, sausages, jerky, and other meats, as well as salmon, sablefish, and shad.

And while we’re on the subject of the different types of salt, here are a few thoughts on how to use them for grilling.

When to salt: When grilling steaks and chops, I like to apply a generous seasoning of salt and pepper to the meat on both sides immediately before cooking. Put it on too early, and you’ll draw out the juices and cure the meat—desirable for some dishes, but certainly not for steak.

For everyday use, I reach for kosher salt. I like the way the coarse crystals resist melting so you get crunchy bursts of salty flavor each time you take a bite. I also often use coarse sea salt.

Curing: Curing is a process whereby foods are exposed to salt or a salt sugar mixture or solution for a prolonged period. The salt draws out moisture, giving the meat a firmer texture and, of course, a salty flavor.

Brining works the opposite way. The food is marinated in a solution of salt, often sugar, and water, and in the brining process, by the magic of osmosis, some of the liquid is absorbed by the meat. Thus brining is well-suited to inherently dry foods like chicken breasts, turkey, pork, and shrimp.

Rubs give meat character and personality. Most contain salt. To apply a rub, sprinkle it over the meat and rub it into the surface with your fingers. Hey, that’s why it’s called a rub. (Wear latex gloves to keep your hands clean.)

So what about pepper? Well, as you can well imagine, I have strong thoughts about what comes out of the peppercorn grinder and how to use it for grilling. Stay tuned, because we plan to devote a whole issue of Up in Smoke to it in the near future.

In the meantime, here are two recipes, one never before published, that showcase the amazing talents and versatility of salt.

Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Grilled Shrimp

This recipe appears in The 10th Anniversary Edition of The Barbecue Bible, which will be released in May, 2008, by Workman Publishing. You can preorder the book now from This recipe is almost Zen-like in its simplicity, but makes a terrific appetizer for 6 to 8 people or a main course for 4.

1-1/2 pounds headless jumbo shrimp, shells left on but de-veined (see NOTE)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Coarse salt, preferably sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
Juicy lime wedges for serving

Rinse the shrimp under cold running water, blot dry with paper towels, and put in a large non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle with the lime juice and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss to coat, and let marinate for 10 minutes while you preheat the grill to high. Meanwhile, put a wedge of lime and separate mounds of salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon each) on small plates, one for each person. Set aside.

When ready to cook, oil the grill grate. Arrange the shrimp, in their shells, on the hot grate. Grill, turning with tongs, until the meat is firm and pink, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter or plates. To eat, squeeze the lime wedge over the salt and pepper and mix with chopsticks; peel the shrimp and dip in the lime/salt/pepper mixture.

NOTE: To de-vein an unpeeled shrimp, make a lengthwise cut along the back of the shell with kitchen shears. Scrape out the exposed vein with the tine of a fork or the tip of a paring knife. Two pounds of head-on shrimp can be substituted for headless.

Pac-Rim Fish Cure

Try this easy but exotic cure the next time you smoke salmon. Makes about 3/4 cup.

1/2 cup granulated palm sugar (see NOTE) or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black or white pepper (I prefer a medium-grind)
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1-1/2 teaspoons dried loose green tea

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers or a whisk, breaking up any lumps. Transfer to a covered jar and store away from heat and light. The cure will keep for several months.

NOTE: Granulated palm sugar can be found at some Asian markets.

To use:
Generously sprinkle half of the cure evenly on the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Place about 1-1/2 pounds skinless salmon fillets, preferably center-cut, on top of the cure. (Optional: You can soak the salmon in sake, Japanese beer, or Chinese rice wine in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour first; drain well and blot dry with paper towels before curing.) Cover the top and sides of the salmon with the remaining cure. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours. Rinse the cure off the salmon under cold running water, then blot dry with paper towels. Using the indirect grilling method, smoke the salmon with cherrywood chunks or chips (applewood can be substituted) until cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes. For more detailed instructions, see How to Grill, page 309.

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

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Where’s Steven?

Perhaps you’ve seen the feature on my blog—a photo with the caption, “Where’s Steven?” It’s a literal question, inviting people to identify my location as I travel the world’s barbecue trail, doing research for my next book, Planet Barbecue. Lately, however, the rhetorical form of the question “Where IS Steven?” may seem more appropriate. Perhaps you’ve even noticed Up in Smoke has been on hiatus the past few months.

Well, first, folks, I apologize for our silence. It’s been very busy (in a good way) here at Steven Raichlen, Inc. over the past few months. Let me bring you up to speed on some of the most exciting new developments…

Barbecue University™
It’s official! Barbecue University™ 2008 will take place at the spectacular Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Known as the “Grand Dame of the Rockies,” the Broadmoor is the longest-running consecutive winner of both the AAA Five-Diamond and the Mobil Travel Guide Five-Star awards. I can’t think of a better place for BBQ U.

The theme for this year’s BBQ U—now in its eighth year—is “The Primal Grill”—based on my new TV show by the same name (more on this below).

The intense, 3-day immersion in fire and smoke will feature all new recipes from around the world’s barbecue trail, not to mention those iconic dishes everyone wants to know how to master. You know what I’m talking about: brisket tender enough to cut with a fork (this year, Texas Hill Country-style with chili rub and beer mop), pork shoulder (smoke-roasted like they do in the Yucatan: in banana leaves), and an eye-popping spit-roasted prime rib studded with garlic, rosemary, and asiago cheese. You’ll learn more than two dozen new recipes in all.

Our collection of grills has grown, too, making BBQ U™ the place to preview the industry’s latest technology and refinements. The newest members of the family include a cool wood-burning Grillery grill, a competition-size Texas smoker, and of course the latest charcoal and gas grills. What hasn’t changed is our commitment to teaching the fundamentals as well as the advanced techniques of live fire cooking. And making sure that every student gets a turn at the grill.

When not grilling, BBQ U students can enjoy the Broadmoor’s three championship golf courses, an award-winning spa, tennis, rock climbing, fly-fishing, swimming, and a host of other activities, not to mention dining at more than 15 different resort restaurants, including the Adam Tihany-designed “Summit.”

The next sessions of BBQ U will take place June 1-4 and June 4-7. For more information, or to reserve a spot for yourself or someone else at Barbecue University™, 2008, contact the Broadmoor directly by calling 800.634.7711

It’s a wrap: The Primal Grill
The other big news is my new TV show—”The Primal Grill”—scheduled to launch on PBS in May, 2008. You might recognize our location—the beautiful Tubac Golf Resort near Tuscan, Arizona—where the movie “Tin Cup,” starring Kevin Costner, was filmed.

So what’s new about the show? Just about everything. All new recipes. Get ready for spit-roasted Aussie ribs, a new Philly “cheese steak” (a whole beef tenderloin stuffed with grilled
chilies, onions, and provolone), prosciutto-grilled trout, and even a smoked raspberry pear crisp.

We have a great new production team headed by Emmy-award-winning producer, Matt Cohen. The show will have a brand new look with new music, energy and excitement. We’ve just started editing—stay tuned.

Other News
Mrs. Raichlen and I recently completed barbecue tours of Spain, France, Morocco, Turkey, Israel, and Romania. By the way, for those of you who wondered, our November 8th blog featured grilled foie gras at the popular Avazi restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Next up are the Cayman Islands and the Mayan Coast in the Yucatan, as the march along the world’s barbecue trail—and the research for Planet Barbecue—continues.

Finally, speaking of books, preparations are under way for the 10th Anniversary edition of The Barbecue Bible. (Hard to believe a decade has passed already!)

Since the publication of the book and the launch of our web site, I’ve been collecting the questions you’ve sent about live fire cooking: for example, how to smoke the ultimate brisket? How to grill the perfect steak? How to cook and serve a whole meal off a single grill? Or how to grill when it’s 10 degrees below zero in Minnesota? Your queries form the core of an exciting new chapter in The Barbecue Bible: “The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Barbecuing and Grilling.” Think of them as a “Barbecue University” level course on the art of live fire cooking.

And because a picture is worth a thousand words, we’re also adding 100 new color photographs to the new edition—shot by award-winning food photographer Ben Fink and covering everything from essential techniques to mouth-watering beauty shots to show you what the finished dishes should look like.

The 10th Anniversary edition is due out in May, 2008—we’ll keep you posted.


Winner: Pumpkin Chicken
Louis Kiss, of Sherman Oaks, C.A.
Halloween is my favorite time of the year and this has become a tradition prior to Trick or Treating. (I do not recommend handing cooked chicken out to Trick or Treaters as it would tend to be quite messy).

During this season Pumpkin Ale is heavily advertised (although it is available year-round at most specialty food stores). Upon reading and trying different recipes in Beer-Can Chicken, I felt confident to experiment like a Mad Scientist.

Since I make monsters for a living (I’m an effects artist) and Pumpkin Ale kindles my love for the Halloween season, I figured it was high time to start a Halloween Feast. So I added this ale and pumpkin pie spice to my favorite way to cook chicken.

The blend of spices complement each other and can be tasted distinctly without being overbearing.

When first hearing of my concoction, guests seem turned away from the thought of combining pumpkin spice with chicken. Upon smelling the chicken grilling they began salivating like were-wolves during a full moon. After tasting it, they all wanted the recipe.

Pumpkin Ale is usually available in bottles so be sure to reserve an empty can to transfer into.

For the Rub:
1 1/2 tablespoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
ground cayenne pepper to taste

For the Chicken:
1 bottle of Pumpkin Ale
1 chicken
2 teaspoons of olive oil (I prefer olive oil since it gives the chicken skin a certain crispness)
2 whole cloves

You will also need:
2 cups of hickory wood chips (hickory uniquely complements the spices) soaked for 1 hour in pumpkin ale, then drained

1. Make the Rub: Place ingredients in bowl and stir.

2. Clean the chicken. Rub olive oil over the chicken then place in the bowl of rub and work into chicken meat as well as the cavity. I like to make a few slices in the chicken so the rub really gets into the meat.

3. I heat my gas grill for indirect grilling and place the drained wood chips in an iron smoking box.

4. Fill an empty beer can 3/4 full with the Pumpkin ale, add remainder of rub not used on the chicken, add the cloves. Don’t add more than 3 cloves since this will overpower the flavors of the spices and smoking. Place the can into the chicken cavity.

5. Once the smoker box is going I place the chicken over the burner that is turned off and wait impatiently for 1 1/2 hours as the smell permeates the air.

6. I like to turn the chicken after 50 minutes to make sure one side doesn’t get charred.

7. Remove the chicken from the grill and let stand for a few minutes. Your guests will be ravenous at this point.

8. I am sure you’ve just started a brand new Halloween tradition and I bet more than likely you will make it more often throughout the year.

Runners Up: In No Particular Order
Grilled Donuts With Chipotle Chocolate Sauce
Carl Harmsen, of Piscataway, NJ
Perhaps only a true foodie would think it’s good by the name, but trust me on this one; make them once for a crowd and they will NEVER let you cook again without serving this tasty and so simple dessert! The crispy, smoky outside with the soft chewy center really wake up with the spicy chocolate sauce. If you make an odd number with more than one per guest but not enough for everyone to have two, be prepared for some creative bargaining to happen around the table.

Natural charcoal fire set up for direct grilling
Hickory chips soaked for one hour and drained
12 plain glazed donuts—the kind with a hole in the middle and no filling

For the Chocolate Sauce
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 Tsp Tabasco® Chipotle Pepper Sauce

1. Combine chocolate chips, sugar, water, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Tabasco® Chipotle Pepper Sauce. Serve warm.

2. Set up your grill for direct grilling and toss a handful of hickory chips (not chunks) on the hot coals for immediate smoke.

3. Arrange the donuts over medium to high heat, and allow them to cook 3 to 5 minutes per side.

4. Donuts should become soft and get grill marks but not be burned. When you remove them the sugar glaze will cool, becoming crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.

5. Drizzle the sauce over the donuts and serve immediately with plenty of napkins.

Sizzling Crawfish
Laurie Emerson, of Biloxi, MS
1 lb. crawfish
12 grape leaves
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 cup of any hot sauce
1 tablespoon paprika (to put on top of grape leaves)

1. Clean crawfish with salt. Allow to stand in water for 30 minutes. Then pat dry.

2. Clean grape leaves and place 4-5 crawfish on each leaf

3. Spoon chopped tomatoes and chopped scallion on top of crawfish. Top with teaspoon of hot sauce and paprika.

4. Roll up grape leaf and place on hot grill. Remove after browning all sides.

Smokin’ Joe Kapp’s ABS
Joseph Kapelewski, of Richmond, VA
For the Sauce
100 Jalapeño peppers (enough to cover half of your grill). Green, purple, or red stages are all ok (fresh from the garden is ALWAYS best—store-bought peppers can hang around for a long time before they are sold.

2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
6-8 cloves of garlic (regular NOT elephant)
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons of either Tequila or Bourbon (Optional for teetotalers)
6-12 Cayenne peppers (Optional)
3-6 Habanero peppers (Optional)
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons of honey

You’ll Also Need
Bottles and caps (I get glass bottles and plastic screw on caps from a local distributor) or just small canning jars with lids and rings will do.

Wash and remove stems from all peppers.

1. Smoke Jalapeño peppers using your best method (indirect with smoke box or foil pouch on a gas grill, soaked wood (Hickory or mesquite) on charcoal, fire box attached to grill, professional smoker, etc.) The key is low and slow until the peppers turn dark and leathery (avoid Krispy Kritters). Put a pan of ice water under the peppers to minimize the heat—the key is the smoke. Process may take 6 to 8 hours depending upon your smoking method.

2. Into blender add smoked peppers up to about two inches from the top of the blender. Add salt, garlic, lime juice, and tequila or bourbon (just for medicinal purposes) Finish with cayennes and habaneros or top off with some more jalapeños if you want a milder product. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar.

3. Put the top on and run blender on high for 1 minute. Check the consistency. If too thick add some more vinegar. If too thin add some paprika (it can really suck up moisture after 2 to 3 minutes of blending so be careful). The reason for adjusting is the degree of moisture or dryness of the peppers after smoking.

4. Continue blending and checking in one minute intervals until consistency is how you want it ( I like it thick – like an A-1 sauce – others may prefer thinner). Then blend on high for 2 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then blend on high again for two minutes.

5. Pour into sauce pan. Add honey. Honey is hard to measure without making a mess. Pour out the equilivant of two globs that should be about two tablespoons.

6. Mix well and heat over medium high until mixture regularly bubbles. Use a funnel to pour into sterilized bottles or small canning jars. Seal them up and let them rest for about a week for optimum flavor. Put in refridgerator after opening.

Used as a condiment on just about anything. Great on hot dogs, chicken, nachos, rice, you name it.

Sweet and Crunchy Grilled Salmon
Brock Hale, of Baltimore, MD
This incredibly simple treatment for salmon creates a show-stopping flavor for a readily available fish. It is a delicious contrast between the sweet and crunchy crust and the meaty texture of the fish. Top it with a store-bought mango salsa for an easy main dish, or use it with the recipe below for an entrée-sized salad.

The flavor when the salmon is paired with the salad is a particularly winning combination.

Grilled Salmon
4 4-6 oz. salmon fillets, skin removed
Cinnamon-Sugar coating mixture (3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon, by volume)

1. Preheat grill to medium-high and oil grate.

2. Place salmon fillets directly on the grill, and coat the top liberally with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Close lid and grill for 4 to 6 minutes. Sugar will melt and coating will adhere to the fish.

3. Flip the fillets, taking care not to break them apart. Coat the second side with the cinnamon-sugar, close lid, and grill another 4 to 6 minutes.

4. Remove from grill. Serve as a stand-alone main dish or with the salad recipe below.

Sweet and Spicy Salmon Salad with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette
Serves 4

1 recipe grilled salmon (above)

2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
2 large ripe mangoes, diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, finely diced (optional)

Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
1 inch grated ginger root (about 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to mix.

2. Divide lettuce between 4 plates and top each with an equal portion of mango, tomato, onion, and jalapeno. Add salmon hot off the grill, and dress salad and fish with the sesame-ginger vinaigrette.

3. Serve with a chilled wine with citrus notes (Montes 2003 Sauvignon Blanc or Kris 2004 Pinot Grigio are good examples) to balance the sweet and spicy flavors of the salad.

Grilled Baja Buttermilk Toast With Yogurt-Fruit Drizzle
Janice Elder, of Charlotte, NC
A riff on French toast, grilling brings an entirely new dimension to this dish. It can be served as a breakfast/brunch dish or even as a very unusual and delectable dessert.

2 cups vanilla flavored yogurt (nonfat or low fat works well)
2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 mango, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup buttermilk
8 thick slices brioche, challah, or other soft white bread
1 cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted

1. Clean your grill very well; oil the grill grate and heat it to medium heat.

2. In a mixing bowl blend together the yogurt, pineapple, mango, almonds and allspice. Cover and reserve in refrigerator.

3. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, sugar and vanilla, blending well, then add the half-and-half and buttermilk, whisking to combine completely. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish. Working in batches if necessary, place the bread in the dish and let soak, then turn and soak on the opposite side.

4. Grill the soaked bread until golden brown, then turn and repeat on the other side. Serve right off the grill drizzled generously with the fruit-yogurt mixture. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Makes 4 generous servings or 8 small ones.


In honor of the holidays, we’re offering a 10 percent discount on our 10 best-selling accessories for holiday gift-giving at the barbecue store. And we’ve also created some special gift boxes, including sampler kits of Steven’s rubs and barbecue sauces.

Here’s a list of some of Steven’s other favorite holiday gifts for grill lovers:

Rectangular 4 Compartment Basket
Ultimate Grill Cleaning Brush
Stainless Steel Shellfish Rack
Non-Stick Ultimate Rib Rack
Stainless Steel Skewers 3/8″ Wide Set/6
Insulated Food Gloves
Stainless Steel Beer Can Chicken Rack
All Purpose BBQ Rub
Ultimate Square Chimney Starter

Finally, as the New Year approaches, all of us at and Workman Publishing wish you a very happy, healthy, and smokin’ 2008.

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

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Grilled Fruit

They’re not much to look at—fossilized crabapples at the edge of a Neolithic fire pit on display at a prehistory museum in southwestern France—but in my mind, those little fire-roasted fruits are a powerful symbol of prehistoric man’s earliest efforts to push the envelope in barbecue. They fascinate me. Imagine the stories they could tell.

If paleontologists in the distant future were to research live-fire cooking in North America, focusing in particular on the late 20th and the early 21st centuries, they might find fire-roasted fruits at their dig sites. They’d surely unearth a few carbonized marshmallows. When I was growing up, there was only one grilled dessert on the “A” list: the s’more. Today’s pit masters are grilling everything from apples to bananas to pineapple.

Grilling can bring out the best in many fruits, intensifying the flavors and caramelizing the natural sugars. And they’re not just for dessert: drinks (grilled nectarine smoothie—see Beer Can Chicken page 309), appetizers (prosciutto-wrapped peaches with a balsamic drizzle—see BBQ USA page 39), condiments (see the grilled pineapple salsa in Barbecue Bible, page 451), etc. Grilled fruit can play all the roles.

Grilled fruit may still be a novelty on some parts of the American barbecuing scene. That’s certainly not the case in other parts of the world.

In Italy, fresh figs stuffed with gorgonzola dolce and chopped walnuts are grilled as an appetizer. In Brazil, fruit makes a triple play in cana de açúcar com camarão— tamarind-marinated shrimp grilled on sugarcane skewers and served with spears of grilled pineapple and mango. In Thailand, a popular street snack is grilled bananas smashed into a kind of patty, soaked in a syrup of coconut milk and palm sugar, then returned to the brazier until golden and caramelized.

The quality and variety of fruit in my adopted hometown of Miami has sponsored much experimentation in the years since I’ve been writing about barbecue. Flame-seared fruit is always part of the curriculum at Barbecue University in both savory and sweet preparations. BBQ U faves include “Village Hammers” (Serbian bacon-wrapped prunes stuffed with gouda cheese on toothpicks), molasses and spice-grilled bananas, and several variations on the smoke-roasted apple theme.

Below are some of my favorite tips (followed by new recipes) to get you started.

  • Always begin with a clean, freshly oiled grill grate when grilling fruit (or anything!). You know my mantra…“Keep it hot, keep it clean, keep it lubricated.”
  • Select fruit that is ripe, but still firm enough to hold its shape when exposed to the searing heat of the grill. My short list of favorites includes apples, apricots, bananas and plantains, fresh figs, mango, papaya, peaches and nectarines, pears, pineapple, plums and pluots. For exotics, including small African pineapples with tender, edible cores, go to
  • Choose the proper grilling method depending on the texture, size, and shape of the fruit. Pineapple, for example, can be spit-roasted if whole, direct grilled if in slices or chunks, or indirect grilled if halved, hollowed and stuffed. (A great example of the latter is the “Baked Hawaii” on page 306 of Beer Can Chicken.) Smoke-roasting is an option for some fruits. Dense, whole, round fruits, like apples and pears, do well indirect grilled or smoke-roasted whole in the skin (I like them stuffed with butter, brown sugar, and cookie crumbs). You can use grill rings to hold the fruit upright.
  • Soft, succulent fruits, like figs, peaches, plums, and pineapple, are better suited to direct grilling over high heat. Cut them in half to maximize the surface area exposed to the smoke and fire.
  • Butter, sugar, and alcohol-based mop sauces tend to spark flare-ups, so maintain a safety zone on your grill where you can move the food to keep it from burning.
  • If the fruit is small (strawberries, kumquats, figs, cherries), thread it on bamboo skewers or use a grilling grid to prevent pieces from falling into the fire. Or, you can load up my flat skewers or telescoping fork, both of which prevent fruits from spinning.
  • For grilled fruit desserts, brush cut fruit with butter, thinned honey, simple syrup, coconut milk (sweetened or unsweetened), fruit liqueur, eau de vie (fruit brandy), fruit juice, maple syrup, molasses, wine, port, and/or corn syrup.
  • One super easy, slam-dunk great dessert is to brush slices of your favorite fruit (bananas, peaches, pineapples) with melted butter, then sprinkle with sugar and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. To make your life easy, use my Best of Barbecue Dessert Rub
  • Sweet stuffings for round fruits, like hollowed apples and pears, might include toasted chopped nuts, coconut, candied citrus peel, cream cheese, whipped cream, or warmed jam, and of course, butter and brown sugar.
  • For savory preparations, brush cut fruit with olive oil or melted butter, dust with chili powder or your favorite barbecue rub, stuff with cheese, and/or wrap with bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto. There are many possibilities. Some fruits, like figs, pair well with mustard.
  • Berries are too fragile to grill directly, but make wonderful smoke-roasted crisps and cobblers (see recipe below).

 Smoke-Roasted Pear-Raspberry Cobbler

Raichlen’s Rule holds that if something tastes good baked, fried, or sautéed, it probably tastes better grilled. Case in point: the cobbler—here indirect grilled in the fragrant smoke of your favorite hardwood. I like to cook this in a cast iron skillet—you don’t need to worry about the smoke discoloring your favorite baking dish.

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 8

3-1/2 pounds pears, cored and diced (for about 6 cups)
1 pint fresh raspberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar, or more to taste
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (separate uses)
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
Vegetable shortening or cooking spray for greasing the skillet

For the topping:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold salted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds or chopped walnuts (optional)

You’ll also need:

One 10-inch cast-iron skillet
1 cup wood chips or chunks (preferably apple), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained
Vanilla ice cream for serving

1) Rinse the pears and blot them dry with paper towels. Cut each in half, remove and discard the core, and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. Pick through the raspberries, removing any stems, leaves, or bruised or shriveled berries. Rinse and drain.

2) Place the granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the cornstarch into mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Stir in the pears, raspberries, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Taste for sweetness, adding more sugar or lemon juice as necessary. Coat the skillet lightly with vegetable shortening or cooking spray. Spoon the filling into the skillet.

3) Place the butter, flour, oatmeal, and brown sugar, and the remaining half cup of granulated sugar as well as 1 teaspoon of cinnamon into a food processor work bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. The butter should form pea-sized pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, or use a pastry cutter or two knives—it’s like mixing pie crust. Stir in the almonds if using. Spoon the topping evenly over the pear-raspberry filling.

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

5) When ready to cook, place the skillet on the grill grate (not over direct heat), and cover the grill. Cook the cobbler until the filling is bubbling and the topping is nicely browned, 40 to 60 minutes. Let the cobbler cool for a few minutes, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Smoke-Roasted Apples with Sausage and Sage
Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: 6

3 tablespoons butter (separate uses)
1 small onion finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
6 ounces uncooked pork sausage, removed from the casing
3 fresh sage leaves, minced, plus more for garnish
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
6 large baking apples, cored (but leave the bottom intact, so you make a sort of hollow cavity)
2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup wood chips (preferably apple or maple), soaked 1 hour in apple cider or water to cover, then drained
6 small grill rings from Best of Barbecue, or 2-inch rings fashioned from crumpled aluminum foil

1) Melt 1-1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage and sage, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the pork is lightly browned, 6 to 10 minutes. Drain off excess fat and reserve the fat. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper.

2) Position the apples on the grill rings. Divide the stuffing evenly among the apples, pressing it in firmly. Pour a little of the maple syrup over the stuffing in each apple. Cut remaining butter into 6 pieces and place one on top of each apple. Brush the sides of the apples with the reserved sausage fat. The apples can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage; cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

3) Set up the grill for indirect grilling. Place a drip pan in the center. Arrange the apples in the center of the grill over the drip pan on grill rings, if using. Toss half the wood chips on each mound of coals and cover the grill. Adjust the vent holes to obtain a temperature of about 350 degrees F.

4) Smoke-roast the apples until tender (the sides will be squeezably soft) and the filling is browned and bubbling. Depending on your grill and the outside temperature, this will take 40 to 60 minutes. Transfer to plates or a platter. (Grill rings will be hot.) Optional: Garnish each apple with a leaf of fresh sage before serving.

Jake’s White Sangria
I promised in a blog that I’d share with readers of Up in Smoke the cocktail my stepson, Jake, created for our Fourth of July celebration. This one contains fresh, not grilled or smoked fruit—but that would certainly make an interesting sangria.

Serves 4 to 6

2 bottles semi-dry white wine
1/4 cup Cointreau, Triple Sec, or other clear orange liquor
2 lemons
4 cloves
2 oranges
1 bunch green seedless grapes (about 8 ounces), stemmed, each grape cut in half lengthwise
8 ounces cherries, washed and stemmed
1 apple, cored and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar or honey (or to taste)

1) Place the wine and Cointreau in a large pitcher. Remove 4 strips lemon zest (the oil rich outer rind) with a vegetable peeler. Insert a clove in each and add to the wine. (This keeps someone from choking on a loose clove.) Cut the remaining rind off the lemon and discard. Thinly slice the peeled lemon, removing and discarding the seeds. Add the lemon slices to the wine mixture. Juice the other lemon and add it to the wine mixture.

2) Cut one orange crosswise into 1/2 inch slices, rind and all. Cut each slice in quarters, removing and discarding the seeds. Add them to the wine mixture. Juice the other orange and add it to the wine mixture. Add the grapes, cherries, apple, and cinnamon sticks and stir to mix. Add 2 tablespoons sugar or honey and stir to mix—you can always add more. Place the sangria in the refrigerator and let the flavors blend for 2 to 4 hours.

3) Just before serving, check the sangria for sweetness, adding sugar or honey to taste. Serve in wine glasses and be sure to provide spoons for eating the fruit.

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

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Shopping For a New Grill

Shopping for a new grill is a bit like buying a new car—exhilarating, empowering, and daunting. Whatever your gender, there’s something thrilling about all that shiny stainless steel and BTU counts.

At least there should be. But if my mail is any indication, most new grill buyers get anxious when they face the staggering array of grills and options out there. I get scores of letters like the following every summer:

Good morning, Steven,

I do have most of your books and have a question for you. I am in the market to purchase the ultimate BBQ and looking on the web, but I am only getting confused. Could you suggest a few options to me and I will check them out?

Dave Bergeron
London, Ontario, Canada

Well, sorry, Dave: there’s no “one size fits all” answer. To help you I have to ask you a few questions—questions you should ask yourself before you hit the display floor with the big checkbook. The key is to understand your “grilling profile”—which is essential to buying the right grill for you.

How much money are you willing to spend?


This might be the decisive factor that pushes you toward one purchase or another. Frankly, it’s difficult to spend more than $300 on a good charcoal grill unless you’re drawn to the charismatic, steroidal Weber 60020 Ranch I use on the set of BBQ U. (And every serious grill master should own one). But you can easily spend ten times that on a premium gas grill. So determine your budget first. Hint: try to stretch a little. You’ll want a grill you can grow with and grow into.

Charcoal or gas?

There was a time when mentioning the “Charcoal Versus Gas” question in mixed company—like politics or religion—was a socially incendiary act likely to spark partisan arguments. But the battle lines, definitive since the 1950s when utility companies introduced the first gas pedestal grills, are beginning to blur—especially with the advent of stainless steel “super grills,” which burn as hot as charcoal grills. Some grills even burn multiple fuels, like the Kalamazoo Bread Breaker. (See

In a nutshell, buy a charcoal grill if you enjoy the process (lighting the coals, messing with fire, waltzing the food from hot spots to cool spots). Buy a charcoal grill if you like smoked foods: it’s virtually impossible to smoke on a gas grill.

Buy a gas grill if you’re more destination—and results—oriented, i.e., if your main goal is to get dinner on the table fast.

Hint: More and more Americans are quietly investing in both a charcoal grill and a gas grill, the former for leisurely live fire cooking and smoking, and the latter for weekday convenience. It’s a good way to have your metaphorical cake and eat it, too.

What is your grilling personality?

Size does matter. If you’re known for frequent and epic grilled feasts, your equipment requirements will obviously be different from those of a griller who grills once or twice a week for the immediate family and occasional guests. The former will want at the very least a good size charcoal grill (or a couple of kettle grills), a 4- to 6-burner gas grill, and maybe even a smoker.

The latter can get away with a single kettle grill or 3-burner gas grill.

If your need for more grill space spikes only once or twice a year (not that anyone reading this newsletter falls into that category) or you live in an apartment with a balcony, you might get by with a hibachi grill (one of my favorites is made by Lodge in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee).

And if you stage the occasional block party for the whole neighborhood, consider supplementing your own equipment with a couple of table grills from a party rental place.

There are other considerations, too:

  • Are you a “winter warrior” who prides himself on grilling in cold weather?
  • Are there any restrictions on your right to grill on your property? (Many condos don’t allow charcoal or even gas.)
  • Do you like to smoke as well as grill? (As I said before, smoking on a gas grill is nearly impossible.)
  • Do you mainly stick to foods that can be direct-grilled, such as steaks, chops, chicken breasts, shrimp, or fish fillets? Or do you enjoy indirect grilling— ribs, larger cuts of beef or pork, whole chickens, turkey, or whole fish?
  • Would a rotisserie be useful to you? (Answer “yes” if you like to grill whole chickens or duck.)

Point being, decide what you want and need before you shop so you don’t waste money on options that aren’t important to you.

Charcoal grills for me are the sentimental favorite, as they are for most non-American grillers and barbecuers. Not only can you smoke on charcoal grills (if they have a lid), but the flavors generated by fat and juices hitting hot coals are incomparable. Charcoal grills come in three basic models:

  • Kettle type grills (best epitomized by the Weber)
  • Front loaders (great for burning wood as well as charcoal), like the Barbeques Galore Barbechef and Charbroil CB940.
  • Open grills, like hibachis or the table grills used by caterers.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Heavy-gauge metal construction with a tight-fitting lid (unless you’re buying a hibachi, in which case there’s no lid—the metal should still be heavy duty); especially good if you live in a colder climate as the lid helps retain heat
  • A baked-on porcelain-enamel coating
  • Sturdy welded supports and heatproof handles
  • A secondary grate at the bottom of the grill for holding wood or coals in an even layer
  • Adjustable vents on the top and bottom for heat regulation (top vents are not available on hibachis)
  • A well-manufactured grill grate—preferably with hinged sides so fresh coals can be added easily; my favorite material is cast iron, followed by bar steel, pressed steel, and porcelainized enamel
  • A thermometer built into the lid


  • Though rather difficult to find in the U.S., height-adjustable grill grates (one brand is The Grillery; see
  • One or more side tables for workspace (you can never have enough workspace)
  • A butane igniter to light the charcoal; (such as the one found in the Weber Performer)
  • An ash catcher for easy cleaning and disposal of charcoal debris
  • If you like to burn wood, look for a front-loading grill
  • Options such as a tool holder, weather-proof cover, baskets for corralling charcoal when indirect grilling, and a rotisserie.

Gas grills are definitely convenient (which is why about 70 percent of Americans use them), and if you are routinely pressed to put dinner on the table, prefer “getting there quickly” to the journey, and favor khakis and light-colored shirts—let’s face it…charcoal is messy—you may be happier with a gas grill.

Here are gas grill features to look for:

  • Sturdy construction with heavy-gauge metal (preferably stainless steel) and tight welds
  • Cast iron or bar steel grill grates, followed in desirability by pressed steel and porcelainized enamel
  • Electric ignition
  • At least two independent burners, and preferably 3 or 4 (you need multiple burners for indirect grilling)
  • Enough BTUs to support the cooking space. (British Thermal Units are defined as the heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit.) A rule of thumb is approximately 100 BTUs per square inch of cooking space (not including warming racks), or 50,000 BTUs for 500 square inches of cooking space
  • And very important, an easy-to-empty drip pan or grease collection
  • A multi-year warranty and good local service support
  • Easy access to replacement parts (igniters are especially prone to failure)
  • A gas gauge (you wouldn’t believe how many gas grills lack them)
  • A built-in thermometer
  • Side tables for workspace (did I say you can never have enough work space?)
  • Fittings for a rotisserie
  • Smoker box—more because the sight of rising smoke will make you feel good than because it will actually impart a smoke flavor
  • A warming rack
  • A tool and/or condiment rack
  • Locking wheels to prevent rolling
  • A side burner (optional—useful for frying the biscuits)
  • A spider guard for keeping insects from clogging burners and fittings
  • Weather-proof cover

For a summary of different types of grills and their primary characteristics, see pages 30 and 31 in BBQ USA. Since 2003 when that book was published, infrared grills and hybrid, multi-fuel grills—grills that can cook with a charcoal, wood, gas, and infrared—have also appeared in the marketplace.

In a nutshell, infrared grills use a gas-fired ceramic mesh or plate to generate the heat and they burn hot. Real hot. Screaming hot. Like 800 to 1000 degrees. Today, many grills have infrared burners. They’re great for searing and putting a steakhouse-quality char on steaks and chops. If you like to grill steaks, a straight infrared grill may be for you. If you like to grill a wide range of foods, you may want to buy a conventional gas grill with one infrared searing burner.

Whatever your preference, below you’ll find a new recipe that works well on any type of grill.

Grilled Bone-In Chicken Breasts with Berber Spice
Method: Indirect grilling/ direct grilling
Yield: Serves 4
Advance Preparation: 2 to 4 hours for marinating the chicken

For the spice paste:

1 small onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed

4 bone-in half chicken breasts with skin attached (each half 7 to 8 ounces)
Lemon wedges for serving

1) Make the spice paste: Place the onion, garlic, ginger, paprika, salt, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Puree into a coarse paste, running the machine in short bursts. Add enough oil to obtain a thick paste (a little looser than mayonnaise). Correct the seasoning, adding salt or lemon juice. The spice paste should be highly seasoned.

2) Rinse the chicken breasts under cold running water, then drain and blot dry with paper towels. Arrange in a baking dish. Rub the paste all over the chicken breasts on both sides. Let the breasts marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 to 2 hours, or more—the longer, the more flavorful.

3) Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.

4) Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, in the center of the grate, away from the heat. Indirect grill until lightly browned and cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.

5) Move each chicken breast directly over the fire and grill until darkly browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side (starting skin side down). When chicken is cooked, the internal temperature will be 170 degrees on a meat thermometer.) Transfer the chicken breasts to plates or a platter. Let rest for 3 minutes, then serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Note: you can also grill the chicken using the direct method. In this case, preheat half your grill to medium and the other half to low. Start grilling the breasts skin side down over the medium heat. Grill breasts until golden brown and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Move the chicken over the low zone of the grill if the dripping fat causes flare-ups. To test for doneness, poke a breast in the thickest part with your finger; it should feel firm to the touch. Transfer the grilled chicken breasts to a platter or plates and serve at once.

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

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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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