Monday, July 17, 2006

Barbecue Challenged

Just curious: is it really true that you can add briquettes and other good-smelling, smoke-creating agents to the bottom of a gas grill?

I have a very girlie gas grill that I back away from, squealing in terror, whenever the flames shoot too high. I am a Grill Whimp.

BrotherBang, who stands manfully before 4' high flames without flinching, claims that I can put, oh I don't know, chipotle-flavored cedar chips in there under my steak or whatever. I am very surprised to hear this.

Aside from the fact that some loyal readers of this blog strenuously object to my consuming of steaks and other friendly members of the animal kingdom, what are you favorite grilling and barbecuing tricks?

I know this isn't deep. It's JULY. It's A HUNDRIT DEGREES. That's the POINT. Go get some watermelon and let me know what you think.


Blogger Aola said...

It's too hot to even grill here, you'd have to stand outside...

it's sandwhiches and salads until this extreme heat is over.

But when we do grill it is still the old fashioned way with charcoal.

Blogger Joel Monka said...

Here's a tip: you can do it indoors, in the air conditioning, over the stove! Get your big cast-iron skillet (you DO have one, don't you?), and put the smoke flavor agents in that. In the skillet you put one of those three-legged metal vegetable steamers, the kind that open like a flower- put the food in that. Put a lid over the whole contraption, turn the burner to medium high, and don't forget to turn the fan over the stove on. Viola- indoor mesquite smoked barbecue!

P.S. If you don't have an extraction fan over the stove, take the battery out of your smoke alarm!

Blogger ogre said...

As always, the devil's in the details.

Depends on your bbq. Which is to say "Yes, you can."

Results vary depending on your grill and how you do this.

I shifted to a gas grill a couple years ago. I've soaked wood chips and put rosemary (also) into a hand-made aluminum foil container that sat on a part of the grill. It gets hot and smolders and smokes, imparting the flavor you want.

It also blackens the inside of the bbq.

Given where the burners are and the deflectors intended to spread heat and protect them, I wouldn't put anything into the bottom of the grill.


Marinate. Like many items of cuisine, planning ahead pays.

When doing shrimp on the grill, remember they cook really quick. Really quick. Put them on, cook until the side that's down turns that cooked pink-orange color, flip, and as soon as the underside gets to that color, pull them off. Even if you have doubts... they continue to cook some after you pull them off, and I've yet to have one that was underdone. If they're underdone... they probably still LOOK underdone.

It's 2 am, and insider the house is now under 80 degrees. The only thing that's being cooked around here is on the bbq.

Blogger Lizard Eater said...

Ditto on what Ogre said about putting the wood chips in something, like foil, or a clean tuna can.

For fabbbbulous chicken fajitas: marinate chicken breast/thighs in 1 part Italian dressing, 2 parts margarita mix. Grill.

Beast Burgers: Take a beer and reduce it down. Not quite "syrupy," but a step above that. Mix your reduced beer with some ground sirloin, shredded sharp cheddar, minced caramelized onions and crumbled crisp bacon. Yes, mix it all together. Grill. Will make a grown man cry.

Not for the faint of heart, or any other heart condition.

Blogger powderblue said...

I soak about a cup of mesquite chips in water for 45 minutes or until I’ve finished my second beer, drain them, and throw them on the hot coals.

Tofurkey (Turtle Island Foods) makes some wonderful vegetarian link style sausages in three types: Italian, bratwurst, and kielbasa. These are increasingly available at mainstream grocery stores. They’re great tasting and not as processed as some other brands. It’s best to baste them a little with some oil before putting them on the grill, which should not be too hot.

Blogger fausto said...

It's not the consumption of burned dead flesh that is the moral outrage.

It's the desecration of said flesh by refusing to char it over a REAL fire.

Would love to give you advice on what to add to the gas grill coals to make your cuisine taste less insipid than gas-broiled meat usually tastes, but gass grilling is against my religion so I never learned how.

If you would only pitch that dangerous gas contraption and go get a real charcoal grill, we could then have a transportingly spiritual conversation, and your back yard could smell like the Temple court at the peak of Solomon's reign.

Blogger fausto said...

One tip I can share, however, even with gas-grilling Samaritans: frozen pre-packaged hamburger patties from Hilltop Steak House Market in Braintree.

Blogger fausto said...

Also, if you're doing spare ribs, first bake them in the oven (single layer in a covered dish with barbecue sauce over them) at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hr. Then slather them with more sauce and finish them off over direct heat on the grill for 5-10 minutes. If you try to do them on the grill from start to finish they will dry out.

Blogger powderblue said...


You’re probably not aware of the enormous physical and mental suffering paid for a “spare” rib BBQ treat. Here’s just a glimpse as reported in the New York Times sometime ago:

“Piglets in confinement operations are weaned from their mothers 10 days after birth (compared with 13 weeks in nature) because they gain weight faster on their hormone- and antibiotic-fortified feed. This premature weaning leaves the pigs with a lifelong craving to suck and chew, a desire they gratify in confinement by biting the tail of the animal in front of them. A normal pig would fight off his molester, but a demoralized pig has stopped caring. ''Learned helplessness'' is the psychological term, and it's not uncommon in confinement operations, where tens of thousands of hogs spend their entire lives ignorant of sunshine or earth or straw, crowded together beneath a metal roof upon metal slats suspended over a manure pit. So it's not surprising that an animal as sensitive and intelligent as a pig would get depressed, and a depressed pig will allow his tail to be chewed on to the point of infection. Sick pigs, being underperforming ''production units,'' are clubbed to death on the spot. The U.S.D.A.'s recommended solution to the problem is called ''tail docking.'' Using a pair of pliers (and no anesthetic), most but not all of the tail is snipped off. Why the little stump? Because the whole point of the exercise is not to remove the object of tail-biting so much as to render it more sensitive. Now, a bite on the tail is so painful that even the most demoralized pig will mount a struggle to avoid it.”

Blogger CK said...

Powderblue, why would you assume Fausto (or anyone else, for that matter) isn't aware of these facts?

I don't think that Peacebang's posts about food are supposed to be a jumping off point for the vegetarians here to go on a tirade about the evils of meat.

Though I am myself abstaining from meat more and more often (in part for moral reasons), I find the way you present the issue very off-putting.

Blogger fausto said...

Oh, I'm aware. All industrial meat production -- pork, lamb, beef, chicken, fish -- is inhumane in one way or another. But here was PeaceBang's question:

Aside from the fact that some loyal readers of this blog strenuously object to my consuming of steaks and other friendly members of the animal kingdom, what are you favorite grilling and barbecuing tricks?

[emphasis added]

Blogger powderblue said...


I don’t think the New York Times reporting was a tirade. It’s a factual description of conditions with details that I assume most people, like me until I read it, don’t know about.

Harry Truman once said: “I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”

I don’t want to give anybody hell, especially Unitarian Universalists. But I think it’s safe to say that neither you or Fausto yourselves would personally do to any being – for a mere table treat – what this NYT’s piece describes. So why do so many of us give a thumbs-up for others to do it for us? Because tradition (with a huge boost of agribusiness propaganda) has lulled us into not seeing that a perhaps once necessary evil has become just the terribly plain and ordinary evil that it is today.

We Unitarian Universalists have a heritage of challenging traditions that rationalize and institutionalize moral wrongs. I have faith that when more of us realize what’s going on in our midst, our church will be a leader in this moral imperative of our time, just as it’s been on the forefront in past times.

Fausto, I realize that’s off the track of PeaceBang’s request for grilling tips, but you veered a bit too with your earlier statement “It's not the consumption of burned dead flesh that is the moral outrage.” I addressed my reply to you, as I respectfully do this one to you and CK.

Blogger CK said...

I'll let Fausto defend his use of sarcasm and irony.

We UUs also seem to have a history of taking the high road, assuming that a sermon is called for at any moment, and dropping a ton of bricks into every light-hearted conversation.

I do it myself often, I'm sure.

It's rare that I jump into tete-a-tete debates with commenters on blogs, as I find it tiring.

But I also find your monotone comments tiring. A simple link to the article would be appropriate (at most), especially on a thread specifically not for discussion of the morals of meat-eating. Again, the idea of blogging as conversation as well as information sharing is useful. Would you launch into a lengthy quotation of the Times in a conversation when your host has asked you for grilling tips? I hope not.

I'll let PB moderate her own blog now, but I'm sticking with my opinion.

Blogger CK said...

Back to grilling tips?

I myself enjoy beer brats when I grill meat. But one of my favorite things to grill is corn on the cob, wrapped in foil, with butter and salt/papper. You can also do lime and other kinds of seasoning, I think (had some in Mexico once, but I can't remember what it was, just that it was good).

Blogger Chalicechick said...


Peacebang wrote "Cripes, even a light-hearted comment about what I ATE AT DINNER leaves one reader feeling entitled to leave a condemnatory little comment about why I should come to the path of Vegetarianism" about you. Four people on my blog have told you that lecturing meat eaters the way you do comes off badly. Now two more people here have said it.

I know you think what you're doing is fine, but if seven basically reasonable people are telling you that what you're doing is obnoxious, is it possible they're correct?


Blogger fausto said...

I'll let Fausto defend his use of sarcasm and irony.

Don't think I need to. I think it speaks for itself.

In any event, in light of other recent blog conversations about the characteristic traits of UUism and UUs these days, it seems to me that the greatest irony of this discussion does not lie in anything I said, but in powderblue's evident sense that his/her own personal prophetic witness deserve priority over the express wishes of our hostess.

Was anyone here aware that a common commercial fishing technique for swordfish involves baiting "long lines" that can be up to several miles long, setting them to drift for many days at a time, and allowing the hooked fish to asphyxiate on the line before hauling them in? Another common method is to harpoon them in the manner of Famous UU Herman Melville.

The vegan and UU deities thus being equally appeased, here's James Beard's recipe for barbecued swordfish steak. It's delicious, and works equally well en brochette.

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons tomato sauce or catsup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely powdered oregano
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients together and soak the swordfish steak in it for 2 hours before cooking. Brush or baste the fish with the sauce during the broiling. Serve with braised kidney beans, a hearty salad of greens, tomatoes, and onion rings, and a red wine.

[from James Beard's Fish Cookery. Boston: Little, Brown, 1954.]

Blogger CK said...

Fausto, just to clarify, I wasn't implying you needed to defend yourself, just that since I wasn't the speaker, I'd let you quite ably answer the 'charge' :)

That James Beard cookbook is one of my favorites! A friend suggested it as a way to learn how to cook rather than just learn recipes. I'm gradually mastering the white sauce....

Blogger CK said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger fausto said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger fausto said...


Perhaps once you've mastered Beard you'll be ready to attempt this one!

It's got everything from poached eggs and French toast to barbecued peacock. (Ever tried that? Neither have I, but it's sure to leave a longer-lasting impression than hickory chips and rosemary wrapped in tinfoil.)


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