11. General questions about barbecuing
Here's some questions and answers that didn't fit anyplace else.
[Can I use a spray bottle for mopping my barbecue?]
Spray bottles work well for oil-based mops if you don't add spices (just
oil, Worcestershire, vinegar, hot sauce, etc.). Spray bottles are less messy--no worry
about grungy mops, etc.
[I tried using a spray bottle, but it kept getting clogged up. I figured
the oil was too thick. What can I do?]
Pop the spray bottle in the microwave for about 20 seconds before you
mop. It will thin the oil temporarily. Give it a shake and spray away.
[Can you put something other than water in the water pan in my smoker?]
You sure can. List members report putting wine, fruit juices, beer,
spices, Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper. There is some controversy about the beer though, some
say it's a waste of good brew. The wine, fruit juices and water with spices can add some
flavor to what you're smoking, but most say it's pretty subtle.
[I see recipes posted to the List that say Meal-Master and MasterCook.
What does this mean?]
Most List members use a recipe program to manage their recipes.
The recipe program that has been around the longest is a shareware
program called Meal-Master. It currently only works under DOS, but a Windows version is
said to be in the works.
Probably the new standard-bearer recipe management program is Sierra
On-Line's MasterCook program version 4.1.
A new Windows shareware program called 'Now You're Cooking' is also
favored by some of our List members.
All three of these programs work well and will manage your recipes with
ease and style. Meal-Master is the most difficult of the three for a newcomer to master as
it is command driven. The other programs are very easy to use due to the Windows
interface. MasterCook is also available for the Mac. Each program costs around $30.
You can get an evaluation copy of MasterCook.
You can download a working copy of Now
You can download a working copy of Meal-Master.
[Is there any way I can view MasterCook *.mxp files without buying the
I came across this web site that may prove useful for some of you who
would like to view the BBQ List's archived recipes without purchasing a cookbook program.
You can download a free
copy. This software by Ryan Walberg allows you to view and print the contents of an
*.mxp (MasterCook export) file alphabetically or by category.
Editor--The MasterCook export format (*.mxp) is in ASCII text and you
can read and print them with a word processor or text editor. However, the program
mentioned by George makes this much easier.
[I'm new to the List and I live in Oregon. We have a lot of rain in the
fall and winter. Can I operate my bullet smoker in the garage with a fan to carry off the
I'd be hesitant about operating a smoker in the garage. A fan will carry
off heat as well as smoke. Do it outside with a tarp thrown over a couple of clothes
lines--that's all you need. A sprinkle will not be a problem for the fire, but the water
will take away heat from the smoker so some protection from the rain is best.
Your garage will get pretty smoky, not to mention that 'stickiness' that
the smoke will leave on things. Best to do it outside.
I would opt for a canvas cover and using the smoker outside (that's how
I do it). I don't want all the smoke odor and particulates on my tools, shelves, garden
implements, lawnmower, etc. Plus, unless you can get real good ventilation, you could end
up taking a long nap--the carbon monoxide from a fire like that would be pretty intense. I
just drove a couple good sized nails over the garage door and hooked a tarp to them. At
the opposite 2 corners, I attach a couple of 8 foot poles and stake them up with string.
Works just fine.
[Any tips on loading the vertical water smoker. I want to do some ribs
and chicken. Which goes on the top?]
One of the things I like about a vertical design vs. horizontal is the
fact that you can put one meat over another, a sort of self-basting effect. I always put
pork or briskets on top. Lots of fat drippings, thus more basting.
[If I take the meat out of the smoker and put it in foil, should I put
some liquid in there with the meat before I return it to the smoker?]
Depends on how moist it was going into the foil, but I personally would
use some Club Soda. It doesn't add to, or distort the other flavors in any way, while it
adds moisture to the meat. In fact, it takes on the flavor of the meat. If you're planning
on eating it the same day, you can smoke it openly for about 3/4's of the estimated time
planned for, and then wrap in foil with the Club Soda and continue cooking it in your
smoker for the rest of the allotted time. This will percolate that Club Soda into the
meat, and really set it off.
List members also report that adding apple juice to the foiled meat
keeps the it moist.
[Should I use something like 'Adolf's Meat Tenderizer' on my ribs before
I barbecue them?]
I've never used tenderizer on ribs. A marinade will help, but, most
times is not necessary. I just use a rub or some seasonings and not much of those either.
The whole point of barbecue is to take tough cuts of meat and smoke cook them low and slow
and make them into something really great.
[I have a question, maybe dumb, but I really don't know the answer. So I
thought I would ask the experts on the porch. Assuming that I am barbecuing meat for 1 1/2
hours per pound, say for a 7 pound Boston butt, I would cook the butt for 10 1/2 hours. If
I was to do two 7 pound butts would I then have to cook them for 21 hours?]
Initially, the more meat you have in your smoker, the more BTU's you
will need getting up to a stable temperature but it's the same principal as your indoor
oven. And with a big smoker, you shouldn't have to add any cooking time at all. As long as
the temperature around the meat can be maintained, and you have some separation for
airflow, you really should not have to add to your cooking time when you double up on the
meat in the smoker. In a smaller smoker, another 30 minutes to an hour may be required,
just like cramming 4 baking potatoes into a toaster oven and not expecting them to be done
in 1 hour.
[I'm confused about sugar. What are 'raw', 'brown', 'turbinado' and
dictionary defines these sugars as:
"Today's BROWN sugar is white sugar combined with MOLASSES, which
gives it a soft texture. The two most commonly marketed styles of brown sugar are light
and dark, with some manufacturers providing variations in between.
"Though similar in color, brown sugar should not be confused with
RAW sugar, the residue left after sugarcane has been processed to remove the molasses and
refine the sugar crystals. The flavor of raw sugar is akin to that of brown sugar. In this
raw state, however, sugar may contain contaminants such as molds and fibers. The so-called
raw sugar marketed in the United States has been purified, negating much of what is
thought to be its superior nutritive value. Two popular types of raw sugar are the
coarse-textured dry DEMERARA sugar from the Demerara area of Guyana, and the moist,
fine-textured BARBADOS sugar."
"TURBINADO sugar is raw sugar that has been steam-cleaned. The
coarse turbinado crystals are blond colored and have a delicate molasses flavor."
"During the refining of sugar cane and sugar beets, the juice
squeezed from these plants is boiled to a syrupy mixture from which sugar crystals are
extracted. The remaining brownish-black liquid is molasses. Light MOLASSES comes from the
first boiling of the sugar syrup and is lighter in both flavor and color. It's often used
as a pancake and waffle syrup. Dark molasses comes from a second boiling and is darker,
thicker and less sweet than light molasses. Blackstrap molasses comes from the third
boiling and is what amounts to the dregs of the barrel. It's very thick, dark and somewhat
Turbinado sugar is just sucrose with a little molasses left in. Since
the molasses is not on the outside of the crystals like brown sugar, it doesn't clump and
is easier to handle.
[Should I use turbinado sugar in my rubs instead of white or brown
sugar? Will it blacken less?]
I switched to turbinado sugar. I don't use sugar in my rubs but I do use
it in my finishing sauce. It will not blacken as quickly as regular sugar.
Kit Anderson (the List's resident scientist)--
Here's the scoop on carmelization of sugars:
Sugar melts at 320F and becomes molten. On cooling it becomes a
non-crystalline brittle mass which is water soluble. At 338F the sugars undergo
decomposition resulting in a flavor and color change. This is the process called
At temperatures higher than this the sugar burns, becoming very dark
brown and bitter tasting.
[I can get a good deal on some hardwood pellets for my pellet-fed
smoker. Is there any caution I should be aware of?]
Make sure those pellets are 'FOOD GRADE' pellets and not pellets for
heating. Pellets for heating may contain various contaminated products and should be used
only in a pellet stove! The heating-type pellets may contain traces of resinous woods such
as pine or cedar! Always make sure the pellets say 'BBQ Pellets' or 'FOOD GRADE' pellets
before you try to use them in a cooking environment.
[I smoked a pork butt today and as I was pulling it, I saw this nasty
looking veiny thing next to the bone. What was that and should I throw out the butt?]
That nasty-looking thing you found was an infected or enlarged lymph
node. Just remove it and enjoy the rest of the meat. Next time, look at your meat a little
closer before cooking. If you see any little gray/green egg-shaped balls about the size of
your thumbnail remove them. These are lymph glands.
[Can anyone give me some information on bacterial growth on meat during
Marv of Marv's Marvlus Pit Bar-B-Q--
All harmful bacteria are killed by the time the meat reaches a
temperature of 160F. So at 200-250F you are cooking safe.
Editor--the general rule for the storage of food is to keep it out of
the bacteria danger zone 40-140F. Keep foods subject to bacterial growth within this
danger zone no longer than 2 hours.
[I love steak. And I also live in an apartment. I was wondering if it
which was safe to put a portable barbecue unit under a residential stove hood with the
window wide open wood/charcoal/gas/electric?]
Using a barbecue unit with charcoal inside is very dangerous! Charcoal
produces carbon monoxide while it's burning. Also, using a charcoal unit indoors is most
likely a violation of some major fire codes, if not apartment policy. A better idea is
1 Get an electric counter-top grill,
2 get a stove with the grill insert,
3 buy one of those new grill pans.
The folks on Food TV shows seem to like the grill pans, and they aren't
that expensive. They even add lines to the food like it was cooked on a grill. I saw a
T-Fal grill pan for $20 the other day. They say it keeps the fat from the food, they claim
the food being raised up causes the fat to 'vaporize' when it hits and adds that smoky
I have a gas stove and a gas oven, but will not bring my gas grill
inside. First, it will belch smoke from the drippings--more than can be vented properly.
Next, it is not insulated. Fire codes (most anyway) call for 36" clearance from
anything flammable unless special baffles, etc. are in place. I grill in my wood stove. It
is designed to have a fire in it, it is vented by the stack to the outside, and is on a
slate pad on a concrete pad in front of a brick wall.
The best suggestion in your situation is to take Fergy's suggestion No.
1, get an electric broiler to grill your steaks. Check out the ones made by T-Fal,
Hamilton Beech and other manufacturers. They have a grill, a drip pan and an electric
heating element. The dripping grease hitting the glowing element burns and flavors the
meat, just like a charcoal grill does.
[From what I've read on the BBQ List about the process of breaking down
the collagen in a brisket over a long period and at a low temperature of 160F is
confusing. Some say to keep the smoker temperature high, 240-250F, some say to keep it at
220F and some say to lower the temperature as the time goes on during the smoking process.
Can someone help me here?]
Let's go over this process one more time as you young kids just never
listen to your old father. While smoking a brisket, you want that meat rack temperature to
be between 235-240F. This is the good temperature for brisket. Now you have to find out
what temperature at the lid gives you a temperature of 235-240F at the meat rack. Could be
lid temperature of 250F or 270F. Got to determine that first of all. Let's say that 250F
at the lid gives 235F at the meat rack, OK? When your lid temperature is up to a steady
260F put that meat on. Now, the temperature will drop as it warms up the meat to the
cooking stage. Now watch that lid temperature and keep it as close to 250F as you can. Now
listen up, DO NOT, I SAY DO NOT open up your smoker for next four hours. Just try with all
your little heart to keep the temperature at the lid at 250F. After four hours, open the
lid and check the meat internal temperature. If it is up to 160F, OK. Now keep an eye on
the meat temperature. When it gets up to 165F, you want to let your heat drop a little to
about to about 235-240F on the lid thermometer. You can start mopping each hour now. Keep
and eye on the meat temperature each hour as you mop. You want the meat internal
temperature to get to 180F. If it goes to 190F or over, your meat will become mush-like
and dry. So keep watch on your meat temperature and learn to cook by your meat temperature
not your smoker lid temperature. If you learn to cook meat this way, your smoker will be
lots more friendly.
[I'm on a low-sodium diet. Can someone give me some tips about a dry rub
without any salt?]
I'll toss together sweet Hungarian paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder,
onion powder, fresh ground pepper, and a little cayenne. Rub the meat with this mixture
and let the meat sit in the refrigerator in a plastic bag overnight. Next day bring the
meat to room temperature (30 minutes maximum) while the smoker is coming up to
If you make extra rub, you can use the rub mixture as the seasoning for
a sauce. Just add a few tablespoons to a cup of ketchup, heat, and serve.
Some List members on a low-sodium plan like to use Mrs. Dash seasoning
blend as a salt replacement. You can also use 'salt substitute' (potassium chloride) in
Here's a couple of low-sodium rubs:
Low-Sodium Chili Powder
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and use in place
of chili powder.
Makes 4 tablespoons. Contains no salt as does store-bought chili powder.
Lemon Basil Herb-And-Spice-Seasoned Salt Subs
||dried lemon basil or dill
||dried oregano leaves
||onion powder or
||finely ground onion flakes
||dried lemon peel
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend well.
Put into a shaker with large holes. Store in a cool dark place. Makes about 3 ounces. This
rub is good on all types of meat.
[Can someone tell me something about spices used in barbecue, like how
to buy them and how to store them?]
When it comes to spices, the rule to follow is 'the fresher the better'.
Spices lose their flavor with time, especially after being ground. If you want the
ultimate in ground spices, buy whole spices in small quantities, no more than you will use
in a couple of months and grind them as you need them. I use a coffee grinder to grind
spices. Of course you need to dedicate a grinder to this purpose unless you like strange
flavored coffee. To really bring out the flavor in the spices, toast the whole spices
before grinding. Stir them around on a hot cast iron griddle for a few seconds to release
the flavor. You have to be careful though because it is easy to burn them and then you
will have a bitter flavor.
Spices in the grocery store have most likely been sitting on the shelf
for quite awhile. When buying from the supermarket stick with whole spices and grind them
yourself when possible. Some spices aren't available whole, cayenne pepper for example.
Always buy Hungarian paprika. It is very difficult to find a good chili powder in most
parts of the country. As Kit Anderson says "The supermarket stuff tastes like
cardboard". If you don't have access to a good quality chili powder you are better
off making your own or ordering it from a mail order house. Chili powder is one of the
most important spices in my opinion, especially if cooking Texas style brisket, and
quality is very important. I bought some Gebhardt's the last time I was down in Texas and
it will do in a pinch. [See Garry's recipe for chile powder in section 9.1.]
I use supermarket garlic powder and onion powder. I always use kosher
salt. I only use Mexican oregano. Most other spices, like coriander, cumin, cardamom, etc.
I buy at an Indian grocery market. Luckily, I live in an area with a lot of ethnic markets
so I haven't found it necessary to mail order spices. One good all-around seasoning I use
a lot is Goya brand Adobo Seasoning. It is good on fish, chicken and eggs and can be used
as a substitute for salt in many recipes. It has a pretty high salt content.
Your spices will last longer if you store them in a cool, dark place.
Don't hang them on the wall in one of those spice racks in clear glass bottles.
That was an excellent discussion on spices that Garry did, but I'd like
to contend one point. You say buy what you will use in a couple of months time, but as I
understand it, most spices are harvested once a year. If this is the case, you might as
well buy a year's worth and take comfort in knowing how your spices are stored during that
year. To really work that to your advantage, find out when the new crop comes in where you
Exactly, reading Penzey's catalog they explain that most spices are
harvested once a year. So when buying whole spices, buy what you need for the year. When
buying ground spices, I think they recommend buying enough for six months but you should
store it properly (i.e. cool spot and out of sunlight).
Once you get good quality spices, you will be particular about all of
them. I've been buying from Penzy's and rarely get them at the supermarket. If you are
fortunate, you may have a spice shop nearby and if they have a good turnover, you can be
assured of freshness and good quality. Chili powder and paprika are a couple that come to
mind that are much better than the stuff in the little boxes if you get them from a good
When you use a small coffee grinder to grind you spices, it is necessary
to carefully clean the grinder between uses. You don't want chili-flavored cinnamon. You
can use a small brush to carefully clean out the grinder or you can grind up a few soda
crackers or a piece of stale bread. Be careful when you want to grind up spices that are
heavy with oils, like cloves. They can make a mess of your grinder.
[What is the best way to dispose of ashes from the smoker?]
I use them in leaf mold or compost. The garden just loves the stuff.
I shovel the cold ash into plastic yard bags and scatter them thinly
over my raised herb garden and tomatoes. What's left over I donate to the garbage man.
[My old chainsaw died on me. What's a good model for a replacement?]
Editor--Summary of several posts--
The experienced BBQ List wood cutters recommended these chainsaw makes:
1 Husqvarna - the hands down winner
2 Stihl - a distant second
The McCulloch chainsaw was the hands down loser--after a year of use,
List members report they turn into door stops.
The List members said to get the biggest and most powerful chainsaw that
met your weight, size and budget requirements. They also said to buy it from a dealer that
can service and support the saw.
[What can you tell me about hanging meat vertically in a smoker?]
I like to smoke whole chickens and turkey breasts by hanging them in my
smoker. My wife likes them that way for her catering business--they don't get as much
The Willingham smoker utilizes a hanging system on a carousel for the
meat. I hang the briskets with the fat cap up and the point down. This allows the fat to
self baste the meat in that delicious fat.
[What are the nets that you hang meat in called?]
They are called "stockinette" and I use them for briskets,
turkeys, and hams. They're kind of like an elastic cloth bag. The weave is a little like
cheesecloth. I soak the bag in vinegar which prevents it from sticking to the meat. I get
them from the Sausage Maker, (716) 824-6510. Item #13500C. $5.95 for 10 bags.