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Friday, March 11, 2005

Photo Friday (Vol. XVIII) [BBQ Edition]

Although it has nothing to do with the topic at hand, I'd like to take a moment to point out that not everyone seems to have gotten the word about peace having broken out here in the Middle East.

My blog-buddy Harry was stoned (no, not that kind) early this morning while driving home from a rehearsal with his band (he was on the Jerusalem-Modi'in highway, Road 443).  It seems that Harry committed the unforgivable 'crime' (Saeb Erikat would probably use the term 'atrocity) of DWJ (Driving While Jewish).

Fortunately, he escaped without injury... but his car wasn't so lucky.  Once he posts the pictures of the damage I think we will be able to set aside the 'kids will be kids' excuse that the PA loves to trot out when these things happen.

Anyway, if you know or read Harry (and if not... what's wrong with you!), go say hello and tell him not to let this incident turn him into a lunatic right wing settler like me.  :-)

OK, now that we've gotten the Public Service Announcement portion of our program out of the way... on to Photo Friday!

Over the past year I've mentioned several times that I have a long-standing Friday ritual of BBQing the main course for Shabbat dinner... and enjoying a little corn-based beverage from the great state of Kentucky. 

Several readers have written to ask about my BBQ technique... and several others have written to suggest (not too gently) that I am misusing the term BBQ, and that what I'm really doing is grilling. 

I love my readers.

Even when they are calling me an idiot they offer endless inspiration for journal entries and photo ideas. 

First a little clarification about terminology:

1.  Grilling is the act of placing expensive cuts of meat or poultry on the cooking surface of a gas-powered cooking appliance and immolating said meat or poultry at approximately the same temperature as the surface of the sun.   Cooking times vary from a few nanoseconds up to  10 or 15 minutes (by which time the neighbor's smoke alarms are all going off).  Sometimes sauces or marinades are applied to the food before or during the cooking process to suggest the idea of moisture and to keep the expensive animal flesh from crumbling into dust before it reaches the table.  The fine art of grilling is practiced primarily in northern areas of the United States as well as Canada.

2.  BBQ (pronounced BAR-ba-kyew), when expressed as a verb, is the act of slow cooking any available cut of meat or poultry over a cool, smoky bank of wood coals.  The word BBQ is also commonly used as a noun to describe the results of the verb form (e.g. "I had me a plate of bubba's BBQ the other day... damn but that boy makes some good dry rub.").  Best results are achieved when the heat source is not directly under the food, and there is usually a can of water somewhere in there to raise the humidity in the cooking area.  Dry rubs made of various herbs and spices are often applied to the meat as are a wide variety of either mustard- or tomato-based sauces (depending on where you live).  However, many BBQers forgo the rubs and sauces and let the woodsmoke flavor the food.  It is not unusual to BBQ meat or poultry for several hours (or even half a day!).  Even if one started with an undesirable cut of meat, or a chicken that met its end at a more, um, advanced age... the process of BBQing usually results in a tender, delicious treat that practically falls apart as you eat it (sorry if I'm grossing out my vegan readers).  BBQing is practiced primarily in states where Nascar Racing is enjoyed.

The type of outdoor cooking that I practice is a hybrid of these two techniques.

Yes, I use a big gas Weber grill.  But I use it strictly for good, not evil!
[note:  if you do a bit of outdoor cooking, it might be worth your while to run a gas line out to your grill as I have done.  It saves the stress of your tank running dry at the worst possible time.]


Here is a step-by-step primer of my cooking technique:

1.  First go buy yourself a couple of smoker boxes.  You can buy them (as well as a nice selection of wood chips) from my good friend Sam.  I don't normally endorse commercial products here on treppenwitz, but Sam was so helpful about getting me my smokers as well as shipping a nice selection of alder, mesquite and hickory chips to me here in Israel that I'm happy to give him a plug.

Put the smoker box(es) above the heat source, but below the grill surface.  Soak the wood chips in warm water for at least 15 minutes, and then put them in the box and replace the box's cover as shown:



It's hard to see here, but there are actually small holes in the bottom and top of the smoker boxes.

Now that the smokers are all set up, replace your grill surfaces, and if you like... set up a roasting rack to raise the meat even higher.  The smoker boxes block most of the direct heat, but I have found that roasting racks slow down the cooking even more.

The next step is to light the burner(s) underneath the smoker boxes.  It is very important to make sure that no burners outside the area covered by the boxes are lit as this will directly cook the meat... a definite BBQ no-no!

The ideal temperature is somewhere between 200 - 225 F.  Play around with the gas setting until you get a constant temperature within this range. Within 10 or 15 minutes the wet wood chips will start to give off smoke... this is your cue to put the meat on the racks (or directly on the gill surface, if you must).  Arrange the food so that none of it is sticking out beyond the footprint of the smoker box(es).   

Place an old can full of water somewhere inside the grill so that the humidity inside the cooking area stays relatively high throughout the process.  After a few weeks the can will look like this:

Now close the lid, pull up a chair and begin consuming the bourbon-based drink of your choice.  I usually go with a mint julep, but when there is no fresh mint growing in my neighbor's garden I've been known to drink it neat.

I'll anticipate a few comments here by saying yes, you can substitute drinks based on rum, vodka or even tequila, but I've always enjoyed the best results with bourbon.  Scotch is not recommended for this type of cooking.

After 2 or 3 hours you should arrange to have one of your kids wake you out of your stupor to check on the progress of the meat.    Whether or not you have rubbed /marinated the meat or left it to the smoke to provide the flavor, 2 hours is still the bare minimum if you are cooking at such low temperatures.  If you are cooking ribs or a roast, 4 hours or more is perfectly OK, but after 3 or 4 hours you will have to empty the ashes out of the smoker box(es) and add fresh wet wood chips.

At the end of the process you should have something that looks like this (I added no seasoning or marinade to this chicken... that is just the result of almost 3 hours of cool, moist hickory smoke):

Now that my appetite is all stoked, I think I'll go upstairs and get started cooking some eggs for everyone's breakfast.

As always, keep those cards and letters coming.  If there's something that you'd like to see a picture of here on a future Photo Fridays, just let me know.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by David Bogner on March 11, 2005 | Permalink


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oh wow, that looks amazing. BH i am learning shechita, dont have to buy my chicken iyH....

Posted by: Tonny | Mar 11, 2005 9:09:24 AM

Looks delicious!!

Posted by: Tanya C. | Mar 11, 2005 9:25:56 AM

[Ed. translation of Tonny's comment: oh wow, that looks amazing. G-d Willing I will be learning to be a kosher slaughtererand therefore won't have to buy my chicken With G-d's assistance ....]

Tonny... Good for you! You'll never be rich, but you'll never be hungry either.

TanyaC... it is! I'm out there every Friday afternoon. You see all those wings lined up along the top shelf of the grill? Those are for sharing with passers-by who follow their noses to my garden gate. You can even let peekatchoo [Ed. note: Tanya's dog] lick off your fingers when you're done!

Posted by: David | Mar 11, 2005 9:35:53 AM

Hey, you have the same Weber as we do. I love it. That little unit has been fabulous. So just in case the Weber people come to your blog and are in need of a testimonial, here I am.

The only problem with seeing this now is that it is a quarter to midnight and now I am hungry. Sigh.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 11, 2005 9:44:11 AM


You should have saved those pictures for the upcoming Third Annual International Eat an Animal for PETA Day, which occurs on March 15th (which is also my birthday).

In any event, I am really hungry now..

Posted by: Dave | Mar 11, 2005 10:38:17 AM

Thanks for the kind words David. I'm ok, and still pro-disengagement but definately got pushed back (I was there before!) to the right.

Now onto the more important things...

BBQ. I do a lot of smoking on my Weber as well. Mostly hickory and mesquite. Nothing better than a hickory smoked turkey. Let me know next time you want to order wood chips. I'll go in on the order with you and I know of someone else would be be interested as well. I grow impatient with those who do not know the difference between indirect and direct heat. It's very frustrating. All too often I go to BBQs at friends who burn the outside of the meat while the inside remains uncooked.

I'm actually either going to build a real smoker or buy one when I go to the states in May. I want some melt off the bones 24 hour smoked meat!

I'll email you my recipe for my salmon cure and a few of my patented spice rubs and bbq sauces if you are interested. Also, whenever I'm smoking meat, I throw a cup of kosher salt in a tin for delicious smoked salt to use for future rubs. Delicious!

In any case, we should enter one of those BBQ competitions they have around Yom Haztmaut.

Posted by: Harry | Mar 11, 2005 12:55:43 PM

You sure do know your barbequing! Personally, I use the George Foreman and that is the extent of my BBQ prowess, but those wings look delicious! Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: Essie | Mar 11, 2005 4:22:50 PM

Jack... Are you really telling me there is nowhere to get BBQ at 1:00AM in LA?

Dave... I wish I could say I had done this intentionally... but this is the last Friday before the big event! :-)

Harry... Yet one more reason to like you very much! My wife can tell you that I'm a bit of a fanatic about slow cooking meat. On a few occasions I've also done fish and vegetables, but just between the two of us... I felt like I was insulting the grill when I was cooking up the veggies. ;-)

I'll be sure to let you know when I reorder wood chips. On my last order I also got some of the more esoteric ships such as cherry, apple, mulberry, plum, pear and maple. If you'd like to try any of these, let me know.

Anyway, again I'm glad it was only your car. Make sure to get a copy of the police report stating exactly what happened and where so you can have the government (rather than your insurance) pay for the repair. This falls under the broad heading of war/terrorist-related damage that the government picks up the tab for.

Essie... Um, honey... I don't know quite how to tell you this... but even Northerners who subscribe to the 'scorched earth' approach to BBQing don't consider the George Foreman grill to be grilling/BBQing. Don't get me wrong, the GF Grill is a nifty little machine and it cooks things up quickly and deliciously. However, you don't see a lot of men standing out on the back deck, drinking a beer while tending the George Foreman Grill. :-)

Posted by: David | Mar 11, 2005 4:33:12 PM

Mmmmmm.... I’m imagining your chopped liver as an appetizer before the chicken.

I've been barbequing wrong my whole life and never knew it, as I've always been in California, which has no NASCAR, tight gun laws, and lots of plastic surgery. You're very much a Red-Stater, culturally (and you know, coming from me, that's high praise). The thought of this newly-revealed-true-way-to-barbeque being used on some tasty fragments of cow really makes me drool. (Or is it because of my retainer?)

I also have zero knowledge or appreciation of various products of fermentation. In LA, people have wine coolers, because anything stronger will make them too tired when their personal trainer comes over.

Shabbat shalom.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Mar 11, 2005 5:00:47 PM

Jack... Are you really telling me there is nowhere to get BBQ at 1:00AM in LA?

There is not any sort of pressing problem aside from the little issue of Kashrut. But if you are interested in finding some good pork spareribs it is easy enought to be hooked up.

Not my thing. I prefer a good steak.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 11, 2005 5:01:02 PM

A last quick thought:

In high school one of my best friends taught me the perfect strategy for barbequing any meat product. I realize now that this refers to grilling, not barbequing, but the rule has remained etched in my memory.

Almost burn, then turn.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Mar 11, 2005 5:06:05 PM

David, you need to know that Doctor Bean hates chicken (he will now write to tell you that he doesn't, but don't believe him). If he thinks that chicken looks good, I'm gonna start BBQing! It looks like I can just use my regular grill to do it, also.

Posted by: Ball-and-chain | Mar 11, 2005 6:06:22 PM

For those of use without natural gas lines - I keep an extra tank, one of my best investments.
And being from the North, I grill. Which is good because I don't enjoy NASCAR.

Posted by: lisa | Mar 11, 2005 7:36:56 PM

I don't hate chicken.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Mar 11, 2005 7:59:10 PM

*quietly drooling*

Posted by: Tanya | Mar 11, 2005 8:31:42 PM

looks wonderful.

I've never seen anything quite like it.

Posted by: timna | Mar 12, 2005 1:05:18 AM

I demand ribs for dinner tonight. With vinegar based homemade BBQ sauce. And french bread. Mmmmm.

Posted by: Alice | Mar 12, 2005 6:09:55 PM

Would love to spend Yom Ha'atzmaut wherever you are in charge of the grill this year David - my mouth is watering at the very thought of it!

Shavua Tov,


Posted by: gil ben mori | Mar 13, 2005 12:09:00 AM

Doctor Bean... Yes, I hadn't thought of it but you're right... from a culinary standpoint I am very much a Red-Stater. Wait 'til you see what I can do with ribs!

Jack... I wasn't talking about commercial sources. I just figured that in a town as big as LA you'd have to have a few like-minded friends you could wake up at that hour for an early morning cook-out. :-)

Ball & Chain... I've had vegetarians 'fall off the wagon' over my cooking (my wife being one of them). If you make this kind of chicken for the good doctor, I promise he'll come around.

Lisa... You mean to tell me that somebody as handy as you couldn't run a gas line from your kitchen out onto the porch? As to NASCAR, I'm not a fan either, but those good ol' boys do know how to tailgate before the races.

Tanya... Drooling is good. I'd much prefer a fresh blog entry from the goddess of geek, but I'll take a quiet drool as a sign that you're ok (and that I shouldn't send the rescue squad over to your place).

Timna... I hear that a lot [blushing]. :-)

Alice... Let me know if you got your wish.

Gil... I usually run the grill over at the 'Pina Chama' at tzomet hagush on Yom Ha'Atzmaut. We have an all day 'Al Ha'Aish' for the many soldiers that are on duty in the region. But we can arrange a BBQ any time you like (since we still have to get you and your new bride down to our place!!!).

Posted by: David | Mar 13, 2005 1:18:57 AM

I'm smelling it right now as my husband slaves over the stove. Raspberries, chocolate angelfood cake, and fresh whipped cream for dessert.

Posted by: Alice | Mar 13, 2005 1:42:52 AM

Jack... I wasn't talking about commercial sources. I just figured that in a town as big as LA you'd have to have a few like-minded friends you could wake up at that hour for an early morning cook-out. :-)

Once upon a time I had friends like myself who kept Dracula's hours, but they have gotten soft in their old age and go to sleep far too early. The long arm of Father Time is catching up.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 13, 2005 10:04:57 AM

Alice... Hold on to that man... he's a keeper!

Jack... I guess sometimes a guy just has to grill alone. As an added bonus, late night consumption of large quantities of meat tends to give me really vivid dreams.

Posted by: David | Mar 13, 2005 3:44:10 PM

just a follow up... I AM handy, but I would have to run a gas line from somewhere down the block I think. Remember, while we may have McMansions... there are huge parts of this town without city water yet.

Posted by: lisa | Mar 14, 2005 7:28:01 PM

I should have figured that one out... we didn't have a gas line in our part of Fairfield either.

Anyway, I hope it warms up soon so you can start driving around with the top down!

Posted by: David | Mar 14, 2005 10:37:35 PM

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