Dateline: May 1, 2003

Ask Dr. John

It looks like the BABS is going around -- thatís Beans and Barbecue Syndrome. It occurs a lot in the spring of the year, and has never proven fatal to anyone. As a matter of fact, enough beans and barbecue will cure anything up to and including falling hair and fallen arches. Letís get to the first patient.

Adriana writes: Hello Doc. I am newly arrived from Italy, and am trying to learn American cooking. The weather is perfect for the Great American Barbecue. The problem is that I have no idea on how to prepare the meat. I have heard that a Dry Rub is one of the most important parts of the preparation. Please, can you help a nice girl from Italy with one of your best dry rub recipes? Molto Grazie (thank you).

Hi Adriana: The basic Dry Rub is simply a mix of equal parts: salt, black pepper and mild paprika. You just put a good coating of it on the meat before it goes in the smoker (BBQ). You can add garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne to your taste. Just about everything I know about cooking is archived on Look at my column, "Traditional Texas Fare". A little study will make you the envy of all your friends. Thank you for writing.
Dr. John

Mark writes:/em> Hi Dr. John. I am a chef at a southwestern-style restaurant, and have been trying out different peppers in my seasoning and barbeque sauces. I was wondering if you could suggest which peppers you prefer in a good, spicy barbeque sauce.

Chef Mark: I'm a big fan of cayenne. Combined with the other barbecue seasonings, it just does something for the whole presentation. Of course, you have to be careful not to get it too zippy. Chipotle is getting lots of attention lately, and you might try it. And everyone likes jalapeños. Again, they can be overpowering. You might look for some TAMU mild jalapeños. Or try a little jalapeño powder. I would think some of the jalapeños pickled in oil with carrots and onion would go good in a sauce. It is such a problem trying to find something that everyone likes. It's just a matter of experimenting. An old friend of mine once said, "Watch the kids; if they like it, it's good". Let me know if you come up with a good recipe. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

John writes: Doctor John: Thanks for the great article on Competition Chili Versus Eatiní Chili. I took your advice and won second place in our last cook-off. Would you happen to have a knockout recipe for competition beans? Thanks.

Hey John: Congratulations. I ought to go back and read that and see if I can win something. I never got too serious about the competition. I had a lot more fun just watching the people. I don't know what kind of beans your judges like. Around here, they like sort of a chili-bean dish. Most cook in some cut up sausage or use some hamburger grind beef and flavor it like chili.

Are you restricted to pinto beans? I won one bean-off with butter beans. If they allow butter beans, try this: Soak the beans overnight. Cook them in some well-flavored chicken stock (onion, celery and black pepper). When the beans start to get soft, mash some against the side of the pot with the spoon to thicken the soup. Just before you turn them in, put in a couple of tablespoons of real butter.

For pintos, try making some ham stock. Boil the heck out of a couple of ham hocks. Season it to your liking. Cool the stock and skim off the fat. Pick the lean meat off the hocks, chop it and add it to the pot. Always soak your beans overnight. Cook the beans in the ham stock. Make sure you mash some beans for thickening.

On anything like this, a good squeeze of fresh limejuice before turn in just sharpens the flavor. Let me know how it goes.

Near forgot. Beans like to be simmered, not boiled to death. Slow and easy is the way. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Joe & Alice write: Help! Our organization is going to host a barbecue next month with an anticipated attendance of about 300. Our bean maker no longer cooks. I cannot find a recipe for a chili pinto beans (barbecue-type) that will feed this many people. Mostly I need to know how many pounds of pintos, how much water, and how long to cook. Your input on spices and quantities would be appreciated. We have the facilities, and I plan to use two heavy pots to cook. Anything you can offer will be mucho appreciated.

Hey Joe & Alice: I found you a recipe for 100 servings. You'll just have to do it three times.

Soak the beans in cool water overnight. Use plenty of water because they will swell up. Drain the beans. Put beans and all seasonings in pot with the 4 gallons of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a good simmer. Should be done in about two hours depending on conditions. Allow another hour just in case.

To improve the above recipe, I would add either a pound of chopped bacon or a good-size ham hock to the pot. Also, the recipe forgot salt. Salt the beans to taste after they are done.

When the beans start to get tender, mash some of them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. This will thicken the broth. That should do it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

If you would like to direct a question to Ask Doctor John, e-mail it to John Raven, Ph.B.