The good doctor has been working overtime this month. Got a backlog of stuff for this column. I really try to get a quick answer to everyone via email. So far, no complaints.

Ken writes:

Dear Good Doctor: Thanks for your recent help on my issues with getting real charcoal lit. You were right about the moisture, and now that I address this issue I don't really have any more problems. I have another question now: I have a Brinkman smoker and like the results, but I can't seem to achieve that nice crispy skin on barbecued chicken that defines many famous restaurants where I'm from (Austin). Even without the water pan, the skin on my smoked chicken comes out a little rubbery and moist. The actual chicken is pretty good, it is just that I just want a crispy, drier tasting skin, with nice juicy meat inside. In my routine, I typically will melt butter, vinegar, and Worcestershire together and add spices to taste. This goes on the chicken just prior to cooking. I always thought the butter and vinegar would work to make a crisp skin, but time and time again I can't achieve this. Any ideas?

Hey Ken: I had to call in my expert on this one. Smoky Hale says you are going to have to get the temperature up to 350 to get the skin crisp. I don't know if your Brinkmann will go that high. You might try finishing the chicken in the oven inside. You might also try pulling out the water pan in the last thirty minutes or so of cooking time. Leave the butter off the baste. The skin gets crisp when all the fat is cooked out of it. Kinda like bacon. You might check with one of your local "Peeping" duck chefs and see what he has to say about crisp skin. They use some sort of varnish on the ducks, a long complicated affair. Lemme know what happens. I always can use any information I can get. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Some nice folks wrote for a recipe for good bread pudding with Bourbon sauce. The computer ate their names so I'm hoping they find this.

Hey Folks: Here's a recipe for bread pudding and brandy sauce. Bourbon sauce is the traditional sauce for bread pudding. You can make it by just using bourbon instead of brandy in the recipe.

Southern Bread Pudding

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine raisins and 1/3 cup bourbon in a small bowl. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain. Place bread in a large bowl. Whisk milk, 3/4 cup sugar, cream, eggs, 2 egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Pour egg mixture over bread. Add raisins; mix gently to coat bread. Transfer mixture to 9x5x3-inch glass loaf baking dish. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake pudding for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake until the top is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes longer. Cool slightly. Melt butter in top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Add 3 tablespoons bourbon, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 egg yolk. Whisk until mixture thickens slightly and candy thermometer registers 160 degrees, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cut hot or warm bread pudding into 6 pieces. Transfer to plates. Spoon bourbon sauce over each portion and serve.


Stir sugar and 2/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Add lemon juice. Increase heat and boil until deep amber, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in remaining cup water (mixture will bubble vigorously). Cool 5 minutes. Mix in brandy. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; refrigerate. Rewarm before serving.)

Bobbybbq writes:

What would you recommend for curing a new wood board? BobbyQ: If it is a new board with nothing on it, you can get "salad bowl" finish at a paint or craft store. If you are cheap like I am, put some plain medical grade mineral oil on it. Paint it on and then wipe it with clean cloth. Let it set for a day and then put on another application. Slicing all your barbecue on it will add the grease it needs, and you won't have to worry about it. Just DON'T SOAK IT IN WATER. Water kills wood. Give it a quick rinse and then dry it. Stand it on edge to dry. Don't lay it flat or it will get moisture under it. Good slicing.
Dr. John

Robert writes:

Dr. John: Hopefully, you can help me out with a problem that I can't seem to solve. I bought a smoker with a fire box on the side. I want instructions on how to cook my various cuts of meat and end up with that smoky flavor. I have tried cooking with only wood (ends up with a bitter, skunk taste). I have tried charcoals and wood chips -- still no luck. How do I do this? Please answer ASAP. I would like to try once more to smoke a pork butt that I will shred and use to make sandwiches. Do you have a recipe for this that also includes a sauce? Thanks in advance!

Oh gosh: This long distance advice is difficult. If I was standing there, it would be much easier. However . . . Sounds like you are over-smoking the product. Too much of any kind of smoke will make the meat skunky. What kind of wood are you using? I recommend some good seasoned oak. You want seasoned wood as green wood is too smoky. Let the fire burn down to where it is not making but just a little smoke before you put the meat on. If you think you need more smoke, soak a piece of the wood in water for a while and put it on top of the coals. Make sure the firebox damper is open enough so the fire can get enough oxygen. Too little oxygen and you get smoke. This is something you have to learn through experience.

As for the pork butt, season it with salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne. Cook the butt in the normal fashion until it is done. Wrap it real tight in some heavy-duty foil and put it on the pit for about another hour. This will tender it up for pulling.

Everyone has a different idea of what sauce should be. The North Carolina style sauce that goes with the pulled pork tastes like paint remover to me. Try some Kraft original recipe mixed with equal amount of water.

Lemme know how it goes. I always can use feedback from my patients. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John