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If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc

Dateline: August 2, 2007

Here we are in August already. We are coming into the season where all the outdoor cooking/living paraphernalia start to go on sale. If you are in the market for a new grill or patio table you need to start looking for the bargains that will be out there.

Im planning to look for a new charcoal grill. I have an El Cheapo that I bought about ten years ago for forty dollars. It is still in good working condition but I would like to have something a bit more fancy. The secret to keeping one of these cheap grills alive for so long is to line the fire tray with heavy-duty foil before you start to use it. If you keep the foil in good condition, the acid from the ashes will not eat the tray up. If you use the thing fairly often, the grease on the grill will keep it from rusting.

Everyone has their own specific need in the grill line. What works for me may not work for you. What Im looking for in my new grill is a feature that will let me add charcoal without having to remove the grill itself. I think a warming rack would be nice too. Lets see, what did I do with that sale paper?

We have patients waiting. The good Doctor sometimes wanders off course.

Randy has a party coming up.

Hi. Ive got a family function coming up in two weeks and four briskets ranging from 8 to 10 pounds to cook. I want to use your "B to T" recipe and am wondering if I can cook multiple slabs at the same time. In other words, does it take longer to cook four briskets that just one? My cooker has around 600 square inches in area with a side fire box. Of course, Ill have cold beverages and cigars ready if long-term babysitting is needed. Also, how much more time, if any, does throwing in 2 or 3 pounds of sausage cause?

Hi Randy: The smoker doesn't know how many briskets you put in it. More than one will cook in the same time as the single. Just remember the sausage only needs a good heating unless you are using raw sausage. You don't want to dry out precooked sausage. Sounds like fun. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Michelle wants a change in menu:

Dr. John: Anytime barbecue or grilled meat is served, we get the same old side dishes: potato salad, beans and coleslaw. Any suggestions on what we could substitute that would go with the meal?

Hi Michelle: I know what you are talking about. I try to find sides that go well with the barbecued or grilled meats. My first suggestion is to substitute either a baked potato or a stuffed potato for the potato salad. Just a plain baked potato with butter, cheese and sour cream will suit just about anyone. In my stuffed or quot;twice baked" potatoes, I use butter, cheese (Velveeta) and some fine chopped onion for the stuffing. You can do these a day ahead of time and then warm them for the meal either in the smoker/grill or the microwave.

I like a pasta salad. It is close to potato salad but different. You want a creamy salad, not the oil and vinegar kind. The small elbow macaroni works very well for pasta salad.

A salad of fresh garden vegetables works very well. There are a thousand recipes out there. I like one that uses brown sugar and cider vinegar for the dressing.

It is hard to find a substitute for beans. You might try very lightly boiled chopped cauliflower in a cream sauce -- beef-flavored sauce if youre having beef, chicken-flavored sauce for your chicken.

You dont have to alter your whole menu at once. You can substitute for the potato salad and keep the beans and slaw. You get the idea. Good luck and thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Gary writes:

Dr. John, I love beer can chicken, but the skin is like rubber. I smoke it around 185 degrees for 5 to 6 hours. I'm using charcoal and cherry wood. How can I keep the skin from turning into Good Year rubber? Any help, please.

Hey Gary: You got to get some heat on that chicken. Try about 300 for about an hour or an hour and a half. Chicken does not require the long, slow smoking that tough old bull meat needs. Baste the bird with a little Italian dressing. That should do it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

John writes:

Dr. John, can you please tell me a brief history of where and how Texas barbecue came from? Also, what do you think separates Texas from the other states when it comes to barbecue?

Hi John: To the best of my knowledge, barbecue as we know it today started during the depression years. Meat markets and butcher shops started cooking the less desirable cuts of meat such as the ribs and briskets and selling them for nickel and dime prices. It was a good way to get a meal for very little money.

After WWII, someone started building the little backyard pits out of discarded metal drums and the rest is history.

Texas barbecue is made with native woods -- mesquite, oak, hickory. They give a sharp, recognizable flavor. The Texas finishing sauce is red and sweet, as opposed to the vinegar-based sauces east of the Mississippi, and the meat of choice in Texas is beef not pork. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Kathy writes:

I have a recipe for salt rising bread that calls for sweet milk. Is this whole milk? Or any milk with sugar added?

Hey Kathy: Its just plain old milk. In the old days before we had iceboxes, the milk went sour very fast. So "sweet" milk was milk that had not soured. Also, back then folks on the farm drank a lot of buttermilk. So the term "sweet milk" distinguished it from buttermilk. If you asked Mama for a glass of milk, she would ask you "sweet milk or buttermilk?"

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

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