The Doctor has a room full of hungry patients again this month. Let's get at it.
Tom writes: Help! Our second annual cookout is rapidly approaching. Last year we did a luau and it turned out great. This year the theme is the Old West, and I would like to cook a quarter beef, but have no idea on time or, really, the method. I suppose there will be about a 125 people of all ages. All will bring a dish, but the church will furnish the meat. Would like some help. Also we need something with pizzazz.
Hey Tom: This is a hard one to do via email. Check around and see if you can find someone with a pit big enough for this amount of meat. Cooking a big chunk of meat is impressive, but if you don't have the proper equipment and the experience, it can be a mess. The customers won't mind if the meat is cooked in smaller portions. It will save a lot of time. Get the cook and his helpers each a cowboy hat and bandana and everyone will be happy. Thanks for writing.
Philip writes: Howdy Dr. John. Philip here, native Texan. I should know by now, but I don't, so I'm quite sure you can help me. What are the best ingredients for a brisket rub? And how long would you allow for the meat to smoke without the foil?
Philip: For the basic Texas rub use:
As for the foil, it's a matter of taste. The longer you smoke the meat, the more smoke flavor. Start with two hours and see how that works. If you can learn to cook brisket without the foil, you will be a lot happier. The foil just steams the meat, and you lose a lot of the smoke flavor. It does make for a much faster cooking time though. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Jayne writes: Hello. Please can you give me any recipes for marinades to use on meat when you barbecue that don't caramelize and burn on the outside when cooked?
Hey Jayne: It's the sugar in the mix that causes it to burn so easy. For lean cuts of meat, fish or poultry, you need some oil in the mix. For the fat cuts, substitute water. Look up my archived articles on texascooking. I did a whole article on marinades and bastes. (Marinades You Should Know).
For a basic mix, use about a cup of water or oil, and a quarter cup white vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Add spices you like. I use onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and sometimes a little cayenne. Just adjust them to suit your taste. And experiment. You never know what you will discover. Thanks for writing.
Diana writes: My question is not about cooking, but hope you can help me. I'm having a western party, and I'm looking for tin plates like the cowboys used. Thanks.
Diana: Look up a restaurant supply store in your area. They should be able to fill the bill. Also, I have seen the blue speckled enamel dinnerware at Wal-Mart. I don't know if you can get just the plates, but it's worth a try. Thanks for writing.
Mike writes: Dear Doctor: I purchased a Brinkmann smoker, described as a water smoker in Smoke and Spice about two years ago. I have tried several times to smoke modest amounts of pork and turkey, and have never been able to get the temperature up to the minimum recommended. I use a chimney starter and get the coals almost blue-hot. I have contacted Brinkmann, and they couldn't recommend anything that works. I even purchased an electric element kit, and it didn't really warm. Honestly, I haven't talked to any of my acquaintances who have much more success. Do these things work? If the manufacturer can't tell me what's wrong, I'm hoping someone else can. I have considered cutting vents into the dome, putting air holes in the charcoal pan, and have tried smoking without the water pan. Can you help? Thanks.
Mike: This is difficult to diagnose without being there to put my hands on the critter.
It should work, being they sell thousands of the things. Have you tried different brands of charcoal? Some burn hotter than others. Kingsford makes a good hot fire. Do you fill the fire pan with charcoal? Before you go cutting holes in the thing, try putting a grate of some sort under the charcoal to let some air get to the bottom of it. Also, a cool breeze will suck a lot of heat out of those things. Try keeping it out of moving air. Other than that, it's got me buffaloed. Thanks for writing.
Patty writes: Dear Doc John: I'm a good ole southern girl from North Carolina. I love a good hot chili, but have a bit of a dilemma. I'm less than a month away from marrying an English gentleman who is very scouse. He's a royal pain in the arse due to the fact that he refuses to eat beef or pork. (There goes my fatback!) I need a good spicy recipe for chili using turkey. Any help is greatly appreciated! Thanks so much. Beef lover Forever.
P.S. The Brit found your site and liked it. Great job there. Thanks for sharing.
Hey Patty: I checked a bunch of turkey chili recipes. They all amount to something I wouldn't feed my hogs. So let's invent a good turkey chili recipe. Here's where we start:
Basic Texas Chili
Add enough water to cover the meat. Put in the spices and bring to a simmer. Cook until the meat is tender. You may have to add water, if mix becomes too dry. Add the tomato sauce, and simmer another 20 minutes.
If the chili is not spicy enough for your taste, add a small amount of cayenne. Mix two tablespoons flour with one-half cup of water. Raise the heat under the chili until you get a good boil. Stir in the flour/water mixture, and continue stirring until mixture thickens. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 more minutes. Serve with saltines or tortillas.
Okay, the beef is out. We are going to substitute cooked turkey cut into cubes. Ignore the part about meat prep. Saute the onions and garlic until tender. Add about a cup of chicken broth. Add the chili spices and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer about 20 or 30 minutes. Now you have the gravy. Add the turkey and stir until it's just heated through. If you cook it too long, it will turn to mush. Add the thickener if you think it needs it. That should make something pretty good. Let me know how it works out.
And ask your beau if he's ever heard of mad turkey disease.
Thanks for writing.