Dateline: September 1, 2005
Finally, we are entering the cooling cycle here in Texas. It has been a long, hot summer. The Doctor has been keeping busy as usual. This month we have some very good queries from our readers. Did the doctor ever mention that he has the finest readers in the world?

Here we go.

From Harold: I recently won a gift certificate from a drawing Austin Telco had. So with it I bought a New Braunfels smoker and I made my first brisket following your directions. It weighed 14.5 lbs and I kept the temp between 200 and 215. After 17 hours total my wife and I had a really great tasting brisket. Now I want to smoke chicken. My question is how high should the temp be and how long should they cook? I plan on using half chickens. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Harold: The long, slow smoking time for a brisket is to give it time to tender up. It's a really tough cut of meat. A chicken is a different bird. Unless you get an old rooster, it's pretty tender. I like 325 to 350 degrees. Time depends on size of bird. I'd start checking for doneness after about forty-five minutes. If you're new at smoking chicken, baste often with Italian dressing until you find something you like better. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Elizabeth says: Do have any suggestions for a good hot dog chili. Friends keep giving me recipes for a hot dog wiener sauce. I thought perhaps a good Texas chili (without beans) would be a good idea. What do you think?

Hi Elizabeth: Texas-style chili improves everything. I suggest you use hamburger rather than chili grind or chunks for hot dog chili. It fits better. The secret here is to drain the meat after you brown it and get rid of all the fat and other juices that cook out. Then proceed as usual. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Gennine has a corny question: I am hosting a large picnic in August and was asked to barbeque corn on the grill. How long do I cook it? And I just heard not to soak the corn in salt water. Is that true and, if so, is sugar water the right way? Thank you in advance.

Hi Gennine: Couple of opinions on grilling corn: Of course you want the corn as fresh as you can get it. After it's picked, the sugars start turning to starch. To cook with husk on you need to peel back the husk and remove all or as much of the "silk" as you can. Pull the husk back in place and fasten either with string or wad some foil on the end. Unless it's completely old and dry you don't need to soak it. Just lay it on the grill and turn it every ten or fifteen minutes until it's good and hot inside.

The new way to grill it is to remove the husk completely. Have some melted butter on hand. Brush the corn with butter and put it on the grill. Turn it frequently until it just begins to show a little brown in spots. This should not take more than five or ten minutes. You can add a little more butter if you like and have a saltshaker for those who want it. You might get some of the little plastic corn holders that stick in each end of the ear to make it easier to handle or use a short bamboo skewer in each end. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Margy has a lot of chiles: I have a question about chiles. I have a ton of jalapeños and banana peppers fresh from my garden, and am trying to think up a way to chop and freeze these ingredients as a base to start chili. Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks!

Hi Margy: Jalapeños and banana peppers are used as flavoring in chili. They are not the correct type to be the base. That would require anchos and/or New Mexico reds, which are dried before making chili. Your peppers can be used in salsas and other things requiring chile seasonings.

Peppers are among the few things that can be frozen without any preparation other than just washing and drying them. You can chop them if you like. Just put them in zip freezer bags and expel all the air you can. They will last up to a year if you keep them frozen. You might look into pickling a few. These varieties are great for pickling. You can find recipes all over the Internet. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

George has a steak problem: My wife hails from Houston. She brags about how good country-fried steak can be when prepared properly. One problem: when she tries to prepare it for me (a Virginia fellow) the steak is good, but the breading falls off in the cooking process. What are we doing wrong?

Hi George: Boy, I hate it when the good stuff falls off. After you get the steak breaded, put it on a cookie sheet and stick it in the icebox about fifteen or twenty minutes. This gives the breading time to set. You want your oil/grease hot when you start - 360 to 375 degrees or just about smoking. You have to watch it and not scorch things. I think this will help. If it don't, holler back and we'll try something else. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

B.N. is a barbecue novice: I have many talents and those I love consider me to be an outstanding cook. I love to cook. But I AM A TERRIBLE BARBECUE CHEF. I don't like gas grills. We believe that a truly great barbecue flavor comes from grilling on a charcoal grill. But it never works out well. How long should the coals heat up before the food goes on the grill? How long do they stay hot? Can you cook two shifts of food on the same coals? Please advise. Thanking you in advance for your help.

Hi: The charcoal should be a uniform gray color all over when you start. This can take a while. Best way to get it going is to get a "chimney" for starting charcoal. You can find them at most places that sell grills or they can tell you where to find one.

The different brands of charcoal burn at different rates. My favorite is Kingsford. It will stay hot a long time. If your coals start getting sparse, you can start some more and add them as needed. You just have to be careful handling all the hot stuff. A good pair of gloves should be on hand. You can find insulated gloves at a welding supply store. Good luck.
Dr. John