The Doctor has patients with serious problems this month. Let's get to them.

David writes: Sometime back in the '60s, a friend from Texas "Q'd" what I seem to remember was eye of round. It was for his farewell party from the Navy, and he did it on a small charcoal Weber. What made this so memorable was that he had the meat wrapped in a layer of (damp?) newspaper while it cooked for what I remember was a long time. When served, it was unbelievably tender, delicious, etc. For years I've tried to figure out his technique, without success. Any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Hey David: Using newspaper is a new one on me. First of all, eye of round is a more tender cut than most barbecue fare. That's the first plus. I would suppose your friend seasoned the meat and then wrapped it. Keeping the paper damp with a baste would create a sort of steam cooker which will tender things up even more. If you are going to try it with paper, don't use newsprint. Get some of the big, brown bags from the grocer. A long time on the smoker is also a plus for tender meat. That's about all I can tell you about it. The old technique of cooking in a dug pit involved wrapping the meat in damp canvas, which is essentially the same procedure, except in the Islands where the pig is wrapped in damp banana leaves and called a Luau. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Missie writes: I am interested in purchasing a small backyard barbecue pit. We already have a gas grill. I would like one with a firebox, smoke chamber and damper for the draft. Can you tell me what to buy? Or give me a picture and list of materials to make a small one, not too hard. We love brisket and pulled pork.

Hey Missie: Check out www.nbsmoker.com There are several models to look at there. These all use round main body parts. Round is not necessarily better, square will work just as good. If you want to get one built, find a metal fabricator and take him a picture of the model you like. More than likely he's already built one. I don't have plans for building one. That's something I need to work on when I get time.
Dr. John

George writes: Having moved East from Oklahoma (all right, no jokes), I am trying to master the art of smoking a brisket. I have an Oklahoma Joe cooker, try to keep it around 180-200 for 11 hours. Brisket comes out smoked but tough, even when I wrap it in aluminum foil after 6 hours. Any pointers? Thanks.

Hey George: Right off the top of my head I can think of two things to check. 1. Do you use whole brisket in cryovac wrap or trimmed for market? You gotta have the fat to get taste and tenderness. 2. Someone is selling you old rodeo stock. Change butchers for a while. If that don't help, try raising the temperature about fifty degrees and use less cooking time, you may be dehydrating the meat and making jerky. Lemme know what happens so I can keep score. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Paul writes: Howdy Dr. John! I'm heading up the 38th Annual Pit BBQ Dinner for our local Minnesota church and I'm looking for suggestions. Although perennially successful (served 1000 in 4 hours), I'm not alone in the opinion that our methods of cooking yield a rather bland tasting roast. Our method is to reduce ash, oak and oak pallets to coal bed inside a 25' x 5' trench 6' deep. The coals are covered with sand, then foil-backed insulation board, then 700 pounds of choice sirloin tip roasts wrapped in butcher paper (no seasoning), covered in dirt and left for 8-10 hours. The problem, as I see it, is two fold. One, because of the wrapping, sand and insulation, smoke does not permeate the meat. The second, the meat is not enhanced with seasoning prior to wrapping. My feeling is that either changing the method of smoking, the type of wrap or using dry-rub seasoning prior to wrapping would enhance the flavor. What I'm looking for is logical arguments to overcome objections by the Powers that Be to not change anything. Help me introduce Southern Savory to Minnesota Bland. Your advice will be gratefully appreciated and I thank you for your opinion.

Hey Paul: This is a good 'un. I agree that all you are doing is steaming the meat. Can't have much flavor, but there is not much labor involved. There is so much meat involved that I would hesitate to have you change methods without first running a small-scale trial.

Let me suggest this: Construct a pit (or is that dig a pit?) about three feet by four feet, four feet deep. Rig up something to hold the meat on top of the pit -- maybe some iron pipe with chicken wire or expanded metal if you can afford it. You want the rack about three feet above the coals, no less. Build a good fire in the pit and let it burn down to coals. Season the meat. I would suggest equal parts of salt, black pepper, onion powder, and sweet paprika, and half a part of garlic powder. Rub this into the meat real good. Put the meat on the rack over the coals. Turn it occasionally until you get a uniform good color. You might want to daub it a few times with clear mop of equal parts water and vinegar with some cooking oil added. Season the mop with onion and lemons. Just chop them and heat them in the mop.

When you have the look you desire, cover the meat on the rack with damp canvas or burlap and then something to keep the dirt off, and cover the whole mess with dirt or sand. You will have to guesstimate cooking times. I would guess four to five hours. I would check after three. You may want to leave one corner where you can access the meat to check for doneness. This is about the way they do it at the big ranch barbecues here in Texas. If you run this experiment, let me know how it works. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

BFG writes: Do you have a recipe for Kettle Beef? It is cooked outside in big cast iron kettles, often served at church or other fund raising dinners.

Hey B.F.G.: There appears to be as many recipes for Kettle Beef as there are fund raising dinners. The basic recipe would be beef boiled along with vegetables de jour. Amounts would vary according to size of pot or kettle. The method would be to put the beef in the kettle first and season with the usual, black pepper and salt. After the beef has cooked a while, start adding the vegetables according to how long they take to cook, i.e., carrots first, potatoes, celery and whatever. Don't forget the onions. Onion, carrots and celery are the base seasoning for any boiled meat or fowl.

I ran across a recipe that varied in that it called for the beef to be boiled in a beer/barbecue sauce, then the meat is shredded and served on a bun with coleslaw and sauce ala pulled pork sandwich. It was called Texas Kettle Beef. Experiment. You may find THE recipe. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John