Free Range on Food: Grills, smokers and summer grilling recipes

Jul 21, 2010

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way.

Well, hello there, foodniks, and welcome to Free Range, the chat that smokes. We introduced a fun new feature in the section today: Smoke Signals, a barbecue column by Jim Shahin. Today's topic: smokers big and small. Jim's joining us today to tackle your grilling/smoking questions, as is David Hagedorn, who is no slouch on the grill himself and used it for his avoid-the-heat dinner party menu.

So you outdoor cooks will have plenty of resources today. But you can ask anything else you'd like, and we'll do our best. And we'll have giveaway books for the authors of our favorite posts today: "Eating Well on a Budget," source of today's DinMin recipe; and "BBQ Makes Everything Better," by Aaron Chronister and Jason Day, sources of the Bacon Explosion.

Let's start cooking.

No real question but as a new aficionado of BBQ/Smoking I think its great that there is a monthly column about BBQ! Thanks for continuing to add new features.

You're welcome! We're excited about it -- Jim's gonna rock the house.

Is there really a huge difference between using ceramic-coated cast iron grill grates versus stainless steel? I've read a few different revviews and can't decide if it's worth it to spend twice as much on replacement grates by going with the cast iron? Any thoughts?

Personally, I think it is a matter of personal preference. You will encounter a lot of debate because there are advantages to both. Stainless steel tends to last longer. Cast-iron hold heat better. But both last a long time and both hold heat well. And both will give you good grill marks. Me, I like cast iron. That, though, is only because it is what I learned on. 

Good morning - Just curious about a food prep question. There are strict health food laws about wearing hair nets, etc., when preparing food in restaurants and food service places. On Next Foodnetwork Star, why do we see loose hair, long hair, untethered, on both men and women? Seems like they should be setting an example.

Really? You want to see hairnets on these people? I sure don't. This is TV, not a real restaurant, after all. I don't think I've ever seen a hairnet on a TV chef, for good reason; doesn't look so hot. If I ran a restaurant kitchen, I suppose I'd make sure that anybody with long hair pulled it back  -- or got a haircut.

We are having company, and with this heat I thought I would poach a salmon instead of using the oven, but I need inspiration for the sauce. What would you recommend? (Side dishes include corn salad, and arugula with tomatoes but can be modified to match the sauce.l

Doesn't this pink peppercorn citrus sauce look nice?

I started making bbque ribs, brisket, etc recently. So far I've had decent results doing the low & slow method in the oven, but would like to start smoking as well. Any recommendations on a smoker for a newbie?

Today's food section has my story on that very question. The answer depends, in part, on how much you  want to spend and how much you like to play with fire. Me, I like to start newbies off with cheap ($200) offset smokers, such as a Brinkmann, which you can buy at a hardware store. Why? Because they are tough to use. But once you learn them, you really understand wood and fire. Not everyone wants to do that, though. To make life easier, spend a little more money (between $300 and $400, as I recall) and buy a Weber Smokey Mountain bullet. Gives you consistent results without having to stay up all night. Got a thousand to spend? Look at the Klose, Jambo, or Backwoods.  

I've got radishes growing in my garden and now I don't know what to do with them all. Aside from adding to salads, or making veggie cream cheese, any suggestions?

Butter-braised, my friend. You will never want radishes any other way.

agh, please tell me there's a fail-safe trick to shucking corn on the cob without leaving strands of gag-inducing corn silk behind? p.s., i made the corn and asiago risotto last weekend. It was great except for the aforementioned problem.

We have just the tip for you, courtesy of Thomas Keller who visited us a few weeks ago. (For a full and terrific account of our cooking lesson, check out Bonnie's blog post.)

 

Here's what you do. After cutting the kernels from an ear of corn, put them in a large bowl. Set a medium bowl of water next to the large bowl Swish your hand through the corn in a circular motion. Any remaining corn silk will stick to your hand. Rinse your hand in the other bowl as you remove the silks.

I know this is a Tom question, but he couldn't have a chat today. Didn't the magazine recently list restaurants with good crabcakes? Could I get a link to that list?

I've posted several questions about canning in recent weeks, with no response on the chat...I assume because your staff can't answer them. Can you refer me to a resource when I can ask questions? Might you consider inviting some canning experts to join chats in the months when we're doing a lot of canning? Thank you.

We know some things and have access to the canning experts who know more than we do. But we get overwhelmed with questions some weeks and just can't get to all of them. So fire away again, and we'll see what we can help with. And that's a good idea to have a real expert in here soon to help the putting-uppers put things up!

Great article today on the smokers and I look forward to seeing some more of these in the future. I was wondering if you have any advice on how to manage the smoke coming out of the smoker. I've got a neighbor who isn't too fond of the smoke wafting over into their yard and I was curious if there are any tried and true ways to either re-direct the amount of smoke or minimize the amount wafting over into their yard.

Great question! When we moved into our Capitol Hill rowhouse, I encountered the very same problem. The first outing at our new digs, I was all excited. Thought the neighbors would love the smell, as, in my experience, folks tend, if anything, to be envious when they smell the smoke. Alas, the neighbor came out on her deck and asked that I not smoke through the night, as it came into her windows and kept her up at night. My heart fell. There are two things you can do. One, smoke when you know your neighbor isn't around, then warm your food through at dinnertime. Or buy a better smoker. Cheap ones leak a lot, and there just isn't much you can do about it. Better ones hold the smoke a lot better.

No question; I just wanted to issue my thanks to the Food staff in general and Stephanie Witt Sedgwick in particular for producing the nation's best food section. Aside from being an eager eater, I hunt down recipes for my CSA newsletter. I consistently find what I need in the Post (giving full credit, of course) because of your great recipe library, Stephanie's tasty and nutritious use of seasonal produce, and much-appreciated recipe search feature. I only wish that Nourish had a separate link on the Food page, the way Cooking for One and other features do. I look forward to Wednesdays because of you; thanks again!

Even if you're related to her, she still deserves praise, Ode! We will pass it along. One way to quickly access Stephanie's recipes is to type "Nourish" in the search field on Recipe Finder. Joe's Cooking for One recipes can be accessed that way as well. And one day, we'll have a more user-friendly Food homepage. Really. That's what they tell me.

A few weeks ago someone posted a hard boiled egg peeling tip: Peel when still hot. This person was quite grumpy. Regardless, I thought I would try the tip when I had two dozen eggs to peel and devil. It worked. I was expecting trouble because the eggs were too fresh. But no pock marks, just like grumpy person said. It was also handy to skip the soak in cold water step.

Glad it worked.

I am hosting a cocktail party next month for approximately 25-30 co-workers - HELP! I have two big questions - 1. I will just be serving beer and wine. For that many guests, how many bottles of red wine, white wine and beer should I buy? 2. I am a fairly good cook - and I often host multi-course dinner parties. However, I have never hosted a cocktail party. I am hoping to not have to do too much plating/cooking during the party. Any suggestions as to what to make? Also, how many different things should I serve? Your help is much appreciated!

On the amount of booze, you need to decide how long people are staying before you can figure out how much people will drink. But to start, know that there are about 5 glasses of wine in each bottle. So if you were only serving wine and it was a 2 to 3 hour cocktail party, I think you could assume that 25 people would have 3 glasses. That's 15 bottles of wine. So if you get beer too, I'd say you'd be safe with a case.

As for food, I never expect hosts to be cooking or plating during a cocktail party. It's either hors d'oeurves, which you prep in advance, or a buffet of room-temperature or cold items at this time of year.

Where to start? It's hard to advise without knowing how upscale you want it to be or what kind of cuisines you prefer. But bruschetta is always a crowdpleaser and easy to do in advance. Here's a link to a few recipes for canapes, including curried shrimp and cucumber canapes and, my favorite, Odessa Piper's gougeres with herb salad.

I recently purchased a Groupon for a company called Nutty Guys, which I plan to use to buy almond flour. What is the difference between almond flower and almond paste? How much almond flour should I buy- does it go bad? Baking wise, is there a difference between blanched or unblanched flour? Thanks!

Almond flour is finely ground almonds -- I've seen it made from blanched skinned nuts and from ones with skins.  Bakewise, it's a matter of aesthetics and maybe a slight texture.

Almond paste is a mixture of blanched ground almonds, sugar and a glycerin-type liquid or other liquid that acts as a binder. (Marzipan -- I see the question hovering -- is almond paste, sugar, sometimes unbeaten egg whites, often food coloring.)

The flour can go bad fairly quickly, so either refrigerate or freeze it.  It can be pretty pricey, but I've recently been using Shiloh Farms brand which is half the cost of Bob's Red Mill almond flour.  If that Nutty Guys price I'm seeing online is for correct ($4.33 for 8 ounces), you've got a deal there already.

Because of the intense flavors of BBQ, hickory, mesquite, etc. I love nothing better than simple garden fresh sliced tomatoes and ice cold watermelon.

Yes. And a little potato salad.

And cole slaw.

I bought a buffalo steak on sale at Whole Foods and I'm at a loss for an easy way to prepare it. Any ideas? Grilling or stovetop is fine. Thanks!

Buffalo is leaner than steak so you have to be a little careful how you prepare it. But basically, just do it on the grill or stovetop as you would a steak.  Here's a great recipe for Buffalo Steak with Cocoa Nib Sauce. But it's a bit heavy for summer. So you might just marinate the meat in mustard, shallots and olive oil and cook it. Or if you want something a little more chic, check out this recipe we ran for Buffalo Tartar from Peter Smith at PS 7.

I liked the All We Can Eat chat leftovers section. As a vegetarian who cooks meat for my husband-and also for just about every other person who eats in our home-I liked the suggestion of the gazpacho with/without shrimp. I frequently try to make meals where I can just add the meat without having to make everything separate.

Last week you posted a recipe for Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Salad, which I made it over the weekend (very yummy salad, BTW). I just wanted to say that I only used 2 TB of olive oil as opposed to 3, and I ended up putting in an extra TB of lime juice since I didn't have any zest on hand. But I wanted to point out that I don't think that 3 TB of oil is really warranted -- I think the only difference is that my salad was a little bit more "juicy" because of the extra TB of lime juice -- thoughts? Saves 40 calories a serving, total fat and saturated fat. Why 3 TB of oil? Also, would a balsamic dressing work instead of oil and lime juice? Thanks!

Making a Nourish recipe healthier -- quite the feat.

Stephanie's answer:  "Hey if you liked less oil go ahead. Oil gives good mouth feel, a true feeling of fullness and it carries flavors. How much of that you need is up to you. Balsamic and black beans? Sure, but I'd skip the cilantro and lime and use basil and parsley instead."

I'm afraid of my grill. We have a gas grill, so I really feel there's no excuse for this. Usually my husband grills, but I'd like to do it sometimes when he's not around. How do I get over this?

Are you afraid of your stove? Same thing, basically. Gas grills are very easy to control. But if you are concerned, grill sometime with your husband as mentor. You'll do fine. 

Where my father comes from (south Alabama), it's called "Dinner on the Ground". I remember the plank tables outside filled with food. Then, it was all home made. When his cousins left all their money to the church, the church built a hall with a protessional kitchen and running water bathrooms. The church potluck tradition remains in Southern Maryland.

I like that.

Mark Bittman has a great list of no-cook or little-cook canapes for cocktail parties. Most are not recipes, just ideas - but great springboards.

Yes, those lists are super fun and inspiring.

Help, please. I have a two-pound container of blueberries that'll spoil any day now. So much for impulse purchases at Trader Joe's. Anyway, I live alone, and I can't imagine making enough muffins to use up this much fruit. Do you have any ideas? A nice compote recipe perhaps? Thanks!

Puree, strain and freeze flat in 1/2 cup increments. It's always nice to have the base of a blueberry sauce for something sweet or even savory (like an accompaniment to grilled game). If  you have an ice cream maker, I highly recommend this Blueberry Basil.

Next time, freeze those berries you've just brought home, and use them as you go.

Thank you for the article on barbeque. I recently smoked a 7# pork butt for 9 hrs on my Weber kettle grill and was quite pleased. The temp was hard to control though; I averaged about 300 degrees rather than 225-250. My question concerns smokers that have water pans. I have heard that its purpose is to keep the meat moist. If that's the reason I wonder if that impedes the formation of crispy "bark". Comment? I also wonder if a benefit of the water pan is that it can act as an insulator, helping to regulate the temp. Any idea? thanks

Water pans are extremely popular at cook-off competitions. They do help keep the meat moist and, yes, they do help with regulating the temperature. As far as the bark, oftentimes you will get a lovely crispiness on the outside due to the simple length of time the meat is being smoked. The amount of moisture generally does not keep a good bark from forming. However, you can always use the water pan for part of your smoking (say, two-thirds), then remove it for the remainder.

My summer go-to dish for when guests come is trifle. I love the fruit and cream and I make it boozy the night before plus I don't have to touch the oven, I just buy a pound cake. My friend who is a recovering alcholic is coming to visit and shouldn't even taste alchohol. So there goes my favorite trifle. Are there other desserts than can be put together (without using the oven) that might involve fruit and cream (rather than just berries topped ice cream). I'm open to new avenues of dessert.

The answer is fool. It's a British favorite (but don't hold that against it) that is basically just that: fruit and cream. Here's one recipe we have for Raspberry and White Chocolate Fool.

(We also have one for strawberry rhubarb but it's a bit late for those.) So if you're not a chocolate person (like me), how about this one for Mango Blueberry Fool

i am a recent convert to vegetanianism. I miss using my grill as much as I used to though. Can you please add some vege main dishes to your column?

Will definitely add some vegetarian main dishes at some point. Smoking ain't just for carnivores anymore.

Also, it strikes me that the grilled eggplant timbales with smoked tomato sauce that David served as a salad could pretty easily be a main course if you had other veggie apps and sides.

Bonnie had mentioned keeping a frozen bag of shrimp on hand. Can you treat frozen shrimp the same as fresh?

What do you mean, treat it the same? If you mean use it in recipes that call for fresh, then yes. But, um, obviously, you have to prepare it differently. 

hello there! i have some lovely lamb chops marinating in the fridge which i want to grill up this evening for dinner. i would love to grill them up when i get home from work, but my husband doesn't come home (and we don't eat) until at least 2 hours later. is there a way to keep them warm and tasty without drying out, or do i just need to grill right before we eat? what is the general rule about keeping grilled foods warm? when i have guests, i'd like to have my kababs/satay/chicken breasts/steaks cooked beforehand so i don't have to slave over a hot grill all night. any pointers on how to do this?

That's a little tricky. Lovely lamb chops need TLC to stay moist. You could get them to barely medium-rare and then reheat in a grill pan when your husband comes home. I'm not sure I know of a way to keep grilled lamb warm for 2 hours without adversely affecting the loveliness.

Minor yet longtime conundrum: Is "trifle" pronounced like it rhymes with "rifle" or "whiffle?"

Rifle!

In one of his chats last year, Gene Weingarten praised the virtues of grilling corn still in the husk, and I've become a convert. I love it seasoned with Old Bay. Also, what is the proper procedure for grilling kabobs with potato chunks? I tried boiling the chunks for a few minutes to give them a head start, but many of them split apart when I put them on the skewers. They still turned out well when brushed with olive oil and Italian seasoning before grilling - any other recommendations?

I think you should play with the size of the potatoes. You could slice them pretty thin and then grill them. Or you could cut them into thicker cubes, pre-boil and then grill. If they are larger pieces, they won't split apart on the skewer.

I think you'll have trouble skewering a pre-cooked potato cube no matter how you do it. If you want to go skewers, I'd use par-boiled new potatoes, whole or halved, and use  skewers that are flat. If you really want to go the cubed route, forget the skewers and use a perforated grill  pan. Coat the seasoned cubes with some oil, like canola, and spray the pan with cooking spray. Then, brown them as you would in a saute pan. Dress them with a little extra-virgin afterwards.

Do you have a recipe for a baklava cookie, sort of a lazy girl's way of making baklava that is also a bit easier to handle.

Nope. I see some on the Interwebs, though.

Good Morning! My boyfriend and I want to prepare an Italian themed dinner for 10 of us while at the beach. We were thinking a pasta with prosciutto and some fresh veggies - perhaps peas and asparagus? What else would you recommend? Thoughts on other courses - perhaps a caprese with a reduced balsalmic glaze? Thoughts on other courses and dessert? We also have an ice cream maker to make homemade ice cream to pair with whatever dessert we decide on. Would love your thoughts and suggestions! Oh and of course, a cocktail to compliment as well. Thanks!

Well, it all depends on how many courses you want to add. The pasta and tomato salad you have in mind both sound great.  But how about a more elegant, inventive salad from our own David Hagedorn? He developed this fabulous Bibb Salad with Tomato Crush (a kind of pureed summer tomato pesto) and gorgonzola.

Then you could add a meat course -- this lovely Arista, or Tuscan pork loin would be great.

As for ice cream, he may live in Paris but I recommend David Leibovitz's recipes. See Joe's article about him and the recipes, which are terrific.

Love the new barbecue column but as an apartment dweller I feel so left out. Can I use a cast iron grill pan to make the pork chops in today's food section and/or other grilled foods or would a George Foreman grill be another good idea? Someone recommended the Lodge pre-seasoned reversible stove top grill that covers two burners.

As a fellow apartment dweller, I say that you can certainly use a cast-iron grill pan. I love mine. I also like the broiler as a grilling substitute. And absolutely, that two-burner grill thing is great; don't have one but have used them. I'd step away from the GF grill, I'm afraid -- unless you're making panini. IMHO, you don't want to be pressing those chops or any other "grilled" meat, if you want it to stay juicy.

Ignoring the 'don't eat anything bigger than your head' adage I received a cabbage much bigger than my head last week. I used about 1/3 of it for the "taco slaw" - which is awesome, made some stuffed cabbage, but am not sure what to do with the half that is left. It's about the size of a regular large head of cabbage. I'd make more taco slaw, but I'm still eating my way through the first batch and am not sure I'd finish them both in time.

I believe in that rule, but we have to make an exception for cabbage. And chocolate eclairs.

How about today's Dinner in Minutes? Or Cabbage Latkes? Or Kimchi Hot Pot? Or just kimchi?

I like to mix lemon curd with mascarpone and spoon into a graham cracker crust, either full size or individual size shells then top with blueberries or raspberries. You can make your own lemon curd or buy it ready made.

Yum. Can you bring some of those over?

For the poster with the overload of blueberries - I recently brought home 30 lbs of pick-your-own. To freeze them for future blueberry pies (my recipe is similar to one given out on the chat a few weeks ago - baking down something before putting it in the pie seems crucial) I laid them out on paper towels until the skins were totally dry, then put in a plastic bag and froze them. No berries stick together this way.

You can also put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer and let them freeze individually. Then put them in bags. Either way, good to store up for the winter.

Does anyone know a humane way to kill a lobster before cooking it? Boiling it to death seems rather cruel and steaming even worse.

Sure. Use the method that Trevor Corson describes here.

Hi Rangers! So, I know the whole point of David's article today is not using an oven and thus keeping the kitchen cool. But I read the recipe for the eggplant timbales and smoked tomato sauce, and I had to have it: tonight. I have all the ingredients at home - and they're all beautiful (very lucky weekend at Eastern Market). But, no grill. How would you suggest I adapt the recipe? I have smoked paprika at home, so I was thinking of adding a touch to the tomato to get the smoky flavor. How would you suggest cooking the tomatoes? Broiler? Same for the eggplant? Thanks so much! Can't wait to try it. :)

OK, here's the deal. You can adapt the recipe, but the smoked tomato sauce is killer; it would have won the tomato contest if the Post allowed ringers to enter.

Roast the tomatoes skin-on in a 450 oven for 15-20 minutes, or until nicely deep brown. (Use a small pan, like a cake pan.) Season well with s/p. Crush the tomatoes, then puree them with a little tomato paste. OR halve and seed the tomatoes before roasting, let them cool, remove the skins, and crush the tomatoes, using them as is and seasoning them with s/p and some extra virgin. This is more like a confit than a sauce.

 

For the eggplant, cut them in half lengthwise (peeled or not, depending on your personal taste), season with s/p, drizzle with some oil and roast at 450 on a parchment lined sheet pan until fork-soft but still slightly firm. Cool, cubes and finish according to the recipe.

Not quite the same dish, but it should work. Unless you faint from the heat in your kitchen before dinner, of course.

I have my Weber for the weekend and a gas grill for quick dinners during the week. I grill almost everything all year round. I am thinking about trying a pizza - can I do it on my gas grill or do I wait for the weekend to get the charcoal going?

I am a big fan of coal-fired pizza. Oil the bottom of the dough or oil a baking sheet. Slide the dough over a hot fire (preferably with lump charcoal). After a couple of minutes of crisping, moving the pizza over to the cooler side of the grill. Add your ingredients. Put the top down on your smoker/grill for a about three or four minutes, till the cheese melts. Next step: slice and eat. The flavor of the charcoal is incredible. 

You also might read up on this grilled-pizza primer by Tony Rosenfeld we had a couple summers ago.

I was talking to some farmers about their grass-fed beef, and they told me that the meat is very lean and has little marbling. Growing up, my dad preached to me about how more marbling means juicier and more tender steak, so my reaction was to think that maybe the grass-fed steaks would be tough. Do I need to be re-educated?

Nope. You don't. Marbling ( a nice way of saying fat) is what helps to make meat taste good. That is one reason (but not nearly half the story) of why we feed our cattle corn.

It is true that grass-fed beef is leaner. But well-raised grass-fed beef can be juicy and delicious. It also can have a richer flavor. In my experience, I've had great prime cuts of grass-fed beef but I've struggled with some of my other favorite cuts -- like hangar -- with grass-fed beef from certain farms. It can be tough.

Thanks for the timely bbq/smoker article. It's like you guys can read my mind. I'm buying the boyfriend a smoker for his upcoming birthday and the recommendations/recipes are just what I need! ps. Bonnie, David Lebovitz posted your Thomas Keller story on Facebook yesterday. Lots of good response to your story!

Thanks for the tip, ESP.  I'm not a Facebooker but I follow David's tweets. I'm almost over that episode....zested limes this morning during recipe testing and it was all so lovely and green.

For the person asking about canning, Kim O'Donnell (formerly a food writer for WaPo) does a chat on Thursdays at culinate.com and she and some of those chatters regularly talk about canning. It's a good place to ask questions. Also, Kim's newsletter mentions that "Canning Across America" is about to roll out their 2nd annual Can-a-Rama.

True, true. Kim's a good canner. I've talked about starting up a DC chapter of CAA (which I prefer to call "Cans Across America" for the obvious pun), but haven't followed through on my promise yet. We've also thrown around the idea of doing a canning party/swap as a story. Do you like that idea?

A case of beer for 25 - 30 people? There are only 24 beers in a case. That would work if you only want people to stay for an hour. When I have a cocktail party with beer and wine - I buy at least 3 cases of beer and what I don't use for the party is certainly used up during the football season.

Read carefully. I said a case of wine. Plus beers.

If you like tofu, it is amazing on the grill! I have been a vegetarian for almost 15 years and only just discovered grilled tofu. Make (or buy) your favorite marinade or sauce, coat the tofu, and grill for a few minutes per side. Also veggie kebabs-with or without the tofu-would be a good way to still use the grill. And you could grill some veggies, and add them to something, like my recent favorite from epicurious.com which is an orzo salad with pesto vinaigrette plus the grilled summer veggies. I make it without the shrimp for me, and add a toasted pine nuts. So yummy!

I'm also a big fan of haloumi cheese. If you haven't had it, it's meaty and a bit salty. But it's great on the grill. I think they stock it at Whole Foods but you can definitely find it at Middle Eastern markets in Maryland and Virginia.

I have a question about the fool recipe you linked to. It states 'Heat the white chocolate in a large, heatproof container set over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely bubbling water over medium to ...' How do I achieve that? Hold teh container over the saucepan? I understand not having the container touch the boiling water but not having it not touch the saucepan.

Oh dear. What we mean is that the container -- usually a heatproof glass bowl or a stainless steel one -- is large enough so that its rim sits on opening of the saucepan, and there should be just enough water in the pan so that it doesn't touch the bottom of said bowl.

For the chatter who asked about non-alcoholic desserts using fruit and cream, how about this No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake?

Thanks!

i've heard horrible things about the smoke they generate, which tends to set off smoke detectors. This might be especially problematic for apartment dwellers. That's why I've not bought one. Am I too much of a 'fraidy cat?

Yep, you are. The smoke's not that big of a deal in a grill pan, in my experience. And I don't even have a vent hood.

After we've eaten all the cherries we can take, any suggestions on yummy things to do with the leftovers? Thanks! (P.S. Grilled our first pizza this week--turned out great and done without heating my kitchen. Bonus.)

Pit them. Freeze them. You will love them later in the winter. Or make a crumble. Or a pie. Or a sauce for ice cream or duck. Lots of options.

I just downloaded the recipe for Grilled Cumin Pork Chops. It states: "It's best to use a remote thermometer (with a probe)." What exactly is a remote thermometer with a probe? Maybe you can recommend a specific one? Thanks!

Now, your not gonna make me run downstairs and see what brand of thermometer I bought, are you? I got one at Bed, Beth, and Beyond. Remote means that the part that tell you the temperature is separate from the part the takes the temperature. (That's the probe.) The probe is a metal stick with a pointed end thatyou  stick into the meat. It's attached to a heat-proof coated wire that extends to a  digital ON/OFF timer that can sit next to the oven or grill. You set the timer by time and internal temperature. This way, you can see the temperature without having to open the oven or grill.

OK, just a second. I'll be right back.

Mine is a Taylor. It isn't fancy and it works just fine. Using a remote thermometer will totally change the way you cook. No more guesswork.

My English husband deligated trifle making to me. I made kid friendly trifle with np alcohol--pound cake sliced and formed into a well in the bottom of the bowl, wll filled with soft fruit, then soaked in strawwberry gelatin. After the gelatin sets, make custard for the next layer. Let that set. Top with real whipped cream. I've taken it to potluck suppers at church and brought only the empty bowl home.

Nice.

Please make sure your conenctions are tight, the hose have no leaks and the tank is in good shape. I am a middle unit in a group of 5 townhouses and my neighbors gas grill had its propane tank explode. Not a large noise more of a hiss and then fire. It was a good thing it was a calm hot humid July night any breeze and all five units would have gone since it took Fairfax County Fire and Rescue over 10 minutes to respond and I live within 5 minutes of three fire stations: Centreville, Clifton on the Station 40 on Rt 29. My hose put out the fire. The I ripped the battalion chief a new one!

Scary post o' the day.

why not even a mention of gas grills? that bad, huh? i pulled my gas grill out of the shed earlier this summer and part of it crumbled. it was nasty anyway. i'd like to get something new, but don't know what. i like the idea of a smoker but it also scares me to think of smoking something overnight.

Gas grills are good for outdoor cooking and grilling, but barbecue -- low, slow and smoky -- it ain't. Not even with wood chips.

I recently came across two recipes (a zucchini bread and a blueberry-peach upside down cake) that called for two egg whites. Can I use whole eggs instead? I think they were going for lower fat but I like the lutein that is in the egg yolks.

Without seeing the recipes, I'll just go out on a limb and say, sure.  Because you like the lutein.

I was just craving lutein the other day. ;-)

I prefer charcoal, and I need to get a new grill because the old one (20 years old) is rusting away. I want to avoid flimsy ones, but other than that, are there any special features I should look for?

Not sure if you are interested primarily in grilling or also in smoking. Either way, look for solid construction. The better the construction, the better the apparatus will hold heat and the easier it will be to control the temperature. The cheapos are made of thin metal. They leak a lot and rust easily. The higher-dollar grills and smokers (generally, $600 and up) are made from thicker-grade steel and the welds are better. A good online resource is Bbq-brethren.com; it is the go-to site for competitive barbecuers and has all sorts of very detailed information in its forums about rigs. 

Fruit leather! I just finished my last homemade roll of fruit leather and boy was I sad. I started with this generic fruit leather recipe -  but actually dried the pan of leather in the back of my car window during a hot day. So tasty, fairly easy. Cut into strips and roll around parchment paper for a homemade fruit roll-up.

Fun! The last few times I've made jam, btw, I've loved scraping the congealed part off the sides of the pan afterward and thinking that this MUST be where fruit leather originated...

I have one and I do need to open the windows (I have one right above my stove, which helps to pull the smoke out of the room) and take down the smoke detector each time I use it. It's unfortunate, but worth the hassle.

Maybe I'm just immune to the smoke. Absolutely worth it.

Any suggestions for another vegetable I could use instead of cabbage? Something more summery?

Oh, cabbage can be summery, can't it? See the bazillion slaw recipes we ran recently? The cabbage cooks fairly quickly in this dish.

"Read carefully. I said a case of wine. Plus beers." Perhaps writing more carefully would also be in order. You Wrote: "But to start, know that there are about 5 glasses of wine in each bottle. So if you were only serving wine and it was a 2 to 3 hour cocktail party, I think you could assume that 25 people would have 3 glasses. That's 15 bottles of wine. So if you get beer too, I'd say you'd be safe with a case." The word case appears in the same sentence as the word "beer," so it would be easy for someone to think that you were recommending just a case of beer, especially since the previous sentence, you already said 15 bottles of wine would be needed. Please don't get snippy just because you weren't clear with your statement.

Snap!

Submitting early; I'll be in meetings! I have to make a vegetable side dish to bring to a dinner tonight. Main dish provided is tandori chicken, so I'd like something 1. easy and 2. slightly Indian-spiced or Indian spiced-friendly. Oh, and no tomatoes. Any help? Thanks!

Thanks for the answer on the fool question about the melting container not touching the water. I could not understand why the recipe would call for the two containers not to touch. Would you please have the recipe corrected so it says that (and not that the container should not touch the saucepan)? Thanks!

Done.

Hubby and I are debating whether white chocolate is really chocolate. He says if there is no cocoa in it, then it can't be real chocolate. What says you?

I think it depends who you ask. It has cocoa butter in it, which is from the cacao bean but no cacao. The world is split on whether that counts.

I'm sort of with your husband on this one, although that doesn't mean it's bad. I don't tend to like it as much as "real" chocolate, but I have to say that once David Lebovitz showed me how to caramelize it in the oven, I've liked it a lot better.

What's the difference between fool and syllabub?

The chief one is that a syllabub has an alcoholic component of wine or ale.

Yes! We like that idea! (As a never-canned-before-but-really-want-to-just-need-to-do-it reader).

Another second for the Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet smoker. Easy to use, the results are fantastic and it's affordable. I can make ribs, brisket and pulled pork as good as any restaurant now!

Grilling a pie sounds awfully challenging. Although I must admit it looks delicious. Are there certain types of pies that are easier than others when doing them on the grill?

It's not as challenging as it seems, now that I've already gotten the failures out of the way for you.

Think of the grill as an oven. With a normal amount of briquettes, the internal temperature will rise to 350-400 degrees. If you use a few more briquettes, it could get up to 450. Fruit pies especially are to be baked in hot ovens. (You want the crust to be set quickly so the butter stays suspended in it, keeping the crust flaky and tender.)  I found the 350 temperature to be fine, probably because the space is more confined and the heat, therefore, less dispersed.

I'd stick to fruit pies on the grill, since they can take a bit of a beating. The major thing is to cover the crust, especially on the sides close to the briquettes.

Give it a shot. I think you'll like the flavor.

"Gas grills are good for outdoor cooking and grilling, but barbecue -- low, slow and smoky -- it ain't. Not even with wood chips." A little biased aren't we? Have you ever cooked on a GOOD gas grill? I have a Weber Summit 6CL, and it is the best smoker I've ever had, and I'd put it up against the big boys any day. The grill has great temperature control, and I can much more easily keep the surface at 245 than any charcoal/wood-burner on the planet. Cheap gas grills are not great, but don't hate on gas just because you haven't cooked on a high quality one yet.

I'd have to see it to believe it, in terms of the ability to actually produce consistent smoke. Temp regulation is great, but every gas grill I've seen/used lets any smoke generated from chips flow right out the back and doesn't contain it. Maybe yours is different?

I would love another canning story!

Well, you've covered us and maintained the temperature inside the grill between 325 and 350 degrees, then cooked us until the thermometer hits 155, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, as usual, and thanks so much to Jim Shahin and David Hagedorn for helping us give you some a's. Now for the giveaway books: "Eating Well on a Budget" goes to the chatter who asked about making a trifle without booze. "BBQ Makes Everything Better" goes to the chatter first asked about how to control the smoke in order to appease cranky neighbors. Send your mailing info to food@washpost.com, and we'll get you your books.

You BBQ fanatics, make sure to read Jim's weekly blog posts on the subject, at All We Can Eat. And until next time, happy smoking, eating and reading.

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