Show 101:
Up in Smoke

Smoke is the essence of true barbecue and such an essential part of American barbecue that the Professor devotes a whole episode to art of smoking. His recipes are done on gas and charcoal grills, as well as with smokers, to show viewers that they don't have to go out and buy special equipment to smoke.

On the menu:
(page numbers refer to recipes in How to Grill):

  • Smoked tomato gazpacho (see below)
  • Real baba ganooj (page 366)
  • Home smoked salmon (page 313)
  • Smoke roasted pears (page 430)

Smoking

Smoking or true barbecuing is a special kind of indirect grilling-done "low and slow" (at a low heat for a long time) in the presence of a lot of wood smoke. The traditional device for cooking this true barbecue is pit or smoker-a large metal cylinder or box with a separate fire box on the side or at the bottom. True barbecue takes a long time to cook-Texas pit masters, for example, will spend up to 16 hours cooking their briskets. A number of companies make smokers and pits for home use. But you can smoke on a charcoal grill (and to a lesser extent on a gas grill) and still achieve that authentic barbecue flavor. All you'll need are some hardwood chips or chunks-such as hickory, oak, apple, or cherry-all readily available at hardware stores or grill shops.

The first step is soak the chips or chunks in water to cover in a large bowl for 1 hour. (Soaking slows the combustion rate, allowing the chips to smolder, not ignite.)

To smoke on a charcoal grill: First, set up your grill for indirect grilling. Toss a handful of chips (about _ cup) on each mound of charcoal, then cover the grill. Adjust the vent holes on the top and bottom to obtain the desired temperature (325 to 350 degrees for indirect grilling; 250 to 275 degrees for true smoking.) For prolonged cooking (for a brisket or turkey, for example), add fresh chips ever hour.

Smoking on a gas grill is a little trickier-especially on inexpensive gas grills. Most high end gas grills have a separate smoker box-a metal tray or box to hold the chips positioned directly over a dedicated burner. If your grill is thus equipped, simply add the chips and run the smoker box burner on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to the desired temperature.

Otherwise, make a smoker pouch by wrapping 1 to 2 cups soaked wood chips in a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Poke a few holes in the top with a pencil to allow the smoke to escape. Place the smoker pouch under the grate directly over one of the burners and run your grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to the desired temperature. Tip: The hottest part of many gas grills is the junction of one of the gas burner tubes and the pilot light or pilot burner. Place the smoker pouch here.

To smoke in a water smoker: If using a charcoal model, light the charcoal in a chimney starter. Dump the glowing embers into the charcoal pan or fire box (usually the bottom section of the smoker). If using an electric smoker, simply plug it in. Fill the drip pan with water (or beer, wine, cider or other flavorful liquid). (Tip: Line the drip pan with foil first-this facilitates cleaning.) Place the center section of the smoker over the charcoal pan and place the drip pan in its holder. Place the food rack over the drip pan and arrange the food to be smoked on top. Toss 1 to 2 cups soaked wood chips or chunks on the coals. Cover the smoker and adjust the vent holes to obtain the desired temperature-250 to 275 degrees for true smoking. Don't forget to replenish the charcoal and wood chips or chunks every hour.

To smoke in an offset barrel smoker: If using charcoal, light it in a chimney starter. Dump the glowing embers into the fire box. If using wood, light the logs or wood chunks in the fire box, using kindling or paraffin fire starter for ignition. Some models come with drip pans: if yours does, fill it with water (or beer, wine, cider or other flavorful liquid). If using a drip pan, place it in the bottom of the smoke chamber. Place the food to be smoked on the racks. Toss 1 to 2 cups soaked wood chips or chunks on the coals. (You don't need to do this if using a wood fire.) Close the door of the smoke chamber and adjust the vents on the side of the fire box and the top of the smoke chamber to obtain the desired temperature-250 to 275 degrees.

Recipe - Grilled Gazpacho printer-ready version

Method:Direct grilling
Serves 8

  • 4 scallions, trimmed
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 _ inch thick slices of country style white bread or French bread
  • 5 vine-ripened tomatoes (about 2-1/2 pounds)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • 1/4 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs (including basil, oregano, tarragon, and/or flatleaf parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or to taste)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup cold water, or as needed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

You'll also need: 2 cups wood chips (oak or hickory), soaked in water to cover for 1 hour, then drained.

1. Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat the grill to high.

2. Finely chop the scallion greens and set aside for garnish. Skewer the scallion whites on bamboo skewers or toothpicks. Skewer the garlic cloves the same way. Lightly brush the scallion whites, garlic, and onion quarters with olive oil. (Save the bulk of the olive oil for flavoring the soup-see below.)

3. If using a gas grill, place the wood chips in the smoker box or a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke. If using a charcoal grill, toss the chips on the coals.

4. Grill the scallions, garlic, and onions until nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate to cool. Grill the bread slices until darkly toasted, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside. Grill the tomatoes and bell peppers until the skins are black and charred, 2 minutes per side for the tomatoes, 3 to 4 minutes per side for the peppers. Transfer to a plate to cool. Scrape the charred skins off the tomatoes and peppers with a paring knife. (Don't worry about removing every last bit.) Core and seed the peppers.

5. Place the scallion whites, garlic, onions, toast, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, herbs, vinegar, and remaining olive oil in a blender and puree until smooth. Thin the gazpacho to pourable consistency with water if needed and season with salt and pepper.

6. The gazpacho can be served now, but it will taste even better if you chill it for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend. Just before serving, correct the seasoning, adding salt or vinegar to taste. To serve, ladle the gazpacho into bowls and sprinkle with the chopped scallion greens.


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