By Marialisa Calta

Newspaper Enterprise Association

There’s barbecue, and then there’s BARBECUE. That burger you flip on the hibachi may be delicious, but barbecue it’s not. What you’re doing when you cook that burger quickly over direct heat (gas, charcoal or wood) is properly called grilling. What you do when you slow cook a slab of brisket for 12 to 14 hours over indirect heat — that’s barbecue.

There are plenty of publications, Web sites and videos that can teach you everything you want to know about the art of barbecue, but a new, straightforward book called “Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food” by Karen Putman (Robert Rose, 2006) seems like a good place for a novice to start. Putman, who has won several national and international championships, is thorough without being daunting, and she gives clear advice on equipment, fire building, choice of woods and recipes.

The author uses a Tucker Cooker, a “big rig” smoker capable of barbecuing a whole pig. But for folks just starting out, Putman gives the pros and cons of every kind of small rig, from ceramic grills to kettle grills to “bullet” smokers. And for the terminally suburban among us — those of us who have only gas grills — she even offers some hope.

“Because I’m a competition barbecuer, slow-smoking on a gas grill would not be my first, second or even third choice,” Putman writes. First, she notes, keeping a gas grill going for 12 to 14 hours “just isn’t practical.” Second, she says, “food smoked on a gas grill is not as flavorful as food smoked over charcoal.”

If a gas grill is all you’ve got, though, she recommends you stick with simple recipes that don’t take hours, recipes like the ones below.

To prepare a gas grill for smoking foods, you need a grill with at least two burners. Turn one to medium-high, and leave the other off. (If you have more than two burners, leave some on and some off; you’ll have to fiddle with it to get it right.) You are aiming to keep the temperature between 200 F and 250 F. If your grill does not have a built-in thermometer, place a candy thermometer through a hole where the hot exhaust escapes. Keep the grill lid closed as much as possible during smoking. Figure about 30 minutes of smoking for every pound of food.

To add moisture to the food you are smoking, fill a disposable aluminum pan with water and place it under the grill grates, closer to the burner that is not turned on. If your grill has a box for wood chips, use it; if it does not, make a packet with heavy-duty aluminum foil and fill it with chips. Poke several holes in it and place it on the grill rack over the heat. Check halfway through the smoking time to see whether you need to replenish the water in the pan or the wood chips in the smoker box or packet.

Once you get the hang of smoking on a gas grill, you can move up to charcoal or wood, or buy a bullet smoker. In no time at all, you’ll be towing a big rig behind your car.

Product note: “Clean BBQ” is a disposable aluminum grill liner that eliminates the need for scrubbing your grungy grill, and it is especially useful when using a grill at public places like state parks or roadside picnic areas. It fits most standard grills, is flexible, and it can be cut to fit if necessary. The cost is $17.95 for a pack of 20; it can be found in some retail shops or ordered online at

Buffalo-Style Hot Wings

4 cups hot-pepper sauce

1-1/2 cups honey

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

5 pounds chicken wings

blue-cheese dressing, for serving

celery sticks, for serving

Prepare the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the hot-pepper sauce, honey and butter. Rinse the wings under cold, running water and pat dry. Place in a large, sealable plastic bag (or bags) and pour in marinade. Seal bag(s), shake gently to coat and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

Remove the wings from the marinade, but do not pat dry. Discard the marinade. Place the wings in a single layer in disposable aluminum pans and set aside.

Prepare your grill for smoking, as described above; wood chips recommended for this dish are oak, apple or pecan. Put the pans of wings on the grill rack. Close the lid. Smoke at 225 F to 250 F degrees for about 2 hours or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced.

Serve with blue-cheese dressing and celery sticks to cut the heat.

Yield: 8 servings

Recipe from “Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food” by Karen Putman (Robert Rose, 2006).

Salmon Candy

4 salmon fillets (each about 4 ounces each), skin removed

1-1/4 cups pure maple syrup

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup water, plus more if needed

Rinse salmon under cold, running water and pat dry. Remove as many bones as possible. Place skin-side down in a deep glass or other nonmetallic dish large enough to hold the fillets in 1 layer.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup maple syrup, all of the salt and the water into a slushy mixture. Pour over the salmon, covering completely. (If necessary, add more water.) Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.

Prepare your grill for smoking, as described above; wood chips recommended for this dish are alder, cherry or maple.

Remove fish from brine, but do not pat dry. Discard the brine. Pour the remaining 1 cup syrup into a wide bowl. Cut fish into 2-inch-wide slices and dip quickly into the syrup. Discard any excess syrup.

Place fish pieces directly on the grill racks. Close the lid. Smoke at 225 F to 250 F for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until fish is very firm to the touch and burnished in appearance.

Yield: 4 servings as appetizer

Recipe from “Championship BBQ Secrets for Real smoked Food” by Karen Putman (Robert Rose, 2006).

Tennessee Bourbon-Brined Pork Chops

For the brine:

1 cup bourbon

1/2 cup packed brown sugar, dark or light

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

8 bone-in pork center loin chops, about 1-inch thick

Combine all of the brine ingredients in a small bowl.

Rinse the pork under cold, running water and pat dry. Place in a deep pan, pour in the brine (brine may not cover the pork completely). Turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 3 hours.

Remove the pork from the brine, rinse under cold, running water and pat dry. Set aside. Discard the brine.

Prepare the grill for smoking as described above. Apple wood chips are recommended.

Place pork directly on the grill rack and close the lid. Smoke at 225 F to 250 F for 1 to 2 hours, until the juices run clear when pork is pierced with a knife.

Yield: 8 servings

Recipe from “Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food” by Karen Putman (Robert Rose, 2006).

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