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Serious barbecue : smoke, char, baste, and brush your way to great outdoor cooking / Adam Perry Lang, with J.J. Goode and Amy Vogler ; photographs by David Loftus.

Perry Lang, Adam. (Author). Goode, J. J. (Added Author). Vogler, Amy. (Added Author).
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Record details

  • ISBN: 9781401323066 :
  • ISBN: 1401323065 :
  • Physical Description: 390 pages : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 26 cm
  • Edition: 1st ed.
  • Publisher: New York : Hyperion, [2009]

Content descriptions

General Note:
Includes index.
Citation/References Note:
Bklst 04/15/2009
LJ 03/15/2009
PW 04/06/2009
NYT Bk 05/31/2009
Subject: Barbecuing.


Smoke, Char, Baste, and Brush Your Way to Great Outdoor Cooking
By Adam Perry Lang


Copyright © 2009 Adam Perry Lang
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2306-6


BARBECUE BASICS........................6
BEEF and VEAL..........................113
CHICKEN and TURKEY.....................249
BASIC RECIPES..........................361

Chapter One


Whether you're a novice or expert, whether you're planning to grill a few steaks or barbecue a brisket, this is what I think you should have on hand. Of course, I know it sounds like a lot, so for you part-timers, I've provided a just-enough-stuff list, too.

Just-Enough-Stuff List

Tongs, oil towel, grill brush, fire extinguisher, firebricks, instant-read thermometer, spatula, lighter, cutting board.

TONGS: Heavyweight restaurant tongs. Avoid the fancy ones, because they just tire your hands.

OIL TOWEL: Soaked but not dripping in canola oil (which is cheap and has a higher smoke point than, say, olive oil). Just don't use a towel that you'd ever use to wash your face.

GRILL BRUSH: Invest in the sturdiest you can, one with heavy tines that won't fall out. It's better to replace it often rather than invest in a fancy one, and price doesn't always indicate quality. Preferably cast iron.

HEAVYWEIGHT GRATES: Use them even if you have to lay them on top of the flimsy ones that come with your grill.

ENOUGH FUEL: Do not get caught with half a tank of propane or too little charcoal. Always, always have more than you think you need, just in case-you'll notice I haven't mentioned lighter fluid.

SAFETY ASH BUCKET AND SHOVEL: You'd be surprised how long ashes stay lit. Have a safe place to put them. The shovel makes it easy to move them.

FRESH SPICES: Don't ruin a great meat with dull spices. Buy small amounts. Keep replacing them.

PLATTERS READY FOR YOUR BARBECUE: Don't get caught without a big enough platter. And have it ready for your food, because a hot cooker is not a safe resting place for finished meat.

FIRE EXTINGUISHER: Hey, you never know.


An instant-read thermometer gives you a quick, accurate temperature reading.

A remote thermometer: Great for large cuts, it lets you monitor the temperature in real time without opening and closing the cooker door.

A laser thermometer: For calibrating your cooker's temperature. (See Calibrating Your Grill page 15.)

NOTEPAD AND PEN: Write down everything-what works, what doesn't, and ideas for next time. When it comes to barbecue, school's never over.

WATER AND SUNBLOCK: You'll be having so much fun you might not notice that accidents with the barbecue are not the only way to get burned outside.

SPRAY BOTTLE: Not for taming the flame, but for spraying the meat with liquids like watered-down apple juice to add color and flavor.

BAKING DISHES AND ALUMINUM PANS: Handy for everything from shuffling meat around to adding pastes during cooking to (when it has seen better days) using as a drip pan. The disposable ones are cheap, reusable, stackable, and easy to clean.

PLASTIC QUART CONTAINERS OR MASON JARS: Great for mixing sauces, glazes, spices, and everything else.

IMMERSION BLENDER: One of the greatest inventions: Why haul your ingredients to a blender when you can bring the blender to them?

MICROPLANE GRATER: Grates the finest garlic, shallots, apples, chiles, and citrus zest, all of which are awesome for adding last-minute flavor boosts.

TWO CUTTING BOARDS: One for raw meat (not wood for this one, please), one for cooked meat. I sometimes drizzle sauce or glaze, or even butter, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs, on this second board, so when I'm slicing, the meat picks up some extra flavor.

FIREBRICKS: Wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil, they can weigh meat down, block heat and serve as a safe resting place for meat, and if placed on a sheet pan they can create super-hot spots on the grill grates. They're more resistant to heat than regular bricks.

HEAVY-DUTY ALUMINUM FOIL: For wrapping, for keeping things warm, for creating an effective makeshift griddle on a grill, for cleaning your grill (just crumple it up!).

HEAVY-DUTY PLASTIC WRAP: For keeping things moist throughout cooking. Just have it. You'll understand why.

HEAT-PROOF GLOVES: For moving grill racks, or for handling hot meat or coals.

BEAR PAWS (BEAR CLAWS): They make pulling pork shoulder a snap.

SPICE GRINDER: Do I have to tell you why? A coffee grinder works well, especially if you use it exclusively for spice grinding.


A SHARP KNIFE: So you can slice your barbecue the way you like it.

A GRIDDLE: Enables flare-up-free browning-particularly useful for rattier items like burgers or rib eyes.

SYRINGE (INJECTING NEEDLE): For injecting brines.

GRILL PRESS: For weighing down meats and vegetables. It keeps items in contact with heat source, which helps them brown evenly and exceptionally, and helps them keep their integrity of shape.

GRILL BASKET: Lets you apply direct heat to cuts that are too tender to handle without them falling apart-think pork belly, trotters, and my picnic ham.

MEAT POUNDER: For flattening meat and whacking in flavorful ingredients. You can use a rolling pin, if you'd like.


What Direct Means

Direct grilling means hitting meat, fruits, or vegetables with heat that hasn't been deflected or significantly diffused. This is especially useful for cuts that have lots of fat and low amounts of collagen. Contrary to popular opinion, it does not always involve high heat (which can make really leaner cuts like chicken breasts tough and dry), though the temperature used for direct grilling tends to be higher than those used for indirect cooking. You want to use that direct heat to get grill marks, which are cool-looking but, even more important, also carry a lot of the flavor characteristic of outdoor cooking. That's why we typically put relatively thin cuts like steaks, chops, and loins directly over the heat: By the time the interior is cooked to perfection, the outside has had the chance to become all brown and delicious.

Who Is It For?

If you love steaks, chops, and chicken with beautiful brown crusts and grill marks, a direct-heat cooker is for you, though you can also close the lid and use it like an oven. This is the cooker that provides grilled flavor with stunning char.

Where the Flavor Comes From

When you're direct grilling, there are two sources of flavor to keep in mind-besides that of the meat and whatever you put on the meat, of course:

Caramelization: The heat changes the composition of the proteins and sugars in the meat and forms all sorts of new and tasty flavor compounds.

Flavor bombs: As fat and moisture leave the meat, they drip onto the heat source and vaporize, transforming and rising back up to the meat and bringing tons of flavor with them. Nothing delivers more flavor of this sort than a charcoal fire, though many gas grills now come with a lava rock diffuser that comes pretty close.


Many grills rely on gas or electricity for heat. Others rely on natural fuels like wood and charcoal. Some grills even let you switch between gas and charcoal. Choose whatever makes you most excited about cooking, whether that's the ease of turning a switch to control the heat, as with a gas grill (which I almost always prefer to electric), or the rustic feeling of grilling over charcoal.

Natural Fuel Versus Gas

Don't get me wrong-I love gas grills, but nothing beats cooking over wood or charcoal. It might take a bit of patience and skill to master, but it delivers the hottest heat and the ultimate in "grilled" flavor.

Using Wood on Your Gas-Powered Cooker

Even if your grill doesn't have a smoke box, you can use wood smoke to give your meat color and flavor. Make an envelope out of a piece of aluminum foil, fill it with chips, pellets, or sawdust, close it up, and poke a bunch of holes in it (about ten in a 5-inch x 5-inch packet). Put this directly on top of the coals or on the heat deflector plate, and cook away.

Managing Flare-Ups

It's an almost inevitable result of direct grilling. Any time you have fat or oil dripping onto coals, wood, or gas flame, you can get a "flare-up," when the flames suddenly rise up and engulf your meat. I'm not as averse to flare-ups as some outdoor cooks. In fact, I embrace them, though there's a fine line between this burning your meat and giving it a flavor boost. (You'll have to decide for yourself where you stand, but either way, when you do get a big flare-up, please don't try to extinguish it with water! You wouldn't put out a grease fire with water, would you?) Flare-ups are not such a great thing, however, when sugar or delicate spices are involved.

To make sure you have the right amount of flame assisting the development of tasty caramelization without moving into the no-fly zone of carbonization, I do three things:

Jockey: When you see an unwanted flare-up, don't panic. Just move your meat to another hot part of the grill. If you're still getting flare-ups and are afraid that your meat might burn, retreat to the lower-temperature zone.

Stack: If your grill doesn't have a zone of lower temperature, try stacking, putting any meat that needs a break from the flame on top of one that doesn't. It will continue cooking because of the residual heat but it will be protected from direct flame.

Flip: Yet another way to make sure a flare-up doesn't burn your meat.


Some people think picking a grill is just about finding the one with the most BTUs. But remember, your heat is coming from two different places: The flames and from the grates that have absorbed heat from those flames. That means you should take care choosing the material for these grates. I go for heavyweight steel or cast-iron grates. They take a bit longer to heat up, but once they do, they hold on tight to that heat, giving you the ability to create serious caramelization in the form of grill marks and making it less likely that your meat will stick to them.

Keep those grates clean! Get the best brush you can find and replace it often.

And as you're cooking, use your tongs to rub the grates with a dedicated towel dipped in (but not dripping with) canola oil. This forms a slick surface and prevents meat and char from sticking. Duck skin works, too, just don't use olive oil. It has a lower smoke point and doesn't form as effective a barrier.

The Griddle

This inexpensive cast-iron device that you place right on your grill grates helps you gather an intense heat and render fat, without that fat dripping onto the fire. That way, you can caramelize without having to deal with flare-ups. It's particularly useful for rattier cuts, like prime or choice steaks, or my hamburger, which has a bunch of beautiful fat to keep it juicy. After some of the fat has rendered, moisture has evaporated, and caramelization has begun, I'll often transfer the meat to the grill grates, so the flavor bombing can begin.


What Does Indirect Mean?

Indirect cooking means that your heat source is either in a chamber far from your meat (as in an offset cooker) or that the heat source is blocked or deflected by a metal plate (as in a stacked cooker). While direct grilling is like cooking on your stovetop-the flames or burner heats your pan, which cooks whatever's in it-indirect cooking is more like roasting in your oven. Because the heat-whether it's produced by charcoal, wood, gas, or electricity-is deflected, by the time it reaches the meat, it's a gentle sort of heat that envelops it rather than hits it from just one side.

Who Are They For?

If you're into ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and meats that you'd roast-items that develop dark, tasty crusts on the outside-then you want the oven-like heat provided by an indirect cooker.

The downside is that most of these give you no option to direct grill, to apply concentrated heat to one specific area. Plus you don't get the flavor bombs that happen when meat juices and fat hit the coals and vaporize.

Sizes vary wildly: You can get a gigantic cooker or a tiny one. Just be sure you pick the one that actually matches your cooking habits: You might buy a giant cooker, because it looks awesome, but if you don't fill it up, it won't have the natural moisture inside that's so great for barbecue.

What to Use It For

Nothing beats indirect cooking for thick cuts, like the brisket and the shoulder. The relatively mellow heat can penetrate deep into the meat before the outside of the meat has overcooked, plus it can break down collagen into gelatin, turning tough cuts into meat you could cut with a spoon.

Barbecue and Indirect Cooking

There are exceptions, but when people talk about Southern barbecue, they're typically referring to a type of cooking that can be classified as indirect. Charcoal or wood provides heat as well as flavor.

You can cook indirectly on any barbecue. With ceramic and indirect cookers, sure, but even direct grilling can provide indirect heat: All you have to do is put meat somewhere other than directly over the fire, or far enough above the fire.

Gas Versus Natural Fuel

Gas barbecues let you turn a dial to set the temperature, while those powered by natural fuels require a more hands-on approach. I actually prefer the latter. First off, gas-powered units typically have an opening to keep gas from building up inside (otherwise, uh oh!). The problem is, this lets out natural humidity, which is a cook's friend. Plus, I really like the challenge of mastering the dampers, of adapting to different external conditions. Think about it like this: You can go up a mountain two ways-you can take a helicopter or you can climb. It's your choice.

My Ideal Heat Source

I love combining charcoal (for heat) and wood chunks (for some more heat, but mostly for controlled smoke flavor).

Your Goal

Consistent temperature, just enough smoke.


Just as there are hot spots on your grates when you're direct grilling, different areas in your indirect cooker will be hotter than others. Use this to your advantage, moving meat that could use a bit more color to a hotter area or vice versa.


I once saw a guy take out just about every spice in his cupboard and head outside. I asked what he was up to and he said that he was going to season his grill! In this context, seasoning means something different. As you cook on your indirect cookers, you get this healthy buildup of creosote and resin (by-products of cooking with coal and wood) that will insulate your barbecue-that is, it will make its internal temperature less vulnerable to external temperature fluctuations. To get this buildup, all you have to do is cook, but you can encourage it by occasionally wiping down the inside of your cooker (when it's off, please) with a towel dipped in (but not dripping with) canola oil. If the "seasoning" starts to flake, scrape it off; otherwise, it'll flake onto your food. Nowadays, smokers are so well insulated that seasoning has become less of an issue.


Excerpted from SERIOUS BARBECUE by Adam Perry Lang Copyright © 2009 by Adam Perry Lang. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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