By Dave Lobeck
I have an area on my website where visitors can email me questions about grilling techniques, specific recipes, equipment recommendations, etc. I thought once a month or so I would share some of the questions with you.
I answer every question via email, so feel free to write in.
Before starting, let me be the first to wish you “Happy Grilling Month!” That's right. All this month we celebrate grilling. Let's get started.
From Robin in Canada:
I'm seeking some BBQ advice after finding myself at one dead end after another. I grew up in the southern U.S, so I have a lot of fond memories of real barbecue and I'm looking to recreate that flavor. The catch? I went (and still am) vegan in my early 20's and now live up north in a place where microwavable hot dogs count as "bbq food".
There are plenty of websites out there for vegan-friendly burgers and other grilled food, but I'd love to figure out a way to go a step further and get something closer to the flavor of traditional barbecue. I've asked a few people for advice, and as soon as the words "vegan" and "BBQ" leave my mouth I tend to get laughed right out of town. Now, like them, you might think I'm silly or barking up a tree that doesn't even exist ... and that's OK. Because to me, it's just one more cooking challenge and one that I wholeheartedly plan to conquer.
Do you have any ideas how I might be able to accomplish this? Is there a particular style of barbecue that might lend itself better to my heinous experiments?
"Someone who really wants to put on her apron and go to flavor town"
Dave: Robin, I appreciate your tenacity. I have a friend who is also vegan, and occasionally I make BBQ for an organization we are both part of. Last time I brought him homemade humus with a little cumin. He enjoyed it, but I certainly want to take it bit further, so your question is timely.
When people say they love the flavor of BBQ and grilling, I think they are referring to the flavor and texture imparted on the food via wood charcoal and the charring from the grilling. Personally, I do a lot of vegetables on the grill using indirect heat with hickory then stir frying over the coals to impart some of the texture. I have a large grilling pan with holes in it for this.
Also, large Portobello mushroom caps on the grill are great as burgers, and I plan on working with grilled tofu to replace grilled pork, beef and chicken. I'll keep you in the loop on how that goes. For a pulled pork sandwich, I am at a lost as to a suitable replacement. Can you be vegan 360 days a year leaving 5 for a pulled pork sandwich? (Just kidding, kind of.)
David from the United States:
I am smoking brisket and ribs on Tuesday, but not serving ithem until that Saturday. Is it OK to just refrigerate it until then, or is it best to freeze it for that short time period?
Dave: These types of questions are tricky to answer. There are so many variables it makes it impossible to answer properly. I do feel smoked meat can last a little longer, but Tuesday till the weekend is pushing the envelope in my opinion. I would freeze. I would encourage you to check out www.FoodSafety.gov.
Judi from the United States:
I have an old charcoal grill that I love to use. (about 45 years old). The food is grilled to perfection. However, it is falling apart, my husband has fixed it a few times and the worse thing to happen is he bought me a new charcoal grill and I HATE it. I don't know how to use it. It is a little larger than my old grill (yes, I still have the old grill) and it gets really hot. I use the same amount of coals and lower the coals so they are 7-8 inches under the food. Any ideas to make this new grill work?
Or should I throw it out someplace and tell my husband it got stolen? Really, help. The food just does not taste as good. Thank you! Judi
Dave: Judi, I am impressed! At the risk of sounding a bit chauvinistic, it is great to chat with a female grilling enthusiast. Best I can say is that practice makes perfect. When I buy a new charcoal grill I tend to stick with Weber kettle, so the cooking times and processes do not change. Try reducing the charcoals and just keep practicing until you figure out the “ins and outs” of your new unit.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQ-My-Way.com