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Barbecue Inferno: Outdoor Heat PDF Print E-mail

Cooking with
Chile Peppers on the Grill

Excerpt from Barbecue Inferno,
by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach.

Published by Ten Speed Press
and available from amazon.com

Barbecue Inferno book

Recipe Index:

Spice Islands Coconut-Chile Pork Kabobs with Sambal Marinade

Berbere Kifto

Grilled Crab-Stuffed Cherry Peppers


Outdoor Heat and Three Appetizer Recipes

Do you want a truly authentic barbecue? Well, simply dig a trench in your back yard, fill it with oak logs, and then burn them down to coals. Construct a wooden rack for the meat to hang on over the coals, throw some green wood on the coals, and smoke away to your heart’s content. That was the way it was done in the old days, and it will work today. Of course, you won’t have much of a lawn left, but at least you can tell all your friends that by golly, you are an authentic barbecuer. Of course, today we are slaves to technology and we must have state-of-the-art grills with every conceivable feature including instant video replay to catch every exciting moment of that eight-hour smoking of the brisket. Well, almost.


Of Smokers and Barbecues

Grillers have many equipment options to choose from–maybe too many. There are table grills, hibachis, kettle grills, steel drum barbecues, built-in grills, Japanese kamados, and literally dozens of models of gas grills. There are nearly as many different kinds of smokers: electric smokers, water smokers, gas smokers, mobile smokers pulled by trucks, and finally, the tried and true steel cylinder smoker with attached firebox.

Now we could take about twenty-five pages here and go into excruciating detail about the pros and cons of all these options. But rather than describe every single type of grill and smoker in existence today, we’re going to take a shortcut and discuss just the ones needed to prepare the recipes in this book.

Ideally, you should have three pieces of equipment that will enable you to cook with the three main types of fuel: wood, charcoal, and gas. First, the wood smoker. Now many books will tell you that you can use a kettle grill to smoke meats–build a fire to the side, let it burn down to coals, place the meat on the grill away from the fire with a pan of water beneath it, just sprinkle soaked wood chips over the coals, and voila, you are smoking. Just try to keep that little fire going for eight hours! Every time you open the lid to adjust the fire, all the smoke dissipates. Forget it and get a real smoker, one where the firebox is separate and connected by a flue to the main smoking chamber. You can easily keep the fire going without opening the lid to the smoking chamber. Many such smokers have a thermometer on top of the smoking chamber so you can keep the heat and smoke and precisely the right temperature. Our theory is that if you’re serious about smoking, use the right tools and don’t jury-rig grills into smokers. Call us purists, but we feel the same way about gas and electric smokers. Get a real smoker that uses smoldering wood to produce the smoke.

Yes, we are smoke snobs, but we have to point out that inexpensive water smokers also work well for smoking meats that just need a light smoking with plenty of moisture, like chicken and fish. These units come in both electric and charcoal models and are the perfect answer for the home griller who doesn’t want to commit to having a 500-pound traditional smoker on the patio.

Charcoal barbecue units range from simple kettles to elaborate units with numerous options. Since all you will be doing is grilling food over hot coals, buy a simple unit with the following features: a lid, adjustable grill, air vents, and bottom access to the fuel, if possible. If you don’t want to buy a charcoal unit, think about a smoker that can also double as a charcoal grill. The Oklahoma Joe smoker we use can burn charcoal in the main smoking chamber, but the grill is not adjustable up and down. Also, it’s difficult to add fuel during the cooking process because one of the grills must be removed, which means that the meat has to be moved first.

Gas grills are extremely easy to use and produce a barbecue flavor because dripping meat juices and fat hit the metal bars or lava stones and release aromas that penetrate the meat. It is possible to spend from two hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars for a gas grill, so the features you want will determine the investment. Some desirable features include a built-in thermometer, electric ignition, adjustable heat controls, a rotisserie, and a gas gauge. Some purists insist that gas grills are inferior to charcoal for grilling steaks because they don’t produce enough heat, but now there are gas grills that produce 33,000 BTUs or more, which is sufficient for steaks. The major problem with gas grills is that they produce maximum temperatures with the cover closed, which means that you are baking the food as much as grilling it. The ideal gas grill produces high temperatures when the cover is open.


The Dark Side of Charcoal–With a Natural Solution

Depending on what type of charcoal you buy, you are either getting the perfect, natural fuel for grilling or black lumps made from a slurry composed of sawdust, tree bark, borax, limestone, wood scraps, and a petroleum binder. The former is natural lump charcoal, made by firing logs in a kiln with virtually no air; the latter is the common briquets sold in supermarkets. Sometimes these briquets are further adulterated by being soaked in starter fluids so that they will light when a single match is applied. Some sources defend these briquets by claiming that all the petroleum products are burned off–yeah, right. Impatient grillers often start the grilling process long before the briquets have burned down to coals, resulting in some intriguing petroleum overtones to the food being grilled. We advise outdoor cooks to avoid all briquets that do not clearly state that they are one hundred percent wood and that’s all.

There are briquets that are pure wood with natural binders--if you can find them. The Other charcoal that is excellent is lump charcoal, which tends to burn hot, if a little unevenly. Lump mesquite charcoal is excellent and is even superior in some ways to the wood itself because most of the resins have evaporated. In fact, lump charcoal can be used in the firebox of the smoker if green wood or soaked hardwood chips are added to produce the smoke.

After choosing whatever kind of charcoal, do not use any petroleum-based lighter fluids to start it. Use a cylindrical metal chimney, readily available at stores stocking grilling accessories. With some crumpled up newspaper in the bottom of the chimney, charcoal on top, just lighting the newspaper provides enough heat to start the charcoal. Another solution is an electric starter, which works very well and very quickly.

Three Appetizer Recipes

  • Grilled Crab-Stuffed Cherry Peppers

  • Spice Islands Coconut-Chile Pork Kabobs with Sambal Marinade

  • Berbere Kifto


Three Appetizer Recipes from

Spice Islands Coconut-Chile Pork Kabobs with Sambal Marinade

This recipe calls for fish sauce, which is an acquired taste, so add more or less, depending on how much you like it. Sambal oelek is a condiment commonly used in Indonesia and Malaysia, Sambal means hot sauce in English, and it’s staple in kitchen, generally is very spicy, and can be used as a garnish or accompaniment. Here it used as an ingredient in the marinade; it is available in Asian markets. These kabobs are a great start to any Asian or Indian meal.

Sambal Marinade

  • ½ cup coconut milk

  • 2 green onions, minced

  • 2 tablespoons Sambal Oelek

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice, fresh preferred

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce

The Pork

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless pork, cut in 3/4-inch cubes

  • Dipping Sauce: Commercial Sambal Oelek

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and toss the pork in the mixture to coat well. Marinate the pork, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.

Thread the pork cubes on skewers and grill over a medium-hot grill for about 10 minutes until done. Cut open a sample to check for doneness. They should be browned and crisp. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Berbere Kifto

Berbere is both the Ethiopian name for chiles and an incredibly powerful paste made from chiles and numerous spices that are used in nearly all Ethiopian dishes. Tribal customs dictate that the berbere is served over warm, fresh raw meat called kifto. But there’s way we’re going to serve raw meat in a barbecue book, so we grill the kifto! Bebere is also an excellent treatment for chicken wings on the grill.

Berbere Paste:

  • 3 teaspoons ground cayenne chile

  • 2 tablespoons onion powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamon

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, allspice, turmeric, and cloves

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 2 tablespoons chopped purple onion

  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine

  • 3 or more tablespoons vegetable oil, peanut preferred

The Kifto

  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef

  • 1 recipe berbere paste, above

  • 3 tablespoons minced purple onion

  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 egg, beaten

To make the paste, combine all the ingredients, except the oil, in a blender or food processor and with the motor running, slowly add just enough of the oil to form a paste.

Combine all the ingredients for the kifto in a bowl and mix well. Form into small balls, slightly elongated, and place on skewers.

Grill over a medium hot fire for about 8 minutes until cooked through. Cut open a sample to check for doneness.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Hot

Grilled Crab-Stuffed Cherry Peppers

We don’t usually think about grilling pickled peppers, but for some reason they turn out great. Just remember not to over-grill the peppers or they may blacken on the outside. Note that although some commercial cherry peppers are called "hot" by the manufacturers, they are usually rather mild. This recipe is reminiscent of the wonderful canned stuffed jalapeños from Mexico–in fact, this recipe works with pickled jalapeños as well.

The Peppers

  • 12 pickled "hot" cherry peppers

Crab Filling

  • 1 ½ tablespoons cream cheese

  • 1 teaspoon milk

  • 3 tablespoons crab meat (canned works fine)

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • 4 teaspoons dried bread crumbs

Cut out the stems and core the chiles. The opening should be wide enough to fill. The tip of a vegetable peeler works well for this chore.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling and mix well. Stuff the cherry peppers with the filling and thread on wooden skewers that have been soaked in water. Be sure to thread the peppers so that the filling side is up.

Grill over a medium fire for about 3 to 4 minutes until hot, and do not turn or the filling could fall out.

Yield: 6 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Serves 4.

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