I was a barbecue ingenue born from Japanese ancestors with yaki on the brain; crouching above an open flame is the name of the game when it comes to Japanese grilling.
How could I have a clear notion of barbecuing muddled among hibachis, Bull’s-Eye bottles and the memory of a road trip across the South? I needed a crash course in the politics of outdoor cooking to say out with the high heat and quick cook time (grilling) and in with the low-temp, slow-going world of wood (barbecuing).
My admitted ignorance is extinguished by a consult with Cheryl and Bill Jamison, local outdoor cooking experts and authors of such books as Smoke & Spice, Sublime Smoke and Born to Grill. In conversation, Cheryl’s ebullience and Bill’s straightforward enthusiasm for true barbecue quickly emerge. After all, you can’t write a 482-page tome dedicated to smoking food if you aren’t pathologically zealous about it.
Bill, son of Texas hill country, claims barbecue is a “forgiving science.” After all these years and many a meal behind him, he still likes his brisket with pinto beans and onions. Cheryl rhapsodizes about alternatives to the standard big cuts of meat and flips through Smoke & Spice to show me quick recipes that are bound to get even a novice like me hooked. I press them for some BBQ CliffsNotes, a haiku version of smoking 101. Their advice on the easiest way to barbecue, hands down, is to use a simple dome smoker.
Reconciling a 21st century schedule with a mesquite-mellowed meal requires a little compromise, so I opt for the Brinkmann Gourmet Electric Smoker. The salesman says he has the charcoal version and his dad has the electric, but ol’ papa gets his jerky done in half the time with much less babysitting. ’Nough said—I cart my electric unit away.
After some light assembly and an afternoon “curing” the smoker, I am ready to test this baby with a pound of chicken breasts and a couple of turkey tenders. The Jamisons recommend I try Quick Chick so that my BBQ debut tantalizes the taste buds with minimum potential for frustration or failure.
Their advice and expertise is well taken, and this recipe yields a tender, moist breast with genuine smoky flavor.
This summer, savor the season, slow down, set up the smoker and try authentic barbecue in your own backyard.
QUICK CHICK (serves 4-6)
Split-Second Dry Rub
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon onion powder
pinch of cayenne
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded lightly
(I also did some turkey breast tenders)
Prepare the smoker for barbecuing by bringing the temperature to 200 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the breasts with the mixture and let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Combine the mop ingredients in a small saucepan, placing the pan over low heat to melt the butter. Keep the mop warm over low heat.
Drizzle the breasts with about one-third of the mop. Transfer the chicken to the smoker and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through. In a wood-burning pit, turn the breasts after 15 minutes and mop well again. With other smokers, don’t worry about turning the breasts or mopping while cooking—just drizzle the breasts with more mop as soon as you remove them from the smoker.