Beat the Heat With Refreshing Gazpacho

Make this easy summer gazpacho recipe from The Stocked KitchenCool off on a hot summer day with this stove-free soup recipe from The Stocked Kitchen: One Grocery List…Endless Recipes, by Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins.

Gazpacho

Serves 6

3 medium tomatoes, diced, or one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons diced shallot or 1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until blended to desired consistency.
2. Chill for 1 to 24 hours. Serve cold.

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Easy-to-Grow Essential Herbs

There’s nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal with aromatic herbs grown in your own garden. Get started with this guide from Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione, authors of Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together.

Whether you’re an urban dweller with a window box, you’ve cultivated an acre of countryside, or you find yourself somewhere in between, planting your own herbs is the perfect way to brighten up your surroundings and your cooking. It’s a great money saver too. A few young plants from your local farmers’ market or garden center will produce fresh herbs all season long and cost the same as one dinky bunch of herbs from the grocery store.

Essentials: If you only have room to grow a few herbs, try these. They grow very well in most environments and are the most commonly used in our kitchen.

  • basil
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • thyme
  • rosemary

If you have the space, add these to your garden:

  • dill
  • tarragon
  • marjoram
  • oregano
  • chives
  • sage

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Italian herbs

Easy-to-Grow Essential Herbs

There’s nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal with aromatic herbs grown in your own garden. Get started with this guide from Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione, authors of Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together.

Whether you’re an urban dweller with a window box, you’ve cultivated an acre of countryside, or you find yourself somewhere in between, planting your own herbs is the perfect way to brighten up your surroundings and your cooking. It’s a great money saver too. A few young plants from your local farmers’ market or garden center will produce fresh herbs all season long and cost the same as one dinky bunch of herbs from the grocery store.

Essentials: If you only have room to grow a few herbs, try these. They grow very well in most environments and are the most commonly used in our kitchen.

  • basil
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • thyme
  • rosemary

If you have the space, add these to your garden:

  • dill
  • tarragon
  • marjoram
  • oregano
  • chives
  • sage

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Italian herbs

Jonathan Waxman’s Tips for the Perfect Pizza

Making pizza at home can be easy with tips from Jonathan WaxmanPizza fanatic? Celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman explains what ingredients and equipment are critical for homemade pies–it’s simpler than you think. From Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life Into Italian Classics.

San Francisco had some damn good pizza when I was growing up. I played in a lot of pizza joints as a trombone-playing rock ’n’ roller, and Tommaso’s in North Beach was way ahead of the curve. The restaurant has been offering wood-oven pizza since 1935, and hungry customers still line up around the clock to eat at this landmark.

I’ve eaten pizzas all over Italy, and one standout was in the old Milano train station many years ago. I noticed three things: a roaring wood fire, a reluctance to hurry the pie, and dough that was both tender and sticky. The image of that perfect pie has stayed with me, and over the years I have worked hard to replicate the dough. Flour is critical. I’ve tried bread flour, organic pizza flour and Italian hard wheat flour, and I have settled on one that is readily available: King Arthur white organic flour. It is perfect. It does change according to the season, and altitude is a huge factor, as is relative humidity.

I agree with the argument that fresh dough is not as delicious or as imbued with that certain tang as it is when enhanced by adding old dough. Therefore, I find that saving the dough for a day in the fridge helps achieve two things: a crisp crust and a better taste. I want bubbles to appear as the dough bakes, and day-old dough helps to promote those bubbles. Don’t keep the dough in the fridge for longer than a day or it will look like pita.

Yeast is a major factor. I like fresh yeast, but it is sometimes hard to come by. Granular yeast is convenient but has a less interesting flavor. I add some organic unprocessed honey as a feeder for the dough. A little stale organic beer is good as well. Sea salt is important for texture and flavor, and last, the water needs to be fresh. If your water is hard, too warm from the tap or otherwise suspect, use bottled water.

Ovens are an exciting subject. I have used electric, wood-burning, grills, gas, gas/convection, and a new-fangled device with convection and microwave. I find that an oven with a tight seal is not as good as one that has a bit of a gap that allows it to breathe. The addition of a pizza stone is nice, but unnecessary. An old-fashioned perforated pizza pan is good, but a simple baking sheet works well, too. Your oven needs to have constant, regulated heat; always use a thermometer. I worry about the crust more than the top, and always check the pizza’s bottom as it bakes. Timing can be erratic; the first pie is always a tester.

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It’s Time to Try Catfish for Dinner

Today’s farm-raised catfish is a far cry from the fishy catch grandpa brought home. Sara Moulton, author of Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners, shares simple tips on how to pick and prepare this versatile dish for the whole family to enjoy.

These days, the catfish you consume aren’t like the ones your grandpa used to catch in local ponds and streams. The farm-raised catfish you will find in today’s markets have been trained to feast on a special diet that floats on the surface of the water and reduces the off flavors that once marred catfish’s popularity. Farm-raised catfish come to market in a uniform size, filleted, boned, and skinned, all ready to go in the pan, under the broiler, or on the grill. In the store, select fresh fillets that look moist, almost translucent, and vary from pure white to pink in color. As with all fish, catfish should have no fishy odor.

Catfish have several areas that are fattier than the rest of the fillet, and removing those areas not only makes the fish leaner, it reduces the possibility of the fish’s having the “muddy” flavor that wild catfish are known for. The largest fatty area is a layer right under the skin. This is sometimes removed in processing, and the fish is labeled “double skinned.” If the fatty area is still visible, it can be easily scraped off with the blade of a knife. Removing the gray line that runs lengthwise down the center of the fillet will also improve the flavor. You can either split the fillet and trim off the gray area or cut a V down the center of the fillet to remove it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Admired by millions as the host of Cooking Live, Cooking Live Primetime, and Sara’s Secrets, Sara Moulton, author of Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners (Copyright © 2010 by Sara Moulton Enterprises), was one of the Food Network’s defining personalities during its first decade. In addition, the energetic Moulton was the executive chef of Gourmet magazine for twenty-three years. She is the food editor of ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, and the author of Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals and Sara Moulton Cooks at Home.  In April 2008, Moulton launched a new twenty-episode television series on public television, Sara’s Weeknight Meals. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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How to Frost a Cake

Spreading icing on a cake takes practice. This technique from Shirley Corriher, author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes, allows inexperienced cooks to produce a magnificent cake with a perfect, satin-smooth icing that looks as if it came from an expensive bakery.

Double-Icing Technique

1.    Place the cooled cake on a cardboard circle that is slightly smaller than the cake. This allows you to hold the cake with the sturdy cardboard bottom and tilt it as necessary. Next, place the cake on a cooling rack that is sitting on a large piece of parchment paper or a nonstick baking sheet. You want something that catches icing drips and allows you to scrape them up if you need to.

2.    Pour slightly less than half of the ganache or glaze into a 2-cup (473-ml) glass measuring cup with a spout. You want the glaze almost cool enough to set, about 90°F/32°C. Pour a puddle of icing in the center of the cake and continue pouring until the icing starts to overflow and run down the edges. Lift the cake and tilt to encourage the glaze to run where there isn’t any. With a metal spatula, smooth the icing around the edge. Do what you can to cover the top and all around the edges. Allow the cake to cool for about 30 minutes.

3.    No spatula from here on! Heat the remaining half of the ganache or glaze just until it flows easily. So that it will be perfectly smooth, strain it into a warm 2-cup (473-ml) glass measuring cup with a spout. If you are right-handed, hold the cake with your left hand, keeping it over the parchment. With your right hand, pour the glaze into the center of the cake. Allow the glaze to run down the edges and tilt to get it to run where it is needed. Pour more glaze on as needed, but to NOT touch with a spatula. You want this coating untouched, as smooth as a lake at dawn — a perfect, shiny, dark surface. Place the cake on the cooling rack and allow to cool.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shirley O. Corriher, author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes (Copyright © 2008 by Confident Cooking, Inc.), has a B.A. in chemistry from Vanderbilt University, where she was also a biochemist at the medical school. She has problem-solved for everyone from Julia Child to Procter & Gamble and Pillsbury. She has taught and lectured throughout the world. She has long been a writer– authoring a regular syndicated column in The Los Angeles Times Syndicate’s Great Chefs series as well as technical articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Her first book, Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking is a bestseller and won a James Beard Award for excellence. Shirley has received many awards, including the Best Cooking Teacher of the Year in Bon Appetit’s “Best of the Best” Annual Food and Entertaining Awards in 2001. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Arch.

MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR

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Time-Saving Tips for Cooking Beans

Whatever kind of dried bean you are preparing, from relatively quick-cooking types like black beans or navy beans to garbanzos, which can take a few hours to cook, Daisy Martinez, author of Daisy’s Holiday Cooking, has simple tips for evenly cooked beans with a creamy texture and no “bones” (hard white centers).

I know it’s common kitchen wisdom that beans have to be soaked — overnight in cold water or a “quick soak” in hot water for an hour or so — but I never soak them. Well, almost never: Sometimes I will soak garbanzos (chickpeas) to shave half an hour or so off the cooking time and I soak lupini beans  for the same reason as well as to remove some of their bitterness.

When I tell people that I don’t soak beans, they usually respond that beans have to be soaked, or else they take forever to cook and will cook unevenly. It is true that soaked beans will cook a little faster than unsoaked beans, but we’re talking minutes, not hours, and it doesn’t seem worth it to me. As for cooking unevenly, follow these basic instructions and you’ll end up with evenly cooked beans with a creamy texture and no “bones” (hard white centers):

Rinse the beans in a colander under cold running water. While you’re at it, pick over the beans and remove the occasional pebble or funky-looking bean. Pour the beans into a heavy pot large enough to hold them and plenty of water. My favorite bean pot to cook 1 to 2 pounds of beans is a 6-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. Pour in enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Don’t add salt at this point. Add a couple of bay leaves and a ham hock or large smoked turkey wings if you aren’t vegetarian and like a little smoke with your beans, like I do.

Bring the water to a boil, then adjust the heat so there is a happy bubble, not a full boil, and start skimming off the foam that rises to the top. Most beans will take about 2 hours to cook, give or take 15 minutes. During the first hour and a half, check the beans every once in a while to make sure they are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Add more water to keep them covered if necessary. When the beans are almost tender (somewhere around that 1 1/2-hour mark), lower the heat to a simmer. Add at least 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of beans and continue cooking them until they are tender. Don’t add any more liquid, but do keep an eye on the beans so they don’t stick and scorch. The end result should be a pot of creamy-tender (not mushy!) beans and just enough liquid to generously coat them like a thick, silky sauce. Once they’re done, you can leave the beans on the stove (but off the heat) for a couple of hours and reheat them gently when it’s time to serve them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daisy Martinez, author of Daisy’s Holiday Cooking: Delicious Latin Recipes for Effortless Entertaining (Copyright © 2010 Daisy Martinez), is also the author of Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night. She is the star of Viva Daisy!, which debuted on the Food Network in January 2009. She launched her career with the PBS series Daisy Cooks! and a cookbook based on the show. She has appeared on the Today show and The Early Show, and has been featured in The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, and AARP VIVA, among other publications. A dedicated mother of four fantastic children, Daisy and her family reside in Brooklyn, New York.

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  • Daisy shows you how to prepare a delicious holiday cocktail


The Cure for Common Cookie Problems

What makes cookies crumble, lack color, go limp, and stick to the pan? Shirley Corriher, author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes, diagnoses these common cookie cooking problems and provides the cures so your next batch will come out just right.

PITIFULLY PALE COOKIESBROWNING
“My cookies taste good, but they are pale and unappetizing.” Three ingredients determine color: the amount of a specific type sugar (reducing sugar), the amount of protein, and the acidity.

More Reducing Sugar
Using even a small amount of corn syrup (glucose), which is a reducing sugar, is a major browning enhancer. Adding 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of corn syrup to your cookie dough will dramatically increase browning. That is, as long as the cookies are not strongly acidic. Too much acidity prevents browning.

Less Acidity
Baking powder contains baking soda and enough acid or acids to neutralize the baking soda, therefore baking powder does not influence the color of cookies. Baking soda by itself is alkaline and is a major contributor to browning.

Some cookie recipes that contain acidic ingredients like brown sugar may contain baking soda—not for leavening, but to reduce the acidity and improve browning.

Color At a Glance
What to Do for More Color:
Add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of light corn syrup.
Why: Reducing sugars enhance browning.

What to Do for More Color: Use unbleached or all-purpose bread flour.
Why:
Protein enhances browning.

What to Do for More Color: Use an egg.
Why:
Protein enhances browning.

What to Do for More Color: Use baking soda.
Why:
Baking soda neutralizes acidity, and enhances the browning.

LIMP COOKIES
“My cookies are crisp and perfect the day I make them, but the next day they are soft and limp.” If your recipe calls for brown sugar, molasses, or honey, they all contain some fructose, a sugar that is hygroscopic (absorbs water out of air). Honey contains 42% fructose and baked goods made with honey keep well. They stay soft and don’t dry out easily. Some cookie recipes with part brown sugar stay firm for a day or so, but if you want really crisp cookies stick with plain granulated sugar.

STICKING
Some recipes say to bake on an ungreased pan to limit spread. This is a bad idea. It doesn’t limit spread, and the cookies can stick as if they were cemented to the pan.

I love the Reynolds Release foil. It is a miracle for cookies. It is aluminum foil with a nonstick coating on one side. (This stuff is great and is pretty widely available.) Just twist a cookie and lift off. I like it even better than parchment, because sometimes cookies can stick to even parchment. You can slide the foil off the cookie sheet and onto the cooling rack. Your pan is free for the next batch.

You can already have the next batch on foil. Cool the hot pan by running cold water over it, dry, and slide the foil with your next batch onto it. No more washing dirty cookie pans.

In the past I used parchment, but it I did not have it I always sprayed the pan with nonstick cooking spray or a nonstick cooking spray with flour such as Baker’s Joy.

Without Release foil or parchment, there is an ideal time to remove cookies from the baking sheet. If you try to remove them immediately after they come out of the oven, they come apart, but if you wait 1 to 2 minutes, they will lift off the pan easily. If you wait longer, they may be “glued” to the pan. You can reheat the cookies for a couple of minutes, then remove them.

You can get cookies that are “glued” to the pan off by reheating for a couple of minutes.

OVERBAKING
Overcooked cookies can be rock hard. Since cookies require a short baking time, some as short as 6 minutes, and for most 10 to 12 minutes, 1 minute more or less can make a world of difference. Take cookies out of the oven when they just start to brown around the outer edge. Don’t wait for the center to brown.

Other Cookie Problems at a Glance
Problem:
Crumbling
What to Do: Stir 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water into the flour before you mix it with other ingredients.

Problem: Lighter, shiny separated crust (“meringue”)
What to Do: Stir just enough to incorporate each egg. Keep any beating to a minimum once eggs are added.

Problem: Cookies are pale
What to Do: Add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) light corn syrup. Use baking soda. Use a higher-protein flour like unbleached or all-purpose bread flour.

Problem: Cookies are limp
What to Do: Use granulated sugar only, no honey.

Problem: Cookies stick to pan
What to Do: Use Release foil (foil with a nonstick coating).

Problem: Cookies are overbaked
What to Do: Do not wait for cookies to brown. Remove from the oven when the edges start to brown.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shirley O. Corriher, author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes (Copyright © 2008 by Confident Cooking, Inc.), has a B.A. in chemistry from Vanderbilt University, where she was also a biochemist at the medical school. She has problem-solved for everyone from Julia Child to Procter & Gamble and Pillsbury. She has taught and lectured throughout the world. She has long been a writer– authoring a regular syndicated column in The Los Angeles Times Syndicate’s Great Chefs series as well as technical articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Her first book, Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking is a bestseller and won a James Beard Award for excellence. Shirley has received many awards, including the Best Cooking Teacher of the Year in Bon Appetit’s “Best of the Best” Annual Food and Entertaining Awards in 2001. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Arch.

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  • Shirley Corriher talks about BakeWise and shares some baking tips


How to Roll a Perfect Pastry Crust

The perfect pastry crust is the key to a divine pie. It all comes down to how you roll — the dough, that is. To perfect your technique, follow these rolling tips from Shirley Corriher, author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes.

Techniques for Rolling

The Dough
The dough should hold together well but not be wet. Press the dough together into a 6-inch (15-cm) disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. This will allow the moisture to distribute more evenly. If you roll a crust immediately after making it, the wet spots will stick to the surface and the dry spots will tear.

Wrapping the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 2 hours or overnight allows the moisture to distribute more evenly.

The Surface for Rolling
Roll on a lightly floured counter, a pastry cloth or plastic sheet, or between two pieces of lightly floured wax paper. Carole Walter, in Great Pies & Tarts, recommends a canvas pastry cloth and rolling pin cover made by Ateco (available in some cookware shops). Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Pie and Pastry Bible says that the ideal surface for rolling pastry is marble covered with a pastry cloth. She recommends a 16 x 20 x 3/4-inch (41 x 51 x 2-cm) piece of marble available in gourmet shops or from marble supply companies. A marble slab stays cold and helps to keep the pastry cool.

Gourmet shops sell a plastic sheet that is marked with circles for the different size pie pans. It is very helpful to have a guide when trying to roll an even circle. My early pie crusts looked like strange-shaped amoebas!

Some cooks like to roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap, or a layer of foil on the bottom and plastic wrap or wax paper on top. You may need to peel the paper or plastic off once or twice during rolling and reposition and smooth it out. Regardless of the surface — pastry cloth or countertop — you want to flour lightly to prevent the dough from sticking.

Rolling Pins
There are many different sizes and shapes of rolling pins available. Those that are straight cylinders are called straight French rolling pins and are usually 17 to 19 inches (43 to 48 cm) in length. There is one that is fat in the center and tapers narrower toward the ends — tapered French — and is about 19 inches (48 cm) long. This tapered French pin is designed to prevent the edges of the dough from getting too thin. Carole Walters feels that it is a little easier to roll evenly with the traditional ball-bearing pin with handles. These come in lengths of 12 to 15 inches (30 to 38 cm).

Your choice of the rolling pin and the rolling surface are personal preferences. Feel free to go with whatever works best for you.

Rolling in Detail
On limited counter space, rotating the dough works very well. This technique also ensures that the dough does not stick to the counter or pastry cloth. Flour the rolling pin and place it in the center of the dough disc and roll forward. Place the pin back in the center of the dough disc and roll back, taking care not to roll over the dough edges, making them too thin. Gently lift and rotate the dough 45 degrees, roll forward and back again, rotate, and so on. Keep a little bleached all-purpose flour on the counter to one side. If the dough tends to stick when rotating, drag the dough through the flour when rotating and repositioning the dough. If you enlarge the dough a little at a time, in different positions, it helps to keep the circle even.

Rotating the dough prevents sticking and aids in rolling an even circle.

Try to avoid rolling the dough thinner in one area. These thin spots will brown or burn before the rest of the crust is done. To get a very even thickness, stop when the dough is nearing the desired thickness. Place a ruler or a strip of wood (which is the thickness that you want) on one side of the dough, and another the same thickness on the other side. Rest the rolling pin on the two rulers or wood strips, and roll across the dough.

Another way to get a very even dough thickness is with rolling pin rings that are available in some gourmet cookware shops. Pairs of these elastic rings are of various thicknesses and fit on both ends of the pin. They keep the pin an exact distance from the counter so the dough is rolled to an even thickness.

Keeping the dough an even thickness prevents excessive browning or burning in the thin spots.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shirley O. Corriher, author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes (Copyright © 2008 by Confident Cooking, Inc.), has a B.A. in chemistry from Vanderbilt University, where she was also a biochemist at the medical school. She has problem-solved for everyone from Julia Child to Procter & Gamble and Pillsbury. She has taught and lectured throughout the world. She has long been a writer– authoring a regular syndicated column in The Los Angeles Times Syndicate’s Great Chefs series as well as technical articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Her first book, Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking is a bestseller and won a James Beard Award for excellence. Shirley has received many awards, including the Best Cooking Teacher of the Year in Bon Appetit’s “Best of the Best” Annual Food and Entertaining Awards in 2001. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Arch.

MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR

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  • Shirley Corriher talks about BakeWise and shares some baking tips


Barbecue Tools 101: What You Need to Make Barbecuing Easier and Safer

Good barbecue requires good equipment. Here, Dotty Griffith, author of Celebrating Barbecue, offers a list of must-haves for making barbecue you can be proud of.

Low and slow is the mantra of all barbecue pit masters. Long slow cooking with indirect heat — that is, not directly over the heat source — or over a very low fire is what makes barbecue. Good barbecue requires good equipment. The options are many, depending on a variety of factors, including budget, cooking and storage space, the number of mouths you’re feeding, and your level of enthusiasm and commitment. It is possible to spend tens of thousands of dollars on custom barbecue equipment or just a few bucks on inexpensive equipment that will also produce barbecue you can be proud of. Costs may range from $25 to $3,000 or even higher.

Types and styles of cookers range from barrels to brick-lined pits and from small grills available at discount stores to expensive designer equipment. Pros who compete in barbecue contests across the country and who also cater have portable barbecue rigs or systems on trailers. Many customize the equipment for their special needs and preferences, like smoking a whole pig or side of beef.

But most of us amateurs — including some pretty serious ones — buy something we think is big enough to meet our needs, easy enough to use, the right size for the deck or patio, and affordable.

Cookers may be constructed in a horizontal or vertical style, round or rectangular, depending on the cook’s preference. With horizontal cookers longer than they are wide, the fire can be built at one end of the grill so that the meat can be placed on the cooler side. Other cookers (usually vertical) have what are called fireboxes in which the fire burns and wafts smoke and heat over and around the meat in the cooking chamber.

Round (or kettle) cookers, except those with water pans, make it more difficult to position the meat away from the fire; in general, this shape works better for grilling. But if you’ve got a round cooker, don’t despair. Start the fire in the middle. Once the coals have burned down to gray ash, push them to the edges, forming an area of indirect heat in the center of the grill.

Some cooks use smokers with a water pan that separates the fire from the meat, thus reducing the chances of overcooking or drying out the meat. When you use a water pan smoker, basting isn’t necessary. If the flavors from a basting or “mop” liquid are desired, pour the basting liquid in the water pan, adding water as necessary to prevent to prevent the pan from cooking dry. Cooking takes longer with a water pan.

A good barbecue cooker has to have a lid and vents or a vent and chimney. They help control the fire and pull the smoke and heat over the meat to cook it. For more convenience, chose a cooker that has a fire door so you don’t have to lift the cooking grate and meat whenever you need to add hot coals.

Experienced barbecuers often have several different types and sizes of cookers requiring different types of fuel. They use bigger cookers fired by wood or wood and charcoal when they’ve got time to spend on a brisket or pork shoulder or several racks of ribs. They may use a smaller gas-or electric-powered cooker for more casual cooking when there’s less time to tend the fire.

Serious barbecuing requires a second, smaller grill that can be devoted to maintaining a steady supply of hot coals for the main cooker. It also comes in handy for grilling snacks while waiting for the barbecue to cook.

Along with a cooker (or two), you’ll need cutting boards, knives and utensils, heavy gloves, squirt bottles, squirt bottles, and fire starters. Here’s a list of basic tools that will make barbecuing easier and safer.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST
Aluminum foil:
Get heavy duty, the largest size available, for wrapping big pieces of meat to keep them warm or to store refrigerated.

Chimney fire starter:
This gadget looks like a top hat without a brim and uses crumpled newspaper to start a charcoal fire quickly and efficiently, without the taste residue of chemical fire starters or treated charcoal.

Cutting board(s): Several boards (at least 1 inch thick) of varying surface area can be very helpful. If you choose only one, make sure it is large enough for holding and slicing a brisket or pork shoulder, about 10 by 16 inches. Some boards have a trench around the edge to catch runoff juices.

Electric match: These are handy for starting fire.

Fork: A two-pronged fork is great for holding meat securely while you are carving. But it is better to use a spatula, tongs, or heat-resistant gloved hands for handling meat over the fire. Stabbing with a fork causes to run out.

Gloves: Different kinds are suited for different jobs. Black heat-resistant gloves are a safety bonus, especially if you’re handling big pieces of meat. Plain work gloves make handling wood and charcoal a lot less messy. Latex gloves make handling raw meat more pleasant and  serving cooked meat more sanitary.

Instant-read thermometer: This basic food safety tool is a must for producing good barbecue. When inserted into the meat, it immediately gives you the internal temperature, unlike traditional meat thermometers, which must be inserted in the meat during the entire cooking time. It is also handy for checking the temperature inside the cooker. Some cooks drill a small hole in the lid so they can insert their instant-read thermometer at any time. Others place an oven thermometer inside the cooker on the grill near the meat.

Knives: A large carving knife is a must for slicing cooked barbecue. A paring knife, an 8-or 10-inch chef’s knife, and a boning knife also come in handy for various. A Chinese cleaver is ideal for carving barbecued chicken or for chopping pulled pork or barbecued brisket.

Plastic bags: Get heavy-duty self closing bags in a variety of sizes, mostly large. They are great for marinating meat to be cooked or for storing cooked meat.

Platters: You’ll need large, heatproof platters or roasting pans that can rest on the edge of the cooker or be placed in a low oven to keep eat warm. They are also handy for switching to the Fail-Safe Technique of finishing barbecue in the oven.

Sauce mop: Used for washing dishes, the true dish mop, like a floor mop, is made of string is perfect for swabbing meat with sauce. A pastry brush can do the same job. Keep several of both on hand. Clean them in dishwater.

Shovel or fire spade: One of these is a must if you’re keeping a hot bed of coals to add to the cooker. Use it for the easiest and safest way to transfer hot coals to a firebox or smoker.

Spatulas: Sturdy spatulas are great for lifting the meat so you don’t have to poke fork holes in it. For large pieces of meat, you’ll need two.

Squirt bottle: Keep one on hand to douse the flames that get out of control. More of a necessity for grilling than for barbecuing.

Tongs: These gadgets can be a barbecue cook’s best friend because they allow precise handling of the wood in the firebox and the meat on the grill. Use a separate pair of tongs for each task. For extra flexibility, get several tongs in varying lengths. A spatula and a pair of tongs may be the safest combination for moving meat around on a smoker.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dotty Griffith is the dining editor and restaurant critic of The Dallas Morning News, and has judged numerous recipe contests. She is the author of nine cookbooks, including Celebrating Barbecue: The Ultimate Guide to America’s 4 Regional Styles of ‘Cue (Copyright © 2002 by Dotty Griffith), and has written for magazines, including Gourmet and Travel & Leisure. She lives in Dallas, Texas.

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