The backyard barbecue is as much a Fourth of July tradition as the town parade, the county fireworks display and Uncle Billy’s drunken confessional that never did care too much for his mama. Unfortunately for those sweaty relatives you’ve invited to your backyard, the holiday also tends to feature a parade of shrivled ground-beef patties indescriminately covered with condiments and tucked into oversized commercial buns in a vain attempt to conceal their ashen flavor.
That’s where an ice-chest full of cold beer becomes helpful.
Well, this year for the Fourth, we suggest you turn to the Food section for help before you even fire up the grill. Editor Joe Yonan, staff writer Tim Carman (yes, that’s me, writing about me as if I weren’t here) and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin will take your barbecue questions from 1 to 1:30 p.m. EST today on the Food section’s Facebook page.
Ask us anything that comes to mind: How do you smoke spareribs to perfection? What vegetables work best on the grill? What woods work best with chicken vs. what woods work best for beef? Where do you even buy good seasoned wood for the grill or smoker? Is there a way to prevent your burgers from shriveling up into blackened, round ash trays in the first place?
Maybe you don’t plan to roll out the grill on the Fourth (and if so, please seek help immediately). We can even help you there. We can help put together a picnic that you won’t soon forget.
How do you participate in this Facebook chat? It’s easy.
1. Log into Facebook.com
2. Are you a fan of The Washington Post Food Section page on Facebook? If yes, skip to step No. 3. If you’re not a fan of The Washington Post Food Section, you’ll have to “Like” our official page. To do that, click here.
3.Then click this link to visit the Facebook comment stream and you should be able to join in the conversation.
Following the chat, we’ll take the best questions and answers and post them on this page.Question 1
What do u think of pellet smokers? Are they worth the money? What do u prefer to cook with gas, charcoal, BGE? Which woods tend to leave an acidic residue when smoking? - Elliott Robinson
Pellet smokers keep a nice, steady heat. And they use very little fuel because they are extremely efficient. My personal preference? Charcoal/wood. Woods that tend to leave an acidic residue depends upon how you use them. For example, mesquite can leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth if used for long cooks. If used for short cooks, though, like direct-grilling a steak, they can add a fabulous, wild flavor. Do not use pine! Leaves a nasty, nasty taste. Use fruitwoods, such as apple and peach for light smoke over short or long durations (fish, say, or pork shoulder), oak for heavy but mild smoke for long duration (brisket, say), hickory for enhanced flavor but intermediate duration (ribs). - Jim ShahinQuestion 2
Corn on the cob: Direct or indirect heat? Smoked (how long?) - Earl Barber
Direct. Use long-handled tongs and turn often. - Jim ShahinQuestion 3
I have a tough time keeping my charcoal hot on both sides when doing indirect grilling. One side always stay hot and the other side tends to sputter. How can I correct that? Does it matter where you place the vent when you’re cooking with a Webber charcoal grill? Should it be over the coals, over the meat? - Elliot Robinson
Try using a Smokinator or setting your coals over to one side and the meat on the other. A lot of folks tell you to set up your fire with coals on both sides and an open space in the middle. The idea is that both sides of the meat get uniform heat. But setting up on one side and leaving the other side cool does just as good a job; turn the meat halfway through. It’ll be fine. As for the vents - I open them over the meat side, so the heat is drawn through the chamber. - Jim ShahinQuestion 4
Baking Potatoes: Direct or indirect? Time/Temp? Foil or no foil? Pierce or no pierce? Coat with oil? Coat with olive oil and kosher salt? - Earl Barber
All of those ways work, actually. Me, I either place them in unpoked foil and set them directly into a hot charcoal fire for about 20 minutes (gets a great char) or I set them on a length of foil, oil and salt them, wrap them, poke the foil and into the potato, then cook indirectly over moderate to moderately-high heat for about 40-45 minutes. - Jim Shahin