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Boss Hog?

June 13, 1996|CHARLES PERRY

In a kettle-style barbecue, a lot of the heat is lost through the lid. If you reflected that heat back onto the grill, you'd cook faster. An add-on called the Pit Boss, designed to fit inside the lid of a 22 1/2-inch Weber, does this strikingly well.

It's made from a multilayered aluminum insulating material developed to solve heat problems in car exhausts. The manufacturer claims that the Pit Boss raises the temperature inside the kettle several hundred degrees, maintains peak heat longer, makes use of more of the grill's cooking surface, uses up to 40% less charcoal and reduces cooking times by anything from 21.4% to 37.4%, depending on the kind of meat.

In backyard tests, we found that it performs as advertised. Besides dramatically speeding up cooking, it noticeably cooks the top of the meat. You could get by without flipping the meat at all, though we preferred the results when the meat was flipped about 80% of the way through cooking.

The Pit Boss actually comes with an instructional video, but the main message is simple: Until you get used to this speed demon, check the meat regularly as it cooks or follow the manufacturer's time charts so that you don't incinerate your food. Also, if you want to wash the insert (you don't actually have to), use soap and water, not oven cleaner. Apparently oven cleaner causes bad, potentially dangerous things.

Available in hardware and discount stores at $16.95, or directly from the manufacturer for $19.95; call (800) 993-BOSS (2677).

Smokin' Herbs

Williams-Sonoma, better known as a good place to buy espresso makers or charming French butter molds, offers an herb grill rack. It makes sense; just as you can soak wood chips and flavor your barbecue with them, you can soak fresh herbs and put them in this 16-by-12-inch hinged rack. Williams-Sonoma recommends strong herbs such as rosemary, sage, tarragon and dill, but mentions basil and cilantro as well.

The company sees herb-smoking as the next stage in the craze for herb-infused oils and vinegars of recent years, and promotes it as a totally fat-free alternative to marinades and rubs. Since the mesh is fairly fine, it might also be useful in grilling small things that tend to fall through other grill racks.

At Williams-Sonoma stores, $20.

Devil Flames

These Lil' Devils Smoking Pellets (they look rather like rabbit food) are made by forcing ground wood through a die under high heat. The result is "densified," meaning that it has a lower moisture level than natural wood. The pellets come in hickory, mesquite, alder, apple, cherry, maple and oak.

West Oregon Wood Products says they are a more efficient source of smoke than wood chips, but warns not to soak the pellets because they'll fall apart. You put them on the coals in a smoking chip pan, an empty tuna can or even just some heavy-duty aluminum foil (it may take a couple of minutes for smoking to start). The smoke flavor is good, and unlike chips, the pellets produce no fly ash to get on your food.

A 3-pound box is $3.95, a sampler pack of six flavors is $9.50, a 20-pound bag, $9.95. Available at specialty shops, including San Marino Pools in Pasadena, Fireplace and Patio Trends in Orange, La Paz Patio and Fireside in Laguna Hills, Tom Gold's BBQ and Fireplace in Arcadia and ABC Pool and Patio in Torrance. Or call (800) 966-5654 for nearest location.

Saucy Deal

"Sauce Your Daddy Silly" is the slogan of the BBQ Sauce of the Month Club run by Scott O'Meara, the pit-master of a barbecue restaurant in a Kansas City suburb. O'Meara has a collection of more than 500 commercially produced but hard-to-find sauces. There are some truly unusual ones. The sample we got was Willingham's Sweet 'n' Sassy Wham Sauce, with an intriguing flavor that reminded us of a Chinese bean sauce (the secret ingredient turned out to be chocolate).

Along with the sauce of the month, you get a newsletter giving recipes and lore. For example, always cover your wood chips while you're smoking: "Soggy hickory chunks in water is a breeding ground for insects and puts off a smell that you won't believe." O'Meara also informs that fruit woods give a pink smoke ring, hickory a bright red smoke ring and oak a maroon oak ring.

Price is $30 for three months, $50 for six months, $90 for 12 months (prices include shipping and handling for U.S. orders); call (800) 873-0710.

When You're 'Cueless

If you don't have a smoker, or don't want to fire it up, or are camping out, you can get a smoked flavor using this foil food smoker bag. You put your food in the bag and heat it over a fire or even in an oven. Smoke from wood chips sandwiched between two bottom layers seeps out through perforations.

There are four flavors: mesquite, hickory, apple and alder. The company also recommends the latter two flavors for grilling fruits.

Available at Barbecues Galore stores, or call (201) 227-2426 for the nearest store; $3.95.

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