“Project Fire: Cutting-Edge Techniques and Sizzling Recipes from the Caveman Porterhouse to Salt Slab Brownie S’Mores.” By Steven Raichlen, Workman Publishing, 2018. $22.95.

I was in college when my roommate shared his father’s go-to burger recipe and I learned my foundational grilling lesson.

Simple works.

A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce and some garlic powder when the burger went on the grill, and again when it was flipped. Thirty-five years later and my oldest daughter says, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like your burgers.”

Which, for a dad, is high praise indeed.

When I cracked open barbecue master Steven Raichlen’s cookbook, I quickly realized there is much more for me to learn, especially about the intricacies of using smoke to enhance flavor.

I was intrigued by some of the more esoteric recipes. Sure, it would be eye-catching to use a shovel to grill salmon steaks over an open fire. Maybe someday I will try to cook s’mores on a salt slab. I actually did go a bit daring and stuffed chicken breasts with Spanish ham and Manchego cheese and then coated them with saffron butter. That was so-so.

I appreciated that Raichlen – who my esteemed food editor tells me really does deserve the sobriquet “Shakespeare of Barbecue” – acknowledges that the vast majority of us backyard cooks are using gas grills, not charcoal or hardwood. Almost every recipe comes with notes on how to adapt to a gas grill yet still add an element of smoke.

But when it came right down to it, it was a simple maple-sriracha chicken drumstick recipe with a good bit of kick that really worked. For a couple of reasons. The drumstick is the original meat-on-a-stick vehicle. Anything you can eat while playing cornhole gets an extra star in my book. And, the recipe proved to be foolproof.

I had already purchased the couple ingredients I needed (only 10 total!) and intended to cook at home when we received a “come-on-over” from our fun in-laws on the first warm Saturday of spring. That meant I had to prep ahead of time and cook on a foreign grill. I forgot to turn down the heat (it’s supposed to be indirect) for the first 20 minutes. The glaze thickened in transit. Didn’t matter. Still tasted great, and a dozen drumsticks were rapidly devoured.

As we head to the summer grilling season, this is a praise-worthy recipe that you can pull off while being distracted by kids, dogs and malt beverages.

One note: For younger palates, this could be a bit too hot, especially if you stick an entire drumstick in your mouth and suck off all the sauce like one surprised 12-year-old test subject. He dropped the drumstick and ran off the deck screaming. His dad ate that piece.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig


Serves 4 to 6

Grilling time: 40 to 50 minutes over indirect heat


12 large chicken drumsticks, preferably organic (3 to 4 pounds)

1 tablespoon coarse salt (sea or kosher)

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

5 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/4 cup sriracha, or more to taste

3 tablespoons Scotch whiskey (preferably single malt)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, chives or scallion greens, for serving

1. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high. Just before cooking, brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well (Raichlen suggests using vegetable, not olive, oil for greasing).

2. Place the drumsticks in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and hot red pepper flakes, stirring to coat well with the seasonings. Stir in the olive oil.

3. Arrange the drumsticks, rounded side up, in a single layer in the center of the grill. Add the wood to the coals. If working on a gas grill, either put the wood chips in a smoker box (if your grill has one) or wrap the wood chips in heavy-duty foil, poke a few holes in the packet, and then place the smoking pouch under the grate, directly on the burner cover plate.

4. Close the grill lid. Indirect grill the drumsticks until the skin is crisp and well browned and the chicken is cooked through, 40 to 50 minutes. For maximum tenderness, cook the drumsticks to an internal temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Melt the butter in a saucepan over high heat. Stir in the maple syrup, sriracha and whiskey and boil until the mixture is syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

6. About 5 minutes before the chicken is done, brush each drumstick on all sides with the glaze. Repeat just before removing from the grill. Arrange the drumsticks on a platter and pour the remaining glaze over them. Sprinkle with cilantro (or other herbs) and serve.

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