TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - It takes more than a little snow to deter Canadian chef and pyrotechnic wizard Ted Reader from firing up the barbecue during the cold winter months.
With 106 barbecues, grills and smokers in his backyard, including a 10-foot, 3,500-pound trailer rig, Reader proves the art of barbecue can flourish anywhere.
The popular TV and radio personality has published more than a dozen cookbooks and launched his own line of BBQ sauces, planks and grills.
His latest book, "Napoleon's Everyday Gourmet Burgers" which will be released in the spring, features such culinary concoctions as burgers made with black cherries or stuffed with lobster and brie, as well as hot, sticky and quirky recipes such as a moose burger and a barbell-shaped patty tribute to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Reader, 46, spoke to Reuters about grilling, gender stereotypes and his childhood inspiration.
Q: What is the secret to grilling a perfect burger?
A: "Don't push it, don't squish it, don't cut it. Leave it alone. High heat lid open, low heat lid closed. It doesn't matter how you cook it, just don't mess with it. Take your time. With burgers usually the lid is open and you watch what's going on. A burger should be icy cold when it hits the grill unlike a steak, which you should bring to room temperature. But don't squish it. They key is every time you want to touch a burger have a sip of beer instead."
Q: What is it about barbecue and grilling that appeals to more men than women?
A: "The kitchen domain seems to be taken over by the women at home and that's by no means a negative. I think ladies do a fantastic job. In fact, women have a higher attention for detail than men do and they often become better barbecuers and grillers than men because they have the patience and that's what men need to find ... I'm married to a divorce lawyer so I have complete and utter respect for women. (Because I know I'm wrong.)
"But men tend to go out there and do it and they don't let the women come near their grill and they should because it should be a family affair. My wife is on the grill all the time, she gets out there and she cooks, and she'll tell me what she wants me to cook and I go out there and do it and it becomes a team effort."
Q: What inspired you to become obsessed with barbecue?
A: "I've always loved to cook. Ever since I was a little kid I had to learn how to grill on a wheelbarrow. My dad had this rickety old grill that fell to pieces with a rusted out bottom and instead of buying a new one ... he went to the woodshed at our property and he pulled out a big rusted out red wheelbarrow and filled it with charcoal, set it on fire, went in and took a shelf from my mother's refrigerator and the next thing you know we were cooking on a wheelbarrow for the next five or six years. Wherever I worked in kitchens as a chef I always seemed to gravitate toward the grill. And it just went from there."
Q: What is the most unusual thing you've ever tried to barbecue?
A: "Bubble gum. Mr. Wrigley asked me to smoke bubble gum to see what I could do on a barbecue. It doesn't work. Tastes horrible ... I've smoked chocolate. I've smoked rice. I've grilled eggs. I've made ice cream out of smoked chocolate. I've made ice cream out of charcoal that I've made from pineapple ... I've done spaghetti and meatballs on the barbecue."
Q: What is your latest favorite gadget?
A: "I love the Cajun Injector where you can inject flavors inside meats and things like that. I do this recipe called Plankies where I plank Twinkies. But I inject the Twinkies with a little bit of Jack Daniel's and so it's kind of evil. You can inject right into a chicken breast so if you want to put barbecue sauce right on the inside or put butter into that turkey as it's grilling outside, why not enhance that flavor. An injection needle is just a wonderful thing."
Q: Do you have any tips for grilling in the winter?
A: "Wear long johns, gloves -- and a toque is always great. And pre-heat your grill. Look at things that you can cook a little bit faster than what you would normally do in the summertime. So a steak is a great thing, a burger is a great thing, chicken breasts, things that aren't going to require you to stand out in the cold for a long period of time."
Plankies (Serves 4 to 8)
1 regular cedar plank, soaked in water
8 Twinkies (4 pkg)
3/4 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
6 Oreo cookies, smashed into chunks
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/4 cup chocolate toffee pieces
Preheat grill to medium-low heat. Arrange the Twinkies on the plank. Slather the top of the Twinkies evenly with Nutella. Sprinkle with mini Oreo chunks, marshmallows and chocolate toffee pieces.
Place plank on grill and close lid. Allow Twinkies to heat and smoke slowly for 15 minutes, until marshmallows are golden brown and everything is heated through. Remove from grill and serve immediately with a big glass of milk.
Editing by Patricia Reaney