Today is June 20, 2021

Published 7:00 am Sunday, June 20, 2021

Are smokers the ideal gift for dad?

Father’s Day is a great time to show dads how much they’re appreciated. That Father’s Day occurs each June may not be a coincidence, as the end of spring and the start of summer is when many dads kick their grilling game into high gear.

Dads once had few options in regard to how cook their favorite foods outdoors. Thankfully, grills have emerged from their dark ages and entered what must be viewed as their very own renaissance period. A stroll through the outdoor cooking section of a local home improvement retailer will reveal an assortment of grills for sale, each with its own advantages.

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In recent years, many outdoor cooking enthusiasts have taken to smoking, a “slow and low” way of cooking that aims to impart smoky flavors to anything from brisket to Thanksgiving turkeys. Foods cooked on a smoker are cooked at low temperatures for long periods of time. Smokers come in many varieties, which reflects their growing popularity. But that variety can make it especially difficult to determine which smoker to purchase, especially for people looking to surprise the special men in their life this Father’s Day.

The following are some popular types of smokers that may delight dads this Father’s Day.

· Kamado grills: Kamado is the Japanese word for “stove” or “cooking range. The Big Green Egg® is perhaps the most widely recognizable brand of Kamado grill on the market, though there are plenty of alternatives now available as well. Kamado grills employ vents at the top and bottom to control temperatures, as users can open and close these vents to maintain the appropriate temperatures. Charcoal, typically lump charcoal, is placed in the bottom of the grill and food and water pans are placed on grates above the fire. The oval shape of a Kamado grill directs the smoke and heat over the food, which helps to create the smoky flavor people love. Many people also use Kamado grills to cook more traditional backyard barbecue fare, like hot dogs and hamburgers, which does not require the slow and low method, and some even use theirs to bake desserts or cook pizzas.

· Drum smokers: Drum smokers won’t offer the aesthetic appeal of Kamado grills, but some grilling fans like them because of the build-your-own kits that make the entire grilling experience more hands-on. Build-your-own drum smokers won’t cost nearly as much as more expensive smokers, but Father’s Day shoppers should make sure that Dad will enjoy building the smoker from scratch. Modifications to drum smokers that make it possible to cook with a water pan might be worthwhile, as cooking without such an accessory can make it easy to dry out foods.

· Electric smoker: Electric smokers may be an ideal choice for the father who loves the taste of smoked foods but doesn’t want to spend all day worrying about temperatures and fiddling with vents. Electric smoker users can set the temperature, sometimes via their smartphones, and then spend the rest of their days as they please. A computer within the smoker controls the temperature throughout the day while wood and water pans at the bottom of the device impart a smoky flavor to Dad’s favorite foods.

· Propane smoker: A propane smoker employs gas, typically propane, and utilizes a bottom burner and vents to cook foods placed in the cooking chamber. However, propane smokers do not produce smoke on their own, so users typically place wood chips near the burner for that signature smoky flavor. Much like with electric smokers, it tends to be easier to control temperatures with propane smokers than with Kamado grills or drum smokers.

Smokers are growing in popularity and can make for the perfect gift this Father’s Day.


How to keep gardens safe in summer heat waves

Summer is a season to relax and enjoy the warm weather. Basking in the summer sun is a great way to relax, but only when the temperatures are safe. Summer heat waves can compromise the health of human beings as well as their pets. Gardening enthusiasts also may need to go the extra mile to keep their plants and gardens from wilting under harsh summer sun.

Extreme heat stress can be very harmful to plants. The online gardening resource Gardening Know How notes that some plants can withstand summer heat waves better than others. For example, succulents conserve water in their leaves, helping them to withstand heat waves when the dog days of summer arrive. But succulents are unique, and many plants will require a little extra help to withstand a heat wave.

· Take a proactive approach with mulch. Gardeners need not wait until the heat arrives to protect their plants from searing summer heat. The sustainable living experts at Eartheasy recommend utilizing light-colored mulch during heat waves. Such mulch will reflect the sunlight and help to maintain cooler surface soil conditions. Eartheasy even notes that grass clippings, once they’ve turned from green to light brown, can make for the perfect mulch to protect plants from the heat. Clippings also are free, making them a cost-effective solution.

· Water wisely. The horticultural experts at Yates Gardening note that water only helps plants withstand heat waves if it’s applied effectively. If water is only applied in short bursts and not long enough so it can penetrate all the way to the root zone, roots will then stay near the surface. In such instances, roots will dry out during a heat wave and plants won’t make it through the season. Timing also is essential when watering. Eartheasy recommends watering in the morning to avoid heat scald and also ensure as little water is lost to evaporation as possible. When watering during a heat wave, do so by hand rather than through a sprinkler. Hand watering allows gardeners to direct all of the water onto the plants that need it most during a heat wave.

· Let your plants pitch in. When planting new plants, it’s important that gardeners recognize it takes time for these plants to establish their roots so they’re strong enough to withstand heat waves. In the meantime, strategic planting can help them make it through their first heat waves unscathed. Eartheasy notes that planting by taller, more established plants can provide new plants with shade that can help them survive heat waves. Just make sure new plants can still get the sun they need to thrive.

Heat waves are inevitable and potentially harmful to gardens. Gardeners can help their plants beat the heat in various ways.