There a lots of ways to light the charcoal in a Big Green Egg. No one agrees on the best method, but everyone agrees that N-E-V-E-R use lighter fluid.
I’ve tried lots of methods, from starter cubes, charcoal chimneys, and even a napkin dipped in olive oil. But for me, the quickest and surest method is a MAPP Gas torch. This is a little different that a propane torch like you might use for sweating copper joints. The key differences are that MAPP burns a little hotter, and the biggie is that the torch will burn when you hold it upside down (as you would when sticking into the bottom of the Big Green Egg).
I recommend a self igniting torch with a locking trigger. That way you can tip the MAPP bottle up on end and rest it against the side of the pit with it lit. This is the one I use and you can pick it up at Amazon or your local home improvement store.
What’s your favorite method for lighting the charcoal in your pit? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know.
Over the past few months, I’ve been reading about this technique on the interwebs. I’ve tried wrapping my brisket in foil before, but frankly I prefer to cook it unwrapped. Now keep in mind, I’m not cooking for competitions or trying to cook a brisket in a short amount of time (usually). However, there are times when I’d sure like to be able to do one in less than 12 hours.
So this past weekend, I decided that I would cook one brisket on Saturday using the butcher paper method. If that was successful, I’d cook one on Sunday morning for my annual Daytona 500 gathering. If it wasn’t successful, I’d still have time to cook one overnight on the Big Green Egg. Seemed like a reasonable plan, all except for the $45 practice brisket.
In general, wrapping your brisket (or ribs, etc) after a couple of hours helps the meat finish sooner. There is some science behind this around how connective tissues break down etc, but frankly if you’re reading this because you’re looking for the science behind the process you should stop now and move along to another blog.
Most often, you’ll see folks wrap brisket in foil. But recently the notion of wrapping in butcher paper has become popular. Part of the theory is that the paper provides the same benefit in terms of helping the meat finish sooner, without the braising effect of foil.
So, I prepped my brisket:
Cooked indirect at 325 degrees for 4 hours
At 4 hours, I wrapped in butcher paper. Didn’t check temp, but wrapped when the bark had the right “look” and placed the brisket back on the cooker.
I probed the brisket through the paper and when I thought it felt tender and the temp was 200 degrees plus, I pulled it. Total cook time was about 6 hours.
Here’s the brisket as I unwrapped it:
The results? It just wasnt’ tender enough. You could say that I should have cooked it longer. Maybe, but it was also dry and if I’d cooked it longer it would have been even drier.
So the jury is still out for me. I don’t think this is a viable option for the Big Green Egg. I’ll try it again on the Backwoods Smoker and see if different cookers have different results. Stay tuned for more.
If you’re a serious backyard BBQ cook like me, you probably cook at home. In my neighborhood garbage pickup only happens once a week, and to make it worse it’s on Friday. That means this time of year, rib or brisket trimmings can sit in a garbage can in 90 degree heat for an entire week before the trash truck comes. Trust me, they can get pretty ripe in that time.
So I picked up this tip from some folks I know who are serious boaters. They have much the same problem when trying to manage garbage while underway for a few days at a time. It turns out, that all you need to do is make room in your freezer for the garbage that is likely to spoil or smell before it can be disposed of.
I’ve taken to double (or triple) bagging the trimmings and storing them in the extra refrigerator in my garage. Works like a champ, and now all I have to do is remember to put them in garbage on trash day.
Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been BBQ’ing for awhile, there comes a time when you need to evaluate the knives you’re using. After all, they’re a pretty important tool for the BBQ chef. I spent the first few years just using whatever fell to hand in the kitchen. But a few years ago, my wife presented me with a nice set of knives for Christmas. The difference has been night and day.
So here are a few things to consider if you’re in the market for knives.
Consider the type of blade and the maintenance. Some blades are harder to sharpen and some require professional sharpening, like serrated blades.
Like buying shoes, you need to try it on. Pick it up and feel how it fits your hand.
Buy individual knives rather than a set and buy the best knife you can afford. Buying a set is certainly acceptable, but you may find that there are knives in the set that you don’t use much.
And here are the knives that I’d recommend you start with.
The Chef’s Knife – This is a good all purpose knife that can be used for dicing, mincing, and slicing. Just be sure to buy one that’s comfortable in your hand and not too long.
A utility knife. This knife is longer than a pairing knife and used for miscellaneous cutting. Typicaly these knives have blades in the 4-6″ range.
The pairing knife. A short knife typically used for peeling or coring vegetables and smaller food items. These knives typically are 3-5″ long with a straight, sharp edge.
The only other knife that I’d add to get started is a serrated knife for slicing. Unfortunatley mine is MIA, but that’s a whole other blog post.
Sharpening Steel – Sharp knives are the most useful, so make sure you have a sharpening steel or some other tool to keep a good edge on whatever knife you use.
Remember, even when the world is at peace, a gentleman still keeps a blade by his side.
Wow, I thought I had documented this but realized that I hadn’t. I’ve been asked this question a few times, and it’s one of the most common questions asked over on the Backwoods Forum. Nonetheless, it’s worth covering for the pursposed of the readers here on GrllandBarrel.com.
Here are the steps that I follow:
Load ‘er up! I won’t get into the benefits of briquettes vs. lump in this post, but suffice to say that I burn briquettes only in my Backwoods smoker(s). That’s right, just the plain ‘ol blue bag from the good folks at Kingsford. I find I get a much more consistent and longer burn (in this cooker) with briquettes.
Open both sliding vents and the top vent completely. Top door shoudl be copletely closed.
I light the charcoal with a MAPP Gas Torch in the right front corner of the charcoal pan. There are lots of ways to light the charcoal, but I find that a torch held in one spot for 60 seconds or so is enough to get it going.
I then shut the firebox door, but I do not latch it. This leaves it slightly ajar and allows for more air flow.
I leave it like this until the temperature reaches 200 degrees. This can take 30-45 minutes.
Then I add water to the water pan, shut the left rear vent completely, close the firebox door, and close the right front vent 1/2 way.
If you’re adding wood chips or chunks, do it now.
In this configuration, the smoker will be completely up to temp in 60-75 minutes.
A couple of thins to note. My Pro Jr takes longer to come up to temp than my Fatboy used to, but that’s to be expected given that it’s much larger. Additionally on the Pro Jr, I close the exhaust vent 3/4 of the way to maintain cooking temps at ~250 degrees. With the Fatboy, I left the exhaust wide open at all times.
That’s how I do it. But there are debates about adding water before lighting, type of charcoal, source of ignition, etc. Find what works for you and stick with it. It’s important that you get some kind of routine down that’s repeatable, even if it isn’t this one. That way, you’ll be able to plan for start times when you cook.
If you spend much time BBQing and your results don’t suck, you’re likely to have folks ask you to cook for them. Now this can be as simple as an extra side of ribs for the neighbor on a Sunday afternoon, or it could border on a catering job. Either way safe food handling is extremely important, since the last thing you want is to make someone sick.
Now I don’t advocate amateur catering. If you’re heading down that track, then by all means get a business license, health department trained and inspected, insurance, and do it right. But for the rest of us who may turn in an occasional BBQ competition entry or send BBQ to an ailing friend, here a few tips to make sure everyone stays safe.
Safe Food Handling Tips:
Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within 2 hours of shopping or preparing; 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F.
Find separate preparation areas in the work space for raw and cooked food.
Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that held raw food.
Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and work surfaces frequently with hot, soapy water.
Keep hot food hot & cold food cold. You want to keep food out of the danger zone where bacteria can grow. The danger zone is from 40*-140*. This is important during preparation and transportation of food.
For God’s sake, wash your hands….often. It’s also a good idea to wear disposable gloves. They’re cheap.
And finally, WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! Don’t take chances. Your health and that of your guests isn’t worth serving questionable food. You can always order pizza! =)
With the holidays approaching and lots of opportunities to share our favorite foods during family gatherings, workplace luncheons, and so on, these few simple tips will ensure that everyone stays safe.
When I first began trying to create great ribs, I stumbled upon the 3-2-1 method. That’s the method that involves 3 hrs in the smoke, 2 hours in aluminum foil, and another hour in the smoke (or a variation of these times).
That method produces pretty good ribs, but there are some that say the time in foil is steaming the ribs, not BBQing them, etc. I say if you like your ribs that way then have at it. In fact, I was a 3-2-1 guy myself until this summer. I’ve had the chance to cook more ribs this season than ever and here’s what I’ve learned.
Foil…who needs it? Partly due to the fact that I’ve begun to cook on a Backwoods Fat Boy where doing a whole lot of ribs at once makes foiling a huge, time consuming effort, I no longer wrap my ribs in foil. The Backwoods & the Big Green Egg maintain a moist cooking environment and I don’t find that I need to bother with the foil to get great results.
Cooking at a little higher temp isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always tried to keep the cooker at 250*, but it turns out that most things are just as good at 275*. When demonstrating the Big Green Egg this summer, it was hard to keep the temp below 275* what with everyone wanting to see the meat on the cooker. Frankly, those are some of the best ribs I’ve done.
Patience, as I’ve stated earlier, truly is a virtue. Foiling the ribs and messing with all that always seemed like the magic to getting really tender, juicy ribs. But guess what, if you’re patient and let things take their own course, good things will happen.
3+2+1=6 Now I didn’t have to take up BBQ to learn that math, but my new approach to BBQ’ing ribs has them finishing in that amount of time or less…usually less. I think that foiling made me feel like I was a more integral part of the process than I really am. Frankly, the fire & the smoke are doing all the work and don’t really need my involvement othen than tending the fire.