Tag: advice

How to Light a Big Green Egg

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.


Butcher Paper Brisket

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 wasn’t’ 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.


Tip: Freeze the Scraps

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.  



How to Light a Backwoods Smoker

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.

Hope this helps a few Backwoods owners!


Safe Food Handling Tips

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.


BBQ Ribs in 2 Easy Steps

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.

So my revised rib process looks like this:

  • Put the ribs on
  • Take the ribs off when they’re done

Doesn’t get much simpler than that!


The Most Important Ingredient in BBQ

While I’ve always appreciated good BBQ, I haven’t always been able to create good BBQ.  Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at it with a variety of different BBQ pits.  My failures usually left me thinking that it was an equipment problem.  Finally, after going through a couple of ECB’s (El Cheapo Brinkman water smokers) and an off-set cooker, I finally decided that maybe the common denomenator was the guy running the show.

I began to read a lot of the BBQ forums on line and decided to give it one more shot.  My folks had a gas powered, bullet smoker that they’d never used.  I pressed it into service and applied the techniques I’d read about and much to my surprise, I turned out some awesome pulled pork.  I finally realized the most important ingredient that I’d been missing in my previous attempts.

You see, I’d been following the FDA guidelines regarding safe temps for food preparation.  You know, those numbers printed on the back of meat thermometers and such.  I’d always pulled pork shoulder off of the cooker when it reached 165 degrees.  What I failed to realize is that while no one will die from eating pork cooked to 165 degrees, that doesn’t mean it’s done.  In fact, the magic is only starting when pork shoulder hits 165 degress.

The ingredient that I’d been missing all along wasn’t a rub, a sauce, or a cooker.  It was patience.  It turns out that you can’t rush good BBQ.  You can’t cook by your watch.  You have to cook by temperature (for the most part) and pork shoulder isn’t done at 165 degrees, it’s done at 195 deegrees.

So grasshopper, now that you know the secret.  Be patient, cause great things come to those who wait!


Trimming a Beef Tenderloin

Around my house my family only goes for one kind of steak, filet mignon.  Well that can be a pricey proposition.  In fact, the last time that I bought filets from the market they were running $23.95/lb.  Not the kind of thing I can afford to do very often.

So, I’ve been thinking about picking up a whole tenderloin and trimming it myself.  Today, I took the plunge and bought a small(ish) one at Sams Club.  The thing weighed in at a little over 5 lbs. and was priced at $9.98/lb.  Still expensive, but much more affordable than buying the steaks individually.

Now I’d never trimmed a tenderloin before but I figured, how hard can it be?  Well the step by step guidance was just a quick Google search away.  I should have known that I’d find all the video help I need on YouTube.  There I found two different videos and after spending less than 10 minutes in front of my iMac, I was ready.

I had the tenderloin trimmed and cut into steaks in less than 20 minutes.  I cut filets a little on the thin side since my family also thinks steaks (or any meat for that matter) should be well done and it’s tough to get a really thick steak done enough for them without charring the outside too much.

After marinating for about an hour, I put the steaks and baked potatoes on the Bubba Keg.  Man, they were every bit as good as the $23.95/lb steaks that I’d gotten at the market before.  And the best part is, I’ve got a nice piece of the tenderloin left.  I plan to smoke it on Monday and cut it thin for sandwiches next week.  I’ve got a taste for a steak panini.  Stay tuned for that!

Here are  links to a video that I found on Youtube.


My “Go-To” Sauce

I don’t usually make my own sauce or BBQ rub, cause I find that there are so many good sauces & rubs on the market. 

I’ll bet you’re like me and you find that you have a standard sauce that you go to for most things.  Mine is Sweet Baby Ray‘s original sauce.  As a result, I typically have a few open bottles with just a little bit left in the bottom.

Recently, I was doing BBQ beef on the Big Green Egg and as I got ready to pull and sauce the chuck roasts I realized that I had 5 partial bottles of Sweet Baby Rays.  I snapped this picture of all the wounded soldiers on my Big Green Egg table.

What’s your “go to” sauce?  Drop me a comment and let me know.