You know something’s not right when readers and now my neighbours have informed me they noticed I have not been barbecuing recently.
Yep, several readers recently let me know they miss my barbecue adventures, and on the weekend, my kind neighbour to the east, who enjoys her backyard when it’s not too hot out, said she hasn’t noticed the Big Green Egg going much lately.
They’re right. Ever since we had one bad experience on the egg a few weeks back, I’ve only cooked on it once.
I was low on lump charcoal and dumped what I had left into the Egg. There was one particularly humongous piece – part of a charred log, really.
Normally, the big pieces are best placed on the bottom, to help increase air circulation and to burn gradually if they’re needed in a long cook. But I stupidly left it right up top.
I decided instead to light the charcoal away from the big piece.
The whole idea is to let the burn expand so most of the coals in the Egg are burning. Of course, the underside of the big piece caught on fire.
That’s the problem. It burned rather than glowed.
When charcoal is at its optimum cooking temperature, it will glow and give off a little flame, and very little smoke. What smoke it does give is wispy and white in colour.
When the temperature isn’t right, it can burn too hot, or smolder. Smoldering gives off darker smoke, and that can impact the taste of the food being cooked.
On that day, I cooked some chicken breasts and peppers. Unfortunately, all you could taste when you bit into either, regardless of the seasoning, was the bitter smoke.
Now, as many know, you can add wood chips of a specific tree type to flavour your food. But you only add a few and place them strategically so they don’t burn all at once for longer cooks.
And they generally don’t smolder.
I’ve used cherry and apple wood chips for longer cooks, such as pork shoulder, but also have used them on pork chops or pork loin.
As for mesquite, we’ve used those wood chips on short, hot, steak cooks. The flavour of mesquite is a bit stronger, and is suited to shorter cooks as a result, in my opinion.
We ate the chicken and peppers, but it was my weakest cook yet on the Egg.
The next time, I moved the rest of the big piece to the bottom of the burn bowl and covered it with fresh, smaller pieces of charcoal. It had no impact on our cooking of juicy homemade hamburgers.
I’ve enjoyed a good number of frozen burgers on the Egg in the past, from various sources, but we were reminded how much better fresh, homemade burgers are. You can spice the meat all the way through, rather than just on the surface, for starters.
And you can make them just how you like them, and with your choice of ingredients.
The frozen burgers will do in a pinch when people pop over and that’s all you want to cook, but from now on, we’re treating ourselves to the homemade variety.
In the coming days, I’m heading back outside when my daughter’s dance schedule permits. I’m thinking more burgers, chicken and some pork chops are in order. Those pork chops are a simple and tasty option. I spice them with Dizzy Dust (you can get it at Schinkels’ Gourmet Meats in Chatham), and brush on some Sweet Baby Ray’s near the end of the cook to add some great tangy flavour.
As for the chicken, I’m thinking chicken wings. Brenna, our kid, commented we haven’t had wings in a while off the Egg. She’s right.
They’re best done on there at 375-400 F, direct heat, for about 20 minutes, flipping several times. Prior to landing on the barbecue, I season them liberally with Tsunami Spin (can’t get that here – we got ours at BJ’s Country Market in Delaware west of London).
My wife likes them without any sauce. Brenna is into Fighting Cock Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, and I like Moonshine Madness (both available locally at Schinkels’).
I like hot sauce, but not just pure heat. The Moonshine Madness has a bit of heat to it, but you also get to taste the peppers and other seasoning; and Fighting Cock has some spice, but a lot of flavour.
The next big cook comes up in early June. The Dance Moms are planning on having a tailgate meal between the afternoon and evening recitals. I’ve been tasked with doing pulled pork.
That means the pork shoulder goes on the Egg the Friday evening, cooks overnight, and will be finished about noon the next day. That means the sweet smell of slow-cooking pork will permeate the backyard overnight and into the Saturday morning. To the neighbours, sorry if your mouth is watering as a result.