Green Eggs and Blue Smoke
My wife gave me a Big Green Egg for my birthday. Whenever it comes up in conversation, we just say “BPE”. Best present ever. It was the perfect gift. The kind of thing that you would never purchase for yourself but something you desperately desire. It has been fun to play with. (A side note: my only word of warning to those considering the purchase is that it does require frequent cleaning to cook property. And cleaning it is a bit of a pain).
I smoked a pork butt in my Egg a few weeks ago using charcoal and hickory. I put the butt on at about 9pm, adjusted the vents…..then went to sleep. The next morning I woke up at about 7pm (I like my beauty sleep) and found it still cooking at about 240, exactly where I had left it the night before. The pork butt was cooked nicely, not as black as I would have liked (gimme that bark!) but very tender. Once it cooled down, it tore apart easily and the meat was tender and juicy.
The problem was the smoke. That may sound like an odd thing for a BBQ guy to say, but there are different types of smoke (as well as different types of wood). Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s BBQ (Austin) had a great line when asked whether he likes to keep the fire door of his smokers open: do you like to look both ways before crossing the street? His point was YES, keep that door open and give that fire lots and lots of air. He likes the mild, sweet flavor of “blue smoke”, smoke that comes from a free-burning fire that is fed plenty of oxygen. If you see a smoker cooking with this method, it generates very little cloudy smoke. Instead you see slightly discolored vapors coming out of the chimney. Blue smoke.
Now think about the fire in that Egg. It is suffocating. It gets very little oxygen and is continuously exhaling lots of white, cloudy smoke. On the bright side, it burns wood and charcoal very efficiently. That’s why I never had to get up in the middle of the night and feed the fire more hickory or charcoal. But that efficiency is coupled with some intense, smokey flavor. And in my opinion, if you are using hickory, that flavor is strong, overpowering and unappetizing.
I actually prefer a middle ground: a mixture of blue smoke and the kind of white puffy smoke that you see coming from an Egg. But to each his (or her) own. My advice to those who are smoking on the Egg is use a mild wood like pecan or apple. Hickory is too strong (and don’t even think about mesquite.)
Tonight I am moving on to next battle….porterhouse steaks on the Egg. My wife and I like the “black & blue” cooking style. Nice and charred on the outside and very, very rare on the inside. Like I said, best birthday present ever!