So far, I've made plenty of steak, some rather simple chicken, pizza, and cornbread on the Big Green Egg. Everything's been quite good, with some obvious standouts (ribeye using the TRex method is REALLY good). Yesterday I made some incredible wings. However, until last night, I hadn't done a long, slow cook over a low temperature fire. I cooked a pork butt overnight, then put a fairly small cut of brisket on the fire this morning. Here are the highlights:
Charcoal quality matters!
BGE brand lump is pretty good stuff. I didn't know that until I compared it to Kingsford Charwood. I knew that the Kingsford stuff wasn't ideal, but it was cheap, and it was the only lump available without making a long drive. The small, crappy pieces at the bottom of the BGE bag were only slightly smaller than the biggest pieces from the Kingsford bag! Read on to find out why that sucks. I didn't notice a big difference in burn quality, aroma, or flavor...but a more seasoned Egger might.
Build a good fire!
For a low, slow cook, clean the firebox and put big pieces of lump at the bottom, being sure to leave plenty of room for air circulation. Smaller pieces at the bottom will burn quickly and the ashes will begin clogging the air holes. Oddly enough, the same technique works for building a searing hot fire. Either way, you want air to circulate well for the duration of the cook. I made the mistake of building a haphazard fire last night for an overnight pork butt cook. The temperature fluctuated WAY more than I wanted because the ashes kept clogging the firebox. This morning, I rebuilt the fire the right way before putting the brisket on, and things worked out much better.
Temp control, or more on fire quality!
Maintaining 350°F to 450°F is exceedingly easy. The further away from that range you get, the tougher it is to control the temp. A haphazardly built fire will easily heat to that range and allow you to maintain it for at least 90 minutes. To consistently achieve a hotter fire or a colder fire, you need to pay attention to your fire build. Once the fire is going steadily, AND it has good air flow, the Egg is very responsive to daisy wheel and draft door adjustments. I found that keeping the draft screen open gave more repeatable and responsive temperature adjustments. 1/8" to 1/4" draft door opening and just less than 1/2 a turn on the daisy wheel was more than adequate to keep 220°F to 250°F. However, the overnight cook required far more draft than that since the ashes kept clogging things up. Using a wiggle stick every few hours helped, but that wasn't the plan. I got less sleep than I thought I would due to my crappy fire. Because of my airflow issues overnight, I got a little gunshy with closing up the draft after rebuilding the fire. As a result, I cooked the brisket at around 260°F for the majority of the time.
Is it clear yet that how you build your fire directly affects nearly every aspect of the cook?!
The Egg is very forgiving. Despite my fire and temp control issues, I wound up with some very tender pulled pork and a tasty piece of brisket. The brisket got a touch dry since I cooked it at about 30° hotter than my 230°F target dome temp, but it's nothing a little sauce won't fix.