Category Archives: food

Brined, Smoked Turkey

We decided an office Thanksgiving celebration was in order. Several things helped us reach this conclusion… 1) it’s near Thanksgiving, 2) we like getting the whole office together for a meal, 3) we really like getting together for a Big Green Egg meal, and 4) we had never tried a turkey on the Egg. Case closed – it was time for a turkey on the Egg that would feed everyone and make us all happy! Crazy expectations, ho!

Having never smoked a turkey on the Egg, I did a bit of research on the interwebs and googletubes, and decided that I would brine the turkey first, then estimate about 20 minutes per pound at 300F, but pull it off early if we hit 160F internal. I decided not to use any flavored chips, because I didn’t want to overpower the brine or the aromatics I was going to add.

We got our turkey, a 24 pound Butterball, and set to work. First up was to just let the turkey sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days. It wasn’t quite enough… when we opened it up to prep for the brine dunk, the bird was still pretty well frozen. So, what’s a Mainer to do? I had my friend reach his hand into the frozen bird and wrestle out the giblets and neck! Of course, we were running cold water over it the whole time to aid in the extraction… It was quite the show of suction noises and gushing water. Hey, thanks, Derek!

The plan was to let the bird sit in the brine for about 36-48 hours, which we did do.

For the brine (4 gallons):
2 c kosher salt
2 c brown sugar
2 T dried rosemary (or 6-8 sprigs fresh rosemary)
2 sweet onions, quartered
Rind of 2 oranges
8 cloves garlic, smashed but otherwise whole

For the aromatics:
4 lemons, quartered
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
8-10 sprigs fresh sage
2 sweet onions, quartered
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 red potato, cubed

Mix all the brining ingredients in a large bowl. Add a gallon of water and dissolve as much as possible. Pour into large plastic bag (large enough to hold the turkey plus liquid… we used clear plastic liner bags and tied off the excess) or a plastic tub (if using this option, use one that is a tight fit for the turkey to ensure full coverage by the liquid). Pour another gallon of water into the bowl and dissolve any remaining salt & sugar, then add to the bag. Add remaining two gallons of water to bag, then lift the turkey into the bag. Tie it off so that the turkey is fully surrounded by liquid. Then, swish it around a bunch to finish mixing.

We then set the bag into a large plastic tub, filled the tub with clear water, covered it, and set it out in our un-heated entry way. Thanks to a vent, the entry way would not get below freezing (it’s November in Maine… so cold is an issue at night), and it also wouldn’t get too warm during the day. The bird thus sat for roughly 40 hours.

The day of the feast, I arrived at the office at 0200 (that’s 2 a.m. for you civilians) and prepared the aromatics, removed the turkey from the brine and rinsed it off, and got the Big Green Egg firebox started. I fashioned some grill handles out of heavy duty electric fence wire (donated from our horses… I did ask permission, but ignored all the nays), set the turkey on it, then stuffed that puppy with the aromatics. Stuffed both in the large cavity, and up front under the breasts. I also decided to cut up some extra potatoes, and put them in the drip pan along with apple juice.

Just for grins, I squeezed some lemon juice onto the turkey.

Once the Egg had stabilized (all vents open) at 350F, I put the bird on, at 0330. The temperature dipped to about 250, then slowly started to climb. At that point, I cut the vents to about 50% each, and monitored the temperature about every 30 minutes, keeping it between 250 and 350F. My plan was to let it smoke until about 1130, then let it rest 20 minutes before carving… serving at noon.

Eh, that’s sort of how it worked out!

Keep in mind, it’s November in Maine… the overnight temperature was under 20F… and that meant that the Egg had to consume more fuel to maintain its 300F average temperature. I should have known this, but when I filled the firebox I was a little groggy from lack of sleep… so at about 0930, we ran out of fuel! Fortunately, the aforementioned Derek was in the office, too, and as I lifted the turkey out of the Egg, he tossed in more charcoal onto the remaining embers. Also fortunately, we caught it in time for there to be embers, and they started the new charcoal up quickly. In the meantime, we had our turkey covered in foil in the kitchen… hoping for the best.

Even with the interruption in cook time, we hit our desired internal temperature (160 in the breast, 175 in the thigh) early, by 1115. So, off it came, and I just let it rest a full half hour before starting to carve.

All the while, the hustle and bustle of the rest of the office was going on as other folks brought in some fantastic sides and deserts! We also had a bit of a grill vs grill thing going… another friend had brought in her small Traeger smoker to put some smokey goodness into a ham (the ham was pre-cooked, so just needed some flavor). It was a great day!

For carving, I wanted everyone to get a bit of all the good parts, so I pulled it all apart and sliced up the breast so there was a bit of skin down to a bit of tenderloin in every serving. I left the drumsticks and wings whole, but sliced up the thighs for lovely dark meat.

Well, then the best part… the eating! I have never, ever had turkey that was this smooth, this moist, and this absolutely delicious! And I’ve eaten a lot of turkey in my days… but the brine and the Egg really just did a fabulous job.

In a way, I felt bad… lots of comments were of the form, “Well, thanks, now you’ve ruined my own Thanksgiving, because I know the turkey won’t be this good!” Sorry, guys! But my plan for my own turkey, since I don’t have an Egg at home, is to still use the brine process… I think that did the majority of the work, tenderizing and moisturizing the bird. So, we’ll still have an oven roasted (rather than smoked) turkey, but it will be brined, and I bet it will be almost as good as what we all got to experience the other day.


A Journey of “Meat and Three”

We’ve been playing with our Big Green Egg pretty hard. Many of the results have landed on this blog. But, with all that bar-b-que, we had never done any ribs! I know! What the frack were we thinking? Well, it just so happened that we needed to do another Big Green Egg event at work… and a solid food blog I follow (Griffin’s Grub) had literally just posted a whole thing on baby back ribs. The cards had been played, I could not deny it any longer!

So what’s all this about a “meat and three” then?

The ribs on the Egg, with my home-made spacers.

The phrase “meat and three” was unknown to me, until I traveled to our corporate office in Nashville. It is simple: choose a meat, choose three sides, order a sweet tea (iced tea with plenty of sugar, maybe some lemon), and enjoy. The beauty of it is that when a place offers three or four good meats (generally a brisket, ribs, sausage, and chicken) and five or six awesome sides (typically mac & cheese, bbq beans, fried okra, fried string beans, corn bread, etc.), then the possible combinations are just fantastic!

Heck, just for grins, here’s the statistics… Assume a place has four meats, and six sides. One may be tempted to use the simple rules of combinations to figure out how many variations on choosing side dishes we could have – and this would be a “6 choose 3” problem:

(6 * 5 * 4) / (3 * 2 * 1) = 20 different combinations.

However, that is only allowing us one of each side! Sometimes, you just need two helpings of potato salad and some fried okra! Removing the restriction of “only one of each” means we have to account for additional possibilities. We do this by adding 6 and 3, then subtracting 1. So, it becomes an “8 choose 3” problem:

(8 * 7 * 6) / (3 * 2 * 1) = 56 different combinations of sides!

Since we can only choose one meat per meal, that one is easy… there are 4 ways of picking a meat. So, in total:

4 * 56 = 224 different meals possible!

Statistics are pretty cool… but, back to the story at hand. Having purchased 15 pounds of quality baby back ribs, and having done my research, I knew I would need some way of keeping them “on end” in the smoker – there is just not enough room to have them all lay flat. I didn’t have time for a lot of engineering, so the morning of the cook, I just grabbed some fence wire (we have horses, and an electric fence that’s about 1/3 mile in perimeter) and a pair of needle nose pliers. I figured I’d just fashion something once I got there and could “touch and feel” a solution.

A little Geary’s Autumn Ale and some butter to tenderize!

The night before, I had prepped the ribs. Rubbed with brown mustard, then with a combination of Jamaican jerk seasoning and Stubbs BBQ rub (equal amounts of each), then wrapped in plastic and set in the fridge.

Now, it was 5am, and I was at the office, taking out the ribs to get closer to room temperature, and setting up my plan. I cut up a bunch of wire, and bent them into little triangles with loops on the ends to catch the grill. I had the grill off the Egg, on a table, to do the work. It seemed pretty solid, so I added the ribs, and set it aside.

Once the Egg was up to temperature (250F), I dropped in a foil packet of mesquite chips, set the heat diffuser in place (a big aluminum pan that also acts as a drip pan), and lowered the entire grill/hanger/rib assembly into place! Buttoned it up and started the waiting game.

Per recommendation, I let them smoke for 2.5 hours. Then, I pulled the entire grill/hanger/rib assembly out of the Egg, and began Phase 2… tenderizing. This involved putting three thin pats of butter on each rib rack, setting it on foil, and pouring on a little beer (Geary’s Autumn Ale, brewed in Portland, Maine), then wrapping it up in more foil. Back on the Egg for another 45 minutes, still at 250F.

Finally, Phase 3… crisping. Pulled everything out again, removed all the foil, and set the ribs on the Egg one last time, with a handful of fresh mesquite chips on the coals, for a final smoke. I let it go another 1.5 hours, but I don’t think it was quite enough. The meat was “done” but the surface didn’t crackle… Next time, I will do a high temperature “finish” in the final hour… let the Egg get up to 500F, then close it up completely and let it slowly cool. That technique worked really well with some pulled pork, and it may give me the effect I was missing. After letting the ribs rest for a half hour, we cut them into two-rib segments and started the feast!

Well, that’s the “meat” portion… what about the “three”? Fortunately, my co-workers rescued me. We had mac & cheese, cornbread, and Caesar salad ready to go by lunchtime, and a bonus of a chocolate zucchini cake! All in all, it made a wicked yummy lunch.

A plate of “meat and three” with sauce.

[Photo credits: Wanda Clowater]

Burgers del Anaheim

You know how sometimes you get really into enjoying a certain style of food? Well, maybe not just “sometimes.” The point is, you get so into it that you forget or exclude other foods… maybe you even “poo poo” them, talk them down, give them a bum rap, get their gristle on.

This can even happen with individual ingredients, and so it had with me and the Anaheim pepper.

For the longest time, I thought of the Anaheim as a “lightweight” chili… it’s pretty low, certainly, on the Scoville scale (500 – 5,000 according to wikipedia), and why would you choose an Anaheim when you could have a Jalapeno or a Habanero? You know, a manly chili pepper!

But I was doing a little reading, and stumbled on an idea about meatloaf… but I applied it to burgers… burgers with a difference! And, Oh! what a difference!

So much of cooking is figuring out how to impart the most flavor, without having one aspect of a dish overpower another. Balance. Intensity. It’s a fine line… a lot of “ins” a lot of “outs” a lot of “what-have-yous”.

The simple idea that I found in my reading was to make puree out of ingredients that you wanted to use to add flavor, but not alter the texture of the dish. I immediately thought of my burgers, which I generally mix up with minced onion and garlic and peppers… that my daughter complains about!

The plan was simple: puree up some onion and jalapeno, mix it up with some burger meat, and grill away! But, the jalapeno was way overpowering… even for someone like me who loves spice… and this was even after trimming out the seeds and inner flesh. So, I turned to the Anaheim, and fell in love all over again.

Using a puree of onion and Anaheim, the finished burgers were so juicy and flavorful! Perfect onion flavor, a fruity/nutty thing from the Anaheims… Even my daughter loved them… the comment was, “Well, I guess I like onion flavor, just not chunks of onion.” Puree = magic! I think anytime I want an infusion of flavor, a simple puree may be just the way to go.

2 pounds ground beef (80%)
1 pound ground pork (80%)
2 Anaheim peppers
1 small, white onion
Salt & pepper to taste
8 slices American cheese
8 lovely rolls, lightly toasted or grilled

Cut up the Anaheims, removing the seeds. Quarter the onion. Add to the blender with some salt and pepper. Puree.

Combine all ingredients, mix with hands until more or less uniform. Form into 8 patties.

Get the grill up to decent heat (high, or 500F). When placing the patties, push a thumb-sized dimple into the center (this keeps the burger from becoming rounded). Grill for 3-5 minutes. Turn. Grill another 2-3 minutes, then add cheese. Finish for 1-2 final minutes.

Personally, I serve them with a bit of mayo and sliced avocado, but the possibilities are endless!

Cran-Apple Slaw

In anticipation of an upcoming entry on the smoked Boston Butt I’m preparing overnight tonight, I felt it appropriate to first share the workup for the yummy slaw that will adorn each of the pulled pork sandwiches we’ll be serving!

This makes a LOT of slaw… Unless you’re cooking for more than a dozen people, or really enjoy left-over slaw, reduce this puppy.

1 green cabbage
2 pink-crisp apples
1 small red onion
2 lemons
1 pkg (10 oz) Craisins
2 T spice blend
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 c mayo

Cut the cabbage, apples, and onion into thin strips. Add the juice from the lemons, and toss to coat.

Add Craisins and spice blend to the cabbage mixture. Add the vinegar, and combine. Finally, add the mayo and stir well. Let sit in refrigerator for one or more hours before serving.

For the spice blend, I like a combination of chipotle chili powder, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and salt. Use whatever proportions seem reasonable. For me, half of it is the chili powder, on downward in order of listing to fill the other half.

Egg & avocado tacos


Yes, just let it sink in. Breakfast.

On a rush-to-work day, my breakfast might be just a Chobani yogurt. Yummy, but… really? On the weekends, though, I like making a quick, tasty breakfast based on huevos rancheros, which I call Egg & Avocado Tacos.

I am using super fresh eggs… literally, I go outside in the morning and fetch the eggs from our chickens! It is impossible to beat the flavor of  eggs from happy, contented hens. We feed our chickens various fruit and veggie scraps, along with the occasional bits of barley. Otherwise, they free range about the homestead. In the winter, they get actual grain feed… which costs only about $12 for a 50 pound bag! If you have a little open space, raising a half-dozen egg-laying chickens is highly cost effective. And the eggs… yolks so dark yellow… so delicious!

This recipe is what I make for myself. It ends up making four tacos. You may not eat like I do… in which case, either cook for friends & family, or make more, depending on how your appetite scales to mine!

2 T olive oil
3 fresh eggs
1/4 c heavy cream
salt & black pepper to taste
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
4 corn tortillas
4 small handfuls of shredded cheese (I like 1/2 Monterrey Jack, 1/2 cheddar), one for each tortilla
Seasoned salt, to taste
1/2 avocado, cut lengthwise into four slices
Sriracha sauce

Beat the eggs & cream. Get a decent fry pan hot, on high. Add the oil.

Egg and Avocado TacosExecution
Once the oil is streaking in the pan, add the beaten eggs & cream. Let sit for a few moments until it begins to stiffen on the bottom. Then, with a wooden spatula, pull from outer edge in toward the center, gathering the scrambled egg in the middle of the pan. You can move the pan around to redistribute any remaining liquid egg/cream.

After the first such “gathering to the center”, add salt & black pepper to taste (a couple pinches of salt, and 8-10 turns of the pepper mill are what I use) and the crushed red pepper. Stir it all together as you continue to pull cooked egg to the center. Don’t overcook! Scrambled eggs should still be somewhat damp (not runny) when they come out of the pan; they will continue cooking on their own as you heat the tortillas.

Reduce heat to medium. Using the same pan, place two tortillas on the pan. Once the tortillas start to “bubble” and rise in a spot or two, turn over. Add cheese to tortilla, spreading more or less evenly. Just as the cheese melts, toss on a pinch of seasoned salt. Remove from pan when cheese is fully melted. Repeat with remaining two tortillas.

To assemble the taco, take one tortilla, 1/4 of the scrambled eggs, and a slice of avocado. Drizzle on a bit of Sriracha sauce. Fold, eat, repeat! Accompany with a nice, strong coffee.

Oh, you may wonder why there are only two tacos in the photo, when I said the recipe makes four… I did mention this was breakfast, right? These were the two still remaining by the time I found my camera!


The Calculus of smoking a roast

Isaac Newton is a pretty bright coal in the fire pit of the scientific world. Okay, maybe he had his personal problems, but he was a brilliant thinker. One of his strongest assets was being able to find the simplicity and identify the essence of a complicated problem. His basic observations of natural phenomena became translated into elegant mathematical expressions.

One such example is Newton’s Law of Cooling and Heating. Our everyday experience tells us that ice cubes placed in hot water will melt faster than ice cubes placed in cold water. Newton’s observation was that any object’s temperature changes more quickly the larger the difference in temperature between that object and its surroundings is. A more mathematical-sounding expression would be:

(1) The rate of change in temperature of an object is proportional to the difference in temperature between the object and its (assumed) constant environment.

Well, mathematics is a wonderful language… we can express mathematical ideas both in words, as I just did in equation (1) above, and we can also express the same ideas, usually more succinctly, in symbols, as I will do in equation (2) below. Both equation (1) and equation (2) say and mean exactly the same thing!

(2) dT/dt = k(T – Te)

Here, we’re letting the symbol T represent the temperature at any time, t. We might also write this as T(t), but that gets cumbersome. T is fine. The little d means “a very small change.” So, the first part of equation (2) means, a very small change in T during some very small interval of time, dt. This is also called the “instantaneous change” of T, or the derivative of T with respect to time, t. From equation (1), it is associated with the part saying the rate of change in temperature.

We also see in equation (2) the letter k, which is often used to express constant values. In our case, it is representing what we call a “constant of proportionality,” which is a fancy way of saying “scaling factor.” It’s a mathematician or physicist’s way of hedging their bets. We know that the change in temperature is somehow related to the difference in temperatures, but we’re not ready to commit to a single numeric value. Besides, different materials may have different ways they respond to temperature, and the goal is to keep things as generalized as possible. From equation (1) it is associated with the part saying is proportional to.

The last part of equation (2) is the difference, or subtraction, of Te from T. We’re letting Te represent the assumed constant temperature of the surrounding environment. Why do we assume it is constant, and is that a valid assumption? Well, we assume it is constant because it makes the math easier! So much of physics is finding ways to simplify the complex world so that we can better understand it, even if slightly imperfectly. Besides, in practice, in an experiment, we can control the surrounding temperature by keeping our object in a water bath, or keeping it in a refrigeration unit. But is it a valid assumption to make in nature? Try this thought experiment: put an ice cube into the ocean. The ice cube will melt – it is obviously changing temperature. How much cooler is the ocean because it gave some of its heat to melt the ice cube? The change in temperature is immeasurably small! There’s so much more mass of water in the ocean compared to the mass of a single ice cube. We consider “the environment” to be something like the ocean – a large enough mass of material (water, air, whatever) so that any heat that is transferred into or out of it will not measurably change its temperature. Therefore, from equation (1), it is associated with  the difference in temperature between the object and its (assumed) constant environment.

So, how do we solve this equation? For that, we need integral calculus. But first, we need to rearrange equation (2) into a more useful form (this doesn’t change any of the truth of the equation, just makes it easier to work with):

(2a) dT / (T – Te) = k dt

All I did was swap the dt and the (T – Teparts around. No blood, no foul. Now, we have each side of the equation with its own d term. On the left is dT, a very small change in temperature, and on the right is dt, a very small change in time. When each side of an equation has its own “very small ____________” then we can integrate the entire thing. Integration is the process of undoing all the little d terms… turning them from “very small change in” expressions into regular old expressions. So, if we integrate dt all by itself, we just get t. If we integrate dT all by itself, we just get T. The trick is that the left side of equation (2a) doesn’t just have dT; it also has a T on the bottom there, and that complicates it a bit.

The complication need not stop our progress, though. There are entire, large, print volumes dedicated to cataloging all the integration rules. There are also many available on the intertubes. As it turns out, when we have a dT divided by a T (substitute any variable, as you like), then the result isn’t just T, it is the natural logarithm of T.

So, what the heck is a natural logarithm? What’s a regular logarithm, forget “natural”! When we write something like 102 = 100, there are hoighty-toighty mathematical labels for each of the numbers. The 10 is the base, the 2 is the exponent or power. So, in a regular sentence, we might say, “Ten raised to the power 2 is one hundred.” Great. But we were talking about logarithms… Well, what if we were asked, “What power do we need to raise 10 by in order to get 100?” or equivalently, “100 is 10 raised to what power?” That’s where logarithms (aka, logs) come in. The base-10 log of 100 is 2. And, wait now… 2 is also the power you need to raise 10 by to get 100! Let’s just put it out there:

(3) 102 = 100

(4) log10100 = 2

Just to confirm this… The base-10 log of 1,000 would be 3, because 103 = 1,000. Okay.

Natural logs, then, are just logs that have a specific base, different from base-10. For natural logs, the base is the number e = 2.71828-ish (the number keeps on going…). The number e has a fascinating history. The way we write “natural log” in symbols is ln. So, to say “the natural log of 4” we’d write ln(4). Logs (natural and otherwise) have a pretty cool set of rules, which I won’t really go into, except to say that:

(5) ln(10) – ln(3) = ln(10 / 3)

We can convert a difference of logs into a single log of the quotient of the same numbers! Freaky cool! Anyway, we’ll leverage that in our eventual answer, but I don’t want to bog down with more detail than I’ve already included.

Like I mentioned above, the integration of dT / (T – Teis going to involve a natural log. The integration of k dt is just going to be kt. Let’s write it all out.

(6) ln (T – Te) | To -> T = kt

Well, I’ve introduced a whole new thing here, not the least of which is a new variable, To , which is the starting temperature for our object. An ice cube might have To = 32 F. The rest of the new stuff just tells us to evaluate the natural log from the starting temperature to our variable temperature, T. It results in this:

(7) ln [ (T – Te) / (ToTe) ] = kt

Hey, we’re done! That’s what we need, is equation (7). Let’s recap what it all means, quickly. T is the current temperature of our object at a specific time, t. For our purposes, it’s the temperature of our roast. Te is the temperature of the environment. For our purposes, it’s either the temperature of the air (if we’re letting the roast sit following a stint in the fridge), or the temperature of our grill or smoker. To is the starting temperature of the object. For our purposes, it’s the starting temperature of our roast (about 40 F if you just pulled it out of the fridge).

Oh, but wait… we don’t know what k is! And we can’t know this ahead of time. We have to calculate it for our particular piece of meat. But it is not difficult. Let’s walk through an example. I did this very thing just the other day when I was trying to figure out how long to smoke a 15 pound rib eye roast.

I pulled the roast out of the fridge at 04:00. Using a temperature probe, I found it was 38F. It set it out on the table, on a rack, but otherwise in the open. The temperature in the room was 72F. By 06:30, the roast had risen in temperature to 45F. That’s all the information I needed to calculate my roast’s value of k!

In this case, T = 45, To = 38, and Te = 72. Also, = 2.5 hours. I used the scientific calculator on my computer because it had a natural log function. I calculated = -0.09220946. And that’s all I need, now, to find how long I have to cook this roast, for it to get to any temperature I want!

For this roast, I wanted to smoke it at 220F, and pull it off at an internal temperature of 115F, because I was then going to “reverse sear” it by running the Big Green Egg at 500F for 30 more minutes. Best estimates meant that this would bring it to 125F, and then it would rest for a time, rising another 5 to 10 degrees, for a finished internal temperature of 130-135F, a nice rare roast!

Now, T = 115, To = 45, and Te = 220. Plugging in the numbers, and using my value for k that I calculated, above, I found that I needed to smoke my 15 pounds rib eye roast for just over five hours. Perfect! Since I had to be serving at 1pm, I just backed off the smoke time and the “reverse sear” time and the rest time… and saw that I needed to get the roast on the Egg at 06:45. Brilliant! No guess work! And the roast came out perfectly done… rare and beautiful.

Now, you could argue that since I had a temperature probe, why not just use that, and pull the roast off when it hit 115F, and so on. Sure, that is great when you don’t have a time constraint… but I needed to serve this roast at precisely 1pm… there was no wiggle room! And when there’s no wiggle room, you can’t just guess; you have to use math and science.

Onion glazed smoked rib eye roast

Is there any doubt that food binds a community together? Whether it’s Christmas dinner or a 4th of July picnic, our best dining is generally part of an ecosystem of relationships… our relationships to one another, and to the food, in preparation, presentation, and ingestation. Although I work for a relatively large company, our “branch” location in the metropolis of Skowhegan, Maine, is a close-knit group. There are roughly 30 of us there. We all know each other well. We’re friends and family. We know each others’ kids.

So when we found out that a friend and coworker was coming back to our campus for a visit, well, it was time to eat!

I wanted to reprise my smoked paprika chicken, as I had tweaked the recipe a bit to give them more kick. Check, that’s on the menu. However, some of the folks wanted a reprise of the Great Brisket Experiment of 2012. That involved an overnight stay at the office (our Big Green Egg is courtesy of our friends at our corporate location in Nashville), and lots of mistakes! Well, why not? One of the blokes got his hands on 15 pounds of rib eye roast… let’s get that again… 15 pounds of rib eye roast! And I, I took the road traveled by the freaking butcher! The thing was beautiful… and was delivered Wednesday morning for a Thursday lunch.

Okay, so letting it be suspended in mid-air to age for a week was out… I decided to go with a variation on a wet rub I’d used before… based mostly on sweet Vidalia onions, which I thought would stand in nice contrast to the now spicy paprika chicken. Why not a simple dry rub? Well, because I wasn’t in the mood for that.

Lunch had to be served at 1pm. I wanted the roast to rest for 45 minutes prior. I wanted to “reverse sear” the roast for 30 minutes before that… and so on. I had to determine when it need to go on the BGE. I knew I wanted to smoke it between 220F and 250F for at least several hours, but to answer the question of when to put it on, I had to turn to Isaac Newton and his Law of Cooling. I’m going to write a whole separate post about that, because I love math… and I got to combine differential calculus with rib eye roast! How much more perfect could applied mathematics really be?

Well, here’s what I did:

Gorilla in the mist

Make onion glaze. Cut hash marks in fatty side of the roast. Rub glaze all over that roast. I mean, all over. Yeah, there. Ooh, there too! Turn roast fatty side down, cover and sit it in fridge overnight. Remove from fridge 2-3 hours before smoking.

Ingredients (for onion glaze)
2 Vidalia onions, cut into rough chunks
1 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
4 T fresh ground black pepper
2 T kosher salt
1 T crushed red pepper flakes

Put all ingredients into blender. Slowly pulse until you can run it on blend or puree, or whatever setting you like. I like to leave it a little chunky. Glaze is done.

So, on the Big Green Egg, I filled up the fire box and got it all going. Got it hovering at 300F, then threw on two big hand-fulls of mesquite wood chips. Immediately put down the drain pan (which also acted as an indirect heat diffuser) and the grill, then added the roast, and closed up the Egg. This was at 06:30. I had been in the office since 04:00, doing work while waiting for the roast to come up from 38F internal after all night in the fridge! Then began the “it’s been 30 minutes… time to check the Egg” process. Only a few adjustments were needed.

At 11:45, I pulled the roast off the Egg, got it up to 500F, added more mesquite, and put the roast back on. The smoke billowing from the chimney just made me feel happy… and at this point in the morning, I smelled entirely of smoke! I closed all the vents, and just let it stew in smokey goodness for another half hour, at which point I removed it from the Egg and brought it inside.

Once inside, it went right onto a cooling rack (a rack is important to not steam the bottom of the roast, thus opening passages for the loss of juices) over a tray, and it sat uncovered for 15 minutes. It was now 12:30… right on schedule! For the remaining 30 minutes, the roast sat under a foil tent… and once everyone started to arrive, well, we just had to cut into it, didn’t we?


[Photo credits: Derek Price (me and the Egg), and Wanda Clowater (the sliced roast)].

Bacon Wrapped Pesto Meatloaf

Meatloaf. Just the word itself makes my tongue tingle. Meatloaf and gravy on mashed potatoes. Meatloaf and crisp sweet corn. Meatloaf sandwiches…

Oh, yes, meatloaf sandwiches! Are you kidding me? A nice thick slice of yesterdays meatloaf, cold from the icebox, placed gently on lightly toasted sunflower seed bread… [Oh, yes!] with a slathering of creamy mayo and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese [Oh, yes, yes!] The juxtaposition of warm, crispy, nutty toast and the cool, beefy, succulent meatloaf… [Oh, god, yes!]

<ahem>. On to the actual topic…

So the strategy here is to create a moist, flavorful meatloaf. For the longest time, I thought of meatloaf as just a loaf-sized hamburger. Such a philosophy makes passable meatloaf… but it was always crumbly and dry the next day – thus, terrible for left-over sandwiches. My thinking has evolved to consider the meatloaf its own little ecosystem, with its own specific needs, and certainly not just an over-sized burger. We borrow ideas from casseroles and lasagnas, and some from the world of burgers, to build a yummy meatloaf that tastes great hot over mashed potatoes, and tastes fantastic cold the next day in a sandwich.

1 pound ground beef (I use 80/20)
1 pound ground pork (I use 80/20)
1 pound thick-sliced bacon
3/4 c commercial pesto
3/4 c crushed bread crumbs (the best are from stale French bread)
1/2 c whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 chipotle en adobo
1 T of the adobo sauce
1/2 T crushed red pepper

You don’t want the meatloaf to sit in the juicy run-off… that results in boiled meatloaf, not baked or smoked meatloaf. You’ll want a pan large enough to catch the run-off (I use a baking sheet with 1/2″ sides), and a rack of some sort (I use a cooling rack) to fit in the pan. Then, cover the rack with parchment paper, and poke some holes in the parchment paper. This lets the juices run into the pan, from which you can collect them after the meatloaf is done to make gravy. When I smoke the meatloaf, I just put the meatloaf in an aluminum baking dish that I’ve poked holes in the bottom.

Set the oven to 375F, or the smoker to 250F. In the oven, you’ll need between 60-90 minutes of cook time, and in the smoker, about 3-4 hours.

Oh, and if you’ve never smoked a meatloaf, do so! If makes vastly superior meatloaf!

Except for the bacon and crushed red pepper, mix all ingredients in a large bowl, combining well. Place the mixture on your prepared cooking surface and form into loaf. Wrap with the bacon. Sometimes it’s easier to lay the bacon down first, then make the loaf, then pull the bacon up. Use whatever method works best for you. Sprinkle the crushed red pepper over the surface of the bacon, and spread evenly with your hands – work it in!

My cook times are, as above, 60-90 minutes in the oven, or 3-4 hours on the Big Green Egg. Regardless of cooking method, you want the internal temperature of the meatloaf to be 160F. After removing from cooker, let it rest under a foil tent for 10 minutes.

Enjoy, but in moderation… you want to save some for cold leftover sandwiches!

Big Green Egg smoked meatloaf

Here is a Big Green Egg smoked version of the bacon wrapped pesto meatloaf… yeah, a meatloaf with a smoke ring. Sweet! [Photo credit: Derek Price].

Applewood Smoked Chicken Thighs

So, our corporate office was super sweet to us and bought us a Big Green Egg last year. It took a little while for us to start using it (Mainers are traditionalists, if nothing else), but once we did it caught on in a big, green, eggy way!

Although my personal favorite work on the BGE was one of my first efforts, over-night smoked brisket, a very close second is this (relatively) fast and (very) easy strategy for chicken. The base recipe is from fellow BGE enthusiast Kevin Jett, and I tweaked it a bit for simplicity (because Mainers like simplicity, too).

First, choice of chicken… I love the thighs. They are juicy, flavorful, cook up quickly, and you can get them boneless. There really isn’t a down-side! So, use thighs. Don’t like thighs? Well, make up grilled leeks or something.

Obviously, this strategy is going to be BGE-specific, but you can use any smoker/grill, or even your kitchen oven. There’s about 15 minutes of prep, and an hour of cooking, but if you’re using wood chips (I recommend applewood) you’ll want to pre-soak them for a couple of hours.

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 T smoked paprika
1 T Mrs. Dash (regular)
2 t kosher salt
olive oil

Pre-soak applewood chips for a couple hours.
Get BGE up to 350F (for ours, this means the smoker lid is on, but wide open, and the lower vent is 80% open), prepared for indirect heat. Once it’s up to temperature, before applying the heat diffuser, toss in a handful of applewood chips.
Toss chicken in enough olive oil to lightly coat.

Mix the dry ingredients, and sprinkle over chicken in large bowl. Massage and work the spices into the meat.

Set chicken on smoker, and cook for about one hour (until internal temperature reaches 165F), turning at about 45 minutes. In final five minutes, brush a little honey onto each thigh.


Excellent when served with grilled zucchini and corn on the cob! (Photo credit: Wanda Clowater).