Labor Day BBQ meets Tech Wizardry
Those who know me know that one of my hobbies is BBQ. Now, this isn’t grilling, this is honest-to-goodness, smoked “slow and low” at 200 degrees for hours BBQ. It stems from many 2am adventures to Wilson’s BBQ with a group of friends back in college in Oklahoma. There, BBQ isn’t just plentiful, it’s a right. Out here in the PacNW, I have yet to find a real honest-to-goodness Texas-style BBQ place that’s not industrialized. So, since 1997, I’ve been learning the art of smoking BBQ.
I started out small – with an electric smoker at first, a little Weber I still shudder to think about as our electric bill spiked every time I used the thing. Then, it was on to a Great Outdoors Smoky Mountain Series propane water smoker. I’ve been mastering this one for the past four years or so, but I’ve lusting after the ultimate smoker – The Big Green Egg.
The BGE has many converts, including reviewers at the NYTimes and – basically it’s a large ceramic cooker that uses a fraction of the cleaner-burning lump charcoal fuel of other metal-based cookers. Incredibly efficient, it’s based on the same principles used for over 3000 years in Chinese and Japanese Kamodo cookers and Indian tandoors. It can do direct grilling or slow smoking. It’s safer around kids (a plus in my household) and can be used year-round, even in wind and sub-zero temperatures.
So this year, my bonus to myself for a solid review was the beloved Egg. Guy and Nicole, the owners of Thompson’s Hearth & Home, set me up with a large demo egg that had been used only once, knocking a respectable number of dollars off. As we were loading it up into my car, a fellow enthusiast none of us knew was driving by and stopped to chat and congratulate me on my purchase. The skeptic in me thought it was a set up. It turns out he owns a BGE as well. Jeff talked about the instant community he’s seen among Corvette owners. Here, the community came to me. 🙂 I’ve also discovered there’s an annual “Eggstock” of sorts- “Eggtoberfest” during which “Egghead” enthusiasts get together with their eggs. An active set of forums also serve as support- even during the act of cooking if you have questions, you can post and
Big egg converts themselves, the Thompsons really understand customer service – they gave me their home phone # and said call anytime up to 9pm, 7 days a week if I had questions. They even threw in a 20lb bag of fuel and a few additional extras.
I also tricked out my BBQ gadget-style with a BBQGuru. Basically it’s a microprocessor-controlled fan that controls the rate of airflow over the coals. It comes equipped with two thermostats – one for the meat, the other for the grill temp. This made cooking practically a set and forget proposition.
My first attempt was a Tri-Tip steak. Tri-tip is lesser known cut of sirloin since there’s only two per cow, it tended not to get marketed. It was cooked over direct heat and had a flavor my gas grill couldn’t come close to. A bit heavy on the smoke, I’ll learn to throttle this back. The next night, the remainder of the tri-tip was turned into steak quesadillas for a Poker Party some friends threw- a big hit!
Saturday was the big challenge – Pork Shoulder (a.k.a. Boston Butt or Pulled Pork). I picked up an 8lb boneless shoulder at Fischer’s Meats and prepped for 20-24hours of cooking. The shoulder went in at 200 degrees with a mix of cherry and hickory wood to add a nice smoke flavor. I made “The Renowned Mr. Brown” Southern Succor Rub. The main recipe though came from The Naked Whiz’s web site– all sorts of good stuff here.
That was, until the fire went out at 3:30am. I transferred the pork to the oven while I relit. It turns out the issue was how I set the charcoal. I’ve since learned. My remaining fire stayed at 200deg for 12 hours after I cut it off and still had half the lump left. from 3:30am until 4:30pm, the egg was never opened. And here was the result:
After 45 minutes wrapped in foil and warmed to keep the moisture in, a simple two-tined meat fork was used to “pull” or shred the pork. It was more effort to pull a knife through butter. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the pulled pork because it was going to the serving table too fast!
At the BBQ, one of our guests’ sons requested a hamburger. I set the Guru up to 500 degrees and in 5 minutes, the fire was up and the burger was done quickly. His Dad said he loved it!
And so begins the adventures of Sean and the BGE. Tonight, I’m going to try wood-fired Pizza on a ceramic pizza stone. Maybe I’ll make a video of it this time and put together some how-to’s using Movie Maker in Vista RC1 😉
Update: Apparently there is a Texas-style BBQ place in the Seattle area. Tipster Marius pointed me to a local place appropriately named. A group of us are going to do a lunch-hour get-together to check this place out later this month. Anyone who wants to join, drop a comment here and I’ll include you on the invite.
Texas Style Smoked BBQ
10410 Holman Rd N
Seattle, WA 98133