The first time I made this the white sauce didn’t cling to the bird and rolled off the skin. I switched to using the sauce as a dipping sauce & ultimately it didn’t affect the taste of the food, just the aesthetics.
So if it was to be chicken, then what chicken? That was actually an easy decision: I would redo a recipe I’d made two months ago called: BIG BOB GIBSON’S BAR-B-CUE CHICKEN. It cooked a spatchcocked (butterflied) chicken indirectly at 325 (160 C) using hickory smoke. The chicken up until this point had been simply seasoned. At the mid-point it gets seasoned with salt & pepper, flipped and brushed with olive oil. Once the chicken was cooked, it was dunked into a unique world famous white barbecue sauce that originated at Big Bob Gibson’s restaurant back in 1927. The first time I made it, the chicken turned out well but I ran into two problems that were somewhat time related. The first was the cooking time in the recipe, which was said to be 3 hours. I had never cooked a whole chicken at that high of a temperature that had take more than 1 hour 45 minutes. A spatchcocked chicken should cook in even less time, because butterflying the chicken would result in an even quicker cooking time. I just assumed the time would be less, but that made it a little difficult to judge when the midpoint of the cook was. The midpoint of the cook was when you flip the bird over and apply olive oil to the skin. When the bird was done I was left with a bird that was tender and almost as moist as a bird that had been rotisserie grilled. The bird had a hint of smoke flavor from the wood chips in the smoker drawer, but it wasn’t as strong as I would have liked. When I went to dunk the bird in the white BBQ sauce I ran into problem Number 2: The sauce just ran off and wouldn’t stick to the skin of the chicken. My immediate guess was too much olive oil was left on the skin of the bird. I had flipped the bird and applied the sauce at the one hour mark. This meant the bird was on the grill for only 30 minutes more and perhaps this wasn’t long enough. The bird ate well and I loved the sauce which I served out at the table as a dipping sauce when it wouldn’t cling to the bird.
So here was the perfect recipe to redo on the new Big Green Egg. It had actually turned out well, if you ignore my unsureness about the cooking time (which I solved) and the BBQ sauce problem (which was cosmetic). I was familiar with how it would turn out, as opposed to picking something new, so any changes could be attributed to the Egg. I’d expect the Egg to solve the problem of not being able to get much smoke from hickory chips in the wood drawer. Here I would be using real charcoal, which imparts some smoke flavor by itself and also I’d be using hickory chunks not chips. I already knew from smoking on my CG that this would give me greater smoke output and therefor greater flavor. As to the claim that food cooked on the BGE retains more moisture and shrinks less, I wasn’t really sold. After all spatchcocked chicken turns out a very moist bird. As I said earlier, the first version of this was about as tender and moist as a rotisserie chicken.
The 2012 Summer Olympics were on this same week. Here is my “opening flame” on my new Egg. The paraffin starter is nestled into the lump charcoal & gives a 9 minute burn. The hickory chunk was placed just below the area being started.
It was time to light my Big Green Egg for the first time. I added the lump charcoal to the level of the lower rim of the fire ring. Next I partially buried a paraffin fire starter square into the middle of the lump charcoal. I reached down into the lower chamber of the Egg and used a zippo fire starter type lighter to light the paraffin starter, which it did immediately. One advantage to this method vs. a charcoal chimney jumped out at me. Lighting the zippo lighter inside the Egg gave me protection from the wind. Often on windy days the zippo won’t light or blows out before it has lit the newspaper. Maybe it was because the Summer Olympics of 2012 had started earlier that week, but as I watched my opening flame I decided to snap a picture of this “monumental” event. The paraffin cube kept a good flame going for 9 minutes and then went out. This is also a pleasant change from a charcoal chimney where the time to get it to the point where it is usable can take from 15 to 45 minutes depending on weather, wind and brand of charcoal. So far in about two dozen cooks this has always taken me 9 minutes and I am ready to close up the Egg and let it come up to temperature. It remains until the winter arrives to see just how much the weather affects the warm up time. The design of the Egg and particularly its air tightness and thick walls should help with that. While I am NOT rushing the winter, I am looking forward to far easier cooking on the Egg.
The Platesetter is installed legs up for indirect cooking (left). I used a drip pan on top of the Platesetter (right).
The standard stainless steel grill grate sits on top of the upturned legs of the platesetter to get the food up under the dome shaped lid (left). The spatchcocked chicken starts breast side up (right) & gets flipped midway through .
When the flame of the paraffin cube went out, it was time to sent up the Egg for this cook. I started from the bottom of the grill and worked my way up. I left the sliding lower draft door with the outer solid door fully open. When the paraffin starter went out it left a 6” diameter area of lump partially ignited all around it. I was a bit surprised at how little lump had actually ignited. I added one fist sized chunk of hickory just outside the area of lit coals. The next step was to install the Platesetter. The Platesetter is an Eggcessory that is so essential many folks feel it should come with a new Egg. It is a thick-walled ceramic disk that has three legs extending out from the disk horizontally and then they turn 90 degrees to serve as legs. When the Platesetter is installed, the horizontal disk serves to protect the food from the direct flames. Because the diameter of the Platesetter disc is smaller than the Egg itself, 3 gaps are left around the outside for the heat to rise into the upper half of the Egg. When you are doing indirect cooking the platesetter is installed with the disk down at the fire ring level and the legs pointing up. The top of the upturned legs can serve to support a cooking grate. If the Platesetter is installed the other way, the horizontal surface is up at the level of the gasket and the legs are pointing downward. This is often used for baking as it serves to raise the food so it is up inside the dome shape lid. This is where the Egg starts to resemble an old style brick oven. Because this cook today was indirect I placed my Platesetter on top of the fire ring with the horizontal disk at the fire ring level and the legs pointing up. I placed a foil drip pan on the horizontal surface of the Platesetter and placed the stainless steel grill grate on top of the upturned Platesetter legs. I shut the lid and installed the dual function metal top damper on the chimney on top of the lid.
The temperature control capabilities of the Egg are amazing. The biggest problem I had hitting 325 was not having a frame of reference as to how much the dampers needed to be open to hit 325 F (160 C), It only took me 3 adjustments to lock in 325.
After a minute or two the temperature started going up, slowly at first and then noticeably faster. The dual function top is one of the keys to the precise temperature control you can get on the Egg. It has two levels of adjustment. At the very top is cover that you twist to cover or expose some relatively small openings arranged and shaped like the petals of a daisy. This is often called a “daisy wheel” or “daisy wheel damper” and it is used to make small fine adjustments to the temperature. This whole daisy wheel assembly is mounted on a single hinge so it can be pivoted from side to side exposing one large round opening in the chimney. This is for making coarse and fast adjustments in the temperature. My biggest problem at this point is I had no frame of reference as to where the dampers needed to be set to maintain a given temperature. My target temperature was 325 F (160 C) and I started making adjustments to close down the dampers when I reached 275 (135 C) about 50 degrees (25 C) beforehand. In reading about the Egg, I’d learned you really don’t want to overshoot your mark by much, because it is much easier to raise the temperature, than it is to lower it if you’ve over shot. I closed the lower damper down to 1/3 open and the upper one to completely close the large coarse damper and leave the daisy wheel fully open. This slowed things down, but I could see I was going to still overshoot my target temp. I next closed the lower damper to 1” (2.5 cm) open and closed the dual function damper so the daisy wheel was half open. I still overshot by about 50 degrees, so I made a third and final adjustment that dialed in 325 F (160 C). I closed the lower damper down to 1/2” (1.27 cm) open and the daisy wheel so the largest opening amount was 1/8” (0.3 cm). This third adjustment brought me right to where I wanted to be and I marveled a bit at just how responsive and precise the temperature control on the Egg was.
This is what the first version of the chicken looked like on the gas grill. Where I was a bit unsure of the total cook time, I flipped it at one hour which turned out to be 15 minutes beyond the midpoint (left). Here is the chicken at 45 minutes along when I flipped it on the Egg (right). This was the actual mid-point and I am thinking the first birds skin was cooked more & that may have meant it couldn’t absorb the olive oil as well as the less cooked skiing of the second bird.
I let the Egg stabilize at those settings while I went in to do the final prep on the chicken. I spatchcocked it (butterflied), and seasoned it with table salt. About 10 minutes had elapsed when I brought the chicken back out to the grill. The temperature was still sitting at 325 (160 C) right where I’d left it so I added the bird. One of the reasons I’d gone back inside to finish prepping the bird, is I wanted to make sure those settings were really going to give me 325. This way I could add the cold bird and not have to fiddle with the dampers because I knew those settings should bring me back in the neighborhood of where I wanted to be. Moving forward I knew that since my chicken was a 5 pounder (2.27 kg) just like the first one, my cooking time was going to be around 90 minutes. So this time I flipped the chicken at the 45 minute mark, instead of closer to one hour like last time. I also made sure I didn’t use any more olive oil than necessary. I could tell just by the color of the skin that the bird was farther along last time when I flipped it. I now wonder if the skin being cooked more the first time, made it less likely to absorb the olive oil. This chicken was ready at around 90 minutes just like the last one and now it was time to see if the white BBQ sauce would cling to the skin any better.
The original bird was a bit darker (left), but the version cooked on the BGE had a more even color (right).
The chicken cooked on the Egg was slightly lighter in color overall, but the skin was more evenly colored overall. The first one wasn’t bad at all in terms of evenness , but some areas were noticeably darker than others. The moment of truth had arrived, it was time to dunk the chicken. I cut it in half and dunked each half. You could tell immediately it was going to hold the BBQ sauce better. There was still some oil/water type runoff, but nowhere near the almost total runoff I got the first time around. I left the kitchen for a moment to get my serving platter, and when I came back in I could smell hickory smoke in the Kitchen. This hadn’t happened the first time when I cooked this on the gas grill, so I knew it would have a more smoky flavor.
The difference in how the two birds took to the white BBQ sauce is readily apparent. The original bird (left) repelled most of the sauce. The bird cooked on the BGE (right) held the sauce much better. This was not a difference between the two grills, I now think it involved my putting the oil on the bird 15 minutes sooner the second time around.
When I bit into my first piece of breast meat I was shocked. It had great flavor and had a nice smoke flavor, but what shocked me was how moist it was. This was the moistest piece of chicken I’d EVER sunk my teeth into. This I hadn’t expected. This topped even the best rotisserie chicken I’d ever made-and not by a little, but by a lot. I certainly was not expecting this. I knew I would have no trouble justifying why I got this grill.
The first bird was extremely moist (left), almost as moist as dong it on the rotisserie. The second bird done on the Big Green Egg absolutely blew me away since it was the moistest piece of chicken I’d ever had in my mouth (right). It easily exceeded any other chicken I’ve ever had! This has me quite excited about the meals I have to look forward to.
So I’d solved the issue of getting the white sauce to stick better, which was a cook (me)-related problem and nothing to do with one grill vs another. Being able to use wood chunks and a high temperature on the Egg got me the smoke flavor I wanted. I am very excited about the prospect of grill roasting my Thanksgiving turkey at 375 (190 C) and getting smoke flavor AND a crisp skin, vs. smoking it at 225 F (110 C) Controlling the temperatures on the Egg was easy and possibly more precise than the gas grill. Lastly the added moisture I got was amazing! This was a total surprise and suddenly I thought back to all the times I’d heard Eggheads raving about how good the food was. Suddenly I was REALLY excited and I thought to myself this is going to be REALLY, REALLY fun.