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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Looking Back, Looking Ahead - 2013

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THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Ever since I started this blog in 2006, I have written a year end wrap up summing up my past year pursuing this hobby. I stole the idea from what happens in the media where everybody does some sort of Top !0 list. In my case I have reduced it to several Top 5 lists. These lists force me to think about where I have been during the last year and I also use it to chart my course for the next year. By looking at my previous years blog I can see just how I did in reaching my goals. Many times I may not do everything I wanted to, but by reviewing the list from last year it is easy to see what I missed doing and add those items to this years list. Plus it is sometimes fun for me to reread the lists for each year to see my progression pursuing this hobby.

This year was another watershed year for me for several reasons and a rather unusual one too. This marks the first year all of my grilled, smoked or baked content came from one and only one grill: The Big Green Egg. Technically I should reword that to one grill type. In January of this year I added a second Large Big Green Egg to my grilling arsenal. My smoker was retired last year and though I kept the gas grill, I didn’t use it once. Prior to this I had to decide wether the grill or the smoker was the best equipment for the task at hand. Now I have a grill that is the best at either task plus I can bake on it too. The second big change was my Kitchen being renovated in April. The Kitchen was completely renovated with new everything from floor to ceiling. This took about six weeks total and during that time I was not able to grill. Last year I had a permanent shelter I designed built to give me year round protection from the elements. While the Kitchen was being worked on I added lighting to this Grill Gazebo. A few months later I reworked the layout of the grills and added some outdoor cabinets. The Grill Gazebo is now closer to an outdoor kitchen and has some nice sized work areas. The last big item for the year was in October when I attended the EGGtoberfest in Stone Mountain, GA. I extended the time a bit and had a mini vacation.

I mentioned it was an unusual year too. Work or lack of it, played a big factor in my ability to grill. The first half of the year I had next to no work, so I took the time to get in a lot of grilling. Then my Kitchen was offline for renovations for six weeks and this meant zero grilling. Then from May to into July I was able to get back to grilling and it was more fun than ever because of the new Kitchen and the lighting in the Grill Gazebo. Right around the time that I added new cabinets and changed the layout in the Grill Gazebo, work went crazy. From late July until now I have been constantly busy and I have only grilled 4 times since then. Working seven days a week, and putting in 12,16 even 18 hour days does’t leave much time for grilling. There have been a few short lulls but I needed to recharge my batteries. Also I had undertaken a major redesign of this site. I started working on the site just before work hit the fan, and it proved to be more work than originally planned on. Plus I ended up biting the bullet and doing additional work on the site that was not even on my original To Do List . When I did have a lull, I spent time trying to get the new version of the site up and running ASAP. As it was I was stuck for several months with a half-finished, slightly half-baked, in-between version. One good thing about the extra work is it allowed me to Eggcesorize. I picked up an Adjustable Rig, a Swing Rack for my Eggs, and a Thermapen instant read thermometer in early October. Sadly due to the aforementioned schedule woes, they sat unopened until Thanksgiving morning when I opened up the AR for use later that day.

Top 5 Items Cooked in 2013


Wicked Good Ribs (06-29-13)
“Second
These ribs from Wicked Good Barbecue won the Jack Daniels World Championship in 2009. They were by far the best ribs I have ever had. Everyone else that tried them agreed. Although at first the only comments were the MMMMMM’s that everyone did when they took their first bite. The ribs used a totally new to me cooking method. The first two steps were conventional: smoke them uncovered and then continue cooking them wrapped in foil for an hour. When they came out of the foil is where things got different. The ribs were brushed with the BBQ sauce and rubbed, but instead of going back out to the grill they were foiled and rested for 30 minutes at room temperature. The end results spoke for themselves. These ribs had more layers of flavor than any rib I’ve ever had.

See:
  WICKED GOOD RIBS Pork Picture Entry
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Wicked Pulled Pork (07-03 & 04-13)
“Second
A few days after making the WICKED GOOD RIBS, which are described above and which were the best item cooked this year, I returned to the Wicked Good BBQ cookbook for this North Carolina vinegar based pulled pork recipe. This was not a simple recipe, everything was made from scratch: the rub, the marinade, the BBQ sauce, the slaw, the dressing and even the buns were doctored buns. The attention to detail was amazing and you could taste it in the end product. I prefer a mustard based pulled pork to the vinegar based variety, but this was the best vinegar based pulled pork I have ever had. My parents who love vinegar declared it to be their favorite pulled pork ever. Cooking this low and slow on the Egg was a pleasure. It was very hot the day I cooked the pork shoulder and I was able to stay inside in my air conditioned house and get work done. The only trips out to the grill were ones required by the recipe and not to tweak the temps. So fun to make and even more fun to eat.

See:
  WICKED GOOD PULLED PORK Pork Picture Entry
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Chicago Style Deep Dish Lg. Pepperoni & Ham Pizza (07-13-13)
“Second
Two weeks after making the two items above I made this pizza, so as you can see I was on quite the roll. The smaller version of this pizza made the Top 5 New Items category on last years list. The difference here is this pizza used my newly purchased large ceramic pizza pan and made a much bigger pizza. The recipe was a joint effort between the folks at the BGE Company with a crust recipe by the folks from King Arthur Flour. The recipe essentially reverse engineered a Pizzeria Uno style deep dish pizza. This style of pizza is my favorite and it doesn’t get any better than this with all fresh ingredients and a buttery flavored crust.

See:
  CHICAGO STYLE DEEP DISH LG. PEPPERONI & HAM PIZZA Pizza Picture Entry
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Our Perfect Burger (05-11-13)
“Second
From the same authors as Wicked Good BBQ came WICKED GOOD BURGERS. The book came out while my Kitchen was under renovation and I was salivating looking at the pictures and reading the recipes. This recipe has you grind your own meat blend, bake your own buns, make your own condiments, This recipe & the sides were the first item I cooked from this book and with a title like OUR PERFECT BURGER how could you not start there. The results were amazing, even the ketchup was great. I am not a bottled ketchup fan, but I have had some homemade ketchup I could live with. I made the TOMATO-GINGER KETCHUP because several of my guests are huge ketchup fans. Me I was going to use the other homemade condiment: the JACK D’OR MUSTARD. I needed to test the TOMATO-GINGER KETCHUP for seasoning and I was amazed how great it was! Instantly I switched to my burger being served with mustard & ketchup. The recipes in this book have great attention to detail and if you follow the directions carefully your reward is a s close to a perfect burger as I have made.

See:
  OUR PERFECT BURGER Burger Picture Entry
  WICKED GOOD BURGERS Blog Entry
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Brat Burger (05-19-13)
“Second
Honestly if this was a Top 10 list several other burgers from WICKED GOOD BURGERS would be on the list too. This burger was just bout every bit as good as OUR PERFECT BURGER and the MINDY’S PRETZEL BUNS are probably the best hamburger buns I’ve tasted. This recipe used veal & pork and while this recipe didn’t call for it, I ground my own and the resulting patties tasted excellent. The burgers were topped with a cheese sauce that was the perfect match for the meat.

See:
  BRAT BURGER Burger Picture Entry
  WICKED GOOD BURGERS Blog Entry
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Top 5 New Items Cooked in 2013


Grilled Meatballs & Smokey Tomato Sauce (06-08-13)
“Second
I stumbled across this recipe in one of the summer grilling magazine supplements I picked up at the supermarket. Several things about the recipe really appealed to me. First the sauce was made from scratch using fresh ingredients. Secondly these ingredients were charred on the grill. Lastly the meatballs were made from scratch and grilled before going into the sauce. I’d always wanted to try a smoked marinara sauce and this sauce did not disappoint. I loved the little bit of extra flavor that grilling the meatballs gave you.

See:
  GRILLED MEATBALLS WITH TOMATO SAUCE Other Picture Entry
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Shredded Beef with Sweet Peppers (01-20-13)
“Second
This recipe from Land of Plenty: Authentic Sichuan Recipes is a wonderful Sichuan beef stir-fry. Up until the point I made this recipe my favorite stir-fries had all been chicken, but this beef stir-fry was excellent. It actually was a non-spicy Sichuan recipe but it was bursting with flavor. It had a wonderful beefy flavor which I liked right away, The sauce caught me by surprise and it took several bites before I decided I loved it. This dish personified everything I like about stir fries - simple ingredients, quick cook and amazing flavor.

See:
  SHREDDED BEEF WITH SWEET PEPPERS Stir-Fry Picture Entry
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Meatlovers Calzone (05-27-13)
“Second
The Big Green Egg Company came out with a Calzone Press this year and this was a concoction of my own making that I used to test it out. I made a quick pizza crust recipe PIZZA DOUGH - BGE Version and while it was having it’s rise I assembled all of the other ingredients. The calzone press worked like a charm to create a perfectly shaped calzone. The BGE baked it up nice and evenly with a nice little snap to the crust. I was very impressed with the results, considering my first calzone was as good or better than the ones I have had in an Italian restaurant.

See:
  MEATLOVERS CALZONE Other Picture Entry
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Wood Grilled Party Panini (07-08-13)
“Second
This is yet another selection from the pair of “Wicked Good” cookbooks that came out in the last year. The recipe comes from Wicked Good Barbecue. One of the cool things about Wicked Good Barbecue is it also includes recipes the iQUE BBQ team make for themselves while out on the road. So the book isn’t just about ribs, pulled pork & brisket. This recipe really was intended for a party sized crowd and made 36” (92 cm) worth of panini. I cut the portions in half and made a half-sized version and next time will reduce it to a third. This was out of necessity, the panini would have been so tall it would have fallen over. This panini was just bursting with flavors from the variety of meats and the dressing and the roasted tomatoes. It would be truly amazing served at a party or for tailgating.

See:
  WOOD GRILLED PARTY PANINI Panini Picture Entry
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BBQ Scotch Eggs
“Second
Another tailgating type recipe from the iQUE BBQ team by way of Wicked Good Barbecue. This cookbook really is that good. I made four recipes from it and they all appear on this list.I had not had the pleasure of having Scotch Eggs before, let alone Scotch Eggs that were smoked. Other than forming the meat around the medium boiled eggs, which WAS a bit tricky, this recipe was easy to make and long on flavor. It would be a great tailgating recipe too: the Scotch Eggs can be made ahead of time and smoked on the road.

See:
  BBQ SCOTCH EGGS Other Picture Entry
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Top 5 Sides or Desserts

This category was added in 2012 because I was making many more sides and desserts on the grill. Getting the Big Green Egg, which is a better oven than my indoor oven, sealed the deal - I was starting to make desserts all the time and they deserve mention, but would be crowded off the other lists.

Buttermilk Pie (06-04-13)
“Second
I had never heard of a buttermilk pie until about 10 years ago. Then I got sick eating a small slice of buttermilk pie and it was one of the best pies I’d ever eaten. By way of explanation: A little buttermilk pie goes a long way. It is about the most filling dessert I’ve run across. The pie marked my first dessert type pie. I’ve made several quiches and Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizzas, but this marked my first dessert pie. Whenever I want to bake something and I need a recipe my go-to site is the King Arthur Flour Website. They always have good recipes that yield excellent results. From the crust that rolled out just like I wanted to the great filling, this pie did not disappoint. It was a good and as “bad” (filling) as I remembered. An advantage in making it yourself is I got to eat it as soon as it had cooled enough.

See:
  BUTTERMILK PIE Dessert Picture Entry
  KING ARTHUR FLOUR WEBSITE Web link
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Sweet Potato Pub Fries (05-18-13)
“Second
Just as Wicked Good Barbecue includes great recipes for related items made while the iQUE BBQ team is in the road, WICKED GOOD BURGERS has related recipes for items such as rolls, condiments, side dishes and even desserts to go along with your burgers. These fries were intended to be a good pairing for the BRAT BURGERS recipe, which also made this list. They were easy to make and cook, and had amazing flavor after being seasoned with a do-it-yourself seasoning salt called Sweet Potato Dust.

See:
  SWEET POTATO PUB FRIES Veggies Picture Entry
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Twice Grilled Potatoes With Wasabi (06-01-13)
“Second
I’ve made this type of potato before, but what set these potatoes from Weber’s Charcoal Grilling apart, was the Dijon mustard and wasabi paste. The potatoes were cut in half and direct grilled to near completion. Then they were removed from the grill, scooped out and refilled. Then is was back out to the grill for another 30 minutes of indirect grilling. I used fresh horse radish as a substitute for the wasabi paste, and these potatoes had a real zing to them without being too hot. This is my favorite way to cook baked potatoes.

See:
  TWICE GRILLED POTATOES WITH WASABIi Veggies Picture Entry
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Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic Syrup (06-01-13)
“Second
On this day I made two recipes from Weber’s Charcoal Grilling and both of them made the list. For me to include these is a bit of a surprise, because I don’t really even like asparagus- unless they are grilled. My guest all raved about these too. The best thing about these is they are simple and can be made ahead and served at room temperature.

See:
  GRILLED ASPARAGUS WITH BALSAMIC SYRUP Veggies Picture Entry
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Grilled Green Beans (01-19-13)
“Second
These grilled green beans, which used cumin and lemon as ingredients, were great. But getting them to the table was a bit if an adventure. I needed a grill basket for my Big Green Egg and these green beans were the inaugural cook for the Weber Fish Basket I picked up. The recipe was easy and all was proceeding according to plan, until I went to flip the basket over to grill the second side. I managed to somehow release the latch and the resulting spill cost me half of the green beans. The remaining green beans turned out great and this is a great recipe for grilled green beans.

See:
  GRILLED GREEN BEANS Veggies Picture Entry
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Top 5 iOS Cooking Related Apps

This list was added in 2012 and remains the same except for one big loss and one big addition. The big loss was the only grocery list app I ever liked: Groceries by Sophiestication Software. People gave this developer a ton of grief for having the “nerve” to charge for full version upgrades. These same people complaining probably paid more for their drink at Starbucks than the developer was asking for. This app suffered a massive fail in one of it’s upgrades where they changed the entire way you used the app. What used to be quick and easy to use app turned into a royal P.I.T.A. I tried to learn new ways, but slower is not better. There is an upgrade to the app which is free, but the developer is moving onto bigger and better things and there will be no new versions or support going forward. So Groceries is gone and replacing it is the iOS version of my favorite recipe software: YummySoup. The entries for the other 4 are unchanged from last year. All of these apps help make cooking outdoors easier and more fun. While this list is iOS specific, many of these apps or something like them are available for other smartphone platforms.

Dark Sky (The Dark Sky Company, L.L.C.)
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How useful would it be to have an app on your iPhone or iPad that tells you with a high degree of accuracy, measured in mere minutes, when it is going to start raining or snowing and the expected intensity in the next hour. By looking only one hour into the future this app tends to be very accurate. The app also send you an alert on your iPhone or iPad if it is going to start raining.

See:
  DARK SKY Link to developer’s website
  DARK SKY - A COOL WEATHER APP Blog Entry
  DARK SKY - NEW & IMPROVED Blog Entry
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Yummy Soup for iOS (Hungry Seacow Software)
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YummySoup for iOS is a welcome companion to YummySoup for Mac OSX. Now I don’t have to bring my laptop out to the Kitchen when I am cooking. I use my iPad and some protective sleeves and a stand, which I shall post links to below. This is much safer than having the laptop in the Kitchen in harms way. Additionally with the iPhone version of the software I always have my recipes with me. So if I am at the store trying to buy groceries for an upcoming cook and I can’t get one of the ingredients, I can switch to Plan B and I have all my recipes, and their ingredients, right in my pocket. This has happened to me more than once and I do tend to add recipes into the software weeks ahead of time, so I pick from something else that I was planning to make soon.The only downside to the iOS version from my perspective, is moving the data between the apps. The iOS apps can capture recipes as can the Mac O/S version. The process to synch the two isn’t real great. The upcoming new version of the Mac app will be adding iCloud synch and should remedy this problem.

See
:
  YUMMYSOUP! Link to developer’s website
  YUMMY SOUP FOR iOS 1.0 Blog Entry
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Kitchen Calculator Pro (Forward Leap, L.L.C.)
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A handy calculator for converting from Imperial to other Imperial units or Metric to Imperial. It seems these days many recipes are starting to use metric units and I convert the recipes back to Imperial when I add them into my recipe management software. Also at the supermarket, many world foods are described in metric units and I am able to convert back to Imperial units. This is a convenient calculator to have for areas outside of cooking too.

See:
  KITCHEN CALCULATOR PRO Link to developer’s website
  iPHONE BBQ BUDDY-KITCHEN CALCULATOR PRO Blog Entry
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Food Substitutions (Various)
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There are various apps for the iPhone and iPad and other portable devices that tell you what to use when you are out of or can’t find a particular ingredient. This app has saved my bacon several times when I found out I was out of something or the store was out. The one I use is no longer made, but it still works so I haven’t switched to something else. But you should consider keeping a similar app on your phone and/or tablet.





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Clock App (Apple Computer)
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The Clock app that comes with the iPhone is a great BBQ timer and it has been improved for iOS7. It has a stopwatch function, a countdown timer and you can set multiple alarms. It is also backlit for easy use at night. There are plenty of third party apps for the iPhone that you could also use. So far I haven’t found one that gets around some limitations built into the iOS operating system. There are certain limitations where 3rd party apps can’t display alarms when the app is in the background or the phone is sleeping. This is why I still use the Apple Clock app: It has 3 different ways of tracking time and the alarms function whether or not the phone is sleeping. New for iOS7 is the ability to access the Clock app directly from the Lock Screen. You swipe up from the bottom of the screen and a sheet, dubbed Control Center, scrolls up from the bottom of the screen with a series of buttons for easy access to various functions. One of these allows you to go straight to the Clock app without logging in with your password. The other handy button on Control Center is for the built in Flashlight. Although these days with the permanent lighting in my Grill Gazebo, I need this less.

See:
  iPHONE BBQ BUDDY-PT 2 Blog Entry
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Top 5 Lessons Learned, Re-Learned or Reinforced

The Big Green Egg is an Amazing Cooking Tool and There is Really No Limits to What You Can Do
After using my two Eggs for a while I sort of took this for granted. But this summer & fall I went to two customer appreciation events at my dealer, plus the NewEGGlandfest and the big Kahuna: EGGtoberfest XVI. The wide variety of amazing foods coming off the Eggs at these events was mind boggling. For breakfast, dinner or supper, from appetizers, to baked goods and dessert. There really is no limit to what a creative person can make on the Big Green Egg. I am looking forward to trying more and different items going forward. Also I need to make sure I do not put limits on myself, because those limits would be imposed by me on myself and are not limitations imposed by my cooking equipment.

Have & Use a Good Weather App on your SmartPhone or Tablet
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This item has been on the list for several years now but it is still important. Dark Sky, which has been out for two summers now, is a new type of weather app that doesn’t try to give you a somewhat accurate picture of the weather during the next several days. Instead it tries to give you a very accurate view of what to expect in the next hour. I now have a year round covered grill gazebo and two grills that are really not affected by the weather, so the weather is less of a factor than it used to be. But there is still my comfort to think of, so knowing when a break in the weather might occur or when the bad weather is going to start can come in handy. If you are interested in learning more about this iOS app, I have written two blogs about Dark Sky which are linked to below.

See:
  DARK SKY Link to developer’s website
  DARK SKY - A COOL WEATHER APP Blog Entry
  DARK SKY - NEW & IMPROVED Blog Entry
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Multi-Item Cook Timing Really Does Become Second Nature
“Second
This item has been on this list now for three years. When I first started doing large scale, multi-item cooks I would make rather elaborate bar graphs. These bar graphs were very helpful making sure I was not going to be scheduling myself so I would need to be two places at once or not leaving enough time to cook everything in the time allotted. The next evolution of this was making some quickie charts or graphs showing the desired end time and some major milestones along the way such as lighting the grills, or putting the food on the grill. It was more of a rough outline, with the specifics being figured out along the way. For really complex cooks, the chart would be closer in spirit to the more elaborate charts I once did. For simpler cooks the charts were less specific and more major milestones. I would have blocks of time where I could be doing one or more of the tasks needed. I did not get into the specific order of these things unless it mattered to the cook. These days as long as I got the task(s) done in the allotted block of time, I didn’t worry about the specifics. In the last year I’ve found for many cooks I can get buy without any type of chart. I may scribble down a few key times such as: end time, light the grill time, start the whole prep time etc. The rest of it I figure out in my head quickly using the key times as reference points. I make sure there is more than enough time to get everything done without sweating specific details, Now that I have a number of these types of cooks under my belt, I now have some fairly accurate ideas of how long these tasks take overall and can allow enough time without getting bogged down in minutia. As I go along, I figure out what the best order of doing the tasks is. Reaching this level is not something I expected, but it was a natural evolution of doing a number of these more complex cooks and seeing what worked well and what didn’t. This past Thanksgiving I had no chart of any kind. I started with what time I wanted to eat. I worked the time backwards carving, resting, cooking, light the grill, prep the turkey and remove from fridge. I worked the times backwards on the other grill for baking the rolls, baking dessert #1, baking dessert #2, light the grill. Before that I work the times backward for prepping the various items to get them ready to go on the grill. It was very interesting to do this cook in a rather free-form manner. Everything about it was somehow more low key, relaxing and enjoyable. Hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable, so this is exactly what it should be all about. If you are trying to get started with more complex cooks, just keep pushing forward. Before you know it, things that once seemed way too complex will be come second nature. You won’t have to break the process down and guess how long it will take, you will know.
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Take Longer to Warm Up the Big Green Egg
Lately I have been allowing more time for my BGE to warm up, which has proven to have several benefits. These benefits are even greater over the course of a long cook. The first benefit is a longer warm-up assures you that you are stabilized at your desired temp. Instead of putting the food on and having the temperature drop and your are facing the question of whether to adjust the temperature. You can often leave things alone and the temps will quickly get back to where they were. You are not facing several adjustments because the Egg wasn’t in equilibrium. The second benefit is you are much more immune to the effects of cold weather. All of the ceramics have been heated to their final temperature for the cook. You can open the grill lid and when you close it the temps will drop, but most of the time they quickly return to their prior setting and you can return to your work and not sweat it. A third difference is you are not facing wide variations between dome temperature and grid temperature. When you first start the temps can vary 50-75 degrees, and over time they get much closer, more like 20-30 degrees higher in the dome. I had my two large BGEs going for many hours on Thanksgiving of this year. I let them warm up and stabilize for an hour before I put food on either of them. I was rewarded with a cook where I did not have to go out to the grills to make any intermediate tweaks. A couple times I was off 5 or 10 degrees which I adjusted when I went out to do something else for the cook, such as flip the turkey over. This gave me more quality time for indoor prep and made for a stress free cook.
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Good Lighting = Great Grilling
“Second
I added lights to my Grill Gazebo this spring and it has made life so much easier. Some of the grill lights I’ve owned, that actually mount to the grill, have not had enough spread to evenly light the grill. This makes it hard to judge when the food is properly cooked. The level of lighting can also make it difficult to judge doneness too. An addition benefit is the even lighting throughout the Grill Gazebo makes doing some of the prep chores out at the grill at night easy and enjoyable. I also find I am using the lighting during dark rainy days. My grill lights never gave me even lighting over a large enough area that I never thought of using them during the day. I really can’t believe I went all these years without putting in a better lighting solution.

See:
  LET THERE BE LIGHT-PART 1 Blog Entry
  LET THERE BE LIGHT-PART 2 Blog Entry
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Top 5 Mistakes NOT to Repeat

This section documents some mistakes that come up while grilling. All of them are items I try to do only once, I seem to be able to find new and more creative mistakes to make going forward. Sadly I am beginning to think some of these mistakes may achieve permanent status and some will change from year to year.

Leave Enough Time for Prep
Sadly this is one of the items that I referred to as achieving permanent status. Now in my defense: Part of it is due to the fact I am doing more ambitious cooks. I am now making the main course, baking rolls or bread, baking dessert, making the side dishes. Fortunately, several things that changed in the last year are helping out. Having a new and better organized Kitchen is a huge help. I used to have 1 1/2 work areas where I could do my prep and now I I have 3 1/2 work areas. This is a huge help for cooks where I am trying to photograph the steps for this site. Often I would be set up for photos for one item (say making a rub and rubbing the meat) and it would be time to start something else (say baking some dough) and I was stuck if the rub took longer than expected. I now have a separate dedicated baking area so this is easy. I can leave the rub prep where it is setup and time wise and get the baking going. Another example was if I needed to start something else on the stove. I now have a separate area near the stove for this. The baking area is usually used at the beginning of a cooking session and at the end it can serve as a staging area for food going out to the grill. The bottom line is I have flexibility in “staging” the cooks. The other change is having a second Egg. This gives me greater flexibility and I can reduce totally grilling time nearly in half by simultaneous grilling. Also the Eggs require a lot less trips outdoors to tweak the settings like my first smoker. The Kitchen renovation also allowed me to be much better organized. Now I do not waste time trying to seek out missing ingredients or tools. This Thanksgiving was the first time doing a big multi-item cook using both the new Kitchen and with two Eggs. I did quite well with my schedule and really enjoyed doing everything.

While I seem to have gotten better with more complex cooks, thanks to some of the items described above, my issue now seems to be shorter cooks. I seem to be feeling too confident in my ability to pull off the easy stuff. I need to just force myself to start earlier until I reach a point where I am hitting my desired done times consistently and without it being a scramble.
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Before You Start, Make Sure You Have Everything
I said last year that there was zero excuse for this items being on the list for multiple years running. Sadly, it happened again this year and so I am planning to end it for good this year. There were several ways this had been happening to me at first but this past year it came down to thinking I had something in house and either I didn’t or it was not exactly the right ingredient. This came to head Thanksgiving morning where I reached into the cabinet for the turkey grave I “knew” I had. Turns out it was beef gravy with a similar colored label. Fortunately my mother had some at her house that she brought over when my parents came over to eat. This saved me having to try to score some gravy on Thanksgiving morning. So new mandatory rule around here: Don’t ASSume you have an ingredient, go look and verify you have it and have enough of it.
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Proper Platesetter Position Makes a Huge Difference
The Platesetter is an Eggcessory for doing indirect cooking on the Egg. This indirect cooking can be low and slow barbecue (225F/ 110C) or medium temperature baking (375F/190C) or high temperature pizza cooks (650F/340C). The Platesetter is a ceramic disc with three legs and it can be installed with the legs up or down. For Thanksgiving, I planned to bake 3 items and I had one of the Eggs set up for indirect grilling with the Platesetter installed legs up. I had the stock BGE metal grill grid installed on top of the legs to support the various pans or sheet pans. I warmed up the grill for an hour so the temps were stable. I had the grate probe of the Maverick ET-732 installed and had my temps right where I wanted them. I started with an Eggnog Bundt Cake I had made last year. I had no concerns that it would be a problem of any kind. I cooked the cake in the bundt cake pan and the bottom looked perfect at the time called for in the recipe. I removed the cake and kept it in the pan to cool. Meanwhile I put the sheet pan with the hermits on. I checked on the hermits several times and they appeared to be coming along perfectly. Just before the hermits were supposed to be done, it was time to remove the bundt cake from the pan. The bottom looked perfect, but to my great surprise and dismay, the sides of the cake appeared to be burned. I ran out to the Egg with a spatula and lifted one of the hermit logs to check. Where the top looked fine, the bottom was burned. Not badly burned, but burned none-the-less. I was at a loss for what was happening since this type of thing had never happened before. I put the rolls on and started looking in on them sooner, but I still had the problem. Without any idea what was going on, I pulled the rolls a little sooner. The tops of the rolls hadn’t turned the deep golden brown I wanted, but the bottoms were already past where I would have liked. Fortunately though the items looked burned on the bottom they didn’t really taste burned, The bottoms were a bit crispier than I would have liked, but fortunately the flavor wasn’t harmed. I was totally mystified and during dinner it occurred to me that I should check my pictures from last Thanksgiving to see if perhaps the Platesetter was installed legs down last year. Cutting to the chase: That was it. Every one of those dishes was cooked at the same temperature but the Platesetter was legs down, not legs up. Lesson learned from this is I will no longer be casual about the platesetter positioning. I will verify it and if I don’t know what it should be, I will investigate until I find out.
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Use All of the Ingredients
While this is a repeat item, I am a little willing to cut myself some slack. I am consistently doing more complex cooks and it is actually happening less than in the past. Having a better organized and bigger Kitchen workspace available has helped. I will often pull out the items that go on last just before I head out to the grill to bring in the food. I now have the needed space to set up an area to do the final prep and can have the final prep ingredients out in plain sight. I am hoping by being more diligent about rereading the recipe near the end and bringing out the final ingredients, this problem will go away.
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Have Spare Batteries Around
I seem to recall this being on the list in it’s early incarnations. For some reason it has started happening again If your remote read thermometer or digital scale runs out of battery power during the middle of a cook it can be a real killer. When my Maverick ET-732 ran out of batteries I had to scramble around and borrow/steal some batteries out of the TV remote, so I lost only some time. When my digital scale used up it’s battery, it was a bigger problem. the battery is a lithium battery which is not available at any old store. On this day I used measurement by volume as opposed to the more accurate measurement by weight. When I bought the replacement lithium battery, I got two. I plan to do the same with AAA or AA batteries. I will make sure to buy double the largest number of batteries I will need to replace in any device.
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Top 5 Grilling/Smoking Related Happenings
This section includes items related to my grilling/smoking activities but that are not food items. Examples include BBQ or Cooking Events, Cookbooks, Grills, Grill Accessories that were important contributors to my enjoyment of this hobby.


EGGtoberfest XVI (October 12 & 13, 2013)
“Second
This was a big event for this year or any year, not to mention the biggest grilling event I’ve ever attended. It was started 16 years ago by the Big Green Egg Company as a way of thanking it’s loyal users. It originally was a local event but has grown over the years and it now draws folks from around the world. Several hundred cooks pay to cook meals for 3,000 or more tasters using Big Green Eggs furnished by the Big Green Egg Company. At the end of EGGtoberfest the grills are sold at a discount. Smaller versions of these EGGfests are held around the country and are a great way for people to see or try cooking on the Big Green Egg and taste the results. There is a saying that the best way to sell someone an Egg is to serve them food cooked on an Egg. This event also includes cooking demos and musical entertainment. The company sets up a store on site where their full product line of grills and Eggcessories are offered up for sale.

This year the venue was Stone Mountain Park, a park/resort outside of Atlanta. I made a little 4 day mini-vacation out of it. There was a separate Meet & Greet Event at our hotel the night of Friday October 12. I travelled down to Atlanta Friday morning, arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon and attended the Meet & Greet Friday night. The EGGtoberfest event was on Saturday, October 13. I stayed at Stone Mountain through Monday October 14, 2013, which was the Columbus Day holiday back here in Massachusetts. I will be writing a future blog entry on this when I catch up with things on the site. For now let me just say it was a wonderful time.
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Wicked Good Barbecue/Wicked Good Burgers
“Second
As you can see from the various Top 5 lists above, these two books dominated the content of the lists with 8 entires making the list. If they had been Top 10 list another 4 or 5 items probably would have made the list. Wicked Good Barbecue came out two summers ago just before I got my first BGE. My former boss gave me an autographed copy as a gift. The cookbook looked amazing and the big attraction was these guys included award winning recipes that helped them take many BBQ championships including the 2009 Jack Daniels national championship. Soon after I got the cookbook, I got pre-occupied learning my new BGE and it was a year before I made my first recipe from Wicked Good Barbecue. This spring while my Kitchen was under renovation WICKED GOOD BURGERS came out and I grabbed it, I used the Kitchen down time to read the book and to say I was salivating over some of the recipes was an understatement. When my Kitchen was reopened, I started using both books. I quickly found what these guys promised, they delivered!! Everything was excellent and their attention to detail was great. You could tell someone had made and tested the recipes as written in the books, You could follow the directions to the letter and get perfect results. Very few cookbooks these days can make that claim. As you can see from all of the recipes included on the lists above, the results speak for themselves.

See:
  WICKED GOOD COOKBOOK Blog Entry
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Wicked Good Burgers Lecture (September 14, 2013)
“Second
This lecture was held at the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School in York, ME and I will start out by saying this was one of the best cooking lecture/demos I have ever attended. The facility was as good as any I have been to or seen. Chef’s Chris Hart and Andy Husbands, two of the three authors, taught the class. This lecture was very interesting to me because it was so good while being somewhat improvised on the fly. I believe this was their first time giving this lecture/demo, but while everything was loose it still had an overall organization to it. Some lectures can be boring because they are too organized and you are watching someone essentially read off PowerPoint slides. You could almost skip the lecture if you received printouts of the PowerPoint slides. Other lectures are totally disorganized affair. They start late and jump all over the place and sometimes leave you more confused than when you started. This lecture had no PowerPoint and was not overly rigid. Nor was it disorganized. The two Chef’s would trade hats through out the lecture: One would cook, while the other would lecture. The material covered did not feel overly scripted, but everything that needed to be covered was covered. They would get to a new topic and they would on the spot divide the duties. They would ask each other who would talk and who would cook and quickly move on. Every topic they covered also involved a demo cook(s) with samples for the attendees. The demo food was cut up into sample sized portions and delivered to your desk by assistants from the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School. I intend to write a blog on this soon and will place a link here when it is written. If this lecture makes it to your neck of the woods, be sure to attend it. You will learn a lot, see some great food being made and get to try it too.

See:
  WICKED GOOD COOKBOOK Blog Entry
  WICKED GOOD LECTURE!! Blog Entry
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NewEGGlandfest VI - 2013 (June 22, 2013)
“Second
This was a regional Eggfest held by the New England Big Green Egg distributer. It is a small scale version of EGGtoberfest, but 10 percent of the size: Tens of cooks and hundreds of tasters. The day starts at 9:00 and goes to 3:00. For the first few hours the cooks make breakfast themed fare after which they switch to lunch or dinner related food. Now I know the Egg can do a wide variety of items, but I was still amazed at what was coming off the cook’s Eggs. Particularly early in the day when it was breakfast themed. This day was a real eye-opener for me into the unlimited potential of the Big Green Egg. I also had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Dr BBQ, Ray Lampe, who turned out to be a great down to earth guy. I plan to attend next year, it was a great eggsperience. If you are interested in reading more about NewEgglandfest I have written a blog about it,

See:
  NEWEGGLANDFEST VI - 2013 Blog Entry
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Grill Gazebo Improvements

“Second
In September of 2012 I had a long term wish filled. I designed a year round shelter for my grills and had it built. Due to costs it was a work in progress. Going forward I planned to add permanent lighting to it and get outdoor Kitchen cabinets for use with the grills. This spring, while my Kitchen was under renovation, I added permanent lighting to the Grill Gazebo. In July I rearranged the layout of the grills in the Grill Gazebo and added two more base cabinets to the two I already had. This gives me a 54” (138 cm) of work surface between the two Eggs with door and drawer storage below. The two Eggs are now both permanently mounted to base cabinets which also gives me some additional storage below. Ironically I finished this work on a Sunday and the following Monday I got a phone call about a job that had me tied up for the next 3 months straight. I have used the new setup only three times since then but with winter almost here I can tell you the permanent lighting makes a HUGE difference.

See:
  LET THERE BE LIGHT-PART 1 Blog Entry
  LET THERE BE LIGHT-PART 2 Blog Entry
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5 Goals for Next Year

While last year probably marked the biggest change for me since I started with the hobby, this year is a very close second. I added a second Big Green Egg and continued to improve my Grill Gazebo. After attending the regional NewEGGlandfest and the national EGGtoberfest I know I have just scratched the surface of what I can do with my Eggs.

Continue to Learn More About the Big Green Egg
My trips to the NewEGGlandfest and EGGtoberfest showed me I have only just begun to see what I can cook on my BGE. Basically any limits on what I can do with the Egg are going to be limits I place on myself, not limits imposed by the equipment. So I want to continue to explore the possibilities of this amazing piece of gear.
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Learn to Use My Adjustable Rig (AR)
The work which kept me away from the Egg also helped buy some new Eggcessories back in October, so it wasn’t all bad. I bought an Adjustable Rig, 2 tier-Swing Rack & Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer. The AR is a system which allows you to add one or more additional levels of grill grids and easily change the level you grill at. I’ve only used my AR twice since October, but I already see the great potential of this gear. In fact after using it for my Thanksgiving Turkey, I’ve already ordered several more accessories for it. I can see the uses for this tool are almost limitless and I understand now why many users or the AR say they rarely take it off their grill. But I can see I have a lot of learning ahead of me before I can use this powerful tool to it’s fullest.
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Learn to Use My 2-Tier Swing Rack
As mentioned above, I picked up a Swing Rack in October. This Eggcessory is 2 cast iron grill grates joined by a vertical post. The post gives you the ability to change the height of the upper grill grate as well as being able to swing it out of the way for easy access to the food on the lower grill grate. It should allow you to do more food in less time. Sadly it is not even out of the box yet, but learning this tool is a priority for me.
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Do More Baking
Now that I have a dedicated baking prep area in my Kitchen, it should be easier and more fun than ever to do more baking. Having two Eggs will also allow me to do more baking without it interfering with the main course. The Big Green Egg is a better oven than my indoor oven and I am looking forward to getting more into Pies and Cookies.
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Make More Fish
This item comes and goes from the list. It has been on this list for several years now and two years ago getting my new BGE was my “excuse”. Frankly fish scares me a little bit and I told myself I wanted to learn my new BGE before I attempted more fish. This past year I had gotten into stir fries and doing burgers from WICKED GOOD BURGERS and lost time due to the Kitchen renovations and work deadlines. So yet again I am putting this on the list to act as a reminder to try to get me to finally do it in 2014.

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Thanks

If you’ve made it down to here, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this blog as well as visiting the entire site. I realize my switchover to using the Big Green Egg exclusively has possibly changed the demographics of who visits my site. I am sure I have picked up some Big green Egg users and lost some folks who use other grills. I would just like to point out that the majority of the picture entries are items that can be made on other grills and smokers. The blog may have Big Green Egg related entries, but it will continue to have lots of general interest topics. Over the years I received lots of help from friends, virtual friends and websites. One of my goals for this site was to share what I have learned with others and pay back for the help I have received, past & present, from others. As always let me know via Blog Comments or the Contact Form what you think about how I am doing. Thanks again for looking.

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