3

The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
GS3-2014_Blog_Header-HDR-960x500

Looking Back, Looking Ahead - 2014

First Image
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.

Last year was a big year with many changes and events. To my surprise this year was another watershed year for me. 2013 was the first year that all of my food was grilled, smoked, baked, stir fried etc. on the Big Green Egg. I still had my gas grill and smoker but I didn’t chose to use them. This year in February I said goodbye to both the gas grill and smoker and I was down to just the two Eggs. This year marked my second year with my renovated Kitchen which has made my prep so much easier. I am better organized and the flexibility I now have give me many more options. The dedicated baking area meant I was doing many more desserts and breads. In fact I was doing enough baking and desserts that a use case for a third Big Green Egg, dedicated to baking, presented itself. In September I picked up a once-used Egg from my dealer’s September Egg Event. Speaking of EGG related events, I had so much fun at last year’s EGGtoberfest that I went again this year. Once I extended the 2 day event into a 4 day mini vacation.

Towards the end of last year I had added several key EGGcessories for my Big Green Egg - the Adjustable Rig, the Two-Tier Swing Rack and a Thermapen instant read thermometer come to mind. This year I got to start using them and enjoy the additional flexibility they give me. In fact I doubled up on the AR when I bought the third (baking) Egg because I was finding many unplanned uses for the AR. Speaking of doubling up: The viewership of this site has nearly doubled each of the last two years now. I am not in this for the “hits”, I make no money off the site. This is purely a hobby site for me, it combines my grilling and photography hobbies. The other reason for doing this site is to pay back / give back for all of the help I got from online sources when I was starting out. Several local dealers have referred some of their customers to this site as a reference and I get quite a few visitors from the Big Green Egg Egghead forum too. So thanks to all the new folks visiting the site and I hope some of what you find here has been helpful to you.

I am going to make several changes to this list, as I have in years past to suit the directions my Grilling and Smoking have taken. Last year there were 3 Top 5 lists: Top Five Items Cooked, Top 5 New Items Cooked and Top 5 Sides and Desserts. The addition of the second BGE in 2013 and the third in 2014 have meant I am doing many more sides as well as more baked goods and desserts. I wanted to add some additional categories, but I struggled with it a bit. I wanted to split up Sides and Desserts and give them their own categories. I also wanted to add a category for Baking. Sides rated their own Top 5 list because I make quite a few of them. Baking and Desserts really didn’t represent enough of my output that they should have separate Top 5 lists. So for this year here are the new additions to the lineup: Top 5 Sides, Top 3 Baked Goods and Top 5 Desserts.

Top 5 Items Cooked in 2014:
Crown Roast of Lamb (04-20-14) “Second
This was the year of the crown roast for me. I finally got around to making a Crown Roast of Pork (which is number 2 on this list) for Christmas and it proved to be relatively easy and excellent. For Easter I wanted to try a Crown Roast of Lamb. Cooking a lamb crown roast is a little easier than the pork crown roast and cooks up in about half the time. I used the same bones down cooking method I had learned doing the Crown Roast of Pork, but I did not flip it over bones up to finish. I also cooked it without a stuffing as suggested. Not only was this the best meal of the year, it was the best lamb dish I have ever made and came pretty close to being the best meal I have ever made. I have made it twice more since Easter and it has proven to be equally excellent both times. Don't be scared by the prospect of preparing this roast for cooking, your butcher will be more than happy to prep the meat and tie it into the crown for you.

See:
  CROWN ROAST OF LAMB Lamb Picture Entry
________________________


Crown Roast of Pork (12-25-13)

“Third
Last Christmas I was looking for a new dish to do for Christmas dinner. I wanted something new and different and it also had to be special for the holidays. About a month before Christmas, this recipe was on the cover of a Cook's Illustrated special publication displayed at the checkout counter at my supermarket. I took this to be a sign. I had always wanted to try a Crown roast but I was a bit intimidated but what I perceived to be a high difficulty factor. It turns out the butcher does all the hard work for you and the chefs at Cooks Illustrated had solved all of the problems associated with cooking this roast. Cooking this roast on the Big Green Egg allowed me to add some smoke flavor using some Jack Daniels oak chips. The tight seal on the Egg allow the roast to retain a lot of moisture. This was without a doubt one of the finest pork roasts I've ever made. If you are looking for a showpiece roast or a special event or holiday, consider a Crown Roast of Pork.

See:
  CROWN ROAST OF PORK Pork Picture Entry
________________________


Lamb Burgers with Moroccan Spices (05-01-14)

“Fourth
When I asked my mother what she would like me to make for her birthday, she was torn. She loves when I grill or smoke lamb, but she could also eat a hamburger every day the week and not get tired of them. She finally settled on a hamburger. As I was searching for a good burger recipe, it occurred to me why not some sort of Lamb burger? This recipe from The Grilling Book looked to be an excellent choice. It was Moroccan influenced, meaning the meat was highly spiced. The burger was also topped with an interesting salsa made from oranges and beets. It looked like it would be a memorable recipe and It proved to be excellent. My father, who is not what you would call a lamb lover, was searching around his plate for scraps from the lamb patties because they were so flavorful.

See:
  LAMB BURGER WITH MOROCCAN SPICES Burger Picture Entry
________________________


Pulled BBQ Beef (03-15-14)

“Fifth
For whatever reason, up until this year I had never made pulled beef. Dr. BBQ’s cookbook Slow Fire had a tasty looking recipe for pulled beef. It was a day long cook in very cold and windy weather, but the ceramics of the Big Green Egg helped me maintain the temperatures and have a relatively uneventful cook. Just as I do with pulled pork, I cooked it a few days ahead of time. I pulled the beef, sauced it and divided it up into four food saver bags which went into the fridge. On Saturday when I was using it, I reheated two of the bags for about 45 minutes in 170 degree (77 C) water before serving. Everybody really loved the pulled beef. It was extremely flavorful and some folks were saying they think they might even like it better than pulled pork..

See:
  PULLED BARBECUE BEEF Beef Picture Entry
________________________


Hawaiian Panini (01-11-14)

“Sixth
This Panini, from my then new cookbook Perfect Panini, was essentially a Hawaiian Pizza turned into a panini. It use grilled pineapples and ham just like the pizza, but the savory flavor of the tomatoes on the pizza was replaced with whole grain mustard on the panini. I was unable to find Hawaiian rolls, which are said to be sweet, so Portuguese rolls where use for the bread. I used my two BGE Half-Moon Cast-Iron Grill Griddles, one above to one below, to serve as the panini press. Making the paninis outdoors on the BGE versus an indoor panini press allowed me to make for the time versus two. Around this time I was making a lot of paninis from Perfect Panini, and these seem to be everyone's favorite.


See:
  HAWAIIAN PANINI Panini Picture Entry
________________________



Top 5 New Items Cooked in 2014

Beef & Guinness Stew (04-13-14)

“Seventh
I Guinness beef stew is my favorite beef stew. Whenever I go to a restaurant that looks like it has decent Irish food, I always make a point of ordering the Guinness beef stew. This recipe originally appeared on the Cook's Country TV show and the folks at America's Test Kitchens had done some work to resolve some of the traditional problems making this stew. They had also worked out the problems with traditional IRISH SODA BREAD and had a recipe for that on the show as well. I made a loaf of that this day too. The IRISH SODA BREAD appears as the top item in the Top 3 Baked Goods list below. I made this stew using my Dutch oven out on the BGE so I could introduce some smoke flavor. This stew was absolutely amazing! Between the addition of the smoke and the problematic items that the ATK folks are taken care of, this was the best Guinness stew I've ever had. That distinction lasted all of one day. When I heated some leftover stew up for lunch the following day, the reheated batch was even better: thicker and more flavorful.

See:
  BEEF & GUINESS STEW Soups & Stews Picture Entry
________________________


Simple Stir-Fried Spinach (11-08-14)

Eighth Image
This stir fried spinach recipe was by far not just the best spinach dish I have ever had, it was the best veggie dish I've ever had. So why is it here in this section versus Sides and Veggies? Because it was stir-fried on the wok. I see myself doing it as part of a stir-fried dinner with multiple stir-fried items, as opposed to making it up as a side dish for a regular grilled or smoked dinner. No matter where you put it, this recipe was truly amazing. The only way to make this recipe is on the wok. The high sides and a high heat of the wok make stir frying the spinach possible. You must eat it fast. For the first five minutes this dish had an incredible flavor. Once it had cooled off, it really isn't anything particularly memorable. So the expression “Get it while it's hot“ definitely applies here.

See:
  SIMPLE STIR-FRIED SPINACH Stir-Fry Picture Entry
________________________


Lamb Kebabs with Golden Couscous (05-17-14)

“Ninth
This recipe was another Middle Eastern influenced recipe from The Grilling Book. It used marinated lamb for the meat and onions and apricots for the veggies. This marked the second time I use my flexible FireWire skewers and they proved very handy. I was able to put the lamb on the skewers and coil up the skewers so everything would fit in the marinade bag. When it was time to grill I was ready to go, I took the meat on the skewers out of the bag, dried it off a bit and was good to go. There was no fiddling around with trying to thread wet and slippery pieces of meat onto the skewers. The lamb and veggies were grilled on separate skewers so they could be given different cooking times on the grill. The kebabs were served over a bed of couscous when they came off the grill. These were among the best kebabs I've ever made.

See:
  LAMB KEBABS WITH GOLDEN COUSCOUS Kebabs Picture Entry
________________________


Beef Enchiladas (03-23-14)

“Tenth
America’s Test Kitchen’s Hometown Favorites was the source for this tasty and interesting recipe. Made in a casserole dish the way this recipe was, the enchiladas seemed to be a Mexican version of Italian lasagna. I found the parallels fascinating. Making this dish out on the BGE once again allowed me to add a little bit of smoke flavor. Also when it came time to toast the tortillas, instead of using a 12” (30 cm) cast-iron skillet on the stove, I was able to use the much larger BGE Half Moon Cast-Iron Grill Griddle and get them toasted twice as fast. These enchiladas were extremely tasty, spicy as a matter of fact, and the kiss of smoke I gave them added a nice flavor.


See:
  BEEF ENCHILADAS Beef Picture Entry
________________________


St. Louis Pizza (03-27-14)

“Eleventh
This was another recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Hometown Favorites for a very unique regional pizza, which is unlike anything I have had around here. The crust was a thin and crispy crust that was fairly easy to make. The sauce was also very easy to make an had great flavor despite its simplicity. The cheese is something that can only be found in the greater St. Louis area, But the recipe had a substitute blend of readily available cheeses to re-create the flavor. This was a very interesting pizza because it was simple and short on ingredients, but yet long on flavor. I used my Two-Tier Swing Rack to cook up a cheese and a pepperoni version of the pizza simultaneously. Nobody that I served this pizza to had ever had it before, but everyone really loved it.

See:
  ST. LOUIS PIZZA Pizza Picture Entry
________________________



Top 5 Sides

This category was added in 2012 as Top 5 Sides & Desserts. I am making many more Sides as well as Desserts so I have split this category up into two separate lists. The Top 5 Sides List has had the name changed to Top 5 Sides & Veggies. In addition I have added a Top 3 Desserts list.

Outdoor Cast-Iron Potatoes Galette (05-13-14)

“Twelfth
This recipe from the Grill to Perfection cookbook was simple in theory, but a little more difficult in practice at least on a Large Big Green Egg. It involved multi zone direct and indirect cooking which is not something the Egg can do without some Eggcessory help. It took me two tries to get it perfected, but I figured out a way to use my Adjustable Rig to re-create the necessary set up. When done right these potatoes come out looking like a pie and get cut into wedge-shaped pieces like a pie. The butter and fresh herbs used give the potatoes great flavor. Even though my first batch wasn't perfect, everyone that had them asked me to make them again the next week. In fact insisted it is more like it, They weren't asking they were telling.

See:
  OUTDOOR CAST-IRON POTATOES GALETTE Vegetables Picture Entry
________________________


Root Beer Baked Beans (05-18-13)

“Thirteenth
I've made many doctored beans recipes and when I stumbled across this recipe from The Grilling Book while looking for other recipes, I knew I was going to have to make it. The idea of root beer as an ingredient was intriguing. And it wasn't just any root beer that you used. The recipe called for an artisanal style root beer like they used to have in the good old days. The root beer would have to use pure cane sugar instead of cornstarch like they do today. I made these beans a few days ahead out on the BGE and once again use the opportunity to add a little bit of woodsmoke. Being able to just reheat the beans on the day I needed to use them freed me up for the other items I was cooking. These beans were unusual tasting but everybody that tried them loved them.

See:
  ROOT BEER BAKED BEANS Sides Picture Entry
________________________


Brown Sugar-Rum Grilled Sweet Potatoes (04-04-14)

“Fourteenth
This Bobby Flay recipe essentially made grilled sweet potato steak fries. It was a fairly simple prep involving parboiling the sweet potatoes and making a glaze. The glaze used brown sugar, rum and several fresh herbs and spices. It was brushed on the potatoes once they went on the grill. The potatoes were grilled for three minutes on the two fleshy sides over medium high heat. You had to keep a very careful eye on them, because with all the sugar in the glaze it would be very easy to burn them. If you kept them on just a little too long they would char quickly. Once off the grill, the potatoes were plated and brushed with the remaining glaze. In addition to giving the potatoes great flavor, the glaze had also served to give them a crispy outer crust which was a pleasant surprise.

See:
  BROWN-SUGAR-RUM GRILLED SWEET POTATOES Veggies Picture Entry
________________________


Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bacon Topping (04-20-14)

“Fifteenth
This recipe from the Cook's Country TV show was used to make the sweet potatoes I served with the Crown Roast of Lamb listed at the top of this page. Twice cooked sweet potatoes can have some issues. In addition to solving these issues, the America's Test Kitchen chefs also made the recipe so it could be made ahead. On the day you need to use it you simply stuff the sweet potatoes and cook them to completion. This came in handy on Easter because I was making the crown roast and baking some rolls. This Easter meal was one of the best meals I've ever made. When I made the Crown Roast of Lamb two more times after this, I paired these potatoes with it both times. Everyone that tried them really loved them.

See:
  TWICE BAKED SWEET POTATOES WITH BACON TOPPING Veggies Picture Entry
________________________


Twice-Smoked Cheesy Potatoes (02-22-14)

“Sixteenth
The day I made these smoked potatoes from Dr. BBQ’s cookbook Slow Fire, I was also making a smoked meat loaf recipe from the same cookbook. I love smoked baked potatoes with smoked meatloaf and these twice smoked potatoes were an even better solution. They were the typical twice cooked potato, where the potato was cooked almost to completion, the pulp gets scooped out and it is combined with other ingredients to make a stuffing that goes back into the potato. Using the Big Green Egg as a smoker allowed me to add some wood smoke flavor. As much as everyone like the meatloaf I made this day, The potatoes were an even bigger hit.


See:
  TWICE-SMOKED CHEESY POTATOES Veggies Picture Entry
________________________



Top 3 Desserts

This category is being added in 2014 because I was making many more sides and desserts on the grill. The Sides List has been renamed Top 5 Sides & Veggies. Desserts is getting it’s own Top 3 list this year.

Cast-Iron Gingerbread Cookies (06-28-14)

“Seventeenth
This recipe made the worlds largest gingerbread cookie in a 12” (30 cm) cast iron skillet on the grill. After the cookie cooled it was topped with slices of grilled pineapple. After the cookie is removed from the cast iron pan it gets cut into squares. This recipe turned out a great cookie. It was nice and soft on the inside with a slight crunch on the outside, but not so much crunch that you would break your teeth biting into it. These are very easy to make, taste great and have a high “WOW” factor.





See:
  CAST-IRON GINGERBREAD COOKIE Dessert Picture Entry
________________________


Grilled Corn Pudding (05-24-14)

“Eighteenth
Chris Lilly’s Fire and Smoke was the source for this very Southern desert. I had never heard of corn pudding before, but as soon as I looked at the recipe I knew I had to make it. Grilling the corn adds a nice smoky flavor to the sweetness of the corn pudding. This is definitely not a low-calorie, heart friendly recipe. As soon as you look at the ingredients list you know this is going to be so good because there is so much bad in there. People were cutting themselves a second portion while simultaneously saying they were way too full to eat anything more..




See:
  GRILLED CORN PUDDING Desserts Picture Entry
________________________


Hungarian Christmas Cookies (03-19-14)

“Nineteenth
These cookies were big surprise on several fronts. The baked cookie dough tasted like a baking powder biscuit and had the consistency of piecrust. I have never had a cookie quite like this. The apricot filling and confectioners' sugar gave them a wonderful sweetness without being too sweet, and were a perfect match for the cookie dough flavor.







See:
  HUNGARIAN CHRISTMAS COOKIES Desserts Picture Entry
________________________



TOP 3 BAKED GOODS

This category was added this year to cover non-dessert baked goods such as breads, rolls, scones etc. For now it is a Top 3 list. With the addition of my dedicated baking Egg, I am sure it will eventually become a Top 5 list in future years.

Irish Soda Bread (04-13-14)

“Twentieth
This recipe came from the same episode of the Cook's Country TV show that featured the Beef and Guinness stew. Once again, the folks at America's Test Kitchen had worked to resolve some of that traditional problems with this bread. Soda Bread can be overly dry and crunchy, better suited to be a doorstop than something you eat. This is a fairly simple recipe to make because this is a quick bread. That means the dough doesn't use yeast and therefore doesn't require one or more rise times. Basically you make it, you bake it. The various tweaks made to this recipe turned out a bread that was crispy without being too hard. The bread was also very moist and flavorful. It also doesn't hurt that it is also very quick and easy to make.

See:
  IRISH SODA BREAD Baking Picture Entry
________________________


Pumpkin Scones (09-30-14)

“Twenty-First
This scone recipe from the King Arthur Flour website was both extremely tasty and easy to make. Their scone recipes always give you a very moist scone, not the overly dry variety you often find. This was the second batch of scones I had tried on my new baking Egg. I used the Adjustable Rig to help get me high in the dome where I found I was able to get extremely even baking. I did not have to open the Egg and turn the scone pan around 180 degrees mid way through. There was no evidence of uneven baking to require the turn. These were about the tastiest scones I have made and they couldn't have been baked more perfectly.



See:
  PUMPKIN SCONES Baking Picture Entry
________________________


Grilled Flatbreads (11-01-14)

“Twenty-Second
This recipe for Moroccan grilled flatbread sprinkled with a spice blend called Za’atar was an excellent accompaniment for some Moroccan style grilled lamb chops and grilled corn salad I made recently. The flatbread was grilled high in the dome with the same excellent results as the scones I've done this way. The only difference here was the flatbread was being grilled directly, not indirectly like the scones. The fact that the grate was higher away from the flame than normal made it easier to control the baking. With less radiant heat I was less likely to burn the bread at the high 550 degree (288 C) temperature I was using. This bread was every bit as good as any I have had in a Middle Eastern restaurant.


See:
  GRILLED FLAT BREAD Baking Picture Entry
________________________


TOP 5 iOS COOKING RELATED APPS

This list was added in 2012 and had been somewhat the same. Last year the grocery list app I used to use,Groceries, was removed from the list because it was no longer being supported and some of the original usability had been lost in recent updates. The replacement for Groceries, the iOS version of YummySoup, has been removed from the list this year and replaced with an new shopping list app Grocery Gadget. YummySoup was removed because it seems to be no longer supported by the Developer I still use the Mac OS version which still works without issues on my Mac. The last update to the iOS version came 18 months ago which doesn’t bode well for the program going forward. Also the program often freezes on my iPad making it impractical to use and is not something I can recommend. If the developer actively supports it once again, YummySoup would make the list again. The other change is Dark Sky has moved from first place to last place. An update this year added IMHO unneeded features and the user interface is awful compared to the original version. So I use it because it is essential, but the joy of using it is mostly gone. 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.

Grocery Gadgets (Pingwell Software)

First Image
When I needed to find a new grocery app, it took me quite a while. Many of the ones I tried were unintuitive and painful to set up and/or use. My new app, Grocery Gadgets, is not quite as easy to set up initially as my previous app Groceries (R.I.P.). But it is more powerful and using it day to day is easy. Some of the nice features are: Cloud integration which backs up your lists and allows multiple devices to share the lists even real time at the market. Tow people can go shopping and their lists will be updated realtime with the others purchases. Your spouse can even make a change to the list at home and you will get a push notification at the store. There is a web portal that allows you to perform editing tasks via a web browser on your computer for greater ease of use. The app allows you to have customized lists for multiple stores. These lists can contain custom aisle layouts, product lists, pricing and coupons. You are able to use your devices camera to input a product via its barcode. The software supports all of the major smart phone platforms. .

See
:
  GROCERY GADGET WEBSITE

   GROCERY GADGET - SHOPPING APP - SET UP Blog Entry about setting up tp create a Shopping Lists in the Grocery Gadgets app.
  GROCERY GADGET - SHOPPING APP - USAGE Blog Entry about creating a Shopping Lists in the Grocery Gadgets app.
  GROCERY GADGET - SHOPPING APP - FEATURES Blog Entry about the Features of the Shopping List app I have been using for the last year or so: Grocery Gadgets.
________________________


Kitchen Calculator Pro (Forward Leap, L.L.C.)

First Image
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
________________________


Food Substitutions (Various)

First Image
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.










________________________


Clock App (Apple Computer)

First Image
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
________________________


Dark Sky (The Dark Sky Company, L.L.C.)

First Image
I used to love this app and actually used to use it for the fun of it. An update changed all of that. The app originally told 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 sends you an alert on your iPhone or iPad if it is going to start raining. The last update changed all of this in two ways. The app added a bunch of new features in an attempt to become a full fledged weather app. The second item was the program has a flatter look and feel ala iOS 7. Frankly the addition of the additional weather functionality is necessary clutter for me. I have other apps I prefer to use for this information and the new user interface makes a lot of the additional information hard to comprehend, The new user interface also took much of the joy and wonder I used to feel using Dark Sky. I find the presentation of the information is harder to comprehend and I get less out of it. So this app is still very useful, but now I use it because I have to and not just for fun sometimes like I used to.

See:
  DARK SKY Link to developer’s website
  DARK SKY - A COOL WEATHER APP Blog Entry
  DARK SKY - NEW & IMPROVED Blog Entry
________________________



TOP 5 LESSONS LEARNED, RE-LEARNED OR REINFORCED

Measure Your Temperature at the Grate Level even on the Big Green Egg

For whatever reason, conventional wisdom with the Big Green Egg is you use the dome thermometer. For any other grill I've owned myself or heard about, you are told to ignore the dome or lid thermometer that comes with the grill. You are told you should measure the temperatures at the grate level where you were actually cooking. When I got my first BGE I decided to go with the flow where it was certainly a different type of grill and a different way of cooking. The only time I measured my temperatures at the grate level was when I was doing low and slow cooks. Around the year ago this time I started having trouble where many of my baked goods for overcooking on the bottom and undercooking on the top. I have written some extensive blog entries on what was happening, which I will link to below. The bottom line was that in the extremely cold and windy weather the dome and grate temperatures were far apart over 100 in some cases. I was cooking in a much higher temperature then I thought. I have learned my lesson. Now I make sure to have a thermometer at the actual grate level where I am cooking. My food is all coming out perfectly once again and I just don't understand why Eggheads insist on using the dome thermometer for everything. The only time I use the dome thermometer now, is when I am actually cooking high in the dome where the dome thermometer lives.

See:
  GETTING BACK ON TRACK 2014 Blog Entry on how getting back to basics solved some of my recent temperature control problems.
  GETTING BACK ON TRACK II 2014 Blog Entry on the unexpected solution to some of my recent baking problems.
  COMEDY OF ERRORS - 2014 2014 Blog Entry about some recent mistakes made and lessons learned (or so I thought) doing cold weather cooking on my BGE’s. Part of my problem this day is I ignored some of the things I’d recently learned.
  COLD HARD FACTS 2014 Blog Entry about some recent mistakes made and lessons learned (or so I thought) doing cold weather cooking on my BGE’s. Part of my problem this day is I ignored some of the things I’d recently learned.
________________________


Take Longer to Warm Up the Big Green Egg

This item is a repeat from last year, but the more I learn the more I see this is key to a stable cook. Allowing more time for the BGE to warm up, 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 leaving you wondering whether to adjust the temperature or not. You can often leave things alone and the temps will quickly get back to where they were. 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. In fact you need to be sure to close the lid ASAP because the cold air you let in is not only cold air, it is combustion air. 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 or more 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 keep going 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. But it didn’t require a special trip out to the grill. This gave me more quality time for indoor prep and made for a stress free cook.
________________________


Multi-Item Cook Timing Really Does Become Second Nature

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.
________________________


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.
________________________


Hobbies are Supposed to be Fun - Take Time to Enjoy Yourself

This past summer I realized I was letting the more complex cooks I was doing get under my skin and stress me out. I decided to take a new approach, because I was the only one getting stressed out about some of the delays causing my meals to run late. I saw all of my guests enjoying spending time with each other and they were not in the least bothered by any delays. I told myself “Hobbies are supposed to be fun.” Why should I let something bother me if it wasn’t bothering the people I was concerned about? I shouldn’t I began to relax and have more fun with things. I began to try to enjoy the time spent pursuing my hobby. The best way I can put it was I was stopping to smell the roses. An interesting thing happened. I was enjoying things more and people also noticed the change in me and liked it. I also started having better results. I can’t say there is a case and effect here, but these last 6 months I have been on an amazing run. I have turned out some of my best cooks and am enjoying myself more than ever.

See:
  LET’S GO HAVE FUN DAMMIT! 2014 Blog Entry
________________________


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

This item is a regular item on this list. I am getting better, but it still ends up being a repeat problem. One of the things that is happening is I am doing more difficult or multi-item cooks. If I am not familiar with what I am making, I tend to underestimate the amount of time it is going to take. One of the things I am doing is taking my estimated times and adding on 30 minutes to an hour. If it takes the time I thought, then I can take a break and relax, but often I end up needing the extra time I added in. But at least this way I not running late, or at least too late. One real complex cooks involving a main dish, sides, rolls, and dessert I simply start as soon as I get up in the morning. If I am running ahead of schedule I can take a break. Once again this rarely happens, but once again I am not too late. These days what trips me up is new techniques for prep or some food type I have never cooked. It inevitably takes longer than I estimate.
________________________


Before You Start, Make Sure You Have Everything

Sadly this item is on the list, but things are getting better I am happy to say. I think the main reason things are improving is I am back using a Shopping app. See the entry above for Grocery Gadget. The App makes creating shopping lists easy and I also have created a special shopping list with must have items. When I run out of one of these must have items, I check it off so the next time I am at the market I will restock. I am also trying to force myself not to ASSume I have something in stock. If there is any doubt, I force myself to check. Things are getting much better, but I need to finally get this item off the list.
________________________


Do Not Keep the Lid Open Too Long

Most grills are so poorly sealed lots of air gets into the grill, so opening the lid cools the grill off but doesn’t really affect the condition of the coals. The BGE has such a tight seal that it needs very little combustion air to maintain the fire. So when you open the lid and leave it open, you may think that all this cold air does is drive the temps down like any other grill. While this is initially true this air also is combustion air. Since the Egg doesn’t need much air to maintain the fire, an open lid lets in a relatively large amount of cold air, but it is also combustion air too. You will find that while the temps will drop initially just as you would expect, when they recover they will often shoot right past your previous cooking temperature and far beyond. While it is easy to quickly raise the temperature on an Egg, it is far more difficult to get them to drop when they overshoot their mark.
________________________


Do Not Let the Grill Temps Run Away at Startup

I This item is actually new even though I have been using an Egg since August of 2012. I think it is a case of trying to do more and having to fire up more grills. But the BGE can have a weird startup that you need to keep an eye on. The Egg may go for 5 or 10 minutes with a very small temperature rise. Then suddenly it can start rising 100 degrees (55 C) in a minute or so. If you aren’t paying attention you can miss the mark by a large amount. A BGE Green Egg is great at maintaining temperatures or quickly raising its temperature, but it is hard to drive the temperatures back down once they have overshot the mark. This is particularly true with a low and slow cook. You may actually not be able to close the dampers enough to lower the temps. If you have to completely close the dampers, you will put out the fire. So as I have added more Eggs to my grilling arsenal, I am altering my startup procedures. If I am lighting more than one Egg at the same time, I will often just hang around out at the grills, because by the time the second one is lit the first one my be starting to rise. The 5 or 10 minutes of potential prep time that you lose at the beginning by watching the grills closely, is more than recovered later in the cook. If your grill overshoots the mark, you will be spending far more time running out to the grill to drive the temps down and get the Egg stable. Also you may need to delay your planned start time because you don’t have a stable Egg yet.
________________________


Use All of the Ingredients

Despite my best efforts this item is a repeat offender. I have a bigger and better organized workspace in my Kitchen thanks to the remodel in 2012. Even so, I am still guilty of discovering I forgot to add something during the cook or at the end when food is coming off the grill and being plated. Part of it may be my doing more, but I need to figure out a way to make sure these ingredients go in. Often I prep something that goes on the food after it comes off the grill. This item(s) goes into the fridge hours before I need it. Things get hectic at the end and I forget to use it. I am going to make sure I reread the recipe near the end and perhaps I will pin a Post-it note on the cabinet where I will be working when the food comes off the grill. I will get in the habit of looking for a Post-it and bring these last items out before I head out to the grill or check for a Post-it when I come back in.
________________________


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.

Third Large Big Green Egg for Baking

“Second
This September I acquired my third BGE, a Large Big Green Egg which I will dedicate to Baking Related tasks. I picked this once-used Egg at a discount after a Customer Appreciation Event held by my BGE dealer. I will never use wood chips or chunks on this Egg and will leave it set up for baking type cooking. This Egg will help out on holidays and special events, where I can spread the cooking load across 3 Eggs. I am surprised that this third Egg came so fast after my second Egg, but this is a huge event for this or any other year. I can’t tell you how pleasing this is. I basically have my ideal outdoor cooking setup and these grills should be with me for a long, long time.

See:
  HIGH IN THE DOME Blog Entry about what I have learned so far baking high in the dome of the BGE
  AR RAISED INDIRECT BAKING - FIRST ATTEMPT Blog Entry
  CONGRATULATIONS IT’S A LARGE - MY 3RD BGE Blog Entry
  TRIPLE THREAT Blog Entry about my reasons for buying a third Large Big Green Egg
________________________


EGGtoberfest XVII (October 10 & 11, 2014)

“Second
For the second year in a row, I went to EGGtoberfest XVII. This is the biggest event in the Big Green Egg universe, not to mention the biggest grilling event I’ve ever attended. It was started 17 years ago by the Big Green Egg Company as a way of thanking it’s loyal users. Originally was a local event in Atlanta for less than 100 people. It 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.

The event was held over Columbus Day weekend, which is a state holiday back home. Like last year, I made a little 4 day mini-vacation out of it. There was a separate Meet & Greet Event at the Marriott Evergreen hotel the night of Friday October 10. I travelled down to Atlanta Friday morning, and arrived at the hotel at lunch time. I went to the BGE Company store and I attended the Meet & Greet that night. EGGtoberfest was on Saturday, October 11. I stayed at Stone Mountain through Monday October 13, 2014, which was the Columbus Day holiday back here in Massachusetts. I wrote several blog entries about this year’s show which are linked just below. I am also including my trip to the Company Store at the Mothership in Tucker, GA on this list.

See:
   EGGTOBERFEST XVII - MEET & GREET 2014 Blog Entry about the second Meet & Greet held at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriot Resort. Did they fix some of theses from last year?
   EGGTOBERFEST XVII - MINI-MAX DEBUT 2014 Blog Entry about the Mini-Max which had it’s coming out party at EGGtoberfest XVII
   EGGTOBERFEST XVII - COMPANY STORE TENT
  EGGTOBERFEST XVII - COOK’S AREA 2014 Blog Entry with some Big Picture information about the setup and what went on in the Cook’s Area at EGGtoberfest XVII
  EGGTOBERFEST XVII - TIPS & LESSONS LEARNED 2014 Blog Entry with some Big Picture information about the setup and what went on in the Cook’s Area at EGGtoberfest XVII
  EGGTOBERFEST XVII - SWAG BAG 2014 Blog Entry with some pictures and descriptions of what was in the EGGtoberfest XVII Swag Bag

   EGGTOBERFEST XVII - OFFICIAL VIDEO Web page containing the 2014 EGGtoberfest XVII video produced by the BGE Company
________________________


Craftsy Video Classes

“Second
Craftsy is combination website/online learning platform offering classes on craft based subjects including food and photography. The company offers several interesting twists to the typical online learning sites. Most services are subscription-based, where you pay a monthly membership and get access to all of the the classes. With Craftsy there is no monthly subscription. You buy (and own) the classes you want. You can stream the class or download it onto your device. Secondly there is lots of social type interaction possible via the software. There are discussion boards, where you can interact with other folks taking the class and the instructor. There are areas where you can post photos of the projects you have completed for the class. The classes are excellent and have very good teachers. The fist class I bought on low and slow cooking was taught by Ray Lampe, Dr. BBQ. Their stir-frying class is taught by Grace Young. You can’t ask for better instructors than that. Also, like I said, you can post questions to the instructors. I have also picked up classes on Grilling Fish, Mexican Comfort Food, Cooking the Perfect Steak, Vegetables, 20 Essential Cooking Techniques, Artisan Bread Making, Classic Pies, Knife Skills, Basic Digital Photography and Food Photography. Even though some of these classes may be intro level classes they are great for me because I have learned most of what I know from books. Being able to see, and in some cases hear, these techniques helps me to know whether I interpreted what I read correctly. Below are links for two of the classes. Part 1 of the Low and Slow BBQ class discusses the Craftsy Platform itself in great detail.

See:
  LOW & SLOW BBQ AT HOME - PT. 1 Blog Entry which describes the Craftsy experience.
  LOW & SLOW BBQ AT HOME - PT. 2 Blog Entry which describes the Class
  THE ART OF STIR FRYING Blog Entry
________________________


Visit to BGE Company Store - Tucker, GA (October, 10, 2014)

“Second
When I travelled down to Atlanta for EGGtoberfest 2014, I arrived at the hotel midday. I had enough time that afternoon to make a side trip to the Big Green Egg Company Store at their headquarters in nearby Tucker, GA. It was an amazing experience for an Egghead because they have at least one of every item at the store. It really gives you a sense of the large universe of BGE branded Eggcessories available for the Egg. It was also great being able to see and hold of some of the items I have only seen in catalogs. I would have had to go to a half dozen or more local Egg Dealers to see even 50 percent of what was here under one roof. I was a bit tired from getting up at 3:45 AM to start getting ready for my early morning flight to Atlanta. I am so glad I decided to make this side trip.

See:
   EGGTOBERFEST XVII - MOTHERSHIP 2014 Blog Entry about my first visit to the Big Green Egg Company Store at their headquarters in Tucker, GA
________________________


NewEGGlandfest VII - 2014 (June 21, 2014)

“Second
This was my second trip to this regional Eggfest sponsored by the New England Big Green Egg distributer in Brentwood, NH. 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. This year the amount of cooks tents seemed about 20 percent less than last year. For the first few hours the cooks tend make breakfast themed fare after which they switch to lunch or dinner related food. 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. This is particularly true early in the day when it was more 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 attending two demos and meeting and spending a little time with Linke Marais, who is a BGE spokesperson. I definitely plan to attend next year. If you are interested in reading more about NewEgglandfest I have written a blog about it.

See:
  NEWEGGLANDFEST VII - 2014 Blog Entry
________________________



5 GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR

The years 2012 and 2013 probably marked the biggest changes for me since I started with the hobby. This year had some very big changes too. I added a third Big Green Egg and began learning about the Adjustable Rig as well as cooking high in the dome. After my second year of attending the regional NewEGGlandfest and the national EGGtoberfest I realize I have so much to learn. There is a famous expression that applies here: “The more I learn, the less I know”.

Continue to Learn More About the Big Green Egg

My trips to the NewEGGlandfest and EGGtoberfest these last two years have shown me I have only just begun to scratch the surface of 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.
________________________


Learn to Use My 2-Tier Swing Rack

I wanted to learn this device this year, and I did use it three times for making two pizzas at once. But I know it is capable of much more and I really do want to use this device more in the coming year.
________________________


Do More Baking

With a dedicated Egg for baking I want to do much more baking in 2015. I want to try cakes and pies and different types of desserts. Having the third Egg allows me to bake one or more items without it interfering with my main dishes or sides. I also hope that the more baking I do, the easier it will become and this means I will want to bake more. I have found when I am able to bake high in the dome, the results come out better with more even baking than in my Kitchen oven.
________________________


Make More Fish

This item keeps going on and off the list. I really wanted to grill and smoke more fish this year now that I had a good comfort level with my Eggs. Sadly it didn’t happen, but one thing that this list does for me is allows me to set goals and see if I achieved them. In this case in 2014 I failed miserably, but it is back on my list for 2015. I also picked up a Craftsy class on grilling fish, so I hope this will encourage me to get off the dime and grill some fish.
________________________


Learn More About the Adjustable Rig (AR)

Once I got around to using my Adjustable Rig (AR) this year, I discovered many things about it that I never imagined. It does everything I bought it for and offers many more features than I ever imagined. When I picked up my third Egg for Baking I added a second AR. I am using it to cook high in the dome, which offers many benefits. So going forward I will be using 2 AR’s regularly and I hope to learn more about the wide range of possibilities it offers me.
________________________



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 on the site 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 real world friends, virtual friends and websites. One of my goals for this site was to share what I have learned with others. I see it as a form of payback 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. Happy Holidays!!

  BACK TO BBQ BLOG 2014
  ARCHIVE OF BLOGS: 2014
  INDEX OF BLOGS: ALL YEARS
blog comments powered by Disqus
Accessories (3)
Bad Weather Cooking (1)
Baking (5)
BBQ Festival (9)
Best Cooks (3)
BGE (28)
Big Green Egg (28)
Blog (1)
Cabinets (2)
Calendar (1)
Charcoal (1)
Cold Weather Cooking (2)
Cookbook (2)
Eggcessories (8)
Food Photography (1)
Gas Grill (1)
Gear (15)
Grill Shelter (1)
Grill Tools (5)
Grilling (3)
iPhone App (3)
Kebabs (1)
Lamb (1)
Lessons Learned (17)
Maintenance (3)
Motivation (1)
Pork (1)
Prep Tool (3)
Prep Tools (1)
RapidWeaver (2)
Retrospective (4)
Review (14)
Seasonal Grilling (1)
Site Improvement (1)
Smoke Roasting (2)
Smoking (6)
Smoking Tip (2)
Stir-Frying (2)
Thermometers (4)
Website (6)
August 2016
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
RSS Feed