I recently learned a valuable lesson using my BGE low & slow for smoking. Fortunately I didn’t learn it the hard way. I was lucky enough to save my bacon, or in this case: Ham. I was making DOUBLE BAKED HAM WITH APRICOT GLAZE
. The recipe called for a total of 3 hours smoking time at 235 degrees (113 C). After the first two hours you applied a glaze twice, at the 2 hour and 2 1/2 hour marks. At the same time, I was also smoking some baked beans using a doctored beans recipe called SANDI’S SWEET ’N’ SPICY BAKED BEANS
. Both recipes called for a 235 degree (113 C) smoking temperature. I “knew” I couldn’t fit the two dishes t the same level on one Egg. I had considered trying to use my Adjustable Rig to try to do everything on one Egg, but I wasn’t real sure about using the rig extender and putting the beans high up in the dome. So I played it safe and fired up both Eggs about an hour early and got them stabilized at 235 degrees (113 C).
The Egg is funny for me in that I have more trouble holding low temperatures than high. When you are going low and slow you DO NOT want to overshoot your desired temperature, because it is hard to go lower once the ceramics have been heated to a higher temperature. Your vents are already nearly closed so you have very little room for error. You can’t close the vents completely because that will put out your fire. Originally I was thinking I would remove the ham from the Egg to glaze it. I would bring a 1/2 sheet pan and wire cooling grid insert out to the grill and use it to land the ham on while I glazed it. The single digit temps (-15 C) when I lit the grill caused me to change my mind. I already was using a drip pan below the grill grate to prevent the hot drippings from the ham from landing on the Platesetter and causing “burnt food smoke”. So I would glaze on the grill and my drip pan would catch any glaze.
Everything was going well. I was able to keep both grills at the desired temps and I was beginning to relax and think it was all downhill from here. At the two hour mark the Egg smoking the ham was running at 234 degrees (112.5 C). I opened the Egg and snapped some pictures and then began to brush the glaze on the ham. When I finished glazing the ham, I took more pictures and closed the lid. I had been using my Maverick ET-732 to monitor the grate temps of this Egg and it showed the temps had dropped to 90 F (32 C). As I headed back in to the Kitchen I wasn’t worried: I knew the Egg would recover quickly. As I was doing some cleanup tasks I noticed the temps making a quick and steady recovery. The only problem was they continued rising right past 235 F (113 C). I went out to the grill and closed the upper and lower dampers down, but I didn’t have much room left for adjustment since they were barely open to begin with. When I got back to the Kitchen I saw the temps had not stopped rising. In the time it took me to get back indoors the temps had risen from 250 F (121 C) to 272 F (133 C). This was obviously NOT good and with the high sugar content of the glaze, I was worried about burning the glaze.
I stayed outside at the Egg and tried to drive the temps down. Raising the lid way up would drive the temps down, but when I closed the lid the temps kept climbing higher and higher. The same would be true of leaving the lid a bit open an inch or so to let cold air in. I quickly figured out what was happening. The Egg doesn’t need much air to maintain a 235 degree fire and the heated ceramics actually were doing most of the work. When I glazed with the lid open, I had let way to much air in and I had stoked the fire. Closing the lid with the now bigger fire going was driving the temps up. Each time I opened the lid to try and drive the temps down I was just making a bad thing worse. I now knew the problem, but what was the solution?
My first thought was to fire up my oven and bring the roast and the drip pan inside and finish it in the oven. With only 30 minutes left to go this would not be the end of the world. Then a second thought occurred to me: I had ASSumed the ham and the beans wouldn’t fit on one Egg, but I hadn’t actually tried it. I ran in and started heating up the oven (just in case) and then came back outside and glazed the ham on the first Egg. I then opened the lid of the second Egg and pushed the pan of beans to the rear of Egg number 2. I grabbed the ham and quickly transferred it to the second Egg and to my surprise it fit and the lid closed. Parts of the pan of beans and part of the ham extended beyond the protection of the Platesetter. I would not have wanted to do the entire 3 hour cook this way, but for the last 30 minutes I wasn’t going to sweat it. To my relief the temps climbed back to 235 (113 C) but didn’t rocket past like they had on the first Egg. The food finished up without any further adventures. Fortunately everything turned out great!! I realized I had dodged a bullet and also learned a valuable lesson. I say dodged a bullet because the next time I lose control of the temps on my Egg, I may not be so lucky. The second Egg could be cold or in use at a different temperature and the oven could be in use.
This piece of Corian I use when I need to land a hot Adjustable Rig can also serve to let me place a hot roast pan on my granite countertop.
So what is the takeaway here? If you are cooking at higher temperatures where your upper and lower dampers are open quite a bit, you can probably get away with opening the lid for a minute or two to glaze a roast. If you are cooking low and slow where your dampers are almost closed and it doesn’t require much of a fire to reach your cooking temps: It is NOT a good idea to keep the lid open very long. Once you have stoked the fire to a higher level it is next to impossible to go back. The thermal mass of the BGE, which is normally a plus, is working against you here. Plan on taking the roast off the Egg and glazing it out by the grill. If you are worried about the cold, bring it into the Kitchen. I have a piece of Corian I can place on top of the granite countertop to protect it from the heat. I began using this piece when I started using my Adjustable Rig. With the AR. you sometimes remove the rig to tend your fire or add wood chunks/chips. So it would be no problem removing a hot roasting pan and landing it on this to do the glaze. For this ham, which went right on the grill grid, I could have landed it on a wire cooling grid set into a sheet pan. Bottom Line: At low temps it would seem like opening the lid would cause you to loose temps long term, but the opposite is true. You actually are letting more air in and stoking your fire. The lower your cooking temps, the lower your lid open time.