Reducing the variables

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If you haven't been able to tell, I'm absolutely loving my Big Green Egg ceramic grill/smoker. It has been seeing more than its fair share of action since I bought it a few months ago. The thing is truly amazing, and it gets better with every use - I seem to learn or discover something new with each cooking session.

The Egg is so versatile... as I mentioned earlier, you can load-up the fire box with some hardwood lump charcoal (my favorite so far is from Wicked Good), light your fire, and then configure the air vents to either slow cook for hours at 200F or rocket the thing up to a blast furnace level of 1000F.

With the cast iron grates in place and the fire rocking at 800F you can put a monster sear on your favorite steak. With the stainless steel grates in place, the diffuser set, and the vents nearly closed, I can smoke a pork shoulder at 225F for 10-12 hours, or until the meat literally falls away from the bone. Yum.

The challenge with smoking low-and-slow is maintaining a constant temperature. The Egg does a relatively good job of holding a consistent temperature, but variables such as wind speed and sun really impact the cooking temperature over time.

So, when I've smoked a pork shoulder, turkey breast (bone in), a brisket or ribs, I've always had to monitor the smoker. If the wind picks-up, I have to close the vents a bit. If the wind slows down, I have to open them a touch... it's a bit stressful, and it eats up the entire day. Babysitting the Egg for 12 hours grows old.

I did some research and discovered that the pros (competition BBQ cookers) use all sorts of gadgets to control their fire temperature. After careful consideration, I decided to purchase the DigiQ Controller from The BBQ Guru.

I placed an order with them, and within a few days, the UPS man delivered my DigiQ set-up. I raced home and set everything up. Here's what the assembled system looks like (along with my Thermowerks 2-phase digital temperature monitor (in yellow)):

egg_rig.jpg

This system is pretty amazing. It consists of a computer control box (in red, above), two temperature probes (inside of the Egg), and a variable speed 10cfm fan.

You connect the fan's power/control wire to the computer controller, and install the fan into the lower "intake" vent on the Egg, then close-off all of the other vents on the Egg. This effectively limits the only oxygen source to the 10cfm fan, which will spin at whatever speed the computer tells it to. Here's what the fan looks like when it's attached to the Egg's intake vent:

egg_fan.jpg

You then connect the "pit temperature probe" from the computer to the inside of the Green Egg. They recommend you clip the probe to the cooking grate. Some guys recommend you use a spot on the dome. I chose the grate, as I have another temperature probe connected to the dome (on a second unit).

The system is slick. To test it, I ran over to my favorite butcher shop (Knoche's) and purchased an 11-pound USDA choice brisket. I took it home, prepared a homemade rub, and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

On Saturday night at around 9:00pm, I fired-up the Green Egg and attached all of my DigiQ gear. I programmed the computer to set the Egg's temperature to 225F.

By 10:00pm, the fire was stabilized, and things were ready for smoking. I went inside, grabbed the brisket and put it on the Egg. With the DigiQ keeping tabs on the fire, I went inside and watched Saturday Night Live.

At midnight, I stepped outside to check on the Egg. I would've never left it alone for two hours for fear of a temperature spike or drop, but I trusted the DigiQ. Here's what things looked like at midnight:

egg_night.jpg

The temperature was sitting at a dead-steady 225F. No variation. Wow. That's slick! With complete peace-of-mind, I went to bed and slept like a log, knowing that the Egg was in good hands with the DigiQ.

On Sunday morning, I woke-up and took Flea outside. I checked on the Egg, and wouldn't you know it, but the temperature was still holding solid at 225F. The brisket had been smoking for nearly 10-hours at a moisture-inducing 225F, without a single spike or dip in temperature. AWESOME.

egg_morning.jpg

My guests were due to arrive for dinner at around 6pm. My plan was to smoke the brisket to an internal temperature of 195F, and from everything I had read, the brisket would require about 16 hours of smoke time at 225F to reach that final temperature.

By 3:00pm (15 hours of smoking), the brisket was still sitting at 175F... hmm. I needed to let it rest for a full two hours before serving, so I was in a bit of a bind. I didn't think the brisket would gain 20F in an hour at 225F, so I bumped up the temperature on the DigiQ to 245F. I figured the extra heat would help finish the brisket in a timely manner.

Within 3 minutes, the Egg was sitting at 245F. No more, no less. WOW! And by 4:30pm, the brisket hit 195F. Both the DigiQ and the Thermowerks units alerted me that things were ready - nice!

Here's what the final product looked like after 16.5 hours of smoking:

egg_brisket_on.jpg

I wrapped that beast in foil and put it into a large cooler that I had stuffed with preheated bath towels. My guests arrived, and we nibbled on some awesome beer bread with an assortment of dips (thanks, Leanne!!), along with a few other appetizers while the brisket continued to rest.

Chris brought over his signature vegetable medley which we cooked on the Egg. After running non-stop for nearly 18 hours, the Egg was still going strong on the original load of lump charcoal! That Wicked Good stuff truly is wicked good!!

We rocked the Egg up to 500F, cooked the veggies, and then prepared for dinner. Here's the brisket after resting for two hours:

egg_brisket_off.jpg

I wish I would've remembered to take a photo of the entire meal, but trust me when I say it was awesome. The brisket had an awesome bark ("crust"), thanks to the combination of the rub and 16 hours of exposure to mesquite wood smoke. The veggies were slightly charred and delicious. Corn on the cob rounded out the meal.

With dinner finished, Leanne broke out an awesome selection of cupcakes from a new cupcake shop near her house. We sampled them all, and they were superb. What a great evening.

Even the Flea thought the meal was finger-lickin'-good:

flea_fingerlick.jpg

So... while the DigiQ may take some of the "excitement" out of using the Big Green Egg, I say "so what?!" - it works perfectly, and is a true asset to the smoker. Score (another) win for technology!

I can't wait to do some ribs or a pork shoulder with it next...

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve published on July 20, 2012 6:35 AM.

Fish Fry Review - Owl's Nest, revisited was the previous entry in this blog.

Road trips is the next entry in this blog.

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