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Entries in charcoal (7)


How to light a Big Green Egg

There a lots of ways to light the charcoal in a Big Green Egg.  No one agrees on the best method, but everyone agrees that N-E-V-E-R use lighter fluid.  

I've tried lots of methods, from starter cubes, charcoal chimneys, and even a napkin dipped in olive oil.  But for me, the quickest and surest method is a MAPP Gas torch.  This is a little different that a propane torch like you might use for sweating copper joints.  The key differences are that MAPP burns a little hotter, and the biggie is that the torch will burn when you hold it upside down (as you would when sticking into the bottom of the Big Green Egg).

I recommend a self igniting torch with a locking trigger.  That way you can tip the MAPP bottle up on end and rest it against the side of the pit with it lit. This is the one I use and you can pick it up at Amazon or your local home improvement store.


What's your favorite method for lighting the charcoal in your pit?  Drop me a note in the comments and let me know.




Review: Frontier Lump Charcoal

Charcoal is charcoal, right?  Wrong.  Not only do you have the lump vs. briquette debate, but not all lump (or briquettes for that matter) is made equal.  And lump is all I burn in my Big Green Egg & Bubba Keg.

Now I don't believe in buying Big Green Egg brand lump charcoal.  I think it's pricey and no better than Royal Oak.  But over the weekend, I stumbled upon a huge bag of Frontier Lump Charcoal at Sams Club.  I'd only ever seen mesquite lump at Sams before so I was pleased to see that they were carrying something other than briquettes.  So, a bag came home with me.

However when I fired it up for the first time, I was struck by two things.  First, the pieces were huge!  I mean every bag has a few big pieces, but this was loaded with pieces as big as your fist.

Second, when I put the MAPP torch to the lump it sparked terribly.  It's not uncommon for lump to spark when you light it with a torch, but some sparks worse than others.  This was the.absolute.worst I've ever seen.  Sparks were flying like I had lit fireworks.  I'm lucky that I had a t-shirt on that I wasn't worried about.

Overall, I guess this lump is okay.  But I probably won't buy it again due to how badly it sparks at lighting.




Charcoal Score!

Since I started cooking on Backwoods Smokers, I've started using charcoal briquettes again.  It turns out that I get a much more even and longer burn with briquettes as opposed to lump charcoal.  The upside to this is that there is never a shortage of briquettes, and every holiday the box stores do a "buy-one-get-one" deal on Kingsford charcoal.

So when Home Depot put up their Memorial Day specials, I headed straight there and came home with 240lbs of charocal for $50. 



This might get me through the month of June.  I'm sure I'll be hitting them again on July 4th for the next "BOGO" deal.



Review: Stubb's All-Natural Charcoal Briquettes

On an impulse, I picked up a bag of Stubbs 100% All-Natural Charcoal Briquettes at my local Lowe's the other day.  I've used sauces from Stubb's and found them to be pretty good and I thought the charocal might be like the Kingsford Competition Briquettes that I've read so much about (but never seen in a store).

So when I got home, I fired up the cooker with a small pile of the Stubbs briquettes and had the cooker going pretty quickly for some pineapple shrimp kabobs.  My first reaction was that there's no difference in appearance or smell to any other briquette that I've used.  And, given that I cook on Kamado style cookers the last thing I wanted was the extra ash that comes from briquettes vs. lump charcoal.

In the end, the fire burned fine but didn't have the nice smell that I've come to expect from burning lump charcoal.  It also created the ash that I had hoped to avoid and did not extinguish cleanly with the ability to relight again.  In short, this was just charcoal briquettes that I'd expected something more from because Stubb's had put their name on the bag.

I don't know about you, but I'm sticking with all natural lump charcoal.



Recipe: Steaks on the Bubba Keg

BK SteaksNow I do a lot more lo 'n' slow than I do high temp grilling, but my daughter has been asking for steak so I obliged. And since the Bubba Keg is at its best at high temps, I fired it up Sunday night for steaks on the grill.  I had picked up 4 filets at Sam's for ~$17.

I raked the ashes out of the bottom of the BK and had it at 500 degrees in about 20 minutes with a fresh load of lump charcoal. The cast iron grate put really nice grill marks on the steaks and except for having to butterfly them (my wife and kids like their steak well-done), these came out perfect. They were juicy and fork tender.

Here's how I prepped them:

  • 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon of rosemary

I heated this mixture in the microwave for about a minute to thin the olive oil and help to dissolve the salt.  I wisked the mixture together and then poured it into a square baking dish.  I then dipped each steak into the mixture, taking care to turn each one over to get good coverage.  Then, I covered the dish with cling wrap and and let them marinate in the refrigerator for about 90 minutes.

This simple marinade had a great flavor to compliment the steaks grilled over a hot charcoal fire.  I see more steaks in my future!



The Long, Slow Burn

When I tell folks that the pulled pork they're enjoying cooked for 12+ hrs (or longer), I often hear comments like "Wow, how many times did you have to add charcoal?". People are amazed when I tell them that I didn't add any and that I got a good night's sleep besides. So here's an example to illustrate the burn times that can be achieved with the Big Green Egg.

Over the holiday weekend, I cooked pork butt on three consecutive nights. The last night, Saturday, I fired up the BGE at ~9:00pm for an all nighter. I filled the BGE with lump charcoal almost to the fire ring. The butts cooked until ~2:00pm the next day. At that time, we bumped the temps to 300 degree and put a load of ABT's on the cooker. At ~4:00pm, I removed the plate setter and continued to cook at 300-350 degrees while I put a couple of chicken breasts on.

All told, the cooker ran for ~20 hours on a single load of lump charcoal.  I accomplished this without the aid of an electronic draft device (i.e. a Stoker or BBQ Guru), just controlling temps with the vents and giving the coals a good stir when switching between smoking and grilling.

So how about it?  How long have you cooked a single load of fuel?  And gas doesn't count!  :)



What fuels your fire?

If you're shopping for a bbq pit, part of your decision making process will be to determine what type of fuel you'll use to fire the pit.  You basically have 3 options to consider and each have pros & cons.

  1. Hardwood - Many folks believe that it's not really BBQ if it isn't cooked over wood coals.  I don't personally subscribe to that line of thinking, but maybe that's because my experience with a stick burner was really awful.  I had an offset cooker that I tried to burn wood in and I just never could get it right.  One of the things to consider about using hardwood is whether you have a consistent source for fuel and do you have a place to burn it to coals prior to shoveling it into your cooker.

  2. Propane - Sometimes called Lazy-Q, many gas powered cookers are pretty close to "set it and forget it".  I've cooked on a propane smoker with great results.  However, one of the things that alwasy concerns me a little bit is leaving a roaring burner of propane overnight.  Propane, like everything else has gotten a little more expensive as well.

  3. Charcoal - This fuel type could be divided into a couple of categories;  briquettes & lump.  Either way, this fuel is readily availble and still surprisingly affordable.  I won't get into the debate of briquettes vs. lump here, but suffice to say that I'm a lump charcoal guy.

So leave me a comment and tell me, what fuels your fire?