Over the years, I’ve seen and heard countless people ask about how to build a fire in a Kamado style grill in order to get smoke through out a low and slow cook. In fact, just this morning I was asked in a PM about this very topic. If you just put wood on top of the coals, it will burn up at the beginning of your cook. You can always take out your plate setter or your heat deflector and add more wood, but you lose heat, its awkward (where do you place that hot plate setter?) and will end up adding time to your total cook. Who wants that?
The answer is pretty simple. When filling up your firebowl, add wood mixed in with the lump charcoal. Place a layer of charcoal on the bottom, then add your wood chunks (or chips. Or a mixture of both), add more charcoal, then more wood chunks and repeat until your firebowl is full. As the fire burns down, it will continue to hit fresh wood which will ensure smoke through out the cook. Voila! Easy peasy. Simple as could be.
Note that on a low and slow, you will have a small fire and it will be contained pretty much too a small cylinder in the middle of you bowl. For that reason, just add the wood to the center. No need to spread it out towards the edges as the fire probably won’t ignite any wood there.
I’d like to be able to take credit for creating the above illustration, but in truth it’s been floating around the ole interweb for years on various forums. I believe credit should go to a guy named Stike, but sadly he is no longer active on the Egghead forum.
You may not know this about me, but my name is Jason. No. Not Voorhees. If it was, this would be Voorhees Vittles or something like that. Growing up, I heard all the jokes about Friday the 13th and Jason. It got old. Fast. But in life, you can choose to either ignore things or embrace them. I decided to embrace them.
Here’s a little guide to help you survive the day.
And did you realize to compound the matter that there’s a full moon? Technically, it was at 12:13 ET this morning, but close enough. Won’t happen again until 2049. So be careful and be safe. 😉
But on a more serious note before I log off for the weekend, I just wanted to say Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there and especially to my Dad who has always been there for me and who has been a role model, somebody I can look up to and my hero. Love you Dad!!
Summer is upon us and people are firing up their grills across the country. Whether they be year round grillers or just fair weather grillers, I bet more grills get fired up this month than any other of the year. Regardless of which camp you fall into, it’s always a good idea to periodically check your thermometers to make sure they are reading accurately. Both your grill thermometers and instant read meat thermometers.
I was reminded just how important that was last night when I went to fire up the MINI. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mini Egg, but it hasn’t seen a lot of action lately. If you told me I had used it less than five times this year, I wouldn’t be surprised. The Large has been seeing all the action lately as we’re usually grilling both proteins and veggies.
Last night, however, I was only doing brats and so it got the nod. I lit it per my normal method (paper towel soaked in oil, shoved through the bottom vent and lit), sat down with an ice cold glass of tea and started to read while occasionally tossing the ball to Oliver, our German Shepherd, when he would actually bring it back. I’d glance over at the Mini every so often to see how it was doing. 200F. Gonna be a bit longer. Read some more. Still at 200, maybe a bit higher.
OK…something is not right here. Peeked down the top vent and there was plenty of red hot coals. Held my hand over it. NOPE. That ain’t 200F!! Thermometer must be completely out of whack. Closed my vents to where the normally are for a 350-400F cook and tossed the brats in anyway.
So basically I cooked the brats blind, I had no idea what temp I was at, but I forged ahead anyway. Wait a few minutes, turn, wait a few minutes, turn again. Listen for any sizzling that would be an indication that they were too hot, the skins had split and juice was leaking down into the coals, which is a bad thing, of course. While this was happening, I thought back to grilling pre-BGE. Years grilling on kettles, offsets and gas grills. Grills that either did not have thermometers or ones that read LOW-MED-HIGH. I reminisced about holding my hand over the heat and counting how long I could hold my hand there to give me an indication of how hot my grill was. A great trick every pitmaster should know and one I’m glad I learned. I figure I was somewhere in the 350-400F range. Thankful that I have those skills and don’t need to rely on a thermometer.When the brats were done, I pulled them and checked the thermometer one last time. Dead on 200F. Yep, definitely out of whack.
So how do you know if your thermometer isn’t calibrated? There’s two easy ways. You can submerge it in a glass of ice water and it should read 32F. Obviously, with my thermometer, that trick won’t work since it only goes down to 50F and who really cares if its accurate at that end of the scale? The other thing you can do is to submerge your thermometer in boiling water. You remember science class, right guys? What temperature does water boil at? That’s right. 212F. Plus or minus a bit depending on altitude and barometric pressure and all that. You can try and get all precise, but if you are in the 210F ballpark, I’d call that good enough.
What do you do if your thermometer is off? I can’t speak to all thermometers as there are so many out there, but if its one like this or a Tel-Tru, there should be a nut on the back. Use a wrench and turn the nut until the dial reads 212. Clockwise will make it read higher, counter-clockwise will make it read lower. Only slight adjustments should be necessary to dial it in to 212F.
As for me? I’m probably just going to toss mine. It’s the old school thermometer that used to come with the Egg. I’m not sure its even a Tel-Tru, which is what they come with now. To be quite honest, I kinda recall that the stem got bent awhile back and I had to put quite a bit of force into it to bend it back. I don’t exactly recall what I did to bend it, but ever since I’ve been moving my new Tel-Tru thermometer from Egg to Egg depending on which one I am using. I just forgot last night. After bending the stem, I’m not sure it even works anymore. I’ll just replace it with a more accurate thermometer. Heck, maybe I’ll even look into seeing if there is a digital version out there I could use….
In case you didn’t know, we’re big fans of Chris over at NibbleMeThis (which from here on out will be referred to as NMT). When he posted his recipe for his favorite chicken marinade, back in April, I printed it out knowing I wanted to try it. We messaged back and forth over Facebook this past Saturday and he has graciously allowed me to share it with you. That being said, you still should go check out his website. Right now. Go. I’ll still be here when you get back.
From NMT’s post:
NMT Grilled Chicken Marinade
makes: enough for 3-4 pounds of chicken pieces
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: none for the marinade
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dry minced garlic
Mix ingredients together and pour over chicken pieces in a large zip top bag. Seal, refrigerate, and marinate 4-8 hours. Remove from marinade and drain off excess marinade before grilling. Omit salt from the marinade if using a BBQ rub in addition to the marinade. Tip for crispier chicken skin: Remove chicken from marinades and allow to air dry on a raised rack in the refrigerator for 1 hour prior to grilling.
We try and stick to recipes as close to possible the first time we try them out. However, we didn’t have minced onion, se we subbed in 1/4 tsp of onion powder instead. We let the chicken marinate for about 6 hours while we ran to the Farmer’s Market and did some other errands. When we got home, I set up the Egg for an indirect cook using the Adjustable Rig from the Ceramic Grill Store and added a few orange and apple chips for smoke. I kept it light on the smoke as I wanted the flavor of the marinade to shine through rather than the smoke. I didn’t really time the cook, but I’d guesstimate that it took somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. Once the chicken hit about 160F, I pulled the rig and grilled the legs directly for about a minute of two to develop a darker color and get a little crispier skin.
The chicken was allowed to rest for a few minutes while the lovely Mrs. G put the final touches on some potatoes and tomatoes that we had picked up earlier in the day from the Farmer’s Market.
We’ve been cooking a lot of our chicken lately using the indirect method. I feel like when you are cooking chicken using a raised direct method over charcoal, it turns out really smokey regardless if you add wood chips or chunks. The fat dripping onto the coals produces a ton of smoke. You might like that kind of flavor, but I find it hides all the other flavors you have worked so hard to develop. Going indirect allows you to avoid that nasty smoke but ends up making the chicken take longer to cook. I think as a result we might have lost some of the flavor from the marinade. While the chicken was moist and the buttermilk, yogurt and lemon helped to tenderize the chicken, we didn’t get the “unique tang” that NMT was talking about. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty, I was just looking for that “tang”. The other thing I wish I would have done differently was to allow the chicken to air dry in the fridge for an hour to get crispy skin. While the last few minutes cooking directly did help get the skin crispier, air drying it would have done a much better job. Not that we had an hour for that last step as we got home late from running errands and we were starving. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Regardless, if you are looking for a different marinade for your chicken, give this one a shot and don’t forget to head on over to NMT and check out some of his amazing recipes and if you like what you see there, keep an eye out for his upcoming book The Kamada Smoker and Grill Cookbook. I’ve already got mine pre-ordered.