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rack of pork

njlnjl Posts: 859
edited December 2011 in EggHead Forum
I posted this a few weeks ago on another web board where it got no replies.  I'm hoping there's more interest/ideas here. 

---
On a whim, I bought something I'd never cooked before and don't often even see. It's a "rack of pork" from Costco, apparently only sold this time of year. Mine was 5.4lbs, and I decided I wanted to smoke it. Previously, I've only ever used the egg for grilling steaks and cooking whole beef tenderloins a couple of times.

I don't have a plate setter, so my method for getting indirect heat is to use a disposable foil baking pan (which I've washed and reused several times) on the grill with the rib rack sitting inside the pan acting as a cradle for the meat. The pork came out ok...but I realized towards the end of the cook (4 hours) that I'd made a serious error in setting up the egg. 

I'd filled the fire box with lump, lit it with a fire starter stick from below, got it going good (around 400F), then mostly shut the top and bottom vents. It took nearly an hour for the egg to cool from around 400F to 250F. At that point, I placed several large chunks of apple and hickory on the coals and put the meat in. I used a leave-in thermometer so I wouldn't have to open the egg at all during the cooking. About an hour in, I decided the meat temp was rising too fast, so I shut the vents even more, and the egg eventually got down to about 200F. As the meat got closer to 140F, I shut the vents even more and the egg dipped below 200F. When I was ready for it to be done, I opened the vents and plugged my home made bottom vent fan back in to get the fire really going again. This took a bit of time, so I removed the meat and tented it while the fire built back up. When it was back up around 400F, I put the meat back in for about 5min and removed it at 147F IT and tented it again...it got up to 152F IT before starting to cool.

Anyway, towards the end of the cook, I realized that with the vents nearly shut, the fire had mostly gone out, with hot coals only remaining right over the fire grate...and my smoking wood was way up on the very top of all the lump.  I realize now, I should have distributed smoking wood throughout the lump, and probably tried to make sure some was as close as possible to the grate. It makes sense that with things nearly shut down, all the O2 getting into the egg will be consumed by whatever's burning right on top of the fire grate.

If I'd had the plate setter, I assume I could have done this rack of pork directly on the grill (no need for the rib rack)?

When smoking on the egg, how big/hot a fire do you get going (to make sure you have it well lit) before mostly shutting the vents to get down to smoking temps? 

---

Since then, I've already cooked another of these that was even bigger (6.4lbs).  Things went a lot smoother.  I cleaned out the egg first, put several smoking (hickory and apple) chunks at the bottom, with one right on top of the grate, added some lump, sprinkled in the left over hickory chips/scraps from a used up bag of hickory chunks, added more lump and chunks.  Again, I lit from the bottom using a fire starter, but this time as soon as the fire looked healthy, I mostly shut the top and shut the bottom to around 1" or so.  The dome temp quickly stabilized at 250F and stayed there for 3 hours until I opened things up at the end.  At about 3 hours / 140F IT, I removed the baking pan, placed the rib rack back on the grill, opened the vents and setup my bottom vent fan until the fire was much hotter.  At just over 145F, I removed it, tented it in a glass dish, and about 20 minutes later we ate.  

Both times, I used a combination wet/dry rub from America's Test Kitchen's Oven-Barbecued Spareribs which is basically a coating of yellow mustard+ketchup+crushed garlic and then a sprinkling of brown sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper (can't remember if there's anything else).  Once all that's on, wrap in several layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  

At this point, the only thing I'd change is a bit less cayenne pepper (or omit it entirely)...the kids both refused to eat any pieces with bark ("burns my mouth"), and I'm not a fan of spicy foods anyway.

Here's a shot of the first rack.


image

I like this so much, I wish Costco would carry it year round...but AFAIK, it's a once or twice a year thing there.  It's basically like a frenched rack of lamb, but much bigger with a much better meat to bone ratio.  I was actually surprised by how short the bones were in these, and how much meat there was.  The 6.4 pounder was dinner for 2 adults and 2 children for 3 nights with one really large lunch (end piece) left over for me.

Comments

  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,269
    Nice hunk of pork.

    Sounds like you have a pretty good method for your set-up. Yes, do stop the temperature where you want it rather than over-shooting. That can save a lot of time, and some lump.

    If you like the cayenne, and the kids don't, just don't put it on one portion. Often, I'll use different rub mixes on the same piece of meat, and flag them with toothpicks.

    FWIW, many people have a way to get the grill up to the gasket level. It makes it easier to manipulate the food if necessary, and puts the food in a spot where the temperatures are slightly hotter during indirect cooks. Also, because the food is farther from the lump, the lump can easily be lit from the top.

    Also, it seems like you are getting your method down well enough that its time for an overnight cook. A big pork picnic will give you many meals. Depending on the final temperature, it will yield succulent slices, or fall apart into shreds for sandwiches and casseroles.
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    I don't think I have the balls to try an overnight yet.  I am planning to order a Maverick ET-732 to augment or replace the Taylor leave-in I got from Costco.  As I understand it, the Maverick can be setup to warn me if the egg gets too hot or too cold (fire gone out).

    I'm actually thinking of trying either back or spare ribs or a beef brisket next...but all the brisket recipes take sooo long to cook.

    I had some issues with the Taylor thermometer shutting itself off on the last cook.  I'm not sure if it's buggy, or if its a feature and a result of the way I was using it.  Wanting to "keep and eye on things" without literally keeping an eye on it, I programmed the Taylor to a much lower temp than "done", figuring each time it warned me, I'd go out and reset the temp higher.  It warned me at 120F, I raised the programmed temp to 130F, and some time later when I went back out to check on it, I found it had shut off.  I repeated this (with higher temp), and the same thing happened.

    Maybe once I have the ET-732, I'll take out the Taylor's batteries and keep it around as a back-up...or I can always take it back to Costco.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,269
    I bought a Maverick before my first over-nighter. I used it about a dozen times before one of the probe wires failed. My that time, I was confident enough of my fire building skills that I didn't consider replacing it. I am a light sleeper, so its not really a problem for me to get up once in the middle of the night to check the temps. Most times everything is just fine, but I did catch a fire going out once at 9 hours.
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    Were you rough on the wire, or are they really prone to failure?  I'm not crazy about the idea of the grill probes being a consumable item.
  • I do anything but pork tenderloin at 250* Works great.

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • gte1gte1 Posts: 376
    I have done 3 of these pork racks and they were incredible. Dusted with rub, indirect at ~325 cooked to about 135. Raised temp to 400 and removed plate setter but left on rack with drip pan to brown and finish, removed at 145. Tent and rest. Sliced nice thick chops with bone, absolutely fantastic!

    George
    George
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    gte1, what's your setup that you're able to keep the drip pan under the meat after removing the plate setter?

    My wife told me last night, I have to wait a few weeks before buying another rack of pork.  I noticed yesterday that Costco had restocked them.  I wonder how well they freeze / how long they'd keep frozen, and how long they'd take to thaw in the fridge?

    Are you cooking them on the grid, or on the rib rack?
  • GrannyX4GrannyX4 Posts: 1,474
    They freeze very well in the original packaging.
    Every day is a bonus day and every meal is a banquet in Winter Springs, Fl !
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    all food will last safely virtually forever when frozen.  the USDA uses the term 'indefinitely'.  length of time in the freezer is a quality issue only.  if you vacuum freeze, or keep in the original cryo, you won't have any serious problem with quality for years.

    poorly wrapped foods can pick up off-flavors, or be dehydrated('freezer burnt'), but they don't even 'go bad' in the sense that they are not safe to eat. repeated thawing and refreezing (if the defrost cycle is aggressive, maybe) makes the meat mushy.

    but frozen food wouldn't ever be dangerous to eat, if it has been kept at proper temps
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • gte1gte1 Posts: 376
    I place drip pan with roast on rack directly on plate setter. When raising heat I remove plate setter and place pan on grate. I'm not sure that simply raising the temp with place setter still in place wouldn't do the same thing. The drip pan is less of a deflector than the plate setter though.

    George
    George
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    My concern was freezer burn.  I've had poor luck with slicing up steaks, placing them in ziplock freezer bags, rolling/pressing "all" the air out, and then freezing them.  More often than not, after just a few weeks, there's air in the bags that wasn't there when I froze them, and freezer burn has begun.
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    I just cooked another rack of pork, and again, the Taylor (it was an 817 Weekend Warrior) acted up.  During the first 30 minutes of the cook, I found it had shut down.  This time, since it was still business hours, I called Taylor customer support. 

    I was told this is a feature (auto-off) which kicks in if the temperature is not climbing fast enough during a 10 minute interval, and there's no way to disable it.  That would make this model pretty unsuitable for smoking.  Then, I thought of a possible workaround...setting the countdown timer when you start the cook, reasoning that if the count down timer is running, it can't auto-off. 

    Unfortunately, I won't get to fully test that theory, as about 2 more hours into the cook the Taylor completely flipped out, and suddenly went from reading about 120F to 140F, 160F, and even when I took it out, power cycled it, and ran cold water over the end of the probe, it only got down to 97F.  Putting it back in the meat, which two other thermometers read as ~120F, it would immediately shoot up to 160F.

    My Maverick ET-732 arrived today, so the Taylor is going back to Costco tomorrow.
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    When all else fails, just check periodically with a thermapen or stick n stay thermo.

    I dont use a maverick anymore, because i couldnt care less what the temp is half way through a cook. I only want to know when i'm dialing in on the 'pull' temp
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    Yeah...but if you're inside, and the egg is outside, isn't it more convenient to check the monitor on the counter/coffee table than to walk outside and check the egg...especially if you're cooking low and slow, as that'll involve opening the lid?  I also really like the idea of a second probe with an alarm to tell me if the egg is outside the desired temp range.

    I'll find out in the next few days if the ET-732 is all its fans say.
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    I just bought another one, and this time I'll be using a plate setter.  I asked about this earlier, but I think it may have been overlooked.  If I use the plate setter, legs up, top of the plate setter lined with foil to catch any drippings (just to keep the plate setter from getting nasty), is there any reason to use the rib rack as a cradle, or just place the pork directly on the cooking grate?
  • Advice

    Next time you are going to do a slow cook light the lump in just one place, right in the middle.  As the temp starts to rise toward and past 200 then start closing things up.  The goal is to not overshoot 250, or if so by just a bit.  This way the fire is easy to control.  You had too much fire going and the egg got too hot initially.   Once that happens it takes a long time to get it back down.  You ended up chasing the fire up and down by overshooting by so much.

    Use a drip pan between the meat and platesetter (legs up).  I fill mine with a bit of water and apple juice.  Put something between the platesetter and the bottom of the drip pan to keep the drip pan off the platesetter directly.  This keeps dripping fat from burning and giving off that nasty smell that gets into your meat.

    Good luck
    Jackson, Tennessee. VFL (Vol for Life)
  • SqueezySqueezy Posts: 1,102

    Have only used my ET-732 a couple of times so far and am quite happy with it. My only complaint is the instruction sheet, tells you how to change the alarm temp. on one side and how to keep it there on the other.

    When I changed it, it went back to default until I found out on the back page that I needed to press one more button to save the setting ...

    Never eat anything passed through a window unless you're a seagull ... BGE Lg.
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    Hogaholic, I've done the past couple low-temp cooks now starting the lump at the top/center, using a folded up paper towel saturated with corn oil.  It seems to be just as reliable a method for fire starting as store bought fire starter sticks, and must be way cheaper.

    I did that most recent rack of pork today...using the plate setter, legs up, with an improvised drip pan made from folded up HD aluminum foil, sitting on top of several loosely folded up aluminum foil feet, pork directly on the cooking grid.  I considered putting apple juice in the foil pan, but decided not to try anything that different, as I was cooking for company.  I got off to a late start, so I cooked it a little hotter...starting it with a dome temp of 200F, but eventually working up to a dome temp of 300F (ET-732 grid temp of 275F).  I got it done in a little under 3 hours.

    The Maverick did great.  It was really nice being able to monitor everything while sitting inside, as I've not been feeling well, and didn't need to be running in and out checking the dome temp all afternoon.

    I was a little worried as this one didn't have much fat on top...but for the number of people expected, I wanted big...and this was the biggest they had that had a suitable sell-by date.  About half the rack had no visible fat layer at all.  But it still came out fine.
  • njlnjl Posts: 859
    It's one of those times of year again, when Costco sells the "rack of pork".  I bought one the other day for this weekend, and then saw another nice one, which I bought and threw straight into the freezer.  Both just over 6lbs.

    Since some people are asking...here's the rub recipe I've been using, which is actually from America's Test Kitchen oven BBQ ribs.

    wet rub:
    6 TBSP yellow mustard
    2 TBSP ketchup
    3 medium cloves garlic minced or pressed
    Combine above in small bowl, then spread a thin layer on the meat.

    dry rub:
    2 tsp ground black pepper
    1 TBSP paprika
    1 TBSP chili powder
    1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    1.5 TBSP kosher salt
    3 TBSP brown sugar

    Combine dry rub ingredients in a separate bowl, then sprinkle over both sides of the meat, then wrap meat in plastic (I usually use stretch-tite food wrap, and then if it'll fit, throw the wrapped up meat into a 2G zip lock, to avoid any leakage).  Refrigerate 8-24 hours...generally overnight.

    It occurs to me, these things really don't need to be slow cooked at 200-225F.  I think I'll probably do the next one at around 300F.

    This rub recipe was originally intended for 2 slabs of St. Luis style spare ribs.  It's more than you'll need for 1 rack of pork...so don't be too surprised when you've coated the meat and still have a bowl of wet rub mix.  If you feel bad about wasting it, you could probably reduce the recipe by 1/3 and have less waste.

    You'll probably have extra dry rub too...but that can be saved for next time in an air-tight jar or ziplock bag.
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