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Four Experiments with Butts (lengthy)

Charleston DaveCharleston Dave Posts: 571
edited 8:49AM in EggHead Forum
The Executive Summary:
1. I cooked four butts four different ways.
2. Injected butt looks and tastes different.
3. I prefer cooking fat cap down.
4. Big’un’s new Carnivore Bark Builder shows promise.

DETAILS:
The local Piggly-Wiggly had a $0.99/lb sale on pork butts last week:

IMG_6194.jpg

So, I thought it would be a good time to explore some questions:
1. Can I jump from cooking two butts to four on my large BGE?
2. Do I like the new Carnivore “Bark Builder” rub from Big’un?
3. Does injecting a butt (per Dr. BBQ’s alternative recipe) improve it?
4. Do I prefer cooking fat cap up or fat cap down?
5. Will I notice much difference in results making subtle changes from my previous Elder Ward approach to the Dr. BBQ approach (as expressed in Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time BBQ Cookbook)?

SETUP:
The LBGE was rigged as follows (bottom to top):
—Royal Oak, poured in from bag up to level of spider
—tjv Spider in drop-down position
—BGE pizza stone as diffuser
—Dry foil-lined pizza pan to catch drip
—tjv’s stainless steel grill, holding the two smaller butts
—tjv’s adjustable rig
—BGE ceramic grill, with the two larger butts

I had hoped to cook all four butts in the adjustable rig, but unfortunately even with the bottom rack set on the lowest level the smallest butts were too thick to permit the top rack to sit flat. Had this been possible, the cook would have been a bit easier.

I installed all pieces in reverse sequence for preheat as tjv suggests. Fire was lit with propane-powered weedburner at 11, 3 and 7 o’clock positions and allowed to preheat for 30 minutes after achieving temperature, which was maintained at Dr. BBQ’s preferred 235ºF with a DigiQ II. Just before loading butts, I added a cup (50g) of cherry chips and 2 lumps (75g) of hickory.

INJECTION:
The injection fluid was the “Big Pig Pork Injection” recipe provided by Dr. BBQ in Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time BBQ Cookbook. His book says injecting is not his preferred method but that other competitors on the circuit are doing well using it. The ingredients include pineapple juice, apple juice, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire, soy sauce, hot sauce of choice (I used Tabasco) and dry mustard. I whisked all ingredients in a heated saucepan until well blended and then cooled before injection. The injection mix is pungent while cooking and I needed to use the exhaust hood over my range. I used a Spitjack Magnum meat injector fitted with a 12-hole syringe tip to inject 1.5 cups into a 6-lb butt that was double-wrapped in cling wrap. The process was messy, and despite the wrapping I had sticky spray squirting all over my counter.

IMG_6201.jpg

RUB:
Butts were rubbed with either Carnivore Bark Builder or Byron’s. I had a pre-release sample of CBB that Big’un provided with a Carnivore sauce shipment. It was about a quarter-pound, and I applied all of it to a 5.75-lb butt. I applied a light layer of mustard thinned with Worcestershire before applying rub, as it had been suggested on prior cooks that my mustard might be too thick (I prefer lots of bark).

IMG_6195.jpg

IMG_6197.jpg

Here was the test matrix:

4buttstable.jpg

IMG_6202.jpg

I made several deviations from Dr. BBQ’s injection recipe technique. He specifies a 260ºF cook temp for the injection version, but I used the same 235ºF for all four butts. He wants the injected butt pulled at 160º internal (about six hours) then foiled with another half cup of injection fluid poured over top and cooked in foil for another 2-3 hours to an internal temperature of 195ºF, then a half-hour rest before serving. Call it the 4/2/0.5 technique. Unfortunately, I overshot that temp and pulled and foiled at 180, so Dr. BBQ’s injection recipe may not be fairly represented by my test. I also lost fire twice and had to reload lump after about 10 hours and then at 18 hours. Using the drop-down spider does reduce the amount of charcoal that fits in the Egg. I pulled each butt as it reached 192º internal as measured by continuous Polder-style internal thermometer or DigiQ probe.

IMG_6205.jpg

IMG_6209.jpg

Butt A (Carnivore Bark Builder):
IMG_6211.jpg

Butt B (Injected):
IMG_6210.jpg

Butts C and D (Fat caps up and down):
IMG_6226.jpg


RESULTS:
The Carnivore Bark Builder ("CBB") rub is much paler in color than Byron’s. The flavor is more subtle. Byron’s flavors to me are dominated by salt and pepper, but with the CBB there’s more going on, just not as loud. If Byron’s is album-oriented rock, the Carnivore seems more like chamber music. I wasn’t sure I liked the CBB at first, but it grew on me and I think at this point I slightly prefer it to the Byron’s. Big’un tells me he is still tweaking the formula for his rub and is considering amping up some of the flavor ingredients, so my remarks should be considered just a preview and not a taste test of the final product.

Injecting had a significant effect on final product. First, the cooking seemed more uneven across the butt. I ended up returning some of this butt to the cooker because it initially did not shred easily and it seemed to need more time on the fire. The meat color was several shades darker, with a noticeable flavor kick from the injection fluid. I can’t definitely say that I liked it better, but the flavor was different. The meat was probably a little moister but the injection flavors were close to dominating the pork flavor. No clear winner here, just different. This next picture shows bags left to right with CBB Dry, Byron’s Dry, and Byron’s Injected. The injection difference on the final product color is dramatic, with the injected product looking more like braised pork:

IMG_6227.jpg

Finally, I am persuaded by this test that I prefer fat cap down cooking of butts. I find two reasons for this. First, if you like bark (as I do) then putting the fat side down will leave more rub-covered surface undisturbed by contact with the grill and thus give more chance to develop bark undisturbed. Second, having the fat cap up tends to melt the fat into the meat. For me this made it harder to pick the fat out of the meat as I was pulling it. Trying to separate goo from edible pork got old fast. When I put the fat cap on the bottom I had a stable sheet of fat that I could pull off in one fell swoop. I prefer that. It’s true that the meat gets more “basting” with the fat cap on top but I can adjust any issues of slight dryness with added liquid, whereas it’s hard to get excessive grease out of the cooked product.

CONCLUSIONS:
1. Injected pork tastes different, but I don’t know that I’d go to the extra trouble and mess unless my goal were novelty for a crowd that had grown weary of ordinary butt. It’s not clear that it tastes better for the extra work and mess. Not better, just different.
2. My preference is for fat cap down when cooking butts. It’s easier to shred the meat, gives meat that is less greasy, and gives more bark. The meat will be slightly drier, but this can be adjusted with added liquid.
3. The preliminary sample (pre-release) of Big’un’s Carnivore Bark Builder rub shows promise and I look forward to its final version.
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Comments

  • cookn bikercookn biker Posts: 13,368
    CD,
    Great post, very informative.
    Thanks,
    Molly
    Molly
    Colorado Springs
    "Loney Queen"
    "Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it."
    Bill Bradley; American hall of fame basketball player, Rhodes scholar, former U.S. Senator from New Jersey
    LBGE, MBGE, SBGE , MiniBGE and a Mini Mini BGE
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  • KnaufKnauf Posts: 337
    Dang you got a lot of free time on your hands! :)
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  • I also have 16 pounds of pulled pork waiting in the freezer for me to enjoy. :)
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  • VERY NICE write up of a well designed experiment. Thanks for taking the time to post it. It looks like something that ought to be saved; at least I'm saving it. B) B)
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  • GrumpsGrumps Posts: 182
    Very Nice Post!! Thanks for sharing it. I took a similar scientific-ish approach to testing rubs for ribs. Experiments that you can eat sure are more fun!
    ·
  • Thanks for the feedback!

    I think part of what I learned is that Elder Ward remains the gold standard.
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  • I'd love to see your test design and results. I have much to learn about ribs.

    Can you provide a link to the posting?
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  • Thanks for your kind words, Molly.
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  • Rolling EggRolling Egg Posts: 1,995
    You reading my mind Dave! I've been thinking about injecting one. This is great information. Thank you very much ;)
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  • bubba timbubba tim Posts: 3,216
    Now that is some meat! I would be interested to try Todds Bark Builder when he puts it out. Nice study and post. Great job Dave.

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    ·
  • I installed all pieces in reverse sequence for preheat as tjv suggests.

    I have both the spider and adjustable rig. I haven't heard of this recommendaiton. Can someone enlighten me?

    Also, temps you quote are at the grid or dome? And total cook time was?

    Just did my fist butts (13 lbs total) this weekend and they turned out great but took 17 hours and didn't have to add more charcoal. I did the fat cap down based on Celtic Wolf's web page. Found the same as you, very easy to remove the whole thing at once w/ lots of bark.

    Great post btw!

    --Dave
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  • B) Eggcellently eggcicuted B)
    going into instructional folder in "favorites"
    --just hope computer never crashes :ohmy:
    thanks for doing the hard work :kiss:
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  • Thanks for the questions, BC.

    The adjustable rig has so many possible configurations that I've had to refer back to tjv's website several times as I explore new ways to use the equipment. The specific recommendation is given by tjv here (see "Bringing the cooker to temperature" section). The idea behind reverse stack preheat is that the pieces are in the grill warming up, then when you lift the stack out and set it aside to load smoking wood and food in the preheated Egg, the cooking pieces in the stack you've lifted out are waiting in the order you will put them in place for cooking. Achieving this requires that the bottommost piece for cooking be on the top during preheat, and so on. Of course, to do this you need hand protection and a heat-safe resting spot for the stack.

    I had anticipated doing this cook exactly to tjv's "Double Raised Grid & Indirect" setup, but it turned out that the clearance between the lower and upper grids in this setup wasn't quite enough to put two butts on the lowest 1.5-level grid. Consequently, I used the (smaller) tjv stainless grill atop the fire ring and then put the BGE ceramic grill atop tjv's adjustable rig. This gave more clearance for butts on the first level, but with three disadvantages: (1) the upper level was so close to the dome that the top level butts were at risk of bumping the thermometer probe, (2) getting access to the lump or pizza stone required lifting out the adjustable rig and top grill assembly, then lifting out the bottom grid separately, and (3) food probe wire management is a little trickier. Had I been able to fit everything into an adjustable rig shelf, the whole stack could be lifted out at once. Sounds minor, but when you're lifting two hot racks with two heavy butts each and multiple probe wires, little things make a difference.

    Here's a picture mid-cook, with the top level removed:

    IMG_6208.jpg

    The portion still in view above the drip pan is the tjv stainless grill, butts A (Carnivore Bark Builder dry) and B (Byron's Injected, in foil) with their probes, and the adjustable rack around the perimeter. The probe wire issue arises because each of the alternatives, either running the wires over or running them under the rack, has disadvantages.

    As far as temperature, the DigiQ pit probe was clipped onto the BGE thermometer, so technically it's dome temperature. The raised grid, however, meant that the dome thermometer was very close to food level, at least for Butts C and D on the upper grid.

    Cook time was all over the place. Butt B, the 6-lb injected butt, got to 180 in 7.5 hours, at which point I removed it for foiling and then returned it to the fire. It eventually reached 193 internal at 12 hours total, but after starting to pull it I felt like it wasn't quite done and needed more fire. Butt A, the 5.75 pound CBB dry butt on the lower level, got to 193 in exactly 9 hours. The two big butts, C and D on the top level, were in the range of 16 to 18+ hours. I can't be more precise on those because the second fire loss happened when I was away and I am not sure how long I was without fire.

    I've noticed that using the pizza stone with spider as a diffuser for indirect leads to longer cooks than using the plate setter. I also seem to have more difficulties with running out of lump.

    As far as the fat cap issue, I speculate that putting the fat cap up might make sense if you're cooking with a non-Egg device that tends to dry food out more than the Egg. The extra "basting" might be helpful then. For example, I've run across butt recipes for other cookers that specify frequent mopping. As far as Egg cooking, however, I think we happily achieve moist food without greasiness and do not need to have liquid fat drenching our food. Unless you like it that way! :ohmy:
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  • Thanks for the info. Guess I need to pay more attention to tjv's site. Makes a lot of sense to do it that way.

    --Dave
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