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Questions about my first not-so-smokey brisket on my new BGE!

I'm new to the egg and have used it twice now.  I've been an occasional smoker :) as I smoke a few times a year in my gas grill using indirect heat and a smoker box. (pork shoulder, ribs and wings)  I bought the large BGE hoping for more "set it and forget it" results and even better tasting food.

This is a long one, but in the end, I really just want to know the best way to smoke in the BGE and and some tips on setting/maintaining a low temperature.  Here we go...


For the first use I cooked a chicken per the recipe/technique on the BGE website.  Came out very good.  Juicy.  Crisp skin.  Best chicken I've ever made (but I commented to my wife that it wasn't better than those rotisserie chickens you buy at Peruvian stands...man those are good.)

On Monday's snowday I decided to take advantage of the free time and make a brisket!

I read a few online posts and watched some videos and decided on a 5 lbs. brisket- at 1.5 hours per pound (some say small ones will cook quicker!) should have taken me <7.5 hours.  With a 2 hour rest in the cooler I'd be eating delicious brisket around 7:PM with a 10:AM start...fantastic!   I bet you can guess where this is going...

...once I had it on the BGE I killed some time between snowplay watching more brisket cooking videos, reading posts, and found out that for many of you even a small brisket can take 12-15 hours.  At 5:PM I decided I was better served getting pizza for the wife & kids.  :)

So, let me jump ahead...when I tasted my brisket at 5:AM this morning it was fantastic!  Cooked perfect.  It broke apart easily with a fork and it was very flavorful and juicy.  That's the good part.  The bad part is 11 hours after putting it on the internal temp was still hovering around 140 degrees so I pulled it off (it was almost 10:PM), wrapped it in foil, and put it in a 280 degree oven to finish it off while I slept.  I stuck my oven's thermometer probe in there and set things to shut off at 188 degrees (knowing the oven would still be hot after it shut down).  I don't know when it finished, but at 5:AM the temp was 180 and it was awesome.  I pulled off way more beef than I should have been eating at 5:AM, threw it in the fridge, walked the dog, and went off to work.

A couple questions here...

1) Smoke!  While the flavor was awesome, it did not have a strong smoke taste.  It only had a faint smoke ring. It had a little smokiness from the BGE brand charcoal and lots of flavor from the rub, but not the strong flavor I've gotten using a cast iron smoker box in my gas grill.  I threw some smoked wood chips on the edge of the charcoal (only had small chips, many didn't even burn) and put some foil wrapped chips (not soaked) on the edge of the place setter.  But they didn't smoke...too far from the heat I guess.

So what should I do here if I want to SMOKE in the BGE?  The charcoal has great flavor on it's own, but you know what I'm looking for.  If I put large soaked chunks of wood on the edge of the charcoal will they smoke most of the cooking time?  I'm going with the..."once you close the BGE don't open it" cooking method, so would rather not keep opening the grill to add wood.  Plus, with the place-setter in there it isn't easy to fit too much past it to add wood.

2) Cooking time.  Holy crap that took a while!  I did have a large water pan on top of the place setter under the brisket.  I just read here that can add a significant delay.  Where does the jury stand on if I need that with the BGE or not?

I also went with the low and slow method and tried to keep the dome temp between 200-225.  It was mostly at 200 the entire time.  I had one spike where it went up to 280 for a bit, I over adjusted and it was back a hair under 200 and then I got it to normalize at 200.

I do understand that very minor adjustments in the vents can make a big difference.  I think I errored on the "too minor" end as it took more care than I thought to keep it at a temperature.  I didn't hover over the thing like an expectant father, but I'd check it every hour or less so it had time to adjust after changes.

So, I have not achieved the "set it and forget it" mastery yet where I could put on the next brisket at 10:PM and go to sleep.  Based on my sample case of 1 :) I think it is likely the temp would drop to 150 over the night or spike to 300.

If you never open the lid...how long after you close it can you trust that the temperature is stable?  It seemed for the last few hours of my cooking it was a little harder to maintain temperature.  When I opened things up there was still plenty of charcoal left around the edge.  The center was burning well but of course had dropped down to probably the bottom layer of coal.

It was also19 degrees outside yesterday and snowing...so maybe that played a part in it.

Anyway, based on all the feedback, I did lean on the cautious side, kept it low and slow and the results were awesome.  I just need to work on smoke and more consistent temps...

Thanks in advance for any tips and feedback!  I'm looking forward to many great meals on the egg.  Some pictures below...

-todd

Here it is when I put the brisket on. Note the little bundles of chips (too high up from heat, didn't smoke)
image

Here it is after 11 hours of smoking...it's the first time I'd opened the grill.  Internal temp was still only 140 so I used the Texas crutch and brought it inside
image

This is the charcoal I had left after 11 hours of a slow cook.  I had charcoal originally just over the ring.  It's still almost to ring level on the edge and down to the bottom layer in the center.  (As you can guess, it is only glowing this hot in the pictures because I've had the lid open taking pictures...)
image

And finally, here is the brisket the next evening (cold, from the fridge, slicing to reheat).  The brisket was very good.   When fresh off the grill (and reheated) it was very tender.  It just wasn't as smokey as I would have liked;
image


LBGE/Maryland

Comments

  • KiterToddKiterTodd Posts: 1,466
    Quick comment on my own post...

    My water pan, which rested on the place setter, came all the way up to the bottom of the grates.  I realize now that could have been quite limiting to the air moving under and around the brisket.  Should I use a lower pan?  (or ditch it all together)
    LBGE/Maryland
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 12,518
    You don't need a water pan, just something to catch drips. Put the wood directly in/on the charcoal. You can mix it throughout or just on top. Chips will burn faster than chunks. You can practice temp regulation with a pork butt since they are forgiving and cheap. Once you get the egg dialed in, it really is set and forget.

    What were your vent settings? Don't chase temps as it can take up to 30 minutes to adjust once the ceramic is hot. Also, I fill charcoal up to the middle of the fire ring and put a few chunks right in the middle. Let the smoke get "clear and blue" and you're golden.
  • Miked125Miked125 Posts: 337
    I would suspect you didn't use enough chips. It's a larger piece of meat and will require more wood for that smokey flavor. When I smoked in my old smoker, I generally use 3-4 chunks for larger cuts of meat with nice results. Also it depends on the type of chips you used, some will have a strong taste while others. For a brisket I like the oak's or hickory. Also, the smoke ring will stop forming around 140F.


  • KiterToddKiterTodd Posts: 1,466
    ...What were your vent settings? Don't chase temps as it can take up to 30 minutes to adjust once the ceramic is hot. Also, I fill charcoal up to the middle of the fire ring and put a few chunks right in the middle. Let the smoke get "clear and blue" and you're golden.
    I initially started with what I saw a couple people use on videos.  The top was maybe 1/3 to half open.  The bottom vent was open an inch or less.  I'd make adjustments as needed, but only one or two screen squares one way or the other (millimeters).  Towards the end of cooking it seemed I had to open up the bottom a couple inches to keep the temperaure up.  I'm not sure why as there seemed to be plenty of charcoal left.  (See the pic above, lots of charcoal on the sides and the bottom layer was burning well)

    Do you soak the big chunks?  I thought if I put big chunks right in the center they would burn off right away.  From what you are saying, they won't burn much faster than the charcoal in the BGE.  ?   Anyway, more wood.  Got it! 

    Appreciate the feedback Mike & Eggcel!
    LBGE/Maryland
  • Philly35Philly35 Posts: 669
    Your dome temp was too low- the grate temp was probably running 180. That's why it took so long.
    NW IOWA
  • DMurfDMurf Posts: 481
    What was the temp you were trying to cook at? I know that on my EGG the lowest I can get it to settle at is 250. this is fine with me but at that temp with a butt it will take 12 to 16 hours. I have only done a couple of briskets so far, again at 250 a full packer can take as long as 14 hours. 

    As mentioned above I spread chunks all across the coals after it is stabilized at my cooking temp. I do not use a water pan just something to catch the drippings. I do not cook for a smoke ring but for the flavor and I have not been disappointed.
    David
    BBQ since 2010 - Oh my, what I was missing.
  • KiterToddKiterTodd Posts: 1,466
    DMurf, I was trying to keep the dome temperature at 200.  I was going for 200-225 but it seemed to generally hang around 200, except for the issues I noted.

    That's good to know that maybe if I just went with 250, it would hold temp easier and the grate temp will be lower anyway. 

    Do you find that the grate temp will be lower even if you never open it?  I have seen both mentioned in youtube vids, but since I see a lot of DigIQ grate thermistors, I guess it's the norm to have it lower than the dome temp.

    I suppose after the temp has stabilized I could take the place setter back out (with gloves), add on some chunks, and then set everything back up.  I was going for getting it all set up at once so things could heat up together and then I could just throw on the meat without any dis-assembly or cold parts. 
    LBGE/Maryland
  • I agree with Philly35.  When you are cooking at high heat, a 25 degree difference is minor.  For low and slow it is all the difference in the world.  Wouldn't try going under 210 if your meat is high in the dome, 225 if it's low.
    Justin in Denton, TX
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