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  • Delicious smoked Kingfish, Bluefish or Mackerel

    I've been using a medium BGE for coming on 20 years. One of my absolute favorites to cook is fish. In my opinion, oily types of fish are the best as they stand up to the dry heat of smoking better than, say, flounder. Kingfish, Mackerel and especially Bluefish are the best there are for making a delicious meal.

    One trick is to make sure you brine the fish before you smoke it. There are dozens of variations on brining, but I like to use 1 gallon of water with 12 tablespoons of sea salt or kosher salt, 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup of Yoshida Marinade, 2 tablespoons of onion power, and 1 tablespoon powdered garlic. Mix it together well and use a large bowl, plastic bucket or a fish poacher to marinate the fish for 6 hours, but at least 2 if you're in a hurry.

    After brining, put the fish on a rack in the refrigerator and let it dry until it gets tacky to the touch. That usually happens in about 2 hours. Don't worry if you don't get this sticky finish, you can still cook the fish if it's dry, but the additional drying will help with the flavor on the surface.

    Fire up your BGE. The temperature you want is very low, about 160-170 degrees. I use Alder as the wood, but Hickory is also excellent as is Apple or Cherry. I avoid Mesquite because I think the flavor is a bit strong for fish. Pile a big handful of wood chips (not chunks) directly over the center of the fire, with some strewn around the outside of the pile. It should have the same pattern as if you took a salt shaker and spilled the salt on the table top. You'lll have a mound in the middle with a circle of salt around it. I use this pattern for all my smoking in my BGE. For short smokes, like fish, I use chips. For longer smokes, especially ribs, butts and briskets, I use chunks, but the pattern in the same.

    Here's another tip I've picked up from professional and amateur smokers alike that may surprise you. Never, ever soak your wood. There's a great article about this located at Meat and fish absorb most of the smoke flavor when they're cold, and soaking wood defeats the purpose of adding flavor to the protein you're cooking at the beginning of the process. I know this is counter to what you've been told, but try it once or twice and you'll never soak again! 

    I use a Maverick ET-732 thermometer so I can monitor both the oven temperature and the temperature of what I'm cooking remotely. It is, to me, an essential piece of equipment. Keep in mind that the thermometer in the BGE is measuring the temperature in the dome, not on the grill. There can be as much as a 20 degree difference in that temperature and you'll be more successful with your cooking if you can keep the heat accurate. Especially for fish, the temperature needs to be low.

    Lightly spray the grill with Pam or any aerosol oil to keep the fish from sticking. Put the over the fire, put the plate setter in place (upside down), and place the grill rack on top. If you're using fillets, place them skin side down on the grill. Depending on the thickness of the fish, they'll be done in 60-90 minutes. Make sure that you take them off the grill when they're no more than 140 degrees.

    The fish will be succulent and infused with a wonderful smokey flavor! Make some extra so that leftovers can be made into a salad by adding finely minced red onion and celery and a bit of mayonaise. My family loves fish cooked in our BGE, and I have neighbors who bring me their fish they've caught and ask me to smoke it for them! I'm happy to help, in exchange for a fish or two!

    For me, it comes down to using fish that's as fresh as can be and that is very oily. Farmed salmon, well-marbled, is also a real treat cooked in the BGE. For a special treat, try Chilean Sea Bass. The best, but usually way too expensive!

    Good luck, and let me know how it works for you.

  • First cook with the BBQ Guru DigiQ DX2

    I have had a medium BGE for almost 20 years and have prepared hundreds of meals with it. The biggest issue I have, and that I hear from other BGE owners, is about temperature control. Catching the rise, maintaining the temperature, and getting it back to temperature after having to add wood are skills that only come with experience. 

    I had heard about the BBQ Guru devices for controlling temperature, and they sure seemed to make sense, at least on their web page. When my wife and kids asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I volunteered that I'd like to try the BBQ Guru DigiQ DX2 so that I could have a bit more freedom from the BGE when doing a cook, especially a long one with a pork butt or brisket. They told me to go ahead and order it and they'd pick up the tab!!

    Today is my first cook, and I have to admit I am pretty impressed with this device. My very first concern was that the adapter would be hard to install. I had seen the kit on their web site and mistakenly thought that I'd have to remove the damper to install the adapter. Wrong. The adapter simply snaps into the damper. I had no problem installing it. My first fear was put to bed.

    My second concern was the obvious one of whether it would really work, or if I'd still have to babysit the Egg. I've learned over the years that what manufacturers say, and what their products do, are two wildly different worlds. So far, that hasn't been true with the DigiQ. Setup of the device, which is the size of a pack of cigarettes, is simple. You do have to use the manual to understand how to use it, and honesty demands that I reveal I'm very good with technology, but I was able to get the setup finished in less than 5 minutes.

    After starting the fire in my Egg, I put the plate setter in place along with the grill and hooked up the fan to the adapter I had installed in the damper. The DigiQ works by monitoring the temperature on the grill (not the dome, which is what the BGE dial thermometer monitors) and then carefully controls the draft into the firebox by puffing air into it as needed to stoke the charcoal. The unit came on at 100% power to help get the temperature up to what I wanted, in this case 225˚, and then maintain it there. I watched with a bit of trepidation as I watched the temperature continue to rise, and then, magically, stop at 225˚! I opened the lid of the Egg, and as expected, the temperature dropped. I removed the grill and plate setter, added the wood, put everything back in place and added the St. Louis ribs I wanted to cook.

    The DigiQ has a built-in feature that senses when the lid is open. I suspect it does this by the algorithm in the controller software recognizing a precipitous drop in temperature as a lid-opening event, and temporarily shuts the fan off. Once I closed the lid, the DigiQ quickly brought the temperature up to what it was set for and it's been that way ever since. Folks, it has not varied even one degree! There is about a 5-10˚ difference between the dome thermometer and the DigiQ, so I know I'm not getting some sort or ersatz reading and that my food is actually burning to a crisp.

    I'll report back to everyone at the end of this cook how the DigiQ did and how the food turned out, but after the first few hours, I just had to tell the forum how amazing this device is, and what a great addition I think it will be to my BGE. I can only imagine how much easier it will be to cook a butt or brisket over 15-18 hours at a very low temperature. It even solves the problem of having to add wood for additional smoke in the middle of a cook since it can sense that the lid has been opened and get the fire re-stabilized very quickly.

    Here are a couple of pictures of the unit. The fan looks a bit larger in this photo than it really is due to the angle I shot it at.


  • Perfect Baby Back Ribs!

    Last night I tried a variation of the 2-2-1 recipe for baby backs in my medium Big Green Egg and they came out fantastically well. I can attest that there were no leftovers! I use 250º for my cook monitored by a BBQ Guru DigiQ. After 2 hours on the grate I wrapped my ribs in heavy duty aluminum foil, and sprinkled them liberally with dark brown sugar and topped that off with margarine before I closed them up and returned them to the BGE for another hour. (I use Parkay from a squeeze bottle for ease of application.) After one hour (not two) I unwrap them and put them back in the BGE, unwrapped, for another hour. I coat them with BBQ sauce 20-30 minutes before they come off.

    The extra 25º is what I think shortens the cooking time for the middle step from 2 hours to 1. I find that if the ribs stay in foil too long, all of the rub is washed off by the steam. The ribs may be tender, but they also lose flavor. My "secret" to avoid that is to use a rub and let the ribs sit in plastic wrap overnight. That allows all of the spices to seep into the meat and add flavor that isn't just sprinkled on top.

    You might think that these ribs would be too sweet, but the margarine and sugar quickly melt together and steam the sweetness into the meat. Combined with a good rub, the combination is delicious. I've also seen on Pitmasters where cooks use a combination of dark brown sugar and honey, along with the margarine, but since this was my first time trying this method, I was a bit shy about they're coming out too sweet.
  • Re: Chips on the bottom of my medium BGE

    Thanks, Matty. As you suggest, I'll get some paint the next time I do a Home Depot run.
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