John's Big Green Egg Cooking Class - 14th December 2018
REVERSE SEARED Picanha
The technique we used here was a reverse sear where we slowly raised the temperature of the whole piece of meat by cooking it at 110°C until its internal temperature was 50°C (about 5°C below medium-rare). We then fired up the BBQ to about 250°C and seared the outside of the picanha before resting it for about 15 minutes and serving in slices.
The initial cook was indirect, we used the plate setter feet up with the stainless grid on top. To that we added the meat and cooked slowly until the core temperature reached 50°C (5°C lower than the temperature we were aiming for as the last 5°C would be achieved when we seared the meat).
We then removed the plate setter and opened the air vents to raise the temp to 250°C. We used the stainless steel grid to sear the beef for about 3 minutes on each side. We then rested it for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Dirty Steak vs. Seared rib-eye
We fired up the MiniMax as well as your large in order to cook steak traditionally on the large, using a cast iron grid, and dirty directly on the coals of the MiniMax.
Cooking the steak dirty adds a really meaty flavour to the steak, especially when it has a big eye of fat. It’s also a little controversial when you have friends over. Very little ash sticks to the steak. I think it’s a great technique.
You can cook veg this way too. Daniel Clifford at Midsummer House in Cambridge cooks celeriac and beetroot directly on the coal, it’s divine. DJ BBQ does an amazing dirtly carrot recipe in his book Fire Food.
Cauliflower with Black Sesame and Truffle Oil Dressing
The technique here was to cook on the back side of the plate setter. All I did was wipe down the back of the plate setter with a dry paper towel or foil.
We set up the Egg to cook at 180-200°C with the plate setter feet down.
I cut the cauliflower into about 7mm thick slices all the way through the cauliflower. I removed most of the really thick bit of stalk before cooking. I then added a touch of oil and some maldon salt to the slices (on both sides) and placed them directly onto the plate setter. We then cooked them for about 5 minutes on each side until they start to turn golden brown.
To this we added the dressing. A great addition is to sprinkle toasted black sesame seeds to give a little crunch.
French Trimmed Rack of Lamb
This is a great recipe to do with the cauliflower as it also can be cooked on the back of the plate setter (or a ceramic plancha).
Again we setup the Egg in an indirect configuration with the plate setter feet down. We set the temperature of the Egg to 180-200°C.
I scored the fat of the lamb rack in a diagonal pattern with the scoring about 3/4 cm apart. I then added a tiny bit of oil and generously seasoned the lamb with maldon salt.
I then cooked this directly on the plate setter, fat side down for about 15-18 minutes. At the last minute, we turned the lamb to add a little bit of sear to the edges.
I used a Thermapen to probe the meat. For medium rare, we were looking for an internal temp of 58°C. The lamb will continue to cook while it’s resting so take it off about 5°C before (53°C for medium rare).
Always rest your meat wrapped in foil.
This Italian bread is really simple to make and an easy first go at baking on the Egg.
Make a batch of my basic bread recipe and let it rise. Knock it back and split into two portions. Push out each of these dough balls into the bottom of a 30cm x 20cm baking pan, lightly oil the top and cover with cling film. Put to one side to allow it to rise again.
When ready, poke it with your fingers to make the dimples or just leave it rustic (my favourite). Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and herbs (we used rosemary).
Setup your Egg for an indirect cook with the plate setter feet up, stainless steel grid on top and the baking/pizza stone on top of that. Get your Egg to 220°C to 240°C and give the baking stone a while to heat up, probably 20 mins..
Cook your focaccia in the tin on the baking stone for about 15 minutes until it’s both golden brown on the top, but also crunchy on the bottom. Allow it to cool on a wire rack before serving.
Cedar Planked Salmon
The plank is designed to smoulder while the salmon roasts on top of it, taking on the wood flavour as it cooks.
Soak the planks in water for at least 1 hour before you use them. You can also soak them in other liquids such as:
- Beer, lager or cider.
- A dilution of citrus juice.
Get your Egg to 200°C in a direct setup with just the stainless or cast iron grids. Dry the side of the plank you will put the fish on, for about a minute, by placing it cooking side down on the Egg.
Take your salmon fillets and place them skin side down onto the plank. Use the grill gripper to move the plank onto the Egg. I put a slice of lemon onto the salmon to show the smoke, not to add flavour. It looks pretty though.
Cook until the salmon has firmed up enough to show it is cooked (about 8-10 mins). Take off the plank with the grill grippers and put onto something heat proof.
You all liked it very rare so the best way to check the salmon is cooked enough is to see when it just starts to flake on the outside when you press it with your finger.
Apple Tarte Tatin
We used one of the Tefal pans to make a caramel before addding the peaches, butter and pastry. The caramel was cooked direct on the MiniMax, we then baked it (indirect) on the Large Egg. You could always do the first stage on the hob inside.
Don’t stir the caramel, it’ll crystallise. Just leave it until the colour starts changing.
Be careful with the flip at the end, hot caramel burns. Make sure you’re not under pressure with a big audience :-).
Technique and Questions
What temperature should I cook at?
CURED MEATS AND THE PRO Q COLD SMOKE GENERATOR
If you’d like to make your own charcuterie or smoked salmon then you can use the Egg to smoke meat using a ProQ Cold Smoke Generator.
This will allow you to smoke meats for up to 10 hours per fill. You can use different wood dusts and I find the ones from HotSmoked.co.uk to be the best. You can even try discount code MP10 to get 10% off.
To cure salmon I use a 50/50 mix of sugar and salt for between 4 and 6 hours on the salmon. The recipe is here.
To get into curing meats there are a number of books. I started after reading Tim Haywards book, Food DIY.
HotSmoaked.co.uk also sell bacon cures. Have a look at what they say about nitrites and bacon cures. This article is great, celery salt may be a good compromise.
Using wood chunks and chips
If you want to smoke your food more when it’s cooking you can add wood chips and chunks. As we discussed when I drew the graph, the best time to smoke meats is when they are cold and damp as the smoke particles will stick to the meat better.
I don’t bother soaking my chips and chunks even though most of the packets tell you to do this. A soaked piece of wood will just release steam into the Egg and then burn at the same rate it would have anyway.
I buy wood chunks on the whole, sweet chestnut being my personal favourite. I buy them from a company called Grilling Wood from Amazon. They’re a small family run company from Hertfordshire.
This chart shows you what wood goes with what food. The chart is from HotSmoked.co.uk.
Vacuum Sealers for your bacon
I have a Foodsaver vacuum sealer. It’s been excellent. I think I said I would avoid the automatic ones as it’s nice to be able to double seal bags sometimes. This one seems to be the equivalent model to mine, the new FoodSaver FFS005.
How do I light my Egg?
- Top up the Egg with new charcoal to just above the line where the fire bowl and the fire ring meet.
- Create a small indentation in the centre of the charcoal and put in just one lit fire starter.
- Cover very loosely the fire starter with a few pieces of charcoal, you need to allow a good airflow.
- Leave the lid open and open the bottom draft door. Leave your Egg for 10 minutes to allow the middle of the charcoal to get going.
- After 10 minutes, close the Egg lid and open the cast iron top fully. Remember to position the screw towards you.
- Leave the Egg closed for about 5 minutes until it hits 180°C and has started warming the dome.
- You can now adjust your Egg to the temperature you want to cook at. See my temperature guide.
Do take a look at the Big Green Egg Tips Series. This video covers lighting your Egg,
What settings are needed for specific temperatures?
How do I refuel an Egg?
On the whole you don’t normally need to add more charcoal to an Egg during a cook. We only did it as we were cooking the whole day at a high temperature.
If you do need to do it I find the best way is to pile the burning charcoal up in the middle of the Egg and then put the new charcoal in around the burning charcoal. This allows the Egg to burn from the middle out.
wHICH CHARCOAL SHOULD I USE?
The Green Olive Firewood Company do charcoal that has a much milder smokey flavour, It’s made from SheOak. You need their restaurant grade lump wood charcoal.
Stag Charcoal also produce some great stuff in Hertfordshire. Look for their single species Ash or Birch for a less smokey cook.
When you really get into BBQ then look at some of the excellent charcoal from the Oxford Charcoal company. They have a very good reputation for their single species charcoals. They have a great chart on matching wood to meats and fish.
How do I use Chips and Chunks of wood?
Meat takes on smoke much better when it is cool and wet. Therefore you want to be generating smoke at the beginning of your cook. Since the charcoal in your Egg will be burning from the middle outwards, you need to place the smoking chips or chunks towards to middle of your Egg.
You don’t need too much wood to smoke with. I therefore recommend you just use a small handful for your first cooks and then build up on future cooks until you find the right level that works for you with that particular dish.
THE BEST WAY TO SCORE PORK FAT
Always cut away from you. You might find it easier to cut from the centre of the skin to the edge. You can then turn the pork 180° and then score from the middle to the opposite edge.
How do I cook Ribs?
- 3 hours indirect
- 2 hours indirect but wrapped in foil with a small spritz of apple juice (1 tbsp per pack)
- 1 hour indirect
During the last 30 minutes you can then apply BBQ sauce.
The rack of ribs should bend when they are cooked but not fall apart. The meat should pull from the bone but not fall off the bone.
If you’re cooking baby back ribs (the much smaller ones) you might want to reduce the timing to 2-1.5-1.
Try some of the rubs from Angus and Oink, their Sweet Bones and Butts rub mixed with their Porky White Chick is a great combo for ribs.
When should I use Pepper?
I recommend you apply pepper to your cooks only if they are indirect.
Using Marinades and Sauces
Try and avoid tomato based sauces for hot and fast cooks as the sugars in the tomatoes will burn easily. I therefore apply BBQ sauces which tend to be tomato based at the very end of a cook to avoid over cooking them. Any marinated meats from a butcher will likely have tomato on and therefore burn easily.
Making the best baked potatoes
The Stall or Plateau explained
The best resource on this is at AmazingRibs.com. Give it and the other articles a read. It’s a superb site.
Rest your meat
There is a great article discussing whether this is a myth but I still like to rest my meat: http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/mythbusting_resting_meat.html
When you do a reverse sear as we did for the T-Bone, bring the temperature of the meat to 5°C less than you require it to be when finished. This is because the sear process will raise the temperature by another 5°C. For example, for a medium cooked joint you want it to be 63°C, therefore cook it until is has an internal temperature of 58°C before searing it.
Using Planks Multiple Times
- Lemon and lime – lovely citrus flavours go well with fish
- Beer, cider or lager
Now instead of using the planks directly over the charcoal, use your ConvEGGtor (plate setter) feet up with the stainless steel grid and place the planks onto the stainless grid. You’ll still get the wood flavouring but it won’t burn your planks away.
Remember always place your planks on to a heat resistant surface when you take them off the Egg.
Using a cool box to rest meat
Once your meat is cooked, wrap it in several layers of aluminium foil and place it into your cool box. Then cover with bath towels and shut the lid. Make sure you use old towels as you’ll never get the smell of BBQ out of them!
Cleaning your Egg
Clean the ash from your Egg every five or so cooks. Use the ash tool to do this.
Every 12-15 cooks take the whole of the inside of your Egg out and brush down with the dustpan and brush. Some people hoover out their Eggs but if you do this make sure it is cold, I had a customer set her Henry on fire.
Rust on your Egg cast iron cap and searing grid
You’ll need to repeat this process a couple of times a year.
Great video resources on cleaning and using your Egg
Every BBQ chef should have a Thermapen 4. It’s by far the best probe thermometer on the market. It’s super accurate, fast reading and waterproof and has a backlit screen for use when it’s not so bright outside.
You can buy it in my shop and I have set you up with a discount code to use at the checkout, CLASS10.
Thermoworks launched the Thermoworks Smoke in the UK through ETI, the company that make the Thermapen. This is the best wireless thermometer in my opinion, it’s so easy to use and has super accurate probes. It’s not a replacment for a handheld probe thermometer like the Thermapen you already have but it does allow you to monitor cooks from the comfort of an armchair.
The Meater is a lovely piece of kit. It’s not quite as accurate as the other two thermometers but it does give a great guide and then you can use your Thermapen to check the cook, something I would always do anyway even when using the Thermoworks Smoke.
There are now three models, I brought along the original Meater and also the brand new Meater Block. There is now also the Meater+ which improves the range of the original Meater. I’d either buy the Meater+ or the Meater Block. The Block will be available Spring 2019.
You can buy this from Amazon.
Pans with handles that clip on and off
They’re a product from Tefal that I picked up several years ago in France before I got into the Big Green Egg as they were perfect for the camper van. They’re called Tefal Ingenio and are available in the UK now from Amazon.
The handle clips on and off easily so you pop the pan in the Egg and take the handle off. I use mine all the time. They’re great for cooking tarte tatin.
Just be careful with non stick ones that you don’t get them too hot as the non-stick will start to break down.
I’ve had these lovely leather aprons designed and made in my village. They have the Thermapen pocket on them which is branded with my Meat Smoke Fire logo.
The leather is Crazy Horse waxed leather. A saddle wax will restore it to it’s original state or you can let it get naturally weathered like mine.
They’re in my own online shop here.
The Looftlighter is my preferred method of lighting my Eggs at home. It’s a really souped up heat gun that uses electricity to blow hot air onto the charcoal and light it. It will start your Egg in about 60 seconds.
You can buy it from Amazon.
Recommended Cook Books
Written by DJ BBQ (Christian Stevenson). DJ BBQ does a lot of cooking with Jamie Oliver. There are some fabulous and easy recipes in here.
There is a whole section on dirty cooking (cooking directly on the charcoal). I have done the dirty carrots and can highly recommend them. The book was only published recently.
This is by Meathead Goldwyn, the man behind the AmazingRibs.com website. It’s got some really good stuff on technique as a well as some good recipes. It’s available on Amazon from this link.
Tim Hayward is a Cambridge based food writer, restauranteur and chef. He’s judged on the BBQ scene. His book contain loads of great curing recipes as well as BBQ stuff. I really love it and use the recipes all the time. It’s available on Amazon from this link.