If Everyone Would Just Stop Starting Sentences With “If Everyone Would Just …”

I know this is an exercise in pointless recursion, but I’d like to suggest something to you if you’re writing a Facebook entry, a blog post or a YouTube comment. This might even apply in your everyday conversation. 1

Don’t start any sentence with “If everyone would just …” Ever. If you accidentally start one that way, just stop. Better to be perceived as absent-minded or a fool than to finish the sentence.

Why? Because it’s not going to happen.

We’re never ALL going to think or do any one thing in just one way. Not if we have any choice in the matter. Gravity will always win out because we have no choice over it. The earth will continue to spin on its axis whether we’re here or not. Things that happen following the words “Hey! Watch this!” will seldom work out as intended. Everything else? A crapshoot.

I think it’s an occupational hazard of being human that you fantasize how great everything would be if everyone just thought and felt about things the way you do. I catch myself doing it all the time. Then it occurs to me that a world where everyone thought and felt as I did about things would be

  1. Anti-social.
  2. Boring as hell.
  3. Utterly devoid of peas, which would probably create some gap in the biosphere that would lead to total ecosystem collapse.

Then I remember that it’s not ever going to happen. Like being President, or an astronaut or understanding the appeal of Lord of the Rings. There are things you’re just better of accepting and moving on with. I’m glad we have astronauts. I wish the job of President attracted fewer war criminals, but what’s an oligarchic military-industrial complex going to do? And while I could never get into LOTR, I think the world is an objectively better place because there are people who really love it. Think about it for a minute.  What would those people do with even more free time? Tolkien did us all a favor.

Again, I understand that I’m sitting here writing about how everyone shouldn’t say things like everyone shouldn’t say things. My only defense is that I have no illusion that it’s ever going to happen.  If even one person heeds my words then … wow. I’m surprised. What’s wrong with you?  You take life advice from some guy on the Internet? What are you thinking?

And while we’re at it, there’s a related thing. Don’t tell someone they’re “doing it wrong.”

They’re not.

They’re just not doing it for you.


1 OK, scratch YouTube. If you’re leaving comments on YouTube there is no hope for you.

Posted in Nothing in Particular, The Ol' Curmudgeon, The Ol' Philosopher

Arrhythmia and Blues

Revenge of the Selfie

Revenge of the Selfie

So I didn’t think it through and posted a couple pictures to Facebook showing the cats playing with a balloon I got in the hospital on Monday. Which immediately got the reaction of “What? You were in the hospital?”

Oops.

It’s been an interesting six months. To say the least.  Which is pretty much the way I’ve wanted to keep it.  The “saying the least” part.  I could really go for some less interesting. Hopefully I am, now.

So here’s the deal. We discovered late last September that I was in atrial fibrillation. At the time we thought it started within a few days of it being discovered, but it’s pretty clear now that it had been going on for a while. A few months at least. We’ll never know for sure.

I spent a night in the hospital. They ran tests. They poked and prodded.  Nothing too bad, and the staff was great. When it was all said and done the cardiologist said something that I knew was probably true, but I wasn’t expecting to hear it in that context.

Untreated sleep apnea.

It’s not just about snoring, folks.  I’ve often said the purpose of my life is serve as a cautionary tale to others and this is one of those times. Don’t ignore this. It can screw you up.  It’s done it to me.

So there wasn’t just one issue, but two.  The arrhythmia and the apnea. Both had to be dealt with simultaneously.  There was actually a third issue, too: depression. September through December pretty much sucked. There was an attempt to shock my heart back into rhythm — a procedure called cardioversion — that failed. I had no energy. There were scheduling issues with the sleep lab because it was the end of the year and everyone was trying to get it in under out-of-pocket limits. On top of that I was put in an anti-arrhythmic that’s, in a word, nasty.  Over time, anyway.  Like screw-up-your-lungs-and ruin-your eyesight nasty. It all worked out in the end, but at the time the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. To anyone. Some folks knew at work, but that was about it.

So I finally get my two sleep lab appointments in (one to figure out how bad I had it, the other to figure out the best approach to take to mitigate it). I had it bad.  On average my sleep was interrupted by an event 61 times an hour.  For all intents and purposes, I wasn’t sleeping. I thought I was, but I wasn’t.  Dozing maybe.  That’s about it.  The treatment was (and is) a ResMed S9 VPAP machine.  The ‘V’ is for ‘variable.’ The CPAP you’ve probably heard of stands for “Constant Positive Airway Pressure.”  That means you exhale against full pressure.  That wasn’t working for me, so my machine increases pressure in inhaling and decreases it a bit on exhaling.

So I wear a breathing mask at night now. Much to Carla’s relief I now only announce “Luke, I am your father”  and “This is CNN” on a bi-monthly basis instead of nightly as I did at first. It took a couple of weeks to get the straps dialed in so the thing can work the way it’s supposed to. The mask seals to my face using pretty much the same principle that allows hovercrafts to work. For me the trick was to let the straps hold the mask in place just enough to avoid what I lovingly refer to as “face farts” and no tighter. Crush it too much and it won’t seal worth a crap. Then the straps are too tight.  It’s uncomfortable.  No sleeping occurs. Taking a sort of a Buddhist “release your attachments” approach actually works. And I apologize to all 350 million Buddhists in the world for the metaphor.

In late January there was another failed cardioversion. The route that was recommended and I went with was a procedure called Catheter Ablation. For those of you scoring at home, it was a Pulmonary Vein Isolation procedure using cryothermy. It took right at four hours to complete.  I was asleep through all of it.

Have you noticed lately that we live in a science fiction novel?

Anyway, as best we can tell the procedure worked.  That picture pretty much sums up how I felt when I heard. I’d had the procedure described as a ‘piece of cake’ which only means I clearly have a different set of requirements for cake than the person who said that. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that bad.  I wouldn’t suggest it as a spa treatment, but I can think of a couple of tests leading up to it that were worse than the procedure itself.

There’s still some adjusting of medications going on and I’m not going to be doing too much over the next week or so, but I have no complaints.  The doctors, nurses and techs have been uniformly wonderful. Now that I’ve outed myself on all this I’ll probably say more about that in later posts, but this has gone on long enough.

If you’re hearing about this for the first time I hope I haven’t insulted you by not saying anything. There wasn’t a time after it was discovered that it was ever going to be anything but OK eventually. I have to use the VPAP and have to lose weight, but now that I can — oh, I don’t know, walk across the room without being exhausted  — I’m not to worried about that part. Specifically, the intake side has largely been dealt with and the activity side is what I was working on when this was discovered.  It didn’t cause it. It just made it visible.

But I didn’t want to talk about any of it. There was nothing anyone could do that wasn’t being done and I was doing an excellent job feeling sorry for myself. The last thing I wanted was attention. So I kept my mouth shut, at least on social media.

But then the cats started playing with the balloon…

Posted in Just stuff, Nothing in Particular

Not Coming Home Again

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This is Asheville, NC. I’ve lived here twice in my life: 1968-1972 and 1991-1994. Thomas Wolfe famously wrote about this place that you can’t go home again. I haven’t, I suppose. What’s unique to my history is that this is the one place where I can relate childhood memories to adult memories. All the other places I’ve lived were either one or the other.

Beer is a big deal in my life now and it’s a big deal here as well. I like being able to find good beer, but in a way I kind of wish it were more like it used to be.

But, as Mr. Wolfe pointed out, it’s always been that way.

I guess that’s what Asheville is all about.

Posted in Nothing in Particular, The Ol' Philosopher, Travel

All the Delayed Gratification I Can Stand

I definitely got the "falling apart" thing right.

I definitely got the “falling apart” thing right.

I guess I really don’t need to rationalize why I nerd out so much about barbecue, but I do.  People are often surprised I’m not big into homebrewing given that Carla and I do Hoperatives. I have several answers that are all accurate but incomplete.  “There are lots of professionals who are willing to make it for me in exchange for small sums of money,” is what I usually say.  Sometimes I explain that I’ve tried it and liked it well enough, but just decided I didn’t want to make the investment in the gear I’d need in order to do it seriously. “Obsession” and “gear” go together in my world. In the end, though, I think smoking meat scratches the itch in me that homebrewing does for others.  While smoking and brewing take about the same amount of labor (brewing more, if anything), but the nice thing about smoking is that at the end of the day you have barbecue. With homebrew you have a couple of weeks to wait. If you build up enough inventory over time you can deal with that issue, but that gets back to the whole equipment/space/storage issue. I don’t do delayed gratification well. Barbecue works for me. And if I want to homebrew, I know lots of folks who’ll let me come over and use their gear (and who will protect me from doing something dumb that will ruin a batch).

Beats the hell out of me how gardeners manage that hobby. I respect it immensely. But it’s not for me.

So yesterday’s batch of pulled pork may be the best I’ve done so far. I wound up pulling it off the smoker at 185° internal and let it rest a half-hour or so (I expect I got a carryover to 190° or damned close).  You can see from the picture that it split as I was taking it off. I had to tug a little, but the bone came out clean.  Used a set of Bear Paws and the meat shredded in short order. The bark is flavorful, but not overpowering, so the rub was a real success. That last stall didn’t really make any difference in  the end.  I’d decided that 190° was my target temperature and was getting frustrated that it wasn’t getting there steadily. I was wondering if I’d wind up having to slice the meat rather than pull it. That wouldn’t have been a disaster. It just wasn’t the plan.

All that time I was in the second stall good things were happening, though. Collagen starts to melt and squeeze out water (that then boils away) around 160°.  I think I hit the first stall around 151° when we had a good breeze and circulation was pretty good inside the Egg. The humidity was high inside because of the water pan and I think the wind died and circulation became much, much weaker, setting up the conditions for a second stall at the higher temperature. Except it really wasn’t a “second” stall.  It was the same stall, just moved to a higher temperature.

So what does this do to my approach for next time? It turned out so well that I think I’ll continue to use the water pan and just tough out stalls when they happen. If I know going in that I’m on a schedule, I may do something along the lines of what’s discussed in this article about wrapping with foil  when the meat gets to 150° or so and the smoking is done. The article draws on the research of Dr. Greg Blonder that I cite whenever possible. It just seems kind of dumb to say “I used a water pan. I made the best batch I’ve made so far. So next time I don’t use a water pan.” But some days I may not have 12 hours. And there’s just enough futzing with dampers to keep me from trying an overnight.

The last loose end from this cook is the lump charcoal.  Most of what I put in yesterday burned.  There’s some left and I figure I have at least two long smokes left in the bag I bought. I expect less waste than what I get from your basic bag of Royal Oak or whatever.  It seemed to burn evenly and the ash is very, very fine indicating complete combustion. I still can’t decide if it’s worth the money, but I think it performed well. A Twitter friend clued me in to where I can find Humphrey up in Dayton. I want to try it.

I think I’m going to go enjoy the fruits of my labor yesterday.

Posted in Beer, Food, The Cult of the Big Green Egg

Stalling Just Delays the Inevitable Deliciousness, Mr. Bond.

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“Move, damn you.”

That’s what I’ve been saying to my thermometer for the last two hours. I’m not just in a stall. I’m in the dreaded second stall.

“The Stall” is something that happens when you’re cooking a large piece of meat at relatively low temps. I’ve talked about it before. This guy has the best explanation ever. I know what’s happening. I was even a little blasé at first when I hit my first stall around 156. It sat that way for quite a while. But then it came out of it and I was all “Cool! Dinner at a decent time!”

Then a while later I noticed I’d been sitting at 172 for a while. Then I dropped back a degree to 171 (grid temps at 240-250 the whole time). I knew it was trouble, then. The dreaded second stall. The one no one quite understands.

There are only a few things you can do in any stall. (1) Wait it out. (2) Wrap the meat in foil to block the airflow for evaporative cooling, or (3) raise the temp. Normally I’m in the ‘wait it out’ camp. Wrapping the meat in foil softens the bark and sets up something more akin to a braise. Nothing wrong with a braise, but that’s not what I’m doing. I’m looking for crusty bits.

This is a second stall, so I’ve opted for raising the temp (265-270 at the grid) figuring all the smoke that’s going to get into the meat has already done it. Once I got to 270 I got a two degree jump (174! w00t!) within a couple of minutes. I’m going to let the temp keep rising in the hopes of breaking the balance of circulation, evaporation and moisture that have combined to make the stall. I won’t let it get above 300. That’s an arbitrary number.

An observation: there was almost no wind this afternoon. When I first came out here on the patio (where I’ve been writing this on my phone, believe it or not) there wasn’t a leaf moving anywhere. There’s a bit of a breeze now. When the breeze dies I can imagine the convection inside the Egg not being as active.

I also wonder if the water pan has contributed to this. I may leave it out next time.

Short wrap up later.

Posted in The Cult of the Big Green Egg

The Greatest Day in Smoking Things on the Egg

"Sir, we're ready for you now."

“Sir, we’re ready for you now.”

If ever there was a year we needed nice weather for Memorial Day Weekend this was it. Winter sucked. We’ve had some cooler days this spring, but there have been some spectacular ones as well. And this weekend?  Just stunning.

Normally I’m a little grumpy when the cats get me up early on a weekend. Today it actually worked out pretty well. Porter and Dunkel tag teamed and had me out of bed by 6AM. Made up a big mug of coffee and came downstairs to get the Egg set up for the day. By 7:00am I had the fire lit off and by 8:00am  the butt was on the Egg. No drama getting the fire going.

Our local Ace Hardware has become a Big Green Egg dealer and they carry the BGE-branded lump charcoal. Holy crap is that stuff expensive.  Easily double what I pay for a bag of the GSF or Royal Oak I normally buy. The thing is, I’ve not been happy with the last two bags of those I used. Lots of ash. Weird temp spikes. Tons of small pieces. I knew I was going to pay a premium for the BGE stuff, but figured one time wouldn’t kill me.

I thought I made a mistake when I opened the bag. The lump sizes are are relatively uniform, but the size is smaller than I was expecting. As I added the fuel I worried about the smaller sized-pieces packing together and screwing up the airflow inside. Four-and-a-half hours into the smoke I’m not worried about that. The fire lit off great, and the smoke was clean from the start.  More remarkably, there was almost no visible smoke by the time I put the meat on and nearly none visible all day. If you aren’t into smoking that may sound like bad news, but it’s actually good news. That means the stuff that’s burning is combusting fully. Visible smoke is largely soot, and soot isn’t what you want. I’m feeling better about spending the money. If the ash production is low, that one bag could last me a while. It would make it a better value at that point. The jury is out. (I’d love to be able to try some Humphrey, but I don’t know where I can find it in Cincinnati.  Anyone know?)

The rub was on the meat for about 22 hours and the pan it rested in is now the water pan. I’m liking having that extra thermal body between the fire and the meat (besides the plate setter). My grid temps have been mostly hanging between 243 and 252 (with a high of 255 and low of 225).  The spices in the water aren’t going to really contribute much to flavor, but it sure makes the patio smell good.

More later.

Posted in The Cult of the Big Green Egg

Preparing for Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Tomorrow will begin with the F1 Race in Monaco, followed by the Indy 500. We’ve got MadTree Lift and Galaxy High on the kegerator.
And this guy is sulking in the fridge in a foil-covered foil pan waiting for his early morning date with The Egg.

It’s going to be a good day. For us anyway.

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And, aye, here’s the rub:

2 Cups Turbinado Sugar
1/4 Cup Paprika
1/4 Cup Chili Powder (I like Fiesta brand)
1 TBS Garlic Powder
2 TBS Fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 TBS Onion Powder
3 TBS Cumin
4 TBS Salt (kosher)
1/2 TSP cornstarch
1/2 TSP Tumeric

Used about half on the 8lb butt. The rest is in airtight containers.

Until tomorrow, then…

Posted in Food, The Cult of the Big Green Egg

Accidental Magic

Castle

So Carla and I are at Disney World this week.  If I was at all interested in being consistent in my worldview I should hate this place, but I don’t. We come down here all the time. We own Disney Vacation Club points at Animal Kingdom Lodge, for [insert deity here] sake. You can make impassioned arguments about the environment and the crass commercialism and whatever other sins you want to list and I’ll probably agree that those thing are terrible.

But I’ll come anyway.

I just like it here.

I hope they serve Mickey bars in hell if that’s where I’m going.

Three things have already happened that kind of sum up why:

  • We were originally going to spend the night in Valdosta, GA last night, but we were making great time and we would have gotten there between 2 &  3 in the afternoon. Nobody needs to spend that much time in Valdosta, so we said screw it and Carla called ahead and got a reservation at the All-Stars Sports for one night. It was just a few bucks more than we were going to spend anyway. We rolled in here a little after 6 and were in our room by 6:30. So we got to sleep in this morning before checking into Bay Lake Tower this morning instead of getting up godawful early. There were a million things that could have gone wrong, but they didn’t. Everybody did their job.
  • We were heading out to get some dinner last night and grabbed a beer over at the pool bar at All-Stars Sports before we took off. It was hot and the pool and pool area was packed.  Lots of cheerleader teams, lots of school groups, lots of people. As we’re walking out after finishing our beers, “Let It Go” from “Frozen” starts playing on the sound system. The entire pool area — easily more than a 100 people, probably more — break into full-voiced singing. Kids. Teens.  Everyone. It was hilarious. Wish I would have thought to shoot a little video, but I was laughing so hard and I don’t think the video would do it justice. I know it’s a completely different musical meme this summer, but it was the joy that the song “Happy” talks about that made it a moment I won’t forget. You had to be there. And I’m glad I was.
  • So we check into Bay Lake Tower (holy crap this place is amazing) and we’re heading down to the lobby to get some things straight on our Magic Band accounts (motto: “You’ll be amazed if you get them set up right the first time”). We stop a couple of floors down and this kid with a suitcase comes rushing on before realizing he wants to go up instead of down. His parents and a brother and sister are with him and they pull him off the elevator.  Mom’s apologizing and Dad — holding this big garbage bag — asks “Hey do you guys like beer?” (Oh please, do go on!) Turns off they got off one of the cruise ships yesterday and they had some beer left over,  They were heading back to New York and didn’t want to take it back. Very decent beer, too. So we’ve been in the building maybe 45 minutes and some random guy is handing us beer.

Stuff like this happens here.

And that’s why I come back.

Posted in Cult of the Mouse

Spring is Here and I Smoked Some Country Ribs

Country Ribs

On today’s menu…

I’m probably jinxing us to a massive freak April snowstorm, but I’m going to say Spring has finally arrived. Not that it’s all that spring-like out there at this moment. It’s 44℉ and I think it’s only supposed to hit 52℉ today. But the sun is out and the birds are singing and the grass is greening up. The Astros are 2-2 and took two out of three from the Yankees.  They got hammered last night 11-1 by the Angels, but it’s a long season and I feel OK thinking at this point that they won’t lose 1oo games this year.

So of course I’ve fired up The Egg.

Part of the motivation came from texting back and forth with my friend Nate last weekend when we were down in Evansville, IN visiting Carla’s nephew. Nate has writes a blog called Bread & Whiskey that documents his passion for cooking. Before I had the Egg I had an offset New Braunfels Black Diamond that my mom bought Carla and me for our wedding present. When I was turning 50 and decided to step up my game with respect to smoking, I knew I wanted the old smoker to go to a good home. It had always served me well. Long story short, I ran into Nate out at the 50 West Brewing Co. and we talked barbecue. It came up in passing that he was looking for an offset smoker to restore and modify and I told him he could have mine for the price of coming to get it. It was a win-win-win.  He got his smoker and I got it off my back patio and it went to a home where it would be treated with the love it deserves. I haven’t seen the smoker itself, but I’ve seen pictures of the restoration job he did.  It looks awesome. I’m so happy that it all worked out.

Smoker Underway

Aaaaaaand we’re underway

So anyway, Nate was getting a chance to cook on a Big Green Egg for the first time last weekend. He was over at some friends who bought their Egg the same place I bought mine (Wardway Fuels on the West Side. Cannot recommend them highly enough). He was excited, to say the least. He did things a little different than I’ve been doing. He ran his top vent open all the way and just used the bottom to regulate the temp. He was also using a water pan, which I hadn’t done up to this point. The pictures he sent looked great and I’m sure the meat was fantastic. But what it mostly did for me was get me in the mood. Then Tuesday was really nice and Carla and I were able to sit out on the back patio. Looking at the covered Egg I decided that I was going to cook something today.  And here we are.

Thursday I had my “Congratulations!  You’re 50! Let’s shove a camera up your ass!” colonoscopy. It went fine. No problems. Don’t have to worry about another for 10 years. Knowing it was coming, then the joy of the prep on Wednesday, made it a less than fun-filled week. Funny thing about the anesthesia:  I wasn’t knocked out all the way, but its effects really hung on.  I slept for much of the day Thursday and even last night I slept hard. How this all matters to what I’m cooking today is Carla rightly suggested I do something easy. I rushed the last cook. The country ribs were terrible (about half were pitched) and the sliced butt was uninspiring.  Edible. OK, even. But not all that great. I need to nail something to get the season off to a good start, and a good tray of country ribs are the way to go. They only take 4-5 hours and that let me sleep in and take it easy this morning.

Country ribs aren’t ribs, of course. They’re actually chops from the shoulder near the front end of the baby back ribs. I love the damned things. My usual pattern is to do a tray of country ribs in addition to something else — a pork butt or brisket, even — with the intent of eating on the ribs that day to scratch the itch of getting some barbecue and giving the larger hunk of meat the time it deserves. Since I just have a tray of ribs on now I decided to try a couple of things a little differently this time around.

I started the fire the same way I did last time, but it started much easier this time. I may have had too much small lump pieces the last time because I got to the nice blue smoke really fast this time. Last time I let the fire establish itself for 20 minutes with the lid up and the vents all the way open, then went another 20 minutes with the lid down but the vents wide open before the smoke cleaned up. This time?  Once I got the plate setter and the grids placed after the first 20 minutes the fire and the smoke were perfect. I’m thinking I had too many small pieces of lump in a single layer that choked the air flow. This time the lump was piled much looser and I think that’s the difference.

I’m using a water pan this time. That’s straight from Nate’s experience last week and I figured it was time to try it. So far so good.  If nothing else, having another thermal sink between the fire and the grid has kept the temps pretty well planted between 215 and 220. I’ve been writing this post for several hours now and — as I was expecting — using the water pan is inhibiting the formation of a good bark, but the color on the meat is beautiful and I’m really happy with the moisture level inside. I suspect I’ll be using a pan of water when I do my next large cut of meat. I started with just under a gallon of water in a 9 x 17 pan. Three hours about half the water was gone and I put the remainder water from the glass jug so the pan won’t go dry. What I may do when I do a large butt or brisket is just let the pan go dry so bark has a better chance of forming.

I thought about doing what Nate did and trying to control the temperature strictly with the bottom damper, but I wimped out. I did some reading on any number of the Big Green Egg forums and came to the conclusion I’d try it the other way around. So what I’ve done is tried to keep the bottom damper at a single position and tweak the top damper to adjust the temperature (open increases the temperature, while closing lowers it). Following what I was taught by Chef JJ the weekend I got the Egg, I’ve always moved the top and bottom dampers together under the assumption that the input and output should be equal. I don’t think you can ever go wrong doing it that way.

What I’ve seen today, though, is that you can seemingly affect the rate of airflow through the bottom simply by manipulating the top damper. Opening the top allows more air to vent which forces air to be drawn in faster through the bottom damper because the pressure has to remain equal inside and the bottom aperture size remains constant. The only way to account for the increased outflow due to a larger top opening is to draw more air faster through the same sized bottom opening. This sets up more rapid air circulation within the Egg, which encourages a bit hotter fire and the temperature rises. I’m probably screwing up the physics, but that’s what I think is happening. The key thing to remember is never let the top be open less than the bottom. The top isn’t tight enough to shut off all airflow, but you could easily starve the fire and create some nasty smoke.

I’m well over 1300 words and I apologize if at any point I’ve actually had anything useful to say. I don’t write regularly enough and spending the day tending the Egg gives me an excuse to write about something I actually care about. I start and stop as the day goes on and I do other things as needed. My practice up to this point has been to start a post and publish it before things are done, then add to it throughout the day.  Since I’m doing things differently today while cooking, why not blog it differently as well?

That said, this is how the meat pictured above looked 4.5 hours later when I was taking it off. You can assume they taste as good as they look.

Finished Country Ribs

I think these turned out pretty well.

Posted in Baseball, You Bet, Food, The Cult of the Big Green Egg

A Pause In the Winter of Our Discontent

Smoker topper

That there is what you call clean smoke.

There’s no nice way to say it. This winter has sucked. I mostly mean the weather, but there have been no shortage of things that have sucked. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get an ice and snow storm. I’m so ready for winter to be over it’s not even funny. If there’s a day where I don’t say “What fresh hell is this?” I consider myself lucky.

I’ve not used The Egg all winter. Part of the reason I got it was because its thermal properties are such that outside temperatures are basically irrelevant. I don’t mind cooking in cold — I don’t stay out there that long — but dealing with an eternal snow cover and the ice and the gunk that sort of coats everything just hasn’t been appealing. Early in the week it because pretty clear that today wasn’t going to be too bad weather-wise, so I decided to fire up The Egg.

The last thing I cooked was a brisket and it was OK. Nothing great, but still better than most we can get around here. I still have some work to do on that. I went ahead and got a better dual thermometer. This time it’s the classic Maverick ET-732. I’ve been using it for all of an hour, but I believe I already have some evidence that it’s a better unit than what I used before (also a Maverick, but a cheaper model). For one thing, both probes agreed with each other when I turned them on away from the smoker. That right there is an improvement over the old unit.

thermometer

This is how the smoking began.

Today I’m doing a pork butt that’s going to wind up being sliced and some country ribs.  I don’t plan to be as obsessive about documenting the details, but there are a few things I want to note mainly so I don’t forget them. I tried yet another way of starting the fire, and I think this is a keeper.  I stacked the lump and (oak) chunks around a central stick of fat wood.  I lit that off and let it go for about 20 minutes to get it nice and lit.  Then I put on the plate setter and grids and lowered the lid (lower vent wide open, top vent unit removed so it’s wide open) and let it go until the grid temp hit around 400.  The smoke was really dirty up until it got to around 350, and then it cleared out.  This probably didn’t take more than 10-15 minutes.  I put on the meat (dual grids: butt low, ribs high) and shut the dampers down to barely open.  The shot of the thermometer is where things settled. In the first hour there was a small fall off that I stopped at around 210 and I’ve got it pretty much dialed in a 235 now. It’s been going an hour and a half.  The ribs will come off for dinner.  The butt will take longer, but I got a late start today.

It’s nice to be doing this again.

UPDATE @ 4:30: I actually left the smoker unattended for a little more than two hours. That’s an all time first. Maybe it’s maturity setting in?

Nah.  It was brunch.

Carla and I met some friends for brunch, though it wound up just being lunch. Wunderbar, mmm. Just before we left the temp spiked to around 250 (+ or -) and … I did nothing.  I just left. Here’s my thinking: given constant ventilation, a temperature spike is most likely the result of new fuel lighting off. Rather than trying to chase the temps (which I’ve always done in the past, only to have to try to bring them back up), I just let it go. I figured it’d peak out somewhere and start dropping back toward the mean of 235 that this vent setting seems to be dialed in for holding. I don’t know that it happened, but I’ll pretend it did, When I got home the grid temp was 220.

The ribs were done. They’d been on for about 5 hours at that point and some of them were really shrunken.  While wrapping them up in foil I checked for toughness and none of them were rocks, so I didn’t let them go too long. Glad we didn’t hang around for another beer, though.  That would have been bad.  The butt is moving right along.  5.5. hours in and it’s at 156 internal. I’ve yet to hit the stall, so I’m figuring I won’t be taking this off the smoker until well after dark. I’m targeting 180 and I’ll probably just wrap it whole and worry about slicing it tomorrow. The big thing is that I want to get the smoker covered tonight before the crap starts moving in. I suspect the cover can take some heat, but I’m going to have to give it some time to cool off. Getting the butt off by 8 would be great.

And that’s a sentence that’s not acceptable in any other context.

Posted in The Cult of the Big Green Egg

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