With a sniffle and sigh, I put my old Webber charcoal kettle – mottled with rust and wear – out to pasture last month. I’ve had the grill well over 15 years, and have many fond memories of the get-togethers we’ve co-hosted: smoked pork butts for BQ sandwiches at my son’s graduation party, cedar-planked Copper River salmon with a maple glaze I served my daughter’s boyfriend, and his astounded: I never thought I liked fish until now, reaction.
But new memories are ready to be made, and I’m moving onward and upward; I’ve had my eye on a Big Green Egg, a kamado-styled ceramic charcoal cooker, for some time now.
Two years back, Mike Monahan, the owner of Monahan’s Seafood in Kerrytown, was grilling delicacies from the sea on an Egg at Downtown Home & Garden, and my small brain began a ticking. It’s not, however, everyday you shell out eight-hundred-plus bucks for a grill. But the more I researched the Egg, the more I concluded it was the tool for me – reasons I won’t elaborate since they could be construed as commercial, and I’m not a product endorsement kind of a gal.
Bottom line is that if I can make things simpler in my life, I’m game. And for me, barbecuing and grilling is easier with an Egg; I use less charcoal, I can control temperature with finesse, the clean-up is easier, and the construction is bullet-proof.
So last month I found myself at Downtown Home & Garden purchasing a large Big Green Egg, plus accoutrements, then Richard and I carved a tiny outdoor kitchen for my new baby. We placed the grill on pavers that we surrounded in medium-sized pebbles, and I inaugurated the grill with a favorite recipe for ribs; ribs need long slow cooking over indirect heat, giving me plenty of time to admire my Egg from all angles.
The following recipe, however, assumes you don’t have an Egg; it’s the recipe I made using my Webber kettle, which I was adapted with ease to the Big Green Egg. The main difference is I purchased a Plate Setter that’s inserted into the Egg for indirect heating, so don’t have to fuss with drip pans, and added pieces of hickory to get the smoke.
I’m barely scratching the surface with tips for smoking ribs with coals and wood, and there’s another article to be written about smoking over the more popular gas grills. Barbecue is a culture – borderline cultish – of which Barbecue Bibles have been written, and Food Network fortunes made deciphering through the smoke.
And yes, there is an art to smoke, so if it’s your first time using wood chunks or chips, I’d advise to proceed with caution; begin with less and add more, if desired, the next time you barbecue. As with over-brining, over-smoking can ruin an otherwise delicious meal. But if you kiss your protein with smoke, and use the right type of wood for what you’re cooking, you’re in for a treat – the wood adds an incomparable layer of flavor. In the recipe below, I’d advise using applewood or hickory, oh so marvelous with pork.