Low and Slow

I’ve had a Big Green Egg for a little over 6 months.  If you don’t know about them, they’re awesome.  A very versatile ceramic cooker, famous for its ability to both grill at very high temperatures, as well as act as a low-temperature smoker for slow cooking meats.  In fact, it’s this “low and slow” capability that really sets the BGE apart from other cookers, and attempting to master this art is really a project more than just preparing a meal.  My wife went out of town for the weekend, so I attempted my first overnight “low and slow” project – a 6.3lb (bone-in) Boston pork butt.  If things went well it would come out as pulled pork barbecue many hours later.  Here’s what we started with:

That’s just the butt coated in a healthy dose of dizzy pig‘s dizzy dust rub.  In the past I had tried slow-cooking ribs and I over-cooked them.  It’s a challenge to keep the temperature really low for a long time.  The ribs were cooked too hot.  From the homework I had done, I thought this sucker should cook for about 13 hours at a little over 200 degrees.  The temperature is controlled by adjusting the vents at the bottom and the top of the egg.  Here’s how I set them:

we put the meat on late at night on Saturday:

And the temp was nice and low at about 205 degrees:

I checked it a couple of times and then I went to bed.  That’s the scary part – worrying that your fire is going to go out over night and your project will be ruined.  Well, then next morning I was very pleased to see the temperature had held steady all night!

And at the 13 hour mark I decided to take a look (the other difficult thing is not peeking the whole time, but I resisted the urge):

It looked OK.  I was actually worried that it might be too dried out.  I also took a temperature reading and it was only about 170 degrees.  The goal is 200 (though its common for the meat to plateau around 170 while cooking).  What’s worse, I realized the temperature in the egg was dropping.  Luckily I was able to drop more charcoal in around the plate-setter and get the temperature back up.  I actually got it up to around 300 degrees in an effort to try to get it to hurry up and cook.  I checked in a few more times, and it finally hit 200 degrees at around the 20 hour mark.

I won’t lie – from looking at it I was afraid it was going to be hard, tough and dry.  I wrapped it in foil and let it sit for like 30-60 minutes, then I tried to “pull” it the only way I though made sense:

(note: those gloves don’t have much insulation, and it is pretty painful when the meat is too hot and you can’t get the gloves off).  Anyway, the good news is that my fears were totally unfounded.  The finished product was soft, tender, and DELICIOUS!

It had a nice pink smoke ring, just the right amount of crust, and a great flavor that really didn’t need much barbecue sauce.  Needless to say, it was way more barbecue than 2 people could eat (even over the course of a week), but it did wonders to build my confidence.  I now think I’m ready to try this again and have around 10 people counting on a tasty finished product.

Quick shout out to The Naked Whiz and This other site which provided me some good education on the process.  I’m looking forward to more ambitious overnight projects in the future.

2 Responses to “Low and Slow”

  1. Bill says:

    Use forks to shred the meat. Much less painful.

    • Whit says:

      somehow that seems less authentic if I’m wanting to call it “pulled pork.” Still, I think I’ll try it anyway.