Bonus Audio - Smokin' with Dads
A: When you’re grilling you’ve got your fuel source and then depending on what you’re using you get more or less smoke. Like a gas grill doesn’t give you much smoke you can add wood chips’ to get some smoke; but using wood gives you the most; charcoal gives you some.
D: You also get a little smoke from the fat and juices dripping onto the hot coals in a charcoal grill or the hot metal in a gas grill.
A: True. But why do you smoke food? What’s good about smoke?
D: There ‘s something alluring about it. It smells good.
A: And it makes food a beautiful color.
D: Yes, the smoke ring is a beautiful thing. It tastes good too. But not to everyone. A little smoke flavor tastes good, but a lot can overpower the other flavors in the food. Let’s say you use liquid smoke in something, you only want to use a little bit. And you can oversmoke foods like pork shoulder for pulled pork barbecue. That’s actually one of the criteria that BBQ judges use, how well the smoke is handled, asking themselves “Is this oversmoked?” If the smoke is all you taste, you’ve failed.
A: When you taste too much smoke does it mean you used too much smoke or is it an off taste?
D: It’s usually too much. But sometimes it tastes acrid from dirty-burning white smoke instead of clean-burning blue smoke.
A: So how do you control the smoke?
D: You get blue smoke from well-seasoned wood that’s burned down a bit. White smoke comes from greener wood that burns off more particulates and steam, clouding up the smoke. Wood chips and chunks are seasoned, and lump charcoal is pre-burned so all of those give you good blue smoke. In a charcoal or gas grill, you want to soak your dry wood in water so it will smolder instead of incinerating.
A: Why is it that you don’t want it to combust?
D: Because you want the smoke to last. If it were dry, wood chips would incinerate pretty quick. You put the soaked wood right on the hot charcoal and it smolders slowly instead burning right up. For a gas grill, you put the wood in foil or a foil tray and put it right over your heating element.
A: Can you add too much?
D: Yeah. To control how much smoke you get, just don’t add too much wood to a charcoal grill. A few wood chunks or a couple big handfuls of chips should do it. If you’re smoking something for a long time, you just replace them when they burn out. You use the vents to control the amount of smoke inside the grill. Open them for less smoke, which also gives you a hotter fire, and partially close them to trap more smoke and create a lower fire. When you’re smoking on a grill, you’re making the best of the equipment you have.
A: Which is why a smoker is more effective than a grill for smoking.
A: A smoker is designed to deliver the smoke to the food rather than delivering the heat of the fire. In a smoker, the fire is outside of the cooking chamber. Which is different from most grills where the fire is directly beneath the cooking area. That’s why they call it “direct grilling.”
D: Yep. But you can put the food away from the fire in a grill for indirect grilling and smoking on a grill.
A: One of the things that you make that I really like are those smoked eggs. You can’t really get those on a grill.
D: No, you can’t because you can’t get the temperature low enough. But in my barrel smoker, I have a low-temperature chamber that stays about 60 to 70 degrees lower than the main smoking chamber. You can smoke almost anything in a smoker…pork shoulder, brisket, chicken, peppers, eggplant, and even eggs. I smoke the eggs at about 150 degrees for 6 hours. I usually toss them in the low-temp chamber when I have the rig fired up for something bigger like a hunk of meat.
A: The eggs come out amazing.
D: They’re not quite what you expect are they? You’d think that they would hardcook and get firm and chalky like when you boil eggs. But with an egg at such a low temperature for so long, the yolk gradually reaches the texture of softened butter. And the white barely cooks at all.
A: What’s happening there is that the yolk is drying out. Moisture is lost through the shell, which is porous. The yolk has less moisture than the white to begin with, so the yolk dries out. The protein in the yolk coagulates a little, which firms up the yolk some, and it coagulates in the white, too, but because the white has so much more water, the white stays liquidy—it doesn’t become as dry as the yolk.
D: Right. But as the moisture comes out of the yolk, it concentrates the fat, which makes the yolk creamy like soft butter. When it comes out of the smoker, you can crack the egg, let the white fall away, and spread the warm yolk on toast just like butter.
A: Does it get a smoky taste?
D: Just a hint.
A: You would think it would absorb more smoke flavor.
D: The eggs smell smoky and the shells get dark and smoky-looking, but there isn’t that much smoke flavor in the yolk. The real reason I like this method is the texture of the yolks.
A: I can get pretty smoky-tasting eggs on the grill. I usually use a combination of things that go from very combustible, like tea leaves, to not very combustible, like rice. So I’ll create a mixture of say, tea leaves, wood chips, brown sugar, and rice so the smoke starts soon and lasts long. And I usually don’t have to replenish during the cooking.
D: What’s the process?
A: You put that whole mixture to one side in a disposable aluminum pan and put eggs on the other side of the pan. Then you put the smoking side over the fire and the egg side away from the fire. And cover the whole thing in foil. I can get a really good smoke flavor in the eggs with a low fire, about 225 degrees, after about 3 hours. But the eggs become hardcooked; they don’t have that creamy texture. What’s interesting is that in the smoker, which seems like it would give you more smoke flavor, you’re basically doing it for texture. But in the grill, you get more smoke flavor.
D: Counterintuitive, eh?
D: Smoker smoked eggs have just a hint of smoke but an unbeatable creamy texture and grill smoked eggs have a familiar hardcooked texture but unbeatable smoky flavor.
A: We need to figure out how to get that texture and the smoke flavor.
Know Your Basics: Smoking on a Grill Download Smoking on a Grill
Dave's Slow Smoked Eggs
Makes 4 eggs
Oak, hickory, or fruitwood logs, pellets, or shavings
4 large eggs
Fire up your smoker to 150ºF (a very low fire), adding the wood logs, pellets, or shaving as appropriate for your smoker.
Add the eggs to the smoking chamber, close, and smoke at 150ºF for 6 hours.
Remove the eggs and let cool slightly. Crack an egg over a trashcan, nudging the loose white into the trash and holding onto the yolk. Transfer the yolk to a small bowl; it should be squishable with a texture similar to softened butter or play-doh. D’oh! Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Spread on toast with a little coarse salt and ground pepper. Or use as a sandwich spread or to thicken a sauce. Or dream up other good uses!
Makes 6 eggs
2 cups wood chips, preferably fruitwood or hickory
1/3 cup white rice
1/3cup loose tea leaves
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
6 large or extra-large white-shelled eggs
Cover the wood chips with water in a medium mixing bowl and soak for at least 1 hour.
Light a grill for indirect medium-high heat. If using a gas grill turn one burner on medium-high and leave the grill grate off the grill. If using a charcoal grill build a medium large fire (about 40 coals) to one side of the grill bed and put the grill grate in place.
Drain the chips, reserving the water in a separate bowl. Mix the rice, tea leaves, and sugar with the wood chips. Mound the mixture at one end of a disposable aluminum roasting pan, about 9 x 12 in. Put on the grill with the wood-rice mound directly over the fire and the open space away from the fire. Cover the grill and wait until it fills with smoke, about 15 minutes.
If using a gas grill turn the heat down to low. If using charcoal or wood spread out the coal beds to lower the heat. Place the eggs in open part of the pan and pour 1cup of the wood-chip soaking liquid over the eggs. Cover the pan tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Cover the grill and cook for 1 hour. Lift the pan from the grill, using pot holders or grill gloves. Carefully remove the foil cover, and turn the eggs, and add another cup of the wood-chip soaking liquid if the pan is dry. Reseal the foil; replace the pan, and cover the grill, adding more charcoal, if needed. Cook for another two hours (replenishing the charcoal as needed), until the shells of the eggs are amber.
Remove the pan, uncover, and transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water. Cool for a few minutes, then remove from the ice water and run under hot tap water for 10 seconds. Carefully crack the shells and peel. Serve in anyway you would serve hard-cooked eggs.