Saturday, November 28, 2015

How I Cook Smoked Ham On The Kamado Grill

Whether it is a special holiday meal or just a craving, it is hard to beat a good ol' glazed ham fresh off of the grill.

BGE ham, big green egg ham, kamado ham, grill dome ham,

I don't think there is an easier cook on the ceramic kamado grill, like my Grill Dome, because these hams are really just "heat and eat".  Someone else has already done the hard work of smoking and curing the ham.  You're just taking the opportunity to add a little more flavor by skipping the "cooking box" in your kitchen and using your grill.  It's kind of hard to mess it up.  

What to Buy
What we are talking here is your fully cooked, spiral sliced bone-in ham.  Anywhere from 8-12 lbs is a great fit for most kamado grills.  According to Honey Baked Ham Company, a 13 lb ham will yield 22-24 dinner servings. What you don't want are:
  • raw ham- these require you curing the ham yourself by smoke or salt,
  • a "picnic ham" - that is actually the front shank of the pig, not the ham,
  • boneless ham- a deboned ham would be one thing but most "boneless hams" that I see are more like a "ham loaf" than ham,
  • canned ham - every time someone buys a canned ham, a spider named Charlotte dies. That's all I have to say about that.
Kamado Set Up
  • Clean out your kamado grill and fuel it up with lump coal.  
  • Wood or not?  I buy hams that were smoked in the curing process so it doesn't need more smoke but a lot of Eggheads like to double smoke their hams.  Lump coal is going to add a mild layer of smoke anyway.  If I do add wood, it's typically going to be just a few small hickory or apple chunks (not soaked).  
Grill Dome set up with lump and three small chunks of hickory in a Kick Ash Basket.

  • I then fire up the coal and preheat the Grill Dome to 325°f.  Once it has held steady at this temp for about 15 minutes and the smoke is thin blue or clear, I'll put the indirect pieces into the grill and allow it to re-stabilize for another 10-15 minutes.  There are several ways you can do the indirect set up.  Here are a few.

kamado grill indirect set up
Grill Dome set up with with the indirect grate, a stone, and the standard hinged grate.

cast iron plate setter,
Typical Big Green Egg indirect set up using a plate setter, in this case, a cast iron plate setter.

Indirect set up using a spider rig and stone.  I have one of the Craycort grate sections removed so you can see the "spider" which is the wire frame holding up the stone.

The Cook
As I said, cooking this type ham is as easy as can be and it requires basically no meat prep, especially when compared to spatchcocking a turkey, trimming a brisket, or injecting a pork shoulder.  That said, you should take the chance to add flavor through your smoke, rubs, and glazes.  Here's a twist on an old Southern favorite, I add two Meat Church rubs to the party.  Meat Church is a personal favorite of ours and it is wildly popular among the kamado grill crowd.

Cola Glazed Twice Smoked Ham

  • 10-12 pound fully cooked, bone in, spiral sliced ham
  • Meat Church Deez Nuts bbq rub (honey pecan)
For the Glaze
  • 1 355ml bottle Mexican Coke (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Meat Church Honey Hog Hot bbq rub 
  1. Preheat Grill Dome or other grill to 325°f and set up for indirect heat.
  2. Mix together glaze ingredients in a small pot and simmer lightly until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.   
  3. Place ham, cut face side down, in a half sized steam pan or other grill safe pan.  Drizzle liberally with the cola glaze.  Season with a moderate coat of Deez Nuts.  
  4. Place pan with ham on the grill over indirect heat for 10 minutes per pound.  Baste with the collected glaze every 20 minutes or so.  
  5. Remove from grill, slice from the bone, and serve with leftover glaze.

Holiday Ham, how to cook ham Big Green Egg, kamado ham, primo grill ham, Grill Dome ham
The secret for the Coke glaze is using REAL Coke.  Not Classic Coke.  Real Coke with real sugar, look for Mexican Coke.  Food City carries it here in Knoxville.

Deez Nuts ham, Grill Dome ham, big green egg ham, kamado ham, vision grills ham
The honey pecan of the Deez Nuts gives a salty sweet note to balance the sweet heat of the glaze.  I just added Deez Nuts to our competition rib process, I like the flavor a good bit.

kamado ham, grill dome ham, craycort grates, big green egg ham,
Notice there are only a few wisps of smoke, not billowing clouds.  You want a clean, light smoke for ham.  Yucky smoke (thick, white, and full of particles from incomplete combustion) will stick to your glaze and give your ham a bitter foul taste.

twice smoked ham, holiday grill ham, Grill Dome ham
Something this good shouldn't be this easy.

If you want something a little different, here are a few other great recipes for ham on the grill. I was able to find them all online via Google but I highly recommend you buy the book because all of these are fantastic grilling books that belong on your shelves.  You'll get your money's worth.

Spiral Sliced Ham with Spicy Apricot Glaze
-From World Champion Pitmaster, Chris Lilly's, book Fire and Smoke, A Pitmaster's Secrets

Maple Bourbon Ham
-From Smoke and Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

Smoky Marmalade Glazed Ham
-From Weber's New Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance

Smoked "Baked" Ham
-From Serious Barbecue by Adam Perry Lang

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] Grill Dome is the official kamado sponsor of Nibble Me This. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

BBQ Competition - Bar-B-Cure

We competed in our last BBQ competition of the year this past weekend at Bar-B-Cure on the rolling hills of The Pavilion Event Center at Hunter Valley Farms in Knoxville.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,

This is a first year event that could have been just a small, end of the year, local contest but ended up being a pivotal part of the national Team of the Year KCBS rankings.  The point differences were tight between the top national teams and few opportunities left, so the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 18th, 24th, 31st, 53rd, and 54th teams in the country rolled into Knoxville for a BBQ fight.

Speaking of fighting, that's what this whole BBQ throwdown is about.  Bar-B-Cure is a benefit for The Butterfly Fund. The Butterfly Fund was started by the families of Emily Barger and Maddie Harrill in memory of these two little girls who passed away weeks apart due to Rhabdomyosarcoma in 2008. Since then the families have fought back against childhood cancers and have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support local, regional, and national pediatric cancer research, treatments, and services.  We were all proud to be supporting such an organization.

Here are a few shots from our weekend.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure, Creekstone brisket, Butcher's Block pork
We got most of our meats from Willy's Butcher. The Butcher's Block pork butts looked very nice. The brisket was a Creekstone Prime and the ribs were Willy's basic ribs.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Thursday afternoon, we loaded up our trailer using our 4 page checklist. It's a lot more complicated then just "throwing on some grills and some meat". 
Grill Dome transport, Big Green Egg move, Kamado Joe move
Loading takes a couple of hours because we have to carefully pack up our kamado grills to protect their ceramic pieces. We built carrying cases and use shock absorbing foam between all parts.

The Load In
We typically load in on Friday mornings (but sometimes Thursday evening), which involves "setting up camp".  We set up our cooking area tents, then unload and unpack each of those heavy kamado grills.
BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
We were one of the first teams to sign up and got a prime spot with enough room to keep the truck parked in our site.

Grill Dome competition BBQ, kamado competition BBQ, BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
The beautiful rolling hills means everything has to be leveled - grills, prep tables, trailers, you name it.  We were putting blocks and shims under everything.  Our tag phrase for the weekend was "level-ish".  Level courtesy of Soggy Bottom Smokers.  A tilted kamado can result in airflow changes, unlevel liquids in pans, and tipping hazards.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
A few hours later, our compound is done.
Meat Prep
We do our meat prep in two phases.  At home during the week, we trim the chicken, pork, and brisket.  But you can't inject, brine, or season it until after the meat is inspected Friday morning.  That afternoon, we inject and season the big meats.

Chops Power Injector, contest meat prep, BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
John getting ready to inject one of our pork butts using a Chops Power Injector.  In my opinion, these do a better job getting the injection to stay in the meat than a single needle injector.  I know because we bought two last year but the piston on one broke so I was stuck using a single needle on my brisket that you see in the foreground.  Notice the checklists on the wall, we checklist everything.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
John seasoning the pork butts.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure, Creekstone brisket
Here is my brisket, separated, injected, and rubbed.  Once done, we put these in a cold Cambro and have several hours to make the rounds, talking with old friends and making new ones.

The Cookers
One of my favorite things to do is check out all of the cookers being used in the contest.  I'm a firm believer that "it's the cook, not the cooker" and no one design is better than the rest.  All cookers have their advantages and drawbacks, it's a matter of your cooking style, preferences, and budget.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
A team loading in with their offset trailer.  These are referred to as "stick burners" like our Warthog trailer that we used last year.  The produce great smoke flavor but require a LOT of tending to the fire throughout the event.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Midnight Smokers used this 270 Smokers cooker (left) and Rec Tec Grills wood pellet cooker (right).  The 270 is an insulated box cooker that I haven't been familiar with until now. I looked them up on line and they are coal fired with more capacity than you'd think. 

The blue smoker above is an example of the typical style of insulated box cooker (compared to the polygonal 270 Smoker pictured before).  These are typically gravity fed charcoal or coal and wood.  They have long smoking times, plenty of capacity, and are somewhat resistant to the effects of weather during a cook.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Rub Won Out's reverse flow stick burner is affectionately named Lena.

Clark's Crew BBQ, BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
This sweet Jambo stick burner belongs to the #1 team in the country right now - Clark's Crew BBQ.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Another pretty Jambo, this one a J-3.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
A large offset pit mounted on a nice open trailer.  What a view they have while prepping, right?

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Gettin' Basted, ranked 6th nationally, used a collection of inaccurately named "ugly drum smokers".  Ugly Drum Smokers is the general name for any upright cooker made from a 55 gallon drum.  Some are truly ugly but these were gorgeous.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Ranked 4th nationally, Smoke Me Silly cooks on a svelte offset pit from a Knoxville company - Champion Smokers and Grills.  These cookers have an extremely well insulated firebox that gives longer cooking times compared to most stick burners, even others with insulated fireboxes.  We cooked next to one at Maryville this year and were very impressed with them.  Check out their page, they are making some very cool cookers.

Grill Dome BBQ competition, kamado grill bbq competition, Big Green Egg BBQ competition, BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Last but certainly not least are our Grill Domes! These are the same great kamado grills in backyards across the country but we are cooking in the pro division of BBQ contests with them. The ceramics provide great insulation which translates into nice even cooking temperatures that can go for 18+ hours on a single load of coal and wood. It was windy and in the low 30's overnight and these grills didn't even flinch. 

Team Meeting & Dinner
The Pavillion at Hunter Valley Farms is the nicest facility that I have seen at a BBQ contest as a judge or competitor.  One of the most popular event centers in Knoxville, The Pavillion is typically busy hosting full package weddings, corporate events, and top notch events.  Usually, team meetings are held in a big tent in a field or in a community center of some type.  So this was a very upscale venue for us pit jockeys.

The organizers not only provided a great dinner and breakfast for the teams, they kept the room open and the fireplace going all night so teams could stay warm.  They even kept the coffee flowing and fully stocked snacks for the team.  Amenities like that make this a contest that will bring people back.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
The Pavillion set up for our team dinner with gift bags over on the left.  It's spacious, open, and very welcoming.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Teams waiting for the meeting to start.  These meetings usually cover things like turn in times, facility specific rules/issues, and welcoming any new teams.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
The Barger Beer Truck - how cool is this?!?  It's a 1947 Chevy farm truck that has been retrofitted as a mobile bartending service for weddings, parties, and tailgates.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Dockside at the lake, they also have a beach.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
What we are all after - the trophies!  Well, that and the checks:)

The Cook

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Paradise Que was on site with their stick burner.  Greg and Melanie were just featured on the SEC Network a few weeks back for a Tennessee game.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
QUE'N STEW'N & BREW'N, Contagious Q, and Rub Won Out set up in the upper lot by the horse farm.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
This horse seemed interested in what all of this BBQ hubbub was about.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
The River Road Grillbillies were on hand.  Jeff and I have compared notes before and our brisket processes are very similar.  So similar that this time we got the exact same brisket score down to 4 decimal places.
BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Blue Moon was the only other team that I noticed cooking on a kamado grill.

In case you had any doubt that Hunter Valley Farms was a real working's the trash truck.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Before long, day faded into night.  I loved the silhouette of the trees and the last glow of twilight in this shot. 

Grill Dome, BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
It got bone chilling cold over night - at least for this time of the year.  You can see Knox-Vegas' fire pit in the background, smart idea to bring that. 
Flame Boss 200, BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Sometimes getting AC power to your grills can be a problem at BBQ contests, tailgates, etc.  Flame Boss carries a DC power supply that is perfect for those scenarios.  The Flame Boss 200 ran on the one battery for the entire overnight brisket cook.  I was surprised it could last that long on a single charge, especially on such a cold night.  We were reluctant to switch to powered controllers for our BBQ competitions but the Flame Boss 200 has proven itself to us now.

Saturday Morning
John and I got more sleep than we ever have at a contest.  Part of that was using electronic controllers for our pits and part of it was we are just getting more and more organized as we learn from these contests.

Smoke rising over the upper level parking area early in the morning.

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Brrrr Saturday morning was cold!  I was ready to steal Alexis' warm shawl and Uggs :)

BBQ, BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,
Alexis building our turn in boxes and John getting ready to wrap our pork butts.

BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure, ribs
Pork ribs were a little thin but at least they didn't require much trimming. I switched up from our normal rib process and used Meat Church Deez Nuts and Smoking Guns Hot for my rub.  I think I'm sticking with that from now on.

BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure, Grill Dome, kamado grill BBQ competition
Despite the cold temperatures, the Grill Domes seemed unaffected - steady as can be.

BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure, chicken prep
Alexis and John pulling the chicken thighs out of the brine.  Chicken is probably our most labor intensive cook yet we have the least success with chicken.  We're going back to basics for chicken in 2016. 

BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,competition ribs
Ribs went on the Grill Dome at 8am for a 12:30 turn in.

BBQ competition, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure,ribs
Thin, wispy, almost clear smoke is exactly what I want to see.

Turn Ins
Here are our turn in boxes as submitted to the judges.  

BBQ, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure, BBQ Competition
Chicken - We got 24th place.  Chicken has been our Achilles heal since the start.  We like our product, it tests well in demo cooks but we just can't find what the judges are looking for with chicken...and three of us are Certified BBQ Judges!!!

BBQ, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure, BBQ Competition
Ribs - we got 16th.  I'm okay with that given the level of competition we were facing. Ribs are my project for off season.  I didn't get a shot of the rib turn in box so here they are right before slicing for boxing. 

BBQ, Knoxville, Bar-B-Cure, BBQ Competition, pork
Pork - we got a call for 6th place!  It's hard to see in this picture but the smoke ring was close to 1/2" deep in the money muscle!  This is only our second time with this process and we're sticking with it.  It's an adaptation from an Adam Perry Lang recipe with liberal substitutions and competition rubs.

Brisket - 13th place.  Normally I expect a call in brisket (top 10), but I'll take 13th this time since I was ready to not even turn this in.  I was not happy with my brisket at all. In the end, the flavor was okay, it just wasn't as good as my usual.  It's the second time I have cooked with prime brisket (two different suppliers) and I have been dissatisfied with both.  The Prime just doesn't have the deep red color and intense marbling that Wagyu from Willy's does.  I've cooked better US Choice brisket than the two Prime ones I have done.

Load Out
The "load out" is the worst part.  That is when we have to clean up everything, get the cookers shut down, and get it all loaded back into the trailer.  This poses a special problem for kamado grills like the Big Green Egg because although you can kill the fire by shutting off the vents, that keeps the ceramics hot for over an hour or more.  We wanted to start cooling them down immediately and the only way to do that is to get the coal out of the kamado.  That's why we bought a Kick Ash Basket for each of our competition kamados.  

They weren't meant for this but it turns out to be the perfect tool for cooling down a kamado quickly.  We just take out the basket and pour 1 gallon of water over each basket.  Then we can leave the grill open to start cooling off immediately and handle them for loading within the hour. 

We finished 15th overall which is completely respectable given the level of competition.  We started off a year ago only hoping to not finish DAL. One year later and we are getting calls. That said, we all want to do better!  Full Results here at the KCBS site.

If you're a competition cook, you should book Bar-B-Cure on your calendar for 2016.  Just wait until I get my entry in....I want my prime spot again! ;) 

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  Grill Dome is the official kamado sponsor of Nibble Me This.  We also have close working relationships with Flame Boss, Meat Church, and Kick Ash Basket. We consult with each other, we buy products from them, but they also send us free stuff too so we are disclosing that.