MagicCityBurn’s New Adventures in Charcoal

So, I’ve largely used the same charcoal for years now. It’s an 80/20 Oak/Hickory blend and not some secret recipe like the Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe Natural Lump Charcoal. Lately, ownership of my favorite local store changed hands and they’ve stopped carrying the good stuff in favor of the branded stuff from Kamado Joe. They assure me that it’s the same, but, especially, for low and slow cooks, any shift in charcoal can really impart changes to the flavor of your meat. And I’ve been reluctant to make a large scale change, preferring to buy small bags of whatever natural lump coals I could find at the grocery store. Anyway, I ran out of charcoal before my last NY Strip cook and had to sear steaks over apple wood chunks with hickory chips. It was a sad day in the Magic City (the steaks were fine, but it took a couple days for the smell to wear off).


So, after some significant time reading reviews, I have begrudgingly accepted the newest member of the Magic City Burn family, Fogo All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal. It extols supposed virtues like a brown bag, mild, oaky flavor, no sparks (which may be worth the switch all on its own), and is apparently the #1 Best Seller for Lump Charcoal on Amazon. Of course, like all natural lump charcoal, it isn’t loaded down with chemicals, fillers and lighter fluid.

I’ve got 35 lbs of the stuff on the way. So I should be able to give it a good trial run. I may re-run through some old recipes or try some new ones to kick the tires and light the fires, so to speak. Stay tuned for rum and bourbon laced opinions.


Sweet Tea Brined Pork Tenderloin

So today comes a new “inspired” recipe. This recipe was inspired by a trip to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel where I ate at the Cascades American Cafe restaurant there and had their Sweet Tea Pork Tenderloin. They served it with finger potatoes and baby greens over a stone ground mustard sauce. Add in a Maker’s Mark Manhattan and it was a pretty fantastic dinner.20121206-180708.jpg

I enjoyed dinner so much (sweet tea, bourbon and pork? yes, please!) that I came home from Nashville scouring the interwebs for a recipe. And I found Saraplicious and her Sweet Tea Brined Pork Loin. When I found out she made hers in the oven, I decided immediately that I was going to have to try making one in the Egg. Her recipe modified to cook on an Egg is covered below.

Sweet Tea Brined Pork Tenderloin

Sweet Tea Brined Pork Tenderloin


  • 2 lbs pork loin
  • 8 cups sweet tea
  • 1/2 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 Tsp minced garlic


  1. Whisk together sweet tea and salt in a large container. Pour into a one gallon Zip Loc bag.
  2. Add pork and brine in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
  3. Cooking:
  4. Remove the pork from the original Zip Loc bag. Discard the remaining liquid.
  5. Blot meat dry with a paper towel.
  6. Whisk mustard, brown sugar and garlic together in a small bowl. In my case, I used a second 1 gallon Zip Loc bag.
  7. Put pork loin into the second bag. Close the zipper and make like the little girl on the Shake and Bake commercials. This should leave you with an even coat of mustard and brown sugar covering the entire pork loin well.
  8. Let meat sit for 15 minutes on the V-Rack placed on an otherwise empty drip pan. Cover until it's ready to go over the fire.
  9. Setup the Egg for indirect heat and preheat it to 400F. Cook the pork until the internal temperature reads 160F. The 2.00 lb pork loin I used took right at an hour and 15 minutes. I followed Sara's directions recommending that you turn the meat halfway through the cooking time.
  10. Remove from oven, tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
  11. Slice.

Rather than serving ours with baby greens and finger potatoes, we went with black eyed peas and brown rice pilaf. The pork has a sweet, crisp exterior and retains its moisture on the inside

Thanksgiving Day

So, we made it. And the results were better this time around.

For starters, I found a better brining bag. An actual zipper bag made for that. It was much sturdier and larger, so it held up to more abuse.

I left the ice packs on the breasts for about 30 minutes this time instead of 15 to 30. I also iced them prior to brushing on the olive oil, black pepper and garlic powder.

And last, I used a full load of coal. So no trouble maintaining the temperature for the duration of the cook.

The first pic is after about 2 hours. I went ahead and tented the bird with foil at that point. The second is after about 3 hours and 10 minutes, right before letting it rest. After the 15 minute rest, I carved it immediately.




T minus 13 hours

Well, the Thanksgiving turkey has been brining for about 3 hours now. I’ve gone ahead and loaded the Egg with more coal than the last cook. The coal is well above the top of the fire bowl this time around.

Given the results of a 10 lb turkey taking about 2.5 hours, I’m expecting the 13.5 lb bird to cook for about 3.5 hours tomorrow. Maybe as much as 4 hours. I guess we’ll see.

I’ve been asked to carve up the bird before leaving the house tomorrow. So, the plan is for a pretty early morning tomorrow. Lunch is planned for 1 pm. To give myself time for the turkey to run long, I’ll probably start the fire by 7 am.


Crash test turkey – Results

So, as most first tries go, the cook wasn’t perfect.

For starters, the 2 gallon Zip Loc bag leaked into the stock pot where I was brining. It never overflowed, but emptying the pot was a little messier than I planned for it to be.

Also, as it turns out, I didn’t pack the Egg with enough coal and my fire ended up almost out after about two hours. The embers were still burning, but there just wasn’t enough coal to maintain the 350F dome temperature. Luckily, this didn’t end up being a disaster and because I noticed the dome temperature was down to about 300F. Frankly, the turkey would have probably finished fine in the Egg (the ceramic retains heat for a ridiculously long period of time), so I wasn’t in any immediate danger of the grill going cold. It just would have taken longer than 2 1/2 hours. This also didn’t impact the smoke or the moisture of the meat. Meat only takes on smoke until it reaches a surface temperature of about 140F. Since we’re cooking to 165F/180F and it’s been two hours at 300F+ already, we’re already past that point. For Thursday’s turkey, I’ll definitely use more coal so that it finishes on the Egg and not in the oven.

I preheated the oven to 350F and moved the entire assembly, including the probe thermometer from my grill to the oven. My aluminum drip pan barely survived the trip.

About 20 minutes later (near the two and a half hour mark), the audible alarm on the probe thermometer went off. I grabbed my thermopen and checked. The breasts were just shy of 170F. The thighs were about 175. The magic trick with the bag of ice cubes worked, but perhaps I’ll give it 30 minutes next time. I gave it another 10 minutes just to be safe. I tented the drip pan and V-Rack with aluminum foil and let the meat rest. While this is happening, the meat actually continues to cook.

Once I unwrapped everything, I saw the leg meat had retracted from the bone some and the drumstick pulled out of the leg meat with a little bit of effort. I carved up the meat and put it in gallon Zip Loc bags separated into white meat and dark meat. There are also two smaller bags. One for a family member and one for a chef friend who I promised to let try it.

The meat was lightly smoky. The skin was brown and crisp. The meat was not overly salty and not spicy at all. It was a good, balanced recipe. Although I might want to try a cajun turkey sooner or later, this is probably a relative crowd pleaser. Heads up… the house stank of turkey, garlic and onion until I took the trash out.

I’m ready for Thursday!

Cooking the crash test turkey

Staying with the official Big Green Egg recipe, here’s what happened for the practice turkey cook itself.

1. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well to remove the brining liquid, and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brining liquid and solids. Place turkey in the V-Rack, breast side up.

2. Stuff the turkey with the lemon wedges, the remaining halved garlic head and onion, thyme, sage, and potatoes.

3. Brush the turkey with olive oil and season with pepper and garlic powder.

4. Fill a 1 gallon zip log bag with ice. Lay this over the top of the breasts for 20 minutes or so. Your turkey is done when the thighs are 180F and the breasts are 165F. This acts to give the breasts a lower starting temperature. I’ll get into how this worked practically in another post, but, having done it, you shouldn’t skip this step. This is PFM.

5. Put the V-Rack in the Drip Pan. Place the Drip Pan on the Plate Setter and close the lid of the EGG. After I took the picture, I inserted a probe thermometer  in the breast meat. It sounds an audible alarm when it reaches 165F. Cook for about 2½ hours. If the turkey starts to brown too quickly, carefully tent the turkey with aluminum foil.

6. The turkey is ready to remove when a pen thermometer reads 165F in the breasts and 180 in the thighs. Remove the entire apparatus from the grill and tent with aluminum foil. Letting the turkey rest for 15 – 20 minutes will let the juices redistribute properly. If you wrap the turkey tightly with aluminum foil and wrap it in a preheated towel, it will keep hot (HOT, not warm) in a cooler for hours. If you aren’t serving it immediately, it will keep in the refrigerator safely for a couple of days. It’s still easier to heat up later if you carve it while it’s hot.

You want me to cook a Thanksgiving turkey?! Part 2

Game on.

So, after last night, I’ve updated the blog with my progress. At this point, the turkey has been brining for about 20 hours or so. The grill has been cleaned out and is ready to light. And I picked up a Big Green Egg V-Rack.

Tonight, we’re going to cover:

1. Review of setting up the Big Green Egg for indirect heat (mostly because I’ll actually be lighting it this time and there are more photos to add).
2. Cooking the crash test turkey. And some more pictures.
3. Initial impressions once we have a chance to taste some turkey tonight. Also some notes about how things went and what I’ll do differently on Thursday.

Given the flurry of activity on the blog, I’ve had to promise to save some white meat for a buddy of mine. Another friend has asked if I’ll smoke her a turkey between now and Thursday. Also, my coworkers are going to give some feedback tomorrow. One of my coworkers even asked me to bring white bread and mayo.