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Temperature Control

glennglenn Posts: 151
edited November -1 in EggHead Forum
I'm a novice egg cook, and am having difficulty maintaining temperatures . I do okay with the fire building, and get a good bed of coals. But, after that it drifts in both directions(mostly low). Fortunately, I've only done pulled pork, which is pretty forgiving. Any advice?

Comments

  • Kelly KeefeKelly Keefe Posts: 469
    Glenn,
    Here's what Spin sent me when I first got my Egg. I have some additional comments which I'll place at the end.[p]The learning curve for temperature control with your Egg is quick. Here are some ideas that may help you on your way:[p]Your Egg regulates heat by limiting the amount of oxygen available for the fire to use, thus controlling the fires growth and size. Airflow through the Egg is where this oxygen supply is obtained. The vents control the amount of this airflow. [p]The bottom vent has much more control over the ultimate cooking temp of the Egg, the top vent being used for finer adjustments. A closed top vent (alone) will not kill the fire, while a closed the bottom vent (alone) will slowly kill the fire. [p]The dome temperature gauge always reads internal dome temperature. It fails to indicate whether this temperature is from the fire or radiated from the stored heat in the Egg. Your Egg heats up much quicker than it cools down, thus it is easy to kill the fire attempting to cool the Egg down on a temperature overshoot. [p]Good fire control practice is to start your Egg with both vents wide open (I even remove the top vent for maximum airflow). Light your lump charcoal from the top in the center of the top of the pile. Close the dome and watch the dome temp gauge. It will first not move as the lump slowly catches on. As the dome temp rises, it will tend to rise faster (more lump lit = more lump growing = faster rising temps). At about 200°F, the Egg will really start to run up on the temp. [p]As the gauge approaches 50°F lower than your intended cooking temp, close the bottom vent to an appropriate opening and adjust the top vent to about a half open setting. This adjustment is made to limit the airflow to "catch" the rising temp and allow the Egg to stabilize at a regulated dome temp below the cooking temp. Once the temp has settled to a reading, tap the bottom vent open (or closed) just a tad to make final adjustments. [p]Approximate bottom vent settings and resulting dome temps are; 1/16"= 180-210°, 1/8"= 220-250°,
    1/4"= 250-280°, 1/2"= 275-325°, 1"= 325-350°, 2"= 350-400°. Top vent settings affect regulated temp more as the cooking temp rises as more airflow is required to maintain a hotter fire. [p]That's what Spin sent, and for the most part it's very good advice. I have a couple of additional observations: [p]First, I use starter blocks and not an electric starter. I've noticed that after I light the starter blocks the dome thermometer gets to around 200-250° pretty quickly. Then, as the starter block burns out, the dome temp drops to around 100°. After a few minutes, the temp starts to rise again to the 200° range. So when Spin advises you make vent adjustments when the thermometer gets within 50° of the desired cooking temp, make sure it's the REAL range and not just the starter block burning out. If you use an electric starter than I guess that doesn't directly apply but I think there's something to it still. With an electric starter, the dome temp is going to reflect heat from both the lump as it starts to catch AND the electric starter. What I'd try is pulling the starter before making ANY adjustments to the vents and see if the temperature drops. If it does, then leave the vents alone until you get the lump up to the temperature you really want.[p]Second, I don't worry too much if I overshoot my target temperature as long as it's not WAY over. If you watch, the dome temp can drop as much as 50-100° when you raise the dome to put the food on (more if you're as clumsy as I am - grin!). Just don't over do it. A little experience, coupled with your observations, will tell you what you can get away with.[p]Third, STIR THE LUMP! Especially true if it's used. I don't think I was getting all the old ash out as well as I could have. I stir till I see NO ash, period. Yeah, it's a pain and yeah, it takes time. Do it anyway. (I've even gotten to the point that I stir the lump when adding new to get the dust out of the way.)[p]Fourth, despite all the claims I've heard, my Egg takes more than 10 minutes to get started (heresy, I know). I routinely allow 30-45 minutes to get the darn thing stabilized. Sometimes more. Give yourself enough time to feel confident that the temp is where you want it and stabilized. Again, a little experience, coupled with your observations, will tell you what you can get away with.[p]The biggest complaint I've seen in the time I've been on the forum have involved problems with low/slow cooks. Couple of thoughts on this:[p]Make sure you have plenty of lump loaded. I've yet to hear anyone caution about having too much lump loaded. Completely fill the fire box, stopping just short of the bottom of the ring the grid sets on.[p]Can't hold temps below 300°? First, make sure you're following Spin's advice. If it's still not working, check and make sure the dome is installed right in the hinges. To check this all you'll need is a business card. Raise the dome and put the card half way out the back near the hinge, then close the dome. Now pull the card out. If it comes out easily then you need to adjust the dome. There should be a slightly perceptable "tug". Finally, carefully check your felt, top and bottom. There should be NO visible gaps in it. If there is, go to your dealer and see if he has any scraps of felt. He should be able to give you some for free. There should be no need to do a complete replacement if it's a new(er) Egg.[p]Fire keep going out? Spin's advice should help you out with that. Make sure you STIR THE LUMP! Lot of times smaller pieces will clog the air holes. Also make sure there's not a boatload of ash in the bottom. I don't like starting a low/slow cook with a bag of lump that's half empty. After the first half of the bag is used the pieces get progressively smaller and you'll get dust which will impede airflow and clog the air holes. Save that for a high temp cook! Use the biggest pieces you can for an unattended low/slow cook. If it means getting a fresher bag then, in my book, the cost is worth not having to lose sleep.[p]The wind can also be a problem. Check which way the wind is blowing in relation to which way the bottom vent is. If it's blowing straight in you're going to have problems. If the Egg is in a nest or on the little feeties, try turning the Egg to a bit to a right angle to the wind. Similarly, if you're having trouble getting it up to temperature, try turning humpty INTO the wind. (Be careful, it'll be hot and awkward, right? And PUSH, don't pull to avoid upsidaisying humpty. Push from the back!) If you have a table then do the best you can, possibly blocking the airflow with something.[p]If you're STILL having problems with a low/slow cooks, give yourself some time and experience. Instead of doing a 10 pound butt for 20+ hours, do a 5 pounder for 10. You can fire up the Egg early in the morning and still have enough cooking time to have it ready for supper. If you do this on a weekend, you'll be awake for the whole cook and can keep an eye on the temps. A little confidence can go a long way![p]

  • glennglenn Posts: 151
    Kelly Keefe,
    Thank you !!! I really appreciate your feedback (& time).

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