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So what did I do wrong?

edited 9:33AM in EggHead Forum
So, I'm new here, but I figured I'd get the expert opinions. I got a new Large BGE for Christmas, and just had a chance to fire it up this past weekend. I put some lump charcoal in my chimney starter, and fired it up. After about 10 minutes, a nice white ash was on the charcoal, and it looked good to go. So, I went ahead and dumped it in the egg, closed the lid, and opened the bottom draft door and top draft door to get some airflow.

After about another 15 minutes, though, the egg never heated up past about 150. I figured that perhaps I didn't have enough charcoal, as the manual said that I needed to cover the airholes in egg. So, I added about double the charcoal (poured directly into the egg), added a couple firestarters, and lit it again. Waited about another 15 minutes with the egg open, and it was smokin' hot. After 5 minutes with the egg open, the temperature gauge read 500. So, I closed the bottom draft door almost all the way, closed the top draft door almost all the way, and opened the egg up to try and cool it down - I was going with a smoking plan so I needed the temp much lower than 500(I was starting with some chicken legs and a pork tenderloin, nothing too fancy for a first cook). Seemed to stabilize at about 250 after another 10 minutes, and I figured this was perfect.

Popped the chicken legs and tenderloin on and went inside for about an hour. When I came back out, though, the egg was at about 150, obviously too low, but I didn't have any time to fix it (had to get to a soccer game). After I got back from the game about 2.5 hours later, the egg was at about 100. Why did I lose all my heat? The charcoal was obviously lit, or I wouldn't have had a 500 degree egg. What did I screw up here? All opinions welcome.


  • Welcome to the wonderful world of the Egg! I'm no expert, just a backyard Egger, but I'll offer a couple of suggestions: ditch the chimney starter and light the charcoal directly inside the egg. Achieving stable temps is partly dependent on heating the entire thermal mass of the Egg, and this heating begins when the fire starts. By burning charcoal in a chimney starter, you're wasting heat that should be going into the Egg's ceramic.

    Also, leaving the lid open might decrease the thermometer's reading due to increasing its distance from the fire, but it certainly won't "cool" the Egg. An open egg means huge airflow, which equals a very hot fire. So keep the lid shut, adjust temps with the vents, and be patient. Often, temps will ramp up, then simmer down after the oxygen inside begins to drop (provided that your vents are appropriately adjusted).
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    Welcome the to the forum.

    First off, getting an egg for Christmas and not firing it up until now is the first real big problem. :laugh:

    I hope you mean lump and not charcoal briquettes.

    This link should help you.

    Visual Guide to Vent Settings

    Clean Smoke

    This link is a little old and will be updated in the next week or two. It has some great information.
    FAQ: Tips and Useful Information

    If you have further questions make sure you jump in and ask.

  • AZRPAZRP Posts: 10,116
    A couple of fire starters are capable of giving you 500° while they are burning. My guess is you are not waiting long enough, a chimney starter takes more than 10 minutes to get the coals lit. 10 minutes is way too short a time to determine that the Egg is stable. Feel free to give me a call and I'll explain some of my procedures for lighting Eggs. -RP

    Randy 800-845-2252 x321
  • 2Fategghead2Fategghead Posts: 9,623
    HTFU, Where to start. First off welcome to the forum. :)

    I fill my large egg with lump like you said past the fire box holes with natural lump charcoal then get the fire going using many methods. If I want a realy hot fire fast I would do what you did and lit a bunch of lump and dump it in there.

    I hope you decide to stick around and read this forum often. You will learn a lot. Tim
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,869
    I'd suppose the air holes in the fire box got plugged up. Was there unburnt lump when you got back from the game. If so, that would most likely be the problem. Otherwise, I'd guess all the lump burnt.

    When starting the Egg, leave the dome closed. The bottom vent should be wide open, and the daisy wheel completely removed. The amount of time it takes to come to temperature varies widely, depending on how the lump is started, and how damp the interior of the Egg might be. I use a weed burner for 60 second, and am usually at 250 in about 15 minutes.

    With both vents open, the temperature can rise very rapidly once it is above 350. With the top vent on, but open all the way, the fire usually tops out at 450.

    Fires above 500 consume fuel very rapidly. Some lump burns faster than others, and at 500+, I'd expect a max. of hour and a half with a full fire box of a brand like Cowboy.
  • BigBadgerBigBadger Posts: 461
    Wlecome to Egghead forum HTFU! Dunno if your name is an acronym for your trouble here but it works - Heat The F** Up!!

    I had similar problems at first go. I ditched my chimney starter as it did not hold nearly enough lump charcoal and was cumbersome. Try starting with a good fill at least halfway up the firebox (light it at least half hour to an hour before using. Try not shutting down the vents nearly so much.

    You are using Lump charcoal and not briquets, right? I met one guy who, though not using an Egg, thought he was using lump when in fact he was using briquets.

    Hungry Celeste's suggestions are good as well.
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    With RO and Cowboy cooking at 500°, lump loaded close to the top of fire box I can get 2 to 3 one hour cooks without reloading.

    Chicken 500° dome direct 45 to 50 minutes. Pulled at 165° breast & leg. Nice and juicy eats. chick500.jpg

  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,869
    I have to admit that I can't think of any cooks I've done at or above 500, other than quick sears, that I haven't spent a lot of time preheating platesetters and baking stones. I suppose I was burning thru lots of lump getting those hot.

    As far as lump goes, I happened to get some compressed coconut lump. After a chicken cook, with the firebox only about half full, I figured I'd do a cleansing burn with the remaining lump. Came back 20 minutes later to find my gaskets melting. Damped the fire, and when I got the Egg open, found enough lump for another cook. The stuff burns forever, and fierce hot.
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    fill the lower bowl at least above the holes in the ceramic firebox. ideally, fill a little each time to maintain the same amount, above the gap in the firebox and fire ring.

    do not overshoot to 500 when you want 250. it doesn't establish a better fire, and makes it harder to dial back to your desired temp.

    the thermo saiud "500", but the ceramic wasn't really at that temp. the hot flue gasses from being cranked open were giving you that reading. eventually the ceramic temp would match that once the EGG warmed up, but in the short term you are seeing only the temp of the gasses inside

    when you choked it, you basically stood on the brakes. the fire is starving, and although you pass thru your desired temp, hanging out there for what looks lie a steady 125 minutes, it is going to continue to go lower because you have really starved it and set vents too low.

    you shouldn't have left the egg at that temp without a vent correction, because it could only go lower. just tap it a little more open. think of it as a dimmer switch. obviously don't jack it way open like when it was at 500, but you DO need to tease it open to get it to go north of 150.
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • MickeyMickey Posts: 16,894
    HTFU all good advice posted.
    Where are you? Should be a Big Green Egg Fest/Gathering around you soon. You would enjoy it to attend.
    Welcome to the forum....
    Salado TX Egg Family: 2 Large and a very well used Mini, just added a Mini Max (I'm good for now). 

  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    I was given some compressed coconut lump and it too seemed to last a long time. The cost for me was almost triple than BGE (which is expensive around here).

    I seem to only be able to get Cowboy and RO around here.

  • Chief ChefChief Chef Posts: 199
    Make sure the opening in the fire bowl is lined up wtih the opening in he egg.
  • tach18ktach18k Posts: 1,607
    There is no worng in Egging, just needed corrections. Start over, fill the firebox you with new lump up to and a little over the top removeable ring, fire ring they call it. I use a mapp gas torch to light my lump, 3 spots for 30 seconds each. Put in all you grates, plate setter what every, just no food. Close the dome and leave the metal cap off and the bottom vent open. When the thermometer reads 200 close the bottom vent to 1/8 of an inch, put the metal cap on and open the little windows vents 1/8 of and inch. Now dont touch anything else or open anything else. Let the egg keep heating, you should see it hover around 250, let it sit there for about 20 minutes, really it will do this. Once it looks stable at 250, get you food and place it in the egg, and close the dome. walk away, come back in an hour. Look at the theremometer, it should be 250 like you left it. From there you should be fine with time and temp of food as needed.
  • Welcome, I'm new myself to the forum, but not to Big Green Eggs.

    When you use a chimney starter to dump in live coal, you get a tremendous heat spike then it quickly burns down to ash. Lighting the BGE is somewhat different from Kettle grills - mostly due to its inherent efficiency.

    A couple of things to consider:

    1. Fill the fire box up completely (up to the bottom of the fire ring). A deep burning fire will give much more consistency in temps. Remember that you can shut off the air supply when you finish grilling and that the remaining charcoal will be reused next time.

    2. Use a "Lighter Cube" or "Fire Starter" to light the fire. Place the fire starter in the center of the charcoal mass, and light it. Open the bottom damper door all the way. Wait for a softball sized area of fully engaged fire to develop. Shut the lid, and take off any tops that you may have on the exhaust chimney. A critical step: Capture temperatures as they rise...slowly. Do not engage/light the charcoal all at once. Use the "Minion Method" if you still want to use your chimney.

    3. As temperatures rise to within 50-75 degrees of your desired target, shut the bottom damper door to 1" open. Install the daisy wheel top damper and close it to "full petals open" setting. You should then see temperatures begin to rise even more slowly (this heats the ceramic). make fine adjustments to the bottom damper door and daisy wheel to allow more air for more heat & less air for less heat. Keep in mind that these dampers are essentially an "intake & exhaust" and stable temps will be reached when they are close to balanced.

    4. Wait 10 minutes for the ceramic to heat and the temperature readings should be very stable at this point. Make final adjustments to match your desired temperature target. Cook away!


    When you add a cold plate setter, or a large piece of cold meat, your temperature will temporarily drop until thee ceramic mass/meat heats up a bit. This is normal - trust your previous settings and do not touch the dampers for at least 20 minutes.

    When you add flaming charcoal out of a chimney, the flame can hit the thermometer probe and give you a false temp reading even though the BGE is cold.

    I hope this helps...good luck on your next cook!
  • Capt FrankCapt Frank Posts: 2,578
    Welcome aboard! :)
    Once in a great while someone will forget to put the CI Fire Grate in the bottom of the Fire Box before they pour in the lump. Now the ash pit is full of lump and no fire is going to happen no matter what you do.
    Just wondering ;) :whistle: :side:
  • crghc98crghc98 Posts: 1,006
    even some of us who have had our eggs for awhile....

    Not fun cleaning it all out.... :angry:
  • HTFUHTFU Posts: 2
    Sorry, I've been in meetings all day.

    Yep, I meant lump. I believe I've got Cowboy brand.
  • I did that one cold day the first cook after a cold smoke, which I take the fire grid out for, and the fire lit fine. Too fine indeed as the hottest part of the fire was right and the bottom vent. Scary stuff.

  • The learning process can be a lot like learning to ride a bicycle. It can take several tries, and you will skin your knees some and it will be frustrating and sometimes painful.....but eventually you will get the hang of it and you will see why everyone is so crazy about their BGE. Just don't give up. You aren't doing 'anything' wrong, you're just going through a learning process. Tip: Cook on it as often as you can so that all do can be fresh in your mind until you master it.
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    Good. For me Cowboy lump works well. However, it seems it gives off less 'wood' aroma/smoke flavor in the food. Sometimes this is good when baking or cooking some pasta's where I don't want a lot of smoke infusion. If I want more smoke flavor in a cook I add more flavor wood, such as fruit woods or hardwoods.

    Due to the physical shape of Cowboy Lump there usually is more air space in the lump bed. Not as much lump is in the egg than one would think and thus it 'feels' like it burns quicker. In the long run I get about as much cooking time out of a bag of Cowboy as I do Royal Oak. With less of a load in the egg and more air pockets in the lump bed, high temperature burns will use up the available fuel somewhat fast. This could be somewhat avoided if the lump pieces were broken up into smaller pieces.

    It seems air flows through the lump bed easier than using other types of lump. Again this is good, however, I find I need to light in more spots when starting so the burn will 'jump' to other pieces of lump. This also seems to be able to burn hotter, quicker, but I do think that is more to the fact of the shape of the Cowboy and the way it loads into the egg.

    I have had no problem with running out of fuel with long low and slow type cooks using Cowboy.

    I buy Cowboy if I can't find Royal Oak.

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