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Direct Grilling Setup Issue

jfm0830jfm0830 Posts: 873
edited October 2012 in EggHead Forum
I've spent a lot of time searching previous posts here trying to find an answer to this specific question. I haven't found an answer to my particular setup issue. I have no problems with indirect cooking at any temperature on my large Egg. I have no problem with high heat direct grilling. My problem is direct grilling at medium temperatures of say 350 to 500°. The specific problem I am having is getting enough coals lit to cover most of the grill area. I am using Wicked Good Weekend Warrior lump for all my cooks. The bags often have lots of large (fist sized or double fist sized) and medium (lemon sized) chunks. There in lies part of the problem. I will distribute four paraffin starters among the coals and light them. It doesn't take a whole lot of time to get the temperature up to 400 degrees. When the Egg gets up to 400 degrees I find small areas of lit coals around each of the paraffin starter locations. They usually consist of a couple medium to large size pieces of lump that are lit. The problem is the lit pieces are often so big you can't really redistribute them trying to even out the temperatures across the entire grille grate. All I would be doing was moving one or two pieces of lump to another location. There just isn't enough lit coals to spread across the firebox to get even temperatures. So far I haven't done any large direct cooks at that temperature, so I am able to dodge that bullet. I just put my food where the concentrations of lit coals's reside. But sooner or later I'm going to have to do a medium temperature cook for a larger group of people, and I don't know how to do it yet. 

So what am I missing? How do I get a 400 degree fire with evenly lit coals across the entire firebox using paraffin starters when I'm dealing with medium to large pieces of lump? I don't see myself as a wall sorter. I pour and go. 600 or 700 degree direct grilling sessions aren't a problem because you naturally need more lit coals just to reach that temperature to begin with. I am having a problem at lower temperatures where the Egg is so efficient you don't need many lit coals to achieve the desired temperature. Thanks in advance for any light that can be shed on this problem. 

Jim
BBQ Website: grillin' & smokin'

Middlesex County, MA
Two Large BGE's & Too Many Eggcessories to Count

Comments

  • MickeyMickey Posts: 13,671
    edited October 2012

    I use a hammer and glove on the very big (double fist size and larger). 

    ((((NOTE TO NEW PEOPLE: Do not use a hammer and just hit lump in the EGG #:-S ))))

    I also do most cooking with an adj rig so I am cooking higher and maybe that is also a differance. Also I only use a torch to light but do so only in 3 or 4 places so that should not be different.

    Salado TX Egg Family: 2 Large and a very well used Mini.... 5th Salado EggFest is March 14, 2015

  • I have thought about this as well....one of the solutions that seems to work for me is to use a Chimney starter and let it go a little longer to get all the coals cranking. I also have the benefit of using my side burner as the propellent. Pull out as much of the remaing coals (left over coals from the last cook) from the egg into the chimney. I am assuming you could use the parafin or oiled papertowel to get it going too....
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,171
    I stopped using starter cubes several years ago, but I recall often having temperatures of 400 about the time the starters burned out, but that the temperature often dropped. I would then have to wait some time for the temp to come back up. I eventually switched to using a weed burner. I keep the burner going til I have 3 areas of lump going w. a good glow.

    But I do often have hot spots if I don't let the lump burn at around 400 for maybe a half hour. That's kind of wasteful, and it makes everywhere a hot spot. So, I usually just compensate for hot spots by flipping and rotating the food.

    I do sometimes circle the lump with the burner. I do this if I want the temperature up fast, and above 300. Using that starting method, it is hard to damp the fire down to less than 300.

    Note 1 other thing. Direct cooking exposes the food to higher heat than indirect, because the food is not just heated by hot air. The IR from the glowing lump is quite intense, even at the felt line. I can get searing effects pretty easily when cooking direct even w. a dome at 450.
  • BigWaderBigWader Posts: 484

    I wish I could find lump that looked like yours.  All of the stuff I've tried (BGE, Basque, Maple Leaf) is mostly small (golf ball) with some pieces up to lemon and some smaller (like cherries).  Never seen a piece the size of a softball or double fisted.

    That said - I was also thinking that the IR heat isn't exactly columnar - it would radiate in all directions and if you have a raised grid set up the effect would be mostly evened out when higher in the dome.

     

     

    Large BGE

     

  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,080
    I would get a bag of royal oak and put a layer on top of the WW when you are grilling.

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,399
    edited October 2012
    The issue is, I think, one of air flow. To maintain a stabilized dome temp of 350-400, the egg is being starved for air in that the vents top and bottom are probably only 1/2 open. Even if you had almost every piece of lump burning with a nice even fire, once you choke the air off to maintain the target temp, some of the lump will burn less. Those pieces over the grate will burn hotter following the flow of incoming air, those on the outside will tend to smoulder, the oxygen is gone by the time any air flow hits them. 


    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 15,715
    raised grid direct helps even out the heat, it will almost always be hotter toward the back of the egg so use that to your advantage with bigger pieces of meat or for those that might want a steak cooked to a hotter temp ot the thicker part of the brisket or aim the turkey legs toward the higher heat. some methods help distribute the fire quicker, weed burner, oil and napkin. break up the really big pieces or bury them in deep

    heres the oil and napkin trick made simple
    http://eggheadforum.com/discussion/1143722
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 10,867
    If you get your grate higher up, you'll get more even heat from the "direct" IR contribution of the fire.  The convection heat may be a little higher up in the dome, but there's an inverse-square law in effect for the distance the food is from the coals (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverse-square_law).  If you double the distance (from say a grate 6" from a coal) you reduce the direct heat by 4x.  If you triple it, you reduce it by 9x.  Since we have a larger area of coals lit, this attenuates that effect somewhat, but you can have quite a hot fire and jack the grate way up and get a medium direct cook. 

    Another confusing issue is, how do you measure the temp on direct cooks?  You can't just point an IR thermometer into the fire, you're measuring the heat at the source.  Close the dome and you're measuring the temp at the probe. 

    To get more direct and less convection, you can cook with the lid open, but you really need to control the fire with the bottom damper because it can quickly get out of control.

    Sorry about the geeky science explanation :)
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    No City.

  • Chimney starter. Fill it with lump. Two sheets of newpaper wadded in the bottom.  Light and place on top of a layer of lump.  30 minutes or so and dump it and spread around.  Fire all across the box.

    My actuary says I'm dead.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,171
    nolaegghead said:

    Sorry about the geeky science explanation :)
    Way back when, I had 2 friends who won the Betty Crocker Young Homemaker awards in home-ec class. One of the winners astonished everyone. She was one of those then rare girls who took science (she eventually became an engineer.) When asked how she won the competition, she replied "It's just chemistry, but less precise."
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 10,867
    Gotta love them science girls. :)

    Here are two other examples.

    1. You can look at direct cooking like upside down broiling in your oven.  Everyone's presumably done it.  You put stuff close to the burner on the top shelf, it cooks really fast and hot. But it on the bottom shelf, and it takes much, much longer.

    2. Say you have a UV tanning light.  If you get a burn after 1 hour at 4 feet away from you, doubling that distance to 8 feet, it will take 4 hours to get the same amount of UV (and you'll probably get a much more even tan).

    If we're serious bout searing, we put a smaller grate right on top of the coals.  60-90 seconds a side and we get a nice quick maillard reaction on the surface.  All things the same on the regular grate height, your steak may finish cooking before you get the reaction.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    No City.

  • dlk7dlk7 Posts: 974
    +1 on raised direct evening out the heat.  However, every time I clean out one of my eggs, I scoop the used lump from my last cook into a metal bucket, pull out the fire grate, scoop out the ash into a trash bag, put the fire grate back in, and put in new lump. Whenever I need a 350 to 400 degree direct cook (unraised) that uses a lot of cooking surface, I pour the old lump I took out when cleaning into 4 areas of the egg, light each pile with my looft lighter, let it get to temp, and then spread the coals across the area needed for the cook with my ash tool. I wait about 15 minutes and I have fairly evenly lit lump to match the surface area I'm cooking to.

    Two XL BGEs - So Happy!!!!

    Rudderville, TN

  • jfm0830jfm0830 Posts: 873
    edited October 2012
    Interesting guys and THANKS SO much for all the suggestions. At least now I know it isn't just me. It seemed so strange that this one particular area would be more difficult when everything else was easier than I was expecting. Where this was my first time doing direct charcoal grilling I was surprised at the ease and precision of doing temperature control on the Egg.

    I was talking to a friend who has an Egg today and he suggested letting the temps run over by 100-150 degrees, then forcing them back down. The "conventional wisdom" I'd always heard about the Egg was not to overshoot the temps because it is much harder to lower them, than raise them. My friends logic is that more coals will get lit by the longer runtime and need for a higher temperature. I am just worried about how hard it will be to drop 150 degrees and if doing that will require me to close the vents so far down I snuff out my fire. Any thoughts on this approach? TIA.

    Jim
    BBQ Website: grillin' & smokin'

    Middlesex County, MA
    Two Large BGE's & Too Many Eggcessories to Count
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 10,867
    Jim, I think your friend has it right.  For direct it's not a problem to let it over shoot some.  As a matter of fact, you can leave the top dome open and let the fire spread for a while - don't worry about the temp - until you have a nice layer of top coals burning (you can move it along with tongs and you can damper the bottom a bit so you aren't creating forge-like temps).  Then close the top and damper it down to where you think the vents should be and, since you spared the top dome most of that heat, it should drop down in temp pretty quick.  Once the smoke smells good and you're at your ideal stable temp, start cooking.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    No City.

  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,080
    jfm0830 said:
    Interesting guys and THANKS SO much for all the suggestions. At least now I know it isn't just me. It seemed so strange that this one particular area would be more difficult when everything else was easier than I was expecting. Where this was my first time doing direct charcoal grilling I was surprised at the ease and precision of doing temperature control on the Egg.

    I was talking to a friend who has an Egg today and he suggested letting the temps run over by 100-150 degrees, then forcing them back down. The "conventional wisdom" I'd always heard about the Egg was not to overshoot the temps because it is much harder to lower them, than raise them. My friends logic is that more coals will get lit by the longer runtime and need for a higher temperature. I am just worried about how hard it will be to drop 150 degrees and if doing that will require me to close the vents so far down I snuff out my fire. Any thoughts on this approach? TIA.

    Jim


    Jim,

    Trust me on this. Get a bag of Royal Oak or something and put it on top of the WW. Light it and go for it. That is assuming that you don't have airflow issues. WW lights slow but lasts forever.

    Steve

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • misumisu Posts: 212
    Trust him, I only use Royal Oak and I think you're crazy or OCD :)
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,080
    Actually, I am not conpletely crazy about Royal Oak. I could have said any other kind of lump but I don't know all the brands. Frontier and Cowboy are very light as well. Guy just needs to get some less dense lump in there to get the fire going.

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • misumisu Posts: 212
    I'm not crazy about it either but that's all I use so I get your point that others may have way larger chunks. I buy RO by the pallet and I just realized that their main corporate office is so close to my house they can probably smell it :)
  • jfm0830jfm0830 Posts: 873
    Funny folks should mention Royal Oak. I hadn't seen it around here for 30 years in either briquettes or lump, but a week ago I saw that Wally World has it. Although I don't know if they keep it in during the Winter. I'll grab a few bags to try out. I REALLY like WGWW but I also have great respect for the brain trust around here. 
    BBQ Website: grillin' & smokin'

    Middlesex County, MA
    Two Large BGE's & Too Many Eggcessories to Count
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,080
    I've used WW and it is great for long cooks, unbelievable really. It just takes a long time to light. I found if I spread some lighter lump over it It would light normally. We get Maple Leaf here and it is a good balance of density and easy lighting. Mostly maple and  some birch

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 4,756
    @ nolaegghead-isn't your inverse square law applicable to point sources...the closer to the lump the more the heat acts as a plane source and the drop off is less til the distance allows the plane to effectively become a point source...Of course I have not taken a look at google or wikipedia to reinforce my advanced recall of exposure behavior:)
    Louisville
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 10,867
    @lousubcap - yep, that's why I added - "Since we have a larger area of coals lit, this attenuates that effect somewhat"  We actually have a bunch of point sources so I might be wrong about the attenuation.  Been 25 years since my physics.  :)
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    No City.

  • r270bar270ba Posts: 763
    I use an electric starter...I let it run for about 10-15 mins (depending on my overall target temp) and then as I pull the starter, I use it to spread the lump out evenly over the non lit lump.  This seems to work for me.  Not trying to hijack the thread but does this make sense to anyone else?
    Anderson, SC
    XL BGE, Father's Day Gift 2012 (Thanks Fam!!!)
    Webber Kettle and Webber Summit Gasser
    Want List: Thermapen, Small BGE, Wok, Adjustable Rig, Food Saver, More $

  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,399
    r270ba said:
    I use an electric starter...I let it run for about 10-15 mins (depending on my overall target temp) and then as I pull the starter, I use it to spread the lump out evenly over the non lit lump.  This seems to work for me.  Not trying to hijack the thread but does this make sense to anyone else?
    Same as what I do (only 8 minutes on my starter). However, if stabilized at 375-400 range, and the dome is raised, there are hot spots and cool spots. Generally, the hot spots are in the center. I still think you cannot expect the lump to burn evenly everywhere if the air flow is restricted, it will be hotter over the grate, cooler on the edges. Once you let air in, it burns everywhere. 
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • 4Runner4Runner Posts: 1,238
    Good info.  My Egg always burns hotter in the back and I too struggle with even medium-high cooks.   I will try using the raised grate on my next cook.  Thanks!
    Joe - I'm a reformed gasser-holic aka 4Runner Columbia, SC Wonderful BGE Resource Site: http://www.nakedwhiz.com/ceramicfaq.htm and http://www.nibblemethis.com/
  • SmokeyPittSmokeyPitt Posts: 4,568
    Jim,

    I'm glad you asked this because I have experienced the same thing.  It is difficult to get a fire that spreads evenly under the entire grill unless you are cooking "wide open".  I usually just light my lump in the center of the egg, which makes it even harder.  I have just been dealing with it during the cook...moving food around as I flip.  This can be tricky if you got the grill loaded with burgers. 

    The advice from Micky and Little Stephen definitely makes sense.  In order to spread the lump around, you need smaller pieces.  I'm going to give this a try next time I am grilling.  



    Which came first the chicken or the egg?  I egged the chicken and then I ate his leg. 
  • DuganboyDuganboy Posts: 1,118

    I think sometimes some of us overthink some of these things.  It is a real fire, with charcoal as the fuel, so it is not possible to have it perfectly temped.  Start the fire, spread the lit coals as equally as possible with the unlit coals (I use my ash tool). 

    Using the raised grid is a great help and just move the food around accordingly.

     

  • SmokeyPittSmokeyPitt Posts: 4,568
    Something I just learned last night- one solution to grilling at relatively lower temps is to use less lump.  I went to my neighbors house who is a recent egg owner and he was grilling up wings.  He was only using just enough to cover the bottom of the fire bowl.  The dome was holding at about 325 which worked out fine for cooking wings.  The nice part was that with less lump, the fire spread out so the entire bed of lump was ignited.  This also gives you more distance between the food and the fire, so it is like a raised direct setup without needing to raise anything.  I've been in the habit of always topping of the lump before I light; however I think for grilling a little less might be better.


    Which came first the chicken or the egg?  I egged the chicken and then I ate his leg. 
  • I've always used a chimney starter, I set it in the egg on the lump so as it lights and starts the lump in the chimney it also lights the lump underneath it. When I dump it in I have fire everywhere in a matter of minutes.
    LBGE
    Go Dawgs! - Marietta, GA
  • jfm0830jfm0830 Posts: 873
    edited November 2012
    I've always used a chimney starter, I set it in the egg on the lump so as it lights and starts the lump in the chimney it also lights the lump underneath it. When I dump it in I have fire everywhere in a matter of minutes.
    @SmokinDAWG82: Several people have suggested that. I am curious what cooking temperature is that for? With that much lit charcoal it almost sounds like a real high temperature cook as opposed to around 400 or so/.
    BBQ Website: grillin' & smokin'

    Middlesex County, MA
    Two Large BGE's & Too Many Eggcessories to Count
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