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Hop on down to your nearest EGG dealer this week to pick up some Easter EGGcessories! Here are a few that may be useful for Easter, the V-rack, electric charcoal lighter and flexible skewers! Now that Spring is in the air, it's time to think about getting out to one of the many #EGGfests around the country - see a list here

Help - Temperature Control & Lighting My Egg!

Hi There Everyone,

I've had my BGE for a while and I'm very happy with the way that it cooks.  Everything that I've cooked has turned out well (other than my first attempt at brisket, which I had the temp too high.)  I have been having issues getting the damn thing started.  Cooking steak it takes me an hour to get the temp up around 600+.  It always seems to take me forever to get the temp up.  

Tonight I'm trying to cook pizza, and I'd like the BGE to be around 450 or up to 550.  I'm using the plate setter and my pizza stone.  I lit the egg, left the top open until the coals were going good, then closed it and had things about 400 degrees.  I then put the plate setter in and the stone so that it wasn't going on cold (and risk breaking) and the temp plummeted.  I haven't gotten the temp over 300 degrees and my top and bottom vents are 100% open.  I need some good advice. 

 I've read a number of how to control the temp articles here, but not a lot on how people light it.  Is the practice to light the grill and get a lot of coals soaring hot, then bring the temp down by closing vents down?  No matter how I light it, if I leave the dome up or closed, it seems like it is 30 minutes (and usually more like 45 mintues) before I'm at a workable temperature, but tonight with my plate setter and pizza stone and it is 300 degrees for 2 hours.  

Thanks in advance for some useful advice!

-Clarke
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Comments

  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 7,208
    What are you using to light your fuel? Do you stir it to remove excess ash and clean out under the fire grate? Make sure all of your fire box holes are clear of ash as well.
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    edited December 2012
    For a hot pizza fire, here's what I do:

    1. I'll clean it out like eggcelsior said, to make sure it can get lots of O2 (AKA "air"). 

    2. I'll load lump up to the top of the fire ring (not just the fire box).  If there's a lot of dust and small stuff, I'll try not to use that, but if I do, I want it on the top.

    3. I light in a few places on THE TOP of the lump.  Don't light from the bottom.  You're lighting a big candle. 

    4. Bottom vent fully open. Take the cast iron daisy wheel and put that away.  You don't need it at all.  Don't even think about using it.

    5. Close the lid.  The temp should rise pretty quick.  Your goal is to get most of the lump ON THE TOP lit.   Say you have 8-10" deep pile of lump.  You only want the stuff on top lit.  Move the coals around that are lit onto ones that aren't until you get the whole top going.   Smell the white smoke at this point.  It'll stink. Remember that smell - you don't want to ever put food on when it's like that.

    6. After you're done moving stuff around so you have a pretty even fire centered on the top, put the plate setter in legs up, then the grate, then the pizza stone.  This stuff will start heating up and your temp will drop a bit because the probe will be shaded by the plate setter and the much of the heat will be going into the plate setter.

    7.  After 5 minutes or so the temp will start rocketing up.
     
    8. When it gets about where you want it, close the damper down before you go nuclear.  Adjust to get the temp you want.

    9. Wait 20-30 minutes for the stone to get hot.  Make sure your smoke is dark and not billowing white.  It should smell good.  Not like step 5.

    ...or something to that effect.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    10. Cook pizza.  BTW - Watch out for flashbacks when you're running hot, especially if you let it get too hot and dampered it down.   Some people "burp" it by opening and closing the lid a little bit a few times before opening all the way.  I just open it slow and try to keep any hairy body parts away from the opening.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 7,208
    Nola, I can hook you up with some D cylinders of portable O2. That will really get things going!

    Accelerants are fun, except when you smoke. Think "burping" off you eyebrows. Who needs those?
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    edited December 2012
    Nola, I can hook you up with some D cylinders of portable O2. That will really get things going! Accelerants are fun, except when you smoke. Think "burping" off you eyebrows. Who needs those?
    Thanks Eggcelsior, I do have an oxy-acetylene rig in the shop.  When I was around 24, I had an oxygen tank and I was feeding pure O2 into a grill I was starting.  The hose caught on fire and started burning like a fuse (not that O2 is explosive).  We laughed our asses off.  Only takes about 30 seconds to light 10 pounds of charcoal if you have pure oxygen.  Gotta be careful you don't melt the grill.

    Nowadays, I've simmahed down.  I stick with the leaf blower in the bottom vent.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • I might have to try the leaf blower in the bottom vent.

    Thanks for the advice. I'll try getting more lit on top next time.  I've been using 1 of the official BGE starters, placed in the center.  I leave the lid open while things get started.  I typically don't stir things up at all, but will start doing that.  

    I do usually stir my coals good to get rid of the ash that is in there, but tonight I couldn't.  My BGE was frozen shut!  I barely fit my arm down the chimney to put a starter between the vents to get things rolling.  that certainly could have had something to do with it.

    I'm not sure I'm brave enough to try pure O2.

    Thanks,
    Clarke

  • When was the last time you cleaned out the ash? Have you removed everything and cleaned it out really good?
  • Here's what I do. Hot pizza fire. Clean out the egg(if i haven't in a while, think like about a bag of charcoal or more) fill it up to the top of the fire ring. Open the bottom, black top (DFMT) off, and hit the top of the coals with the weed burner till theyre sparking. After that, I put the weed burner in the bottom vent and blast the bottom of the coals. This does a few things. heats up the bottom of the egg quickly, lights the coals at the bottom for an even burn, and makes sure all the air passages are blown clean by the jet turbine effect of the weed burner.
  • BRush00BRush00 Posts: 135
    CLCummings, Nola's got it basically right.  Only bit of advise I'd add for you is that when your box of starter cubes is all gone, ditch them for a looft lighter, or torch, or weedburner, or something else...

    I've got a Looft Lighter and for what it's worth, love it.

    Also, when you're doing really hot cooks, use a few of the cubes.  I used to use them - and would use 3 in a triangle pattern around the top of the lump.  Lighting 3 spots means nothing but more heat right?
  • My experience has been that the absolute fastest way to a high temp is to light from below if you have the High Que grate.

    Put a starter below the grate, light it, and 15 minutes later you will have hellfire. Flames travel upward much faster than they travel downward.

    I realize this contradicts what NolaEgg has posted, but he'll come around in time.


  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    If that's true, I'm going to start lighting my candles from the bottom.  yum....everything smells like wax.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • You light a candle from the top because you want it to burn slowly. That is the opposite of what this post was about.

    If you were to use a chimney starter, would you light it at the bottom or top?

    Mind you, I am strictly talking about speed to temp, not ideal charcoal burn area. However, I have a theory that starting from the bottom will help to boil out the leftover smoke from the upper coals better.

    Seriously though, I've tried the MAPP torch, air pump, denatured alcohol as lighter fluid. Nothing is as fast as a below the grate starter. No danger of sparks to the eye either.


  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    edited December 2012
    (sigh). 

    I don't disagree it lights really fast from the bottom.   The goal of a chimney starter is to light every single briquette as fast as possible.  Unless you only have a couple of inches of lump on your fire grate, you don't want it all lit in an egg.  You don't need that much lit to maintain even the hottest temperatures.   The egg isn't a Weber Kettle grill where you get all the briquettes ashed over before you throw food on.   The Kamado grill loaded up with a lot of fuel is a different beast.

    Lets imagine I loaded up to the top of the fire ring 10-12 pounds of lump or so.  If you want to ash every bit of lump, you use it like a chimney starter and light from the bottom.  It burns super fast and hot.  

    The idea with a long, controlled fire in the egg is to put a ton of fuel in it, then burn enough to maintain your temp.    So what happens if you get a pile of lump that's a cylinder 12" wide and 10" deep, maybe around a cubic foot, all lit?  You can get enough heat out of that to cook something like a moose.  Cept the moose don't fit in the egg.  Point is, you just lit up a cubic foot of lump.  Now lets cook and see what happens.....

    Gee, I started with the damper fully open.  The limiting factor to what can burn, how much energy you can dump into that egg is the air that reaches the fire.  On a pizza cook, I'm running at 700 or so with the damper mostly closed!  So if you lit up a cubic foot of lump, you dampen down the damper to and inch and a half or so, ALL that lump (or even if you don't start it all) that stuff is mostly on the bottom of the pile, and since you have so much started, it's not a little burning hot, there's a lot that's sorta smoldering.  HOOOOWEEEE dat stanks! 

    Here's another way of looking at it.  Light at the bottom.  Fire's gotta crawl it's way through a bunch of lump.  That prolongs white, nasty smoke. 

    Here's another way of looking at it - the lump is a cylinder.  Fuel to keep you running for over a day in a low and slow, or a couple of hours at 600-700 for a pizza cook.  Say all the burning lump you need to maintain that temp is the first 2 inches of the top of the 10" pile.   Would you think if the burning lump were on the bottom of that pile and all that heat, and gases were basically cooking raw unburned lump would give you good smoke?  Hell no! 

    Yet another analogy. You have an oven.  It is a box.  Under that box is a long cylindrical tube.  Say it's 4" diameter by 24" long.  The tube is under the cooking box.  If you light the bottom or the top, where ya gonna get lovely black smoke first - that's the candle analogy, and that's why I light the top. 

    If you light the bottom, you need to let that fire burn (and yes, it will burn fast and furious) to the top before you start getting good smoke, because hot gasses are lighter than air, and with gravity, they rise up.

    If you just have a few pounds of lump in the egg and you want to sear, no problem in lighting from the bottom.  This thread assumes you don't NEED enough heat that you have to have it lit through and through.

    Get enough lump to support nicely burning coals, not a sea of smoldering coals, with the airflow you need to maintain a temp.  Ideally these burning coals are on the top so they're not just cooking unburned combustion products from the lump above.  You want the smallest amount of lump burning to maintain your desired egg temp.  Don't forget the egg is very efficient, not like that Webber tin can from days of yore.

    It's no accident that the BGE site, BBQ guru site and many others light from the top.  You get better smoke, and you don't waste lump trying to burn your way up to the top doing it.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 4,151
    I'm with Scottc454 on the origin of the fire.  I light around bottom center (build the lump in the center to the rest of the load) for low&slow.  I light bottom around 4 & 8 for high temp cooks (The air flow tends to drive the fire toward the back).  Never lost a fire (now jinxed) but subscribe to the observation that fires burn up as long as there is fuel. Heat/hot rises and structural fires (and this is not an oxygen unlimited environment for sure) tend to burn"up" before heading "down" for more fuel. An opinion and we all know what those are worth...
    Louisville
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    Let me add, after I got the egg, I went through a period of lighting from the bottom.  Took me a while to identify good smoke.  I had some cooks that I wasn't very proud of.  Wasn't active on the forum.  I got my DigiQ and actually read on up on the dynamics of the fire after I noticed the manual suggested a big pile o fresh lump, little bit "pyramid" shaped on the top.  Light the top of the pyramid for a low and slow.

    So I stared lighting on the top.  What a difference!.  I got good smoke faster, my lump lasted longer, and it wasn't a problem getting nuclear hot fires.  It's counter intuitive to what you'd think, but it effin' works.  I'm reminded of that every now and then when I'm running out of lump and I gotta add during mid-cook.  Seems to ruin the fire and smoke by dumping more lump on it.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 7,208
    Damn, Bill Nye "laid the wood".
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    Do you think anyone will actually read my rant?  I'm thinking, not.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 7,208
    I did. Didn't you read my bio in the demo thread? I love to read!

    Also, science is so ingrained in me as a thinking process. Objective skepticism always allows me to ask "why?" to broaden my knowledge. You answered why and I processed it, finding that it makes sense.

    Now, I'm left to wonder how this would work in a low gravity environment. Eggs in space!
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    Yeah - I read it, very nice.  My love of my life is an RN.  She's 5'12" and she's a bad-ass - she intimidates doctors.  She has a photographic memory of lyrics and melodies that's scary.  I'm a big time reader and insomniac.  I like to learn concepts so I can predict the outcome of hypotheticals rather than rote memorize every chess move.  Egg in space - there's modeling software for that - Angry Birds Star Wars :D


    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • 5'12"?  Where I come from we call that 6'.

    No need to write War & Peace on kamado theory just because somebody lights charcoal differently than you.  It's really not that technical to me. I usually light from the top, but I just noticed that lighting from the bottom with the High Que grate is substantially faster.

    How 'bout if I only do that when I'm really in a hurry?

     

  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    scottc454 said:
    5'12"?  Where I come from we call that 6'.

    No need to write War & Peace on kamado theory just because somebody lights charcoal differently than you.  It's really not that technical to me. I usually light from the top, but I just noticed that lighting from the bottom with the High Que grate is substantially faster.

    How 'bout if I only do that when I'm really in a hurry?

     

    Yeah, I get a little verbose now n then.  It's all good, man.  Just trying to exercise my fingers n stuff.  You'll figure it out.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 4,825
    edited December 2012
    The OP said lit the egg, got the coals going with the lid open. 
    Anyone ask them how they lit it? I use an electric starter, lay it on the top, after 8 minutes, I take it out, put in my setter grids pans etc..., close the dome and with bottom wide open, no daisy, it takes minutes and it is in after burn. 
    The OP must have ash buildup or has a vent closed. The chimney works, each and every time. 

    And Nola is right, light from the top, it is better - those who don'y believe will when they can snatch the pebble from the master's hand, grasshopper. 
    Delta B.C., Canuckistan - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 7,208
    Truly, Skiddy, Nola is Master Kan
  • I still have a gas grill that I don"t use.  I load my chimney up with lump.  Set it on the side burner and light it on high.  3 minutes later we have a hot fire.  Spread it on fresh lump.  Leave the top open with the damper open all the way.  When the white smoke is clear,  I'm at 700 degrees very shortly.  If that is not fast enough, put a 24" stove pipe on the egg dome and close the lid. 
    This works every time just like it did last night.
  • BRush00BRush00 Posts: 135
    All this talk of chimney starters has got me interested now...

    Re: Steak searing...

    What if a guy were to stuff the 'ash box' (what's it really called?  The section your ash falls into under the fire grate?)...

    Anyways - loosly stuff the whole ash-box with newspaper, load in a *reasonable* amount of lump, maybe half the fire box, then light the papers in the bottom.  I would think at that point we'd be turning our whole egg into a chimney starter, giving us a nuclear fire very quickly....

    Get your fire ready for searing steak in 10 minutes total?

    As long as there's not too much lump, there shouldn't be any problem with yucky white smoke...


  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 7,208
    BRush00 said:
    All this talk of chimney starters has got me interested now...

    Re: Steak searing...

    What if a guy were to stuff the 'ash box' (what's it really called?  The section your ash falls into under the fire grate?)...

    Anyways - loosly stuff the whole ash-box with newspaper, load in a *reasonable* amount of lump, maybe half the fire box, then light the papers in the bottom.  I would think at that point we'd be turning our whole egg into a chimney starter, giving us a nuclear fire very quickly....

    Get your fire ready for searing steak in 10 minutes total?

    As long as there's not too much lump, there shouldn't be any problem with yucky white smoke...


    What am I supposed to read while waiting for the lump to start? 
  • I still have a gas grill that I don"t use.  I load my chimney up with lump.  Set it on the side burner and light it on high.  3 minutes later we have a hot fire.  Spread it on fresh lump.  Leave the top open with the damper open all the way.  When the white smoke is clear,  I'm at 700 degrees very shortly.  If that is not fast enough, put a 24" stove pipe on the egg dome and close the lid. 
    This works every time just like it did last night.
    Have you ever closed the lid with both top and bottom vents wide open after you dump your gasser fired starter chimney full of burning lump into the egg? I'm betting your smoke will clear sooner and heat will rise faster if you simply replace the starter chimney with your egg chimney. With the lid down, the egg is acting more like a blast furnace rather than a bonfire. 
    Great idea for a start technique BTW.  
    Delta B.C., Canuckistan - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • noarmysargentnoarmysargent Posts: 56
    edited December 2012
    Have you ever closed the lid with both top and bottom vents wide open after you dump your gasser fired starter chimney full of burning lump into the egg? I'm betting your smoke will clear sooner and heat will rise faster if you simply replace the starter chimney with your egg chimney. With the lid down, the egg is acting more like a blast furnace rather than a bonfire. 
    Great idea for a start technique BTW. I close the lid to bring the temp up slower. I seem to have better luck for fast heat wide open for a few minutes. Try the stove pipe, it is super fast!
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 9,002
    I light the candle and close the lid.  I want the top of the dome to heat up too.  If I'm in a hurry, I aim a fan at the bottom vent.  If I'm really in a hurry, I'll turn on the hose (just in case) and fire a leaf blower into the bottom vent (it's gas - idle is plenty good for air).  Generally, if you plan ahead, there's not need to do any of that. 
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone
    New Orleans

  • tgklemantgkleman Posts: 179
    The eggcellerator works really well, although it is pricey.  Same concept as hair dryer, fan etc.  I light the top in a few places, and turn on this fan, and in a few minutes have a roaring blaze.  This method evens out the variation you get with trying to light a tightly packed lump pile, or lump with a higher moisture content etc.
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