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Lighting: all the coals or just the center?

eggheadmdeggheadmd Posts: 11
edited March 2013 in EggHead Forum
Quick question on lighting:

Do I light all the lump charcoal or just the center?

I find the food too smokey.  Here's my lighting procedure.

1) Open the bottom vent wide open.  Remove black top.
2) Light the center with a MAPP torch for 20 seconds.
3) Wait for 10 minutes until the coals start lighting up.
4) Close the egg and wait until the target temperature is hit.
5) Close the bottom vent down to a 1/4 inch and the top  about a 1/4 crescent to stabilize temperature.
6) Wait 30 minutes or so for the white smoke to disappear.

When I open the egg to put the food on, there's a lot of fresh unburnt lump on the periphery.  When I place the food on and close the egg to cook, the smoke returns... The smoke smells the same as lighting fresh lump.

Any ideas?  Can someone give me a step-by-step tutorial on how to light this and minimize the smokiness of the food?  Wife is hating this over my Genesis S330 propane :(

Thanks!

Comments

  • Generally, when grilling, you light in more than one spot. I light in two or three spots. Low & slows are another story.

    ........................................................................................

    Flint, Michigan.  Named the most dangerous city in America by the F.B.I. three years running.

  • six_eggsix_egg Posts: 594
    I light in the middle only. I use fire starters to light mine also. I do not have the smoke problem. 

    XLBGE, LBGE growing accessories.

    Want: Ceramicgrillworks 2 tier large, Dutch oven, Cyber Q Wifi

    Grenada, MS

  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,447
    I usually light in three or four spots with the mapp torch. I mean the lump burns from the top down no?

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • BotchBotch Posts: 2,658
    One thing I do is light the remaining lump first; once its going then I pour in fresh, on top.  I figure the heat will drive off the volatiles in the fresh lump more efficiently if the fire/heat is below the new stuff.
    When doing a low-und-slow, or have only new lump, I start in the center only too; once the white smoke is gone I've not ever noticed that it came back once the food was put on... 
    :-/
    _____________________________________________
     
    Live fast, die young, and leave a well-marbled corpse.  
     
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  • SmolderSmolder Posts: 14
    Three or four spots for regular cooking, center only for low and slows.
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,692
    edited March 2013
    If you're cooking direct, I light enough of the top to give me a nice hot fire.  If you do that with a low and slow, once you damper down the vent you'll have a smoldering, nasty smelling fire.  So for low and slows, I light the center area on top. 

    Once you get the fire going, don't mess with it.  If you stir it around you'll just get more bad smoke.  Undisturbed, you'll get some good smoke.  How long depends on your lump.  If the fire smells bad, the food will taste bad.  White smoke is bad smoke.  Once it's dark or clear, it's good, but the smell test is the best indicator.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • eggheadmdeggheadmd Posts: 11
    Thanks everyone! Will give it another try...
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,447
    There is a "phenomenon" that can occur called centre burn (or center burn in American) in low and slows that can cause you to have a bad day

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • eggheadmdeggheadmd Posts: 11
    If you light all the coals, do you still regulate temperature with the top and bottom vents? Are you still able to keep it at 400 for trex steaks?
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,447
    I light in multiple spots for low and slows too. The lump burns hot but the egg doesn't warm up for quite awhile

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,281
    As far as I know, anything cooked over lump charcoal will have some smoke flavor. There are people who simply don't like smoke flavor, despite a couple of million years of humans cooking over smoke...

    Step 1. Yup, good.

    Step 2. A Map Pro torch will most often get the lump burning in 20 seconds. Starting a couple of places is a little more reliable. I've had single place lights go out a few times. I usually start 3 places.

    Step 3. No need to leave the dome open if using a torch. If using something that produces a flame, such as a fire starter cube, leave the dome open till the flame dies down.

    Steps 4, 5, & 6. The mass of lump needs to get above 400F (as I understand the issue) to drive off most of the V(olatile) O(rganic) C(ompound)s. Even if the white smoke has gone away, but the lump has not become hot enough, there may still be lots of unpleasant vapors still to be released. Its not so much time, as the temp the lump mass reaches.

    I've been Egging long enough that I'm pretty good at steering the temp. I often let the dome temp reach 350 - 400F, and then shut down to 1/8" top and bottom vents. Its not faster than stopping at 250F dome and waiting, but it seems the heavy smoke gets burnt off a little better.

    As I wrote above, it is unlikely that something cooked over lump will have no smoke flavor. I find that if I'm cooking above 350 dome, w/o any smoking wood, the smoke flavor is minor.

    FWIW, both my wife and I hated the lack of flavor from cooking over propane. Taste is a matter of preference, and not to be argued.

  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 11,692
    You can regulate with either of the vents.  Many people only use the bottom - they take the top off.  Other people keep the bottom wide open and regulate with the daisy wheel on top.

    I generally use both, I find it helps maintain a stable temp when it's windy.  You're gonna get fluctuations, just don't worry about it.  Your average temperature determines the cooking time.
    ______________________________________________
    This is my signature line just so you're not confused.
    Large and Medium BGE, two turntables and a microphone, my friend.
    New Orleans, LA - we know how to eat 

  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 5,333
    edited March 2013

    My approach-you can light in one spot (I do this for low& slow) or multiple (I use two for hot and fast) but in the end the temperature you want on the calibrated dome is controlled by the air-flow thru the BGE.  Doesn't matter the initial size of  the fire (that will only dicatate time to desired dome temp), when steady-state, the same quantity of lump will be burning regardless of how it was lit. Get comfortable with an approach and go from there. 

    As you can appreciate-the quantity of lump burning for a 250*F fire is a whole lot less than for 400*F. Bottom line-smoke smells good, is good.  FWIW-

    Louisville
  • sariverssarivers Posts: 67
    I like using a chimney. Fill it about 1/2 full or a little more with lump then ball up 2 sheets of newspaper to put under the chimney.  I've found this to be the fastest method for me. If I let most of the coals in the chimney get hot then pour them into the middle of the grill everything work fine. 
    Columbia, SC

  • cdees_1993cdees_1993 Posts: 135
    This is something I had to learn with the egg.  You have to give it time after the light regardless of how you light it to let the VOC's burn off.  After you light it get it to temp, get it settled in and let it burn for about 15 -20 min. You will not get that overly smokey flavor.  
  • quackerquacker Posts: 10
    sarivers said:
    I like using a chimney. Fill it about 1/2 full or a little more with lump then ball up 2 sheets of newspaper to put under the chimney.  I've found this to be the fastest method for me. If I let most of the coals in the chimney get hot then pour them into the middle of the grill everything work fine. 
    I use a chimney too, except I start the charcoal with a small butane cooker. Fires up in no time.
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,993
    edited March 2013
    I think your starting technique is OK, light from the top and let fire burn down. As noted, higher temps means less smoke. (usually) 
    What are you cooking? Maybe try a raised direct chicken breast or souvlaki or 1" double loin pork chop, cooked at stable 450 dome. Will not be much smoke and the meat will be flavourful and juicy. Go easy on the rub. Cook to temp. 
    Souvlaki is easy, 1 crushed clove garlic, 2 Tbs EVOO, 1 Tbs lemon juice, 1 tsp oregano and some cracked pepper per 10" skewer (lots of recipes- this is just a starter) Marinate for whatever suits and cook. The garlic tend to cover the smoke and the flavours really compliment. 
    (Assuming SWMBO likes Greek.)
     
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • paqmanpaqman Posts: 1,144
    Skiddymarker said: 
    What are you cooking?
     
    I think this is a very important question.  As an example,  I prefer to cook wing and bone-in/skin-on chicken breasts indirect because the burning fat drippings sometimes impart a nasty smoke flavor.

    What are you cooking?

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  • deekortiz3deekortiz3 Posts: 55
    edited March 2013
    Your lighting technique sounds fine but you could try lighting a few different areas to spread things out. If you continue lighting one area, light slightly toward the front. The air flow of the cooker will move the fire back naturally... by lightning in the middle you are potentially missing some lump toward the front.

    I am thinking that your start up isn't the issue though. If the wife is preferring your gas grill to the egg she just may be sensitive to smoke. 

    What kind of lump are you using? 
    If you are using Mesquite... stop. Go out and buy some hardwood Oak lump. Mesquite smoke is too strong to use for any long cooks, imo. It is just for steak and other quick cooks.

    If you are already using Oak... you may want to see if you can find a local place to get Orange lump from. It has minimal smoke flavor to it. Works great if you are looking to add wood chunks and just have their flavor come through or in this case a way to lessen the smokey taste of your food.

  • yzziyzzi Posts: 1,612
    I'm surprised no one except deek asked about which lump you're using. Some brands or types have a little more smoky taste to them. I find the variance is minimal but it's worth a shot to try another brand since your lighting technique seems fine.
    Dunedin, FL
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,993
    yzzi said:
    I'm surprised no one except deek asked about which lump you're using. Some brands or types have a little more smoky taste to them. I find the variance is minimal but it's worth a shot to try another brand since your lighting technique seems fine.
    Agreed, very good point - I assumed it was BGE lump, second post from @eggheadmd, new egg - just assumed it was the inaugural bag many of us got with our egg. 
    So the two outstanding questions are What are you cooking and over what kind of lump?
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • henapplehenapple Posts: 12,137
    eggheadmd... where are you located?
    Green egg, dead animal and alcohol. The "Boro".. TN 
  • eggheadmdeggheadmd Posts: 11
    Hello everyone!

    I think I've gotten the smokeyness to a reasonable level.  I tried lighting in multiple places and even though a lot of the coal is lit, I have pretty good control with the bottom vent.  I can bring it down to about 250 with just the bottom vent.

    I'm using oak lump.  

    Thanks everyone!  I'm in SF Bay Area.... will probably hit Eggs by the Bay for a few classes.
  • Mattman3969Mattman3969 Posts: 3,300
    Good Job

    -----------------------------------------


    Large BGE. Small BGE Henderson, Ky. Waitin to find a Sasquatch to Egg.
  • deekortiz3deekortiz3 Posts: 55
    edited March 2013
    Glad to hear you have gotten things under control eggheadmd.

    If you drop by Eggs By The Bay and see a guy with a red goatee (most of the hair on top of my head is gone :-S) that's me. 

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