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Low and Slow Tips for the XL Big Green Egg?

Hello everyone!

I spent many years on my Weber Smokey Mountain with visions of the day I would upgrade to the Big Green Egg. 

So on my 40th birthday my wife offered to get me one and I spent two weeks trying to decide to "go big" or buy the large.  After reading many forums I decided the accounts from others of the difficulties maintaining temperature on the XL were probably exaggerated.

The XL is beautiful.

But... after cooking burgers and steaks on it for a couple of weeks, I decided to give it a whirl as a smoker.

I should begin by saying that I decided to move up from the Weber Smokey Mountain because I dreaded waking at 3:00 am to feed it charcoal on a slow cook.

I was under the impression that the egg could cook for much longer periods without being messed with.

I really want to love this thing and bond with my egg, but I'm getting very frustrated trying to get it to hold 225.  Unlike others I'm able to keep it from racing up to 600 degrees.  But I usually spend a great deal of time trying to bring her back from 300/350.  Just the extra 50 degrees can make a huge difference in the cook.

Further, when I finally get the egg to 225, it won't stay there.  Correction, it might hold that temperature for an hour, but then seems to drop off of climb again.

To add insult to injury I went to a different Green Egg store from where I purchase my egg and they all told me the strongly discourage against the XL for the reasons I outlined.

Here are some things I've tried to keep the temperature:
* I use a charcoal ring to reduce the amount of charcoal used.
* I only light the charcoal in one spot
* Once the temp hits 200, I close the lower vent to about an inch... then a slit... and turn the wheel to about half closed (more than that and I've put the fire out)

I'm stubborn and given the stories of folks here in LOVE with their XLs... I'm thinking that perhaps there's just a bit of a learning curve.  Maybe the happy XL owners know something others don't.

Does anyone out there have tips for me on the XL?  Especially related to low and slow cooking and holding temperature? 

I really want to give this a fair shot given the Egg is new, has a stand, place setter etc. and I'd hate to sell it on Craigslist for a large.  I'd lose a lot of money and it may not be necessary.

Any tips on working with the XL as a smoker would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance.  I'm really committed to mastering this bad boy.  I just feel like I need some guidance from other XL masters.

Comments

  • FoghornFoghorn Posts: 1,835

    I'm no "master" where this is concerned, but I have been able to to several cooks on my XL over 6 hours and one 14 hour brisket cook without messing with the air vents.  Here's my guess on how to help you out.

    First, when cooking low and slow, be happy with anything at 275 or less.  From what I can tell there really is no great benefit to going lower except that the longer cook may allow you to ignore the fire all night.  I'm not sure if I "got lucky" or "demonstrated great skill" when I did my all night brisket at 230 degrees. 

    Second, I had a few problems getting my XL to get hot enough when I first got it.  I tried to impress friends with a pizza cook and after 90 minutes it was still only at 300 degrees.  After reading some stuff on here I think I figured it out - and I think it has helped me with my low temp cooks as well.  If you search for problems with "fire" or "starting the egg" or "lighting the egg" or "temperature control" you can find a bunch of threads where people describe various techniques for how they light their fires, sort their lump (only using large chunks for long cooks), etc.  From what I can tell, the key principle that ties all of the threads together is air flow.  You have to make sure that at least a few of the holes in the grate under the charcoal are unclogged and are not going to get clogged.  Then, and only then, do you have total control of the air flow with the vents (assuming you have cleaned out the ash from below such that ash buildup is not going to become an issue).  Using only large chunks of lump is one solution.  Another solution is to simply clear out a space near the front of the egg where there is no coal and a couple of holes in the grate are wide open.  This is what I do and I have had very good success with long cooks so far. 

    If you have air flowing through the inside of the egg without an issue, then for 275 or less you can literally have both the bottom and top vents open 1/4 inch or less and the fire will keep burning until it runs out of charcoal (more than 24 hours if you start with a full load of lump).  For 230 degrees I probably had each vent open about 1/8 inch and went to bed at 10 PM and woke up at 6 PM and the temperature was still 230. 

    I hope this helps.

    XL BGE, Klose BYC, ProQ Excel, Weber Kettle, Firepit, Grand Turbo gasser, and a portable Outdoor Gourmet gasser for tailgating

    San Antonio, TX

  • Plano_JJPlano_JJ Posts: 448
    edited April 2013
    Not a master by any means but I started with an XL so I cant comment on the learning curve. I haven't done a low and slow other than about a 6-8 hr brisket flat cook but I have done many 4-6 hr cooks on different things. What I have noticed is I think it takes the XL a little more time to get regulated than the other Eggs based on what I have read on here.  I allow about 30 min to get it where I want it. This gives my starters time to start the fire, the plate setter to heat up, etc, etc. Just be a little more patient with the XL. Also, starting the fire I use 3 of those fire starters. I find this gets it up and burning real fast. For the temp, when I get within around 50 deg of my target, I start adjusting the vents. In my opinion you will only get it close. If you don't have a Maverick, get one. You will find out quickly the difference between dome temp and grid temp. When I did some ribs last week, my temp varied maybe 10-15 deg the whole 4-1/2 hrs. Minor adjusting on the daisy wheel got it straight again. Oh, and the charcoal ring has been a winner for me so far. For the high temps, take the daisy wheel off and open the bottom vent all the way and it will get after it real quick. For the high temp cooks, I only adjust the bottom vent and the top is completely open. Hope this helps.
  • IrishDevlIrishDevl Posts: 1,390
    I have an Xl and have no issue. I would say start by getting the coal to 400 (or do) to be sure all fully lit. You can adjust from there, burp it, close bottom vent and top. Once my egg sets I never have an issue maintaining temp. One thing to consider, the gasket that comes with the egg is terrible, burns quickly and may possibly be allowing more airflow than you want/ think causing the temp to jump - might want to replace if you see this with a Rutland high temp or other quality gasket. Keep going and you will get it. I usually find that the lower vent opened at about 1/2 inch and top vent with holes exposed less than half are ideal and I can hug 250 for 15-20 hours if needed.
  • doubledouble Posts: 1,214
    I agree with all above but wonder if the lump reducing ring is causing you to get more air than needed? Just a guess as I don't use one and always just fill my firebox for a low and slow.
    Lynnwood WA
  • My XL has no issues at all. The first thing I did when I got it was to load it up with Weekend Warrior lump. I got it stable at 240 (what I like to cook my butts on) and it ran over 20 hours at that temp.
    After 20 hours it was still at 240-245. Make sure you have clean air holes inside.


  • fruitguyfruitguy Posts: 109
    What everyone else has said.  My first egg and sadly currently my only egg is an XL.  I have had no issues with holding low temperatures 15hrs plus.  First totally clean out the egg from previous fires and then get rid of the lump reducing ring and load it up.  I light in multiple places with a torch, then place the placesetter in, close the lid open the vents all the way, remove daisy wheel and let it come up to just below my target temp.  Close the bottom to about 1/2" and daisy wheel almost closed.  Go back in the house for awhile and come back out.  Do not mess with it, give it some time.  Once you put your food on, the temp may drop again, do not mess with it.  Give it some time and see if the temp recovers.  Small adjustments make a difference.
  • After reading all this I'm sure glad I bought the Large, I have done two long cooks with no trouble (so far) Hope every thing works out for you .
     
     1 Large Big Green Egg
     1 Weber Kettle
     1 Weber Weber Smokey Mountain 18"
     1 Long Horn Off Set
     1 Bradley Smoker
     1 Weber Silver Gasser
     1 Weber Smokey Joe Small
     1 Orange Thermapen
  • LexellLexell Posts: 3
    Thank you so much everyone!

    This is an amazing community and I feel much better.  I do think the ring reducer limited amount of time I could cook.

    Further, I think the comment about lighting the coal in 3 locations, but then making sure to close down the vents was a breakthrough.

    The advice I value most was from those with XLs who say it can be done and give tips how.

    I can already see some things I was doing wrong.  Further I was surprised to learn (at least up until this point) that nobody recommended a plug in blower.  I might get one someday, but I really want to keep this as pure as possible and figure out how to make it work without technology, then if I want to buy an auto-pilot later on.. I'll understand things better.

    @ Foghorn - Going to do a brisket soon.  Thanks for the inspiration.  Thanks for the settings.  Further, out of the box I seemed to have a knack for getting the XL to 600+.  I made pizza and everyone loved it.  The low and slow I need to work out and your tips are great.

    @ Plano JJ - Sounds like charcoal ring on shorter cooks is fine.  Also I almost always adjusted both top and bottom at same time.  Adjusting the daisy wheel only is something I'll do moving forward as doing both always I might be fighting myself or over correcting.

    @ IrishDvl - Thanks man.  Off the bat stating you've not had a problem was encouraging.  I really was starting to worry.  Getting the coal fully lit seems to be key and a recurring them.  I actually thought it would lead to higher temps, but seems like it just helps give a complete burn.

    @ Tim - Confirmation again... that my experience has been user error.  Twenty hours?  That's awesome.  I'm going to stick with it until I can achieve that.

    @ fruitguy - Awesome tips and great step by step.  Good luck on adding another egg!

    @ CajunEggHead - Glad to hear all is well with your large.  My impression after all the posts is that I just needed a little coaching and was doing some things wrong.   Further I had some inaccurate info from non-XL users.  Trying not to polarize the issue, but the store I went to that was an egg dealer seemed extremely against the XL.  However, none of them had ever cooked on one.  So I was trying to see if I could get folks with XL experience to chime in.

    Thank you everyone.  I hope this posts goes a long way towards dispelling some XL myths.  It appears there are some good strategies and steps to getting the XL to lock low temps for long periods. 

    I've got to work on it... will likely put in some time this weekend and will let y'all know how I did.

    Jason
  • egzillaegzilla Posts: 37
    Some say its cheating....but I invested in a Party Q. It has made controlling temps easy on low and slow cooks.
  • TonyATonyA Posts: 549
    A couple other things to consider:

    1) make sure your thermometer is calibrated.

    2) make sure the seal between the lid and base is correct.

    3) 225 dome is only about 175-200 at the grate when you start to cook.  You can hold temps there but it is difficult.

    4) light a fire in multiple spots.  I usually do 3-4.





  • Ragtop99Ragtop99 Posts: 1,268
    If you lite in more than one place, the fires should be close together.  If using a starter cube, break it into 2 or 3 pieces and form a triangle with small distance, maybe 3" - 4".  The goal is to get a good core fire. 

    Like some others, when mine is warming up I'll may let the temp go upto 300* before closing down the vents.  Adding the meat and stone/platesetter will drop the egg's temp and then I usually have the bottom vent about 3/8" open and the DW holes 1/2 open.  I don't make any adjustments for at least a 1/2 hour to see how it stabilizes.  If it settles in too high, an adjustment of an 1/16" to 1/8" on the bottom vent is normally enough.  If it is too low, I'll open the DW holes.  After that, I wait another 1/2 hour.  The ceramics do not change temp quickly in the egg when you are fine tuning for low and slow.
    Cooking on an XL and Medium in Bethesda, MD.
  • travisstricktravisstrick Posts: 4,568
    All good stuff so far.

    I light in 3 places in as big of a triangle as possible. No reducing ring. (I use one now but I didn't for 2 years)

    Remember, 250 dome is about 225 at the cooking grid.

    I have no gasket. I shut the bottom vent completely on that low of a cook.

    My record is 32 hrs on one load of lump at 300 dome and no gasket.
    Be careful, man! I've got a beverage here.
  • dpittarddpittard Posts: 126
    My record is 32 hrs on one load of lump at 300 dome and no gasket.
    Whaaat?!  Did you just let it run as long as possible as a test or were you actually cooking something for 32 hours?

    LBGE with a massive wish list
    Athens, Ga.
  • travisstricktravisstrick Posts: 4,568
    Cooking many things. It was during a competition.
    Be careful, man! I've got a beverage here.
  • bccomstockbccomstock Posts: 332
     My record is 32 hrs on one load of lump at 300 dome and no gasket.

    ^:)^
    LBGE
    MS Gulf Coast - Proud member of the Who Dat Nation!
    My Not Frequently Updated Blog: http://datcue.wordpress.com
  • These dealers that discourage people from buying XL's are just idiots. Mine did that to me too. OK, I'll spend $500 less and get a large. Great business model.

    The XL is fine....better than fine, it's awesome. Just listen to these guys and you'll be fine. 225 is really lower than you need to be on the egg anyway. Those temps are more suited for cavernous offset smokers. And like Travis said, there is a difference in the dome temp and the temp at the grid. Your 225 is more like 200-210 at the grid which is too low and very hard to keep a fire going.

    I would start trying 250-260 at the dome and see what that does for you. 

  • Plano_JJPlano_JJ Posts: 448
    Cen Tex is right, I don't regret at all buying the XL at all, its a machine. I find 250 and up to be a breeze on the XL. And yes, I will only use the ring on normal cooks. Whenever I do a low and slow, I am going to use the whole fire box.
  • JayHawkEyeJayHawkEye Posts: 170

    Just keep cooking. Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team (didn't he?), and he turned out pretty good.

    For lighting, I stir up my old coals and dump in an 8 lb bag (or more) til full, then wedge in whatever wood I'm using into different spots of the lump. After that, I fill a chimney starter about 1/3 to 1/2 full of lump that I will be using and get it going. When it's ready I dump it in and wait for the temp to come up with the lower vent halfway open and without the daisy wheel. Once temp gets just past my desired temp I put the daisy wheel on with a full petal open, and then begin dialing it in to exact temps. I find that if I let it get too far past temp with that much lump, it may be hard to get back under control.

    I do not have a gasket and I haven't had problems holding low (250ish) temps. The biggest thing is taking the time to get it dialed in, and PRACTICE.

    "Take yourself lightly, but what you do seriously." - M. Martin
    XL BGE - Johnston, IA
  • LexellLexell Posts: 3
    I can't thank you all enough.  It's really great to get so much feedback. 

    I hope for others interested in getting an XL stumble upon this post as there is so much great info shared here for me and others in a similar situation.

    Thanks everyone!  And please if anyone else has tips or advice please don't hesitate to add.  I keep checking this and am just amazed at how much I've learned.

    Thank you all.
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 9,763

    Just keep cooking. Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team (didn't he?), and he turned out pretty good.

    For lighting, I stir up my old coals and dump in an 8 lb bag (or more) til full, then wedge in whatever wood I'm using into different spots of the lump. After that, I fill a chimney starter about 1/3 to 1/2 full of lump that I will be using and get it going. When it's ready I dump it in and wait for the temp to come up with the lower vent halfway open and without the daisy wheel. Once temp gets just past my desired temp I put the daisy wheel on with a full petal open, and then begin dialing it in to exact temps. I find that if I let it get too far past temp with that much lump, it may be hard to get back under control.

    I do not have a gasket and I haven't had problems holding low (250ish) temps. The biggest thing is taking the time to get it dialed in, and PRACTICE.

    He was cut from the Varsity team as a Sophomore; being deemed too short. The rest is history.

    Practice is right!
  • rholtrholt Posts: 360
    I love my XL. I haven't done it but I heard some guy on here say he put some large ball bearings in some of the grate holes to help hamper air flow. For what it's worth.... I would just stick with the aforementioned ideas.
  • The Cen-Tex SmokerThe Cen-Tex Smoker Posts: 11,799
    edited April 2013
    Pretty sure I got this figured out:

    If I read you right, you are lighting a very small fire, closing the dome as it creeps up to temp and then shutting down even further as you hit 225ish.

    I think you are lighting too small a fire, then having to leave the daisy and draft open to keep it from going out. Your fire either goes out, or you have to leave your draft/daisy open enough to keep this small fire going causing it to blow by your desired temps once it catches. If it catches with the dome down, your ceramics are now heated so you have to choke it down to cool it off (which takes forever since your dome is now hot) and then the fire goes out or too low and then you open it up and it goes too high and then we are chasing our tail for a few hours. It's very common when learning. We call it chasing temps. 

    Try this: Light and leave the dome open until its going pretty good. Like a grapefruit or even larger sized fire with white coals really going. Then shut the dome and put the daisy on and close down the draft door and adjust both to where it should be for a low and slow (you'll figure that out with time). It will settle in to your desired temp really quick but won't overshoot because you are not heating up the dome when it's open. You can make slight tweaks up and down until you lock in. It may not make much sense, but getting a stronger fire going with the dome open will  be much easier to control than a small fire trying to get going. The big fire will settle down to the smaller size, but when more lump is going up front, you have a better chance to get a good pocket that will survive when you choke it down.

    It's very important to know that very slight adjustment up or down can have consequences even 30+ minutes down the road. I've found a more stable fire before starting to adjust helps me keep them steady for hours

    good luck and keep it up. you'll get it soon






  • travisstricktravisstrick Posts: 4,568
    +1 for what CEN tex just said.
    Be careful, man! I've got a beverage here.
  • Charlie tunaCharlie tuna Posts: 2,191
    I cook on a large, but have cooked on two extra large belonging to my buddies without a hitch! Understanding "heat transfer" laws makes a whole lot of temperature control problems easier to work with. After reaching "stabilization" - and knowing REALLY what stabilization is - any temperature change "up" or "down" is caused by a reason. I am the type that reads the instructions after trying and failing on all options! If I had taken my time to take some mental notes during my first few months of cooking, it would have been a whole lot easier. Another important issue is realizing the reaction time of the egg which is helpful to reduce "temperature chasing". I just found out on my "low and slow" cooks that I can maintain lower cooking temperatures with a freshly cleaned egg?? That means wide open and clear holes in the fire grate? Of course my egg's reaction with a freshly cleaned fire grate is must faster. All these little things make operating the egg a lot easier.
  • LexellLexell Posts: 3
    Wow Cen-Tex you just described exactly what I was doing.

    My logic was... "keep the fire small and your temps won't race."

    But just like an airplane at slower speeds isn't as stable... a smaller fire is not as stable either.

    Yes, then I chase my tail for the next 3 hours as the fire tries to grow and I try to hinder it without putting it out. 

    I'm going to try exactly what you suggested on start up.  It makes sense and I doubt I ever would have guessed it as I was so focused on trying to keep the temperature from going too high by actions were centered around keeping the fire small.

    Great advice here and I'm really looking forward to putting this all into use this weekend. 

    Jason
  • Lexell said:
    Wow Cen-Tex you just described exactly what I was doing.

    My logic was... "keep the fire small and your temps won't race."

    But just like an airplane at slower speeds isn't as stable... a smaller fire is not as stable either.

    Yes, then I chase my tail for the next 3 hours as the fire tries to grow and I try to hinder it without putting it out. 

    I'm going to try exactly what you suggested on start up.  It makes sense and I doubt I ever would have guessed it as I was so focused on trying to keep the temperature from going too high by actions were centered around keeping the fire small.

    Great advice here and I'm really looking forward to putting this all into use this weekend. 

    Jason
    hopefully that will get you on more stable footing and your adjustments will be smaller and more targeted. We've all been there at one time or another. 

    That dealer is a moron. You should go teach an XL class for him in a few weeks when you have it figured out. he could use a lesson. let him pay you in lump and goodies :)







  • cortguitarmancortguitarman Posts: 2,008
    I only use one starter cube right on the middle for a low and slow on my XL. Centex hit the nail on the head when he said you were closing the dome too quickly. Let that fire starter burn put and get yourself a small pile of glowing coals. Add plate setter, drip pan, and grate and bring to final temp.
    I fill my fire box up until lump is almost touching the platesetter. I let it sit at the final temp, around 250-275 for a good 45 minutes. Then I know the fire is stable. I put the meat on, go to bed, and take it off when it's done the following afternoon. You'll get it. No worries.
    Mark Annville, PA
  • bettysnephewbettysnephew Posts: 817
    edited April 2013
    On my XL, I have had good luck using a chimney with about a third to half load of lump.  This is then dumped into the very center of the lump in the firebox.  I like that the coals in the chimney are going good so little or no problem of snuffing them out as I have done in the past when I lit in the firebox and then chased temperature like you have.  This works for me, but it actually sounds very similar to what others are telling you.  Lots of good advice here.
    Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • This post was the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone claiming that it was hard to control temperatures on the XL. I think those people are misinformed. I have never had even the slightest difficulty controlling the temp. On the contrary, using this thing has always been a dream. I do however have certain steps I always take. 

    First and foremost, I empty all the lump out of the egg the day after I cook - everytime. (BTW, I always keep all of the unburned lump in a bucket for next time.) Then I use a shop vac to vacuum out all of the ash. This way the Egg is clean and ready to go for the next time and I’ll never be concerned about whether my vent holes are clogged. In my opinion clogged holes are about the only thing that can make for an unpredictable cook.

    When I’m ready to cook again the first thing I do is put the largest chunks of lump on the bottom on the fire grate. Then I’ll add a little fresh lump, and then the leftover lump from the last cook, and then however much smoking wood I want to use, randomly spread throughout. I always fill the Egg at least three quarters full, regardless of what I’m cooking (I’m referring to smoking here, not grilling). I do this because I know I can always reuse what I don’t burn this time, and I’ll be certain that no matter what, I have plenty of fuel to make it easy to control the temp. Then I fill my chimney full of lump and light it using a propane torch – I don’t like the mess of the leftover burnt newspaper ashes, and the torch gets it going very nicely. Once the coals in the chimney are white hot, I pour them all over the top of the lump in the Egg. Then I put the plate setter and the cooking grate in place. I close the lid and open the bottom and top vent fully. Within 3 or 4 minutes I’ve got the coals roasting like a wildfire and the dome temp is climbing past 600 or more. What’s important here is that I haven’t gotten the ceramic super-hot yet which would make it hard to bring the temperature down. Now I’m ready to put the meat on. I set the daisy wheel so all its vents are open. I close the bottom vent down to about one eighth to one quarter of an inch. The temperature in the Egg will start dropping very quickly as long as it’s only been a few minutes since you started it. At this point I put the meat on and close the lid. The temperature is usually down to 200 or so at this point. Within just a few minutes I’m up to my target temp of 250-275. 

    Now that I’ve got lots of charcoal rocking and rolling inside the Egg, controlling the temperature is easy. All I have to do is control how much oxygen gets to it. I can do this entirely with the bottom vent. I rarely ever adjust the daisy wheel during a cook. The only time that ever comes into play is if for some reason the Egg gets low on charcoal and I’ve got to allow lots of air in, in order to bring the temperature up. If I have to go so far as to do this, I usually just remove the entire daisy wheel cap and hope I’m getting pretty close to the end of my cook. 

    To sum it up, when it comes to temperature on any smoker, not just the Egg, I think the important steps are: 1. ALWAYS clean it between cooks. 2. Use much more lump than you think you’ll need. You can always reuse what you don’t burn. 3. Keep a large fire going inside the Egg and control your temperature using the bottom vent only by adding or removing oxygen from the fire. Following these steps my temperature rarely ever deviates plus or minus 10 degrees. Which reminds me of one more thing, after making an adjustment on the vent, give it some time to settle out, don’t fiddle with it constantly. Anyhow, hope this helps someone. It works like a charm for me.
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