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Brand new Big Green Egg owner -- a few questions!

Hey everyone,

This is my first post here.  Just got a Big Green Egg last week and couldn't be happier!  I do have some questions, and having lurked here for a while, I figured this was the best place to ask them.  

1)  Is it necessary to keep your egg covered when it's not in use?   I don't have a cover right now.  I'm going to be building a table for my egg in the next couple weeks, so I've been holding off getting one until that's done.  My question is whether the purpose of the cover is to preserve the aesthetics of the exterior of the egg (from bird-droppings etc) or whether it's necessary functionally.  Am I foolish for leaving my egg uncovered for a couple weeks until I get the table made and buy an appropriately sized cover?  

2)  Like most newbies, I'm having some trouble regulating the temperature.  Yesterday, I cooked a steak, and I had to have the vents pretty darn open to get it up to 400 degrees.  Then, later in the cook, leaving the vents that wide open caused the temp to shoot way up.  I'm starting the fire with one BGE Charcoal Starter placed in the center of the coal.  Could it be that only the center of the coal is lit initially and that's why in the early stages of the cook, it's harder to get the temp up, but then in the later stages, once the rest of the charcoal has caught fire too, those same vent setting shoot the temperature up?  

3)  As a sort of piggyback on the last question, how do you guys start your fires?  Like I said, mine is done with a single BGE starter in the middle of the coal, but I'm concerned, that's causing the heat to be isolated only to the few coals in close proximity to the starter.  Should I use more than one starter and place them all around the coals?  Should I light with a different method altogether?  For what it's worth, I'm using the BGE charcoal.

Any help you guys can give would be thoroughly appreciated.  Thanks so much!
Southern California

Comments

  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,514

    I have never covered any of my eggs in fifteen years of Canadian winters.

    I hate starter cubes, slow and lousy taste. I use a map torch, light in three places, leave the lower vent and the dome open for a few minutes This allows the fire to establish without heating the ceramic too much. Then close the dome and dial in my temp. Eventually you will be able to set the temp without looking at the thermo.

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 5,353

    With regard to lighting, there are many ways to get the lump burning (cubes, paper towel and oil, electric starter, mapp torch etc-try a search with big green egg in your query), but if you want high temps fairly quickly then light in three or four places (as @LS says).  If low&slow is the target then I only light in one spot (center).  Lower vent open and dome up until I have a good section of lump burning (hot and fast) or about a softball sized amount (Low&slow) then shut dome and set vents.

    Related- make sure you calibrate your dome thermo (boiling water and around 212*F).  And try to catch the temp on the way up-much easier to raise temp than to lower it once the ceramics get hot.

    And welcome to your new obsession!

    Louisville
  • MickeyMickey Posts: 15,012
    image
    Salado TX Egg Family: 2 Large and a very well used Mini, just added a Mini Max 5th Salado EggFest is March 14, 2015 http://saladoeggheadgathering.blogspot.com

  • freedog74freedog74 Posts: 60
    @Mickey- I like that setup for getting the lump burning in the egg. 
  • CharlieTNCharlieTN Posts: 177
    Welcome aboard.  This is a great place for tons of info and some good natured fun as well.

    As to your questions, in my limited experience here is what I've found

    1.  Not sure as for long term but I do know I've seen photos of eggs that were 8-10 years old and they looked great.  Mine has weathered some pretty nasty rain storms and works great (even one good shower while cooking on it).

    2.  I have found the same problem and to me it seems to be the worst when I use the lighter cubes.  It appears that I'm getting an initial temp spike as the cube burns off due to the flame.  In the process it has only lit a small area of the lump and therefore has a hard time keeping the temp up there.  When it this phase it seems to take a good bit to then get the temp up to the point I need it at.  After a few minutes the temp will seem to start skyrocketing up if I have the vents wide open but there is an initial stall up to this point when only lighting with 1 cube.  However if I use the mapp torch and light a larger area or 2-3 areas with it then I can get the temp up quite hot rather quickly and get the egg stabilized quicker.

    3.  So far I've tried a single lighter cube with the observed result as mentioned above.  I have not tried using multiple cubes as I would rather just use the mapp torch then.  And of course I have used the mapp torch.  I'f I'm trying to get the egg up to temp quickly for a weekday evening cook (read that less time) then I prefer the torch.  Otherwise they both work fin.


  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,288
    Eggs don't need a cover, but if they sit uncovered in rainy, damp conditions for a couple of weeks, the ceramic absorbs water. Makes them slow to start, and the water, black w. soot, may ooze out of the outside as it heats up. Not a problem, just looks nasty.

    Your surmise in question 2 is correct. If you continue to use starter cubes, break them into pieces so that more places are lit at the start. Before I switched to a weed burner for starting, I used 2 cubes broken in half, so that I had 4 places burning.

    BGE lump is good stuff, and is made by Royal Oak. Eggers tend to pay a lot of attention to lump. Visit the Naked Whiz lump charcoal database for careful comparisons and ratings of many brands. There are a few brands that are known to spark when used at high temperature, but the differences between most are how much ash they produce, and how long the burn time is. And price.
  • bicktravbicktrav Posts: 452
    Great replies!  Thanks so much for the help.  I think I'm going to try a couple alternate lighting methods and see if that makes the temp easier to regulate.  Anyone use the BGE electric charcoal starter?  Is it big enough to get a good swath of coals smoking?
    Southern California
  • bo_mullbo_mull Posts: 267

    @bicktrav  I use the electric starter from BGE. It does pretty good and lights a ring of about 5 inch dia. The problem with it is it stays hot for a little bit after its unplugged. I usually set it on the concrete patio and I have to watch the kids around it so they don't get burned. Overall it is better than the starter cubes but not as fast as a map torch or weed burner.

    Cleveland, TN.

    LG BGE, PSWOO2, Stoker WIFI.

  • ChokeOnSmokeChokeOnSmoke Posts: 1,697
    bicktrav said:
     Anyone use the BGE electric charcoal starter?  Is it big enough to get a good swath of coals smoking?
    I've tried just about everything and have been using a generic electric starter for a couple years now.  They work great and there's nothing cheaper out there.  Pile the lump onto the starter, light for 8 minutes, pull it out and gently stir the lump.  Put the lid down and wait another 8-10 minutes, you're ready to grill.  If you're using the plate setter, it take a little longer to get up to heat, obviously.
    Packerland, Wisconsin

  • I use the bge starter. Works great. Lights in about 5 minutes. I used to have problems with temp control but it just takes a bit of practice. Small adjustments to the air flow was the key for me. And good lump. using Ozarka Oak now but its pretty expensive since I have to ship it. Just bought a 34lb bag of Stubbs lump from costco for $16. Going to see how that is.
  • ShiffShiff Posts: 1,174
    I also do not like the waxy starters.  I use alcohol now and find it great and very safe compared to the weed burners, etc.  Here is what I do:

    I start my charcoal using 91% alcohol purchased at Walmart. I use a pencil to poke a tiny hole in the seal and then  squirt a little alcohol in 4 places in a circle about 4 inches in from the outside rim of the charcoal. Then a little squirt in the center.  Wait a few seconds then toss in a match.

    Alcohol burns clean and quickly starts the charcoal. It is very safe as long as you stand back a little when dropping in the match.  The warmer the day, the more  it evaporates before lighting and can cause a flash.  In the winter, it doesn't evaporate and I actually have to hold the match at the squirt points.
    Barry Lancaster, PA
  • tnbarbqtnbarbq Posts: 248
    I do use a cover if I'm not going to use the egg for a while. It may not be necessary but it makes me feel better. As far as lighting it, I use paper towels and cooking oil. That does just fine.
    Scooter 
    Mid TN. Hangin' in the 'Boro. MIM Judge
  • reh111reh111 Posts: 150
    I use an electric starter and find that it works best.  One of the issues that I have learned about is to keep the grid that the coals sit on clear of small pieces that clog it up and restrict air flow.  The grid that comes with the BGE has holes in a flat metal plate.  Those holes tend to get clogged up fairly easily.  I ordered a grate off of Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Stainless-Charcoal-Grate-Upgrade-Large/dp/B004XU1FES/ref=sr_1_49?ie=UTF8&qid=1370477385&sr=8-49&keywords=grill+grate) which, as you can see has larger openings and allows more air flow.  It works great and I don't have to clean out the BGE as often to get the smaller parts of charcoal out of the grate.

    I open the lower vent all the way, put the starter in and leave the top open until it's starting to flame.  Then take the starter out, close the top but leave the dome vent open until the smoke coming out of it turns clear.  Your fire is ready.  If the temp is too high by that point, close down the lower vent to partially open and close the daisy wheel on top to where the holes are just partially open until the temp gets to where you want.  Be careful, if the temp is too high you need to "burp" the top or when you lift the top you will get a fire ball coming at you.  Singed eyebrows and hair will teach you.

    The other most important thing I learned was to calibrate the thermometer.  They're not always accurate.  Water boils at 212 degrees.  Take the thermometer and hold the tip in boiling water to check it.  If it's not right adjust with a pair of pliers or wrench on the nut on the back side of the gauge.

    Have fun.
  • sariverssarivers Posts: 67
    I've had my egg since February and do not have a cover.  It looks fine.  I cook on it 4 or more times a week though. 

    I have been using 2 different methods of lighting the lump.  Sometimes I take a BGE starter cube and break it in half.  Put half in the middle, lite it and have a beer.  I save the other half for another day.  Another method is one I learned on this site.  Tear single sheets of paper towels, stack them and put them in an empty coffee can, soak them with cooking oil, let them sit for a week then use 1 sheet in the middle of the egg for each lite.  If you search this forum you should find the directions.  I use this most of the time and it works great. 

    As far as temperature control.  This may be what I like most about the egg, other than the results.  With a little experience you will learn how much you need to open the bottom vent and the daisy wheel vent for every temp you want.  I don't use any artificial means to control the temp and have locked it on 250 F. for more than 18 hours without it varying more than 1 or 2 degrees.  The key to this is don't make too frequent adjustments. Give it time to stabilize after each adjustment. Don't open the top to look at how you are doing and don't stir the lump after you lite it.  Trust your dome thermometer after you calibrate it. 

    I'm learning that all this is really more simple than what we try to make it.  I don't get in a hurray.  I enjoy each cook.  I like to listen to ballgames or music and enjoy some beer during each cook. My biggest regret is that I did not get an egg 10 years ago.  
    Columbia, SC

  • KennyLeeKennyLee Posts: 583
    I Just bought a 34lb bag of Stubbs lump from costco for $16. Going to see how that is.

    Don't want to send you in with a negative attitude, but don't get your hopes up.  I just finished the same 34-lb bag and was glad to get it over with.  The Cowboy I replaced it with is far better.

    For the OP, I find the torch method the best.  I just use a Benzomatic propane torch from HD and light in about four spots and takes all of about two minutes, usually ready to cook in 10-15.

    LBGE

    Cedar table w/granite top

    Ceramic Grillworks two-tier swing rack

    Perpetual cooler of ice-cold beer

  • KennyLee said:
    I Just bought a 34lb bag of Stubbs lump from costco for $16. Going to see how that is.

    Don't want to send you in with a negative attitude, but don't get your hopes up.  I just finished the same 34-lb bag and was glad to get it over with.  The Cowboy I replaced it with is far better.

    Ouch. That's not good. That's a lot of lump. What did you not like about it?


  • KennyLeeKennyLee Posts: 583

    @s_austin_egger Lots of really small pieces and dust in my bag.  Also seemed to burn way too fast and put out way more ash than any other I've used.  I can normally get at least two and sometimes three cooks out of most lump, maybe adding a handful for the next cook.  But with this even on a quick grill, when I opened my Egg for the next cook, most of it was gone.

    I mean, it works, just not as good as others in my experience.  Could have been a bad bag and I hope you like it better than I did. 

    LBGE

    Cedar table w/granite top

    Ceramic Grillworks two-tier swing rack

    Perpetual cooler of ice-cold beer

  • Rick GRick G Posts: 166
    I have had my large for about ten years and never had a cover on it until about a year ago.  The glaze on the egg has all these micro cracks and I just assume that is normal.  Last year I noticed that while warming the egg for a cook that the egg would start to weep moisture.  I would wipe it off and it would come right back until the egg got nice and hot. It did this several times over several cooks.  I didn't worry about it until a piece of the glaze about the size of a fifty cent piece flaked off.  I was NOT impressed.  So I bought a very nice canvas cover for it and ever since the weeping has stopped and no more flaking.  Could be a fluke but I think it would be wise to cover.  Just my opinion though.
  • bicktravbicktrav Posts: 452
    sarivers said:

    As far as temperature control.  This may be what I like most about the egg, other than the results.  With a little experience you will learn how much you need to open the bottom vent and the daisy wheel vent for every temp you want.  I don't use any artificial means to control the temp and have locked it on 250 F. for more than 18 hours without it varying more than 1 or 2 degrees.  The key to this is don't make too frequent adjustments. Give it time to stabilize after each adjustment. Don't open the top to look at how you are doing and don't stir the lump after you lite it.  Trust your dome thermometer after you calibrate it. 
    How long would you say it takes for the temperature to stabilize after each adjustment of the vents?  

    All of these posts have been incredibly useful by the way.  Thank you to everyone!
    Southern California
  • sariverssarivers Posts: 67
    edited June 2013
    bicktrav said:


    sarivers said:

    As far as temperature control.  This may be what I like most about the egg, other than the results.  With a little experience you will learn how much you need to open the bottom vent and the daisy wheel vent for every temp you want.  I don't use any artificial means to control the temp and have locked it on 250 F. for more than 18 hours without it varying more than 1 or 2 degrees.  The key to this is don't make too frequent adjustments. Give it time to stabilize after each adjustment. Don't open the top to look at how you are doing and don't stir the lump after you lite it.  Trust your dome thermometer after you calibrate it. 

    How long would you say it takes for the temperature to stabilize after each adjustment of the vents?  

    All of these posts have been incredibly useful by the way.  Thank you to everyone!


    Once the egg gets stable the first time I usually make very small adjustments after that. I will wait 5 to 10 minutes after each adjustment until it stabilizes again. I do that until it gets to very close to my desired temp. If I'm cooking at a low temp it may take 45 minutes or more but that's never a problem for me. I've seen it said on this web site that you should not chase a temperature. In my mind making too quick adjustments is just that.
    Columbia, SC

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