I know much of this has been addressed quite a bit, but I haven't been able to find concise answers using the search function. I'm relatively new to the egg. It's been incredible so far, but the temperature thing is troubling me. I'm using BGE charcoal starters, generally placing two in the upper section of the lump. I light them, leave the lid open and let the fire burn for about 7 minutes--the time specified on the BGE website. After 7 minutes, I close the lid and open the vents. So here's where I start running into trouble. My questions are as follows:
1) How do I arrive at my target temperature? I know it's a very basic question, and there's a lot of info on this, but I'm still having a hard time figuring it out. I can get the fire going no problem, and if I leave the vents open, I can get the temperature very high. But I saw a thread a while ago that had pictures showing where you ought to set your vents for certain temperatures. To get a 400 degree fire, the photos showed that the bottom vent should only be open maybe 1/2 inch and the DW should barely be cracked. After I get the fire going and close the dome, setting the vents that way doesn't get me anywhere near 400. Instead, the only way for me to get to 400 is to open the vents fairly wide--probably around an inch and a half on the bottom and a wide open DW on top--to cause the temp to climb. Is the idea that you have the vents wide open for the climb; then once you start to approach your target temp--say once you get within 15 degrees or so--you close them to the settings shown in those photos? I've been trying to do that, but it's very difficult for some reason. How do you all reach your target temp?
2) Once you arrive at your target temp how do you stabilize it? My temp doesn't seem to want to stay put. The other night, for example, I was cooking a pork loin, and I thought I had the temp stabilized at 350. I came back about 10 minutes later, and it was up at 375. That's not a huge jump, and it didn't really affect the cook, but it made me concerned about being able to maintain a temperature. If I'm doing a low and slow cook, I don't want to have to check the temp every ten minutes to make sure I don't need to adjust the vents. Do you all find that once you've dialed in a temp, you are able to keep it there indefinitely? What are your tips on stabilizing?
3) Opening and closing the dome really seems to mess things up for me. I try to do it as little as possible, but obviously there are times when you have to open it. So let's say I have a 350 degree fire going. It's been at 350 for a couple minutes and the temp dial doesn't seem to be going anywhere, so I assume it's stable. Then I open the dome to put food on. Let's say I'm cooking a meat, some sweet potatoes and vegetables. Naturally, it will take me a moment or two to get all of those items on the grill. When I finally do manage to get everything on, what often happens is I close the dome only to notice that the temp has skyrocketed (presumably because while the dome was open I was flooding the fire with oxygen). So how do you deal with opening and closing? Do you open at a lower temperature if you know it's going to take you a while to get everything on the grill so as to offset the temp increase that comes as a result?
4) When I cook indirect, I'm not sure when to put the plate setter in. Should I put it in in the very beginning, right when I'm lighting everything, or should I wait until after I've let the starters burn for 7 minutes and I'm about to close the lid?
5) If I'm adding wood chips or chunks, when should I put them into the fire? Should I load them in with the lump before I even light it? Should I only add them right when I'm about to add the meat? If you don't put them in from the start, how do get them beneath a plate setter when you're doing an indirect cook without having the dome open for a very long time (to take out the plate setter, add the wood, then replace the plate setter) and increasing the temperature as a result?
Anyhow, I know these are a lot of questions. Sorry for the bombardment. Just trying to figure it all out. Thanks!