Attended my first eggfest today (in PA), and bought my first egg (a medium). I took notes on all the tips and tricks I heard, and tonight I transcribed them, and figured I'd post them in case they're useful to anyone else. Since I'm a newbie, they'll likely only be interesting to other newbies, though! thanks to forumites bill and Zippylip for all their advice and help.
First, if you possibly can, make the effort to get to an eggfest before buying. You get to taste lots of dishes from lots of cooks, an invaluable experience, because you'll get a sense of versatility, plus you'll see the quality level to shoot for (since the cooks at these things are expert veterans).
Plus, BGE people are extraordinarily generous with their know-how. I got tons of advice (yeah, sometimes contradictory, but you have to expect that) just from my telling people I'm new to BGE. It's sort of like this forum, only live.
Finally, you can get discounts on eggs and accessories at these things. So, really, DEFINITELY hit an eggfest if at all possible if you're getting into this.
Try several different temperatures for any given food/recipe. All temperatures can work, it's just a matter of choice.
The BGE doesn't care about quantity of coal. Cooking with BGE is about air, not coal.
any time you do direct cooking, you're getting grease and stuff in the lump. So once your food is done, open the egg all up and let the remaining lump burn up, self-cleaning the egg.
It can be helpful to use 1/2 brick sized fire bricks. e.g. put a grate, then bricks, then another grate (or vertical bricks for drip pan)
cooking at 400 degrees direct is more perilous than 500 degrees indirect.
you can use platesetter upside down over the grid (or on the ring), with an aluminum drip pan between the legs, and a grid on top.
use thicker cuts of brisket for better results
start fire with a folded up sheet of paper towel coated with cooking oil=....or use firestarters (paraffin cubes) from weber.com. You can also order firestraters cheap from Ace Hardware http://tinyurl.com/6rlnwk
for pork shoulder, use boston butt (a big tip is to buy bone-in). The guy at eggfest cooked it for 20 hours. Buy bear claws to do the final picking.
only light the lump in one spot! the rest will catch...slowly
let it creep up to target temperature...don't overshoot and then try to bring back down
you've got to aim for about 225...any less and you can't keep a stable temperature.
open bottom door 1/4"
play with the top
To keep at a consistent low temperature for hours is challenging. Buy a Guru to help ensure a consistent low temperature.
good smoking chips: apple. Also: jack daniels
heat egg to 750 degrees to start
get a good crust started for about 10 mins
then shut down until 400 degrees, and open it up again, as high as it will go
cook one side 6 mins, the other for 6 mins, then stand up.
when done, let the meat sit shut down for 10 minutes (remember to burp!). Thisis a good move for any cut of beef.
fish split, deboned, stuffed with parsley, onion, and lemon.
pour out an entire box of kosher salt, combine with a small carton of egg whites (as a binder), coat the fish, cook in egg 30 mins at 400 degrees. Use the meat for any purpose, even tacos
combine canned salmon, canned crab, feta cheese, peppers, onions, olive oil, and butter. bind with crushed saltine crackers (add the ground crackers at last minute).
start at 400-500
damp down top and bring down to 350
shake all of these ingredients in a bag: half-sharp penzey's paprika, old bay blackened seasoning, lemon, olive oil. no salt or pepper.
you can also soak in spiced rum, brown sugar, and ginger powder (you can optionally cook down those ingredients on a stove first)
cook an oven stuffer roaster in your egg at 350 in an aluminum pan, 20 mins per pound at 350. use birdwatcher thermometer.
You can use the vertical roasting gizmo for this recipe
SHOPPING LIST (spices, foods, accessories)
good brand of imported yakitori sauce: bansankan (japanese)
get a Thermopen at thermoworks.com. The blue one ($65 used) is recommended. A contrarian participant notes that fiddling with a thermometer has drawbacks: 1. you've got to take multiple readings, because different parts of the meat can cook at different rates, 2. while you're doing all this reading, the egg is open and losing heat, and 3. relying on thermometers can prevent you from developing the all-important seat-of-pants intuition.
good accessory: non-stick paella pan. the one from kitchen capers is recommended:
be careful not to go to hot with nonstick cookware (the coating can melt at high temp)
also: grill pan for vegetables (Oil grill pan before using)
buttercup squash (aka hubbard squash) cut into chunks is great in the egg...tastes like sweet potato. after cooking, try drizzling with rasberry syrup and bistro blends fig balsamic vinegar
note that the same company also sells an excellent finishing vintage balsamic vinegar:
"lone ranger" for cooking tools (I can't find the site...I must have spelled it wrong)
buy vertical chicken roaster from home depot, just $5 or so with drip dish (much cheaper than from the BGE people!).
maverick ET73 is a timer with remote control, that can alert you when your egg is up to temperature. the catch is that above a certain temperature (I think like 350), the probe melts.
the following seasonings are especially good with vegetables:
silver cloud herbs de provence (contains lavender!)
silver cloud Salt Provencal ("a combination of the finest Mediterranean herbs and spices with flaky crystal salt") (great with tomato dishes) http://www.silvercloudestates.com/viewproduct.aspx?id=201
spice hunter italian seasoning