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Various items I need help with

completelylostcompletelylost Posts: 4
edited November -1 in EggHead Forum
I want to start out by saying that I love my BGE. I have the large size, and my food always turns out great. However, I read forums and blogs and realize that my experience could be so much better. Here are the problems that I have. I'm hoping people have input.

Hot spots: Search the Internet for "Big green egg hot spots". You'll get a bazillion hits, and every one of them says that the BGE cooks evenly with no hot spots. How is this even possible? I use an electric lighter to light my BGE, and obviously because of its shape, it's only going to touch charcoal in one spot (middle to back middle). Isn't this obviously going to be a hot spot? When you guys cook burgers, for example, if you put one on the very edge and one in the very center, are you saying that they both cook exactly the same? This isn't my experience at all. I either have to limit what I cook so that it all fits close to the middle, or move things around quite often.

Leaving the BGE: Everything I read says that people get the temp set right, put their food on, and walk away. HOW? I find that with really low temperatures (less than 250), I can do this (I did pulled pork overnight and it was great! I've also done two roast beefs and a bacon explosion, and I was able to leave them alone without checking). But for things like burgers and chicken, I don't get how people do this. I get my temp steady, let's say at 400 degrees. Open BGE, put 5 burgers on grill. Close lid, temp is down to 250, due to me opening the grill and putting cold meat on. Wait a couple minutes, grill is up to 300. Open top wheel lid thing to get things heated quicker, temp goes too high, and I get flames. Close lid wheel thing a bit, etc etc. Look at watch, 8 minutes have passed. Time to flip and repeat the entire process. The longer food takes without needing to be flipped, the easier things are... but for something that only calls for 8 - 10 minutes per side, how do people walk away?

Too much food blocks air circulation: Everyone told me that the large size would be big enough. We're two adults and one young child, so that's what we bought.. but I find the grill gets covered quickly on some nights, and I totally lose heat. A couple examples - we put on a tray of veggies, which wasn't even that big (took up < half the grill) and three chicken breasts. The temp dropped from 450 to just over 200, and took FOREVER to get back up. I don't particularly like cooking chicken at 200 degrees. It ended up taking forever (close to 40 minutes).. mind you, it came out perfectly, but took waay too long. Another example is when we had a couple friends over. We made 10 burgers, which pretty much covered the grill... and never got our temp back above 250 (started at close to 500). I've seen so many videos and read so many posts from people who stack their grills. How do you maintain the temp?

I want to finish the same way I started, by saying that I love my BGE. I don't love standing next to it to monitor it constantly, and taking 40 minutes to cook something that should take 20 kind of sucks, but overall, my food comes out moist, tender and perfect.

Thanks to all for any insight you can offer.

Comments

  • (EDIT: looks like you made some edits since you first posted, so I am adjusting my response to help)

    I get more even heat if I raise my grid, and have a uniform fire lit. Most people say dump in all the charcoal you want, you can reuse the leftover. I agree with this, but for me to get an even heat, I limit the load to just more than I think I need. That way most of it is lit, and I have better chances of reducing hot spots. Going higher in the dome helps too. I cook a lot of chicken, and these two points help me get more even doneness across all pieces. Now if you go indirect, then its more even, its a different animal.

    I dont walk away from the food very much when I am grilling. Its hot, and the temp can change quickly. I think you might have a fire issue, how much of the lump bed is lit when you put your food on? I am wondering if you have a really hot section of the lump, but dont have a really big fire to cook across the entire cooking grid. Also, you may want to get your fire more stable, and the egg ceramics heated up more. If a 500 degree fire goes down to 250 by adding meat, you either dont have an established fire, or your thermometer needs to be checked.

    The egg will not cook faster than a gasser (if that is what you are used to). I just manage my meals differently than when I cooked on a gasser. I start the egg before we start prepping food or getting anything else ready. I also clean out the ash and get the egg ready for the next cook after it cools. Then the next time I want to use it, I add a little new lump, light, and its ready to go again. I also light with a weed burner, so I am ready almost instantly.

    John - SLC, UT

    Webers, Eggs, Bubba Keg

  • F308gt4F308gt4 Posts: 35
    Not all that experienced, but here's some thoughts:

    1) Hot spots- I get them too. Back of the grill seems hotter than the front. Not too much of an issue once you know where the hot spot is, just move food around if you need to etc. As for lighting the grill, I usually light in 3-4 spots using a propane torch. Works really well. Also, I let the grill heat up for about 30 minutes before I begin cooking- this lets the fire spread out more evenly, and burns off any potential off-smells in the lump.

    2) Leaving the grill. If I'm cooking at temps over 300, I don't use the metal top- I just leave it open, and control temp from bottom vent. This seems to work easier. Yes, the temp goes down when I open the grill, but it comes back up to temp pretty quick.

    3) Too much food- Haven't had this problem for the most part. I think it comes down to making sure you have a steady fire going.

    Hope this helps, and I'm sure you'll get more replies from the more experienced people on this forum.
  • don't worry about the temp going down when you open the grill.

    in reality, the only thing that cools down is the dome thermometer. your fire is the same, or actually hotter (from the influx of air).

    think of it this way... you are at 250. open the dome, and you see the temp drop. what happened? the thermometer was removed from the heat, a lot of fresh outside air came in and cooled it as well. all that extra air (much more air than comes in thru the lower vent) will still be there when you shut the dome.

    the extra oxygen will actually feed the fire,, and (in theory) could raise the temp, but only short term.

    ignore temp swings from opening and closing. they are immaterial, and as long as the vent settings are the same, the fire will return (choke back down) to its previous temp
  • Hot Spots: It's probably impossible to eliminate hot spots completely but when I need a consistent fire I light the lump in at least four places. I use wax based starter sticks and break them in half. (As the current Poll suggests, there are many ways to start your fire) Once the target temp is reached and stabilized, I let it sit for at least 30 minutes to insure an even burn.

    Leaving the BGE: Once your Egg is stabilized, you don't want to touch your settings. Put your food on and close the lid. It will come back to temperature. The drop you see on the thermometer is not due to a drop in fire heat, it actually increased with the addition of all that air you let in. It sounds like your return to temp problem is lack of confidence in your Egg. Let it do it's job

    Too Much Food Blocks Air Circulation: Food is not going to block your air flow as evidenced by the many photos posted here showing food crammed in every nook and cranny. I would suggest the problem is in your lump. I do not stack my lump the way many do, but every time I start my Egg I make sure all the old ash has fallen through the grate by stirring the used lump with the ash removal tool. After adding new lump, if necessary, I use my wiggle rod to ensure the lump is loose and plenty of air can get through. During the cook, if the heat starts to fall I will use the wiggle rod again and it usually remedies the problem. As far as cooking chicken in 20 minutes, I don't know. I spatchcock chicken direct on a raised grid at 375 dome. I close the lid and walk away for an hour later or so it's done to perfection.

    After all that, welcome to the Forum and keep on cooking. It will only got better.
  • MaineggMainegg Posts: 7,787
    I light with a weed burner and go all around the egg and into the center for a few seconds till it is all glowing. then give a bit of a stir to even things out. stirred before I started using the weed burner too and have some hot spots but nothing major.
    as for leaving.. I never really left the gasser when I was doing burgers to many flair ups. again back to the hot spot if it is bad just work around it.. and it should be recovering faster than that if you are up to temp and just add a few burgers. do you have the daisy wheel turn so the screw is in the right spot so when you open the lid it is not swinging and setting to a diff opening?
    and the same again with opening and closing make sure the daisy wheel is not moving. you should not have to touch that once you are to temp. when you open and close it will flair and drop temp but should come right back up again in a few minutes. give it time. we are all more aware I think with have that thermometer right there in front of us LOL never and thought about temp on the old gasser.
    three breast should not have dropped you that low for that long... weird... and I have never had a breast cook in 20 minutes unless it was pounded out thin and then only a few min a side :huh: but I think I figure about 30 - 40 for a breast of good size.
    and time help with learning the temp settings... I know pretty much on each of my eggs were I need to be for a certain temp. and they are not all the same either LOL
  • Wow, so many responses so quickly! Thanks to all who have answered so far. The big thing I'm seeing in the responses so far is to let it burn and get stable. That right there is probably my issue.

    I leave the lighter in for 7 - 8 minutes, yank it out, wait for the temp to hit the desired level, and then immediately put my food on.

    Oops. :)

    I'll give it longer next time, to let the fire spread and stabilize...

    Another common theme across the responses is to leave it like it is and the temp will come back. Due to being a bit obsessive, I haven't been very patient with it, but I'll give it a try.

    Thanks to everyone so far!!!!! I have enough to go on to give it another try.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,259
    Umm, yes, be patient and don't mess too much with your vent settings. When I first started, I would obsess about having the dome exactly at 250. And then, when I would open to bastes something like ribs (almost unnecessary with the Egg) and see the temp drop to 200 or lower, I would open the vents. Then close, Then open etc. Took me 6 months to settle down, and realize that for most cooks, 10 - 20 degrees either way only changes the amount of time the food will be on.

    Also, if you have a direct fire going, realize that a lot of IR is hitting the dome thermometer. When you put some food on, it can form a "shadow," and the dome therm will drop some, or a lot, depending on what went on.
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
     
    There are some very good responses above, here are some additional thoughts.

    I do at times have hot spots but they are not severe. I notice them more when cooking burgers, sausage and hot dogs. My hot spots, when apparent are usually towards the back of the egg close to the hinge.

    If your electric starter is an oval I would think the light would be more even, however, if your starter is narrow rectangular I would expect it to take longer to get an even burn unless you did some stirring of the lump after it was lit.

    I dump my lump and other than overnight or very long cooks I am not really that concerned about the ash in the lump bed.

    If you haven't done so calibrate your dome thermometer. Keep in mind the dome thermometer will fluctuate any time the dome is opened, food is put on in and or when new furniture is put in the egg.

    I have measured temperatures at the dome as well as at the grid level when opening the egg for a brisket cook (250° cook). The fall and return usually takes 3 to 7 minutes. Both the dome and grid level temperature will fall pretty equally and recover equally. If you are interested in seeing the chart let me know and I will post the chart so you can see the changes.

    It does take more time for the egg ceramics to get to temperature stabilize when cooking at higher temperatures. Usually I am able to stabilize in 15 to 25 minutes after lighting - the variance is due to the cook temperature.

    If you notice a quick high spike in the temperature I would look to see if the lump has flamed up, if that happens I take my glove or a cloth and cover the DFMT (daisy) for 15 or so seconds to kill the flames in the lump.

    Here is a link to the vent settings I use for different temperatures for my large and medium. My small and mini have to have a little different settings but they are not too far off what you see in this picture.

    Here is the link to Vent Settings, a Visual Guide

    GG
  • Capt FrankCapt Frank Posts: 2,578
    Completely lost, yes I think your biggest problem is not allowing enough time for your fire to get well established and for all the ceramics to heat up.
    I think one problem with electric starters is that they do only light the fire in one spot. That fire is going to burn straight down, not spread out. You might want to stir your hot coals around to help even out the fire, then allow 30 min or more for things to get going.
    I use a MAPP torch to light which allows me to quickly light in 4-5 places. B)
    Hope this helps :)
  • Thanks again to everyone for the replies. You've given me some great feedback.

    GG, thanks for the link to the vent settings. I found that before making my original post, and will definitely use it next time I BBQ.

    Also, I love your suggestion of covering the top when you get flames. Whenever I see flames, I start adjusting things, and that's where my problems start.

    On a final note, this is from the BGE site. It's the first bullet point, actually:

    "Fast lighting -- ready to cook in 10 minutes with no lighter fluid"

    That's why I wasn't waiting long enough. :(
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