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Newbie Q - Stabilizing Temp for Low & Slow (so I can sleep!)

jollyredjollyred Posts: 6
in Beef
Hello everyone,

I have had my BGE-XL for just over a month and have had several successful chicken and salmon grills... so this past weekend, I decided to try my first Low and Slow by smoking a pork butt.

Skipping to the end, the project was a complete success and everyone loved the pulled pork.  It took ~11.5 hours to get the meat to 200 and I chose to not wrap the meat when it hit 160 as I had plenty of time and, frankly, was too tired at that time in the middle of the night to screw with it.

So, here is my big question...

I found it very difficult to stabilize the temperature in the egg so I could sleep for more than 30-45 minutes without the temperature slowly climbing too high (> 275) or slowly dropping too low (< 225)...

Any advice you could share for how to reach a stable temperature for a low & slow cook, would be appreciated.

Here are a few more details that may provide helpful context:
  • I completely cleaned out the BGE before starting the fire
  • I used BGE-brand lump charcoal and filled the BGE up almost to the plate setter level.
  • I used a combination of new charcoal and the previously-loved charcoal I removed when I cleaned it out
  • I used two parafin fire starter squares to start the fire and also added three large chunks of cherry smoking wood which I had soaked for an hour before.
  • It was a calm night with little/no breeze and an outside temp of ~50-60F
  • I used a dual-probe Maverick remote thermometer to monitor both the egg and pork temps (This was my first time using the remote thermometer and I can't imagine how I would have done this without it!)
  • In both the slowly creeping up and slowly falling cases, I had closed both the top and bottom vents almost all the way... leaving maybe a 1/2" on the bottom and less on the top.
Intellectually, it seems reasonable that it would be very difficult to get the temperature to stabilize perfectly for a long period of time.  So, maybe it's normal that one would need to get out of bed every 45 minutes or so to either slightly open or slightly close the vents to keep the temp in the mid-200s range.  I know there are temperature control attachments I can purchase to help with this and maybe that's the answer.  But if anyone has any other suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Finally, attached is a photo of the finished product.

I do have a few other questions, but I'll post those in a different thread to not confuse the questions.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

-Jollyred (in San Jose, CA)


Comments

  • jabamjabam Posts: 1,782
    I do overnights all the time, what I have learned is don’t chase the temp. Anything within 25 degrees of your target grill temp is fine. 

    I will light my charcoal 1 1/2 hours before I want to put the meat on. I set my daisy wheel at half a petal, and leave it alone, fine tune the temp with the bottom vent. I like to let mine burn for an hour at stabilized temp, and then the throw on the protein. 

    Your temp will will change after you put on the meat, but leave it alone it will come back to your stabilized temp. 

    Good luck, and welcome aboard!
    Central Valley CA     One large egg One chocolate lab "Halle" two chiuahuas "Skittles and PeeWee"
  • jdkeithbgejdkeithbge Posts: 302
    Welcome!  Looks like the hard work and sleepless night paid off with a great end product.  I agree you might have chased temp too hard.  My other thought is, for my XL (back when I was doing it the hard way) I'd have the lower vent closed to maybe 1/8" to 1/4" for 250-ish temps, so you might have had it open a little too much.  

    If you really want to sleep like a baby during overnight cooks get a SMOBOT.

    Again, welcome to the forum and nice cook!
    XL BGE, CGS AR & spider, 36" SS Blackstone, SMOBOT - Flower Mound, TX
  • TEXASBGE2018TEXASBGE2018 Posts: 1,603
    Agreed as above. When I do a low and slow I get the temp where I want it and then close the vent to about 1/8” and the daisy wheel to about the same. Let it stabilize there for about an hour before putting meat on. Then let it stabilize with the meat on before going to bed. Unless you have a leak somewhere you should be able to hold temps within 15degrees or so of that all night unaided. I did one last weekend and went to bed at midnight when the dome temp with meat on was 250. It stayed at 250 until I took the food off 12 hours later and even stayed that way a couple hours after I took the meat off and closed everything down. Try the dollar bill test to ensure you don’t have a leak.

    Rockwall, Tx    LBGE, 36" Stainless Blackstone Griddle, Contemplating which size Egg to get next. Cast Iron Hoarder.

    "You may all go to Hell and I will go to Texas"- Davy Crockett

  • jollyredjollyred Posts: 6
    Thanks, jabam, jdkeithbge, and TEXASBRE2018.

    One thing you've mentioned is to let the temp stabilize at a consistent temp for about an hour before putting food on.  I did not do that.  Once I had the temp stabilized for about 10 minutes, I put on the food... and then spent the next few hours trying to get it to stabilize again.

    Next time, I'll try to give it more time before I put on the food.

    I don't think I have a leak, given how new the egg is.  Also, I haven't seen smoke coming out of any parts of the seal.  But I can try the dollar bill test as well, to be sure.

    Thanks again for the helpful suggestions.

    P.S. How do I change the tag on this post to "pork" instead of "beef"?  Or some other more relevant tag?
  • pabpab Posts: 258
    As far as changing the tag, I don't think you need to. I found this post on the main forum page. As far as temps go, I bet you were shooting for 225* as that is what everything you read about low and slows has as the holy grail. That is actually the temp that stick burners shoot for. Your temp climbed up a bit because your egg has a sweet spot. On my large it is about 275* with bottom vent open about the thickness of a credit card and the petals of the daisy wheel open about a quarter of the way. Temp stays very stable and several hours are cut off the cooking time. As others have mentioned let the temp stabilize. 25/50* is not worth chasing temps for on the egg on low and slows. Many on here cook all of their butts turbo at 325/350* and don't do over nights at all.
    Nerk Ahia LBGE
  • YukonRonYukonRon Posts: 13,200
    I do low and slows frequently, and have been able to do several around the 225F range overnight. I would always get up and check, and go back to bed without having to adjust anything. Temp fluctuation will happen, with or without temp controllers. 
    I started using a Smobot, and have been very pleased with the results. Pretty cool tool, and you can monitor the temps from anywhere.
    "Knowledge is Good" - Emil Faber

    XL and MM
    Louisville, Kentucky
  • jtcBoyntonjtcBoynton Posts: 2,225
    jollyred said:
    ....
    So, here is my big question...

    I found it very difficult to stabilize the temperature in the egg so I could sleep for more than 30-45 minutes without the temperature slowly climbing too high (> 275) or slowly dropping too low (< 225)...

    Any advice you could share for how to reach a stable temperature for a low & slow cook, would be appreciated.

    Here are a few more details that may provide helpful context:
    • .....
    • It was a calm night with little/no breeze and an outside temp of ~50-60F
    • I used a dual-probe Maverick remote thermometer to monitor both the egg and pork temps (This was my first time using the remote thermometer and I can't imagine how I would have done this without it!)
    • In both the slowly creeping up and slowly falling cases, I had closed both the top and bottom vents almost all the way... leaving maybe a 1/2" on the bottom and less on the top.
    Intellectually, it seems reasonable that it would be very difficult to get the temperature to stabilize perfectly for a long period of time.  So, maybe it's normal that one would need to get out of bed every 45 minutes or so to either slightly open or slightly close the vents to keep the temp in the mid-200s range.  I know there are temperature control attachments I can purchase to help with this and maybe that's the answer.  But if anyone has any other suggestions, I would love to hear them.
    .......
    Temps should hold steady for a long time without adjustments (hours not 45 minutes).  A fixed vent setting means a fixed air flow which means a fixed fire which means a fixed heat amount which means a steady temperature - assuming the heat loss is steady. If the outside temps and conditions don't change significantly during a cook, the egg will hold very steady.

    The temperature fluctuation you were measuring was based on the grid level probe, correct?  Were you getting the same fluctuations measured by the dome thermometer.  Even when there is no actual change in heat a grid probe temperature can vary during a cook.  Was there and air gap below the drip pan? did you start out with water in the drip pan?

    It also sounds like you were making too big of vent adjustments. Make small adjustment and give the egg time to reach a new steady state - it takes time for the ceramic to add or lose heat which is required before a new steady state can be achieved.  Small adjustment and then at least 15 minutes before adjusting again. Before you add the items to be cooked make sure you have steady temps for an hour or so. Add the cold meat and do not make any vent adjustments. Give the egg time to recover back to the steady state before making any vent adjustments.  Consider moving the Maverick ambient probe up to dome.  Try making adjustment to your vents with either the bottom or top vents, not both at the same time.  When you adjust both at the same time you have no idea which actually is now limiting the air flow.  You should learn how to control temps before going the controller route.
    Southeast Florida - LBGE
    In cooking, often we implement steps for which we have no explanations other than ‘that’s what everybody else does’ or ‘that’s what I have been told.’  Dare to think for yourself.
     
  • jollyredjollyred Posts: 6
    Thanks for the helpful advice, everyone.

    jtcBoynton said:
    The temperature fluctuation you were measuring was based on the grid level probe, correct?  

    [JR] Yes. 

    [jtcB] Were you getting the same fluctuations measured by the dome thermometer.

    [JR] Good question. I don't remember.  I was mostly trusting the Maverick grid-level thermometer.  Honestly, I have not yet calibrated my dome thermometer and so was trusting the Maverick more.

    [jtcB] Even when there is no actual change in heat a grid probe temperature can vary during a cook.  

    [JR] Even with indirect?  I can understand that with a direct fire and hot/flaring coals underneath you would get grid temp fluctations... but I thought an indirect cook should have a fairly consistent grid temp.

    [jtcB] Was there and air gap below the drip pan? did you start out with water in the drip pan?

    [JR] No, I placed the drip pan directly on the plate setter and filled it half-way with water.  I never added more water and the water clearly evaporated during the cook.  I assume an air gap would help keep the water from evaporating as quickly?  The problem is that the sides of the drip pan were already so high that I ended up resting the grid on the drip pan, rather than the legs of the plate setter.  If I had added anything else under the pan, it would have been even taller.  I guess I could find an aluminum drip pan with shorter sides, though... or cut/fold down my current aluminum pan sides.

    [JR] What is the purpose of the water in the drip pan?  I assume it is intended to keep the meat moist, so I'm fine doing it.  But what are the trade-offs?

    [JR] Thanks again for the helpful advice.

    -Jollyred

  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 23,755
    soaking the wood chunks and water in the pan holds the temps down, when the water is gone the temps spike up. dont soak or use water in the pan, its not needed. i only use the large for this but your vents are too open. once stabilized the cold meat goes on, dont touch the vents for a good 3 to 4 hours if at all.  set the maverick up with a wider alarm range, say 185 and 285, you can raise or lower the temps in the morning to speed things up or slow them down timewise
  • billt01billt01 Posts: 827
    edited May 8
    The issue is how the egg is shaped and how the charcoal is distributed. The trick is how to regulate the air flow. As the charcoal burns down, it will light "neighboring" coal which will cause its "neighbors" to lite and you pretty much have a chain reaction. Even with the bottom vent "choked" down, the air can be sucked in through the vent which is "food" for fire. 

    you are just going to have to find out what works for you, keeping in mind humidity, charcoal, and temperature will all be moving variables in your quest for steady temperatures..

    to add..

    i wouldn't blink an eye to temp fluctuations of 50 to 75 degrees...
     "Don't listen to her, Bob.Remember: those who can, do; those who can't, teach."
                                                                                                     -Jane
                                                                                                     "Man and Superman"
    Have:
    LBGE / Stumps Baby XL / Couple of Stokers (Gen 1 and Gen 3), Blackstone 36

    Had:
    Lang 60D, Cookshack SM150, Stumps Stretch, Stumps Baby

    Fat Willies BBQ
    Ola, Ga

  • jtcBoyntonjtcBoynton Posts: 2,225

    [jtcB] Were you getting the same fluctuations measured by the dome thermometer. 

    [JR] Good question. I don't remember.  I was mostly trusting the Maverick grid-level thermometer.  Honestly, I have not yet calibrated my dome thermometer and so was trusting the Maverick more.
         ---I would trust a calibrated dome thermometer just as much, probably more.

    [jtcB] Even when there is no actual change in heat a grid probe temperature can vary during a cook.  

    [JR] Even with indirect?  I can understand that with a direct fire and hot/flaring coals underneath you would get grid temp fluctations... but I thought an indirect cook should have a fairly consistent grid temp.
         ---  Yes.  Drafts can change locations. Distance to meat makes a difference and as the meat cooks its impact on the temp reading changes. Closeness to a drip pan with water makes a difference and when you run out of water you will see major changes.

    [jtcB] Was there and air gap below the drip pan? did you start out with water in the drip pan?

    [JR] No, I placed the drip pan directly on the plate setter and filled it half-way with water.  I never added more water and the water clearly evaporated during the cook.  I assume an air gap would help keep the water from evaporating as quickly?  The problem is that the sides of the drip pan were already so high that I ended up resting the grid on the drip pan, rather than the legs of the plate setter.  If I had added anything else under the pan, it would have been even taller.  I guess I could find an aluminum drip pan with shorter sides, though... or cut/fold down my current aluminum pan sides.
         ---  The water is a heat sink.  When it evaporated that heat sink was gone and the temp inside the egg had to rise. If air gapped the water will last longer.

    [JR] What is the purpose of the water in the drip pan?  I assume it is intended to keep the meat moist, so I'm fine doing it.  But what are the trade-offs?
         ---  Doesn't keep the meat moist like many think.  Does keep the meat surface moist longer which can help smoke adhere to the meat (although most people can get plenty of smoke with out it).  Its best use is to keep drippings from burning.

    [JR] Thanks again for the helpful advice.
    Southeast Florida - LBGE
    In cooking, often we implement steps for which we have no explanations other than ‘that’s what everybody else does’ or ‘that’s what I have been told.’  Dare to think for yourself.
     
  • MickeyMickey Posts: 18,878
    edited May 9
    In a lot of years Egging I have learned one thing that makes Egging so much better for me. Get rid of every wire going into an Egg (NO WIRES EVER). Stop doing any overnight cooks. I 100% cook everything TURBO. NIGHTS ARE FOR EASY SLEEPING NOT EGGING. 
    Also never add water inside your Egg. 
    Salado TX Egg Family: 3 Large and a very well used Mini, added a Mini Max (I'm good for now). 

  • TheophanTheophan Posts: 2,301
    Mickey said:
    In a lot of years Egging I have learned one thing that makes Egging so much better for me. Get rid of every wire going into an Egg (NO WIRES EVER). Stop doing any overnight cooks. I 100% cook everything TURBO. NIGHTS ARE FOR EASY SLEEPING NOT EGGING. 
    Also never add water inside your Egg. 
    Completely, strongly agree!  There is NO advantage to a longer cook.  People get the idea that pork butts need to be smoked at 225° or even lower.

    Nope.

    275° is NOT too high!  If the pork butt isn't huge, I usually start early in the morning and keep the Egg 250°-275°, and if necessary, raise it a bit higher later in the day, but usually they're done by dinner time and I don't have to a lot higher than 275°-300° most of the time.  They're not any better at all smoked slower.  Try it and see for yourself!

    Plus, it doesn't happen often, but no kidding, there have been people who have had terrible house fires from grills and smokers, including Big Green Eggs!  No way in the world am I going to sleep with a fire burning near my house!  Yeah, I know, lots of people do it and their houses didn't burn down.  But that has happened to some people, and I've seen the pictures.  Not me.  Before I go to bed I go out and check the Eggs one more time just to make sure the fire is OUT.
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 23,755
    turbo butt cooks are not for everyone. i put a butt in at 11 at night, get up at 4 am and pack a lunch, get on the boat and fish past noon. i get off the boat and eat. its not an event for me, i simply forget about it til the time is right to eat. no way im wasting a saturday or sunday to cook a butt, well maybe if theres a hurricane, but ive fished those too =)
  • jollyredjollyred Posts: 6
    Wow.  So much useful advice.  Thanks again, everyone.

    I can not be more grateful for the helpful advice everyone has provided.  I will definitely feel more confident with my next smoked pork butt!
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