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Big Green Egg temperature controls (my never-ending search for them)

Ever since I bought an XL Big Green Egg with my wife’s permission last month, I’ve been on a mission to learn temperature control. There’s a plethora of BGE info on the Internet with YouTube videos, Facebook groups, and wonderful message boards like this etc., but very, very little of it all has to do with teaching newbies like me about controlling temps. 

To me, everything else is useless (the great recipes and techniques posted in here, etc.) until I learn what’s going on inside my BGE. That’s the foundation. Once I get that down, I’m ready for the rest. But I’m nowhere close, as my temps are as inconsistent as Eli Manning. (I even cussed at my BGE on Tuesday, and called it a "Webber." I apologized later)

Last Saturday, I was so desperate that I signed up for a cooking class at BGE headquarters on my one day off. The instructor was awesome, but we didn’t get into temp controls as much as I would’ve liked, probably due to time constraints.

I’m going to post what I’ve learned below, along with my thoughts and questions. Perhaps some of you pitmasters can offer a little wisdom and guidance to an Egghead wannabe like me. Hopefully other newbies in the future can find this post in a google search and learn from you all, too.

Here goes: I’m aiming for a low-and-slow cook at 225-250 degrees.

1. Clean out the fire box every few uses, and make sure the box is aligned with the lower vent. Also, make sure the fire ring is aligned properly, and that the holes in the fire grate are clear in order to get good air flow. It’s all about that air flow!

2. Fill up the fire box to almost the top with lump charcoal, and start it with a cube or Mapp. I let this go on for 10-15 minutes with both the lid open and the bottom vent all the way open.

Here is where my questions begin:

3. Again, I’m going for 225-250. So after that first 10-15 minutes, I put the lid down, and then close both the top vent and bottom vent about halfway. Or was I supposed to do it sooner? Or do I leave both vents wide open when I close the lid … rather than both halfway? (I realize there are several different paths to the same place; I’m just curious to know your process).

4. When I get to around 200 degrees, I start adjusting both vents again to slow things down … because it’s easier to “raise temps, rather than lower them.” Does that seem reasonable? Is 200 too late to start this for low and slow?

5. So when I get around 225-250 the first time, since that’s my target temp, this is when I put in the deflector plate (convEGGtor) and the grid on the BGE, yes? And I’ve read where this should temporarily drop the temps 25-75 degrees?

6. This is also when I want to put the wood chips on the fire because I don’t want to messing around the deflector plate after it gets hot, yes? This is my final opportunity?

7. Now I believe my clear goal at this point is to stabilize temps, so when the temps rise for a second time, I start managing the vents, especially when they get within 25-50 degrees of my target temp of 225-250. The top vent is for minor temperature adjustments of 25-50 degrees, while the bottom vent is for major changes. Does all of that sounds correct? If I am going for 225-250, it seems like I’d go for these settings: For the top vent, about a half-inch opening or less. With the bottom, maybe 2-3 fingers or 1.5 inches?

8. Once I hold a temp for 5-10 minutes, then it’s safe to put the meat on, I assume? Or should I wait longer?

9. During a low-and-slow cook, I’ve read where it’s ok for the temps to swing in either direction by 10-25 degrees. Or is that too strict?

10. Also, this is a related question, but what about this scenario: I’m cooking several items on the grill at 225-250, and one item finishes earlier than the other. When I open the BGE to take the first meat off and close the lid, the temps seem to rise a little higher than I had it before. I assume this is because I opened the lid for a few minutes to take off the other meat, thereby fueling the fire with oxygen. In this situation, what’s the best way to control the temps again? Say I want 225, and I’m up to 260. Do I close the top vent halfway from earlier? Or bottom vent? What’s the best strategy here? I was bouncing all over the place with temps in my last cook with this problem. 

11. The other main setting I will be using is … 325 degrees (for chicken and pork tenderloin, etc.). Is there any difference between approaching temps at 225-250 and 325-350? On both, do I start shutting down the vents when I get within 25-50 degrees of my target?

Help! Thank you in advance for your time and feedback, Michael C.

Comments

  • If nobody has chimed in ill walk you through it tomorrow. drifting off to sleep tonight but we will get you taken care of. 

    In the words of Aaron Rogers: R-E-L-A-X. We got this. 
    1- LGBE
    1- KBQ C-60 (The Dishwasher)
    I- Blackstone 36" Griddle
    1- Sweet-A$$ Roccbox Pizza Oven
    1-Very Understanding and Forgiving Wife
  • R2Egg2QR2Egg2Q Posts: 2,122
    Welcome aboard!  Please find my answers to your questions below.  As you mentioned about different paths, you may get varying answers which is fine.  Be open to trying different techniques and settle on what you're the most comfortable with or yields the best results for you.

    Here is where my questions begin:

    3. Again, I’m going for 225-250. So after that first 10-15 minutes, I put the lid down, and then close both the top vent and bottom vent about halfway. Or was I supposed to do it sooner? Or do I leave both vents wide open when I close the lid … rather than both halfway? (I realize there are several different paths to the same place; I’m just curious to know your process).

    My process is to close the lid within about 5 minutes after lighting and that includes putting in the plate setter to warm up with the Egg.

    4. When I get to around 200 degrees, I start adjusting both vents again to slow things down … because it’s easier to “raise temps, rather than lower them.” Does that seem reasonable? Is 200 too late to start this for low and slow?

    Seams reasonable to me.  I'd probably start adjusting a little before 200 if my target was 225 but for 250, 200 would be fine to start adjusting vents.

    5. So when I get around 225-250 the first time, since that’s my target temp, this is when I put in the deflector plate (convEGGtor) and the grid on the BGE, yes? And I’ve read where this should temporarily drop the temps 25-75 degrees?

    I put my plate setter in early but I know some folks like to put it in later.  I would expect temps would drop 50+ degrees.

    6. This is also when I want to put the wood chips on the fire because I don’t want to messing around the deflector plate after it gets hot, yes? This is my final opportunity?

    I use chunks instead of chips and place some chunks in with the lump before lighting and a couple on the fire about 15-20 minutes prior to putting the meat on the Egg.  Yes, I'm dealing with a hot plate setter (actually a Woo now) but I use a decent pair of welding gloves and have it out and back on in a few seconds.  Have a plan in place for safely dealing with a hot plate setter like rest it on the egg base or someplace you can put it down that it won't melt/burn.

    7. Now I believe my clear goal at this point is to stabilize temps, so when the temps rise for a second time, I start managing the vents, especially when they get within 25-50 degrees of my target temp of 225-250. The top vent is for minor temperature adjustments of 25-50 degrees, while the bottom vent is for major changes. Does all of that sounds correct? If I am going for 225-250, it seems like I’d go for these settings: For the top vent, about a half-inch opening or less. With the bottom, maybe 2-3 fingers or 1.5 inches?

    For 225, my settings are about 1/4" open on top AND bottom.  1.5" seems like it would be open too much.

    8. Once I hold a temp for 5-10 minutes, then it’s safe to put the meat on, I assume? Or should I wait longer?

    For me, a few minutes longer for it to stabilize and for the smoke to start burning cleaner before putting the meat on.

    9. During a low-and-slow cook, I’ve read where it’s ok for the temps to swing in either direction by 10-25 degrees. Or is that too strict?

    I think that range is reasonable but wouldn't be overly concerned if it swung a little more.  If you make adjustments to stay closer to your target, make small adjustments and give it a little time to take effect.  Keep in mind if you put a big chunk of meat like a 15+ lb brisket on the dome temp is going to drop temporarily due to the cold meat.  

    10. Also, this is a related question, but what about this scenario: I’m cooking several items on the grill at 225-250, and one item finishes earlier than the other. When I open the BGE to take the first meat off and close the lid, the temps seem to rise a little higher than I had it before. I assume this is because I opened the lid for a few minutes to take off the other meat, thereby fueling the fire with oxygen. In this situation, what’s the best way to control the temps again? Say I want 225, and I’m up to 260. Do I close the top vent halfway from earlier? Or bottom vent? What’s the best strategy here? I was bouncing all over the place with temps in my last cook with this problem. 

    When you open the lid you're allowing oxygen in.  Try to get in and out as fast as possible.  If you find temps raising too much on you, you can temporarily close the bottom vent some while the lid is up and then open it back to its previous setting after the lid is closed.  

    11. The other main setting I will be using is … 325 degrees (for chicken and pork tenderloin, etc.). Is there any difference between approaching temps at 225-250 and 325-350? On both, do I start shutting down the vents when I get within 25-50 degrees of my target?

    No real difference for me.  I start shutting down the vents about 50 degrees before my target.

    Help! Thank you in advance for your time and feedback, Michael C.


    XL, Large, Small, Mini Eggs, Humphrey's Weekender, MAK 1-Star General, Hasty Bake Gourmet, Santa Maria Grill, Webers: 18.5" WSM, 22.5" OTG, 22.5" Kettle Premium, WGA Charcoal, Summit S-620 NG

    Bay Area, CA
  • YukonRonYukonRon Posts: 13,217
    In my discussions with others, I have found, at least with the XL, there is no universal answer to controlling temperature.
    I agree with @Alpharetta_EggHead on his replys, but, as an example, my XL needs to be almost closed completely to maintain a 225F temp. The Daisy Wheel at the top is open very slightly and the bottom vent is open maybe the width of my debit card.
    I likely have a different set up than your cast iron plate, which I switched out for better airflow.
    Understanding air flow for temp control is worth dedicating a day and some lump to learn, also do not be afraid to take notes on what you have discovered that works for your XL.
    Once you have that, it becomes a set it and forget it cook.
    Hope this helps.

    "Knowledge is Good" - Emil Faber

    XL and MM
    Louisville, Kentucky
  • I mix chunks and charcoal.
     Throw bottom vent wide open and remove top.  
     Light the charcoal in 3-5 places and immediately install all cooking apparatus.
     If my target is 250 for example I leave everything wide open until it hits around 200-225 then I put the daisy wheel on and adjust both the wheel and bottom vent. 
     Add protein once the white smoke clears. 
     For a low and slow I will let it run at my target temp for a hour or so before adding protein just to make sure it’s stable.
    South of Columbus, Ohio.
  •  Also with the cooler outside temperatures if you over shoot your target temp it should be easier to bring it back down.
    South of Columbus, Ohio.
  • EoinEoin Posts: 2,029
    My settings 225F settings on the XL are the same as @YukonRon's, with the daisy wheel a fraction open and the bottom vent also open by about a credit card width. For 350F (give or take), bottom vent open about half an inch and the daisy wheel completely open - the petals all open, but the swivel closed.

    Once the fire is lit, you can set the vents for your target temperature and let it rise slowly.  If you're in a hurry, you can catch the temperature on the way up, but risk an overshoot - a hot XL does not cool down quickly.

    I put the meat on once the white smoke has cleared, regardless of temperature.  It will get to where it needs to be anyway.

    I add chunks or chips at the start, dry. Chips sprinkled on top and a quick stir to mix them before lighting.

    Once you have got used to using the XL, you won't think about this any more, it comes naturally!  The only question then is which of the smaller Eggs to buy next to add to your already excellent purchase.
  • Photo EggPhoto Egg Posts: 8,406
    Most of your points above work for me and it sounds like you have a very good understanding of temp control.
    A few tweaks...
    The XL is a large ceramic cooker and it takes a long time to truly stabilize. You have to consider not only stabilizing a fire to a certain temp but also have to remember it takes even longer for all the ceramics to warm up.
    So if you truly feel the need to cook as low as 225 you really have to bring it up slow and be patient. 
    As @YukonRon said above, once my XL is warmed up, my lower vent is open the width of a quarter at most. Top vent, just the little daisies open. Also remember, a newer Egg is will gunk up after several cooks and get easier.
    If you have a several smaller items cooking at the same time low and slow that need attention you are going to have a tough go trying to keep the temps lows.
    Leads to next point. Ceramic cookers hold moisture better than most other cookers. There is not a reasonable need to cook below 250-275 for most foods. Others might argue. Briskets and Butts, where I know I'm not going to open the dome and play around, I will go lower with overnight cooks. Not because I need to but for timing of completed food later in the afternoon.

    When you are targeting 325-350, yes, bring it up slow as well because your fire temp will reach target long before the ceramics heat up. I also like to close the lower vent when I open the dome to flip a bunch of food.
     
    Thank you,
    Darian

    Galveston Texas
  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 17,999
    Here's the link to your thread of last week:
    Lots of good info there as well.
    This is an analog operation-not digital.  As above,  just work with it.  FWIW-
    Louisville;  L & S BGEs, PBC, Lang 36; Burnin' wood in the neighbourhood. # 38 for the win.  Life is too short for light/lite beer.  
  • TEXASBGE2018TEXASBGE2018 Posts: 1,620

    Lots of great info has been provided but I will add my $.02

    I find maintaining anything below 250 is almost impossible on my particular large egg. I think there is not 1 specific "correct way" to do it also. For instance, even when cleaning out my egg completely and making sure everything is aligned I still cannot maintain less than 250 even with my bottom and top vents cracked. Every time I have done this it snuffs my fire out. This happens regardless of how I stack my lump in the egg (Large pieces on bottom,etc) and how I light the lump. I have checked and there are zero air leaks so that is not the issue. I think that despite the eggs ability to maintain temps once established its still effected by the relative humidity outside, even the direction your egg is facing and wind speed. All of this factors in to how wide you have to run your vents. My egg is on my covered back porch and the wind usually runs parallel to the bottom vent. To maintain 250 I have to have the bottom vent open about 1/2" and the top vents open between 1/8" and 1/4" depending on these factors also. My advice is just change 1 thing at a time to see how that change effects the temps.  Going and opening the lid often, changing the bottom vent then immediately the top vent makes it harder to gauge what is causing the issues.

    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

  • jtcBoyntonjtcBoynton Posts: 2,227
     I start adjusting both vents again

    To get low temps, the openings will be very small. Either vent will be able to limit airflow. Trying to get that fine of an adjustment by moving both makes it much harder. Leave one more open and use one vent to control airflow.

    Once I hold a temp for 5-10 minutes

    That is too short to be considered stable.  Give it more time.  Also don't not react to small temp fluctuations during cooking. When you do make an adjustment, make it small and then wait to see the reaction.  There is a lag from a change in vent settings to a new stable temp.  

    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.
     
  • StoogieStoogie Posts: 138

    Ever since I bought an XL Big Green Egg with my wife’s permission last month


    Show off.

    Large BGE

    Neenah, WI
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