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How to light Egg for low temp cook?

Are there any tricks to lighting the Egg for a low temp cook?  Do you light normal, let the coal catch, then bring the temp down to target?  (ie. if you're doing a low and slow at 250, or cold smoked fish at 200).

My problem seems to be if I let the coals catch, if blows way past my low target temp, then it takes forever to bring it back down (if I can at all), while on the other hand, if I keep airflow restricted to keep the initial temp down, sometimes I've had the coals just never catch at all.

Thanks for any advice.

Best Answers

  • lousubcap
    lousubcap Posts: 31,250
    Answer ✓

    With regard to low&slow cooks, within reason you cannot load too much lump.  The reason the BGE can run for in excess of 24 hours on one load of lump is because there is only a small amount of lump burning at any one time with low temp cooks.  The fire travels around the lump load during the cook.  You manage the air-flow thru the BGE and thus the fire volume and temperature.

    Key to low&slow temperature control is to catch the temperature on the way up.  There are many ways to initially light the lump but I only light in one spot (just forward of center about 1/3 the way down the lump load).  I have the lower vent wide open and the dome open.  Once around a soft-ball sized amount of lump is burning I then load the platesetter and cooking grid, shut the dome and watch the temperature.  When within around 50*F of the target cooking temp (generally about 240-270*F on the dome) I set the lower vent and the DFMT to about the desired end settings and let it settle-in. 

    Also, don't chase temperature:  +/- 10-15*F is close enough.  Most BGE's have a 'sweet spot" around 240-250*F.  Wait for the smoke to smell good then load the meat and enjoy the cook. 

    Now if you want to hold at 200*F  w/o a controller, you need a very small fire.  I use small pieces of lump and load about around a large coffee can sized amount of lump.  Light in one spot and keep the fire smaller than mentioned above.  Add more small pieces of lump if you need to extend the duration of the cook. 

    Louisville; Rolling smoke in the neighbourhood. # 38 for the win.  Life is too short for light/lite beer!  Seems I'm livin in a transitional period.
  • Mark_B_Good
    Mark_B_Good Posts: 1,457
    Answer ✓
    I make sure I stir my bed of coals, and clean the ashes out to ensure good air flow through the coal bed, which I believe helps control temperature more precisely.

    I rebuild the bed, adding more coals, distributing my wood lump with a bias towards the back and right of the coal bed, because that is where I see the fire path goes as the bed burns, in my XL.

    I create a sort of cavity in the center, creating a roof of lump with larger pieces of coals.  I light that with a propane burner with the lid open, and the air inlet WIDE open.  At this stage the plate setter and the grate are not inside the egg.

    Once I feel that center fire has taken, I remove the propane burner and close the egg lid, making sure the bottom air feed is wide open, and so is the chimney exhaust (wide open).

    I watch the temperature carefully, but it does take a while for the ceramic shell to heat up.  When I'm say within 30F to 50F of my target temp ... I start closing the bottom air feed and chimney vent .... I immediately go to half, and then quarter, and then when I'm around degrees from temp, I go to my final setting (for 225F, the bottom might be open 1/16" to 1/8" and top around 1/4").

    I then QUICKLY open and put in the plate setter and grate. Don't want to get a ton of air in ... as this will cause the coals to burn hot.  After closing the lid, the temperature will drop, because the plate setter and grate are cold ... I just watch it and put the meat in when I'm back to target temperature.   

    Things that go wrong:

    - getting distracted and leaving the propane burner on too long, causing the core fire to be way bigger than it needs to be.
    - getting distracted when the lid is closed and vents are wide open ... and you end up with a small bush fire inside the egg, superheating the shell ... it takes FOREVER to recover from that, because it takes the ceramic shell a long time to cool. If it does happen, some people add ice cubes directly to the coals. I completely close the top and bottom vent. I may still put in the meat if over temperature, knowing it is fairly moist and over-temperature may not cause an issue in the first 30 minutes of the cook ... but I want to try and get that temperature closer to target within 30 to 45 min ... and certainly at target within 1h. Just have to start opening the top and bottom vent as you get closer to the target temp.
    - not knowing what position to put the top and bottom vent in for various target temps may cause you to keep them open too much or closed too much ... and then you chase temperature throughout the cook. Knowing the setting, and LEAVING it alone is the best approach.
    - opening the lid too often ... that completely messes up the atmosphere established in the egg ... every time you open, you are messing up the cook. I almost never open ... if I want to see things, I'd rather open up the chimney vent and look down through the chimney (and then close the vent to the normal position when I finish).
    Napoleon Prestige Pro 665, XL BGE, Lots of time for BBQ!


  • Hey Guys - thanks so much for taking the time to provide these details and your experiences.  Exactly what I was looking for, and there's a bunch of stuff in here I didn't know and don't do.  This will definitely help me get to and maintain the right temps!
  • Mark_B_Good
    Mark_B_Good Posts: 1,457
    Also another thing ... for low temperature cooks, I'm really picky about which lump coal I use ... I found certain ones are simply harder to control at lower temperatures ... not sure why, but they run hotter.  I generally stick with the BGE Maple Lump or Cowboy seems to be okay. But anyhow, you might just have to figure what lump works best for your setup ... for anything below 250F ... above, it doesn't really matter, easy to control the temp above 250F with just about any lump.
    Napoleon Prestige Pro 665, XL BGE, Lots of time for BBQ!
  • GaryLange
    GaryLange Posts: 418
    Load the lump in the BGE light the middle with whatever you use to light it. I use the lighting stick from BGE! I then watch the temp rise and start closing down the bottom vent as the temp climbs until it is reaching the temp I want it at, I let it go and watch the temp to see if it is going to stay where I want it which is usually at 250*. It will then stay at 250* while my cook is going. If it starts to rise a little close down the bottom vent some more. It will stay at 250* for me the rest of the cook with no problems.
  • I despise VOC taste in my protein; therefore I never cook any lower than 275º. 
    Auburn, Alabama
  • GoldenQ
    GoldenQ Posts: 548
    For short cooks about 3 hrs or less I use the small rings from CGS and briquets.  I only use Kingsford original briquets and light in one place with wax starter.    The smaller amount of charcoal in the rings makes it easier to control.    I sometimes use lump but we prefer the Kingsford taste.
    I XL  and 1 Weber Kettle  And 1 Weber Q220       Outside Alvin, TX-- South of Houston