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First butt - monitoring Hi / Lo Temps?

WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
edited 1:44AM in EggHead Forum
I am still working with my new egg but learning fast. I have my first low and slow pork butt on the egg right now. It has been cooking between 220-250 for almost 7 hours and the internal meat temp is 154. Based on what I read on the forum I expect it to be done in another 7-8 hours (it is a 14.5 lb butt). So over the first 6 hours the egg temps have been pretty stable with only minor tweaks required to keep it in the 220-250 range. I am using the Maverick ET-73 dual-probe remote thermometer and it is working great. One probe on the dome and the other in the meat.

I am at the point where I will be going to sleep and trusting the egg to work it's magic. Most of the tweaks I made during the first 6 hours were to bring the temp up slightly so I am worried that the egg will gradually drop down far enough in temp or even burnout while I am sleeping for the last half of the cook. My main issue is that the ET-73 allows you to set an alarm for the Hi temp when the meat is done (200), and a Hi temp on the dome thermometer (260) just in case the egg runs away and gets too hot, but there isn't a way to also set a low temp on the dome thermometer.

I am ok with trusting the egg to do it's thing and I fully expect to wake up to a wonderful pile of tender pork just waiting to be cooled and pulled, then promptly devoured. But I am wondering does anyone know how to monitor or set both Hi and Lo temp limits for the alarms on the ET-73? If not then can this be done with any other similar remote thermometer? I love the ET-73 so far but this is one feature which seems to be missing. Even if the alarm was not possible it would be nice to see the max. Hi and Lo values in the morning so I could reassure myself that it didn't drop too high or low during my down time. In fact I think a nice graph would be awesome showing the meat temp and dome temp throughout the entire cook cycle. Is there such a device on the market, maybe like a PC program with a serial cable adapter that reads and plots the ET-73 values? I know, this isn't really needed especially after you learn and master the egg, but you have to admit that it sure would be cool (assuming it cost less than $100).

I read all the posts on here about how to clean the firebox, load and light the lump, setup the inverted plate setter with drip pan, stabilize for 1-2 hours, 1" of water in the pan, butt on the grid, keep the lid closed, etc. and I am following all of this advice. So I don't expect any problems but it would be nice to have a Lo alarm just in case. The only thing I can think of which might account for the continual adjustments needed so far is that it has dropped from about 66 outside at the start of the cook to 35 right now which is probably our low for the night. Sure, this is a 30 degree drop but I would have expected the egg to insulate well enough to prevent such a fluctuation. Am I missing something? Is it normal for the egg to raise or drop slightly as the lump burns or as the outdoor temps vary? Or should I just forget about it and go to bed?


  • Celtic WolfCeltic Wolf Posts: 9,773
    Actually you weren't trusting the egg to do it's thing. Temps should not be fluctuating between 220 and 250. They should be rock steady at a temp between 220 and 250.

    If you played with the vent after putting the meat in (which I will bet you did) then I suggest you stay up. It is normal for the temp to drop when you put the meat in. One the meat is cold and two you opened the lid. You should stabilize the temp at 250 prior to putting the meat in. Stable means 15-30 minutes at your desired temp. Put the meat in, turn around and walk away. If the temp isn't rising or returned to 250 after 30 minutes then adjust the vents.

    Go make some coffee you are in for a long night :pinch:
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    I burned the egg for about 90 minutes before putting the meat on. For the first 30 minutes it was high, around 300 from lighting it, then it came down to about 250 and stayed there for an hour. I opened the lid, set the meat on the grill, poured water on the drip pan, inserted the thermometer, and shut the lid. I never opened the lid or touched the vents. It came back up to 250 in about 20 minutes or so and all was well, then after about 45 minutes it started dropping down to about 219 and I was concerned due to the fast rate of drop. Since then I have only tweaked the vents slightly when it gets below 219, then it comes up to between 235-250 and all is well for 30-45 minutes, then it starts dropping back again. Roughly one minor vent tweak per hour for the last 5 hours. Maybe I should have let it go and it wouldn't have continued to drop? I tried that on the last two drops and it went as low as 210 before I couldn't resist and had to tweak again. So am I being overly cautious or might there be something abnormal about the continual but steady drops? Right now it has been between 245-250 for the last 30 minutes so I am feeling confident. Even if it crashes it is just a piece of meat, easy to replace and a very cheap cooking lesson.

    The only other thing I can think of is that my seal is in pretty bad shape and the daisy wheel is pretty dirty... could this account for the drops?
  • JLOCKHART29JLOCKHART29 Posts: 5,897
    Would have to agree with Wolf except you might get an hr or 2 max, check and if still stable another hr or 2. My experance that after 10 or so hrs the Egg requires more air to mantain temp as fuel is used. This is in my Medium mind you. Good 6 to 8 hr sleep should have happened earler. IMO There are others that are MUCH more knowlagable than me including the lustrus Celtic Wolf. Thank he could grab a hr or 2 cat nap wolf?
  • JLOCKHART29JLOCKHART29 Posts: 5,897
    The seal would just let in more air causing temp to rise and dont see daisy wheel causing it. Have seen fires burn center out and since intake is on one side of the Egg after the center lump burns out it takes a lot more and more air to burn the other side opposite the induct.
  • Celtic WolfCeltic Wolf Posts: 9,773
    If you don't have a good seal it will rise. Check that seal with a dollar bill. Close the lid on the bill. It should be tough to pull it out all around the rim.

    Make sure the holes in the fire grate are clear. I have a poke stick I use to clear them
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    Thanks guys. As of right now it is slowly but surely dropping again... down to 235. I hate to go out and tweak it again so I will wait for it to hit below 220, then I will have to adjust. For an adjustment like this, is it best to just open the daisy a little more? I tried that on a few earlier adjustments and the temps actually dropped faster until I opened the bottom door slightly more.
  • Beanie-BeanBeanie-Bean Posts: 3,092
    That sounds a lot like what happened to me on the first overnighter I did. I didn't clean out the ash fast enough from the bottom like I should have with a poker of sorts. I fashioned one out of a coat hanger by cutting a piece off the bottom, making a little grip on one side then making about a 3" bend on the other. What got me was that I had the cast iron grate upside down. The beveled edges are supposed to be facing down--mine were facing up and I got lots of lump stuck in the grate, thus blocking the airflow. That didn't happen the second time.

    Just in case you get a low-temp alarm, make sure you turn on your indoor oven before you go outside to check the BGE, in the event that you have to rebuild the fire at least you can keep the roast going in the oven.
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    Beanie-Bean wrote:
    That sounds a lot like what happened to me on the first overnighter I did. I didn't clean out the ash fast enough from the bottom like I should have with a poker of sorts. I fashioned one out of a coat hanger by cutting a piece off the bottom, making a little grip on one side then making about a 3" bend on the other. What got me was that I had the cast iron grate upside down. The beveled edges are supposed to be facing down--mine were facing up and I got lots of lump stuck in the grate, thus blocking the airflow. That didn't happen the second time.

    Just in case you get a low-temp alarm, make sure you turn on your indoor oven before you go outside to check the BGE, in the event that you have to rebuild the fire at least you can keep the roast going in the oven.
    I didn't think we had to clean out the egg during the cook. I cleaned it completely before starting so it should be ok for the full cook I would think. Temps are still in the 220-250 range but slowly dropping about once an hour requiring adjustment. Looks like I won't be going to sleep after all. I don't mind the lesson - just wish I knew what I did wrong?
  • Michael BMichael B Posts: 986
    Your temp should not be dropping like that.
    1... you are running out of lump (Did you completely fill the firebox?)
    2... The fire burned straight down and is having trouble spreading to the sides (Did you light in more than one place, off center?)
    3... or the holes in the fire grate are clogged (Did you place a few large pieces on the bottom to protect those holes?)

    If #1, best thing would probably be to put the butt in the oven to finish and go to bed.

    If #2 or #3, try the following:
    (This is going to work better if #3, but may work if #2)

    Stretch out a metal clothes hanger and then bend a 2 inch long 90 degree leg in one end.

    Take note of where the bottom damper is set. You might want to make a small line from the damper to the damper rail with a sharpie.

    Open the bottom damper and screen all the way.

    Reach in through the bottom opening with the hanger. Work the 2 inch leg up through each of the holes in the fire grate and wiggle it around a bit to rearrange the lump or to dislodge any ash, small coal chips, or whatever else is blocking the holes.

    Remove the wiggle stick, close the screen, and reset the damper.

    Sometime tomorrow or the next day, go to an Ace Hardware and buy a 1/2 inch wide 1/8 inch thick stainless strip. It doesn’t need to be very long, you only need four 2 inch long pieces. (The ACE near me seels them in 1 or 2 foot lengths.) The rest you can set aside for other projects.
    Cut four 2 inch long pieces off the strip.
    Remove the fire grate from your BGE.
    Bend each 2 inch strip to form a narrow ‘U’.
    Space the ‘U’s equally around the edge of the fire grate and crimp with a pair of pliers.
    ** If you have a MAPP torch to heat the metal (makes it a lot easier to bend) 3/16 or 1/4 inch thick clips would be better. Don't go over 1/4.
    Place the fire grate back in the BGE with the NARROW side of the holes facing UP.

    With the holes oriented this way, it is far less likely that ash and chips will seat in them and cut off airflow.
    The S.S. clips will create a small passage around the perimeter of the fire grate which will further aid airflow.
  • Michael BMichael B Posts: 986
    Looks like you posted just after I opened the thread.
    I saw your post after I sent mine and the page reloaded.

    Cleaning it out before the cook is correct.
    To clean it out during a cook you have to reset the dampers. Not a good thing to have to do.
  • Beanie-BeanBeanie-Bean Posts: 3,092 don't have to clean out the bottom of the cooker. I was referring to the grate. The ash was staying on top of the grate and not falling down through the holes because it was getting clogged. There was plenty of charcoal in there, just not enough airflow. I didn't mean that there was a pile of ashes that had to be cleaned out from the bottom, only meant to describe the accumulation on top of the grate.
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    Ok gang, it dropped all the way down to 218 so I just went out to tweak it again. Problem is that the tweaks didn't do much good this time. Best I could get was 225 and then it started slowly dropping again. So I opened it and used the BGE ash tool to shake the bottom of the grate a little bit. I have the ceramic grate (not cast iron). Some ash did fall down through the grate but not a lot. Temps still didn't climb much so I was wondering if I was out of lump. Seemed unlikely since I filled it past the fire box and part way up the fire ring as I had read. I also lit it in 3 places so it should have been going ok. So I shook the ceramic grate a few more times with the poker and sure enough more ash fell down. I left the door wide open and now finally the temps are climbing, but slowly. It is at 242 right now about 10 minutes after the last grate shake. So I am thinking that the ceramic grate holes are clogged with ash, and it is starving for air. Any way I can fix that besides poking it every time it drops to 220 or less? The odd thing is that I do have a new cast iron grate but wanted to use the original ceramic grate for a while to see if it would be any better after I switched to the cast iron. Maybe the ceramic grate is the problem?
  • Michael BMichael B Posts: 986
    It isn't the material the grate is made of, but it probably IS the way the grate is sitting in the Egg.
    Read my first post:
  • I have cooked many butts all night with no worry. I use a BBQ Guru. I set the temp at 230 and it stays at 230 the whole cook. This is the best piece of equipment you can buy.
  • Celtic WolfCeltic Wolf Posts: 9,773
    Hmmm I just re-read your original post. You said you have an et-73 and not sure how to set the hi - lo alarm. OK it does come with a manual, but in case you haven't read it set the high alarm first and then the low alarm. Those would be the buttons on the left side that say Hi Low. After you reach the desired temp for for each hit the mode button one time. Bottom button on the right side turns the alarm on and off.

    Next question - You said new egg, but you have a ceramic fire grate? Is this egg new to you or just new? As far I as I know all new eggs come with cast iron grates. I reckon there may be one or two stragglers out there.

    You are obviously doing something wrong, because even without my Guru's my eggs will sit at what ever temp I set the grates at. The external temp is not a problem.

    You are using lump charcoal and not briquettes? The later will cause the problems you describe.

    This is a BGE we are talking about? What size is it?
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    I just checked the Maverick again and it is an ET-7, not ET-73. I didn't realize there was a difference but I guess the 73 is newer or has more features? They are about the same price on Amazon, wish I would have known. So no LO setting on the ET-7, and I did read the manual.

    The egg I am using right now is an older large. It came with the ceramic grate but I have all the parts to upgrade it to match the newest eggs (spring band, cast iron grate, etc.) Just haven't installed them yet as I am waiting to finish my new egg table which is almost done, and will be quite nice by the way, not your ordinary table.

    I have used Cowboy and Royal Oak lump. This butt is cooking on 100% Royal Oak, which I inspected when loading, and it seemed to be ok.
  • Celtic WolfCeltic Wolf Posts: 9,773
    The et-7 doesn't measure Pit temp only the Meat. Which is why you don't have a lo temp setting. The et-73 does both. I assume you are using the second meat probe to measure the egg temp. This might be the source of your problem.

    Does the dome thermometer match the rise and fall you say the Maverick is displaying? How do you have the probe attached and where?
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    Using probe S1 on the meat. Currently at 155 after 10.5 hours, it is a 7.5 lb butt.

    Using probe S2 on the dome. I just removed the BGE dial thermometer and inserted the probe about 2/3 of the way so it sticks down in about the same length as the original. Current reading is 237 and slowly dropping. In about 20-30 minutes it will probably be down to 220 and time to shake the grate or tweak the vents to get it back up a bit.
  • Celtic WolfCeltic Wolf Posts: 9,773
    Both of those probes are Meat probes. They really aren't designed to measure the internal temp of the eggs. Without having the BGE Thermometer in there we really can't tell if you are having a problem with the probe or an actual problem with the Egg.
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    I had tested both probes along side the BGE thermometer before using them. They all seemed to give about the same readings in boiling water, and also in the dome. I haven't used the BGE unit during this cook but I can remove S2 and put the BGE unit back in if you think it would help.
  • Celtic WolfCeltic Wolf Posts: 9,773
    BOTH probes in the et-7 are meat probes and attached to the same maverick. Without a second source of data there is no way to tell if the Maverick is at fault or not.

    However, what you are experiencing is NOT normal.
  • Let me answer the one question that you had about graphing. Get yourself a Stoker and then get the Stokerlog program. That will allow you to cook and sleep as well as graph and have lots of other cool PC interfacing features.
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    The mystery has been solved, I think.

    I had to tweak the egg all night long, about once an hour. It held steady in the 220-250 range but would always slowly drop to 220 and then need tweaked to climb back up again. Most times I just opened the bottom vent and/or daisy slightly more and it would heat right back up, but then for the last 3-4 hours I had to tap the bottom of the ceramic fire grate with the ash tool and use a bent coat hanger to shake some ash down through the holes.

    While using the coat hanger at the very end I noticed that I was not able to find the holes on the right half of the ceramic fire grate, which seemed odd since I could find the holes on the left side just fine. Finally the meat temp was up to 167 after 14 hours on the egg (probably only 1-2 hours from completion) but the egg dome temp dropped down to 206 and I could not get it to recover. So I moved the butt to the indoor oven at 250 to finish up and I took the grate, drip pan, and plate setter out of the egg to see what happened.

    Turns out that I must have been a little low on lump for some reason even though I had filled the fire box and then half of the fire ring. I only burned it for about 90 minutes before I started the cook so I can only assume that I needed even more lump to nearly fill the fire ring, or that this batch of lump burned faster or colder for some reason. I think this accounts for the loss of temp at the end of the cook but what about the temp fluctuations during the cook?

    The ceramic fire grate was old and had been neatly cracked in half to start with, however it had been used in this condition lots of times by just setting the two halves in place so that the holes lined up. It never moved during the cook and worked fine so I had no reason to suspect it this time. Well apparently at some point early in the cook, the right half of the ceramic fire grate must have jumped up and got slightly on top of the edge of the other half, which allowed some lump and ash to fall down in the holes and gaps on the right side and cut off some of the air to the fire. This explains why the temp would recover each time I let more air in or tapped to clean out the holes on the left side. Near the end of the fire it was mostly ash on the right side thus it was harder to recover the temps.

    So I guess it is time to switch to the new cast iron fire grate to prevent a similar issue in the future, and I will have to try adding even more lump for my next overnight cook which frankly is a little surprising. I had read so many posts about a full egg lasting at least 20 hours with some lump to spare at the end, and yet my egg was 90% full (half way up the fire ring) and yet it only lasted for about 14 hours.

    Thanks to all of you for your help and advice during the cook. The coat hanger solution allowed me to maximize the time in the egg before the lump burned out, and it ultimately led me to discover the fire grate position problem as well. The butt smells heavenly in the kitchen oven - I just hope it doesn't get dried out or ruined by the shift. Good lessons learned so no regrets, and I still hope to be eating some fantastic pulled pork for lunch. Meat is already up to 170 now so it should only be another hour or so... :woohoo:
  • Beanie-BeanBeanie-Bean Posts: 3,092
    Glad to hear that you were able to figure out the cause for your worries last night/this morning. Looks like you'll be switching over to the ACME cast iron grate, eh there, Wile E. Coyote ? ;)

    Here was the extreme measure I took after experiencing some stuck lump in the original cast iron grate:


    It's the turbo grate, and it does allow some serious airflow through the cooker. I switch back and forth between this one and the cast iron grate depending on if I'm doing low-and-slow or a high-temp cook.
  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    Thanks for the tip. I had seen that turbo grate in the BBQ Guru videos. I guess I will order one and switch with cast iron like you suggested. Did you also get the screen and ash bucket to filter out the good charcoal? Looked pretty slick in his video.

    I also need to trade my Maverick ET-7 for the ET-73 I guess. Wonder why they make two very similar models, with the latter having the LO temp option? Seems like it would be ideal and for only $3 more then why not? I did consider a BBQ Guru, DigiQII, or Stoker which would be fun but I am hoping to learn how to regulate the temps well enough on my own so that the power fan solution won't be needed. If this proves problematic then I will get one of those too... probably the DigiQII since it had the best reviews based on what I have seen so far.
  • Beanie-BeanBeanie-Bean Posts: 3,092
    Hehe...yes, I have the small trashcan (it fits under both the LBGE and SBGE cookers I've got--both are mounted in nests at the moment) and I found a basket for a turkey fryer at Lowe's that is almost the same thing you're seeing in the video. They're both essential equipment, in my opinion.

    I finally picked up a DigiQ at the Nat'l BBQ Association meeting that was held here in Austin, and I picked up the adaptor doors for my Small, Large, and I got one for an XL because I'm planning on getting one at the Texas EggFest here shortly. Like you, I wanted to make sure that I understood the temperature control for all different types of cooks before deciding on either the stoker or the Q. Once you setup the cooker with the Q, it's like using an indoor oven--the temperature just stays where you set it. It's even got some logic built in to know when you've got he lid open! Really nice gadget.

    I like the turbo grate for the high-temps, and was using it for everything until I got the Q. I had problems with the lump only burning in a certain area using that grate, so I did another cook with the Q and the original cast iron grate with much, much better results.

    Feel free to email me if you'd additional info.
  • Wile E,

    A couple of more thoughts...when I was new to the egg, I read a several enlightening pages on fire building. They are all on naked whiz's site. The first by Elder Ward (as part of his pulled pork posting) on building a fire. The Naked Whiz also has a couple of pieces of info Here and Here.

    When I've had a bad fire it's because I either didn't clean out the egg or I just dumped the lump in the egg. Followthe guidance and you will go a long way to having great lo and slo fires.

  • WileECoyoteWileECoyote Posts: 516
    Thanks again for all the tips gang.

    The butt turned out just fine, finished the last 2 hours in the oven for about 16 total hours cooking time. Sorry no pics but it was so good that I had to eat some in a hurry, especially after nursing it for the entire cook, and the dog was rushing me for his share too. ;)

    And here is the best part: the wife doesn't normally eat much meat at all and the last time we had pulled pork from a local barbeque joint a few years ago she got sick and hasn't touched it since. So I doubted that she would go near this meal but once she smelled it with the Jack Daniels Spicy and Sweet Baby Ray Honey sauces on the side, she just couldn't resist asking for a small taste. And she liked it so much that she ate her own plate and is now placing orders for other meals on the egg. Made a skeptic into an active supporter - the egg magic continues.
  • milesofsmilesmilesofsmiles Posts: 1,373
    Coyotes are known for being tricksters. You done good.
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