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Fire went out!

GuinnessGuyGuinnessGuy Posts: 45
edited 6:35AM in EggHead Forum
So I'm halfway through my first egg-ing ever... doing a 9lb butt (see here for my previous post asking about setup, etc: )

I started the fire last night at 9:00p. Using Fire King lump (highest ranked lump on the NW database that I could find locally, also what the BGE dealer suggested). Coals looked like this:


I put the coals all in a bin and hand picked each one, putting the biggest pieces at the bottom as suggested by others. However, there weren't any pieces that were "big", maybe 3x1x1 on the large end, with many pieces more like 2x1x1 or 1x1x1.

Then I lit it in the center with a single BGE starter block thingy:


I let that burn about 10 minutes with the lid open, then closed the lid. Even with the top piece off and the draft door wide open, the temps climbed very slowly... 180, 190, 200, 210... once it got over 200 I put the top on and closed the draft door to about 3/8" open (screen completely closed). The wheel on the top was centered (covering the big hole) and rotated so that the slots were about half open. This got me to settle at about 250 degrees after an hour or so. I wanted it a little cooler (was shooting for like 230) so I closed the draft door just a tad to maybe 1/4". Over the next 30-45 mins it dropped to around 210. Dang, I want it a bit higher (yeah, I'm one of those guys) so I opened it the width of one hole in the screen :laugh:

Anyway, at about 1:30am, after 4 hours of being between 210 and 250 I called it a night and went to bed. The meat temp was registering about 130 at this point.

6 hours later at 7:30am I got up to see the meat temp was 133 (remote thermometer). I rushed outside and the egg temp was about 130 as well. Opened the lid (first time since I had begun) and things were definitely cooled off. Seemed that the fire was out. I removed the butt, the drip pan and the plate setter. I should have taken a picture at this point but I was in a huge rush since I had a call for work that I had to be on in 30 mins and didn't know how long this re-starting was going to take. But basically what I saw was that the fire had burned from the center to the back, but never really spread out anywhere else. I'd say at least 3/4 of the coals looked like they did when I started, never burned at all. So, I stirred things around a bit, then stuck another starter thingy in the center and lit it up again. After 10 mins with the lid open the flame had died down and some coals were burning red. I closed the lid (draft door wide open) and took the top off. I then grabbed a hair dryer and put it on low and blew in the bottom door. Now the temps started going up quicker than last night... 150, 170, 190, 210... At 210 I set the draft door and top just like last night, put the platesetter, drip pan and butt back in and closed the lid. It's now been at around 230-240 for the last hour.

So, my questions are (if you are still awake after reading all this!)

1) Do I need to be concerned about this particular butt due to it sitting at lower temps for possibly several hours? I'm assuming that as long as I now take it up to 195 like I originally planned all is well.

2) More importantly, what did I do wrong, or what else could I have done to allow this fire to burn happily all night long? I really, really, wanted to wake up this morning with the egg still at 230 deg and have my butt at like 180. But no such luck!



  • AZRPAZRP Posts: 10,116
    I think you never got the fire going in the first place. A starter cube will give a dome temp of 350 before the coals even get going. In the 10 minute time you were regulating the starter cube not the coals. Typically the temp goes up with the cube then back down as the cube burns out, then slowly comes back up as the coals get going. You need to go with a dome temp of 250 when doing a low and slow. The setting for 250 is the draft door open about 1/16". HTH -RP
  • JBJB Posts: 510
    If it was in the danger zone (41-140) for more than 4 hours I wouldn't eat it. When I was using starters, I always lit the lump in 3 different places and then mix it up with tongs to make sure it's going before closing lid.
  • mojomojo Posts: 220
    I'll also add that you didn't add enough lump in the first place. You can expect a 9 lb butt to take around 18 hr to cook, so you should probably fill the lump all the way to the top of the fire ring. I'm sure it'll go better next time.
  • jpEGGjpEGG Posts: 60
    I'm relatively new here, but I have had several successful butt cooks. A agree with AZRP on whether the fire was really going. Also, for what it's worth, I've always filled the fire box right up to the top of the ring.
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,940
    As mentioned, start the fire in several places. I've had many cooks where I start in 3 places, and at 45 minutes, 1 place has gone out. Also, starting in several places reduces the chance of the fire burning straight down, which is often the cause of fires going out too soon.

    I never go lower than 250 dome any more. The only cook I had where it was set to 230 was nearly lost. I caught the temperature when it had dropped to 160.

    Although I've only caught a fire going out twice, I still check every 4 hours during the night. That way, I can be sure that the meat doesn't sit in the "danger zone" for more than an hour or two.

    Hard to say if your butt was in the danger zone too long.
  • BacchusBacchus Posts: 6,019
    It may help to not work so hard to achieve an exact temp. It can result in "chasing the temp" which is never good. Most Large eggs will "settle in" somewehre around 240-270, all are different. Just go with it.
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    hard to say how long the meat (the exterior) was sub 140.

    i'll let you decide. but...

    internal temp doesn't enter into it unless the butt is boneless (and bacteria could have gotten in)

    temp of the environment was below 140 (which means the external temp of the meat, i.e. where the bacteria are), but for how long?

    exterior of the meat was pretty well sanitized by being roasted at 230 or so for a few hours, so it's very unlikely anything was there to reproduce after the fire went out

    salt in the rub, and to some extent smoke, made that a very hostile environment, as did the low oxygen

    nevertheless, a cold butt is disconcerting. remember that taking it back up to 190 would do nothing for safety if it HAD been made unsafe to eat. you can't fix it by reheating if it has gone bad.

    me? i'd have put the thing in the oven and rebuilt the fire, holding 250-maybe even 300 to regain some time in the schedule

    but i might not feel so confident feeding it to grand ma, though i'd have no real reason to believe it was unsafe

    your call.
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Thanks everyone for the help, amazing support on this forum! Sounds like I simply didn't really get the fire started the first time around. In the future I will light in several spots. The fire has been real steady for the last 2.5 hours so it's back on track now at 250-260 dome temp.

    Thanks again everyone!

  • Cactus DougCactus Doug Posts: 341
    Having done many overnight cooks w.o. a power draft ( still do not have one) I do not go to bed with a dome temp less than 250, usually by morning the dome temp has dropped to around 225. I usually get up one time during the night to check too. Good luck with your next cook.
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 23,014
    the trick is to drink enough guinness that you have to get up to check on things. i never lit in one place til i got a 500,000 btu weedburner ;)
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    if you had it at 250 for a while, more than an hour, it was lit. remember, lighting it in three places means three fires a third of the size of one fire. what's more stable? a bigger fire? ...or three that are spread out? i dunno.

    check at 4am and you'll be able to sleep soundly four hours each side of that time without worrying about food safety
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • mcarrmcarr Posts: 15
    I'm new to the egg, but lately when I light mine I use a single starter cube in the center and let the egg get to 600 for a couple minutes before bringing it back down to the desired temp (be careful that you don't let the temperature get away from you). This allows all the coals to get good and started, brings the interior of the ceramic up to temperature, and burns off anything hanging around from the previous cook. Then I choke off the vent and let the temp drop back down.

    Some people say it takes too long for the egg to drop back down, especially if you're doing a low-and-slow cook, but for me the temp seems to drop in just a few minutes so it's not too bad.
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 23,014
    you can get away with lighting in one spot, but eventually you will get a center burn where the fire burns straight down with out lighting the lump around the perimeter and then dies, better to light in atleast two places ;)
  • Dave ShadyDave Shady Posts: 247
    looking forward to pickin up my new Digi Q II next week when we get our shipment in. Ill Sleep easy then!
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    mcarr, your initial 600° is the dome thermometer reading the flame heat from the starter cube.

    Using a starter cube, oil/paper towel, alcohol there if the dome is closed before the 'starter fire' goes out, you will always see a initial temperature spike. This spike will be relativity a short lived unsustainable spike.

    The resulting fire die-down will result in a temperature high to apx 200°-250°. Then the slow build up which is a result from the burning lump. This slower temperature climb is what needs to be regulated.

    The more starting points the higher the temperature spike.

  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    :laugh: :laugh: Now that sounds like a great way to give yourself a wakeup and check the egg. Then a few more so you can sleep and the auto wake up urge will kick in just in time.

    "i never lit in one place til i got a 500,000 btu weedburner "

    Me Too!

  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
  • Grandpas GrubGrandpas Grub Posts: 14,226
    For me, I would have tossed the meat (I have done so in the past).

    Your fire build looks great. The small size lump would have me watching for a good air flow to be established.

    That amount of lump possibly would get you through an overnight cook but any type of center burn, which sounds like you had, would end up going out. I would have expected the lump to go out.

    For an overnight cook I always fill at least to the top of the fire box and most of the time fill to within 1" of the top of the fire ring. I also know I would not use all the lump.

    In your case I would have use 3 (1/2 starters) and light in 3 places. 3, 6 and 9 o'clock. Very close to the center of your wood chunks. I would have the wood chucks a little ways away from the starter cubes.

    With the 3 point start you verywell may have gotten through your cook without the lump going out.

    At some point in time you will learn you don't need to hand pick the lump or for that matter sort sizes.

    Always make sure the air holes in the fire grate and in the fire box are not blocked with ash or small pieces of lump - this is critical.

    Sorry the hear the fire went out but it happens to a lot of us. I have even had the fire go out using my DigiQII (powered vent system). However, it doesn't happen very often.

  • I'm not giving up on the meat just yet for two reasons -

    1) It smelled amazing this morning at 7:30a, had to resist the urge to try a little chunk off the outside :laugh:

    2) There was a 6 hour window of time where I don't know exactly what happened. But at the beginning of that window, I know that the butt had been at 210 - 250 for 4 hours and it's internal temp was 130. At the end of that window I know its internal and external temps were about 130. Since we only care about the external temp, that tells me that even if the fire went out as soon as I went to bed it would have slowly cooled from a surface temp of maybe 230 to about 130 over a 6 hour period. I can't see it cooling from 230 to 140 real quick (with a hot egg no less) such that it could have been below 140 for anywhere close to 4 hours. Does that sound reasonable? Then again, did I mention how good it smelled this morning?? I want to eat this thing, so maybe that is clouding my judgement!! :laugh:

    In all seriousness though, is there any way to actually know whether it's bad once I take it off? All the stuff I've seen about foul smells and stickiness seems to be talking about raw pork, not cooked pork.
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 23,014
    rotten meat smells bad but usually doesnt kill you, contaminated doesnt smell bad and can kill you. i think your safe as i think the dome temp was down under 140 for a short time, however you were there and its all up to you to make the descision. my descision would be based on whos eating it, are there young, old, or weak and sickly, or those that can eat just about anything
  • Dave ShadyDave Shady Posts: 247
    Are you feeding a bunch of politicians?

  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 23,014
    ive never had to make this choice, i ALWAYS drank enough guinness to get up and check ;) hes really close to the 4 hour rule, but i dont think he went over the 4 hours grill temp and thats what counts. as for meat temp ive cooked plenty of butts that didnt reach 140 internal by morning and thats safe according to the 4 40 140 rules
  • Egmont KeyEgmont Key Posts: 69
    A very short time ago I got my egg and had to have a practice fire. It went out after several hours because It wasn't lit good to start with. Lite your fire and when it is going good you will knowand can then set your temp. A few days after the practice I had one going for 16 hours.
  • mcarrmcarr Posts: 15
    Grandpas Grub wrote:
    mcarr, your initial 600° is the dome thermometer reading the flame heat from the starter cube.

    Oops, you're right I forgot to mention that. I should have said that what I really do is wait for the heat from the starter cube to die down and then I wait for the coals come up to 600.
  • Sorry it took me a few days to put up a follow-up post but I think it is official, the Egg is idiot proof. I did everything I could to screw up this Butt. Of course there was the fire going out, then at the end there was me ignoring everything I had been told and opening the draft door too far -- the temp had dropped to like 235 from 250 and I was paranoid that it was going out again, so I figured I'd give it a little boost. Of course I made this adjustment right before heading to the store to grab the ingredients for my side dishes and when I returned the dome temps were 350 and the butt was at 187 deg! I shut everything down but the egg held the heat over 300 for the remainder of the cook (only about 20 more mins) even with me opening the lid a few times.

    Anyway, I got it inside and it was just falling apart. Bone pulled out with two fingers and was as clean as if the dog had chewed it all night. Shredding everything with the fork was a piece of cake and the final result was absolutely delicious. So good in fact that my buddy is now buying an egg after eating some of the leftovers a day later ice cold right out of the fridge. Even cold the thing isn't dry and tastes amazing. I can't wait to see how good things taste when I get a cook that isn't filled with screw-ups!

    Thanks to everyone for their advice and moral support throughout the 21-hour ordeal :)

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