Big Green Egg--What I've Learned So Far

So I’ve been dabbling around with the L BGE, done some grilling, roasting, pizza and slow-n-low BBQ. And I’ve been reading a bit from the web and cookbooks. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

  1. With one big caveat, the heat isn’t that hard to adjust. It’s just a matter of fiddling with the bottom draft and the top damper. And adjustments happen fast. The caveat is that you can’t expect to turn down a hot BGE to low without choking out the fire completely and starting over. But even that happens pretty quickly. And IME, when you have the setting right, it stays steady for a long time.

  2. Preheating based on a steady air temperature isn’t a good measure of the readiness of a grill, plancha or pizza stone to cook. Sure, if you hold that air temp for long enough, that stuff will come up to close to that reading, but it takes considerable time. A good example of this was pizza–the air temp was steady at 610F for at least a half hour, but the stone was only about 375F.

  3. The fire is easy to light. I’ve used electric rod, chimney, starter pucks and a propane torch, and they all work well and fast. I like the propane torch the best, because you can start any number of discrete spots, depending on what you’re cooking.

  4. Users should avoid opening the top to look and check–every time you peek or poke, heat escapes. Some is necessary, of course. But thankfully we now have wireless and wired leave-in thermometers–we just have to trust them.

  5. The BGE is very fuel efficient. It burns a long time on a little (lump) charcoal. And you can stop the burn very quickly by completely starving the charcoal of oxygen and re-use the unburned portion. So far, for every three baskets of new charcoal lit, I’m getting back an average of one basket back.

  6. Combination cooking requires some effort. That is, if a cook requires both direct and indirect heat (e.g., a reverse seared steak), you basically must remove the food and rearrange the deflectors, grids, grates, etc. For the reverse sear, e.g., the hot plate setter must be removed before you can sear at the end. There are “half-moon” deflectors and grates that theoretically obviate this need, but even the Large BGE isn’t big enough if what you’re cooking requires two zones at once.

  7. Running this thing requires a lot of work space. Mine came with the 60" wooden table stand, and that’s only marginally enough. I would be very unhappy with just the two little wing tables on either side.

  8. All the fuel, tools, accoutrements, and inserts take up a lot of storage space. And everything that goes in the BGE comes out in some state of dirtiness. Some of this comes off easily, but a lot does not, which makes your storage space also smelly and dirty.

  9. All the lump charcoal I’ve purchased has contained a lot of fines and dust. This can be counterproductive in getting the hottest and longest-burning fires because it restricts air flow. To do it 100% right, you’d have to screen out the fines and dust.

  10. There are thermostatically-controlled blower units for these kamados that will adjust air flow to reach and hold a set temperature. I bought the Thermoworks Billows, but haven’t used it yet. My BIL has a similar blower and he says it’s good because it will fan the fire fast to get it up to temp, and then idle up and down as necessary to hold the preset temperature. Time will tell, but the appeal is that the cook can step away (or sleep) during long cooks without worry that the temperature will change.

  11. A roof or canopy over the BGE to shed rain would be nice.

Next on the hit parade is baking. I found an Egg-specific focaccia recipe that sounds and looks really good.

3 Likes

Being able to control heat at the very low range, at will, revolutionized cuisine.

One gives up that capability at some cost.

With my first brisket, the Egg held steady at 225F for over 12 hours with no adjustments, then required slightly opening both top and bottom. Even at 225F, the draft and damper openings are tiny, as in the draft is open only about 1/8".

There are people claiming they can do a steady 175F. Maybe that’s with a blower only periodically letting air in.

I’m honestly impressed. Good luck.

To expand on #9 above (charcoal size variances), I now see a tradeoff between large chunks and small. If high heat–like 500 up–is required, golf ball sized chunks or bigger are best, with few to none smaller. Shaking/sifting out the stuff that passes through the burn basket has still not worked well. I think I’ll literally have to cherry pick.

However, the small stuff works very well for slow-n-low, because the basket of fuel itself further slows airflow and makes dialing down the temp easier and easier to adjust.

I’m just going to keep two 5G buckets, and sort. The recycle stuff can go in with the smalls.

Bricquettes would be more predictable, and less work. But I’m unsure of the max temp. Maybe the Billows can serve as a truyere…

This conclusion was reinforced this weekend. I opened a new bag of Lazzari charcoal, and the lumps/stumps were quite large. The temp (275 for ribs) wasn’t especially hard to maintain, but the fire wasn’t as easy to light, and it verged on going out several times.

“Beer can” chicken experiment #2 tomorrow night.

1 Like

Tri Tip on the BGE last night. Requires 225 to 250 degrees. It was pretty windy, so I anticipated a bit of effort to keep the temp that low, but it turned out not to be an issue.

6 Likes

Looks really good.

1 Like

I use Lazzari too because it’s what my local restaurant store often has on hand, though sometimes they seem to switch brands. If I recall, it’s mesquite. Mine comes in large white plastic bags (maybe 40-50 lbs) and some of the pieces look like large branches up to 6-8” diameter. I quite like the highly variable mixture because of the rustic appearance. However, I can imagine others would prefer very consistently sized pieces to keep the fire steady and reliable. To those people, why not go for briquettes, then?

This bag of Lazzari isn’t variable so far. Mostly large chunks.

I think I need to start using the blower instead of trying to grade the charcoal.

OK, data to follow, but I think I’ve proven that liquid in the can “steams”. Over an hour cook at 375F, 150 ml of water reduced to 116 ml, and the liquid reached 206F.

It probably would have gone higher. I pulled the can and thermocouple when the thigh hit 166F because the liquid temp was coming up fast (I was worried the water had cooked completely off and I wanted to weigh it).

My results differ from Thermoworks’, which didn’t see the liquid passing 187F and claimed to have MORE liquid in the can afterward.

That’s a great first run. Interesting that the data are contrary to the other research group. There’s certainly something interesting to be learned here. Thank you for funding, designing, performing, and reporting this experiment!

Before this can be accepted as proven, maybe it should be repeated a few more times? perhaps for a total of 3-5 technical replicates. Then you can report mean values for water temperature and residual water volume/mass with an estimate of the variance (eg standard deviation and standard error of the mean). The repetition is particularly relevant since the results are at odds with the report of another reputable group.

Then maybe you can design (fund, perform, and report) another quantitative experiment to prove or disprove how you think the other group got it wrong. Is it that they didn’t get the cooking/oven temperature high enough?

Then write it up as a 2-3 page article and submit it to a peer reviewed journal. There must be a literature for these sorts of experiments.

Congratulations again.

I think Thermoworks ran too low, on indirect heat, the can was in contact with the bird, and the opening let drippings in. These all would contribute to lower measured liquid temperature.

I also think one sippy-hole isn’t particularly conducive to steaming, either.

Next try may be the way Napoleon intended it, with the liquid spread over the wide area of the 16" bottom pan.