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Big Green Egg Beginner Query

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As a new owner of a BGE, I am experiencing information overload when I google around for basic matters. Even the BGE website does not offer a very direct route to this query. Their emphasis seems to be "recipes," which I need little help with. I know the rubs I like, the temps I desire, etc.

So if I may: I bought a whole untrimmed point end of a beef brisket and would like to slow-cook/smoke with the BGE for the first time. Can someone with experience indicate how you get things rolling and how you set the bottom and top vents for a 14-17-hour cook? I wonder, for example, whether you're supposed to start with wider open vents to get the heat up and then dial it back, or maybe instead a particular, more limited vent setting is preferred and you just wait until it gets up.

I do already have the use of the plate setter figured out and plan to use a water-filled drip pan.

My BGE is a Large size, by the way, and thanks in advance for any tips!

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  1. Sounds like you're ready to go.

    Fill to the bottom of the fire ring with lump. Then either fire some lump in a chimney or use use wicks. Assuming the chimney, just dump it in and distribute. If no chimney, roll up some half-paper-towels into wicks, bury the bottoms and soak them in cooking oil, then light.

    Once everything's going good, put in the plate setter, pan, grate etc; leave both vents open. Once you hit 175F close the bottom vent to 1/2 open and wait a little. Then close it more etc. For 240F which is what my egg likes I usually run about 1/8" bottom vent. The idea is to lead the cooker temp with a vent setting so that you don't grossly overshoot your desired temp. But remember that nothing happens quickly.

    You need to get a wired thermometer that puts a probe at grate level. The dome temp can easily run 50F+ above grate temp; grate temp is important because that's where the food is. And get a decent meat thermometer.

    I've done a 22-hour cook (wandered off to the bar) and the egg was still rockin' along. LOL

    1 Reply
    1. re: johnhicks

      Thanks for these tips!!

      It's surprisingly hard to find such specific information in the plethora of BGE online commentaries.

      You don't mention, however, what you do with the top vent settings.

      edit p.s.: I do have all manner of thermometers, including a probe one. Do you snake the probe in through the top vent, I assume?

    2. Here's some info:

      http://www.smoking-meat.com/big-green...

      1 Reply
      1. re: c oliver

        What a perfect page for me! Thanks for finding it!

      2. I use a firestarter to light my egg. I leave the top up until the flames go out. Then close the top and leave the top and bottom vents wide open. Keep and eye on your temp. guage and when it gets to about 50 degress below the temp. you want to end up with, close down your vents and just leave them open about 1/4 inch, then open or close as necessary . I usually end up with my vents open about a about the width of a dime, which is good for a low slow cook on my particular egg. Each egg is different and you'll have to just practice to see how yours maintains temps and how much to leave your vents open.. Remember, the egg takes awhile to cool down so keep an eye on your temps. It will take a good 15 to 20 min. after an adjustment to your vents to notice the changes. Make sure you you don't put any food on for a good 20-30 until the bad smoke disspates. I know this sound complicated but it will all come together soon and then you will be a pro. Your going to love your egg. Go over the greeneggers.com which is a BGE forum and there is a wealth of information there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sharhamm

          Many thanks for this detailed reply. Is yours a Large size?

          I appreciate your comments about the timing of temperature response relative to vent changes. That was another things I've wondered about. So, altogether, one could expect 45 minutes or more to get the egg to a stable low temp?

        2. Leave the top vents open.

          1. I just lay the probe wire across the gasket; it does no harm.

            1. http://www.nakedwhiz.com/ceramic.htm

              1. Thanks for the tips, everyone. I'm underway with my first long-cooked (overnight) brisket. This BGE is impressing me.

                Following johnhicks advice, I've dangled a probe thermometer into the grill to take stock of the temperature difference between the lower part of the interior (above the grate) in comparison to the thermometer on the dome. In my case (and perhaps because it is cool (in the 50s) outside, the dome thermometer reads about 200 while the probe is reading 233.

                What does impress me is the temperature stability. I sat on the deck smoking a cigar while jiggering this way and that with the vents. After watching both those gauges pretty much continually, what I've heard about the BGE seems to be borne out: it has been holding temperature within about a 3-degree range for two hours now. I'll check again before bedtime. But this is one cool bit of equipment so far.

                The other thing I'd add is that I am amazed how little charcoal I have to use with this thing. This is my first long cook. But I've roasted several chickens and finished some ribs on one fill of charcoal, and half of the coals were still there. The fact that you can shut down the vents once you're done cooking and completely snuff out the coals is really cool. Not something I could do with my Weber kettle (which I still love for other purposes).

                2 Replies
                1. re: Bada Bing

                  Glad it went well! I did a 12 lb brisket on the weekend. Had lots of problems holding the temp at 225. It's was great for the first 3 hours. I fell asleep and sometime between 3 and 7 and when I checked, it was stone cold! Had to restart that whole thing, but il tell ya, at the end of the day, it was over the top!

                  1. re: franpelyk

                    Actually, when I awoke in the morning (after about 12 hours cooking) the temp had dropped to 173. So I opened the vents and brought it back up to 240 or so for another couple of hours (the meat temp at the time was 175).

                    My only diversion from protocol was to leave in a fair bit of charcoal that was already in the with a few previous burns (rather than using all fresh charcoal). Not sure if or why that would matter. Will experiment some more.

                2. Did you get all squared away?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: johnhicks

                    Thanks for asking, John. I haven't tried another long burn yet. The brisket itself turned out great, although I did end up finishing it in the oven for an hour or so to bring it up to final temp. Next time I'm going to make sure I start with all fresh coal.

                    I also wonder how much of a factor ambient temp. might be. It was pretty cool (40s overnight).

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      Bada - No basting, just close the lid and walk away? Did he turn out tender? You say it was just the point, no flat?

                      1. re: BiscuitBoy

                        I only opened the lid after about 14 hours to take the meat temperature, which was 165 at that point. I was shooting for 175+. Only the point section.

                        It was tender enough, but oddly, in finishing it the oven, I ended up taking it higher in temp than intended. If it were the flat, it probably would have been a bit dry, but not the point.

                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          If you need help eating it, I'll bring the beer

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            175 is a bit low for brisket...15-25 degrees low my most standards. But then everyone has different personal preferences.

                            The lower the temp the dryer it will be. That sounds counterintuitive, but that's the way it is.

                            1. re: JayL

                              Mine was up around 190.