Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

I got a Large Big Green Egg (BGE) as a Christmas present from my wonderful wife and boy, what a present! I really enjoy to grill and smoke, I guess I’d consider it a hobby at the present time. If you aren’t familiar with the Big Green Egg, it’s essentially a ceramic oven that you use as a grill. The design of the Egg allows for perfect air flow to be able to control the temperature. The door at the bottom allows you full control over the amount of air going into the Egg and through the coals. The variable “daisy wheel” on the top allows you a full range of options when controlling how much air flow goes through the chamber and escapes the Egg. All the while, the ceramic Egg is perfectly radiating even heat onto the grate surface where you put the food. I think I’ve got a pretty decent system for controlling the temperature at different levels for when we cook pizza, grill a steak, or smoke ribs or even cheese! What follows are the general tips I have for developed for regulating & controlling the temperature in the large Big Green Egg.

Understanding the Basics of the Big Green Lighting Charcoal

In my opinion, the Big Green Egg has three functions: 1) Grill / Cook, 2) Smoke, 3) Bake. For what I’ve found, I use different amounts of charcoal for each of the 3 functions. For Grilling and Baking, I fill the charcoal chamber to about 3/4 full to the break line between the two pieces of the BGE. If I’m going to sear and grill a couple of steaks, I might put in a little more charcoal and get the Egg nice and hot. When I bake Papa Murphy’s pizza (Large Pizza works great!), I put in a little less than 3/4 full because I don’t need as much. The same goes for smoking any type of meat, I’ll fill the chamber to maybe half full depending on the cut of meat. So the first thing you need to decide is how much charcoal you need for your cook. If you have too much and it gets too hot, then it’ll be hard to get the dome temperature (the temperature inside the dome at the top) down be cause the ceramic is now quite hot. Compared to a Weber Grill, or Weber Smokey Mountain, the Big Green Egg uses much, much less charcoal. First off you use lump charcoal, and second, when you are done using the Egg, you close up the grill and that seals things pretty well to snuff out the coals. By doing this, you can simply add a few pieces of charcoal to the chamber the next time you grill.

Lighting the Big Green Egg

Here are a couple of tips for lighting the Big Green Egg. It’s important that you need to know where in the chamber to light the charcoal. If you are going to be cooking at high temperature (steaks, burgers, etc.) you want to light the charcoal in the middle because you want the hottest part in the middle. If you are using the Egg as a smoker I recommend just starting the coals in the back half.

Personally, I use the Big Green Egg brand fire starters, and I put one of those in the midst of the charcoal and light it and keep the lid open for about 5 minutes of so. Once you can see that the charcoal has started to get a little orange and is lit then shut the lid. At this point you shouldn’t have any lid on the top but you will soon put the “daisy wheel” on so have that handy.

I usually let the grill continue as is for another 5 minutes. I do check after a minute or two to see what temperature reads on the thermometer because I don’t want the temperature getting too high if I’m going to be smoking. I do however want the charcoal to fully engage so I just kind of use the eye test.

Tip: When cooking at high temps beware of the back flash of heat when you open the Egg. Always “burp” the Egg by opening the lid an inch or two to allow it to breathe. You need to get a Pit Mitt because of the heat, trust me. Here’s my Pitt Mitt (good up to 475 degrees, great for handling hot grates and vents):

pitt mitt 225x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

Controlling the Temperature of the Big Green Egg

One of the most important things you do with the Green Egg is controlling and regulating the temperature. Now here’s where things can get tricky but since the air flow through the Egg is fully customizable you’ll figure out the right system that works for you.

I start by putting the daisy wheel on top with the top slider fully covering the exhaust chimney, and the small slider positioned so the vent holes are open. After I position the top I close the bottom door about half way and wait about 2 minutes. Ideally you should be at or around your target temperature before you start to close the Egg up. I try to shoot to be just under the temperature with a good fire coming from the charcoal. I can always bring the heat up slightly if I need to by adjusting either of the sliders on the daisy wheel. After waiting a minute or two I close the bottom door to about 1″:

bottom door open inch 226x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

Then I close the daisy wheel so the vent holes are half open like this:

daisy wheel open halfway 225x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

Now from here the Big Green Egg should keep a consistent temperature. If you need to adjust the temperature slightly (25 to 50 degrees) I usually use different combinations of the daisy wheel sliders. If the temperature is getting to high then you can close the bottom door more or all the way and that prevents air entering the Egg and will eventually choke out the fire.

The one tip I have when using the Egg as a smoker, bring the heat up slowly but yet completely. I had one smoke that ran about 350 degrees because I had gotten the Big Green Egg too hot and there was no turning back. I recommend you get a laser thermometer, I use this to get the actual temperature of the grate, or grill grate over the plate setter. I got mine at Amazon and I think it was $20 or less, I use it all the time.

infrared laser thermometer 225x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

Tip: Here’s a tip for the daisy wheel, you probably know this already but in case you don’t, position the daisy wheel so the writing (Big Green Egg) is at 12 o’clock. The bottom vent slider will stay put when you open the lid because it hits the raised letters of the writing. On my first cook I didn’t realize this and the sliders had slid open and cause the charcoals to get really hot and almost burn my steaks. In this picture of the daisy wheel look at the raised letters on the back side:

daisy wheel 225x300 Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

That’s my system for lighting the Egg and controlling the temperature for the 3 different functions. I hope you found this How to helpful and if you did, please share it! Let me know in the comments if you have a different system.

Time Lapse Video of Construction at Super Bowl Central

Here’s a time lapse video I took of the construction going on and around downtown Phoenix for Super Bowl Central. I took the video between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm using my iPad 2. The video was shot from the 18th floor of the CityScape Building. From what I understand there will be a lot of activities going on at Super Bowl Central along with NBC having broadcast locations right out in the middle of the action you see in the video. Enjoy . . .