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. 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.

Have You Seen My Review of the Smokenator?

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.

Looking for the best lump charcoal around? Try Fogo Charcoal, they offer free shipping for orders over $35.

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 - Good for up to 475 degrees grill golve

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 with nothing on the top vent of the egg and the bottom vent wide open. We’ll control the temperature with the daisy wheel or different accessory like the Smokeware stainless steel cap. I use the Smokeware cap because it gives me greater control over the temperature. One of the things with the daisy wheel is that sometimes when you open the egg you lose the settings, the wheel slide from time to time. Because you have the bottom vent wide open you will want to make sure that the charcoal doesn’t get too hot prior to shutting the lid and putting on the daisy wheel or cap. It’s always easier to raise the temperature than it is to bring it down. Using the top vent to control the temperature allows you the ability to refine and fine tune the temperature much more easily.

Depending on conditions, once I get the egg close to my desired temp I can usually maintain the a level temp with the daisy wheel set like this:

Daisy Wheel Vents Open Halfway

Tip: Here’s a tip for the daisy wheel, you probably know this already but in case you don’t, looking at the picture above, position the daisy wheel so the raised letters (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.

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 too high on you then you can close the bottom door. It is really just science, the more air you have flowing through the egg, the bigger the fire you’ll get.

If I have one suggestions 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. The laser thermometer is a must-have if you plan on cooking pizza on the BGE so you can get an accurate temperature reading of the pizza cooking stone.

HDE Infrared Laser Thermometer

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.


Disclosure: If there is a product that I like and it has an affiliate program, then I might link to that product using an affiliate link. By using an affiliate link it means that I might earn a commission on a product if you buy something through that link. This doesn’t cost you anything but I just wanted you to be aware.

11 thoughts on “Big Green Egg: How to Control Temperature

  1. Thanks for another magnificent article. Where else may anybody get that
    type of info in such a perfect method of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the search for such info.

  2. When I want to roast a turkey I can’t get the temp past 250. It is when I put the roasting plate in.
    I have to leave the daisy wheel off and the bottom slide wide open. Any suggestions?

  3. I am working on a lamb roast as we speak . I want to be at 375Degrees but I can’t seem to get above 300 Deg. Any tips ? My top lid / daisy will has the hole open about 50% and the bottom slider at 2″ open ….

  4. How’ed it come out?
    Did you have it up to 375 and holding when you put the roast on? If yes, leave everything alone it should come back to 375.. If not, 2″ is fine at bottom and top is what you have to play with to get temp adjusted (what I’ve found out)… Open top all the way should rise quick, then shut it down…

  5. I don’t use the daisy wheel when I go o over 300 , I just use the bottom vent. If I am shooting for 350, I light the egg with the top open and the vent on the bottom is wide open. Once the the egg is at 300 I close the bottom vent to about 3/4″ to 1/2″. It usually takes about 20 minutes for it to stabilize. I only use the daisy wheel when going low & slow. The above does work, but I like not having to use both vents and seems to have simplify things for me.

  6. I left the first canister of coals in the canister too long and they died out, and temperature never got above 200, so I just dumped the rest of the small bag of coals in there and it’s been at 300 for almost an hour now.

  7. I hadn’t thought about having the daisy wheel to control the temperature. I can see how anyone looking for a way to control the temperature in one of this items would want to look at what you have said. I understand now that making sure you have the right combination of coals inside your big green egg as well as proper ventilation can help you reach the temperature you need. Thank you for sharing.

  8. first try smoking some ribs. fire nearly went out, opened the lid for a bit now I can’t seem to get it back down to 250. more like 375 at the moment.
    My guess – too many coals, too much air, wasn’t stabilized sufficiently at the onset of cooking.
    Wrapped the ribs in foil to protect them (2-2-1)

    love the egg

  9. Thanks for that. I got a medium egg for Christmas, which I’m thrilled with but a little intimidated by. Your tips help give me the confidence to fire her up and not make basic mistakes.

  10. Can you recommend how much coal/procedure for cooking low and slow, 100 degrees for 6-7 hours, I’m cooking beef short ribs in a cast iron casserole, and I have medium egg. I also have an extra large egg (two diff locations). We need to lower the temp and I’m struggling. The information you posted has really given me some great ideas, thank you.

  11. For those that having problems getting the temperature up, I think you have an issue with obstructed airflow. Remove all the unused charcoal from inside the grill and make sure that none of the air holes a blocked. Take out the Firebox grate to get better axes two of the ashes fall and empty them out completely.
    When you put your charcoal in put the big pieces on the bottom and in smaller pieces of the top of them and then drop the little pieces and top of those.
    When you light the fire, lighted in three places, like a triangle and the place is of the points of the triangle. This should help you get a good fire going that was stabilized quickly.

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