The design of the Big Green Egg allows for perfect air flow to be able to control the temperature. The bottom vent 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 airflow 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. Below, I’ve explained my system for temperature control at different levels for when we cook pizza, grill a steak, or smoke ribs or even cheese! What follows are general tips I have developed for regulating & controlling the Big Green Egg temperature.
How much Charcoal to Use?
So how much charcoal should you use in the Egg? It depends on what you’re cooking! In my opinion, the Big Green Egg has three functions: 1) Grill / Cook, 2) Smoke, 3) Bake. 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 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.
For smoking, it depends on the smoke and the length of the cook. If I’m going to be smoking a pork shoulder for 10+ hours then I’ll be filling up the chamber. You will really need to work on your temperature control because if you have too much lump and it gets too hot, then it’ll be hard to get the dome temperature (the temperature inside the dome at the top) down because 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.
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How to Light Charcoal
Here are a couple of tips for lighting charcoal in 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 a 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.
I like to use the Big Green Egg brand fire starters, and I put one of those in the middle of the charcoal, light it and keep the lid open for about 5 minutes. Once you can see that the charcoal has started to get a little orange fire in the firebox then shut the lid. You will need to add the daisy wheel or Smokeware cap on top very soon but you want to let the fire start to burn and heat up the egg.
I will usually let the grill continue as-is for another 5 minutes or so. You do want to balance the coals heating up with them getting too hot. This is a skill that you will eventually master but does take time. Remember, it is always easier to increase temperature than it is to reduce. Once the egg gets hot it is nearly impossible to get the temperature down in a short period of time.
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. I own a Pit Mitt for opening the egg and silicone gloves as well:
Controlling Big Green Egg Temperature
Controlling the temperature is one of the most important things you do with the Green Egg. 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. You don’t need a fancy automated temperature controller, you just need to refine your technique with the tools you already own.
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 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. By the way, the best accessory I’ve ever purchased for my Egg is the Smokeware cap. I find temperature control is much easier with the cap than the daisy wheel.
Depending on conditions, once I get the egg close to my desired temp I can usually maintain a level temp with the daisy wheel set like this:
Big Green Egg 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 see this and the charcoal got really hot and almost burned my steaks.
A Few Final Thoughts
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 suggestion 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. I recommend you get a laser thermometer. This helpful to get the actual temperature of the grate over the plate setter. If you plan on cooking pizza on the Egg I highly recommend getting a laser thermometer. You will need it to check the temperature of the middle of the pizza stone prior to putting the pizza on the grill. If the temperature is too low the middle of the pizza will cook unevenly.
That’s my system for lighting and controlling the Big Green Egg temperature for the 3 different functions. I hope you found this tutorial helpful and if you did, please share it! Let me know in the comments if you have a different system.
Do you own a Weber grill? Check out my review of the Smokenator?
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.