I had always been a gas grill guy because I didn’t know any better, I had heard how much better meats that came out of charcoal grills tasted, but I remembered back to my childhood and the hotdogs that came off of my dad’s weber using briquettes and lighter fluid didn’t instill impeccable flavor convincing enough for me to bite the bullet.
Then one day a friend and customer of mine came in asking if I had considered carrying a product that competed with the Big Green Egg. Not being a dealer that carried charcoal grills I told him that I had not, but that I would investigate. Investigate I did, and was impressed that the food that came off a kamado grill was truly something inspiring. The appearance, the passion, and the variety of food that came off these grills literally made my mouth water. A long story short I didn’t bring in the completive brand, I brought in “The Real McCoy” – The Big Green Egg. I had bought into this passion of charcoal grilling so much that I was now a retailer for the best known brand in the industry, and I was dying to try it myself at this point! Even after all my research I struggled with just what to do for my first cook, so I read blogs, studied http://www.biggreenegg.com as if I was studying the word of the Lord, watched video after video and pondered what I would be the most proud to put on the dinner table. Even with all that I had read, studied and watched I lacked confidence in maintaining temperature. So I thought I’d give some pointer recognizing you will learn very fast that the learning curve is very shallow and you’ll have the hang of it in no time.
Lighting the egg can be done several ways, but no matter if you use the igniter squares and a lighter, or electric starters it’s best to light it and leave the lid open for about 15 minutes. This allows for the black smoke to burn off, and allows a uniform burn throughout the charcoal. Once the charcoal is glowing red uniformly you can close the lid.
The first burn off shouldn’t be too hot. The gasket needs to have a nice warm first burn, if it’s too hot you risk the adhesive failing. Think of this just like you would if you got a brand new stove delivered, burn off the manufacturer chemicals and smells. This is a great opportunity for you to play with maintaining temperature as well. Try to hover at 350 degrees for a couple hours, and don’t stress if you get up to 500, just close down your dampers.
The damper on the bottom of the egg effects temperature far less than the damper on the top of the egg. I’ve been able to maintain temperature for shorter cooks (under 1 hour) very easily with the damper wide open on the bottom. Shorter cooks are at higher temperatures so they need air – focus more on the damper at the top of the egg and you’ll be just fine.
Don’t let the temperature get away from you. This really is just to say if you’re trying to cook at 250 degrees, don’t let the egg get to 600 degrees. You do this by clinching down your dampers earlier in the process, say 300 degrees. Remember airflow makes temperature go up so simply lifting the lid doesn’t bring temperature down, it will actually make your temperature go up. If you are a couple hundred degrees to hot, add a couple handfuls of wet wood chips and get your lid closed and dampers closed down about half way too. This should be enough to get you back where you need to be quickly.
Get a few shorter cooks under your belt before you try a 12 or 14 hour cook. I say this just so you can feel more confident in maintaining temperature before you jump into something that it really matters on like a brisket at 250 degrees for 12 hours.
When you’re done cooking, close off your dampers and the fire will die out leaving behind un-burnt charcoal for your next cook. The only thing you’ll need to do in order to use them the next time is stir them up getting all of the white ash off the charcoal and down below fire grate.
I hope these have been helpful! Have fun!
Kyle D. Mirka