10 Performance-Enhancing Techniques for Your Big Green Egg
By Steven Raichlen
Start with a full load of natural lump charcoal. That means 5 pounds lit with a paraffin fire starter cube or an electric lighter. No chimney needed (the Egg’s unique design makes it sort of an oversize chimney). And never use lighter fluid.
When lighting the charcoal, have all the vents wide open and keep the lid open the first 7 to 10 minutes. Then close it to bring the Egg to the desired temperature. This will take 15 to 20 minutes (a bit longer in winter).
Once the Egg is hot, “burp” it before opening it completely. That is, raise the lid a few inches to release some of the heat, then lower it. Do this a couple times. This keeps you from getting blasted by a “back flash.”
For direct grilling (of steaks, chops, burgers, etc.), have all the coals lit, open the bottom and top vents wide, and preheat the Egg to 600 to 700 degrees. Sear the steak on the grate for 2 minutes per side (giving a quarter turn after 1 minute), then lower the lid. Here’s where the genius of the Egg comes in: The juices drip on the coals, sending fragrant smoke up to the steak. The lowered lid traps the smoke and seals in the moisture. It also speeds up the cooking time—7 minutes in all should do it.
For indirect grilling and smoking, install a convEGGtor (a.k.a. plate setter)—a heavy three-legged ceramic plate that fits in the top of the bottom section of the Egg’s firebox. Insert it upside down (that is, with the legs up and the flat section down).
For slow-smoking, add the normal measure of charcoal. Mix in 2 handfuls (1 to 1-1/2 cups) hardwood chips (for a regular size Egg, 3 handfuls for the XXL), which Bruce Bohannon, Big Green Egg cooking instructor, does not bother to soak ahead of time. Scatter the chips over the charcoal, then push them between the coals with a poker. Using a paraffin fire starter, light only 3 or 4 coals in the center. Then close the lid and adjust the vents to obtain the desired temperature (225 to 250 degrees). Another ingenious feature of the Egg becomes obvious here: The lit coals in the center gradually light the surrounding coals and wood chips. The fire spreads slowly to the periphery, giving you as much as 16 to 18 hours of heat and smoke on a single load of charcoal.
For a stronger smoke flavor, toss 3 chunks of hickory or other hardwood on top of the unlit coals.
To further control the heat, invest in a Big Green Egg Barbecue Guru. This battery-powered thermostat regulates the airflow through the bottom vent, allowing you to control the cooking temperature almost to the precise degree.
Yes, you can cold smoke in an Egg. Set it up for slow-smoking and preheat to 200 degrees. Fill a large pan with ice and place it on the convEGGtor, then place the food to be cold smoked over it.
You want approximate cooking times? Use the following guide for an Egg preheated to 225 degrees:
Wings: 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours
Ribs (baby backs or spares): 4 hours
Pork shoulder (6 to 7 pounds): 10 to 12 hours
Brisket (a 6-pound flat): 12 to 13 hours