Big Green Egg - Pt 11 - Gasket Replacement - Big Picture
09/27/12 -08:46 Filed in: Big Green Egg | Maintenance
Yesterday I did something that I hope to never have to do again to my Big Green Egg for a real long time. I replaced the existing wool gasket with a new high heat Nomex gasket. There is a lot of info on the web about changing your Big Green Egg gaskets. So why am I writing a blog about this process? Because I am going to report my real world experience without taking shortcuts, leaving little details out or minimizing some of the aggravating steps and I will let the reader take it for what it is worth. I am going to split this into two parts. This part will cover the big picture items you should know before starting. These include when you should replace your gasket, some of the options for a Nomex high temperature replacement gasket, the tools you will need, how much time it will take and what you will need to do with the Egg. Part 2 will cover my specific experiences: what went well and what didn’t.
My Big Green Egg is 7 weeks old and has about 60 cooks on it. On the 3rd cook I made pizza at 650 degrees and the stock wool gasket was already damaged. Pizza on the Egg is excellent and many pizzas were to follow and my gasket was soon toast. Not that I was surprised by that. Actually I was surprised that the BGE folks would ship a product that has a gasket that is not up to the task of cooking at a temperature that is within the expected range of use. Now I have seen on several message boards whee BGE is now shipping their new Eggs with high temperature Nomex gaskets. All I can say mine wasn’t. But was I surprised when the gasket didn’t hold up to NORMAL use? No. Sadly it is a not too well kept dirty little secret that your going to fry your stock BGE gasket. So let me tell you: You ARE going to fry your standard low temp wool gasket. I noticed at my last trip to the BGE dealer that the new Eggs were coming with a high temperature gasket. What I would suggest doing is if your Egg DIDN”T come with a high temperature gasket, buy one and put it on before your first cook. The longer you wait, the harder it is going to be to replace your gasket. How do you know if your new Egg has the high temperature gasket? The wool gaskets are a dark brown & black, the high temperature gasket is a light grey. There is no mistaking one for the other.
Can you go commando and run your Egg naked without a gasket? Yes and I have friends who are Egg users who do just that. However many of them say it is harder to run at real low temperatures and that that their Egg is more affected by windy or cold weather. Some of them say their charcoal takes longer to go out. For a replacement gasket you have several options according to the message boards. Many folks report that when they called their BGE dealer they were given a free replacement stock wool gasket. Really? Why would you want to waste your time? Others report their dealer gave them a BGE high temperature gasket. Others had to buy their high temperature gasket because their dealers didn’t offer a free one. Now the BGE high temperature gasket will last a long time, but it has some limitations/aggravations in terms of installation. First the gasket has to be pre-shrunk in the dryer before installation which is a minor aggravation. The second is the gasket comes with no adhesive, you must use spray adhesive on both the gasket and the rim of the Egg. I went with a 3rd party option. The folks at High-Que make a BGE Nomex gasket replacement kit for the various size BGEs. There is no requirement for preshrinking and best yet, the gasket is backed with a high temperature adhesive tape. No need to unroll the gasket onto the lawn to spray it with adhesive. They also point out you don’t have to disassemble the Egg to do the installation. Before you get too excited, let me point out that it is easy to clean the lid if is removed and rather awkward and difficult if you leave it attached. I would say plan on removing the lid.
WHAT DO I NEED: Lets talk about the installation. Your Egg needs to be cool which explains why I haven’t done it up until this point. Since getting it in early August, my Egg has been used almost daily. The times I didn’t use it, I wasn’t home. My Egg had about 60 cooks on it which may explain why it was so hard to remove all of the gasket and the adhesive. The second requirement for the High-Que gasket is the air temperature needs to be over 50 degrees. When the new gasket is installed, you must go 12-24 hours before you use the Egg. So I had to take some time off from cooking on my Egg before the air temps got too low to do the installation. You will need a place to work where you can place the top lid on it when you remove it from the Egg and need to work on the lower half of the Egg.
Hopefully you saved the the white plastic retaining clips to lock the spring hinges in the closed position when it was shipped to you. For tools you need some sort of scraper-a flat scraper, a holder for a straight edged razor etc. I used my 3 in 1 tool which has a scraper edge. You also need acetone for cleaning off the leftover adhesive and burned on gasket pieces. You need some rags, I used terrycloth as opposed to smooth so the rag had a little “grit” to help lift the gunk off the rim. You will also want some gloves when using the acetone, which is not good for bare skin. I ended up using a 3/4” wide paint stripping brush for my electric drill. While using this I wore safety glasses. You will need a 1/2” (1.25 cm) wrench to unloosen the metal bands and a 7/16” (1.1 cm) wrench if you are going to mess with the hinges. Oh and you WILL need patience. Lots and lots of patience as I found.
WEATHER: The High-Que Nomex gasket replacement kit said you should install the gasket with air temperatures of 50 degrees (10 C) or above. Obviously the Egg should be kept dry, which was not a problem with my grill gazebo. If weather is an issue you might want to roll your Egg into a garage or toolshed.
TIME REQUIRED: The various videos I’ve seen on this process all seem to indicate that the process will take 40-60 minutes total. Don’t necessarily believe it. Several of these videos are made by BGE dealers and I don’t know if they have some magic wand they wave but it took me 2 hours plus just to get the rim cleaned. If these dealers don’t have some special trick they don’t discuss, I wonder if they don’t minimize the time so the process doesn’t look too hard. I mean you don’t want to scare off potential customers who happen to see these videos. The problem with the videos is they show starting the cleaning process and finishing it. This is necessary for the purposes of the video not being too long or too big, but the problem is you don’t know how long things really took. The other thing I noticed in some of the videos is their acetone worked far better than my acetone did.I have no explanation for this. I am not aware of there being different strengths of acetone, so I can’t explain this. I had to resort to using a 3/4” (2 cm) paint stripper brush on my electric drill to get the really crusted stuff off. In a couple of the videos I watched, the person doing the gasket replacement didn’t really clean up the left over crud. Doing it this way, I could see where it takes less than an hour. I really doubt that the adhesive will adhere properly to the greasy residue these folks didn’t bother to clean. So plan on setting aside a morning or afternoon for this task.
PREPPING THE EGG:
Now the Nomex gasket I bought came with a high temperature adhesive on one side. High-Que mentions you don’t need to remove the top lid to install their gasket. This is really stretching things quite a bit. Even with the top lid fully open it is at an odd angle to work with. You need to twist yourself into an odd position and work somewhat upside down. Because the top lid is supported by the hinge only you are going to get some movement when you try to scrape or put pressure on the rim. So I’d say plan on taking the top domed lid of the Egg off as well as the hinge and the band clamps. You need a 1/2” (1.2 cm) wrench for this task and before you start, you should reinstall the plastic hinge retaining clamps that originally came installed on the spring hinge when the product left the factory. If you didn’t hang onto to these retaining clamps, you can use 2 plastic wire click ties. You will need a place to store the lid when you first take it off and later, after the band clamps are removed, you can turn the dome upside down and nest it in the bottom of the egg.