The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Cold Weather Cooking on the BGE

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Happy New Year 2013 to you!! This blog is about my experience to date using my new Big Green Egg in the cold weather. Now if you want the quick answer to the question: “What is the major difference between using the Big Green Egg in the cold weather and the warm weather?” The short answer is there is no difference. A slightly longer answer is that you as the user will probably be wearing more clothes to stay warm. Let’s take a look at using the BGE in the clod weather.

Actually before I get rolling let me note a change I am making here in 2013. Last year when I purchased my first BGE, I began writing a series of around 20 numbered blogs about the BGE. This was to separate them from my other blog entries that weren’t related to my BGE. In 2013 I am dropping the version number. With my second Egg within days of arriving here, by default going forward many of my blogs will be about the BGE. This is simply because that is what I now own and will be using most of the time. If you were looking for general interest blogs, there will still be plenty of those. I am just dropping the numbering convention for the BGE specific blogs. I will still put Big Green Egg, Egg, or BGE in the title so those of you who are interested in the Egg (or not interested as the case may be) can find what they are looking for. OK enough of that, on to cold weather cooking on the Big Green Egg.

I really didn’t know what to expect with the coming cold weather. I figured the BGE would be better due to it’s insulation properties, but I didn’t know to what extent. When the weather started getting colder I asked some of my BGE owning friends (real or virtual) plus my dealer how much of an adjustment I would need to make to my usual damper settings with the upcoming cold weather. The answer was identical: “Very, very little to none.” Normally I might not have been inclined to believe this, but the answer was identical from everyone. Plus it had started getting a bit colder and thus far I hadn’t needed to make any adjustments to my settings. At this point I cooked in temperatures down to the mid 20’s (-4 C) and I’ll have to say I haven’t noticed any difference in the settings I’ve had to use in the cold weather. I haven’t noticed any particular difference in warmup times that I could attribute to the cold. Some warmups take slightly more or slightly less time than others. But this could be attributed to several things besides the cold: Size of the lump charcoal pieces, amount of ash buildup at the bottom of the firebox, dampness of the weather. These things happen year round and the differences in warmup time seem to be caused by these things and not the cold weather.



Thanksgiving Day proved the mettle of the BGE. Although the temps were in the mid 20’s (-4 C) to low 30’s (0 C) I was able to run the Egg all day at 350 degrees while making only one tweak of my grate settings. I was able to bake a bunt cake (top left), bake Hermit cookies (top right), bake dinner rolls (bottom left) and bake the turkey (bottom right).

Compared to my other grills this performance is excellent indeed. My gas grill would take an extra 10 minutes to warmup, going from 10-15 minutes to 25. In the summer in temps above 85 (29 C) or so my gas grill could hit temperatures of over 1,000 degrees (538 C) at the grate level. In the winter in the extremely cold weather I’d have trouble reaching 550 (288 C). You could direct grill but you needed to open the lid quickly and keep it closed as much as possible. Also you could not let the propane tank get below the 50 percent filled level or you wouldn’t have enough pressure to get a flame hot enough to cook with. My smoker would take up to double the time to warm up, between lighting the coals in the charcoal chimney and the warmup time of the smoker once the hot coals were added. Lifting the lid, unless done very quickly could cost you 15 minutes or so of cooking time. My charcoal usage would be double or triple what it was in the summer. Now I’d recently purchased a welder’s blanket and it had improved the performance of the smoker in cold weather, but it still wasn’t anywhere near the same league as the BGE. An example of the performance of the BGE was Thanksgiving where it was in the mid 20’s (-4C) to low 30’s (0C). I lit the BGE at 7:00 AM and used it all day at 350 degrees (177 C) until 5:00 PM. It stayed at temperature all day without my having to tweak the vents with one exception. When I put my turkey on the Egg the temps recovered quickly but stalled at 325 (163 C). I figured it was from putting a cold turkey on and while it would eventually recover, I simply opened the lower draft door slightly to get things moving more quickly. I got it back up to 350 (177 C) and that was the only adjustment I had to make in 10 hours of cooking.


My biggest surprise is being able to use the wok on my Egg in cold weather with the lid up.

One thing that has amazed me about the Egg is I am able to direct grill with an open lid using my wok. I seem to be able to hit any temperature I want. This is something I absolutely would not be able to do on my gas grill this time of the year. Lid open direct grilling is simply not possible. On the Egg I have had zero issues, I get as much heat as I need and everything cooks up in the same amount of time as it did in the warmer weather. Although the Egg seems to be capable of any lid open direct grilling you may want to throw at it, ironically with the Egg you do the majority of your direct grilling with the lid down. The great seal you get helps keep the food moist. There is a saying related to the Egg to the effect: “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking” or “If you’re viewing, you’re not queing.” Another difference is the fuel usage. I don’t seem to notice any difference in the amount of lump charcoal I am using during the cold weather vs the warm. This is a very pleasant surprise and the lower cost of consumables on the Egg will quickly make up for the price difference between it and a less expensive grill.

In terms of low and slow, it is more of the same. Same amount of warm up time, same damper settings and no apparent variation from the cooking times I would expect in warmer weather. I used the Egg to cook my Christmas standing rib roast and while I did have some temperature issues due to improper placement of my grate probe. I detailed this in a blog entry called
TEMPERATURE PROBE ISSUES. If anything I had problems keeping the temps low. I usually light 2 paraffin starters to do low and slow and this day I ASSumed I should light 3 because it was only in the mid 20’s (-4 C). As it turns out, I actually didn’t need to do this and shouldn’t have. If anything I was running out of room to go colder if I needed to. Going low and slow gets even nicer if you throw in the new ET-732 thermometer I purchased when I got my Egg. I have now doe single or multi-item cooks where the Egg has run for 12 hours and been rock steady. With the longer range I can bring the ET-732 anywhere in my house and still get a temperature reading. So now I am not running outside all the time to readjusts vents (like on my smoker), add more briquettes (smoker), or checking to see that the thermometer hasn’t lost synch with the transmitter out at the grill.

So what is different about grilling or smoking on the Egg in the cold weather? Very little to do with the Egg. Me, I have to dress warmer: wear a well insulated jacket, wear good shoes with thick bottoms to protect my feet from the cold, wear a hat and/or ear muffs. Oh and I shouldn’t leave the kitchen door open and let all the cold in the house. But the Egg doesn’t seem to care what temperature you use it in. The weather around here can still go down another 45 degrees (25 C) If I find anything changes if it gets colder, then I’ll write a supplemental blog. But the temperatures I’ve already encountered are the ones I will be experiencing 9 out of 10 times. The fact that nothing is different is a pleasant and unexpected surprise indeed!


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