High in the Dome
09/30/14 - 09:41 Filed in: Baking | Eggcessories | BGE | Big Green Egg
I used my new third Egg (dedicated to baking), to make another batch of scones baked high in the dome. Like the first batch, this round was as close to technically perfect as a cook is going to get. I am very pleased to say the least. So far cooking high in the dome has resulted in a BETTER more evenly baked, more predictable end product than I get with my indoor oven. This blog will cover my experiences to date. I am also going to mention a few advantages I find having the dedicated Egg for baking.
The first picture shows a typical indirect baking setup on the Egg with the platesetter installed legs up. The cooking grid is on top of the legs of the platesetter. The baked goods are being cooked at about 3” (7.5 cm above the fire ring and just below the gasket level. In the second picture the Adjustable Rig is installed with the oval stone at Level 1.5 and the Rig Extender installed on top. This puts a shelf 3 1/4” up into the dome and the shelf is twice the distance from the stone/platesetter.
What do you Mean by High in the Dome?: I am using the Adjustable Rig by the Ceramic Grill Store to give me a shelf which is about 7 1/2” (19 cm) above the ceramic fire ring. The fire ring is where the stock grill of the Egg is placed. The Adjustable Rig sits on top of the fire ring and gives you 4, or with the Rig Extender, 5 levels you can cook at. The levels are designated by numbers referring to their height in inches above the fire ring. Just as I did the first time, I used something called the Rig Extender to give me a cooking grid high up into the dome. The Rig Extender gives you a 5th shelf height that is 3 1/4” (8.25 cm) above the gasket line of the lid. I installed the oval pizza stone for the Adjustable Rig at level 1.5, the lowest level. This turns your setup into indirect cooking, which is what you want for baking. With the oval stone at Level 1.5, this meant the shelf with the food at Level 7.5 was 6” (15.25 cm) above the stone. This is about twice as far away from the food as when you install the BGE platesetter in the legs up position. This means you are farther away from the radiant heat coming off the stone below and more direct heat reflecting back down from the dome below. The heat bouncing back off the underside of the dome is going to be more evenly distributed due to the nature of the dome shape.
What is the Setup You are Using?: The Adjustable Rig is installed with the oval pizza stone installed at the lowest position, Level 1.5. The Rig Extender is installed on top of the AR and a 13” (33 cm) diameter D-grid shelf is set on the Rig Extender.
Where & How are you Measuring Temperature?: Earlier this year I was having trouble with baked goods cooking unevenly in the cold weather. They were cooking too fast on the bottom and too slow on the top. I found it was due to using the dome thermometer to measure the temperatures in the Egg. Using the dome thermometer to measure the temps is common practice on the Egg for some reason. Best practice is always measure your temps at your cooking level. When baking on the platesetter the food was 5” or more below the dome thermometer probe. In the cold weather there were wide variations between the temps at the platesetter and up near the dome thermometer. When I started lo measure my temps at whatever level my food was at, my problems vanished. I haven’t changed my position on this, but using this new setup the shelf at Level 7.5 is within 1 1/4” of the dome thermometer’s probe. This “seemed” like it would be close enough proximity that the dome thermometer’s readings would be close enough to the temperature at Level 7.5. I am watching this closely and will use a remote read temperature probe at Level 7.5 if I start seeing issues again in the cold weather. I think one thing that is helping here too, is the fact the food is 6” vs 3” (15 cm vs. 7.5 cm) away from the level of the stone. The heat coming off the stone is less “harsh” because the food is farther away from it.
Hands On Results: Seeing Triple One of the things I like about owning 3 identically sized Eggs is it is a no-brainer. I do not have to think twice about which Egg I am lighting. They all heat up the same. With the exception of my Spider Eggcessory which fix only on my original Egg, all of the other Eggcessories work on all three Eggs. The first two cooks on the new baking Egg went flawlessly. The warm up time was the same and both times I hit my target temperature and had it locked in after two adjustments. This will come in handy when I am cooking on all three Eggs at once.
Stabilization: Whenever I am using a pizza stone, I let the Egg come up to my desired baking/cooking temperature and then stabilize it there. Then I let it sit there for about 30 minutes more. Most pizza stones recommend this stabilization time. It also serves to even out the temperatures in the Egg because the ceramics in the dome have some time to heat up. I have a feeling when the food goes on the Egg high in the dome this environment stabilizes/recovers more quickly because heat rises and cold air falls. As a result the areas high in the dome lose less heat and recover faster. Just a theory for now. I will know more this winter.
Even Cooking: In the past I always rotated my baked goods midway through the cook. There seemed to be a hotspot in the rear near the hinge. Rotating the food midway through the cooking time helped even out the cooking. I have alway had to do this with my indoor oven too. With the high in the dome placement the cooking seems to be extremely even. The first time baking high in the dome, I opened the lid midway through the cook and could detect no unevenness. I did not rotate the scones and when they were done they were cooked evenly in all areas. Honestly as hard as I looked I could see no evidence of any hotspots. For this second cook I decided to take a chance and did not open the lid at all. Once again my end results were totally even. I am beginning to think for a single tray of food cooked high in the dome like this, I may not need to rotate the food. The dome is serving to even the temps out. If this continues to be the case this will be a huge benefit in cold weather. I won’t need to factor in recovery time from letting cold air in the Egg while rotating the food. Now if I am baking at multiple levels I will still have to rotate the food, because different levels will be at different temps. Plus the lower trays of food aren’t going to be exposed to the heat coming off the dome in the same way as the food on the top shelf. But not having to rotate small batches of food will be great.
Cooking Time: I am not sure yet what to make of this: but both times I have cooked high in the dome the cooking time was exactly the same as the high end of the range of cooking times listed in the recipe. It is interesting, but it may be no more than that. In the past when baking on the Egg, I’ve found the cooking time was usually longer than the time given in the recipe. Some of this I attributed to doing more baking in the cold weather. The Egg probably needed a little extra recovery time due to the cold air let in opening the lid of the Egg. But even with my indoor oven, the actually cooking time is usually longer than that suggested by the recipe. Yesterday I was able to peer down through the openings in the Dual Function Metal Cap sitting on the chimney of the Egg. At the 20 minute mark, the low end of the cooking time, I could see that more time was needed. At the 25 minute mark, the high end of the recipe’s time range, the scones were perfect.
BAKING EGG PLUSSES:Cooking high in the dome has the benefit of making the Egg into a little brick oven with all of the advantages of cooking in a thick-walled domed oven. I am also finding some of the other advantages I imagined for a dedicated baking Egg are proving to be quite true.
No Wood Smoke Flavor: The first advantage is I will never use wood chips or chunks in this Egg. I will never need to worry about having left over wood in my charcoal, which will flavor my baked goods. My first cook in this Egg I actually detected a little smoke flavor. It wasn’t real strong, but one of the reasons I like Wicked Good Weekend Warrior lump is it is very smoke neutral. If I wish I can add smoke flavor myself by using wood chips or chunks. The first cook on the baking Egg was a bit of a surprise because the lump seemed smokier than normal. My theory was the charcoal was a little wet. The bag was under my grill gazebo roof, but we had some wind driven rain and the bags contents may have gotten wet or at least damp. The second cook seemed to bear that out. It was the same charcoal used before, I didn’t have to add any new charcoal. But the charcoal had some time to dry out if it was wet. There was some smoke smell for the first 15 or 20 minutes, but when the food went on I could smell no smoke. The finished product was smoke free as far as I could tell.
Faster Setup: Another advantage is I can leave this Egg set up for indirect baking with the AR. Many times I will be able to simply remove the AR, top off the charcoal (if needed) and light the Egg. The AR which is already set up and ready to use gets placed back in the Egg in one operation, the lid is closed and I am good to go. This is a case where I may have more Eggs to set up, but the setup is often simpler because the usage of each Egg is becoming more specialized. A slight disadvantage is I am seeing a valid use case for a second Adjustable Rig setup.
Easier Scheduling: I mentioned earlier that the cooking times seem to be falling within the stated cooking time range of the recipe I am using. This is nice, but the big advantage to having the baking Egg is it will not mess up my overall schedule if things do run a little long. Prior to this, all of my food was in line waiting to go on one or two Eggs. Because I would often be using wood chips or chunks on one or more of these items, I needed to do my desserts or baked goods first. I would get up early to get these items started, but if they started running long it would begin to back up everything else. Now I will still start these items somewhat early, but if they run long, they run long. I can start my main course and sides on the other Egg(s) when I need to. This is going to make holidays and big cooks less stressful and I will be able to sleep a little later in the morning.
CCONCLUSION: So far I couldn’t be happier. I really am pleased with the results I am getting baking high in the dome. It is early yet, and I am not ready to say my findings will prove typical, but I am liking the direction my results are pointing too. As I learn more I will write more blogs detailing my experiences to date.
SOME RELATED LINKS: Here are some links to earlier blog entries about my first attempt baking raised direct with the AR on my new baking Egg., the picture entry on the Pumpkin Scones and some links about the Adjustable Rig.
PUMPKIN SCONES Picture Entry from this day.
AR RAISED INDIRECT BAKING - FIRST IMPRESSIONS 2014 Blog Entry about my first attempt at baking raised indirect on the Rig Extender at Level 7.5 of the AR. THE ADJUSTABLE RIG - FIRST IMPRESSIONS 2014 Blog Entry about the Adjustable Rig, a combination of my unboxing type impressions and my early experiences.
GETTING TO KNOW THE ADJUSTABLE RIG 2014 Blog Entry about my first four months using Adjustable Rig including some unexpected and pleasant surprises.
ADJUSTABLE RIG WEBSITE
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