We just went through a fairly cold stretch of weather for these parts and I used my Egg(s) on 3 out of the 4 days. To my great surprise, I actually had some of the smoothest cooks I have ever had. This blog entry will summarize the experience by describing what I have learned along the way as well as recent discoveries. I will also talk about some of the thinking (or lack of) behind some of my decisions. Those of you who own a Big Green Egg or other kamado (ceramic) grill can cook in almost any weather. The experience isn’t much different than cooking in the summer, at least as far as the grill is concerned. The cook will certainly notice a difference, but the grill won’t be the limiting factor. If you are a backyard cook looking to buy a new grill and/or smoker a kamado grill is certainly an excellent choice for year round cooking. I hope the people who aren’t currently taking advantage of their kamado grill’s ability to cook throughout the winter will read this and be encouraged to try their hands at winter grilling and smoking.
SPECIFICS OF THE 3 COOKS:I will first give some specific information about the 3 days cooks. After that I will describe some of the things I did to help try to make them go smoothly.
Friday-Day 1: I was going to be getting up early the following morning to start some ribs to have for lunch Saturday. I was also going to be making some TRIPLE SMOKED POTATOES to have with the ribs. When I set up the Egg Friday afternoon for my Saturday cook, I tested out the setups I could use. I discovered I could NOT get the ribs and the potatoes on the same Egg & Close the lid. I talk about “Pre-Flight Testing” below. As you can see this was a good thing to learn sooner, rather than standing at a hot grill with food that won’t all fit. There was a Plan B for the potato recipe. They could be made ahead to the point where you stuff them. Then they could be held in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours and heated for 30 minutes when you are ready to use them. By making them ahead on Friday, I had less to do on Saturday and I would have a fixed 30 minute time to finish them. This way it would be easy to get the potatoes to finish up at the same time as the ribs. I could throw them on just before the ribs came off. Friday afternoon the air temp was 22 degrees (-6 C) and with the 8 MPH (13 kph) winds, the windchill was 15 degrees (-9 C). I was originally going to start the potatoes Friday night before, but it was going to be even colder after sunset. I had the time during the afternoon, so I made the decision to do them during the day. The only slight hiccup with all of this is I also needed to run some errands that afternoon. I wouldn’t have time in the morning and the stores would be closed Friday night. This recipe called for the potatoes to be indirect grilled/smoked (smoke roasted technically) at 375 degrees (190C). This meant it wasn’t going to be the 2 1/2 to 3 hours it takes at 225 (107 C). I decided to use the CyberQ WiFi. Even though the cooking temperature was getting up there, it was an indirect cook and therefor no flareups should occur. Plus I now run the pit temperature probe up through the chimney and metal draft cap. This keep the wire away from the edges of the pizza stone and protected from flare ups. I used about 50 percent more Stump Chunks fire starters to help get me close to 375 (190 C) quickly. When the Stump Chunks settled down and I closed the Egg, I was at 350 and the CyberQ had me at 375 and stable in under 5 more minutes. At this point I added the potatoes and fired up CyberCook Mini on my iPhone to make sure I was getting a signal over the internet via my cellular data connection. I had 3 stops to make, 2 essential and the third could wait. At every stop along the way I checked my phone to monitor the cook. It was looking like the potatoes would take around an hour. I could also see I would have to skip the third optional stop. In fact about 5 minutes from home I got an alarm that the potatoes were done. This cook was totally “normal” and really behaved no different despite the cold weather and wind. Further along in this blog I will describe some of the things I did to help make this possible.
Saturday-Day 2: One of the things I did Friday was clean out and refuel both the Egg for the potatoes I was using Friday and the second Egg I would use Saturday to smoke the ribs. This way when I got up at 4:00AM Saturday morning I could take the ribs out of the fridge, gather up the CyberQ and then go light the Egg. When I saw the air temperature was 2 degrees (-17 C) and -10 degrees (-23 C) with the wind chill, I was very happy I had cleaned and stocked the Egg the afternoon before. I added the Stump Chunks and put a small amount more to adjust for the cold. You need to be careful not to overshoot your cooking temperature on a kamado grill, particularly when cooking low and slow. The top damper ends up being open just a crack to hold the 225 degree (107 C) temperature. If you overshoot, you have almost no room for adjustment. It was too cold to use my butane lighter, so I resorted to wooden matches. With the wind I had to bend over and light the match close to the coals, otherwise it would blow out in the draft caused by the wind. I ran into an unexpected problem in that the CyberQ WiFi didn’t want to see my WiFi network. I powered it down and started it up again and still no luck. I continued with the other things I need to do to set up the second Egg to finish the potatoes. About 10 minutes later I powered the CyberQ down and up again and it grabbed the network. I am beginning to think in the extreme cold the CyberQ may need to be on and running a while to see the network. Perhaps the innards need to warm up. The rest of the rib cook was pretty uneventful. When it came time to finish the potatoes, I lit the second Egg and had the DigiQ control this pit for me. I went out a little early to light this pit in case I had trouble lighting it or getting it up to temperature. But everything went well and both the ribs and the potatoes took the amount of time the recipe called for.
Monday-Day 4: One of the reasons I wanted to get the ribs done by noontime on Saturday was the approaching weather. The bottom was going to drop out of the thermometer and the winds were going to really pick up. We got down to -14 (-26 C) on Sunday and with the winds howling the wind chill was -45 degrees (-43 C). This was a 3 day weekend with Monday being President’s Day. I really hadn’t paid too much attention to the weather beyond Sunday. I thought by Monday morning things would be back to normal. In the process of looking for side dish recipes for Saturday, I had discovered two breakfast items I just had to try. Knowing Monday was a holiday (and not knowing the weather), I asked my dad if he wanted to come over for breakfast Monday morning. Imagine my surprise when I got up at 5:00AM Monday morning, and looked at my Apple Watch only to find out the temperature was -9 (-23 C). It was too late now, but I wondered if I would have proposed this had I known weather. When I headed out to light the Eggs I could take some pleasure in the fact there was no wind. Due to the extreme weather Sunday I did not do the grill cleaning, charcoal filling and setup. I went out an hour earlier than I normally would have to clean and light the grills. This way if there were any surprises I had a cushion. Also if the Eggs took longer to come up to temperature I had extra time. At worst if everything went smoothly, I use an extra hours worth of charcoal.
The French toast I was making was griddle grilled at 375 (190 C). Instead of my normal practice of running out to the grill a number of times and shooting an infrared thermo down the chimney at the griddle and adjusting the dampers to suit, I decided to try something different. I would use the DigiQ to control that Egg and I would clip the temperature probe to the straight back edge of the cast iron griddle. This way the probe would be partially protected from any flare ups and I would run the probe wire up through the chimney and metal draft cap for further protection. I set the temperature to 360 (182 C) initially on the DigiQ. I was going to have to run out for 30-45 minutes and pickup my dad and if possible run the errand I didn’t get to on Friday. The DigiQ tends to overshoot sometimes. I figured it would either hit 360 (182 C) and when I got home I could adjust it up. If it did overshoot, it might be at 390 (200 C) which I could live with. When I got home the Egg was sitting right at 360 (182 C), so I bumped it up to 375 (190C) and headed in to finish my prep. The grill I was smoking the sausage fatty on was running at 250 (122 C) and was being controlled by the CyberQ WiFi. I had a food probe in the sausage fatty. This way I was able to use the CyberCook Mini software on my iPhone to keep an eye on things while on the road. I could see I would have enough time to fit in my errand while I was out and still get home on time. This cook was very uneventful too. It took the amount of time expected with no surprises. I had one of my smoothest cooks ever on the coldest day I had ever grilled on. In the section below I will describe some of the things I do to insure smooth sailing on a cold winter’s day.
BIG PICTURE:Know the Weather: For any of several reasons I seem to have gotten a bit complacent about the weather. Having ceramic grills means the air temperature really doesn’t matter, at least to the grill. Once it is lit, winds don’t affect the Egg as much as my other grills, at least for indirect grilling or smoking. I also have my year round grill gazebo, so rain or snow have less of an impact on my plans. As a result, I have gotten a bit complacent about the weather. At one time I used to check the weather 5 days in advance and sometimes tailor what I was making to the conditions I would be facing. I no longer do this, which actually makes some sense with a well insulated kamado grill. But I should still check the weather more than I do for two reasons. I got caught by surprise by the -9 degree (-23 C) air temps last Monday. If the high winds from the day before had also persisted, I would have had my hands full and may have had to cancel at the last minute. The other reason is high winds can still affect direct grilling during the time the lid is up. Last Easter, when I was searing some racks of lamb the winds were howling. Every time I opened the lid, I got a wall of flames shooting up around the outside perimeter of the grill. I had to wear elbow length welders gloves to use tongs to turn the meat. Once the lid was closed again I was ok. Now this was a case where Easter dinner had to happen and I got through it. But the rest of the time knowing the weather may help you plan your meal. You may choose to make as much a day ahead as you can if the day of your meal has crummy weather in store. You may also alter your cooking schedule to make the best of a bad thing.
Lid Open: You may wonder what I am talking about with overshoots when you keep the lid open too long. You may have been lucky enough to have not run into this. As I describe below, I have found some methods for minimizing the lid open time. The temperature drops you get with the lid open can actually be the least of your problems, at least on a kamado (ceramic) grill. If the grill is stabilized, the ceramic walls will hold in much of the heat. When you close the lid, the temps will recover in fairly short order. But the cold air you let in is also combustion air. You may find you have inadvertently stoked your fire too much and the temps rise well beyond your desired cooking temp. It is hard to drive them back down once you overshoot. This is particularly true if you are cooking low and slow where the damper is only open 1/4” (6 mm). The reason I may run into it more than others is the pictures I take for this website. The pictures take what they take and I really can’t shorten this time. In fact sometimes I have to take several shots. Maybe the flash didn’t fire or the wood smoke obscures the food in my first shot. Trust me: If you keep the lid open too long you will probably have a large overshoot. Plan ahead to avoid lid open time. I will have some suggestions below.
COLD WEATHER TIPS & TRICKS:Here are some of the things I’ve learned to help make cold weather cooks go as smoothly as possible.
Initial Setup-Outdoors: Everything seems to take longer in the cold weather. You are wearing bulky clothes and sometimes gloves and it takes longer to perform many tasks.If your grilling gloves, welders gloves etc. are stored outside they are stiff and harder to work with. Also containers cain be frozen shut or harder to open. Even your grill cover can be frozen to the grill or grill lid can be frozen shut. I try to remove the initial setup from the direct time line of the cook. This way unexpected problems do not delay the start of the cook. I often will be using 2 or 3 Big Green Eggs and the setup process can take quite a while. By doing it independently of the start of the cook, you can take your time, relax and get it right. Another advantage to doing this is you can possibly pick a time where the weather will be better to work in. So I try to do the cleaning, add charcoal and get the grill ready to go the day or night before. My grill area is well lit which is a big help. If I am using the Adjustable Rig I get it set up the way I plan to use it. The next day when it is time to light one of the Eggs, all I have to do is temporarily remove the Adjustable Rig, add Stump Chunks or fire starters and light the grill.
Initial Setup-Grill Area: l also take some time to clean up the grill area. I clean any snow off the grill covers, clean the snow off the counter top, remove any ice and make sure I can get into doors or drawers of my grill cabinets. I also double check I have enough wood chips or chunks for the type of wood I plan to smoke with. If there is any snow or ice on the path to the grill or the areas in front of the grill I try to get it cleaned up and throw down de-icer if needed.
Pre-Flight Testing-At the Grill: If I am cooking a new food type or attempting a new setup, I test it when I am doing my cleaning and charcoal refilling. I want to leave the grill set up the way I will need it when I come back to light it. The Adjustable Rig (AR) allows you to use stacked shelves to allow you to potentially get more food on the Egg. The reason I said “potentially” is the cooking space of the Big Green Egg is circular in 3 dimensions - a semi-sphere. The higher up you go the less space you have. Just how much will fit is often a bit of a surprise. I will set up the AR the way I intend to use it. Then I add any pans or trays I plan to use to make sure the pans don’t interfere with the lid closing. I will sometimes wrap the actual food in a plastic bag and bring it out to the Egg and make sure there are no surprises. You may find you will have to pull the dome thermometer up and out somewhat so the probe doesn’t hit the food or your pan. You do NOT want to find out the food doesn’t fit when you are trying to place it on a hot grill and the clock is ticking. With a kamado grill, like the Egg, you will lose temps initially as the cold air enters the grill. The temps come back rather quickly because the ceramic walls of the grill retain their heat. But all of that cold air you have let in is also potential combustion air. It may drive the grill way too high once it recovers. You want to keep the time the lid is open to an absolute minimum to avoid overshoot. You can raise temps quickly on a kamado grill, but driving them down is hard, particularly if your dampers are already nearly closed. My last Saturday’s cook was a prime example of the need to pre-flight test your setup. I had not made St. Louis spare ribs on my Egg since getting the AR. My hope had been to get the ribs and the potatoes on the same Egg by using the AR. I was making two racks of ribs and the only way they would fit on the Egg was in the lower position with the potatoes on top. I had to get at the ribs throughout the smoke and I would need to remove the shelf with the potatoes each time. In order to clear the potatoes, the shelf for the ribs had to be too high in the Egg to allow the ribs to fit. Lying flat they would stick out of the sides onto the gasket. In a rib rack the ribs hit the underside of the dome. I also found I would have to use a different location for my pit probe. Bottom Line: I found out I needed to use 2 Eggs and I needed to use a different position for the pit probe on the Egg for the ribs. Yes I lost some time during the day of my setup, but on the day of the cook I was good to go and getting the food on the Egg was a seamless process.
Pre-Flight Testing-Indoors: I often test out whether my food will fit on the Half Moon Cast Iron Grill Griddle. The half moon (semi-circular) shape of the griddle is not the most efficient shape. You have two small sharp corners which don’t always let you get food close to the edge. The varying dimensions of the shape affect how much food fits. I will often make paper cutout templates of the food (burger patties, bread, rolls) and lay them out on the griddle a day or so beforehand. This way I see what the best layout for this sized food item is. This tells me how many fit on the griddle. I have two of these griddles and this pre-flight testing also tells me whether I will need the second griddle or perhaps even more. Much better to do this on a room temperature griddle than out at a hot grill. Some foods you don’t want to move around once you place them on the hot griddle because they won’t release from the griddle until the first side is done. Any on the fly adjustments you make may end up keeping the lid open far longer than is advisable. Last Monday when I made French toast using Italian bread, I folded over 3 stacked sheets of letter sized paper into 1/4 sized sheets. This way 3 sheets of paper yielded 4 bread templates per sheet. Cutting the shape out once like this yielded 12 bread templates. I found out with some fancy positioning I could actually fit 6 per griddle grate. But I also found out another valuable piece of information. It was taking me long enough to get 6 pieces of “bread” on one griddle that I really shouldn’t cook all 12 at once. By the time I got six pieces down, I would have a few seconds before it was time to flip the bread onto the second side. Trying to add another 6 to the other griddle would mean the first pieces of bread would have burned. Obviously this was good to know and may have actually saved the day. I never would have guessed precisely placing the six pieces of bread would take this much time. You really should try to pre-flight anything that may be a tight fit, so you don’t run into problems out at the hot grill on the day of your cook.
Initial Setup-Indoors: I also do some initial setup indoors so there are no surprises on the day of the cook:
- I locate and set out any roast pans, grill pans, my wok, grill griddles, pizza peels, rib racks etc. If I haven’t used on of these for a while it is possible it may not be where I expect it to be. Better to find out when you aren’t on the clock in the middle of your cook.
- I pull out any kitchen electrics I am going to need: Food processor, meat slicer, hand mixer, immersion blender etc. I set them on an unused counter area where I can grab them quickly the next day.
- I double check that anything I need for the prep is clean and not needing to go into the dishwasher. I have multiples of many items, but not things like my large stainless steel mixing bowls. This way I still have time to run a load of dishes and have everything I need.
- I double check any ingredients that I “assumed” I had enough of. If I don’t have enough or if they are past their expiration date, I can run to the store and get more.
- I clean the counters and glass cooktop so when I walk into the kitchen to start the prep the next morning, I am good to go. Doing it ahead makes me feel less rushed and I can do a better job.
- If I am going to be making a 4 or 5 AM start, I will sometimes gather all of the non-refrigerated ingredients for the first prep I will be doing. I also set out all of the glass bowls and metal measuring cups I will need. Lastly I grad any items like a food chopper, mortar and pestle, mandolin slicer I will need. This way when I stumble into the kitchen at 4 AM, I can just start my prep instead of seeking out all of the ingredients. It somehow feels better to get into the kitchen and be making tangible progress on the prep, rather than hunting and gathering.
Pre-Plan How You Will Add Food to the Grill: As I keep mentioning, you want to minimize your lid open time. You may want to have someone come out to the grill with you. They can raise and lower the lid for you, so you can get the food straight onto the grill. This way you don’t have to put the food down, open the lid, pick up the food and place it on the grill. Instead you position the food right outside the grill and your assistant raises the lid. The food goes straight on and as soon as your hands are clear the lid gets closed. Another thing you can do to minimize the time the lid is open is to use a grill tray or rib rack so multiple pieces can go on the grill all at once. A big advantage to the Adjustable Rig (AR) is you can add or remove it from the grill as a single unit, complete with food. You may decide to remove the AR and land it next to your grill, close the lid, add the food to the AR, open the lid and put the AR back in. With the AR sitting on a heat resistant pad at the counter next to your Egg you can get the lid closed in short order. You can take your time positioning the food on the AR without worrying that the lid is open. You can also drag an assistant outside to help you with the lid, which will minimize the lid open time.
Pre-Plan-Mopping, Basting & Turning: Another operation that can result in too much lid open time is if you have to mop, baste or turn the food one or more times during the cook. You should have a well thought out plan ahead of time. If it is a single piece of meat you can probably just put on some silicon heat resistant gloves or use tongs to flip the meat. If it is multiple pieces of meat and/or multiple levels of food, I remove the the AR. I land it on a heat resistant Corian sheet on the counter of the grill cabinet next to the Egg I am using. Then I can close the lid and don’t have to worry about rushing to get the food taken care of and the lid closed again. The same thing is true with mopping and basting. I look into how long it will take me to mop or baste the particular food. If it is something I can do in 30 seconds or less I will do it on the Egg. If it is multiple pieces of food, multiple layers of food or food with a large surface area to cover I remove the AR from the grill. Once again you can use a helper to work the lid while you take the AR on and off the grill.
Pre-Plan-Recipe Choice: You may want to tailor your recipe choice to suit the weather. There are some recipes that require lots of basting, mopping or turning. Others, for the same cut of meat, may involve little to none of these actions. If it is going to be wicked cold you may want to choose a recipe that minimizes having to open the lid for any kind of mopping, basting or turning. I used to do this quite a bit with my first smoker. I wasn’t faced with overshoots with my CG Smokin’ Pro, but It could take a long, long time to recover: 30 to 45 minutes sometimes. With the CG I didn’t have work-arounds to help minimize lid open time. With the Egg the problem is potential overshoots and there are ways to work around it if you have the Adjustable Rig. A pit controller also helps regulate the temperatures. With the Egg, or other kamado, it is more a matter of your comfort. If you don’t want to be heading out into the cold every 30 minutes, then pick a low maintenance recipe.
Stump Chunks: I have been using Stump Chunks fire starters on all but my baking Egg. I found that stored outside in my grill cabinets, the Stump Chunks picked up moisture from the air over time. This made them very difficult to light. So now I store them in my basement and bring them outside when I am going to light the Egg. Doing this they are very easy to light. I remove the Adjustable Rig, add the Stump Chunks and light the Egg. The best way to get the Stump Chunks to catch is to light the very fine hair-like pieces of wood usually found at the end of the chunk.
Lighting Method: I have butane lighters made for lighting fires in wood stoves or fireplaces that I use most of the year. When the temps drop below about 20 degrees (-7 C) these lighters don’t seem to have enough pressure to work well. I switch to using wooden stick matches. These work well except on real windy days. On real windy days there seems to be enough of an updraft in the grill, that the match can get blown out as you are lowering it to the grill. On these days I light the matches down near the Stump Chunks so I can get it right onto the wood.
Pit Controllers: Before you bring your pit controller outside, untangle any metal clad probe wires and plastic wrapped power or fan wires. Once outside they get stiff and brittle feeling and are much harder to work with. Run a bead of canola oil around the gasket on the pit fan to make it easier to insert into the adaptor port. Also set the blower dampener opening indoors, where it is warm and the damper slides easier. If it is raining or snowing and your pit controller control unit may get wet, bring out a zip lock plastic bag to pull over the top of the control unit.
According to the BBQ Guru folks, the pit fan is ok in the wet weather as long as you install it with the larger side with the label facing up. This faces the large side with the circular fan vent openings towards the ground.
Proper Clothes: If you are just running outside for a minute or so, you may not want or need to get all bundled up. But if you are going to be outside for a long period of time, it pays to dress warmly. Wear a pair of shoes with nice thick, possibly insulated, bottoms. If your feet are cold the rest of you is miserable. I have measured many buildings in the the winter and I know if my feet are warm, I am much more comfortable. If my feet are cold, even if the rest of me is warm enough, I am miserable. You also lose a bunch of heat out of your head, so wear a warm hat. I also have a pair of gloves I use out at the grill. They are dedicated to this task so I don’t worry if I get charcoal dust on them. Make sure your clothes are not too loose and “flappy”. I once had the sleeve of a winter jacket catch on fire because I didn’t have the adjustable wrist end of the sleeve snapped shut. The unsecured flap at the wrist dipped into the pile of lit charcoal I had just poured out of the charcoal chimney. The bottom line here is if you are too cold, you are going to be in a hurry to get back inside. This is when you make mistakes or forget to do something. It is one thing to work quickly but efficiently, it is another thing to rush because you are cold.
Lighting Procedures: Normally when I light the grill in cold weather I leave the lid open while I am getting large flames from the Stump Chunks or paraffin fire starters. This allows maximum combustion air to reach the charcoal bed. While I am waiting for the flames to subside, I get out my extension cord(s) and run them to the Egg(s) that will be using pit controllers. I install the blower motor and plug it into the controller. Once the flames subside, I install the AR. Next I run the pit probe and wire down through the daisy wheel of the metal cap and down the chimney. I place the pit probe on the grill where I want it and. I carefully close the lid while gently pulling the probe wire up to minimize any slack. Once the lid is closed I plug the pit probe wire into the controller and then fire up the controller. I would not advise running the pit probe wire until the large flames have subsided and the AR with the pizza stone is in place.
Extension Cords: In the very cold weather, most extension cords get very, very stiff and are hard to get to lay flat. So when it is cold enough where I will have to spend a lot of time straightening out the extension cords, I run the extension cords prior to lighting the Egg. When the Stump Chunks burn down, I want to get the lid closed so the fire won’t get to much combustion air and overshoot. I don’t want to close the lid with the blower motor plugged in but not operating. This will starve the fire. If I spend 5 or 10 extra minutes trying to run the extension cords, I will be faced with exactly that choice. On these real cold days I run the extension cord(s) first, then light the Egg and continue the controller set up.
Make Sure the Lid is Closed: This is important in all weather. It bears mentioning here because I have described removing the Adjustable Rig (AR) to minimize lid open time. I recently ran into a situation recently where I removed the AR to baste a roast. My lid open time was minimum and I had no cause for concern. When I put the AR back on the Egg I figured all was well. I returned to the Kitchen and about 10 minutes later I got a high pit temperature warning alert. I went out to the Egg and at first I could see nothing wrong that would have caused this alert. Looking more carefully I saw the lid wasn’t quite closed at the front. The support rod for one of the shelves on the AR was facing the wrong way and was preventing the lid from closing tightly. The gap was hard to see at first, but this small gap had a huge effect.
Measure the Temps at the Level You Are Cooking At: My first winter grilling on the Egg was uneventful. Things came out great and I really didn't have any problems. My second winter was a totally different story. Things that had worked well the first winter we're very problematic. The bottom line to all of this was people using a big green egg typically use the dome thermometer to measure temperatures. This is contrary how does done on any other grill I have used or heard about. I began to experiment with using remote read thermometers with the pit probe at the grate level I was cooking at. All I can tell you is the air temperatures were different (colder) the second winter than they were the first. I found it was a huge difference in the temperature at the dome versus the temperature at the cooking level. After several hours these differences would go away, But for short cooks light baked goods using the dome thermometer was totally useless. I was getting baked goods that were burnt on the bottom and under done on the top. So now I always measure my pit temperature at or near my cooking level. There are 2 use cases where I use the built-in dome thermometer. One is for direct grilling where I don't use pit probes for fear of burning out the wire. The second is when I am using the Adjustable Rig with the Rig Extender so that the food I am making is at the level of the dome thermometer anyway. I wrote extensively in my blog about this issue when it first came up last winter. If you are interested in reading more, there will be links to the blog entries on this topic at the bottom of the page.
Some of you reading this may be very skeptical. You may have been using the dome thermometer the entire time you've owned your Egg with no problems. People on the discussion forums for the Big Green Egg typically use the dome thermometer and even cookbook authors writing cookbooks about the Egg (or other kamado grills), use the dome thermometer. You may be wondering what makes me such an EGGspert and how I know more than them. I am not claiming to know more than anyone. When I first got my egg, I decided to go with the flow. I too used the dome thermometer. The first year went well. The second year we had a more severe winter and I had a repeatable problem. The solution turned out to be: Measure the temperatures at the cooking level. I have measurements taken during several cooks to prove the problem was a large temperature differential between the grate level and the dome thermometer level. After several hours this evens out, but for the first couple hours there is a large difference Since I started measuring temps at the grate level, I have had no further problems. If you use the dome thermometer and begin having problems, try this out. End of discussion.
POST GRILLING:Covers - I know many people who don’t feel the need to cover their Eggs or other ceramic grills. The ceramic material is certainly more durable than the “stainless” steel used in many grills today. On the Egg, the ceramics are lifetime guaranteed. My 3 Eggs are under the roof of my grill shelter, but they still get some snow and rain on them. I use the Dome Style covers for my 3 Large Eggs because they are on cabinets. If they weren’t I would get the full length covers that extend nearly to the ground. Here are my thoughts on the matter of covers for both the winter and year round:
- My Eggs do get some snow or rain on them. Not as much as if they were out in the open, but it doesn’t take much water to freeze things together The cover extends down to just below the felt line of the domed lid. The Dome Style cover keeps the top half of the Egg from direct exposure to snow or wind driven rain. I have never been faced with a frozen lid or frozen ceramic top caps in 3 years of use.
- Even if your kamado is fairly well protected from rain and snow you can still have times where you have strong winds during rain or snow storms. The rain or snow is driven almost sideways. Under these conditions it may still reach your grill. Add in a quick drop in temperatures and this could be problematic if your grill is uncovered.
- The cover is going to protect the finish of the Egg from UV exposure from the sun. The colors should not fade as quickly.
- The cover is going to help the metal hinge band and handle last longer and delay the onset of rust.
- Don’t try to skimp on cover quality in the interest of saving a few bucks. The covers sold by the Big Green Egg company are heavy duty and remain somewhat pliable in the cold weather. They aren’t cheap, but they have lasted 3 winters and are going strong. The covers for my CharGriller taught me not to skimp on a cover. CharGriller value engineered their covers after a few years. They made them thinner and they charged a little less for them. In the cold weather they became stiff and brittle and tore easily. The thicker, more expensive covers lasted 2 or 3 years. The thinner, slightly less expensive covers lasted a single winter or less. Ultimately I paid more and got less in return. After a few years of offering the thinner covers, they added the thicker covers back into their line up.
Storage: Store the Dual Function Metal Cap (top metal cap for the Egg) outdoors. Before covering the grill, store the cap inside the grill. When you are doing your charcoal setup, double check that the daisy wheel section of the top cap is moving freely. If it is stuck or frozen, bring it indoors to help thaw it out. Once it is freed up, spray it with some silicon spray and return it to the grill. The Adjustable Rig (AR) can be stored inside the grill as well. One of the nice things about having 3 Eggs with somewhat specialized uses, is I leave the my two AR’s inside two of the Eggs. Often they are actually set up the way I will need them the next time.
Keep it Dry: Before covering the grill, dry it off. You may have had some rain or snow land on it while it was cooling off. Better to remove all of this moisture instead of trapping it under the cover. This includes the Metal Cap make sure there is no water on it when you store it inside the Egg.
CONCLUSION:So there you have it. With kamado style grill and some best practices you can truly grill year round. I will have some links to related blog entries below this. The kamado grill is certainly up to grilling or smoking in almost any kind of weather. The real question is: Are you up to grilling in that weather?
SOME RELATED LINKS: Here are links to previous entries about Cold Weather Cooking Issues, the Adjustable Rig, and Stump Chunks - all of which I talk about in this blog entry. You will be able to learn more about these topics here
The Adjustable Rig: 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.
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.
ADJUSTABLE RIG-SEEING DOUBLE 2014 Blog Entry about my finding a compelling use case for getting a second AR for use on my baking Egg.
ADJUSTABLE RIG WEBSITE
Cold Weather Temperature Control Issues: GETTING BACK ON TRACK 2014 Blog Entry on how getting back to basics solved some of my recent temperature control problems.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK II 2014 Blog Entry on the unexpected solution to some of my recent baking problems.
COMEDY OF ERRORS - 2014 2014 Blog Entry about some recent mistakes made and lessons learned (or so I thought) doing cold weather cooking on my BGE’s. Part of my problem this day is I ignored some of the things I’d recently learned. COLD HARD FACTS 2014 Blog Entry about some recent mistakes made and lessons learned (or so I thought) doing cold weather cooking on my BGE’s. Part of my problem this day is I ignored some of the things I’d recently learned.
Stump Chunks: STUMP CHUNKS = STU(M)PENDOUS 2016 Blog Entry about where I describe how Stump Chunks lets me get to temperature in record time. It also confirms that storing them indoors is a key to easy lighting.
STUMP CHUNKS FIRE STARTERS 2015 Blog Entry about my first impressions and my early experiences using Stump Chunks fire starters.
2 OLD PROBLEMS, 2 NEW SOLUTIONS 2015 Blog Entry about how using Stump Chunks fire starters solved an old problem lighting a low temperature fire for direct grilling.
STUMPED BY STUMP CHUNKS 2015 Blog Entry about how I began to have problems lighting Stump Chunks fire starters and what I think the cause is.
STUMP CHUNKS WEBSITE
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