The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Keeping a Lid on Things

II have come to learn that keeping the lid closed on your Big Green Egg is very, very important. The lower the cooking temperature that you are trying to maintain, the more important it is to minimize your lid open time. This tip entry resulted from a blog entry I recently wrote called GETTING TO KNOW THE ADJUSTABLE RIG. One of the things I’ve learned about my Adjustable Rig (AR) was a totally unexpected “bonus” and is a big help controlling your temperatures. What I am describing is the ability to take the AR and all it’s fittings on and off the Egg as one unit in one operation. This is H-U-G-E!! Read on to see why.

A little housekeeping is in order here. The Adjustable Rig is a Big Green Eggcessory from the Ceramic Grill Works company. It gives you the ability to use multiple tiers and multiple types of shelves for your BGE. If you are interested in learning more about the AR, I will post links down below for several blog entries I have written about the AR. The problem the AR helps with is temperature control issues caused by keeping the lid of the BGE open too long. This In particular, this is a big issue that can cause problems with low and slow cooks. I NEVER thought about the AR helping with this issue when I was evaluating the AR. Once again I am not going to go in great depth here, but I will provide links if you wish to read more.

The Big Green Egg is a very tightly controlled cooking environment. The thick ceramic walls and gasketed lid provide a tight seal that allows you to use a small amount of charcoal and combustion air to maintain your fire. Normally when you think about problems caused by keeping the lid open, you think of temperature loss. While this is still a problem with the BGE, it is actually not the main problem. When you have your Big Green Egg stabilized at 225 degrees (107 C) for a low and slow cook, you are bringing in very little combustion air. The daisy wheel top damper is opened literally a crack and the bottom sliding damper is opened an 1/8” to 1/4” (3-6 mm) or so. If you keep the lid up a long time to add smoking wood or to mop or glaze your food, you may find out you have let yourself in for some BIG trouble. When you close the lid you will certainly have some temperature loss to make up. Worse than that you will also find that when the temps recover, they probably won’t stop there. They will keep right on rising 50, 75 or 100 degrees (30, 43 or 55 C) higher. You have no way to quickly recover from this kind of temperature increase because your dampers are nearly closed to begin with. Don’t ask me how I know this, but you can read more in some of the links below.

Here is where the AR comes in. The AR allows you to add or remove all of the shelves, pizza stone, grate temperature probes, drip pans and all of your food in one operation. I used to think of the AR as a solution for MULTI shelf (grid) cooks, but it is an excellent tool for single grid cook too. There are two use cases for using the AR for a single grid indirect cook. The first is if you must add wood chips at one or more times during the cook. If you are using the Plate setter you will be doing 3 operations to get a clear shot at the lit charcoal to add chips. You must remove your food, then the grill grid, then the Platesetter and possibly the drip pan. These are all going to be hot and you will need to find safe areas to land them x 3. Additionally the Plate setter is not the easiest thing to handle Your lid will be open quite a while and definitely a lot lot longer than using the AR. With the AR you are removing the food, the grill grid, the stone plus any drip pan or temperature probes if used. You are able to close the lid quickly. Then you reopen it to add the chips and then lift the AR back onto the grill. This way you have minimal temperature loss and more importantly little temperature overshoot.

The same thing is true if you are cooking one piece of food on one level and you will need to mop, or baste the food during the cook. Operations like this can take several minutes and can result in the lid being open way too long. Just like in the previous example, the AR and everything else comes off in one operation. You get the lid closed quickly and you can spend all the time you need mopping, basting etc. without worrying about it having a negative affect on your grill temperatures. When you are done everything goes back on the grill in one quick operation.

When I am grilling multiple levels of food on the AR, which is the traditional use everyone thinks of, I will often yank the AR off the grill before rearranging the food locations to even out the heat. Then I can focus on swapping and rotating the trays of food around quickly but also safely. I am not rushing to get the lid back down ASAP.

So if you are thinking of buying the Adjustable Rig, or already own one, consider using it to keep your lid open time to s minimum. For me this tip is one of the best reasons for owning an AR. It is certainly not the first thing you think about when you see the AR, but it is very very useful indeed.

SOME RELATED LINKS Here are some links to several blog entries about the Adjustable Rig, plus a link to the web site for the AR. There is also a link to an entry discussing some of the temperature control issues the AR helps solve.

   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.

  COLD HARD FACTS: (2014 Blog Entry) Big Green Egg related blog entry discussing mistakes made and the solutions found during some low and slow cold weather smoking sessions.
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