The first thing you need to know how to do in order to use a Big Green Egg is lighting a fire. There are a few things that you can do wrong that might damage your Big Green Egg. We will walk you through the proper steps for lighting the fire in the Big Green Egg and have you ready to cook in no time.
Filling Your Egg
The first thing that you will need to do to light the Big Green Egg is open it up and fill the fire box with lump charcoal. One of the mistakes many people make is to use self-starting charcoal briquettes in the Egg. These products are not safe for the ceramic and can contaminate the Big Green Egg with harmful chemicals and may leave a lingering odor.
Lump charcoal lights faster and burns longer than briquettes. The all-natural carbonized wood chunks give your food a distinct and unique smoky flavor from the different types of hardwood the charcoal is made from. Charcoal briquettes are often made from compressed sawdust and are loaded with fillers and chemicals to enhance burn characteristics.
Lighting Your Egg
There are a number of excellent ways to light the Big Green Egg. One of the easiest, fastest, and cleanest is to use natural fire starters. These products are made from compressed sawdust with paraffin wax. The wax burns cleanly and helps the compressed blocks to burn extremely hot. Simply put two or three starters into the lump charcoal in the fire box, light it with a match or a barbecue lighter, and wait with the lid open for about 10 minutes for the charcoal to ignite. Once the coals are ignited, you can place the grill, add your food, and close the lid, then adjust the airflow to maintain the temperature.
There are a few tools that can make lighting lump charcoal in the firebox convenient, fast, and easy. The first is an electric charcoal starter. These tools are like long metal rods with a loop on the end. They plug into a wall and will light charcoal in about five minutes. Similar to the electric coil starter, a super-heated air ignitor also works well to light charcoal. This fire-less device uses heated airflow to ignite charcoal.
A propane torch can work, but you should use caution to ensure the flame doesn't directly contact the ceramic surfaces. A better alternative is a butane torch that provides a smaller, more controllable flame to ignite charcoal easily.
Never Use Lighter Fluid
Never, ever use lighter fluid to light a Big Green Egg. Lighter fluid is full of harmful chemicals and can cause all sorts of damage, contamination, and pollutants to be emitted into your food. In fact, you should just avoid using lighter fluid whenever possible. It is a handy thing to have around for lighting a campfire, but beyond that, it isn't something that you should use for cooking.
Lighting DOs & DON'Ts
Do: Use the highest quality hardwood lump charcoal you can find. There are a few brands out there that we trust including Rockwood, Blues Hog, and of course, the premium offerings from Big Green Egg. Hardwoods that are sustainably harvested include a number of North American species like oak, hickory, and apple, while exotic woods from South America like mahogany are also good choices.
Do: Fill the fire box all the way to the top, no matter how long you are planning to cook. The charcoal will burn slowly from the top, down, giving you plenty of time to cook almost anything without the hassle of reloading charcoal into the firebox.
Do: Use a fire starter, a torch, or one of the high-quality fire-starting tools out there that make it safe and easy to light charcoal. These tools not only make it fast and easy to light the charcoal, but they also are safe so you are not risking damage to your Big Green Egg.
Do: Practice safe fire handling. This means ensuring that your Big Green Egg is set up on a fire-safe surface and that it isn't too close to buildings, plants, and other possibly flammable objects. You should also wear appropriate clothes. Avoid loose, flowy clothing, and always wear closed-toe shoes with heavy soles.
Do: Open the bottom draft door and the top vent when lighting the charcoal. Use the bottom draft door to adjust the temperature to the near-range you want, then use the top vent to fine-tune the temperature.
Don't: Use lighter fluid. Lighter fluid is nasty stuff and can cause damage to your Big Green Egg.
Don't: Use self-starting charcoal briquettes. Just like lighter fluid, these products can cause harm to your Big Green Egg and may release toxic fumes that get into your food.
Don't: Touch any of the surfaces of the Big Green Egg once it is lit. It can get very hot and burn you. Once the Big Green Egg is at the desired temperature, the ceramic does a deceptively good job holding in heat, but the surfaces can still be hot.
Shutting It Down
Shutting down the Big Green Egg couldn't be easier. Simply close the bottom draft door and the dual function metal top vent to snuff out the fire. The charcoal still in the fire box will not burn up and you can use it the next time you are grilling or smoking.
Use a rake to move the lump charcoal around on the cast iron fire grate to knock the ash down, then use an ash tool to scrape the ash out before lighting the Big Green Egg again. Removing the ash helps prevent accidentally creating a fire hazard and allows heat and air to circulate efficiently for superb performance.
How to Burp a Big Green Egg
Burping a Big Green Egg is an essential safety step that is very simple to do. Once your Big Green Egg is at the right temperature, you will want to slowly open the lid an inch or two and then set it down before opening it all the way. This process allows the cool air to enter slowly and prevents flashbacks that can be caused by a sudden increase in air. Remember that fire needs fuel and air to burn and the more air, the hotter the fire. This is particularly important to remember if you are opening the Big Green Egg after closing the air vents when fuel is starved for air.
Learning the right way to start a fire in the Big Green Egg is simple and easy, but you do need to do it right. Use high-quality lump charcoal rather than charcoal briquettes and never use lighter fluid to start a fire in a Big Green Egg. There are a number of handy tools that can make it easy and safe to light charcoal, but there is nothing wrong with using natural fire starters.
Always remember that nothing is more important than safety around a hot grill or smoker. It takes exactly one time to step on a hot coal that fell on the ground to never forget to put on shoes. Take our word for it, it hurts a lot. It is also important to burp a Big Green Egg or any other type of kettle or kamado grill to prevent flashbacks.
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