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Wait for thin, blue smoke to put mean on?

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OK, I bought an XL Big Green Egg (used), and I thought it would be much easier to grill on it than my Kettle with a Slow N Sear. I was wrong. My first cook did not go well. My wife isn't talking to me. I started doing research after I overcooked some ribs, and stumbled across this website, which seemed to have a ton of knowledgeable and helpful people. My questions:


1. When I fire up the grill, how long do I keep the top lid of the grill and bottom vent open before closing both? If there's not an exact time, what do I need to see?

2. If I am aiming for 225 degrees, at what temp do I start dialing in the grill (adjusting the top and bottom vents)?

3. This one really confuses me. I've read where you don't put the meat on until you see the thin, blue smoke? For me on my first cook, that took 1.5 hours to get the thin, blue smoke. That's a lot of wasted fuel, right? What's the technique there?

4. On a related note, when do I put in the indirect plate on the grill? Should it be in there once I put down the top lid? Or do I need to wait longer so the fire will burn better?

5. What about wood chips? When do those go on? Won't they burn away if I wait 1.5 hours until I get the thin, blue smoke? Shouldn't I wait to put them on when I put the meat on?


Help! Thanks in advance for your feedback. Glad to be a part of this community.



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50 minutes ago, Alpharetta_EggHead said:

My wife isn't talking to me. 

There's a plus side to that, you know...


1) Not long... Your dome thermometer only works with the lid down, so close the lid with vents wide open. Check back every 5 minutes or so. Learn how long it takes to warm up, wide open. Then close down progressively when you get 50-100F below target: halve the openings and wait five minutes, then repeat until it's stable. 

2) at 175F... 50F lower than target, start halving the vents every 5 minutes. 

3) Wood fires have 4 stages. The second stage is smokey and acrid, while the third stage is light, blue and tastes lovely. The fourth stage, it's dying.


I have some charcoal that takes 90 minutes from a full fire bowl to get clear enough, but that's also for ~600F cooks (pizza). It's mesquite-based, and my wife can taste it... great for long, low brisket cooks, though, and great for high heat.


Get a good, domestic oak or responsibly-sourced imported oak and see if it comes clear sooner. Note that there are premium "big block" brands that take longer to light because pieces are so large. They last a very long time. 


4) up to you. I like to leave it off, early, because it's hard to lower temperatures once they rise too high. The one reliable way is to put cold stuff inside, like the deflector and food... always set vents without food, because food will cause a temporary drop in readings. 


5) when I put in the deflector, after it's up to temperature, smoke is clear and I'm ready to put food on. Chips for very short cooks, fist-size chunks for longer ones. You don't need visible smoke, in fact, you can get a smoke ring without smoking wood. But it adds flavor. 


At least that's my version... lots of ways to do this stuff, you know! One excellent accessory is a remote probe thermometer, preferably with multiple probes and some sort of wireless link, so you're not chained to the grill. 


Have fun,


Edited by fbov

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First of all, welcome to the Guru.


I wouldn't worry too much about it being thin smoke but it does get thinner after the temperature rises.  Used charcoal will smoke less than new lump by my experience so fill up the bowl and cook and the next cook will be mostly used stuff plus whatever was needed to top off.  Wood chunks go a long way and less can be more if you know what I mean. There should be a video or two referenced around the forums in the sticky sections showing how to start up.  Here is one, fifth video down. Same principles apply across all kamados.



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  • Using a starter of some sort get the coals going. Top and bottom vents open
  • add wood chunks and deflector, close lid once the starter is no longer giving big flames. 
  • As you approach your smoking temp, close down your vents. This is assuming you know what vent settings result in a desired temp. Knowing this is crucial and can only be found with experience. 
  • Let you Kamado heat soak at desired temp for at least 10 minutes.  It helps it maintain stability throughout the cook.  This also stabilizes you fire and no bitter white smoke should be present

On bullet #3 I’ve changed with experience. When doing smoking temp (I.e. low and slow) I don’t open the vents fully to start. My top vent is at the final setting, and bottom vent is maybe double the final setting. This helps stabilize the fire better and I don’t encounter the white smoke for very long

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Hi Alpharetta,

I'm still very new to this, but just wanted to go out in sympathy with you, I also sacrificed a couple of racks of ribs in my learning adventure.  The good news is, it does get easier!  

From my perspective, the best results i've had so far have been from getting the coals going for 5-7min with the lid open, then closing it and having vents around half way, monitoring the temp and adjusting as I go.  Once i'm at the desired temp, I throw on my wood (i'm using chunks), smoke stone in, and meat in all at the same time.  I've found that helps stabilise the temp as opening the lid seems to kick things off again, so the smoke stone acts as a bit of a counter to that.  I've also learned (as many on here have said) it's a whole lot easier to gain temp than to drop it.  

I also think one of my best purchases has been a dual probe temp monitor, the dome thermometer on my grill is nowhere, and this really helped me get much more accurate readings of not only my temps, but where it was trending and therefore where my vents should be.  


Hang in there, it's so worth it! Your wife will be begging you to fire it up in no time ;)

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