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I have been cooking on my large Big Green Egg for about 5 months.  I have spent the last 20+ years cooking with a gas grill.  I fondly remember cooking burgers on a hibachi grill as a kid and on a Webber Kettle in my early adult life with charcoal briquettes.  I remember liking it so much, I would eat at least one extra burger without a bun once I knew everybody had what they wanted.  Hoping to get the flavor I remember back, I hinted about a BGE and my wife got me one for Christmas.  I have cooked steaks several times and burgers several times.  The meat has a bitter charcoal taste, especially the burgers.   I thought maybe I was putting the meat on too soon.  I also thought that I might have too much charcoal.  I also thought I maybe should open the chimney opening wider and close the lower vent more.  I have been using BGE charcoal and do not have any reason the believe it is the cause of the bitter taste.  I decided to change things up and try really hard to eliminate the issues i thought might be the cause.  I cleaned my grill out.  I removed all the charcoal pieces and all the ash from my previous cooks.  I put what I would call a medium amount of charcoal reaching just above the air holes.  I used a new bag of Cowboy lump charcoal.  I lit the charcoal using a BGE fire starter cube.  When the starter cube went out the charcoal was lit.  I left it alone for about 15 minutes before putting the grate on and closing the lid.  I then waited for the grey smoke to become clear and waited another 15 minutes after that.  I left the top chimney vent completely open and waited for the temperature to reach 350 degrees.  At that point I closed the bottom vent down to about a quarter open and let the grill come up to my desired temperature of 400 degrees.  I waited 10 more minutes making sure the temperature stayed at 400 Degrees and then put my burgers on.  I am a well done meat eater so this could contribute to the issue, but I used an instant read thermometer to make sure I removed the burgers as soon as they reach 160 degrees.  In this case actually 155 degrees.

 

The burgers still came out bitter tasting.  Maybe I still left them on too long.  I have no idea.   I am not giving up, but this will be a pretty expensive mistake to have made, if i don’t figure out how to get a flavor I like.  Maybe not as I remember it but at least good tasting.  Thank you for reading.

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Hi BurgerJ, I cook on a large BGE as well. I can't really find any issues with your process that should create a bitter taste.  However, you might try this couple of tips. #1. I always fill my Egg way up past the air holes, and don't regulate the amount of charcoal I use. You temp and the nature of your cooking environment comes from how much air you feed your fire and not how much fuel you use. I too use fire starter in the center of my lump, but I let the fire develop slowly  over probably a full hour before I put on food. I have used Cowboy lump and decided it was too sooty for my taste. I use BGE,  Royal Oak, Fogo, or Jealous Devil. 3. Try a split zone cooking environment for burgers using a half stone. It looks like this and gives you a hot and cooler grate to work with. This helps prevent over cooking things like burgers. Hang in their you will find the solution, the Egg is a great grill. Don't second guess your choice, you made a good one. 

IMG_1324.thumb.jpeg.0ab7cf797db24a30c4cc1bc48a63e586.jpeg

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Thanks for the ideas keeperovdeflame.  I will try them.  In your setup l can’t quite tell.  Is your grate sitting at the same height as is standard and the half moon stone hangs below that using the eggspander?  Thanks again.

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+1 with everything @keeperovdeflame stated. You were going down in quality when you moved from BGE to Cowboy. I thinking what is happening is that unfortunately, the taste of cooking over coals just isn't for everyone. The taste of food cooked over lump is 100x better and "cleaner" than that cooked over briquettes in my opinion. So I have no explanation as to why people are experiencing issues with its taste. 

 

Anyway, I hope you get it worked out.

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I think you might be cooking too soon.

 

Fill the charcoal basket full. Light a single firefighter in the middle. Top and bottom vents wide open and let it warm up for 10-15 minutes. Once the temperature starts rising, put your grates in and close the vents down. At this point, I typically have my daisy wheel fully shut - but with the vents in it fully open if you see what I mean. Then I shut the bottom vent to about 1/3 open. Then let the grill warm up slowly adjusting the vents to get where you want.

 

It will normally take me about an hour to get the grill stable at the temperature I like.

 

My reasoning here is that as the whole grill warms up, all of the charcoal will get to the point where any "nasties" will gas off and you will be cooking with "pure" coals.

 

Personally, for burgers I like to cook them on a cast iron half moon surface rather than on the open grate. That way not as much fat drips on the coals directly under the burgers and turns to smoke - which can make them taste bitter.

 

Keep trying - you'll figure it out!

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I will second what @adm said about avoiding fat dripping into the fire. I usually use very lean ground beef for my burgers (blasphemy to some I know) and never have problems with the bitter taste. However, I cooked up some burgers recently that were a fattier more common fat ratio and found I had an off taste to them that I wasn’t of - which I am 100% sure was the fat dripping into the fire below.  
 

You can cook them on a surface as suggested or possibly find a way to cook them indirect as well - also suggested by keeperovdeflame. If doing that you might want a drip tray on your diffuser elevated slightly to prevent the fat from dripping on the hot surface and vaporizing causing the same result. A half moon setup might be best in this higher temp scenario and just be aware that you’ll really need to allow some time for your temp to come up and be patient with watching your temperature while everything heat soaks. Don’t get too carried away with trying to get it hot fast - just allow plenty of time for it to get going and settled in. 

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18 hours ago, BurgerJ said:

Thanks for the ideas keeperovdeflame.  I will try them.  In your setup l can’t quite tell.  Is your grate sitting at the same height as is standard and the half moon stone hangs below that using the eggspander?  Thanks again.

Actually, I am not familiar with the Eggspander,  I think it is a newer BGE accessory than was available when I bought my Egg years ago. . Yes, my grate is at standard height sitting on top of the fire ring, I use a CGS (after market) AR / Spider combo for most cooks that has a spider welded to the bottom of an AR.. When I do a 2 zone set up, I use a  spider all by it self sitting below my main grate. In the pic you can see the spiders legs over the edge of the fire box inside the indentations in the rim. Any rack that holds a deflector down into the fire box below the grate will work just fine With a half stone. Ps. you might find some interest in accessories from Ceramic Grill Store (CGS), a hint before hand,  is to hold onto your wallet tightly while viewing. CGS stuff is amazing, really heavy duty, 403 stainless steel  and will last forever. Happy Cooking. Maybe try a whole spatchcock chicken above a deflector with a drip pan, kamado chicken is the bomb. Ps. If you use a set up where you want to place a drip pan below your grate, don't set the drip pan directly onto of your deflector because the contents of the pan will burn and fry. Use something like pieces of a broken stone, copper elbows, balls of aluminum foil, etc between the drip pan and your deflector to create an air space. About 1/2 to 3/4 inch of air space is usually good enough. 

 

https://ceramicgrillstore.com/collections/big-green-egg-large-accessories-by-ceramic-grill-store

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Burgerj I don't understand the reason for 400 degrees to cook burgers. I don't pay much attention to temp except for the hand test one half grate up high and one low to char, sometimes i do use a deflector plate down low sometimes. . The bitter taste may be due to when you close down the bottom vent you are snuffing  some of the burning coals, causing them to smolder versus burning. this could cause some off smoke that is flavoring the meat. I start my Joe up then leave the bottom vent 1/2 to 3/4 open till its hot then put the burgers on full open for steaks. For $0.02 worth i found different charcoal does have a flavor content. When i got my grill i did chicken with royal oak (used it forever) but with the dome closed(something new for me ) the chicken had a smoky taste we didn't like if i keep the lid open it doesn't get much. Rockwood and B&B doesn't put much taste in meat. But I do love royal oak  "flavor" for pizza. Keep trying and it will come together.

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Do you put a lot of seasoning on your burgers before grilling? One thing I quickly noticed when I switched to charcoal, high heat cooks was a lot of the spices I put on the burger burned during the cook, especially garlic powder and black pepper.  This resulted in a bitter, burnt taste on the burgers.  I now blend the spices with the meat prior to making the patties, and I have not had the issue since.  Just a different thought beyond which charcoal, temp etc.  

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On 4/12/2021 at 10:06 AM, CentralTexBBQ said:

KK, in my world fat dripping into the fire = flavor!!!! :-D 

 

I avoid it on low heat, restricted oxygen cooks. But in high heat burger or steak cooks, bring on the fat.

 

+1

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Hello.  Thank you for all the useful replies.  After several more cooks and throwing away some bitter burgers,  this evening I have success to report. I was inspired by keeprovdeflame so I purchased an Eggspander basket and a half-moon griddle to try to avoid smoke from drippings.  Though I really like using them, that setup alone Did not improve the flavor.  Enter Adm’s comment.  I think you you might be cooking too soon.  I have watched a few kamado grill cooking videos.  A couple of times in a row the cooker in the video, said.  I usually let the grill hold it’s temperature for about an hour before I put any food on it.  That was it.  I started the grill, let it get up to temp and left it alone for an hour.  Burgers were great, no bad taste of any kind.  On some forum I was on someone also said something helpful an profound.  They said don’t put food on the grill until you like the smell coming out the top of the grill.  Again thanks everyone for your help.

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