How to Grill on a Big Green Egg

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The Big Green Egg is a unique, versatile outdoor cooker. It can function as a grill, smoker, and even oven. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps of setting up and using the Big Green Egg specifically for direct and two-zone grilling, perfect for burgers, steaks, vegetables, and more.

mary cressler grilling on a big green egg

Assembling the Big Green Egg

When you first get your Big Green Egg, it may require assembly. Each model may have slightly different assembly instructions, but generally, you’ll need to:

  1. Set the ceramic base on the metal nest or table. We are assuming the ceramic top is already mounted to the base.
  2. Place the firebox inside the base, with the hole at the bottom aligning with the base’s vent.
  3. Put the fire ring on top of the firebox. Insert the charcoal basket or the cast iron fire shield in the firebox. This separates where the ash falls from where the heat lies as the charcoal burns. Add the convEGGtor plate with the legs facing up if you are grilling using an indirect method.
  4. Place the grill grate on top of the fire ring or the upright legs of the convEGGtor plate.

Remember: Ceramic parts can be heavy, so take care during assembly. Big Green Egg’s website has great videos on how to assemble. You can often buy the Big Green Egg assembled and have delivered from your local Platinum Dealers.

Safety and Location

Choose a safe level location for your Big Green Egg, one where it won’t be a fire hazard. Keep it away from flammable materials. Make sure it’s also in a convenient place for you to use and monitor. We tend to keep any grill at least 10 feet away from a house or structure.

Direct Grilling on the Big Green Egg

These steps are intended for grilling direct, which means all the charcoal is heated and sits directly under what you are grilling. There is also a side that has indirect heat so that if your meat is not done during the sear, you finish it on the indirect side so you don’t burn it.

  • Fish, Shell Fish, and Thin Cuts – You can just place the charcoal across the entire fire box and light it. Thin cuts would include flank steak, hanger steak, flat iron steak, and skirt steak.
  • Steaks and Medium Roasts – If you are grilling thick cut steaks like ribeye, NY strips, or sirloin the two-zone set up is ideal. This also is a good set up for medium sized roasts like beef tenderloin, tri tip, or picanha.

We have a separate tutorial if you are looking to smoke low and slow, for example meats such as brisket and pork shoulder.

Big Green Egg set up with two zone grilling without using the charcoal basket.
2-zone grilling with all of the charcoal on one side of the grill, leaving the other side as the “cool” side.

Step 1: Lighting the Charcoal in the Big Green Egg

If you want a two-zone set up, where you have charcoal and heat on just one side, it’s best to have the charcoal basket from Big Green Egg with the divider. If using the basket, make sure the divider is firmly in place, place charcoal in one side of the basket, and then follow the lighting steps. In this example, we did not use the basket, and instead pushed the charcoal to one half of the grill.

Tools Needed: Tumbleweed Fire Starter, Lump Charcoal, Lighter

  1. Open the top and bottom vents of the Egg fully.
  2. Fill the firebox (or one side of the charcoal basket) with lump charcoal up to the top of the firebox (or basket).
  3. Using two natural fire starters or electric starter, light the charcoal in two places. Leave the lid open for about 10-15 minutes until the fire is well-established.

Never use lighter fluid on your BGE or Kamado Grill! Ceramic can absorb the flavor and it’s a smell and taste that won’t go away. It’s easier and just as fast to start with a tumbleweed fire starter or start with a charcoal chimney.

Step 2: Temperature Control

After 15 minutes the fire starters have ignited the charcoal and it’s time to warm up the grill and grates. For direct grilling, you’ll want a high heat, typically around 450 – 550°F using the dome thermometer. Close the lid and adjust the top and bottom vents to control the temperature.

  • For 500 degrees F – Top vent should be halfway open and the bottom vent should be open 1/3 of the way. Make minor adjustments top top vent first based on wind and weather until the BGE is at temperature for 15 minutes.

Note: The Egg retains heat very well, so it’s better to sneak up on your target temperature rather than overshoot and have to cool it down. Once you overshoot your target it’s hard to cool it down quickly. To do so you have to almost completely shut the vents to minimize oxygen to cool. So pay attention to the Dome Thermometer.

Step 3: Preparing for Direct Grilling

For direct grilling, food is cooked directly above the heat source. There’s no need for the convEGGtor, which is used for indirect cooking.

  1. Make sure the grill grate is in place.
  2. Allow the Egg to heat up to the desired temperature. We plan 15 minutes for the warm up and 15 minutes for the internal temperature to be achieved once the lid is closed.
  3. Once it’s hot, you can clean the grates with a grill brush if needed. We recommend cleaning the grill grates after every cook.
chicken wings on the grill over indirect heat on Big green egg using the charcoal basket.
These grilled chicken wings are being finished on the indirect side.

Step 4: Direct Grilling

  1. Open the lid of the Big Green Egg and place your food directly on the grill grate over the heat source.
  2. Close the lid and let the food cook for the recommended time.
  3. Regularly check your food to ensure it’s cooking evenly and not burning.
  4. Use long tongs or a spatula to turn the food as necessary.
  5. When done, remove the food from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
Tomahawk steak cooking over direct heat on a Big Green Egg.
This grilled tomahawk steak is being grilled over the direct side of the Big Green Egg using the charcoal basket.

You can also follow the same process with the Stainless Steel Fire Bowl accessory (charcoal basket) which has the lit charcoal on one side for a two-zone grilling set up. We like this set up because as some of the meat cooks faster than others you can move it to the indirect side.

Step 5: Shutting Down

Once you’re done cooking, it’s easy to shut down the Big Green Egg:

  1. Clean off your grill grate with grill brush while warm.
  2. Close both the top and bottom vents completely. This will cut off the air supply, causing the fire to extinguish. This will take two to three hours to cool if at 500 degrees.
  3. Never douse the fire with water. The drastic temperature change can crack the ceramic.
  4. Once the grill is completely cool, open the lid and remove the grate. Using the ash tool scrape the charcoal and ash into the base of the BGE. Then open the bottom vent and scrape the ash into an ash bucket. Replace the components and close the lid until the next time you grill.

Indirect Grilling With the ConvEGGtor Plate

We predominantly use the plate setter, or the convEGGtor plate, for low and slow cooking. But you can also use the plate for indirect grilling like for grilled pizza and baking.

A clean convEGGtor plate from a Big Green Egg Kamado grill.
The convEGGtor plate is perfect for grilling large roasts or pizza.

The other time we use the plate is when we are roasting a large roast like prime rib, ham, or turkey. The charcoal flavor still infuses with the roasts. If using the indirect method then consider following the same set up instructions to light. And then after the first 15 minutes place the convEGGtor plate on and the grill grate.

Then close the lid and bring the grill to your desired temperature. We do not recommend using this method for small cuts or steaks.

Warning: Burp Your Egg or Kamado Grill

When cooking at temperatures over 400 degrees F you want to burp your Egg every time you open the lid. This means before you open it (every time) you gently open a slight amount to let oxygen in. Then close it, then gently open a second time slowly until it’s fully opened.

This prevents a large flame up from burning your arm hair and eyebrows off.

The reason the burping is needed is because the BGE is so efficient that it burns only the amount of oxygen you are letting in through the vents. When you fully open the lid, a rush of oxygen is flooding the heat source which will create a large flame at high heat. We do not do this when we are smoking on the Big Green Egg.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I reuse old charcoal on my Big Green Egg or Kamado grill?

Yes. What is very nice about the BGE is that charcoal can be reused after you have cooled it down. It’s important that you use the ash tool to remove excess ash from the fire box. Then add a few fresh pieces, and then light as usual.

Can you do regular grilling on a Big Green Egg or Kamado grill?

Yes, you can use direct or two-zone cooking methods to grill at a high heat on the Big Green Egg or any Kamado grill. You can also use an indirect high heat grilling method if you use the convEGGTor plate (or plate setter).

What temperature do you grill on your Big Green Egg?

The ideal temperature range for grilling most foods is 450 – 550 degrees F (230 – 280 degrees Celsius). For Fish we like 600 degrees F (315 degrees Celsius). All temperatures as measured by the dome thermometer, which means at the grill grate level it will be hotter by about 100 degrees F.

Other BGE Grill Resources

Grilled Recipes on the BGE

  • Grilled Steak with Poblano Salsa – A grilled ribeye topped with grill roasted poblano and corn salsa.
  • Grilled Ahi Tuna Steak – Sear the tuna for less than 2 minutes per side and served with a savory soy dipping sauce.
  • Grilled Beef Tenderloin – This grilled tenderloin is topped with a rich mustard steak sauce.
  • Grilled Carrots – Yes – grilling carrots with a maple glaze is a great side dish and easy to make with your favorite steaks.
  • Grilled Tri Tip – This roast that first gained popularity in California is grilled with our steak seasoning and then finished with a Zinfandel red wine sauce.
  • Grilled Pineapple – Grill up the pineapple and serve with ice cream, or cut up into a coleslaw. Either way, the options are endless for a grilled pineapple recipe.

About Vindulge

Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.

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Now on 2nd edition

Fire + Wine Cookbook

“This book is a one-stop guide for anyone truly interested in elevating their BBQ experience into a culinary work of art.”
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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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