Big Green Egg with a Charcoal Basket

How Do You Arrange Charcoal in a Big Green Egg?

There’s no shortage of grill masters and backyard chefs that will go into elaborate detail about how best to arrange charcoal in a Big Green Egg. Whether you’re just getting started with your Big Green Egg or you’re just looking for new and different ways to master your charcoal grill, it can seem overwhelming to find the right way to do this part.

We’re here to tell you that, by using a charcoal basket and following a few key points, you’ll be able to get grilling without a hitch!

Here are a few tips we’ve gathered over the 10+ years since we founded Kick Ash Basket:

Always start your cook with a full load of charcoal!

Man loading up his charcoal basket

Fill your charcoal basket to the top. This is true for nearly any kind of grilling or smoking you are doing. Remember: you can have too little charcoal, but not too much. What’s more, any leftover charcoal can be saved and used on your next cook, by just closing your grill vents and letting the fire go out.

If you’re going for a long smoke, like 16-hour pork butt, then you’ll want to overload the basket.

Like Doug Hanthorn says on The Naked Whiz, “the minimum amount of charcoal you should probably ever use (except perhaps for ultra-low temperature smoking like cheese), is enough to just about fill the fire box.” He goes on to note a few more best practices:

  • When you are cooking things like steaks at high temperatures, fill the fire box to the top.
  • For low and slow cooking, fill it halfway up the fire ring so that it lasts long as long as you need (overnight, for instance)

Use leftover charcoal when lighting your grill for your next cook

A grill torch will make life easier. But it’s also best to use leftover charcoal from your last cook to get your burn going. After shaking the ash out of your charcoal basket, keep partially burnt pieces of charcoal and place them in the top center of your charcoal pile and use them to light the fire.

Lighting the Charcoal

Charcoal fresh from the bag has a tendency to spark or may have accumulated some humidity making it tough to light. Your par-burnt charcoal avoids these problems without purchasing a fire starter.

Mix it up

Make sure your charcoal is well-mixed: you don’t want the big chunks leaning on each other. This is to avoid what’s called “bridging” when one piece is burning but the next won’t because it is too large. Have a good mix of small, medium, and large pieces when you dump your charcoal into the basket.

Pay attention to arrangement when you’re smoking on your Big Green Egg

If you’re using smoking wood there’s two main approaches: layered, or in a ring.

If you layer your smoking wood, you’ll want to alternate a layer of charcoal with a layer of smoking wood as you fill your basket. You can think of it like constructing a pyre, except you’ll burn it from the top down.

If layering seems too involved, put smoking wood on top of the pile in a scattered, circular arrangement. Avoid placing smoking wood in the center where you start the fire. Use wood chunks, such as two-inch by two-inch pieces of whiskey barrel smoking wood and arrange them around the center. This way, while the charcoal burns, wood chunks will fall into the center to give your smoked meat flavor consistently throughout the cook.

Get ready for an all weather activity

Weather won’t affect how you’ll want to arrange your charcoal when you are using a Big Green Egg. Like Kick Ash Basket creator Chad Romzek notes: “That's the beauty of using a ceramic grill: they pretty much don't care about the weather, because the physics of it is that it's sealed up and it creates a chimney effect.”

2 people enjoying grilling on their Big Green Egg

Ready to start arranging your charcoal differently on your Big Green Egg? Start with a charcoal basket from Kick Ash Basket. See sizes and uses here.