I know how I do it. Wanna hear it? Here it goes...
A little while ago I saw a post about some people foiling their plate setter before every cook. I chimed in about cleaning mine with a couple putty knives. That got me thinking about how everyone else goes through the process of setting up their egg, and the different techniques and tools everyone uses. I'm always looking for a better way, so if you have one, feel free to offer it up. If nothing else, maybe this will help out someone who is new to ceramics, as I know it would've helped me my first time around.
This is how I set up my egg for a long overnight cook. If possible I like to set it up during the daylight hours so it's ready to go when night falls. I wouldn't be surprised if this set up would burn 24 hrs. or more at 225*.
When I do ribs, or something that I will only have to cook for a few hours, I will normally just stir up the old charcoal and add new on top.
I keep my tools and supplies in the garage, and the egg is out back so this is my tool caddy of sorts. It holds my 2 putty knives, a screwdriver, a dust pan and brush, and a box for small pieces of charcoal.
I also have an old popcorn tin that I keep under the egg, I use it to collect the ashes and scrapings from the platesetter. Yes, I realize I have a plastic bag in there, and no I don't empty hot ash into it, but it does make it easy to grab the bag and head to the trash can. A pair of heavy duty gloves are also a must.
Here's my nicely seasoned plate setter after my last rib cook. I just scrape off the old drippings with the 2 putty knives. Having 2 makes it a lot less messy, by using one to load up and scrape off the other.
2 minutes later.
This is how much lump I had left after a 6 hour burn at around 275*.
After mixing it around a bit with my ash tool. Tons of usable lump left over. I pull out all the bigger chunks and the small pieces make their way into the diaper box.
Then I clean out the ashes with my ash tool and the dust pan. I've seen some folks talk of using a vacuum for this. I'm would love to hear what type works best.
I use the screwdriver to poke out the holes in the charcoal grate, and we're all ready to load her up again.
I try and find the biggest pieces in the bag that I can, and arrange them on the first layer. I think having the larger chunks at the bottom keeps the small pieces from getting stuck in the holes and helps with the air flow.
Then the medium sized chunks. A bit blurry, sorry about that.
Then finally, I finish with the small pieces from the diaper box or the bottom of the bag.
At this point I will usually light the coals at 3 places with my mapp torch and add three chunks of wood right on top of the lit areas, here's a picture, except I would actually light the charcoal first. Within 1 hr. the smoker is up to temp and spewing thin blue smoke.
Well it's 3:01 am, and now that I've bored you all silly, I'm going out to check on the butts before I hit the sack.