Upgrading the Big Green Egg & Replacing the Gasket; High-Que.com’s Gasket & Fire Grate

Nearly 5 years ago, I wrote a post all about the details of owning a Big Green Egg. Quite popular, but it needs to be updated as I’ve learned much since then. This is the first in what’ll likely be a series of articles outlining some upgrades and details of Big Green Egg ownership.

BGE Upgrade Kit; New Gasket & FIre Grate
High-Que’s Upgraded Fire Grate & Gasket.

There are two common complaints that I’ve heard from many Big Green Egg owners. The first is that, after years of ownership, it is harder and harder to get the egg past ~350 degrees or so (500 – 750 needed to do proper sears or cook a pizza). In particular, the fire grate included with the BGE is a big metal plate with a bunch of ~3/4″ holes drilled in it. It just doesn’t let a lot of air through to start with and, after years of use, any kind of ash build up and/or clogging of the holes in the ceramic firebox leads to even less air getting through.

Related, for those that do achieve high heat on a semi-regular basis, the factory installed woolen gasket quickly wears out.

Fortunately, there exists High-Que.com who specializes in upgraded components for the Big Green Egg. Pictured at left is their upgraded fire grate and their Nomex based high-heat replacement gasket.

For BGE owners, I cannot recommend these two products highly enough. Gasket upgrades have been around for quite a while, but most involved spray adhesive or fireplace-safe adhesive combined with a gasket that would often fray, leaving the risk of metal bits in your food (most of the gaskets were really re-purposed oven or kiln gaskets). High-Que’s gaskets are more like the original BGE gasket in physical design, but are much more durable and can withstand a higher heat. Like the original gasket, High-Que’s uses a high-heat adhesive backing that is exposed by removing a bit of paper; no toxic spray-on adhesives involved.

High-Que’s fire grate is equally as well considered & built. It is a very heavy gauge stainless steel grate that will not clog and allows for much greater air flow. As it comes with a 5 year warranty, clearly High-Que believes the product works.

Venison/Beef Burgers
Venison/Beef Burgers Seared Beautifully.

And it does. The combination of the two products has vastly improved the cooking experience with my BGE; it is easier to light, achieves a higher temperature faster (literally, takes about 12-15 minutes to reach ~600 degrees whereas I had a hard time cracking 400 without a fan before the upgrade), and the gasket looks like it is going to last much longer than the BGE wool gaskets (I won’t know for sure for another ~6 months or so).

And there was a fringe benefit that was a nice surprise; every BGE owner who has cooked at high heat has learned through quite a bit of hair loss that you have to “burp” your egg when opening it at temperatures greater than ~500. If you don’t, this rather ominously beautiful cloud of flames (seriously — check out this set o’ photos!!) will burst out of the egg and take all your arm hair right off!

With the increased air flow of the High-Que grate, the Egg doesn’t exhibit anywhere near the same degree of flashback as long as the bottom vent is wide open. What a nice surprise! To be clear, the egg will still flashback if the bottom vent is closed or if you open too rapidly at high heat, but the problem is vastly reduced!

Replacing the gasket is a bit of a chore. Click through for full details. Since the Egg needs to come apart for this anyway, a full cleaning is in order, too.

Worn Out BGE Gasket
Dirty BGE

This is pretty typical for an Egg after a few years and a couple of hundred pounds of pork butts.

The woolen gasket has both lost all of it’s “spring” due to a combination of being burned off by the occasional high-temperature cook and because it has happily sucked up about a gallon of meat juices. Think what happens to a wool sweater when it sucks up water. Now replace the water with fat. And compress it. And heat it up to ~400 degrees. Yeah — not so happy.

The fire box is caked with pork fat and meaty fallout. Note that the vent holes around the firebox are mostly to fully clogged. This both prevents achieving higher temperatures and is pretty much unavoidable.

At this point, you’ll really want to take the lid off the BGE. Which comes to a very critical safety not.

Tie Down That Hinge!!!

Make sure you tie your hinge shut!! When the weight of the lid comes off that hinge, those springs are going to pull the lid’s metal band violently apart. It will hurt you. It might break a bone.

That wire was not entirely sufficient. Enough to mute the effect of the springs, but not sufficient. Ideally, you still have the bits of plastic that were used to clamp the hinge shut during shipping. If not, you’ll want to wrap up the left and right hinges separately.

Do not skip this step. (Ow)

Old Gasket Removed

Next, you’ll want to remove the old gasket. It should peel up pretty easily using a putty knife or scraper. What is left behind, though, is not so easily removed.

To remove the layer of greasy adhesive and gasket remnants requires a combination of tools.

I started with a wire brush on an eletric drill. This got the largest chunks out of the way and generally reduced the problem to a bit of a greasy slurry.

To remove the grease, I used the soaped up steel wool pot scrubbers. From there, I used shop-towels (the disposable paper towels) that were soaked in cheap vodka (food safe).

Cleaned Gasket-less BGE Rim

Quite a bit of elbow grease later and the rim looked like this.

However, it also needs to be nice and dry.

The easiest way to do this is to re-assemble the top and bottom parts of the egg, reattaching the hinges, etc. Put the hinge back on and clamp it to the bottom gently (no need to crank it down yet. Put the top back on and then make sure that the top hinge is pushed up as high as possible against the rim of the egg (see photo below with the new gasket installed). Crank down the high clamp bolts and remove your hinge ties.

Curing New BGE Gasket

Because it was a bit of a cold day, I dropped a random Halogen work light into the BGE and let it sit for a few hours.

(Pictured at right with the gasket installed — more on that in a second).

This did a great job of drying out the interior of the BGE.

Installing BGE Gasket

Once dry, installation of the new gasket is straightforward.

Simply cut it in half, then peel a bit of the paper off the back (no more than an inch).

Press the exposed adhesive onto the rim of the BGE and then slowly go around the entire rim, peeling off the paper as you go and aligning the gasket as you move around the edge.

I put the edge of the gasket at the back of the egg, out of the way. I also was sure to offset the edge of the gasket for the top vs. the bottom. There will be a bit of a gap or a bit of rise at the gap and you don’t want to compound the potential problems by stacking the gaps directly on top of each other. This is the one part of the upgrade that is a little bit fiddly; you need to make sure the gasket is fairly well aligned as you go and it really wants to go in a straight line. As long as you don’t press down on the gasket as you go, it is pretty easy to lift and re-align as needed.

Once the gasket is installed, close the lid and let it sit for at least 12 hours, ideally 24. Since it was still a bit cold and damp, I left the work lite in the egg for about six hours to help keep things dry and warm.

Note that the cord for the worklight was going through the vent at the bottom to prevent the cord from causing the lid to sit funny during the set-up process.

New BGE Gasket Installed

This is what the gasket looks like after 24 hours of curing. A nice air-tight, very clean, seal. Enjoy the newness of it all because it likely won’t stay that way for long!

New Grate with Hot Coals
Venison/Beef Burgers

The next step is to test it out. Since I had recently picked up a meat grinder, I threw some skirt steak and venison through the grinder and made some burgers (which really need a nice high heat to get a proper sear).

Up until very recently, I typically use a chimney starter on top of a turkey burner to start the coals which are then dumped into the BGE. As can be seen through the vent door, the High-Que grate allows for significantly greater air flow and will not become clogged with ash.

All in all, it took about 15 minutes to go from cold to 650 degrees; much faster than previously (if I could even get the egg past 400 without a fan!).

All in all, the High-Que products work really well! The company has been very responsive and, in talking with them, they have some other BGE upgrades in the works that I look forward to reviewing in the future. Clearly, High-Que has confidence in their products as evidenced by the 5 year warranty on the fire grate and that they sent me the gasket for free as a review knowing fully that I would be brutal if the product did not meet expectations.

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17 Responses to “Upgrading the Big Green Egg & Replacing the Gasket; High-Que.com’s Gasket & Fire Grate”

  1. Roman says:

    Thanks for the shout out in your article

  2. Jeffrey J Hoover says:

    Let’s hope the weather changes this week. I’ve got plans for my BGE on Friday!

  3. CJ Johanson says:

    Thanks for the great recommendations!

    I replaced my gasket last year with the BGE branded replacement gasket and promptly burnt it to a crisp (I do more grilling than smoking, since I am the sole carnivore in my household. Plus the flashback on some brands of lump charcoal is quite hot and persistent, leading to gasket crisping.). This improved gasket will be the first on my list. The fire grate looks good too; I upgraded from the ceramic fire grate that came with my egg to the metal one yours came with and was very pleased with the improved performance. Airflow is key on the egg!

    Do you find that the wider grid requires more frequent ash clean-outs? I have my egg in a home-made wood table and the base rests upon 3/4 inch thick travertine tiles, so I often worry about things getting too hot down there at the bottom of the egg. I try to keep a cushion of ash at the bottom while not getting full enough to restrict airflow. When my bag of lump charcoal is from the bottom of the shipping pallet, it can be more pulverized than lumpy, causing more hot coals to drop through to the bottom.

  4. Mary says:

    Yay! Now I can tell my husband that we can still use our BGE with your recommendations. He was just about to throw the darn thing away because it wasn’t working properly recently. Can’t wait to show him this article, he’ll be thrilled!!

  5. Jim says:

    Thanks for the tip on the gasket. I just bought one off of Amazon.com along with the replacement grate.

    I have never had a problem getting my BGE started. I use a custom made fire starter (maple sawdust, Gulf wax and paper egg carton) to get things going and then I use a shop-vac crevice nozzle on the blower setting to really fire things up (pun intended). This gets my lump charcoal going really fast and it spreads the fire quickly to adjacent lumps. I can put the hose in the bottom through the BGE air inlet or from the top with the lid open. Do be careful when using this method from the top as the heat will get quite high and has the potential to melt a plastic nozzle.

  6. Fresnobites says:

    I think I have a similar question as CJ. Have you noticed with the larger air gaps in the coal grid that a) you have more ash and b) it’s harder to maintain a lower temperature as a result? I have to wonder whether BGE just got lazy with the cast iron grate with the tiny holes or if there is a method to the madness.

    Awesome blog btw. I feel like we were separated at birth somehow. I’m into almost everything you post about.

  7. Dan says:

    This was an interesting read. I purchased my egg in 2004 and never had any problems reaching high heat with the fire grate that came with the egg. After each use, I empty the egg and clean out the ash and re-load with charcoal. Now, I can see the fire grate holes plugging up if you keep adding charcoal without empting and cleaning the grate.

    Am I the only one that cleans and re-loads with charcoal after each use?

  8. Kevin says:

    I clean mine out every time as well , keeps the egg working like new, and at 7-800 bucks for a new one, I need to make this last a lifetime

  9. Dean says:

    I do not clean my BGE out after each use, that would waste the unused charcoal. Before each use I stir up the remaining charcoal and knock any ash down through the grate, and clean out most of any clogged grate holes that I see. It still heats up well. I just bought a replacement charcoal grate because my original rusted and cracked.

  10. Stezie says:

    Gents, you need to clean your egg once in a while. No darn wonder bbum and others eggs are working well. If there’s no air flow, the egg sucks. But the problem isn’t the grate. The solution isn’t a fan or shop vac. It is simple MAINTENANCE! Pull out the ceramic ring and fire box and clean it! Clean the holes in the metal grate. Simple solution. Only time. No $$$ Happy egg’n.

  11. Rob says:

    Changing the fire grate would be modifying the grill and that will void your warranty! Stezie is right, all you need to do is clean out the grill before each use. Also doing a lot of slow cooking clogs up the air holes in the fire box and fire grate, so you need to burn the grill out occasionally to restore that airflow. The high heat gasket is a nice upgrade though.

  12. jaymo says:

    Just wondering how that gasket is holding up these days? I’ve seen mixed reviews regarding high-heat cooking with it…some people say it’s fine, others say their gasket shrunk up and/or melted away when they tried to get up to “steak” temps. And btw, thanks for the great post!

  13. bbum says:

    Burned through the gasket again. Frankly, I’m going to stick with high heat, short, cooks on the other grill. While the bge makes fantastic pizza, anything around 650 burns the seal.

  14. Barry says:

    My medium size firebox broke. I still use it with the broken piece in place. As it is $150 to replace, does anyone know of an aftermarket ceramic supplier making BGE “knock-off” parts?

  15. Joe says:

    I’m not sure, but I think the firebox is covered by a lifetime warranty. I got a replacement, free. The claim process was a bit of a nuisance, but the part was free.

  16. Westfalliaboy says:

    Nice thread – I used a woodstove gasket which worked well – I think the biggest issue and one that we as BBQ’ers forget is that as they compress, you have to adjust the height of the dome. Of course, I haven’t done that and have gone through this other gasket and am contemplating a replacement when it is -2 outside (Centigrade). I have a BGE brand replacement gasket and am going to put that in – but this spring it will totally burnt out at the back and I am going to go back to the woodstove gasket. Not so sure about the new grate either – I have an original Komado bought by my dad in 1972 (have the receipt) and we have the original ceramic grate – it heats up like a hot damn in no time……

  17. Kevin says:

    Since replacing the gaskets the bottom band is rising up on the back leaving a huge gap What could cause this to happen?

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