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The XL Spider is one of our cool, yet simple, inventions. We named it the Spider because if you turn it legs down, they look like spider legs. The XL Spider could skeedaddle away! It's a work-horse that is used with the XL Adjustable Rig or combined with other pieces for creative cooking experiences.
Please Note: The XL Spider drops 1.25 inches into the fire ring. If you own an XL Woo2, you really do not need the XL Spider. The XL Spider with a 0.75-inch drop is a built in feature on the XL Woo2.
The XL Spider's outside ring diameter is roughly 14-inches. The material is 5/16-inch, 304 stainless steel round bar. It weighs 1.2 pounds. The XL Spider is passivated for improved corrosion protection against the extreme temperature swings within the fire ring. It can also sit inverted (up) on the fire ring, as pictured below right.
The XL Spider can hang from the fire ring or sit in the dimples and notches atop the fire ring. In the dimples and notches, it does not interfere with a grid sitting atop the fire ring. For the shortest drop, set the XL Spider directly on the fire ring's flat top surface. For the greatest drop (closest to the lump), set the XL Spider in the three fire ring notches. Setting in the notches adds 3/4-inch to the drop.
WARNING: For self protection, anyone using the ceramic cooker needs to understand the principals and preventive methods surrounding a Flashback, including Flashbacks from the lower slider vent, felt rim opening and/or top daisy wheel vent. Please consult your ceramic grill manufacturer or retailer for Flashback details and preventative measures before attempting any cook in the ceramic cooker, including cooks with or without the XL Spider, XL Woo2, XL Adjustable Rig or any other accessory placed in the cooker. Keep children away from the cooker, especially the lower slider opening, at all times.
WARNING: Only remove the XL Spider or any grid, skillet, pan, griddle or other accessory in the cooker when the cooker has cooled to ambient temperatures. DO NOT remove the XL Spider or other accessories stated herein during a high temperature (>300 degrees Fahrenheit) cook. The cooker can Flashback. The dome thermometer or remote temperature probes positioned above the fire ring are not an accurate measure of the temperature in the fire ring or firebox. The temperatures in the fire ring and firebox can be much higher. Lump burns in excess of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Adequate hand protection is required when removing heated items from the cooker.
Searing & Blackening
Producing a mouth watering steak with the XL Spider and XL Adjustable Rig can be accomplished in two simple steps. First, sear/blacken the steak inside the fire ring using the XL Spider and a grid, griddle or such. Second, when the searing/blackening is to your liking, elevate the steak onto an XL Adjustable Rig's raised grid. By elevating the steak, it now roasts to the desired doneness or internal temperature. This two step process, sear then roast, is akin to a chef searing/blackening on the stove top and finishing to temperature in the oven.
By using the XL Spider as a platform, the cooking surface is placed closer to the lump than if set atop the fire ring. Having the cooking surface closer means you do not have to burn the lump as hot to achieve the same results. How close is up to you. For the shortest drop into the fire ring, set the XL Spider directly atop the fire ring. For the greatest drop (closest to the lump), set the XL Spider in the three fire ring notches.
The cooking surface needs to be something other than the 24-inch XL grid. It's too big. What ever cooking surface you use, make sure it safely spans the XL Spider's 14-inch ring. Most agree: Cast iron is the best surface for searing and blackening.
For searing on cast iron grids, we recommend BGE's 15-inch medium or 18-inch large cast iron girds (items 15CI and 18CI, respectfully). If you routinely do large numbers of steak, go with the 18. If you routinely do four or less steaks, the 15 is a good size grid. The 15-inch diameter matches well with our Lump Reducing Rings. Pictured below on the left is BGE's large cast iron grid (18CI). In the middle is our XL Open Bar Lump Reducing Ring under the XL Spider. On the right are BGE's medium cast iron grid (15CI) and our Solid Sheet Lump Reducing Ring. The 15-inch grid diameter matches up nicely with both the Open and Solid Lump Reducing Rings.
For blackening, one surface option is Lodge's Cast Iron Reversible Griddle, LDP3. The griddle is 16-3/4" x 9-1/2" and comes preseasoned. A potential set-up option is our Ang-L Brackets with the Lodge griddle. Positioning the Ang-L Brackets along the cooker's front side can help minimize the heat rising along the front (working side) of the cooker.
If you want to use a skillet, griddle, dutch oven or other surface smaller than 14-inches round, we recommend using our 13" x 17.5", Large Stainless Oval Grid as a staging platform. The 17.5-inch length on the Large Oval Grid sufficiently spans the open ring. Plus, the Oval Grid's closely spaced crossbars provide sufficient support without compromising vertical depth. Also, if you plan to do small cooks frequently, we recommend purchasing a Lump Reducing Ring. It will save on lump and pay for itself. Please note, we recommend our Large, 13" x 17.5" Oval Grid and not our XL, 16" x 20" Oval Grid. Although the XL Oval Grid fits, it wobbles as the grid's center support catches the XL Spider's ring.
Depending on the fire, a piece or two of your favorite wood can be dropped on the searing grid for smoke. This keeps the wood from direct contact with the lump, so the wood only smolders. Lastly, we recommend keeping the XL Spider set-up in place while finishng the cook on the upper grid. No need to handle very hot pieces right away.
Wok Cooking (Wokking)
We recommend and offer two wok sizes: 16 and 19 inch diameters. The woks are round bottom, and fabricated from carbon steel. Thin carbon steel is the preferred wokking metal, as it passes heat quickly. Like cast iron cookware, woks need to be seasoned to preserve the cooking surface. Wokking can be a fun change of pace, too. Plus, there is more than Asian foods to wok. For example, every try to wok fajita veggies, shrimp scampi or onion/mushroom toppings for a burger? The 16-inch wok is pictured below on the left. The 19-inch wok is below right.
Wokking accessories run the gambit from simple hand tools to elaborate hand made steamers. If you are new to wokking, we recommend five simple wok accessories. First, with hand tools, keep it simple. A sturdy wooden paddle and large scoop spoon will work when wokking the food. We offer a wooden spoon because the spoon's neck needs to be "beefy" enough not to snap. On the scoop spoon, check your kitchen as you probably have several serving spoons that will work just fine. The other three accessories are a wok ring to hold the wok outside the cooker, wok lid for covered dishes and wok brush to make clean up easy.
Although they seem to be universally accepted as the standard wokking tools, we do not recommend the stainless shovels and ladles pictured below. Most come with wood handle extensions but we lost ours. We could never get the wood extensions to absorb enough water to stay stuck in the utensil's butt end. It's frustrating to be wokking and the next thing you know: The only thing in your hand is the wood extension. Plus, the stainless edges on these tools scratch the wok seasoning as seen below right.
Notes & Recommenations
We can't recommend how long to sear/blacken or wok because everyone cooks a little differently. What we do suggest is: good consistent habits produce the best results. So, stick with what works best for you and learn to recognize your key indicators during a cook. Also, when first starting out, it might be worthwhile to keep a cook's log. This way, on the next cook, you'll know what worked and where to make changes.
We recommend using long handled tools when cooking on the XL Spider. For searing/blackening, we use 16-inch long tongs. For wokking, we use a long wooden spoon. When hand protection is needed, we wear welding gloves. Tongs, spoons and welding gloves can be found in our shopping section, here.
When handling the cold (non-burning) lump before a cook, we wear latex gloves. The same type of glove we wear when prepping food. The gloves make a dirty job, like handling lump, easy to keep clean. Do not wear the latex gloves to handle burning lump or hot equipment. The thin latex material will quickly melt to your skin.
You might think frying in oil above the lump is a good alternative cook. Well, it is not! Simply, you can't control or maintain the oil temperature and that can quickly lead to a dangerous situation. We could go into a long discord on smoke, flash and fire point temperatures but let's leave it at.......oil in the cooker is dangerous.
XL Adjustable Rig - Indirect Set-Up
Using the XL Spider is another way to set-up indirect with the XL Adjustable Rig. The XL Spider holds our 17.5-inch Ceramic Stone and 18-inch Drip Pan to create an indirect set up. Important: Since the inside diameter of the fire ring is 21.5-inches, we strongly recommend limiting the stone and pan's diameter to less than 19-inches. This limitation insures proper airflow by maintaining an open gap between the indirect piece's outer edge and the fire ring's inner wall. We strongly recommend using a stone under any aluminum drip pan to prevent the pan from melting should the lump temperature run high. Unfortunately, we do not recommend using BGE's XL Stone on the XL Spider, as it is too big. More on the Adjustable Rig can be found here.
As pictured below, with the 17.5" Stone on the XL Spider, the air circulation is virtually unobstructed around the entire stone. This is the best mehtod we have found for uniform circulation. You can fill up to 1/3 - 1/2 of the fire ring with lump, so on very long cooks or when using fast burning lump, we recommend monitoring the lump to maintain fuel.
The XL Spider can be used to position the indirect set-up under the XL Adjustable Rig. Pictured below are two slightly different set-up options. First, pictured on the left is the XL Spider sitting in the dimples and in the down position. Our 17.5" Ceramic Stone and 18" Drip Pan are on top, creating the indirect set-up. This configuration allows a two grid set-up for big cooks. For large cuts, brisket or shoulder, we recommend setting the XL, 16"x19" Stainless Oval Grid on Rig level 1.5 and the XL, 20" Stainless Round Grid atop the Rig, as pictured.
Second, pictured below right is the XL Spider sitting in the notches and in the inverted "up" position. Again, the 17.5" Ceramic Stone and 18" Drip Pan create the indirect set-up. With this configuration, the lower 1.5 bracket setting on the Rig is not usable for grid placement. The upside is the 17.5" Stone and 18" Drip Pan are above the fire ring, so access into the fire ring is easier and more of the fire ring area is available for lump.
With a one grid, indirect set-up, we recommend placing the XL Spider in the inverted "up" position. This creates the best vertical spacing between the lump, stone/pan and grid. Pictured below are the top and side views of the same set-up. The inverted XL Spider is up holding the Stone and Pan. The XL Rig is on the fire ring with the 20" Stainless Round Grid on top.
Just to note, you can create a similar one grid, indirect set-up using the XL Slide Guide instead of the XL Spider. The XL Slide Guide can be a better method, as the entire set-up and cook is built on the XL Rig. Now, if you need to access the firebox, just lift the XL Rig out and the cooker is empty. Remember, proper hand protection is needed when handling hot equipment.
Wear & Tear on the XL Spider
Under normal ambient temperatures, 304 grade stainless steel is generally resistant to rust and corrosion. Unfortunately, given the huge temperature swings with ceramic cooking, the temperatures in and around the XL Spider are anything but normal ambient conditions. So, we need to point out that in all likelihood the XL Spider will not last forever and will show signs of corrosion. Exactly how many years will the XL Spider last is still unknown, as we are still waiting for one of our original Large Spiders to fail. The Large Spider has a much longer track record than the XL Spider. To settle our curiosity, we grabbed a Large Spider that has seen heavy action over several years and gave it a quick buffing. As you can see, it cleaned right up.
This ends the XL Spider narrative.