Big Green Egg - Pt. 3- Myths & Legends
08/18/12 -07:32 Filed in: Big Green Egg
When I interrupted this series of blogs about my new Big Green Egg I wrote: “I am going to interrupt my ongoing Big Green Egg blog love fest for a moment to…” . Later it occurred to me, perhaps I should address some credibility issues regarding some claims about the Big Green Egg. I used to hear Eggheads raving about their BGE’s, going on and on about how great it is and how it is almost a lifestyle. I used to roll my eyes and keep a civil tongue and avoid making nasty comments. I knew it was a good grill, but come on lets get real. It really can’t be that much better. It suddenly occurred to me, that I too was doing this - although I am trying not to be too annoying about it. So I thought before I start turning people off and having them dismiss me and some of these BGE related blogs as the product of yet another person who has drunken the KoolAid, I should address some of these claims about the BGE. I am a newbie Egghead and before I get too assimilated, I should address some of these points based on my real world experience making the switch. I was also thinking it might be interesting for me to revisit this blog in a year or two and answer the questions again.
BIG PICTURE: First we’ll start off with some generalities, then we’ll get a bit more specifics.
Q: Is the BGE the World’s Greatest Grill?
A: Absolutely not. Anyone who says otherwise is not being realistic. You can always throw more money at something and get something that will be better. If Eggheads want to get a dose of reality they should visit the forums of Kamado Kooker owners. Some of the posters are as condescending about the BGE, as some BGE owners are about other grills. The Kamado Kooker is a Kamado grill that starts in the mid $2,000.00 range. Is it 3X better than a BGE? I would tend to doubt it. With most things you hit a point of diminishing returns where spending double the money doesn’t get you anywhere near double the performance.
I will say this though. I think the BGE, at it’s price point, is in the sweet spot for most people. You would have to spend significantly more to get something noticeably better. The BGE performs at a level that is superior to many less expensive grills and is at a performance level which will make most folks very happy.
Q: Is the BGE better than the other Kamado’s or ceramics at it’s price point?
A: Probably not. I can’t claim to know the answer to this question, having never used the other grills. At first I was looking to buy a CG Acorn Kamado Cooker at $299.00. When I decided to look into Kamado’s at the BGE’s price point, I looked into other models as well. Each model has their proponents that claim their brand is the best one out there. But each brand, including the BGE, had their weaknesses too. Without in any way denigrating the other ceramics, let me explain why I choose to get the Egg. 1) The Egg has been around about the longest and has had improvements made along the way. 2) The Egg has a huge legion of users who are very enthusiastic (sometimes a bit too much so) about their grill, and are willing to share their knowledge and love of the Egg. You can’t buy this kind of loyalty, so there had to be something to it. 3) There seems to be an endless supply of websites devoted to the BGE, which is helpful when you have questions. 4) There are hundreds of Eggcessories (accessories) made for the Egg. This allows you to take it even further. Now some of these Eggcessories fit other similar Kamados, but they were made specifically for the Egg and there are far more of them out there for the Egg than any other Kamado. 5) Eggs are used in restaurants, in BBQ competition and by professional chef’s.
Q: Aren’t those ravings about the Egg really just the wild-eyed proclamations of members of the BGE cult?
A: Not really. I am quickly finding most of the claims are true. I feel I am in a good position to understand Eggheads, because I use several other devices that have had “cult-like” followings. I use Macintosh computers, an iPhone, an iPad and a TiVo. I do feel they are superior products and people who use them are quite enthusiastic about them. It is hard not to rave about something that performs better than similar products. Often until you actually use them, you don’t know how good they really are. I was guilty of dismissing some of the claims of the Eggheads myself until I tried it. I was shocked how good some of the food has been, some of it the best I’ve made in fact.
Q: Isn’t the BGE way over priced?
A: Not necessarily. If you think it is just another grill, then it is overpriced. But I have come to realize just how versatile and easy to use it is. It is a grill that can be used for high and low temperature grilling, it is a smoker and it is an oven. If you were to buy a grill, a smoker and an outdoor oven you would spend far more money and they still might not be as good as the one Egg. You would have more cooking area and the ability to do more than one type of cooking at once, but it would be far more expensive to get something as good. You also must factor in whether some of the intangibles of the BGE are worth money to you: Ease of use, durability, lower charcoal consumption. Ease of use is hard to put a monetary value on, but this is our hobby and hobbies are supposed to be fun. Now durability and lower consumables cost have a value to them that can be defined on paper. It is also easier to use and less affected by weather extremes-this has both an ease of use and a cost factor associated with it.
Q: Aren’t the Eggcessories (Accessories) for the BGE way over priced?
A: Not necessarily. When I looked at them in a catalogue I thought yes. But this was before I saw them in person. Actually every Eggcessory made buy the BGE Company that I have looked at and handled seems to be very well built and seem like they will last a long time. I would rather pay a little more for something that will last more than a few uses. There have been a few times where the Eggcessory cost less than I expected.
THE GRITTY DETAILS: OK, lets get into some specifics.
Q: They say the food is better on the BGE because it retains more moisture?
A: Absolutely positively true. The first meal on my BGE was a spatchcocked chicken and it was head and shoulders the moistest piece of chicken I’d ever made before. Now I’d made that recipe on my gas grill a few months ago and it was moist, but nowhere near this moist. The steaks I’ve made on the Egg are also my best ever - charred and crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The insulation of a Kamado style cooker, together with a tight seal in the cooking chamber helps the food retain much more moisture. This is a fact that can’t be disputed. Just have something cooked on a conventional gas or charcoal grill and have the same item on a BGE. No contest. You may not believe me, but I am telling you to try it yourself.
Q: They say you can bake in the BGE and it is better than your Kitchen oven?
A: True, You can indeed bake in your BGE. As to the claim it is better than your Kitchen oven I am still processing that one. It is at least as good as your oven. The hamburger rolls were at least as good, the pizza crust was better, and the buttermilk biscuits seems moist. I need to try more things before I am willing to declare a winner here. But the fact it is at least as good, gives me more flexibility than I had before. I also tend to believe this claim because baking under the ceramic domed lid of the BGE is like baking in a traditional old world domed brick oven.
Q: They say you can bake the best pizza on the BGE and it is better than your Kitchen oven?
A: True. This is because you can make your pizza at 600-700 degrees (316-371 C) unlike most indoor ovens that top out at 450-500 degrees (230-260 C). Now my gas grill can get up that high-at least in the summer, but the better insulation and seal of the Egg gives you far better recovery when you open the lid. Plus you get the better heat distribution from the domed lid. Also you would use less fuel using the Egg which is insulated vs the gas grill which is not. Also grilled pizzas in the winter will be a breeze.
Q: Speaking of insulation and seal and heat: They say you can actually reuse the lump charcoal by shutting off the dampers?
A: Absolutely true. I’ve got to admit this seemed a little too good to be true before I tried it myself. When you are done cooking, you close the bottom draft door and remove the dual function metal top and replace it with a ceramic cap. This puts out the fire leaving you with any unused lump. When I did my first cook, an area of lit coals 6” in diameter was what I started with. At the end of the cook it had expanded to a 12” diameter circle, but even this charcoal was not all spent. So you can take this one to the bank: If you close off the dampers, the charcoal will go out and you can reuse what is left.
Q: They say you will use far less charcoal due to the tight seal and insulated shell of the Kamado style cooker?
A: True again. My first 12 cooks, totaling about 16-17 hours cooking time, were done using one 22 pound (10 Kg) bag of Wicked Good lump charcoal. My first cook which was chicken at 325 degrees (160 C) for one hour plus 1/2 hour warmup time used a single layer of lump 12” in diameter, and even that still had some life left in those coals.
Q: They say you have superior temperature control on the Egg?
A: True as far as it goes. It is the easiest grill to control I’ve ever used, so for me yes. A big reason for this is the dual level temperature control at the chimney, which allows coarse and fine adjustments. In my short time using it, I have been able to get to within 5 degrees or less of my target temperature. My initial impression is that it is easier to control than my gas grill.
Q: They say even a lowly hotdog tastes better on the BGE, is this true?
A: No not necessarily. If referring to a gas grill that doesn’t get as hot as the BGE can, maybe. I recently cooked the same hot dog on my gas grill and the Big Green Egg to test this claim. There was no difference that I could tell. My gas grill could get just as hot as the BGE and with the hotdog having a skin, it couldn’t absorb any smoke flavor the lump charcoal in the Egg might have given off. The two hot dogs tasted identical, so we’d have to declare that one a tie. Now in the winter it might be different because I might not be able to get the gas grill that hot.
Q: They say the BGE is safer for your kids because it doesn’t get as hot as regular grills?
A: False, false, false. I wish people wouldn’t make that claim. In the short term it is actually true, since it takes a while for the ceramic walls of the BGE to heat up. Once a little time has passed, the walls get just as hot on the outside as the temperatures are on the inside. So if you have kids keep an eye on them at all times. Remember the bright green colored Egg might actually attract their attention more than a dull black grill.
Q: They say the BGE is easy to use, how can something that is supposed to be that good also be easy to use?
A: I know it seems contradictory, but it is that easy to use. I am new to direct grilling using charcoal and have only used charcoal for indirect cooks on my smoker. Even for me this has been incredibly easy, At times it almost feels like you are cheating the system.
Q: Shouldn’t the Platesetter for the BGE that helps you do low and slow and baking come with the BGE? The way they do it now you pay a lot of money for the BGE and then you have to spend even more on extra Eggcessories.
A: Maybe. At first blush this seems absolutely true. If they included the Platesetter it would bump the price up another $55.00 or so. People already feel the Egg is overpriced. Until people actually try food cooked on the Egg, they don’t know what that extra money is bringing them. I was guilty of that. I knew the Egg was good, but just how good I had no idea. So if they start adding the Platesetter and other Eggcessories into the base price, it would probably scare away more people than it would attract. Plus everyones use case is different, so they might want different Eggcessories. Do some comparison shopping, some dealers will put together a package with the BGE and several popular Eggcessories at a discounted price. Lastly your Egg will probably last 20 or more years so the extra $55.00 to you for the platesetter is $2.75 a year. So just bite the bullet and get it if you need it.
BOTTOM LINE: Q: Is the Big Green Egg worth buying or is it just a bunch of hype pushed by a bunch of zealots?
A: Definitely. I think it is at a sweet spot, pricing wise, in that you would have to pay a significant amount more to get something that might only be a little better. So far in my first 10 cooks on my new Egg I’ve turned out: the moistest chicken I’ve ever tasted, the best pizza (twice), the best steak (twice) and the best wings. I’ve also made a frittata and Brunswick stew, baked buttermilk biscuits and hamburger rolls. If you’ve never used a Kamado (ceramic) cooker, you can’t imagine how good the food is, not to mention how versatile and easy to use it is.
Q: What if I still don’t believe you after all of this?
A: Well my first reaction is: Tough Crowd. My second reaction is go get some food that is cooked on a BGE. The dealers sometimes do cooking demonstrations. Visit someone who already owns an Egg. Or go to a regional Eggfest which among other things serves food to the curious. But if you try some food that is correctly prepared on a BGE, you will know I am telling the truth.