Big Green Egg - Pt. 14 - Impressions after 90 Days
10/24/12 -22:11 Filed in: Big Green Egg | Review | Retrospective
I have now owned my Big Green Egg for three months and I've cooked over 80 meals on it. When I bought it I was blown away by just how great it was. With this blog entry I'm taking a look at my initial impressions of the Big Green Egg to see if my opinion of it has improved or gone down over my first three months of heavy usage. And when I say heavy usage I don’t think I used my gas grill 80 times in the whole first year I owned it, let alone 3 months.
BTW before I get rolling let me mention the Big Green Egg belongs to a style of cooker called a Kamado cooker. There are other Kamado cookers out there and some of them would certainly be expected to achieve similar results. I am writing about my personal experience with the Large Big Green Egg which is the only Kamado cooker I have hands on experience with.
Big Picture To cut to the chase: if anything, my opinion of the Big Green Egg has only gone up over time. Those of you who are maybe thinking I've drunken the Koolaid and my opinion is no longer to be trusted, let me mention some other peoples opinions. I've cooked high-temperature steaks for eight other people besides myself. Every one of them has told me that it was the best steak they've ever had. I've made high temperature thin crust pizzas on the egg for seven other people. They all felt these were the best pizzas they've ever had. I've made thick crust Chicago style deep dish pizza for five other folks and once again you guessed it: Best ever! As a way of practicing on my new Big Green Egg I was cooking lunch for the guys that were doing work on my house for about three weeks. Many of the things I made for them they declared best in class. Everything from simple hamburgers and hot dogs to steaks and chops. It may sound like I'm bragging here, but I'm really not. I simply can't take the credit for making these best in class meals. The difference here is I was cooking these meals on my new Big Green Egg. I was following directions and trying hard not to screw things up. But turning out all those best in class meals in such a short period simply can't be a coincidence. Put quite simply: the Big Green Egg is the finest tool I've ever cooked with. Not to mention it is an absolute joy to use.
Now I'll attempt to give you some reasons why I have these feelings 3 months in.
Precision Temperature Control I think first and foremost one of the things that makes the BGE such a great tool is the precision temperature control. Part of this is due to the thick insulation in the walls which helps hold in the heat and avoids temperature fluctuations. But there is more to it than that. The dampers give you very precise control over the temperature. This is particularly true of the metal damper at the top of the Egg. It has both course and fine adjustments and I find I can adjust the temperature of the BGE using charcoal even more precisely sometimes than my gas grill. This was something I NEVER expected. I mean “everyone” knows charcoal grills are harder and less precise to control than a gas grill. Well “everyone” was wrong. Precise temperature control is one of the things that allows you to make great meals. Once you get the grill temperature stabilized, it stays at that temperature for hours and hours at a time. So far it seems to be totally unaffected by changes in weather, be it precipitation, wind, or cold temps. I seem to be using the same damper settings now at 30 degrees (-1C) as I did 3 months ago at 90 degrees (32C).
Amazing Versatility When I bought my BGE, I expected to use it as a supplement to my six burner gas grill and my offset horizontal charcoal smoker. I was hoping to extend their usable lives by having a third grill that could take some of the load off. I very quickly saw just how versatile the BGE was. After using it only a few days, I was already thinking that it was going to replace (not supplement) my gas grill and smoker. It can do the same things that my gas grill or smoker can do and often do them easier and better. I've been using gas grills my entire adult life, and I never expected to like a charcoal grill better than my old faithful gas grill. But since I bought my BGE, I have used my gas grill twice to heat some corn on the cob, while the Egg was tied up doing other tasks. Since getting the Egg I haven't touched my smoker I feel kind of bad that it's primary use right now seems to be as a place to lay the cover from my BGE on. The BGE makes a great smoker. It can get down to 225 and run for hours and hours at a time without needing the temperature to be tweaked. My CG would go for maybe an hour or two on a good day without my having to adjust the temperatures. The first time I used my BGE as a smoker I did a brisket for 10 hours where I only had to adjust the temperature once during the whole cook. It makes an excellent grill that can go up to 700 or 800 degrees to get a good sear on any piece of meat. The advertising literature for the BGE claims it is a better oven than the indoor oven in your kitchen. So far I have found that to be the case, and I am making things on the Egg that I never expected to be making on any kind of grill. Not because it is some kind of unique gimmick, but because they actually do come out better than when I make them in the oven. There are several reasons for this: First the dome shaped lid radiates that heat very evenly giving you very even browning. Using the platesetter Eggcessory turns the Egg into an indirect convection oven. The Egg itself, with its tight seal and thick ceramic walls helps keep everything more moist than an indoor oven. The platesetter also turns the Egg into an indirect convection oven that can cook anywhere from 200 (93 C) to 800 degrees (482 C). There are several grills out there that do several types of cooking well. The Big Green Egg does a bunch of different types of cooking excellently. This is something I never appreciated until I actually started cooking on the Egg. You can cook almost anything on it and you are not compromising anything in using it. This is why I quickly saw that I could actually get by without my gas grill or smoker and still be able to do even more types of cooks than ever before.
Eggcessory Ecosystem One of the things that makes the Egg so versatile is the large amount of Eggcessories both from BGE and third parties that allow you to do all sorts of creative things on your Egg. I have written a BLOG ENTRY entry about some of the accessories I bought along with my new Egg so I won't go into great depth here. Instead I will cover it more in a big picture fashion. Just let it be said that there is some sort of Eggcessory for just about anything you want to do on your BGE. That is one of the nice things about this grill. It has a lot of users and there's a lot of creative third parties making things to enhance your Eggsperience. There is also a lot of support available in the form of online forums, blogs, and videos done by both pros and hobbyists alike. One of the knocks against the Egg is it is expensive. I disagree, the Egg can do the same thing as my grill and smoker while actually costing less at the same time. The same goes for the Eggessories. Some people think that certain Eggcessories should be included as part of the initial purchase. I disagree: Everybody is going want to use their Egg differently. And I happen to think it's great that we can buy as many or as few Eggcessories as we want or need. But there is something to be said for having a powerful tool with a large ecosystem behind it.
Eggonomics I wrote a BLOG ENRY on the total cost of ownership of the Egg. So once again I'm going to touch on it here only in a big picture fashion. I am still amazed at how stingy the Egg is on charcoal. When you're done cooking you simply replace the metal damper with the ceramic cap and close the lower draft door. The charcoal is soon extinguished due to the tight seal on the Egg and much of it remains behind to be used on your next cook. I used to read about this in articles about the BGE, but I never quite believed it. Well believe me it is true. I use far less charcoal than I ever did on my smoker and I cook at higher temperatures and longer times to boot. A BGE can do more than my current combination of gas grill and smoker at around the same price.
Fun Until I owned my Egg, I never thought I would be writing this. But it is an absolute blast to use. It is such a precise and versatile tool which gives you such good results with very little effort on your part, that I find I simply can't wait to use again. I know: Pass the Kool-Aid. With all the best in class meals I've made on my new Egg, I can't wait to get out there and do it again. Some of it is almost so brain-dead easy, you feel guilty like you are somehow cheating. It can't be this easy and this good at the same time. I am having more fun using my Egg three months down the road than I did when I first bought it. In fact this is the most fun I've been having with my grilling and smoking hobby ever.
The not so good I'll bet you were beginning to think that this lovefest was going to continue along the lines of the Egg is perfect and there's no need for improvement. Well you'd be wrong to think that. The first limitation I have felt about the Egg is the size. I have a Large Big Green Egg which has an 18 inch diameter (46 cm) grille grate. This is considerably less room than I have on my six burner gas grill or my smoker. There are some multi-tier grille grate Eggcessory's to help deal with that, but there's no way of getting around it there is just less grill space. I only feel limited by this once in a while when cooking for big groups and I already have a solution. I had always figured that if I liked the Large BGE, I would probably add a Small BGE to my arsenal down the road. This would give me some extra grilling space and would allow me to do two different styles of cooking at once. I am now thinking I might actually add a second Large BGE which would give me essentially the same grilling real estate as my six burner gas grill. While it would cost me quite a bit more for the Large BGE versus the Small BGE, it might ultimately save me money because I could share the Eggcessories I've already bought for the first Large with the second Large.
Another minor limitation is the round vs. square shape. Round doesn’t hold as much as square. This doesn’t bother me too much or very often. A few of the Eggcessories (such as the Half Moon Cast Iron Griddle Grate) are are half round in shape and these Eggcessories sometime feel a bit limiting even more so than round and particularly compared to a similar rectangular shaped accessory for my gas grill.
I also have one other problem area that I need to practice on some more. That would be direct grilling at a medium to medium-high temperature range between 375 (190 C) and 550 degrees (288 C). The problem is it doesn't take a whole lot of coals to be lit to reach that temperature range. This creates a problem where you only have a few lit coals and so you don’t have enough to spread them out to get even coverage across the grill. This is not a problem if you're cooking a small amount of items. You just put them over the lit coals. But when cooking for more people, this presents a problem in that you don't have enough lit coals to get even temperature across the entire grill. I had some people far more knowledgeable than I suggest several potential solutions. The first is to find a brand of lump that has relatively small chunks in it and use this for medium direct grilling. Using lump with smaller chunks would result in more coals getting lit and you could spread them more evenly across the firebox to help even out the temperature. The second solution that was suggested to me was to let the temperature run about 150 degrees (66 C) over and then dial it back to your target temperature. By going higher than you actually need, you end up igniting more coals which will give you more even temperatures. Frankly I thought this problem was just me. But when I posted this question to the Egghead forum I was surprised to see the large amount of people sharing this problem. Many of them were long time BGE users. All of these same users said they were glad I asked the question.
There was actually a fourth item I would have mentioned, but the BGE company seems to have taken care of things. That would be the stock wool gaskets that came with the BGE up until late August. These weren’t up to the task of 600 or 700 degree cooks and I had to replace mine with a high temperature gasket. Starting in late August BGE is shipping the Eggs with a high temperature gasket. So for now this is a non-issue.
In the grand scheme of things the three problems I have aren't that difficult to solve. A second BGE solves my first and second problem, and there appears to be two simple solutions to my third problem.
Conclusion I am very happy to report it is now three months and I am loving, yes loving, my BGE more than ever. It has been a 99 percent positive experience. The few problems I do have are solvable. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at my impressions after having owned and used the BGE for a while, versus my initial impressions when everything was still so new and exciting. I'll say it again: I have made too many best in class meals for it to be a mere coincidence. The only thing that has changed Is the grill I'm doing my cooking on. I haven't suddenly improved in my cooking techniques. If anything: I am probably the thing holding the end results back somewhat while I learned this new grill. The fact I can succeed to this extent while I am learning the ropes speaks volumes about just how great a tool the Big Green Egg is. I know to someone outside the Big Green Egg world we all sound like a bunch of raving mad cultists. But you still don't have to believe me. Find a friend you know who owns an Egg, or go to a BGE dealer doing a cooking demo and ask them to cook you something on the Big Green Egg. The best way to sell somebody on the virtues of the Big Green Egg is to cook something for them. Eating is believing!
SOME RELATED LINKS
Q: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? A: TAKEN BY A CULT- This Blog entry details how I came around to getting my Big Green Egg.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 1 - ASSEMBLY - My BGE came with free assembly. In this Blog I describe in a big picture fashion what is involved with assembly, so you can decide if you want to attempt it yourself.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 2 - 1ST COOK - What I chose to make for my first meal on my new BGE, why I chose it, my first impressions & how it turned out..
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 3 - MYTHS & LEGENDS - There are lots of things said about how good the BGE is. After using it for a while I use this Blog to address some of the popular claims about the BGE.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 4 - 1ST LOW & SLOW - The Big Green Egg may cost more up front, but it costs far less over time due to it's stingy use of charcoal.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 5 - TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP - The Big Green Egg may cost more up front, but it costs far less over time due to it's stingy use of charcoal.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 6 - BEST IN CLASS PIZZA - The Big Green Egg turns out the best grilled pizza I’ve ever had or made.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 7 - EGGCESSORIES - BIG PICTURE - My take on Big Green Egg accessories. Are they too expensive or should some come with the Egg?
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 8 - EGGCESSORIES - GENERAL - The grill related accessories I bought along with my BGE.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 9 - EGGCESSORIES - COOKING - The cooking related accessories I bought along with my BGE.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 10 - STEAK ON THE EGG - My first steak on the Egg had a little drama, but was my best steak ever.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 11 - GASKET REPLACEMENT - BIG PICTURE - The background & what was involved doing my gasket replacement.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 12 - GASKET REPLACEMENT - BLOW BY BLOW - The actual story of how my gasket replacement experience went.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 13 - BIG GREEN EGG COOKBOOK - See why I consider the Big Green Egg Cookbook an essential tool for using a BGE.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 15 - GRATE ACCESSORIES - GRIDDLE - Cast Iron Griddle Grate.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 16 - GRATE ACCESSORIES - RAISED GRID - Half Moon Raised Grid for indirect grilling.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 17 - STIR-FRYING ON THE BIG GREEN EGG - Getting set up for Stir-Frying with a Wok on the Big Green Egg.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 18 - FIRST STIR-FRY - My experiences on my first Stir-Fry using the Big Green Egg.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 19 - IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE - I know it may sound crazy, but the Big Green Egg will really change your life.
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