Big Green Egg - Pt. 9 - Eggcessories-Cooking
08/29/12 -04:26 Filed in: Big Green Egg | Accessories
The third and final part of this blog on Eggcessories (accessories) for the BGE will discuss the cooking related Eggcessories that I got whey I ordered with my Egg or I picked up in my first few weeks of ownership. I wanted to write about my initial impressions while they are fresh in my mind. If my initial impressions prove to be wrong or change over time, I will certainly write an update. Part 2 covered general grill related Eggcessories such as Nests (stand), shelves, covers etc. For this entry I will discuss Eggcessories for cooking on the Egg itself that I feel are essential for most people and some others that are nice to have.
CAST IRON GRILL GRATE:
This was a no brainer for me. To get great grill marks you need a great grate. The porcelain enameled cast iron grill grates on my gas grill give me great grill marks. The Egg comes with a stainless steel grill grate and for me a cast iron grill grate was an Essential Item and number 3 on my list of must haves after the Nest (stand) and the Egg Shelves. The model I got was the $49.95 full cast iron grill grate for the Large Egg. They also sell a model that is a semicircular half cast iron grill grate that can be paired with things like their grill baskets, and cast iron griddle grates, both of which are semicircular as well. The full grate is very heavy and I can state it gives excellent grill marks. The profiles of the bars is nearly triangular. The top side of the grate comes almost to a point , with the tip of the point being squared off with a 1/8” (0.33 cm) flat section. On the bottom side of the grill grate, the bars are a flat 3/8” or so (1 cm) wide profile. This has me wondering if this grill grate is intended to be flipped. The reason I say this is because the grates for my gas grill ARE intended to be flipped and it says so in the directions. The narrow pointed side is intended for items that might tend to stick to the grill grate such as fish. The wider almost flat side is intended to give you the best grill marks when sticking is not a concern. The key difference is the flat side of my gas grill’s grate is not perfectly flat. It is actually slightly rounded which I image helps keep the food from sticking. The grate for the Egg is totally flat on the back side and I am wondering whether this back side is intended to be used at all. I’ve done some preliminary research and I haven’t found an answer-yet. If I do find a definitive answer, I will post it here. Meanwhile I am using the thinner side and have been getting great grill marks. This grate is heavy and you will want to have some sort of heavy duty tool to lift it out. Also plan on keeping the s/s grate that come with the grill for items that you aren’t looking to lay substantial grill marks on, or for indirect grilling using the Plate Setter.
If you just plan to do direct grilling on an Egg, you don’t need a Plate Setter and you can move down to the next item. But I might be tempted to inquire: If you are only going to grill steaks, burgers, dogs etc. why did you buy a BGE? For anyone who wants to do indirect cooking or baking the $56.00 Plate Setter is an Essential Must Have item. The Plate Setter is a round 1” (2.5 cm) thick round ceramic disc that is a couple inches smaller than the diameter of you BGE model. There are three legs that at first extend horizontally out of the sides of the PlateSetter and then turn 90 degrees and extend about 3” (7.6 cm) more. Depending on your task, you install the Plate Setter with the legs oriented up or down. The main disk of the plate setter protects the food from exposure to direct flame. Because the disc is narrower than the diameter of the Egg, 3 semi-circular openings about 2” (5 cm)wide are formed between the 3 legs. These opening allow heat to escape around the Platesetter, up the outer perimeter of the grill and up into the dome area. This gives somewhat of a Convection Oven like action and BGE claims their grills bake faster than an indoor oven. This is one claim I can’t verify because with few exceptions I haven’t baked the same things in my indoor oven and the Egg.
When setting up for low and slow cooking the Plate Setter is installed with the legs up. The Plate Setter goes in after the coals have initially been lit, but before you bring the Egg up to temperature. Typically the next step is to install a drip pan on top of the Plate Setter between the legs. With the tight seal of the Egg they say you do not need a water/juice pan to replace moisture lost during the cook. My limited experience has borne this out so far. Just about everything I have made on the Egg has come out moist and always more moist than the same item cooked on my grill or smoker. Here is another way over time that the Egg saves you money over a conventional grill. Once the drip pan is on the Plate Setter the final step is usually to install the stainless steel grill grate. It rests on the bottoms on the upturned legs of the Plate Setter. This brings the level of the food up to the base of the lid so the food is fully under the ceramic dome lid for nice even cooking. The food is typically then placed either directly on the grate or placed on the grate in the pan it cooks in. When setting up for baking, the Plate Setter is typically set up with the legs facing down. This brings the top of the Plate Setter up to the level of the base of the lid. The food is often placed in it’s pan directly on the Plate Setter. Or if cooking a pizza, the pizza stone goes directly on the Plate Setter. Once again the idea is to raise the level of the food up so it is cooking up inside the dome which serves to evenly distribute the heat. From reading some of the posts on BGE related message boards, I am finding many folks don’t set the Pyrex dish or cake pan directly on the Plate Setter. They often raise it an inch or so up in the air using various types of heat resistant and food safe shims. Many people use the ceramic feet that come with the Egg. They are intended to be used if the Egg isn’t placed in a Nest (stand) and is instead installed on the ground or on top of a table. These feet are not used in for an Egg in a nest, so people put them to use as shims. I believe these feet are no longer being automatically included with new Eggs, but there are plenty of other choices. So far I have been putting my baking dishes right on the Platesetter and the bottoms of what I’ve cooked haven’t over-browned. I may change going forward, but right now if it ain’t broke…..
PIZZA STONE: I did not order a pizza stone for my Egg because I already own one of the best Pizza Stones out there: The Emile Henry pizza stone. But if you don’t own a pizza stone, you will definitely want to buy one to use on your Egg and this is why I made an entry for it here, even though I didn’t buy it with the Egg. The BGE turns out the BEST grilled pizza I’ve ever had. BGE sells a ceramic pizza stone for use with the Egg that sells for around $39.95. It is a plain round ceramic slab and is perfectly suited for the Egg. I originally bought my Emile Henry stone for use baking breads in my Kitchen oven. It has a glazed finish and is good enough to serve off of and is dishwasher safe. Oh and it has handles which is a nice touch. Mine cost $49.00 and if you are interested in more information, scroll down to the end of this entry for a blog entry on that pizza stone. But once again you will want to have some sort of pizza stone for making pizza on the Egg.
GRILL EXTENDER FOR EGG:
I am coming from a gas grill with 774 sq. in. (4,994 cm2) and a smoker with 580 sq. in. (3,742 cm2) and going to a BGE with 262 sq. in. (1,690 cm2) of main cooking surface. This was a bit scary because I am used to the luxury of all that room. Now to be honest I rarely used all of it at any one time, but it was nice to have the option. The $20 Grill Extender for the Egg gives me a second tier of shelving that has folding legs that clip on to the lower grill grate. What is nice about the folding legs is when the Grill Extender is not being used, the legs fold up under the grill grate and the unit stores flat. This is as opposed to some of the other raised shelving solutions for the Egg where the legs are fixed and remain fully extended. BGE also sells a 3-tier shelving solution that give you two additional shelves, but the spacing between the shelves looked to tight for the type of things I cook. So far I’ve used the Grill Extender for the Egg twice. It was easy to set up and worked like a charm. For me this item is essential, others may call it Nice to Have.
CAST IRON DUTCH OVEN:
I acquired this $50.00 BGE item about a week after I got my Egg. It is definitely in the Nice to Have category. I didn’t need it to get going, but just try taking it back away from me now! It is a 5 quart model of the outdoor Dutch oven family. By that I mean it is meant to be exposed to live fire. It has a pair of loop handles so it could be hung over a campfire and a lidded top lid that can be used for holding coals placed on the top lid. Also it saves me from worrying about what use on a charcoal grill will do to the enameled cast iron exterior of my two Le Cruset Dutch ovens. The exposed cast iron of this oven will simply blacken over time and I won’t care. Interestingly enough: I’ve used it 4 times now, and only once did the recipe call for the lid to be in place. It was for the beans I made last on it. You started cooking them with the lid on and finished for the last 15 minutes with the lid off. All of the recipes I’ve made have come from the Big Green Egg Cookbook and I guess they figure the superior seal of the Egg precludes the need for the lid of the Dutch oven. So far I’ve made chili, soup & beans on it and the Dutch oven has worked like a charm. I have had no problems with food sticking to it or keeping it seasoned.
The Maverick ET-732 is a dual probe remote read digital thermometer. Temperature probes are plugged into your food and the wires go to a transmitter unit just outside the grill. The transmitter sends it’s signal to a receiver you can take with you, up to 300 feet (91 m) away. You mileage will vary on the distance depending on the construction of your house. You might be wondering why I am including a non-BGE branded item in a list of Eggcessories. Well simple this item should be an Essential for any one who uses a BGE Plate Setter. Owning a Plate Setter means you do low and slow cooking or baking and for these tasks a good remote read thermometer is Essential. BGE actually markets a BGE branded version of the Maverick ET-732. I’ve written extensively about the virtues of remote read thermometers and if you are interested I will provide some links for those blogs at the end of this one. Be sure to get the ET-732 or the BGE version, the ET732 (no hyphen), which is identical save for the BGE branding & logos on the cases. The ET-732 is the second generation of this thermometer, replacing the ET-73. The new model provides 4x the range and 300’ vs 75’ (91.5 m vs 22.75 m) and fixed many of the little usability issues people raised about the first model. So don’t buy an old ET-73 or BGE ET73, make sure there is a 2 at the end of the name. The ET-732 is considered a smoker thermometer and has a food probe and a grate probe for measuring the temperature at the grate level. You can buy a replacement food probe and plug it into the Grate Probe jack and it will work as a second food probe.
The BGE branded ET732 sells for around $69.00. What I like about the existence of this model is a local BGE dealer may have on in stock, as opposed to having to mail order it. Now you can save some $$ buying the Maverick model via Amazon, but I like the instant gratification factor of going in and walking out with one in my hand. When I went to a BGE dealer near Boston they actually didn’t have the BGE branded model, but carried the Maverick model for the same price as the BGE branded model. The new model has definitely improved the range considerably. When I first bought my 1st generation Maverick ET-73 the range was said to be 75’ in clear line of site. Going through the walls of a building reduces this distance depending on their construction. In my usage at my house, the receiver was able to pick up the signal from the transmitter out at the smoker from anywhere in my wood stud house. When the house was resided about 5 years ago, the foil faced sheathing that was added interfered with the signs tremendously. Suddenly I was only able to pick up the signal by putting the receiver in the Kitchen window or glass panel of the Kitchen door only 12-15 away. I’ve only used the new Maverick ET-732 once for a cook and once for a test and in both cases I received a signal anywhere within my foil insulated house once again. So this is a distance of 65 feet or so. I haven’t tested it outside to see the maximum distance, because it meets my needs at 65’ inside the foil sheathed house. The other thing I should mention is you should not use the probes where they will be exposed to a temperature over 400 degrees (205 C) or direct flame. You will likely run into both of those direct grilling particularly with food that is fatty and causes flare ups. Some folks wrap their probe wires in foil where they are inside their grill, to help protect them.
So there you have it, these are the Eggcessories I’ve started out with as I begin my adventure with my new Big Green Egg. I plan to visit some of the BGE related forums to see what Eggcessories the folks there seem to like and recommend. When I was getting ready to buy my Egg I consulted with several Large BGE owners where I shared my list of potential Eggcessories and got their opinions on the merits of the various choices I was making. In several cases I changed my choices or went with a different item in the product family based on recommendations. I also wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something on the list I didn’t know I needed. Long way of saying my initial choices were based on more than just my whims. So far I am quite pleased with the choices I’ve made.