Are Two Eggs Better Than One?
02/05/14 - 08:33 Filed in: BGE | Big Green Egg | Lessons Learned
The answer to that question is a big YES. But before you say thanks Captain Obvious and move on, you might want to read more. Some of the reasons may surprise you and if you are on the fence about purchasing a second Egg definitely read on. Reading about my discoveries during my first year may push you to one side of the fence or the other. The things I discovered that never occurred to me, may not have occurred to you either. Also the items that were important to me, may or may not be as important to you.
The inspiration for this blog was the first anniversary of my adding a second Large Big Green Egg to my grilling arsenal. Specifically it got me thinking about what my expectations for owning two BGE’s were and how reality matched expectations. This blog will reflect my experiences owning two Eggs of the SAME size. Some of the information may apply to owning two different sized Eggs, but some are specific to owning tow large Eggs. I switched from the idea of getting a Small or Medium as my second Egg and am very, very glad I did. While I have been thinking about this topic for a while, this blog will be a little more loosely organized than some. It will be a combination of thoughts on how I used my Egg, the things that I expected and the items that were surprises to me.
HOLIDAYS ARE EASIER: This was my original catalyst for getting a second Egg. Last Thanksgiving marked my first Holiday using the Egg. I cooked the turkey, veggies, dinner rolls, hermit squares & eggnog bundt cake on the Egg. To manage this I had to fire up the Egg and have the first course on at 5:00AM. I also had to cook the items getting smoke last for obvious reasons. I ran into similar issues a month later with Christmas and a week later with New Years. This year with two Eggs I fired the Eggs up at 11:00AM Thanksgiving morning, a far more civilized hour. This matched my expectations.
BIGGER BATCHES OF FOOD POSSIBLE: This is one where the reality surprised me a bit. I really never ended up using two Eggs to cook a super-sized batch of food. I typically cook for 4-6 people and for this sized group of people I was able to do what I needed on the single Egg. Still it is nice knowing if I need to turn out an extra large batch of food for a special occasion, it can be easily done. The other day when I was writing the blog about the Adjustable Rig (THE ADJUSTABLE RIG FIRST IMPRESSIONS) it occurred to me the extra grid space the AR gives me will probably take care of any of my extra space needs. So if your needs are only more space, think about the AR as a less expensive alternative.
TWO TYPES OF COOKING POSSIBLE: I often like to smoke a meat indirectly low and slow and direct grill the veggies at a higher temperature. Or since getting my first Egg I have been been doing 99 percent of my baking on the Egg. Two types of cooking at once was my second most important reason for getting a second Egg. This is something I do all the time. Indirect Low & Slow Smoking / Direct Grilled Veggies, High Temperature Wok Cooking / Direct Grilled Veggies, Some other type Grilling or Smoking / Baking… The possibilities are almost endless. This is the way I most often use my two Eggs.
YOU CAN ACCOMMODATE LARGE TEMPERATURE ADJUSTMENTS IN THE SAME RECIPE: This is one use I never thought about, but has proven VERY handy. There are certain types of recipes where one of the Egg’s biggest strengths becomes a weakness in this specific use case. Once you get the Egg stabilized it tends to be rock steady at that temperature for hours. Most of the time this is exactly what you want. But what about a recipe that uses high and low temperatures in the same cook? The Crown Roast of Pork I made at Christmas started out at 475 degrees (246C) for the first hour and a half and then finished at 300 (149C) degrees. There was absolutely no way I could get the Egg to drop that fast and I knew it. But no worries, I would fire up my second Egg to do the 300 (149C) degree finish. I actually used that second Egg to multitask. I fired it up at the same time as the Egg doing the roast. I brought it up to 375 (190C) and used it to cook two batches of rolls at 375 (190C) and then dropped it to 300 (149C) degrees during the remaining hour the roast was cooking at 475 (246C). My decision turned out to be a wise one. Despite having the dampers virtual closed, it took nearly the entire remaining hour to get it to drop 75 degrees (24C) never mind the 175 degrees (80C) I needed to do. Plus if you attempt a quick temperature change in the Egg you may mess things up. You really aren’t sure if the temperature you have reached is a STABLE temp.
YOU CAN ACCOMMODATE A SWITCH BETWEEN DIRECT TO INDIRECT IN THE SAME RECIPE: While I hadn’t thought about large temperature changes in the same recipe, I had thought about the switch from direct to indirect. I’d run into this with large cuts of steak, large pork chops & beef tri-tip. Typically they have you do a direct sear to mark the meat and then finish it indirectly, which prevents overcooking the outer regions of the meat. If you were to direct grill a thick cut of meat like this the entire time, you would have a piece of meat that was dry and overcooked on the outside and a center that was the way you wanted it. I do have the BGE Half-Moon Raised Grid with Drip Pan, which allows you to use half of your Egg direct and the other half indirect. It works, but you don’t get a lot of grill grid area to begin with and the half moon shape doesn’t allow you to fit a lot of food on. Now I can fire up two Eggs at the same temp, but one is set up for direct grilling and the other set up for indirect.
This setup would also accommodate the so-called reverse sear, where you start indirectly and finish with a direct sear. I don’t like this method because you need to guess how early to pull the meat so the sear will mark the meat, but not raise the temps too high and overcook the center. I like doing the sear first and then finishing the meat indirectly where you simply finish to a temperature. Many BGE owners use a reverse sear because it is easier to go from indirect to direct. Even so you are left trying to switch over the Egg mid cook, removing a hot plate setter for example. With two Eggs I don’t have to do a reverse sear unless a recipe specifically calls for it. For most items I sear first on one Egg and transfer the the food to the other Egg to finish indirectly. If I need to do a reverse sear it is just as easy. I just switch to the second Egg without having to swap out any hot Eggcessories to do it. Also you don’t need to worry that swapping out gear is going to cause you to keep the lid open too long. This can actually drive up the temperatures because while the lid is open your charcoal has a whole lot more combustion air. Don’t ask me how I know this. Or read the recent blog entry: COLD HARD FACTS.
HAVING TWO EGGS MAKES YOU WANT TO USE BOTH: I hadn’t given this one much thought ahead of time, but I found having a second Egg there and at the ready has made me want to use it. The Egg is far easier to use than my smoker and firing up a second Egg to cook something else is not a big deal. But I found when I’d be thinking about the main course, I’d start thinking about what else I could do on the second Egg: veggies, rolls, desserts? As you will see below firing up a second Egg is not twice as hard. The other time I may want to use the second Egg for other courses is when I fire it up to accommodate two temps or direct/indirect for the same recipe. As I mentioned in a section above, at Christmas I used the Egg that was going to finish my roast at a low temp to bake some rolls first. Or if you have one Egg set for direct and the other for indirect for one meat, take advantage of it. You can toss some veggies on the Egg set for direct after you move your roast to the indirect Egg. If you’ve got two eggs fired up for one meat, see if you can use the idle Egg to make other items.
TWO EGGS OF THE SAME SIZE IS A NO-BRAINER: This one caught me by surprise, but it really shouldn’t have. Two identically sized Eggs light the same, cook the same, and use the same Eggcessories. So you really don’t have to give any thought to which Egg you are using for what. Either one will fit the bill and cook the same. It is nice when you are doing a large multi-item cook not to have more things to think about. The one eggception to that is my Ceramic Grill Store Spider which has five legs that fits the 5 slots in the fire ring of my older Egg’s fire ring. Newer Eggs, like my second Egg, have 3 slots and use a 3-legged Spider. Other than that everything else is the same.
FLEXIBILITY & OPTIONS: This is an intangible that I hadn’t really thought about either. Now before you say: Wasn’t the whole idea of having a second Egg was to gain more flexibility? Yes, but I am talking about a more intangible element. You soon realize you have many ways of doing things and your thinking changes in a subtle but positive way. With one Egg I were sometimes feeling limited into just what I could do and how I could do it. This had the effect of sometimes limiting your thinking. With the second Egg I have learned you have many options and I find you don’t limit your thinking as much. You decide what you would like to do and then choose from one of several options. This one is a bit hard to explain, until you experience yourself. But your limits become what you would LIKE to do, not what am I going to be ABLE to do.
FIRING UP 2 EGGS DOESN’T TAKE TWICE AS LONG: Before hand I ASSumed it would take twice as long to fire up two Eggs at the same time. It actually doesn’t. You are using the same tools to clean up both and you only have to dig them out once. Still I normally go clean and restock the Eggs with lump well before I light them. So even if it did take a little longer it wouldn’t matter. But I tend to organize things so I do the same operations on both Eggs at the same time. This way I am walking back and forth using the same tool or bag of lump on both, and this makes things go fast. Also I don’t miss a step on one of the Eggs this way. Now one thing that may change is the lighting time. More specifically the Hands-On lighting time you must spend out at the grill. Now that I am using a Looftlighter, things may take a bit longer because I will need to light one Egg first. The same is true with paraffin starters, but if they light correctly it is a little faster to get them lit and move on to the second Egg. But paraffin starters take 9 minutes once you light them to complete their task and start building the fire. The Looflighter takes a few minutes per grill to get to this point. So the Looftlighter may require more initial hands on time by you standing out at the grill, but the time to get the fire well lit is going to be a bit faster with the Looflighter. If the weather is windy or cold the Looftlighter wins hands down. It won’t blow out like matches or not light in the cold like my butane lighters.
YOU CAN LEAVE THE EGGS PRESET FOR SPECIFIC TYPES OF COOKS: Depending on what types of cooking I am doing at a given time I often leave the Eggs set up for two types of cooking. In the past year I’ve had the Eggs set up where one is set up for high temperature direct grilling with a wok, and the other for indirect cooking or baking. The wok setup had no grill grates installed and instead the Spider was sitting on the fire ring. The other Egg had the plate setter installed. Other times I’ve had one grill set up for direct grilling and the other for indirect. Lately I leave the Adjustable Rig in one Egg and the plate setter in the other. When I find a cookbook I like, I tend to focus on it for a while. When I was doing lots of stir-frys it was quick and easy to get the grill fired up because I left it set up for wok cooking. This was an unexpected bonus.
TWO EGGS, SAME TEMPS = ONE GRATE THERMOMETER: Several time I have made meals where I happen to be using the same setup at the same temps in both grills, but I am grilling two foods. I recently picked up a Maverick ET-733 and I already own an ET-732 so I can now put grate level probes on two Eggs. But in the past I had just the one. I’d light both Eggs at the same time and let them stabilize for 30 to 60 minutes. I would have the grate level probe installed in the Egg that was doing the more fussy or more important food of that particular cook. By monitoring the dome temperature of that Egg, I would match that same dome temperature on the second Egg. In theory this would yield a grate level temp in that Egg that matched the one with the grate level probe. Now this was nothing I thought about in advance and it is a bit of a special use case. But I can still see it coming in handy when one of the foods I am cooking is shaped so I can’t fit a grate probe on the grill grid-such as a roast in a large roast pan that covers most of the grill grid. Or perhaps you are using the platesetter legs down and there is no easy way to clip on the grate probe. Before you ask: How often do you actually use the same temps in both Eggs? More often than I ever thought. Poultry and baked goods are often cooked at 350 or 375 degrees (177 or 190C) and I am making some things from a cookbook by Dr. BBQ called Slow Fire where everything so far is cooked at 235 degrees (113C).
SPARE EGG: Hopefully I’ll never have to take advantage of this, but I’ve already had one accident where I dropped the firebox for one of my Eggs. In that case I needed to get a new firebox ASAP because my next cook was a two Egg cook to make breakfast using the wok on one Egg and the BGE Half Moon Cast Iron Grill Griddles on the other. But it occurred to me then, that some time in the future it would be nice having the two Eggs because if one was down and I was waiting for a new part, I would still have one Egg I could get by with.
So there you have it. I am very happy with my two Eggs. It has been a totally positive experience with zero negatives. I also need to mention that the possibility of getting a third large now does not seem outside the realm of possibilities.
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