The Island of Misfit Grill Toys
I am taking a break from my 4 part blog entry entitled Getting Better All the Time to write this somewhat timely blog entry. It was prompted by a spring cleaning session out at my exterior grill cabinets & in my indoor grill closet. I was trying to make room for some of my newest Eggcessories and I decided to go through every drawer in both storage areas and get rid of items I no longer use. Some of these are items that do not fit or work with my Big Green Eggs. Others are items I bought and ended up not using, or I later found a better solution. I figured a blog entry where I listed these items and described why I no longer needed them or no longer could use them might be helpful to new or potential Big Green Egg owner’s. You can read my reasons and see if they make sense in your use case. It may also help you with a budget for the Eggcessories you want. BTW for those of you who did not get the reference in the title, it was from the 1964 Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, an animated cartoon I saw as a youth. The Island of Misfit Toys was where you sent toys you no longer wanted or used.
ABOUT ME: Before I get going here let me describe my situation: I own two Large Big Green Eggs. I use them for direct grilling, low and slow smoking and baking. Having tow Eggs gives me the ability to simultaneously cook directly on one and indirectly on the other. I also have taken advantage of having two Eggs for recipes where I need to switch from a high temperature to a low temperature quickly. You will learn that an advantage to the Egg is its stability and ability to hold temps. But this also means that making a quick temperature change is not really feasible. Having the two Eggs allows me to handle all of these situations in a way not possible with a single Egg. So when reading some of my reasoning, keep in mind my situation is not necessarily typical. You need to ask yourself if it would apply to having a single Egg.
EGGCESSORIES:Here are some Eggcessories I picked up and found I never really used, or I have found other solutions I prefer.
FOLDING GRID EXTENDER: This Eggcessory gives you a second tier of shelving above the main grate on your Egg. I have only used it two times. I found it was a little fussy to set up and use and it is not at all flexible because it can be used at only one height. When I bought my Egg, I was unfamiliar with the Adjustable Rig. The Adjustable Rig by Ceramic Grill Store is far more flexible, gives you choices of multiple shelving setups at up to 5 different heights. Granted it is far more expensive than the Folding Grid Extender, but in the year before I got the AR, I used the Folding Grid Extender only twice. I now use the AR for 3/4 of the things I do on my Egg. Another plus to the AR is you can remove it from the Egg as a single unit with all of the shelves and food on it. If I need to get to the charcoal to add wood chunks I simply take out the entire AR, shelves, food and all. It can be heavy so be careful. With the Folding Grid Extender, you need to remove it and deal with the legs which want to fold up when not attached to a grill grate. Then you need to remove the main grill grate. You may also have to do something with the food on both shelves while the two grids are off the grill. Bottom line: I didn’t care too much for this unit before I became aware of the AR. I NEVER would have bought it if I knew about the AR.
CALZONE PRESS (Family Sized & Individual): This is a case where I have Egg on my face if you’ll excuse the pun. This product came out about a year ago and I was in a bit if a rush the day it showed up at my Big Green Egg dealer. They weren’t much money, so I simply grabbed one of each. While I have used the Family Sized press multiple times, I have yet to use the Individual model once, and I don’t see this changing. The Individual Press is just too small by about 50 percent. My advice to you would be look at the calzone presses at the store, and make sure you buy the size that suits your particular needs. Don’t buy now and think later like I did.
HALF MOON WIRE GRILL BASKET: This is another case where I bought this Eggcessory because I didn’t know something better was available. This Half Moon Basket has some things going for it. It has a removable handle and you can put two of them on your Egg. But when I was trying to buy a second one of these I found a better solution made by Weber. I was calling around trying to find a second one of these in stock at a Big Green Egg dealer. I spoke with a dealer who also carried Weber and he suggested a product by Weber. Their fish basket for their kettle grill is a better solution in my opinion. The half moon shape of the Big Green Egg Wire Grill Basket is not an ideal shape for foods. The closer you get to the two corners, the less room you have. The pointy curved shape limits what you can fit into these corners. The Weber product is also shaped for an 18” diameter grill, in this case the Weber Kettle, but they took a different approach. The Weber fish basket is not a half moon, instead it is a 4 sided lozenge shaped affair. The two long sides are linear and the short sides are 9” radius arc segments. This shape is much more efficient space wise. Granted you can only fit one of these on the grill at a time, but I would rather have one more efficient lozenge shape than two more inefficient half moon shapes. This is a case where there is nothing badly wrong with the Big Green Egg Half Moon Wire Grill Basket. But in my opinion the Weber product is a better solution for me.
HALF MOON RAISED GRID WITH DRIP PAN: This is an Eggcessory I could probably live without. I can use my second Egg to go indirect after doing a direct sear with the first Egg. This Eggcessory definitely works and works well for indirect, but it suffers from a very small surface area. Because it extends into the dome area the upper grid is several inches smaller than the main grid, and it is a semicircle. So it doesn’t hold a whole lot of food. At the time I bought this, I had one Egg and I didn’t know about the AR. So am I glad I bought it in 2012? Yes. Would I buy it in 2014 with two Eggs and the AR? No probably not. But I am not unhappy I have it. It gives me some flexibility and I do use it occasionally, unlike the Folding Grid Extender described above.
BIG GREEN EGG BRANDED FIRE-WIRE FLEXIBLE WIRE SKEWERS: Here is a case where I sticking my nose in where I wasn’t invited. I actually didn’t buy these Big Green Egg branded versions. I bought the original manufacturers version. The reason I brought this up was because I was a bit outraged when I saw the Big Green Egg branded versions selling for $14.99 vs. $9.99 for the OEM version. I looked them over thoroughly and the skewers are literally identical. 100 percent identical. The only difference is the packaging which does have some Big Green Egg branding. But it is logos only, there is nothing here that adds any value to the Big Green Egg version of the package. Now Big Green Egg is not the only company doing this. I was at Williams-Sonoma recently and saw they charge $14.99 for their version of the identical project. But I am sure you don’t want to pay 50 percent more for something that is identical to the OEM model. The OEM Fire-Wire skewers are available in many grill stores at $9.99.
PLATESETTER: These days they are calling this item a ConvEGGtor, but call me old-fashioned. I will refer to it as the Platesetter here. On the Egghead Forums there is often much discussion about whether you need a Platesetter or not. I actually have two Platesetters. It is the one Eggcessory I bought a second version of when I got my second Large Egg. At this time I really did not think I would be buying the Adjustable Rig by the Ceramic Grill Store. With my one Egg I had used the Platesetter all the time for indirect Low & Slow cooking and Baking. One of the reasons I got my second Egg was so I could do two types of cooking at once. This might include Low & Slow on one Egg and Baking on the other, so two Platesetters made sense at that time. What has changed? Well about 6 months ago I got the Adjustable Rig. I have been starting to use it regularly the last 3 months or so and I find it is far more flexible than the Platesetter. One big advantage is if you need to add wood chips or chunks during your cook. The AR lifts out of the Egg as one unit, food and all. To remove the Platesetter you usually end up having to remove the food, the grill grid or stone and the Platesetter as three separate operations. This is more difficult and more time consuming than just lifting out the AR. Here is my current take on things. While I don’t mind having the second Platesetter and it didn’t cost too much money, If I knew I would own two Eggs and planned on purchasing the Adjustable Rig, I would now not bother buying the second Platesetter. I would want to own one Platesetter because I have zero plans or needs to get a second Adjustable Rig.
EGG SHELVES: The Egg Shelves are the wing-shaped fold-up shelves that attach to the side of the Egg. Here is a case where my moving into my grill gazebo with outdoor cabinets eliminated my need for the Egg Shelves or the wooden version called Egg Mates. But until this point I was quite dissatisfied with the Egg Shelves. It is one of the few items I have bought from Big Green Egg that have not lived up to my expectations. I bought the Egg Shelves because they were made of a composite plastic material vs wood for the Egg Mates. I ASSumed the composite material would weather better and be easy to keep clean. You know what they say about ASSuming. The composite material was NOT easy to keep clean. Many types of food left stains that were difficult to clean. But this was nothing compared to what charcoal dust did. The dust raised up from refilling the Egg with lump would land on the shelves and leave nasty black stains. They would not clean off with conventional cleaners. Barkeepers Friend cleaner did the best job, but even it did not get all of the stains up. It would get most of the stains off, but there was always a little left behind. So over time the charcoal dust was discoloring the shelves more and more. To me this is totally unacceptable. The idea that two of the things you would expect to be around the area where you are using these shelves (food and charcoal dust) would stain them, boggles my mind. I have talked to others who have owned these shelves and they had the same issues I did. I would suggest that you try to find someone who owns a set of these shelves and ask them for their opinion. Maybe they know a way to keep these clean that I don’t. I posted a question about this on the Egghead forum and I tried the various suggestions. Barkeepers Friend came closest to doing the job. What is the solution if you are not building or buying a table or furniture for your Egg? To be honest I don’t have one. But be aware the Egg Shelves are not an ideal solution.
LEGACY GEAR:While I was cleaning out my grill closet, I took the time to clear out all of the grill gear I had, that I no longer use. My brother was the benefactor of these items, as well as several of his friends. There were typically one of two reasons I no longer used the gear. First: I had a new way of doing the same thing on the Big Green Egg and no longer needed this gear. Second: The gear was sized for my 6 burner gas grill and didn’t fit on the Big Green Egg.
If you are new to grilling you don’t need to think about this subject. But if you are switching over to a Big Green Egg from another type of grill, you may be wondering what items you can reuse and what items you will need to replace going forward. This section is based on my experience as the previous owner of a 6-burner gas grill and horizontal offset barrel smoker. Your mileage may vary. Also remember I have a Large Big Green Egg, the size consideration for other models of Big Green Eggs are different.
REUSABLE - Tongs, Grill Spatulas & BBQ Gloves: With one qualification all of these items can be retained and re-used going forward. That exception has to do with the heat. You may find yourself direct grilling or cooking pizzas at 700 degrees (375C) on your new Egg. Make sure the tongs and spatulas have long enough handles so that your hand is not over the grill while you are moving food. Also be sure your BBQ gloves are up to the high heat. I added a pair of elbow length welders gloves to my grilling arsenal to help with the high heat.
REUSABLE - Grill Brushes: Whether you stick with the standard stainless steel grill grid that ships with the Egg or invest in the Eggcessory Cast-Iron grill, there is nothing special about these. If you already have a grill brush recommended for this type of grill grid there is no reason not to keep right on using it.
QUESTIONABLE - Grill Gripper: Big Green Egg sells an Eggcessory called a Grill Gripper. It looks like the item some pizzerias use to pull hot pan pizza out of the oven. It essentially looks like a duck-billed pair of pliers with a bent head. You may have one of these things from your other grill. For the stock stainless steel grill grid this should work fine. If you are getting a Big Green Egg cast iron grill grid you should invest in their Grid Lifter Eggcessory. The cast iron grate is VERY heavy and the regular grill gripper is not up to the task.
NOT REUSABLE - Fixed Handle Grill Pans: These are wire mesh pans sold in various cookware and grill accessory stores. If the handle is not detachable the pan will not fit on the Egg and allow you to close the lid. Most of the manufacturers of these units quickly figured out the benefits of a detachable handle. The newest models of these pans have handles that detach while the pan is cooking on the grill.
NOT REUSABLE - Fixed Handle Flexible Wire Grill Baskets: These units trap small food items between a hinged pair of baskets that have a flexible wire grid that expands to grip the food. If the unit has a fixed handle, odds are it will exceed the magic number of 18”. This is the diameter of the grilling surface of the Big Green Egg. If the handle is removable, you should also check the basket itself will fit on the grill when the handle is removed.
QUESTIONABLE - Grill Grids or Trays: These are flat perforated metal trays or trays made from a grid of steel wires. If these trays will fit inside an 18” diameter circle (including handles) they will work, simple as that. The Big Green Egg Company does have a line of trays made to fit the various sizes of Eggs.
QUESTIONABLE - Skewers: For the skewers to work they must be less than 18” long. The other problem is the closer the skewers are to 18” long the less of them will fit side by side on the grill grid. I had 3 different width sets of high quality flat bladed skewers which fit, but I could only get 3 at the most on the Egg side by side. In this case I did not mind giving these to my brother. I recently started using Fire-Wire Flexible Wire Skewers and they are a great solution and solve many problems, some of which are common no matter what grill you own. Being flexible you can shape the Fire-Wire skewers to fit the space available on your grill. The dull point used for feeding the food on the spit works well and better than the blade point on my flat blade skewers. I sometimes had to make “pilot holes” in the food with a sharp knife to help keep the food from splitting apart when going onto the flat bladed skewers. A single Fire-Wire skewer is twice as long as a conventional skewer which is more efficient. Because you can shape them to fit your grill this double length is not a problem. The flexible nature of these skewers allows you to thread your meat on the skewers before you put them in the marinade. You only have to handle the food once. So this is a case where I don’t mind giving away my flat bladed skewers because the new solution works better.
NOT REUSABLE - Any Item Bigger Than 18” in Diameter: The Egg is a circle, many grill accessories are designed for a rectangular gas grill. Any item that is longer or wider than 18” will NOT fit on a large Big Green Egg. You also must check the corner to corner diagonal dimensions to make sure they are less than 18” too, since the Egg is circular in plan. This 18” figure is for a Large Big Green Egg, if you buy a different sized Egg these “magic numbers” will be different.
QUESTIONABLE - Any Tall Straight Sided Item: The Egg has a domed top lid. You must also double check the vertical clearance to make sure the item will fit under the dome when you close the lid.
QUESTIONABLE - Disposable Drip Pans: The size considerations I discussed above, also apply when you buy drip pans or roast pans for your Big Green Egg. I have a small pocket tape measure I carry with me most days. I use it to measure the largest dimension of any item intended to go on the Egg, to make sure it fits with an 18” diameter circle.
NOT REUSABLE - Rotisserie Unit and Any Related Accessories: The Egg is not intended to be used with a rotisserie unit, so the one you might have for your current grill is of no use to you unless you hold onto the old grill. Don’t despair about missing out on the juicy goodness of rotisserie cooked food. You will find that food cooked on the Egg retains as much or more moisture. This is due to the tight seal in the cooking chamber and the relatively small amount of combustion air required to maintain your fire.
QUESTIONABLE - Rectangular Cast Iron Flat-Top Griddle Grates: Assuming the item in question is less than 18” on the diagonal, it would work on the Egg. The Big Green Egg Company makes a half-moon cast iron grill griddle which fits the Egg. Even if you have a rectangular griddle grate that will fit on your new Egg, you may still ant to buy the Big Green Egg Half Moon Griddle grate. The half moon shape allows you to half the griddle in and still have half of the grill surface available for direct grilling. In my case I bought two of these units for the grilling flexibility it gives me. Using two gives me greater grilling area than the one rectangular basket. Sometimes I use one with the flat side facing up and the other with the ridged side facing up. Plus sometimes I use the second Half Moon Griddle Grill to make an outdoor panini press. I preheat both griddle grate in the grill. The paninis are placed on top of one griddle grate and the other griddle grate is placed on top of the paninis.
REUSABLE - Wok or Paella Pan: As long as your Wok or Paella pan are less than 16” in diameter they should fit. The only questionable item is the handles. They should fit within an 18” diameter circle. If you plan to use your round bottom wok (as opposed to a flat bottom wok) you should look into getting a 3rd party Eggcessory product called the Spider made by the folks at the Ceramic Grill Store, It is a ring that holds the round bottom wok in place and has legs that sit on top of the Egg’s Ceramic Fire Ring.
NOT REUSABLE - Wood Chip Soaker: Not needed is more like it. It not necessary to use soaked wood chips or chunks on the Egg. To soak or not to soak is a rather controversial subject. After doing my own research, it seems like the real science points to it not being necessary to soak your wood chips or chunks. One less thing to do works for me.
REUSABLE - Charcoal Chimney: You will be using lump charcoal, not briquettes, in your new Egg. You can use the chimney to light lump charcoal. You might want to look into other methods you may prefer to use to light the Egg.
NOT REUSABLE - Charcoal Briquettes: The Big Green Egg uses natural lump charcoal not briquettes.
NOT REUSABLE - Lighter Fluid: Under no circumstances should you use lighter fluid or Match Light type charcoal on the Big Green Egg. The lighter fluid will seep into the ceramics and you will be hard pressed to get it (and it’s smell) out.
REUSABLE - Remote Read Grilling or Smoking Thermometers: Items such as the Maverick ET-72, ET-73, ET-732 or ET-733 remote read thermometers will all work on a Big Green Egg just a well as on any other type of grill. In fact the Big Green Egg Company sells rebranded Maverick units in their Eggcessories line. You should have no issues using these thermometers for low and slow indirect cooks or medium temperature indirect cooks. When using these models for direct grilling be sure not to exceed the maximum temperature ratings of the probe and probe wire. Also keep the probe wires away from area where they will be subject to direct exposure to flames from flare ups. The newer models of the Maverick line ship with probes that have a somewhat higher temperature ratings than earlier models. You can also get replacement probes for the earlier model thermometers which have the new higher temperature rating too.
QUESTIONABLE - Pit Controller: This is a two part discussion and I am offering up an opinion where I wasn’t necessary asked for one. Let me just say, I do not own one of these units, nor do I have any intention of using one for backyard BBQ. I had looked into buying one for my CG, but the fact the pit controller cost more than the smoker told me I should use the money for a better smoker.I also can see a use case for pro’s competing on the professional competition BBQ circuit. If you already own an automatic pit controller, such as a BBQ Guru, you can probably get an adaptor for fairly short money to allow it to be used with your Big Green Egg. If you do NOT already own one of these units I would say hold off for a while. It may be money you do not NEED to spend. Instead grab a Maverick ET-732 or ET-733 remote read thermometer. Learn to use your Big Green Egg without a pit controller. Learn how to make the necessary adjustments, what they are and how much. Learn to use the grate temperature alarms on the Maverick unit to alert you when the temps on your Egg have wandered above or below your desired cooking temperature range.
I came from having an offset horizontal barrel smoker where I needed to tweak it all the time. On a good day I could go 2 or 3 hours without having to run out and adjust the temps. On my Big Green Egg I have gone 8,9 or 10 hours without having to tweak the temps. This assumes you have properly stabilized the Egg before adding your food. I rarely was able to get much sleep using my earlier smoker where it held temps for only 2 or 3 hours. I would think nothing of planning to get a normal nigh’s sleep while doing an overnight cook on the Big Green Egg. I would set the grate & food temperature alarms on the Maverick and go to bed at a normal time. For me, who does non-competition level backyard BBQ cooks, I simply don’t need that degree of control. Either way, whether you own a pit controller and it will adapt to the Egg, or you are thinking of getting a pit controller, hold off attaching it or buying it. Learn your Big Green Egg first before attaching a pit controller. This way if the pit controller has technical issues, or the batteries die you will know how to successfully control your grill without it. While learning your Egg you may find you don’t need the pit controller. You may find the Egg is steady enough for your backyard use. You can always use the money for some other fun Eggcessory.
CONCLUSION:So there you have it, my take on Eggcessories and Grill Accessories 21 months after getting my first Big Green Egg. As I said your mileage may vary. Some of my choices are dictated by my now owning a second Large Big Green Egg. If you are going to only have one Egg for the foreseeable future, then this will dictate some of your choices and they probably will be different, out of necessity from mine. Even if you are planning on a future second Egg, you will make different choices depending on whether your second Egg will be the same size as your first. I was originally going to get a Medium or a Small until I looked at the economics. I got my second Egg only 4 months after my first. I thought it would more likely take 4 years not 4 months. Even after 4 months I had purchased and used quite a few Eggcessories. It turned out getting a second large which could share the same Eggcessories worked out cheaper than getting a different sized Egg and the rebut many Eggcessories in the smaller size. So if you are planning on getting a second Egg, if you can give some thought to the size it will be today, it may help point you to the right Eggcessories today. Also take a look at the Adjustable Rig by the Ceramic Grill Store. It offers endless possibilities and is better at many tasks than some Eggcessories. If you are planning on getting it on the sooner side, you may be able to skip buying a Platesetter. Or pick up the Platesetter at the time you buy a second Egg. While I love the Adjustable Rig I certainly don’t need a second one. A Platesetter for the second Egg works just fine for my needs.
Also if you are evaluating which of your current Grill Accessories (Pans, Trays, Rib Racks etc.) will work on the Egg, perhaps you should make a cardboard template where you cut an 18” diameter disc out of a piece of cardboard. Anything bigger than this will not work and if it is something you actually use, it will need to be replaced. Items that fit within the 18” diameter may still have an issue depending how tall they are and how far up into the round dome they extend. Once you know what will need to be replaced you can make a list of the Eggcessories and Accessories you will need for your new Egg. Remember you don’t need to get everything at once. Prioritize your list and start with the items you need most or will use right away. Knowing the other things you want or need will come in handy when folks are looking to buy you a birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Christmas gift. Grill Accessories come in a wide range of prices and this makes them great for gifting. You just need to know what you need and want. Hopefully this blog helped a bit.
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