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Two Years of Egg Ownership

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In about two weeks I will have owned my first Big Green Egg for two years. This blog entry is going to discuss my previous two years of ownership, both my likes and dislikes. I am also going to talk about some things I think the Big Green Egg company could be doing better. And not to give away the ending, but the bottom line is I am very happy with my two Eggs. If I had to do it over again, I would make the exact same decision and buy the same two Large Eggs without hesitation. If that isn't enough to convince you: A third Large Egg is on my radar screen. But this blog will discuss the things I have learned good and bad in my two years of ownership.

BIG PICTURE:
My two Large Big Green Eggs are the finest grills I have ever owned or used. The last two years have seen a huge growth in my own grilling ability and the things that I am able to grill. These are all due to the special qualities of Kamado style grills. They are great grills, smokers and outdoor ovens. In the next section, I will discuss the qualities I like the best about the Big Green Egg. Much of what I say here is true for other, Kamado style grills

BEST QUALITIES:
Finest Cooking Device:
Let me say it again, right up front: The Big Green Egg is the finest cooking tool I have used. Every time I make something on the Egg, assuming I do my job correctly, it turns out to be the best in class version of the food. While it takes some getting used to because some of the process is a little different, you will soon be amazed that making food that good is really that easy.

Ceramic Body:
The 1 inch (25 mm) thick ceramic walls of the Egg are responsible for many of its desirable qualities. The grill behaves similarly no matter what the time of year and the weather. The grill is not really affected by normal amounts of wind and rain. You use far less charcoal particularly in the cold weather. The ceramic body is guaranteed for life and will maintain its good appearance for many, many years.

Tight Seal:
What helps make the Big Green Egg special is the tight seal in the cooking chamber. You are using a small amount of combustion and exhaust air. This helps keep the food moist, helps make temperature control easier, allows the grill to work similarly in all weather and allows you to use far less charcoal than other grills. Everything I’ve made on the Egg has turned out to be the best version of it I've ever made.

Precise Temperature Control:
I was rather shocked to find out how precisely you are able to control the temperatures on the Egg. After all the Egg is a charcoal grill and “everyone knows” live fire is harder to control. To my surprise, I found I was able to control the temperatures even more accurately than on my gas grill. Long term, if you get the Egg properly stabilized before adding your food, it can hold that temperature for 8 or more hours at a time. My CG Smokin’ Pro gave me at most 1-2 hours of stability and that was on a good day. Many people buy pit temperature controllers for their Egg and I simply don’t get it. If set up correctly the Egg will run for hours without attention. This allows you to do more because you are not babysitting a temperamental grill.

Weather Independence:
The Big Green Egg really behaves similarly regardless of the time of year. I remember being skeptical when I asked my dealer how much allowance I had to make for the cold air when setting my dampers. They said you can use the same settings that work for you in the summer. It really is quite true. You are able to grill or smoke year round in all kinds of weather. Sure you may get more of a temperature drop and have a longer recovery time in the cold weather, but long term the Egg behaves the same and consumes the same amount of charcoal. With my gas grill I had to make some adjustments to the amount of foods and cooking temperature I was using in the winter. And cooking with the lid open on my gas grill in the winter? No way!! With the Egg I remember how surreal it was when I was doing a stir fry at -3 degrees (-20 C) with the lid open and I actually had rising temperatures I needed to deal with.

Very Few Limits to What You Can Make:
There are very few things you can’t do on the Egg. Rotisserie cooking is one of them, but the Egg keeps the food so moist it is not really missed. Before I bought my first Egg, if you had told me I would be doing stir fries or baking anything on a grill, I would have laughed at you. High temperature pizzas on the Egg are amazing. It is so nice to use a tool where the only real limits you have are the ones you impose on yourself.

Lots of Eggcessories:
One of the advantages to going with the market leader is there is no shortage of items to enhance your use of the Big Green Egg. The list is almost endless. My favorite Eggcessory at this point is the Adjustable Rig which is a modular shelling system allowing you an amazing amount of flexibility in your setups and expands the amount of food you can grow anyone time. Owners of other Kamado style grills may not have as many accessories available for their grills, but many Eggcessories will fit on the similarly sized models of their brand grill.

Lifetime Warranty on the Ceramics:
The ceramics of the Big Green Egg are guaranteed for life. Put simply: I feel this grill will outlast me.

User Community and Support:
Once again going with a market leader has it's advantages. There are no shortage of very active user forums including the Egghead forum on the Big Green Egg website. The amount of user involvement is amazing. You can sometimes post a question on the Egghead forum in under a minute you already have someone posting potential answers. It is nice to be involved with a product that has this level of dedicated users who are enthusiastic and very willing to share their knowledge with others,

DISLIKES:
In general I totally love my Big Green Eggs, so much so there is a third one on my long distance radar screen. I would say I am 99 percent happy with them. But in this life there is nothing that’s perfect. Here are a few things that have disturbed me in the past two years as well as some things that potentially trouble me a bit looking ahead.

Cheesy Gasket:
The Big Green Egg can easily hit temperatures of 900 degrees (480 C), so why is it the wool gasket that shipped with my first Big Green Egg was only good to a temperature of about half of that 450 to 500 degrees (230-260 C). It lasted a month or so before I had to repave it with a 3rd party high temperature gasket. Shortly after I got my first Egg they switched to a higher temperature stock gasket, and it is what came on my second Egg. This gasket handles 700 degrees (370 C) I cook my pizzas at alright, but even this gasket doesn’t seem like it can handle very much exposure to the 900 degrees (480 C) plus temps the BGE can reach. The Big Green Egg is sold as being the “best”, so in my mind there is no excuse for selling it with a gasket which can’t work at some of the temps the Egg can achieve either intentionally or accidentally.

Total Reliance on the Dome Thermometer:
For whatever reason both the Big Green Egg company, the Big Green Egg Cookbook and most users measure their cooking temperatures using the dome thermometer. In this regard the Big Green Egg is no different than any other grill: The most accurate way to measure cooking temperatures is to measure them at the level you are cooking at. Period. When I first bought my Egg I decided to go with the flow and use the dome thermo. When I ran into some baking issues in the cold weather in the winter of 2013/2014, I ran some tests and discovered a nearly 150 degree difference between the grate level temperatures and the temps at the dome. This is not a constant and varies with the air temperatures and how long you have been cooking. This is not the fault of the Big Green Egg, it is the same with all grills or smokers. So people need to rethink the reliance on the dome thermometer.

Lower Draft Door Issues:
I just replaced the base on one of my Eggs and the new base came with a redesigned lower draft door. This new draft door had three simple improvements: 1) The inclusion of rubber tips on the finger pulls, 2) The elimination of an issue where the inner screen door could interfere with the outer solid draft doors ability to close and 3) The inner and outer doors are much easier to close. These issues had been minor annoyances up until now, but when I saw how easy fixed they were I have changed my mind. As I said about the gasket: The Big Green Egg is sold as being the “best”, so in my mind there is no excuse for selling it with a lower damper with silly little issues like this.

Two-Zone Cooking:
I was aware of this situation when I bought my Egg. Two zone grilling is really not an option for large cooks. There is an Eggcessory called the Half Moon Raised Grid, which allows you to use half of the grill for indirect and half for direct. It does work, but you are dealing with a 9” maximum width half moon shape so you aren’t dealing with a large area. It really isn’t possible to make a quick temperature shift either. One of the advantages of the Egg is how stable it is. But this means quick temperature shifts, particularly in the downward direction, aren’t really feasible. With a second Large Big Green Egg, it turns out I have a solution, inelegant, but a solution. That solution is to use one Egg for the direct portion of the cook and the second for the indirect portion. This is a bit inelegant, but I have two Eggs and I take advantage of this capability. With the size of the Large there is no way to put a deflector plate to divide the cooking chamber into two halves. This is a more realistic possibility with the XL Big Green Egg, and its larger cooking area means you can fit a reasonable quantity of food. Other Kamados such as the Oval Primo have a solution for this and I think the Big Green Egg company needs to get serious about this.

Dealerships Multiplying Like Rabbits:
In the last two years the Big Green Egg company seems to be on a frantic push to have more dealerships. In my area the number of dealers has gone from 12 to 25 in two years. I hate to say it, many of these dealers seem to have been added more for the sake of bumping up the number of dealers. Some are good choices. For example my town didn’t have a Big Green Egg dealer within 15 or 20 miles depending on the direction you chose. Last summer a store that sold stoves and fireplaces, plus high end grills became a Big Green Egg dealer. This is a case where they were a logical choice as they have experience in selling grills. Sadly it seems many of the newly added dealers are inexperienced about the Egg and/or grills in general and seem like they are in no hurry to become more knowledgeable. They don’t carry all of the models, don’t carry many Eggcessories and you’ve got to wonder if the model of Egg they are recommending is based on your needs or what they chose to keep in their inventory. Also the Big Green Egg will never be an impulse buy, where you hop in the car and run around the corner to pick up a Big Green Egg. I think it is far more important to have quality in dealers not quantity. I don’t think it is good to have a dealership on every corner if they aren’t going to be giving the end user a quality buying experience.

Marketing Taking too Much Importance:
I have no hard evidence for this it is just a feeling. It seems like lately the company has let marketing vs innovation determine the companies direction. It seems like the Big Green Egg company is resting on their laurels a little bit and talking a good game while not necessarily providing the goods to back up the talk. It seems like a lot of the innovation in Kamado grills is coming from competitors to the Egg. Changing the name of the Big Green Egg Plate Setter to the ConvEGGtor is not the type of thing I am looking for. Who cares what it is called? How can it be improved? That is what they should be looking at. I want them to be top of their class due to their innovations and not from what their marketing department cranks out. I do not regret my purchase of the Egg one bit….yet. But I am starting to be a little concerned.

LOOKING AHEAD:
Here are some things I am looking forward to doing in the near term on the Egg.

Learn the Adjustable Rig:
The Adjustable Rig (AR) is the best Eggcessory I own. It allows you to add multiple shelves and cook your foods at varying heights within the Egg. I have been using it for about 6 months and I am looking forward to exploring how different cooking heights affect the quality and taste of the food.

Learn the 2 Tier Adjustable Swing Rack System:
I have only gotten around to using this Eggcessory twice. I really want to use it more and see what additional capabilities it adds to use of my Big Green Egg.

More Baking:
Baking indoors never intrigued me that much and I limited myself to making hamburger or hot dog rolls and the occasion dinner rolls. The Big Green Egg turns out baked goods as good or better, than anything I made in an indoor oven. So I plan to get more into baking things like cakes or pies. The third Egg I am planning to buy will be dedicated to baking only and I will not use wood chips in it.

More EGGsperimentation:
There is really no limit to what I can make on the Egg. So I intend to keep trying new things and more elaborate recipes on my Eggs. I have this unwritten rule where I try not to make the same thing twice, except in answer to a specific request for a birthday or holiday. With the Egg giving me the ability to do almost anything I want, I have no excuse not to keep making new things.

Make Fish:
For some reason making fish on the grill has always scared me a bit. Around the time I had bought my first Big Green Egg, I had reached somewhat of a comfort level grilling fish on my gas grill and smoking fish on my offset smoker. When I bought my first Egg, I stayed away from fish at first because I was a total newbie in terms of direct grilling with charcoal. It turns out the Big Green Egg makes it rather easy to control your temps and I have been getting good at dealing with the variables found in charcoal grilling.

Make More Cedar Planked Meals:
This is somewhat related to my wish to do more fish, I want to try more cedar planked dishes, both fish and other food types.

CONCLUSION:
Using my Big Green Eggs with all of the exciting new possibilities it has opened up for me, have resulted in these last two years being the most fun I have ever had pursuing this hobby. I have been truly having a blast. Every time I walk out to my two Large Eggs housed in their year round shelter, I grin to myself. I almost want to pinch myself because it seems like I am having too much fun and need to wake up from this dream. Corny yes, but that is the way it really is. The dislikes I mentioned above are relatively minor and in the grand scheme of things they are having little to no day to day impact. The best part of all of this, is with my ability to make new types of meals and better meals is I get to share all of this with friends and family. Seeing the smiles on their faces and listening to their comments is a wonderful reward.

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