The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

3 Years Eggsperince-Part 1

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Shortly I’ll be reaching the 3rd Anniversary of the first Big Green Egg showing up in my back yard. I know this will sound overly dramatic, but it has truly been a life altering experience. This two part blog will describe my impressions after 3 years owning an Egg. I will start off with some big picture observations from the 30,000 ft altitude. PART 2 will get into some specific likes and dislikes. If you are thinking of buying a Big Green Egg, or other Kamado grill, this may help you get off the fence.

Looking back I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I bought my first Egg. The original intent was to get a well made and versatile third grill to help extend the lives of my Kenmore Elite 6-burner gas grill (9 years old) and CG Smokin’ Pro smoker (7 years old). I really wanted another 6 burner gas grill, but the rise in stainless steel prices, coupled with the fall in quality, meant there were really no more medium priced good quality grills. The Weber grill that I would need to get to replace my grill was their high end model and cost about $2,500. Even that model was being made in China now and used a cheaper grade of stainless steel. I kept looking around every year to see if there were any other grills out there with a high build quality that would last around the 10 years my KE had. I didn’t mind spending the extra money for a grill that would last. For the last 3 or 4 years I had looked at the various 6 burner gas grills available and I always came away disappointed. As for the CG, it was a low end model that gave good value for the money and performed well for what it was. The problem was CharGriller had since outsourced their line to China and it showed.

Several things happened in the 2012 which culminated in my getting my first Egg. Several friends around here bought Big Green Eggs. These were folks I knew personally and who were serious grillers. Prior to their buying their own Eggs, we had all looked at Big Green Egg owners as members of this somewhat crazy cult. Soon my friends had drank the Kool-Aid and though they tried to resist, they were soon raving about their Eggs. The same thing had happened at the Barbecue Bible message board. Some long-time friends there who were also serious grillers had joined the cult in the last year or so. These were some of the best cooks on the board and they were all raving about this grill. The only problem was: None of them could tell me a scientifically valid reason why the food cooked on their Eggs was better. They didn’t know what it was, but it definitely was better. They were all having the most fun ever using their new Eggs. This opened my eyes because these weren’t casual grillers. These men and women were serious grillers and smokers before they bought their Eggs and now they were having the best results and the most fun ever.

Despite my friend’s enthusiasm, I still wasn’t prepared to drop $800 plus on a tiny grill that as far as anyone could tell me, used magic to produce excellent food. In the Spring of 2012 CharGriller introduced their insulated metal Kamado which was sold under various names in various stores. I looked at one at Lowes and I will admit this had the best build quality of any grill CG had made for years. People who bought them were raving about the results too. Initially this piqued my interest. I was thinking I would pick a CG Kamado up at the end of “official grilling season” in the fall of 2012. This would let the grill be out in the wild for 6 months and any problems with the grill would be evident. Work had been slow and this would give me time to scrape together the money. I will admit I was very intrigued because here was a grill that could take some of the load off both the grill and smoker, and it only cost around $300.00. I started reading all the reviews and watching all of the YouTube videos I could find about this model. One thing became evident fairly quickly: This model had some issues with the construction. Some were fixed with revised parts in later versions of the grill and others required some work by the owners. This included using high temperature sealant to seal some air leaks here and there on the body of the grill. A tight seal was key to any Kamados performance and these grills had some air leakage issues. Folks also reported having troubles getting these grills down to 225 degrees (107 C). I suspect the air leaks may have been a bog factor in all of this. But I began to get nervous about having to do some DIY repairs just to get the grill to work the way it should out of the box.

Then out of the blue in the Spring of 2012, Apple announced they would be paying out a quarterly dividend on their stock starting in August of 2012. Suddenly I had a funding source for a new grill. Once again I started looking into higher end 6 burner gas grills, but even Weber had started outsourcing to China and was using the lower grade type 430 stainless steel which can rust. I decided to look at the Big Green Egg. I had liked some of the benefits I read about cooking on the CG metal Kamado and now I could afford the real thing. As I started getting serious in my research I discovered the reason the food seemed to taste better off a Kamado. The tight seal of the Kamado retained more moisture than conventional grilles. So finally I had a logical reason for the superiority of food cooked on a Kamado. It wasn’t just smoke and mirrors, but I will admit I was still somewhat skeptical. I will also admit to being skeptical about some of the claims about low charcoal usage, reusing the charcoal, the Egg being a great oven for baking. But I decided to get the Egg because it could do everything the other two grills could do and I wouldn’t have to do any repair work to get it correctly sealed. Bottom line though: If the Apple stock dividend hadn’t come into being I would most likely not be an Egg owner. The dividend gave me the moneyy that would have been hard to come by anyway else.

Once the Egg arrived, I was in for several more big surprises. I wanted to use the Egg for a while to get used to it, before returning to using the grill and smoker. Everything I made on it was the best version of that food I had ever grilled. Suddenly there seemed to be no point using the other two grills because the Egg could do it better. When I did my first low and slow cook I was amazed at the degree of temperature control I had. The Egg held 225 degrees (107 C) for 10 hours with me having to make only one adjustment one I had it stabilized. After that cook was done, I cranked the Egg up to 700 degrees and made the best grilled pizza I had ever tried. The next day there was still some charcoal left to grill up some hot dogs. I was amazed to find you could control a charcoal grill as precisely as a gas grill. The first week I owned the Egg I tried a wide variety of food on it and everything was best in class. Suddenly I had no desire to use the other grilles, I could do better with the Egg. I never used my smoker again and I only used the gas grill once more. The fall of 2012 marked a great run of great meals. To my great surprise I found I had stumbled onto the best outdoor cooking tool I would ever have the pleasure to use. I really had no clue it was this good until I had some hands on time with the Egg, but once I realized there was no turning back.

I soon found it was great for baking too. This was a win-win because I wanted to do more baking but not necessarily in my indoor oven. With the Egg I had a small domed brick oven that had more precise temperature control than my indoor oven. There was only one problem now. I wanted to do everything on my Egg, from breads and rolls, to the main dish, plus side dishes and desserts. Thanksgiving 2012 I did everything on the Egg, starting at 5:00 AM and ending at 5:00 PM. To my great surprise this got me thinking about the need for a second Egg. I never really knew I needed the first Egg and suddenly I wanted a second Egg. I had thought about the possibility of getting a Small Big Green Egg at some point in the future, perhaps in 5 years. This was if the Large was not big enough to handle the amount I needed to grill. But now I wanted to use the Egg for direct grilling, smoking and indirect grilling. This is impossible to do on any one grill, so suddenly a second Egg made a lot of sense and became a priority. After looking into things it made more sense to get a second Large vs a new Small BGE. It actually cost less and gave me more room to cook. The November Apple stock dividend paid for this Egg.

Around this time I began stir frying on my Egg. The food was amazing and I could cook it at 700 degrees (371 C). It was quite surreal to be grilling at 700 degrees (371 C) when the air temperature was -3 degrees (-19 C). Using the Egg in the extreme cold was about the same as grilling in the middle of the summer. While my gas grill was subject to pressure variations due to the different air temperatures, the insulation of the Egg meant it could achieve the same temps winter or summer. My gas grill could hit 900 degrees (482 C) on a hot summer day, but only 500 degrees (260 C) in the dead of winter. The Egg could get as hot as the species wood used for the lump charcoal would get it. This was true no matter what the time of year. Suddenly I had achieved weather independence. I could grill, smoke and now bake anything I wanted, any time of the year.

I was getting better results than ever and I was grilling, baking and smoking more and more on my two Eggs. Suddenly even though I now had two Eggs, I was doing more and more on them. I was once again putting in long hours back out at the two Eggs. I had been thinking at some point in the future I might add a third baking Egg in maybe 5 or so years. I was telling my dealer I might add a baking Egg in the future. He mentioned I could get a good price on one of their demo Eggs. They had a Customer Appreciation demo event coming up in early September and I had another Apple stock dividend coming in August. Kismet.

I now have the ideal setup for my needs. I have 3 Eggs, one dedicated for baking where I don’t use smoke woods, and two others which I can use to grill or smoke 2 different items. They can also be used to have two types of setups (direct or indirect) or widely different temperatures for one item. While the Egg is a relatively easy to control charcoal grill, having to control 3 Eggs at once began to use up a decent amount of time. Enter a pit controller. I picked up a CyberQ WiFi in December and quickly found that turning the chores of watching the Egg cooking my main meat on freed up lots of time. A DigiQ for my baking Egg was soon to follow. At this point in time it doesn’t get much better than this. I can let the pit controllers watch two of the Eggs, while I watch the third. Some of the time savings gives me more prep time or even some free time to relax a bit.

So in the Big Picture sense, life is good. I have 3 of the best grills I will ever have the pleasure to use out in my backyard. I have achieved weather independence. There are virtually no limits to what I can cook on the Egg. Three years ago, before owning my first Egg, I had no idea any of this was in the cards for me, or even possible. Before you think I have totally drunk the Kool-Aid, everything is not total perfection.
PART 2 of this blog will discuss the specific things I have learned about my Eggs and it will be organized in a format of “The Good, the Bad ad the Ugly.” If you are thinking of buying an Egg yourself you might want to read this entry to see what to expect. While it is mostly all good, as you can see from the title it isn’t all good.

Some of the items here that I mentioned in passing were covered in previous full length blog entries. Here are some links to earlier blog entries covering some of these topics in depth.

  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. 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. 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. 14 - IMPRESSIONS AFTER 90 DAYS - My impressions after 90 days using the Big Green Egg.
<  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.

  CONGRATULATIONS IT’S A LARGE! - My second Big Green Egg came only 5 months after getting my first. Here are the reasons behind it.

  TRIPLE THREAT- My thinking behind getting a third Big Green Egg dedicated to baking.
  CONGRATULATIONS IT’S A LARGE! - My third Big Green Egg came only 2 years after getting my first.

  3 YEARS EGGSPERIENCE - PT 2 A more detailed look at my first 3 years of Big Green Egg ownership categorized in list form using a formative the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

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