3 Years Eggsperince-Part 2
With the approaching 3rd anniversary of my Big Green Egg ownership, I have been thinking back to what an amazing three years it has been. This two part blog entry shares what I have learned in my 3 years owning the Egg. PART 1 is a big picture look at where I was prior to getting my first Egg and what it has meant since then. This second part, organized in a format of: “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly”, describes my specific likes and dislikes. My opinion has evolved over time, as I discovered more about this grill. It is mostly “the Good”, but nothing is perfect, so there are a few “Bads” and “Uglies” too. I figured anyone interested in getting a Big Green Egg (or other Kamado grill) might be interested in the impressions, good and bad, of an owner. Many of these things I never thought of until I actually owned my first Egg. Some of the topics I cover as a bullet point here, were subjects of full length blog entries. I will provide a list of links to some of them at the end of this entry.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY:Most of these items will apply to any Kamado style grill, a few points may not apply to the non-ceramic style insulated metal Kamados (The Akorn, the Big Steel Keg) and a very few points apply to the Big Green Egg specifically.
THE GOOD:Here are the items both expected and unexpected, that make the Egg great.
- Then food I have made on my Egg has been the best grilled or smoked food I have ever made. Consistently better.
- The quality of some of this food often exceeds even what I have eaten in high end restaurants.
- The tight seal of the Egg means more moisture is retained than on other style grills. The food is consistently moister than any version of that dish I had made before.
- Pizzas on the Egg are the best pizza I have ever had period. You can cook a delicious pizza with a crackingly crisp crust at 700 degrees (370 C) in just over 4 minutes any time of year.
- Steaks cooked under high heat on the Egg are amazing, with a great sear on the outside and the juiciest interior ever.
- The Egg is a better oven than most kitchen ovens. Better temperature control, lest moisture loss and the dome shaped lid all add up to great baked goods.
- The Egg is ideal for stir frying. You can easily hit higher temperatures on the Egg than on the typical residential range. Plus you don’t “smoke up” the house. I have made some truly amazing stir fries on my Egg.
- The high moisture retention of the Egg means you don’t need water pans to replenish moisture lost during the cooking process.
- The tight seal and insulating properties of the Egg also means you don’t need much charcoal to sustain the fire. You use far less charcoal than other types of grills. I have gotten 18-20 hours of low and slow cooking out of a single batch of charcoal.
- You really can reuse the left over charcoal. I never really believed this until I experienced it myself. You close the bottom draft door and put on the ceramic top cap and the coals are snuffed out and you can reuse the leftover charcoal. My first smoker required charcoal refills every 3-5 hours or so. When you were done cooking, you just had to let the leftover charcoal burn out. But with the Egg you can do multiple short cooks on the same load of charcoal.
- You use less smoking woods on the Egg. The tight seal of the Egg insures a little smoking wood goes a long way. I use 1/2 to 1/3 the amount of smoking woods now.
- The temperature control on the Egg can be even more precise than that of a gas grill. I never expected this, but with a little experience you can stabilize the Egg to within 5 degrees or so of your target temperature. Once there it will stay there for hours and hours.
- Through the use of a pit controller and computer software I can get temperature control as a accurate as +/- 2 degrees (1C). I can do overnight cooks and sleep the entire night knowing 99 times out of 100 everything will go as planned. When there is a problem, the software will wake me up. Total piece of mind.
- True weather independence. The extremes of air temperature do not affect the cooking temperatures you can achieve on the Egg. The wind has much less effect on the Egg than other grills. The set up and start up is pretty much the same year round. This was a very big surprise to me and I didn’t believe it until I experienced it for myself.
- The Big Green Egg is looked at as being expensive, but it is actually a bargain from my way of thinking. It is a world class grill, smoker and outdoor oven. You really don’t know just how good it is until you use it. If you divide the purchase price by three, it is a great value.
- The Big Green Egg has a lifetime warranty on the ceramics. As the biggest company in the Kamado grill space, I believe the Big Green Egg Company will be around for long time. I am pretty sure this grill will outlast me. With the poor quality of today’s cheap Made in China value engineered grills, this makes the Egg even more of a great value. Not having to buy a replacement grill every few years is an added bonus. Particularly when the choices are not as good as the last time. As an aside: Not all Kamado grills have a lifetime warranty. When evaluating a Kamado grill look at the warranty. Some grills offer a so-called “limited lifetime warranty” of 10 or 20 years. Still good, but I don’t know how they get off calling it lifetime. Just be sure to read the terms of the warranty, before spending your money. The length of coverage and the life expectancy of the company should figure into your calculations regarding price.
- Due to the long life of the Egg you won’t have to join in the hunt to find the “best of the worst” to replace your rusting gas grill every 2 to 3 years. Between value engineering and rising stainless steel prices, in less than 10 years it has become next to impossible to find a decent quality gas grill. I must admit the long life of the Egg never entered my mind when I first bought it. In retrospect, that is one of the biggest plusses.
- While Kamado grills as a category are just coming into the mainstream, the Big Green Egg is the best selling and most well-known Kamado Grill. As such, there is a wide range of accessories available for it and a thriving community of users willing to help each other get the most out of their Big Green Eggs. There is something to be said for having this level of support. You can usually get your questions answered quickly on one of several message boards dedicated to Eggheads.
- There are many local, regional and even a national festival dedicated to enjoying and promoting the Egg. They are a mix of sales tool and customer appreciation, often run by BGE dealers or distributers. Dealer sponsored events are relatively small and often are free. The larger regional or national events cost a small amount of money. People buy “Cook’s” tickets and cook on new Eggs provided by the distributers. Other folks buy “Taster” tickets allowing them to sample the food cooked on the Eggs. It is said the best way to sell an Egg is to cook food for someone on it. This event accomplishes this for potential new users and is also a way of thanking existing users. These events are great ways to learn about the Egg and sample a wide variety of different types of food you can make on them. My first Egg related event really opened my eyes to the fact I was essentially limited only by my imagination when it came to cooking on the Egg.
- Big Green Eggs aren’t sold just anywhere. To some people this is a disadvantage. They want to buy an Egg at a big box store at the lowest possible price. Kamado grills are relatively easy to use, but they are totally different animals than regular charcoal grills. By being sold only through authorized dealers, the Egg isn’t just one of dozens of grill lines they sell. This ensures you are speaking to someone who knows the product and can help you get started. But not all BGE dealers are created equal, some are better than others. When shopping for an Egg, shop for a dealer too. By this I don’t mean shop for the best price. Shop for the best dealer. You will have your Egg for 10,20,30… years or more. So a few dollars more or less is really insignificant. Look for an established dealer, who is knowledgeable, has good customer service, carries the most common Eggcessories and looks like they will be around for a while.
- You will probably have the best time of your grilling life using you Egg. Once you get the hang of it, you will be turning out some of the best food you have ever made. Success makes you want to do more and you may soon find you are cooking things you never imagined. This was certainly the case for me. I still get a great feeling buzz every time I fire up one of my Eggs. I am getting to practice my hobby on the best tool for the job for my needs.
THE BAD:The next list of items consists of things you may not have thought about prior to purchasing a Kamado grill. Most of them are only slightly "Bad" because there are often (simple) solutions (listed in italics) to many of them. Others are “Bad” in that you will spend more money than you planned for because you are enjoying using your Egg so much. This is a good “Bad”.
- The Egg and other round Kamado grills are not ideal in terms of creating a two-zone fire. You can’t really bank the charcoal and the shape and area of the grill limit your options/ There is an Eggcessory called the Half-Moon Raised Grid which can create a raised indirect cooking area within the Large Big Green Egg. I own one, it works, but it is not an ideal solution. Because it has to fit up in the dome, it is rather small. With multiple Eggs I can set one up for high temperature direct grilling and another for medium temperature indirect grilling. Instead of a 2-zone fire, I am doing a 2 Egg-fire. But this certainly isn’t an ideal solution for everyone. The Primo company makes a large oval shaped Kamado called the Oval XL. By virtue of the oval shape, it can have the firebox split into two sections and has split adjustable multi-tier grill grates. Kamado Joe makes a split adjustable grill grate system called “Divide and Conquer”. As I mentioned: For the few times I need two zone fires I can either use the Eggcessory I mentioned or use two Eggs. Just be aware of this going in.
- Not all Kamado grills are created equal. Kamado grills are getting more and more popular and as a result most grill stores and big box stores seem to be carrying Kamado grills. Some are ok, some are good and some should be called commode grills, not Kamado grills. How do you separate the good from the crap? Look at the grills in person, visit message boards for the grills, find reviews on the internet by owners of the grill, examine the warranty closely. There are some other good brands out there besides Big Green Egg, but these days there is a lot of look-alike crap too. Just remember you usually get what you pay for.
- Don’t over shoot your desired cooking temps.The Egg and other Kamados can all be adjusted to reach new higher temperatures quickly. But due to the heat retention of the ceramics, it is hard to get a Kamado to quickly shed heat if you overshoot. Don’t ask how I know this.
- Sometimes 3rd Parties have a better solution in terms of Eggcessories. An example of this is the Adjustable Rig made by the Ceramic Grill Store. Now the Big Green Egg Company has a ceramic Plate Setter (aka ConvEGGtor) for doing indirect cooking. They also have some two and three-tier shelving solutions to give you multiple levels. For my money though the Adjustable Rig is a far better solution. The AR costs a little more, but is more flexible, can do more and gives you some great convenience features. I have written several blog entries on this device and I will link to them at the end of this blog. Another example of this is the Wok Spider (the Ceramic Grill Store again) which allows you to use a traditional round bottom wok on the Egg. Flat bottom woks became popular for use on indoor ranges which cannot do real high heat. But the Egg can do much higher heat than an indoor range. The wok sold by the Big Green Egg Company is a stainless steel flat bottom wok. Going with the Wok Spider allows you to use a traditional carbon steel wok. Before you start spending lots of money on Eggcessories, pay a visit to some of the Big Green Egg related message boards. Poke around and see what the folks there are using. Often 3rd party Eggcessories are not sold at stores, but only via the internet. You might not have run across them, but there will be folks on the message boards who use them and will share their opinions.
- Be prepared to spend addition money. Perhaps lot of additional money. The Egg can do so much and there are lots of Eggcessories available that allow you to do more with your Egg. If you are like me, your great results will make you want to try more and more types of cooking and buy more Eggcessories. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As I said above, visit some Big Green Egg related forums so you are at least shopping smart. See what other folks use for Eggcessories and see whether they like them before you take the plunge yourself.
- Half Round Eggcessories are not very space efficient. With a half moon shaped griddle or basket you end up with narrow odd shaped spaces in the two corners, which often go unused. When evaluating half-moon shaped Eggcessories make allowance for the inefficient spaces in the corner to make sure it will really fit your needs. Another solution is to use a different shaped accessory from a different manufacturer. Instead of the half-moon shaped Big Green Egg flexible grill basket, I use a lozenge-shaped grill basket by Weber. It is basically a rectangular shape, but the short sides are curved. You get both more area and more importantly more USEABLE area than with a half-moon shaped grill basket.
- The Big Green Egg Company is not the only source for some accessories and you may find the identical item for less elsewhere. There are several companies that make BBQ related accessories under various brand names for different companies. Some of the Eggcessories for the Egg are unique to the Egg and are made just for the Egg. Other Eggcessories such as thermometers, skewers, etc. can be used on any grill and are sourced from a manufacturer of grill products. Nothing wrong with this practice, it is common throughout the grill industry. What I find a bit disturbing is the fact that the Big Green Egg Company often sells these products as Big Green Egg products at a premium price. Other than the product being in Big Green Egg green and sporting a Big Green Egg logo on the product or the packaging, there is no additional value added and yet the item costs more. Examples: The Big Green Egg branded infra-red thermometer comes in BGE green and has a BGE Logo on it. Before getting my Egg, I bought the same thermometer in grey in a general purpose grill store for $15.00 less. When I got my first Egg and started shopping in BGE stores, I was surprised to the same thermometer for way more money. A second example: FireWire brand flexible skewers cost $9.99 while the identical BGE branded version is $15.00. The skewers themselves are identical in every way. The only difference-the packaging has the BGE logo on it. I’m sorry but in my opinion this is a case of taking advantage of your users. This practice may not bother you or you may like having the product in BGE green even though it costs more, and if so more power to you. That is the reason this practice isn’t listed down on the the “Ugly” category. For me it is rather “Ugly”, and as you can tell it bothers me, But some folks may like all of their Eggcessories in green. If it bothers you too then you will have to be aware of what else is out in the market. Frequent some grilling stores or grilling department and see what products are out in the market. so you will recognize when a product is available in standard versions and BGE branded versions.
- You can't use a rotisserie on the Egg. This is not really a serious issue because the moistest chicken I have ever made came off my Big Green Egg without the rotisserie. Many recipes for the rotisserie have alternate instructions for cooking the food indirectly. Cooking food like chicken up a little higher in the dome of the Egg also gives you a nicely roasted skin.
THE UGLY:The Egg, like everything else in life, is not perfect.
- In my opinion, Flashbacks are the biggest potential downside to all Kamado grills, not just the Egg. Kamados use very little oxygen to maintain the fire. Under certain conditions you may have a bed of coals starved for oxygen and when you open the lid you have just let in a lot of oxygen. Poof! We have ignition!! One example of this is you had a hot fire going and you need to lower the temperature quickly. It may be a reduction the recipe called for, or you overshot your mark. You have hot coals and you closed the draft door and top damper down almost all of the way to quickly lower the grill temps. You open the lid, which lets in a rush of oxygen. The end result is the coals reignite, causing a flareup the comes out the front of the grill and goes high up in the air. It is scary and can be dangerous. You can get burned and you may end up letting go of the lid to the Egg damaging your grill. I’ve had two flashbacks and they are serious business and no fun. Fortunately there is a simple solution: Always burp the grill when you open the lid. At first I used to open the lid about 3” (8cm) or so, pause for a couple seconds and then finish raising the lid. My second, and last, flashback occurred after having done this, so now I do a double burp. I open the lid about 1” (2.5 cm), wait 2 seconds, open it up to 3” (8cm), pause another two seconds and then finish opening the lid. Flashbacks are serious business, but burp your Kamado and you will never get one. It has become second nature to me. I find myself burping my Egg without thinking even when it is unlit and I am simply getting ready to add charcoal.
- The Big Green Egg is safer than other types grills. This was something they used to highlight in ad copy touting the benefits of the Big Green Egg vs. conventional grills. I don’t seem to see it too much today, but it may still be out there somewhere. The argument was put forward that the insulating properties of the thick ceramic walls let the Big Green Egg remain cooler than other types of grills. There is a small grain of truth in there, but for a short period of time only. Sure the exterior of the Big Green Egg takes longer to heat up than a grill made out of metal. No doubt about that. But eventually the exterior of the Egg can become dangerously hot too. It just takes a little longer. I thought this was a bit of a reckless claim and I am happy you don’t see it as much anymore. If you have children, pets or anything else you don’t want getting burned keep them away from any grill including your Big Green Egg.
At the three year point, I am still extremely happy with my decision to get a Big Green Egg Kamado grill. It is an amazing tool, not perfect, but what item is perfect? Every time I go out to use my Egg(s) I still get a bit of a thrill. I am making things now that I never would have attempted on my gas grill or smoker. In the last 3 years I have made my best food ever. The best part of this hobby is I have been able to share that food with friends and family. I am doing more and most importantly I am having the most fun ever pursuing this hobby. Who knew that buying an oddly-shaped little green Kamado grill could make such a difference? It truly doesn’t get better than this.
SOME RELATED LINKSSome 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.
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. 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. 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.
BAKING ON THE EGG - PART 1 2015 Blog Entry about why my Big Green Egg and not my indoor oven is my first choice for baking.
BAKING ON THE EGG - PART 2 2015 Blog Entry about the reality of using my Big Green Egg for baking.
SELECTING A BIG GREEN EGG DEALER You should be just shopping for a Big Green Egg , you should be shopping for a dealer too.
BIG GREEN EGG - PT. 16 - GRATE ACCESSORIES - RAISED GRID - Half Moon Raised Grid for indirect grilling.
GREAT “EGGCESSORY” BY WEBER Sometimes 3rd party gear for other grills does a better job than a Big Green Egg specific Eggcessory..
THE ADJUSTABLE RIG - FIRST IMPRESSIONS 2014 Blog Entry about the Adjustable Rig, a combination of my unboxing type impressions and my early experiences.
GETTING TO KNOW THE ADJUSTABLE RIG 2014 Blog Entry about my first four months using Adjustable Rig including some unexpected and pleasant surprises.
AR RAISED INDIRECT BAKING - FIRST IMPRESSIONS 2014 Blog Entry about my first attempt at baking raised indirect on the Rig Extender at Level 7.5 of the AR.
ADJUSTABLE RIG-SEEING DOUBLE 2014 Blog Entry about my rationale behind getting a second AR for use on my baking Egg..
ADJUSTABLE RIG WEBSITE
3 YEARS EGGSPERIENCE - PT 1 A Big Picture look at my first 3 years of Big Green Egg ownership.
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