Pros: Very versatile & durable; food is outstanding
Cons: Expensive, grilling surface may be small for some
My husband purchased a large Big Green Egg smoker/grill about three years ago. The food we make on it is wonderful and it has been a great investment.
It all started when my husband saw Ray Lampe, a.k.a. Dr. BBQ on a morning show doing a cooking demonstration to promote his then current book, Dr. BBQ's Big Time Barbecue. He was grilling some peach pork chops that looked delicious. Well, my husband kept talking about it and I got him the book for Father's Day. He read it cover to cover and not only wanted to try some of the recipes and techniques in the book, but as he also became interested in one of Dr. BBQ's favorite cookers, the Big Green Egg. After much research, we decided that it would be worth the $700 (plus shipping) investment, and we ordered our large Big Green Egg. Over the past three years, we have used it more times than I would have imagined, and it has been worth every penny! The food my husband (and I) have cooked on this is absolutely delicious!
What is the Big Green Egg
If you are not familiar with the Big Green Egg, it is a unique, ceramic, egg-shaped vessel that has a hinged lid about one-third from the top. It looks like a dark green thick ceramic egg sitting on end. It is a rather strange-looking cooker if you have never seen one! They are available in small, medium, large, and Extra-large. Our large Egg is 18 inches in diameter.
The Big Green Egg has been manufactured for over 30 years and its design is based on an ancient clay cooker called a kamado. Big Green Eggs are often used at BBQ competitions because they are excellent for controlling temperature. Cooking temperatures can be as low as 125 degrees and as high as 800 degrees. There is a thermometer built in to the unit so you can tell how hot it is at any time as well as a vent at the bottom of the unit near the charcoal that allows the user to regulate the temperature. The egg shape is well designed to control heat evenly and produce some of the tastiest food you'll ever try.
For people who do a lot of outdoor cooking or would like to cook a diverse range of dishes, the Big Green Egg offers some advantages that a standard grill can't.
* The Egg can withstand temperatures from below 0° to 1800°F
* Thick ceramic retains heat with precise temperature control
* There are no hot spots
* It can be a smoker, a grill, or an oven
* It can be used year around, even in freezing temperatures and rain
* Requires no lighter fluid and is ready to use in 10 minutes
* Can be left out doors--weather and rustproof
* Ceramic surface stays cooler when in use than a metal grill--safer around kids
* It takes up much less space that a gas grill
* You never have to clean it--it is self cleaning!
Using the Egg
Using the Big Green Egg is surprisingly easy. Lump charcoal that has been lit with a starting chimney is placed in the bottom just like in a Weber-type grill. You can then add various water-soaked wood chips and cook your food slow and indirect at low temperatures for tender smoked flavors, or you can cook quickly over direct heat at higher temperatures. This is where the beauty of the Egg lies. You can determine the exact temperature in which you want to cook your food, and with a little (a small learning curve), adjustment it will be ready to go.
Its only possible drawback would be that it does have a somewhat small grilling surface for some. The large Egg is 18 inches in diameter which is plenty big for a family barbecue, but it won't be enough space if you are feeding a large crowd. You can fit a large amount of meat on the Egg when smoking because vertical racks (sold separately) allow you to stack the meat, making space less of a problem.
In addition, there are websites and forums dedicated to the use of the Big Green Egg. Barbecue is gaining in popularity, as is the Egg. "Eggheads" share recipes & food photos, help newcomers, offer suggestions, and answer questions which makes using the Egg and sharing experiences that much more rewarding.
We have cooked a wide variety of foods on the Big Green Egg. Of course when you think barbecue, you think ribs, and my husband has certainly perfected his barbecued ribs, along with beef brisket and pulled pork. We have also made a whole turkey breast on the Egg. It is the best turkey I have ever eaten--tender, moist, slightly smokey, juicy and delicious! Pizza is also a favorite of ours. I make crust and sauce from scratch, then add what ever toppings we are in the mood for. We cook it at a high temperature for about 10 minutes, and then enjoy delicious homemade pizza that has just a hint of a unique smokey taste (terrific BBQ chicken pizza!). Other things we have made include: meatloaf (excellent), pork loin, pot roast with potatoes & carrots, NY strips, filets, grilled shrimp, bacon wrapped scallops, kabobs, and grilled pineapple. I'm not naming everything because the list is quite long, but for the most part, anything can be cooked on the Big Green Egg. Even though the Egg works beautifully as an oven, I wouldn't recommend using it to bake sweets because they will pick up a bit of a smokey flavor.
The Big Green Egg makes a great oven. This is a use that many people don't initially think of. It comes in handy when you have a taste for meatloaf, roast turkey, pot roast, or even a casserole in the middle of summer and don't want your oven to heat up your house. You use the Egg just as you would your oven. It makes your food tender and juicy with a hint of smokey flavor, if uncovered. The Egg makes it easy to cook oven-baked comfort food year round.
There are many accessories available to customize the Big Green Egg from elaborate wooden stands and devices that automatically open the air vents to regulate the temperature, to simple pizza stones. We have purchased a Guru, which is a device that will regulate the temperature of the Egg. It is great for cooking meats that require long cooking times. It includes a temperature probe that is inserted in the meat, a thermometer that reads the temperature of the Egg, and and fan that easily attaches to the vent that controls and maintains the Egg's temperature without the user having to check it. It also sounds an alarm when the meat gets within 5 degrees of its target temperature. This is great for overnight cooking. We also have the Egg Nest, a metal stand with wheels that makes moving the Egg a breeze (it weighs about 150 lbs.); and Egg Mate, fold-down wooden shelves for holding grilling supplies. There are many more accessories available including wooden carts that are designed to house the Egg or a vinyl cover to keep dirt and snow off your Egg. You can also purchase small accessories like various grill pans or rib racks that are designed to fit on the circular grilling surface.
I really recommend the Egg!
The Big Green Egg is expensive, so it is obviously for the serious griller or barbecuer. Combined with a stand such as an Egg Nest, a large Egg with shipping can run about $800-850. This product is worth it! It is extremely versatile, so this one very durable unit is the only cooker you will need for outdoor grilling, smoking, and baking. This is a smart purchase for anyone interested in a durable, long-lasting smoker. The results are outstanding. You can obviously buy grills and smokers for much less money, but they do not have the heat holding capabilities that the heavy ceramic has, and the metal on other units will eventually corrode or rust. The quality and versatility of the food produced from my Big Green Egg makes it a winner!
Check out my reviews of Dr. BBQ's cookbooks:
Dr BBQ's Big-Time Barbecue Cookbook
BBQ All Year Long
NFL Gameday Cookbook