Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: My Relationship with the Big Green Egg

Friday, March 27, 2015

My Relationship with the Big Green Egg


The Big Green Egg is a kamado style grill.  Instead of the traditional propane fueled Weber type grill, the kamado grill is typically oval or egg-shaped and can operate as a grill, a smoker, and an oven.  Because it is thick ceramic and cylindrically-shaped inside, it maintains temperature and acts as a convection oven.

The fuel that's used for the grill is charcoal, but not briquettes.  Briquettes are usually composed of a lot of fillers that can give your food off flavors when they burn.  Hardwood charcoal is 100% real hardwood.  In keeping with the "clean" cooking, the charcoal isn't ignited with lighter fluid either.  Why?  It imparts off flavors.  Starting to see a pattern?  I used to use an electric heating element that Big Green Egg makes.  It's pretty much a big coil that heats up red hot.  Stick that in the coals and you're ready to cook in 10-15 minutes.   Back to that in a few.



Some of my first cooking experiences didn't turn out well.  Despite being looked after by a Mennonite family (who were the epitome of great cooks!) I never developed an interest in cooking.  I loved food (still do), just not cooking!  Throughout my later middle school years and early high school years, I was a member of the Boy Scouts.  During one particular camping excursion, I thought I would try my hand at making the camp spaghetti.  Looking back, I was a victim of the uneducated and inexperienced "season-the-crap-out-of-it" mentality.  I'm pretty sure I remember putting garlic salt, onion salt, seasoned salt and... you get the picture.  But from that, I gained experience both through spending a short time working at a steak house and through practice and self-education.  Even though I didn't see myself as a great cook yet, cooking for friends and family and hearing their feedback was adding to my confidence in the kitchen.  Present day, I feel I have managed to hone my skills to "hobby chef" status.   So how did I become acquainted with the Egg from there?

A close friend of mine, Keith Alan, had previously worked with some of the members of the Big Green Egg family.  After hearing some stories about the food that he'd eaten from this Easter Bunny's delight, I knew I had only heard about the egg, had only seen it in action a few times, but I had never cooked on one.  More importantly, I had never eaten food cooked on the Egg.  A grill that heats up to 700+ degrees for perfect searing, an oven that makes some of the best pizza (or cake, pie) you can imagine, and a smoker to boot?!  I wanted one.  So, after a few discussions, I had my Egg complete with all of the accessories!
Fast forward through the learning phase - yes, there is a little bit of a learning curve.  But, being the company that Big Green Egg is, they conveniently have a web page with some great first-timer tips here.  Not that the Egg is difficult to use, it's just not the same as a conventional gas grill.  Instead of controlling the level of heat, like a gas grill, the heat is controlled by the amount of air allowed through the bottom and top flues.  This is the part that takes the longest to master.  Adjusting the top or bottom flues literally allows for adjustment of temperature inside the Egg by small increments.  You can even get a digital temperature controller (above on Amazon link) that is truly hands-off cooking.  Besides that, using hardwood charcoal instead of propane or charcoal briquettes requires the use of an instrument to light the coals since lighter fluid is a big no-no.  Initially, I used the electric "ring of fire" as I affectionately called it.  This was just a big coil that is plugged in and heats up to red-hot.   This worked great for awhile, but after meeting and talking with  few other people (Thanks to Robby S you know who you are!) who used the Egg, I learned a better, faster way - a MAPP gas torch.   Warning:  This is a very hot open flame torch.  Do not use if you don't feel comfortable with this type of hardware!  Wear eye protection and heat gloves when using.  Hot embers can fly out of Egg.  MAPP gas burns very hot thus making it the perfect tool to light the charcoal.   I simply fill up the coal box, light three areas of the coals and I'm ready to cook in about 10-15 mins depending on the temperature I need.  No, it's not as fast as gas grills, but again, don't take my word for it - let the food speak for itself.   If you happened to catch the post about Runaway Country 2015, I used a Big Green Egg to cook a 5lb pork butt.  I only seasoned it with only salt, pepper and olive oil - I don't usually get too crazy as I like to let the flavor of the food come through.  The piece of pork turned out falling-apart, perfectly juicy and bursting with flavor.

Those who cook with the Egg as I do, with undeniable affection (yeah, it's weird - don't judge me until you taste my food :)) are referred to as Eggheads.  Said Eggheads like to get together and compete.  These cooking competitions are usually sponsored by local dealers carrying the Egg, grocers, butchers, etc, so it makes it great for the people competing since many of the items to cook are provided.  A Boy Scout troop in the Orlando area worked with me and (through some conversations) invited me to come out and cook up some grub.  Who was I to resist?!

The MiniMax in its cradle
I didn't win.  Heck, I didn't even place!  What I did do  was cook an entire meal from scratch, start to finish, on one Egg, including my grandmother's apple crisp!  I made an appetizer of grilled asparagus with a lemon chive vinaigrette dressing served alongside a medium rare-cooked quick-marinated skirt steak.  The steak was a variation of this delicious recipe.  From that event, I drew a lot of useful information that has been helpful in learning about the egg.  For instance, a (now) close friend of mine who just so happens to make one killer White Bean Chicken Chili (cooked on the Egg, of course!), taught me the trick about using the torch rather than the "ring of fire"(though I miss the Johnny Cash song in my head sometimes).   This saves me a lot of time that is better spent on preparing other things.  In addition to that, the Boy Scouts that organized the event were able to make money for a trip to SeaBase in the Florida Keys.  Nothing like getting to have fun and help out a great charitable organization at the same time!

So there you have it, my Eggsperience!  I love my Egg so much, I built an outdoor kitchen around it.  I love it so much that my amazing wife bought me a Mini Max for our 10 year anniversary.  That being said, there are a lot of people that don't understand why I go to the "trouble".  It's not trouble fo me.  It's always been the way that I cook.  No, the Egg isn't for everyone.  It takes a little bit more effort, and sometimes a bit longer, but, if you have the extra time, I think it's worth making the extra effort to make an extraordinary meal.  I'm not the most organized person, nor the most methodical.  It's also been suggested that I lack patience.  Get me in the kitchen, or on the Egg, all those imperfections fade away.   Keep Calm and Egg on! :)

- Special thanks to my wife, Jeanine, for working through all my Egg "experimenting".  Love my MiniMax!


 Disclaimer:  We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions.  We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.   




2 comments:

  1. Interesting read for sure. Like you, I'm a fan of NOT over-seasoning any cut of meat. Question: When you go FT will the big Egg go with you in the fiver or the PU bed?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment! My first Egg is built into our house's outdoor kitchen. Since I dropped the hint somewhere near a billion times about wanting a smaller Egg, Jeanine got me one for our 10 year anniversary! We didn't have an RV at that point, but we knew that we were on our way to having one, so it was the perfect gift at the perfect time! The MiniMax is small enough that it fits in the basement of our fiver. It's big enough to do a pork butt (we did one at Runaway Country that was about 6lbs) or a couple steaks, burgers, etc. It's really the perfect size for cooking for two. That being said, if you've got the room, carrying capacity, and want, go for a bigger one if it's more than two that you're feeding. I'm happy with the smaller one - it curbs my obsession for cooking like I have an army to feed!
    -Eric
    "Live your life like it's the only one you're ever going to get"

    ReplyDelete