My new big green egg

We had some really nice weather last week, ending with a gorgeous May Saturday, highs around 70, lots of sun, so it was a perfect time to try out my new toy.

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A lot of you reading this will know what a Big Green Egg is, though a lot of you may not. It’s pretty simple; a Big Green Egg is a green ceramic cooker. I can’t call it a grill or a smoker because it’s great at doing both.

Getting the XL BGE read to go

Well, I finally have one! There are multiple sizes, from a tabletop ‘mini’, to the original and most popular ‘large’, to what I got, the ‘XL’. Though carefully engineereed, the unit itself is simple; ceramic shell that’s very well insulated, firebox, firering, fire grate, cooking grate, lid and exhaust. What’s so great about that? The cermic allows great insulation, meaning I don’t have to worry much about weather affecting my cooking, the cooker can go for hours and hours and hours with very little interaction, and it can also grill at about 800 degrees F when opened up.

Most will recommend a ‘large’ size, but I wanted the XL for the quantity of food it can hold. The cooking grate is 24″ in diameter, versus 18″ on the large. That’s 452 square inches vs. 254 square inches!

For Mother’s Day, I wanted to do my first cook, and I am a proponent of using smoker’s capacity when I do cook, so I planned on 2 brisket flats, 2 Boston butts and 2 pork tenderloins.

First Cook on XL Big Green Egg

The set up for the fire is easily done; the cooker using natural lump charcoal and wood chunks. I just about filled the fire box with lump, adding in several chunks of hickory, and I lit one half a chimney of charcoal, adding that on top of the unlit lump. For smoking, a platesetter is used, which is a flat ceramic piece that sits on top of the firebox to ensure the heat is all indirect. It’s basically a ceramic layer between the fire and the food that still ensures proper airflow. I put the grate right on top of that instead of adding the fire ring because I was going to use a second lifted grate to hold the pork butts.

It took some fiddling around with the air intake and the exhaust to get the smoker to get to 225 degrees F, but once I did, I loaded up all the food. I did this around 6 pm on Saturday, and I fiddled here and there to make sure the fire kept going at the same rate. Now here’s my mistake… I got ahead of myself (read ‘too tired’) and thought I had the fire going perfectly, but I ended up shutting it down over about 4 hours. Since the smoker had cooled enough (completely my fault), I took everything in, wrapped it in foil and finished it in the oven for the last 20 degrees needed.

Pork Tenderloin Dinner off XL BGE

So how did the food turn out? The pork tenderloin only took about 1 1/2 hours, if that, to get to 145 degrees, which is right where I like it. So Saturday night, we got to enjoy that along with a salad. I had slathered the tenderloin with seedless blackberry preserves, chipotle pepper chile powder, salt and pepper. Then I also made a sauce to try with it out of the preserves, a bit of water and some chipotle Tabasco sauce. This was really good stuff!

Pork Tenderloin off of Big Green Egg

The only problem I had about putting the pork and brisket in the oven was that I think meat loses some smokiness when you do that. With that said, the meat still turned out great. I actually overcooked the brisket a little, but the flavor was good, and there’s a modicum of smoke ring. It’s not what I’m used to with my big stick burner, but it’s still good. I think one of the things I’ve learned is to add a bit more wood; I only used about 4 chunks of hickory this time. Maybe I need to double that… It will be fun learning, though!

BBQ Sliders 6

I didn’t take photos of our Mother’s Day meal, but I did make what I am calling ‘bbq sliders’. They’re on small, artisanal rolls instead of buns, just a few quick bites each. I did pulled pork on a multigrain roll, and brisket was done on rosemary rolls. The rolls were a nice way to add some healthfulness to a pulled pork sandwich.

BBQ Sliders 4

BBQ Sliders 5

I usually don’t like messing with classics like pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, but, now and then, subtle additions like the multigrain and rosemary work nicely. There’s still nothing quite like a pulled pork sandwich with slaw on a plain old burger bun, though.

About Curt McAdams

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.

29 comments

  1. hamburger sliders are pretty good, but i’d take a pork bbq slider any hour of any day of any week. they’re adorable, and i promise i’d take at least 5 seconds to revel in their beauty before stuffing my face. :)

  2. Grace, had I not already had a taste, I wouldn’t have been able to take the time for the photos… But they were good!

  3. fantastic photography!

  4. And I wonder who I learned how to take photos from. :)

  5. I take no credit, you are doing all the fantastic work!!

  6. Well, I beg to differ, but thank you! :)

  7. Love the site. Beautiful photos. The sliders look great!

  8. Bill, thanks… The sliders were great; in fact, they may become my favorite way to serve bbq sandwiches. You get all the taste, on a better bun, and don’t have to stuff yourself.

  9. The best BBQ sandwitch I had was a thin grilling steak with mushrooms, onions and BBQ sauce.

  10. That sounds good, but in my dictionary, that’s not a barbecue sandwich. :) If it’s grilled, it can’t be barbecued, too.

    But I’m not saying I’d turn one down!

  11. I am considering selling my large offset barbeque trailer and buying a few eggs instead. I compete in KCBS events and have to stay up all night feeding my fire. It is a struggle to maintain 220, especially when it is windy. Do you recommend the egg?

  12. Reid, I’m definitely going to use mine to compete… We’re also adding a couple of upright drum smokers that will cook overnight without too much help. We have a large trailered unit that we like a lot, and it holds a LOT of meat, but it’s a pain to babysit all night at a competition. Wind doesn’t bother us too much, but feeding the fire does…

    Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ, uses eggs all the time, as does Dizzy Pig and a lot of other teams. They do a fantastic job, and I personally like the extra size of the XL.

  13. Wow… those mini-burgers are fantastic! I’m intrigued about this egg…. hmmm I’m adding that to my wish list!

  14. Candace, thanks… They’re not actually burgers, of course, but they work well and are actually a more appropriate size to eat than a half pound pulled pork or brisket sandwich!

    Definitely check out the Big Green Egg; I like mine more all the time.

  15. Damn son. I’m jealous. I’ve wanted a Big Green Egg since I figured out what a POS my Overpriced stainless grill turned out to be.

    You can read in these two posts how I feel about mine-
    http://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/dont-be-fooled/

    http://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/never-again-buy-an-expensive-grill/

  16. Capt. Joe, the egg isn’t cheap, but it’s not up there with some of those stainless things… and lasts forever! I’d wanted an egg for a while, and now it’s proving to be a great buy!

  17. I’m toying with the idea of building an outdoor wood oven, then I stumbled on the egg. Have you used yours to bake pizzas and breads and if so, how do you like it? When slow cooking something like brisket or pork shoulder, do you have to add charcoal? Your site is great, by the way.

  18. Nick, thanks… To answer your questions, the egg is fantastic for bread and pizza… it keeps a lot of moisture in it for bread and crust. For low and slow stuff, one load of charcoal will last hours and hours… longer than it takes for brisket or pulled pork. When I’ve done low temp cooks, I’ve had a lot of charcoal left. Another advantage is that you can shut down the air when you’re done so you can use whatever hasn’t burned up yet.

  19. I am in the market for an egg but cannot decide which size to go with. I really would like to get the XL but I have heard the large is the way to go since it was the original and the engineering may be better than the XL. Could anybody confirm or refute this?

  20. Davy,

    A lot depends on what you want to do with it. I couldn’t smoke a whole brisket on a large. If you’re cooking smaller things or only grilling and don’t need the space, the large is great.

    There can be hotspots on the XL; the key I’ve found is to start the coals burning more toward the back of the cooker, and it helps a lot. But for pure space, the large just isn’t big enough for me. I also like the ability to do a 3 zone fire when grilling, which you can’t really do with the large because the firebox is so much smaller.

  21. I have an XL and I wish it was bigger. I actually use rib racks to get more ribs on the grill. I personally wouldn’t buy anything smaller than an XL. On a side note, I love my egg and have sold my large trailer unit and have given away my propane grill. The egg is so easy to use and the food tastes so much better using charcoal. Best of luck to you.

  22. Reid, I’m glad to hear from another XL owner. I am not getting rid of the trailered smoker, but I don’t use much else but the BGE around the house at all anymore.

  23. Hi there! My parent’s actually sell the Big Green Egg, we received a Large for our wedding present ;) We eventually traded up, with two kids we thought we needed more grilling space, but have found the XL to be very tempermental. It gets hot like the large, but maintaining a temp is more difficult. It’s either WAY too hot, or just barely 200. It makes grilling on the Egg more of a “planned” event since it takes longer to cook with the lower temp. Haven’t had a meal we didn’t LOVE, but do you have any advice as to how you maintain say 350 on the XL? Thanks! Beautiful pics, BTW. Making me hungry!

  24. If you want to grill(burgers, brats, etc.) using the XL you need to get the coals real hot and wait for the temp to get around 400 degrees. Leave the bottom vent open 1/2 to 3/4 open and then close off the top to allow only the small holes open. This allows the coals to get oxygen and stay hot but the top is closed enough to keep the flames under control. Try not to open the lid too much as this gives the coals more oxygen and can cause a flame-up. As far as smoking for long periods of time, I have had no problems getting up to temp and staying at temp for long stretches of time. By the way, I always light my egg using an electric charcoal starter from WalMart($10).

  25. Erika,

    I don’t find the XL temperamental at all… I find that i can generally get set at a variety of temps, and it stays pretty much there. Now, I haven’t use a large, so the large may be even easier.

    I find that I generally don’t need the top too open, or the temps get up pretty high quickly. I generally get a fire going, set the front opening to what I think is needed, and tweak it as it starts getting close to that. I like to get the BGE going about an hour ahead of time, just to make sure I don’t get too far past my desired temp. It’s really tough to bring the temp down in a short time, as I’m sure you know.

  26. Reid,

    I like the way closing down the top controls the flame so well. I had it wide open the other day, up to about 650 or so, and it still kept the flames down, though I made sure to burp it so I didn’t get the backdraft going when I opened it.

  27. Curt,

    When you are cooking with a 3 zone fire, do you leave the lid up or down?

    What are the pros and cons of lid up/down for the BGE?

  28. Jim,

    With a 3 zone fire, you lose some of the zone-iness of it by closing the lid, though you still have room to have food not over the direct flame. The convection temp will be more similar with the lid closed. With the lid open, you don’t have the real convection cooking going on, though. There are trade offs, but when cooking several different things, I find it easier to leave the lid open and grilling that way.

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