Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun - Pt. 1
As the owner of a 6-burner gas grill and a 42” long horizontal offset barrel smoker my biggest concern getting an Egg was the relatively small grill area I’d have. I really think that this issue alone was what kept me from seriously considering getting an Egg. When I started getting more serious about adding an Egg to my arsenal, I just ASSumed it would have to be an XL. When thoughts started getting closer to action I discovered several things that sent me back to the drawing board. The first was price of entry. An XL cost 50% more than a Large. I could buy a Large and most of the Eggcessories I needed for the price of just the XL. I also discovered that the Large was the most popular Egg. Every one of the half dozen folks I knew who owned an Egg, owned a Large. They all told a similar tale: The Large fit their needs 90-95% of the time and most of them said I could pick up a Small down the road if I needed more room. Three of these folks already owned a Small in addition to their Large. The cost of consumables for an XL is large. Many times I am cooking for 2-4 people so it is almost overkill firing up a big grill to feed two people. I also ready about temperature control being a bit harder on an XL and that it was a bit harder to hold 225 on an XL due to the large charcoal mass. Frankly both of these scared me because I’d never direct grilled on a charcoal grill.
When I got my Egg the idea was it would help extend the life of my existing grill and smoker which were 9 and 7 years old respectively. It was to be 1 of 3 equals. I would have the other two grills around to help me deal with any space issues I might run into if I needed to do a big holiday or party cook. Now at first I figured I’d make myself use the BGE more so I could learn it by the time the more severe winter weather arrived. Once I learned the BGE, I would put my grill and smoker back into the starting rotation. I quickly found the food it was turning out on the Egg was noticeably better than either the grill and smoker. Suddenly I really didn’t feel any urge to use the grill or smoker. Plus I was actually grilling more than ever because the Egg was so fun and rewarding to use. Suddenly the handwriting was on the wall: I felt I no longer needed or wanted to use the other two grills. Believe it or not this was a real shocker-I knew the Egg was a great grill, until I started using it I had no idea how great.
Getting a Small for a second Egg had some seeming advantages. Lower cost for the Egg by about $300 was the first. People kept telling me an advantage to the Small was it is easy to transport for camping or tailgating. For me that was a non-starter. It has been years since I did either. Besides if I ever took them up seriously again, I could get a third Egg for tailgating-a Small or perhaps a Mini. At first I had been thinking the size of the Small would allow me to add it next to my gas grill under my grill gazebo and have all 4 grills at my disposal. This last item quickly faded from reality once I bought my Large and I saw how I wasn’t even using my grill or smoker.
This picture shows grilling 6 half-pound burgers on the 6 burner gas grill. If you look carefully you’ll see I still have 2 more buns left to do.
Here you see 4 1/3 pound (smaller) burgers on the Large Egg. This illustrates the difference in space between the two. I had to do the burgers & buns separately.
Meanwhile I was discovering some of the space limitations of the Egg for larger cooks or multi-zone cooks. I soon found the Egg was well suited for serving 4-6 people depending on the size of the dish you were cooking. One of the issues was getting even temperatures across the grill grate. One of the challenges of live fire cooking that I soon learned was every fire was different. You always have to deal with hot spots and cold spots. The better you do lighting the coals, the more even heat distribution you will get. This was quite different from my 6-burner gas grill which had the most even heating of any grill I’ve ever used. So depending on the amount of food you are cooking, and the evenness of your fire you could sometimes be challenged trying to get it cooked. When I was learning my Egg I was cooking for 2,3 or 4 people so I was ok, but I could see there would be some issues trying to do bigger cooks.
The half moon raised grid allows you to do direct (left image) indirect, (right image) but as you can see the shape limited me to 3 large chops.
The half moon cast iron griddle grates: their shape limits the amount of food you can get on.
Things get even more complicated when you are trying to do a direct/indirect cook or multi-zone fire. With a six burner gas grill it is easy to do a two-zone or three-zone fire by turning on various combinations of burners. Some ceramic cookers, like the Primo, are oval shaped and have a baffle you can use to divide their wider firebox into two zones. The BGE does not offer this feature, but they offer several Eggcessories that are half moon shaped to allow you to do different things on the two halves of the grill. There are several half-moon shaped grill baskets, a half moon shaped cast iron griddle grate and pizza stone and a half-moon raised grill grate. These items work as advertised but all share one big limitation: their shape. The round shape of the Egg is a little less space efficient compared to the rectangular shape of other grills. A half-moon shape is a lot less space efficient. The two corners where the curved side meets the straight side create two areas with a shape too narrow to accommodate most foods. I quickly discovered this using the half-moon shaped cast iron griddle grates and the half moon raised grill. It was tough getting 2 large buns on the griddle-think tops & bottoms which equal 4 pieces of bread. I’ve made thick steaks and thick chops using the half moon raised grid and it was a tight fit for 3 large thick chops and 2 large Cowboy rib-eyes. At the time I only needed 3 chops and the Cowboy rib-eyes fed 2 each. But this limitation was one of the things that started me rethinking the idea of buying a Small as my second Egg. Lastly with the space available I was often only able to make one dish at a time. I used my Egg all day on Thanksgiving to bake 3 items followed by the turkey. This stretched the schedule out from 7 AM to 5PM.
By October I wasn’t using either my gas grill or smoker and the handwriting was on the wall. I hadn’t used the smoker at all and had only used the gas grill twice to grill up some ears of corn while the Egg was busy doing something else. Suddenly a second Egg was becoming more than a future wish. It was more like an essential, at least if I wanted to continue doing more of my meals on the grill. By that I mean everything from appetizers to desserts. Everything I was doing was coming out far better than when cooked on my other grills and it served to make me want to use the Egg more and more. I was doing more baking on the Egg and this basically precludes piggy-backing any other food while that is going on. Or if I was doing low and slow on the Egg I had no way to do sides. Sure I could do them on the gas grill but I really didn’t want to. Towards the end of October, beginning of November we had two bad storms: one a hurricane and one almost as bad. Strangely enough they were what pushed me over the edge from thinking to doing. The cover of my smoker got badly ripped in the wind. My initial reaction was to make a run to Lowes to get a new cover. But then I started thinking: Do I even want to spend another penny, let alone $30, buying a cover for something I no longer was interested in using. Plus the Egg did a better job smoking the food, so the smoker was history.
In mid-November I would be getting another Apple stock dividend check and Christmas was coming too, so the money might be available in December. If not, I would be getting another dividend check in February and could get it then. By this point I had rather thoroughly accessorized my Egg and I realized there was quite a bit of expense involved in doing that. This isn’t a complaint, just a statement. I love the fact that you have all of these options available for customizing this grill. Also in using some of these Eggcessories I’d discovered that the Large had space limitations under certain use cases and obviously a Small would be even worse. I liked the idea of doubling my available space, now that I knew how much I liked using the Egg. I went out on the web and priced out the Small with all of the Eggcessories I’d need or want to duplicate. I also priced out a Large with a second Plate Setter and a cover. The stand was a wash because I was planning on buying an outdoor counter made to hold the Egg. In the process of pricing Eggcessories for the Small I found some items: such as the ceramic pizza stone, weren’t even available for the Small. I found an Eggcessorized Small vs. the minimally Eggcessorized Large was a $200 difference. IN FAVOR OF THE LARGE EGG!!
To me that was a no-brainer. I also posted in the Egghead forum about the wisdom of getting a second Egg the same size vs. different sizes. I also checked on what Eggcessories people thought I would need to buy again. This served to reinforce my decision and the next day I went up to my BGE dealer and got a formal quote. I placed the order a week later. So this was my journey towards getting a second Large Egg. Part 2 of this blog will cover my initial impressions and some of the discoveries I’ve made in the first month of ownership.