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How to Cook on the Big Green Egg
I have a confession to make. I love my Big Green Egg. If I could wheel it into my room every night and fit it on my bed, I would. The Big Green Egg is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a green, egg-shaped ceramic behemoth. It can grill, bake, smoke…sounds like a perfect husband to me! Even though the Big Green Egg is pricey, I use mine all the time and don’t need any other type of outdoor cooker. I even use the Big Green Egg in place of my oven.
This is a basic guide to how to use the Big Green Egg, but feel free to experiment with different types of food – bread, pizza, any and all kinds of meat. The possibilities are truly endless and your foodie imagination can be your guide.
Even Heat with your Ceramic Cooker
If you put your hand on the outside of any regular grill, you would probably have to go to the hospital with serious burns. Not true on the Big Green Egg (although, I wouldn’t recommend holding your hand on a grill!) That’s because the Egg is made of ceramic material and that has some serious benefits:
· Gets up to a very high heat (I have gotten to 750 degrees)
· Keeps temperatures even for a long period
· No hot spots
· Seals in moisture
Charcoal and Wood Chips
Using natural charcoal when cooking with the Egg is an absolute must. Natural charcoal is basically chunks of hardwood that is cooked into charcoal, but they light easily and burn at a high heat. If you are only using charcoal for grilling or baking, the flavor is clean.
Quick Tip: If you like to garden AND grill, make sure to save those ashes from the natural charcoal and sprinkle a small amount in your flower beds or garden. Small amounts of ash are a good source of potassium for your garden, but make sure you don’t use them on acid-loving plants like blueberries.
If you are planning on using the Big Green Egg for smoking, there are a ton of options for wood chips. I don’t personally soak my wood chips, but you can presoak them if you wish. I do make sure that the wood chips are sizeable, instead of the little shreds that are sometimes at the bottom of the bag – it ensures that when I am smoking something for a long time that the smoke flavor permeates the whole time.
Here are some examples of types of wood to pair with our favorite grilling foods:
Apple – This wood will produce a very mild, but slightly sweet, flavor that will pair perfectly with poultry and pork.
Cherry – Cherry also has a mild flavor and you can use it to cook pretty much everything with this versatile wood.
Hickory – Look out for this strong flavor. While it is perfect for heavy meats, don’t be too heavy-handed with the chips.
Lilac – This unique wood is used for smoking cheese, and you can also use it for poultry and pork.
Mesquite – This wood has a very distinct flavor that is synonymous with barbeque and grilling…it’s perfect with beef.
Pecan – Pecan is the milder little sister of hickory. I use pecan most often because I don’t like the heavy taste of hickory on meat.
Plum – This wood is perfect for poultry and pork because of its mild, sweet flavor.
Walnut – You will get a very heavy, smoky flavor from walnut so use it sparingly for red meats.
Feel free to experiment with different types of woods from olive to birch to lemon – you can even mix up chips to impart a unique flavor.
Quick Tip: Stay away from cedar, elm, pine, redwood and sycamore woods for cooking.
Basics of Lighting your Big Green Egg
Big Green Egg as a Grill
You will not want to go back to a regular grill when you try the Big Green Egg. Once it is lit, it will get up to temperature pretty quickly – you might have to practice getting it up to a high enough heat to sear, but you’ll get it!
While the Big Green Egg can get up to a temperature of 750 degrees, which is perfect for searing meats like steak, you can grill at any temperature just like you would use any other grill. The vents on the top and bottom of the Big Green Egg allow you to easily adjust the temperature as necessary.
If you want to try something new, I recommend grilling a pizza. The high heat makes the pizza crusty on the outside, while it is still chewy on the inside and the grill flavor adds a depth to simple ingredients like tomatoes and cheese.
Big Green Egg as a Smoker
For smoking, load the Big Green Egg with a layer of charcoal, unless you have some leftover in there from another cooking experiment, and then layer with the wood chips of your choice. Then stack on another layer of charcoal, followed by another layer of wood chips, until you get to the top of the firebox in the Egg.
For smoking, I like to use the plate setter accessory, which has feet on it that lifts the food off the direct heat of the grill and allows the smoke to swirl around the food as it is cooking. Once you have the grill to a temperature of 200 – 250 degrees, it will stay there for a long time, allowing you to smoke your meat to perfection!
Big Green Egg as an Oven
This is what really sets the Big Green Egg apart from other grills or smokers. The ceramic walls allow superior temperature control and lots of moisture, which makes this a great oven. Everything from bread to pies to biscuits taste so much better in the Big Green Egg. Use the plate setter just like you would when you are smoking so you aren’t placing your food directly on the heat.
When you are Done Cooking
The best part about the Big Green Egg is the ease of clean up. Leaving the cooker on for a few minutes after you take your food out should burn off any residue (think self-cleaning oven.) You can use a brush to scrape away any additional residue that remains. Remember to clean out the ashtray at the bottom of the smoker.
Another benefit is that you can leave the natural charcoal in the firebox of the cooker and use it again the next time you fire up the Big Green Egg, especially if you used a cooking technique that is fast, like grilling.