You don’t need championship BBQ pit master skills to use the Big Green Egg, but you will get more enjoyment and satisfying food out of your investment if you master the important techniques that are so abundantly available from others to raise your game.
Watch a couple of Youtube videos of BBQ chefs smoking ribs or a pork butt, try it yourself a couple of times, and voila you become the master of your own Big Green Egg.
Preparation Then Execution
Before we get into the skills you need to use your Big Green Egg kamado ceramic cooker, let’s go over some of the basics of cooking preparation.
Buy the Big Green Egg that’s right for you. There are seven sizes: Mini, MiniMax, Small, Medium, Large, XLarge and 2XLarge. It depends on what kind of crowds you are feeding and whether you want portability for tailgating or a beautiful backyard table nest setting.
Know your meats and their freeze and thaw times. Always thaw safely to avoid bacteria and temperature setting difficulties. Decide whether you want your ribs KC Style or Baby Back. Learn the different sections of beef and pork. Size and cook times go hand-in-hand.
Tenderize, marinate and prep foods in advance. Put that sirloin steak in a great marinade for an hour and have it ready for action when your EGG says to play ball. Have a plan for recipes not just for you but for other family or friends, so you know how to sequence and throw a veggie burger on last if needed.
EGGsessorize. Shop around for your own cool touches, whether it’s a trip to the Lodge Cast Iron showroom or your local Big Green Egg platinum or gold dealer. You don’t need everything all at once. Learn your EGG smoker first and then gradually add Big Green Egg accessories.
Invite everyone! You’re ready to make people happy, and now all you have to do is master the skills so you can get the job done.
The 10 Skills You Need to Know
Here are 10 skills to develop if you want to smoke, grill and bake your way to happiness on the Big Green Egg:
1. Temperature control is critical.
Don’t overheat on a ceramic cooker. If you overshoot the temperature, it can be tricky to get it back down. A fire lives off of airflow, so as a general rule, the more you open your top and bottom vents, the higher the temperature. Hone this skill by using a dual probe wireless thermometer. Wait a while before sinking $300+ into a ThermaPro Boss 500 that does much of the temperature management for you. Learn the skill first.
Ready to handle the Thanksgiving turkey prep assignment this year? You’ve got this! Know when you thaw and when to fire up the Big Green Egg for a perfect bird. Here’s a guide for approximate cooking times: 1-¼ to 1-½ hours for wings, 10-12 hours for pork shoulder (6-7 lbs), 4 hours for baby back ribs or spare ribs, and 12-13 hours for a 6-pound flat brisket.
3. Fire Building.
Always use natural lump charcoal (no briquettes or lighter fluid) and make sure you have enough fuel for the recipe. Arrange large pieces for the bottom layer, and mix in two or three pieces of starter cubes. For smoking a brisket or pork shoulder, build the charcoal stack to the top of the fire box and bring up the heat slowly. You never want to add more charcoal while you’re cooking, so too much is always better than too little. For grilling and searing, keep the lid open the first 7-10 minutes and build a fast 400+ fire.
4. Always Spatchcock your poultry.
Even turkey if you want the truth, unless you want that perfect picture of a golden bird for the dining room table. Spatchcocking cooks faster, more even. Brine your poultry and season heavily to get the flavor throughout the bird.
5. Low and slow!!!
If you have the time, 225-235 degrees. If you don’t, make time! Higher cook temps shorten cook times but create more challenge. Especially for beef brisket or beef short ribs. The 3-2-1 method always delivers for pork ribs. That means smoke the ribs for three hours, wrap them with liquid for two hours, and sauce them for the final hour. Add butter and “honey for the money” during the wrap. Never open the lid unless you have to while smoking.
6. Moisture is your friend.
Use a diffuser and water pan with 1/1 water and apple juice. If I’m smoking a Boston butt, I’ve got the ConvEGGtor legs-up over the fire, then the water pan filled about halfway, then the cooking grid over that and the pork shoulder on that.
7. Beef brisket Texas Style.
Inject it with prime dust and rub with salt, pepper and garlic. To quote my good friend who lives in Dallas and has his own BBQ brand, “This separates the men from the boys.” And the women from the girls. Try different brisket styles, but you can’t top this one. Smoking is a key skill, and here’s where that skill really pays off.
8. Good wood.
The more you use your Big Green Egg grill, the more you appreciate high-quality wood smoke. It will infuse your BBQ meats with the best flavors. Match up apple wood with pork, for example, and get to know the other best matches. Use large wood chunks and add three or four to the top of your initial lump charcoal build.
9. EGGspander versatility.
The Big Green Egg EGGspander rack gives you three tiers of cooking to go vertical with your barbecue food. Experiment with 35 or so combinations, and you become more skilled at space allocation. Sit your meats on the large base grid, and experiment with half-moon grids and the slide-out top rack for veggies and whatever you wish. Flip it upside down and you can grill a ribeye cowboy or even caveman style. Add a pizza stone and EGGsessories to turn your kamado cooker into a brickhouse oven. So many possibilities!
10. Maintenance and care.
Take care of your Big Green Egg and it can easily outlive you and even become a family heirloom. The main thing you want to avoid is a crack of any kind in the ceramics, which includes the exterior kamado oval shell itself, the fire box, the fire ring and, to a lesser extent, the convEGGtor plate setter. Proper ash removal before each cook ensures optimal air flow. Clean cooking surfaces after every cook while they’re warm. Buy a high-quality cover and do your best to keep it in a dry and cool setting. There is skill in cleanliness.
The Big Green Egg is much different than a gas grill, pellet grill, kettle grill or other charcoal grills. It can make just about any barbecue food you want. All it takes is a little time to learn the ropes, and after you’ve tried your hand at smoking, grilling and baking for a bit, you will be the master of your own BBQ cookout and ready for the next go-round.