Just to be clear, Ryan Boone and his neighborhood friends Kevin Anderson and Scott Schuber aren’t paid spokesmen for The Big Green Egg. They don’t sell the outdoor cookers, work for retailers who do or own stock in the company that created them in the mid-1970s.
But you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise when you get these guys talking about their “Eggs.” Because they positively gush, heaping superlative upon superlative about the advantages of smoking pork shoulders and ribs or grilling pork and beef tenderloins in the distinct, ovum-shaped, wood-burning stoves.
“I always had a gas grill and was hesitant to give it up because of the convenience,” said Schuber. “But, really, this is almost as easy to use and so much better.”
“I can’t eat ribs any other way now,” said Anderson.
“People who have Eggs - well, it’s really like belonging to a cult,” said Boone. “It’s a cult phenomenon.”
That part about the cult is no exaggeration, and the passion he and his friends have for their Eggs parallels that of other Big Green Egg owners both locally and around the country. There are hundreds of Big Green Egg websites and blogs, more than 18,000 fans on the Big Green Egg Facebook page, and 1,500 #BigGreenEgg followers on twitter.
“Once you have one, you understand,” Boone said. “You’ll never be able to go back to cooking on anything else.”
So just what is a Big Green Egg and what makes it so adored by its users?
For those unfamiliar, the Big Green Egg is a relatively new twist on an old idea. Specifically, it’s a kamado-style cooker, which is an ancient type of Japanese ceramic oven.
Its dome shape creates an effect like that of a convection oven, allowing a constantly swirling, even distribution of heat. Its ceramic exterior is air-tight, unlike the seams on a conventional metal barbecue pit, and is able to withstand temperatures as high as 1,200 degrees.
The Egg is vented, with two small openings at the top and bottom, which create the draft that allows the lump wood charcoal that it uses to flame or smoke. But since it’s mostly sealed, the briquettes burn more slowly than does charcoal on a conventional grill, which means it uses fewer of them and they last longer.
While the Big Green Egg is the most popular kamado-style oven, it’s not the only one of its kind. Primo makes a similar product, and several other brands sell kamado ovens in different shapes.
But the Big Green Egg -which actually comes in five sizes, the smallest of which is not so big at all - is the one that has done the best job marketing itself and has the most fervent devotees. When you ask them why, their reason is simple:
“You basically can’t screw it up,” said Boone. “You can cook meat perfectly every time.”
Boone cooks a variety of meats on his Egg, which can be used as a grill, smoker or brick oven. He grills steaks, wings, tenderloins or fish over a direct heat. For fattier meats that need a long, slow cook - pork shoulder or ribs, for instance -he uses the Egg as a smoker.
“The ceramic is really effective at maintaining a constant temperature,” said Boone, who recently smoked a pork shoulder to perfection for 13 hours at a temperature of between 190 and 220 degrees. “Once you adjust the air vents to get the right temperature, it will basically stay there and you don’t have to worry about it.”
Anderson also likes the versatility of the Egg. Among his specialties is baby back ribs, which he coats with a dry rub then smokes for five hours or so at a temperature of 200 degrees or so. The result is a slab of ribs that is tender and moist but never enough so that the meat falls of the bone.
“If the meat falls off the bone, that means they boiled it,” he explained. “Actually, you should have to just pull it a little bit.”
One of Schuber’s favorite dishes to do on his Egg is Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. He smokes the bacon-wrapped, jalapeño-and-cheese-stuffed tenderloins over an indirect heat, basically using the Egg as a convection oven. It keeps the lean tenderloin, which can easily dry out on a conventional grill or in the oven, moist and flavorful.
“It’s really foolproof,” he said.
If there are any downsides to the Big Green Egg, chief among them would be cost. They’re not cheap, ranging from $600 for the smallest size to $1,500 for the bigger ones. That’s not including the attachments, upgrades, wood-burning charcoal and the all-important frames, which are needed to hold the Eggs.
They’re also really heavy, which makes them difficult to transport and not terribly well-suited to activities like tailgating, for instance.
But Big Green Egg owners wouldn’t trade theirs for the world.
“It has totally changed the way we cook,” Boone said. “All for the better.”