NOTE: The Bubba Keg has been re-branded to the Big Steel Keg.
If you're a frequent visitor to GrillandBarrel.com, you know that I'm the proud owner and devotee of the Big Green Egg and that I've been evaluating a Bubba Keg for the past couple of months. Well, on Sunday I had the chance to do a side by side comparison and share the results here.
One of the things the Bubba Keg is missing is the array of accessories that the Big Green Egg enjoys. This includes an accessory for cooking indirect. While the Big Green Egg has the platesetter, Bubba Keg owners are left to their own devices to create an indirect cooking solution. Many of the Bubba Keg owners have resorted to pizza stones on the bottom grate, but that cuts your cooking capacity in half.
Recently, I repaired a busted platesetter that I had lying around. I then discovered that it fit perfectly inside the Bubba Keg, making the indirect setup identical to the Big Green Egg without sacrificing one of the cooking grates.
With identical setups between the two cookers and the need to smoke ~20 pork steaks, I decided it was time for a throwdown between these two cookers. First, I loaded each of them with the same amount of lump charcoal and lit them each in two places with my MAPP torch. Next, I installed a platesetter, disposable drip pan, and upper & lower cooking grates in each cooker. Once they came up to temp, I loaded each with pork steaks and settled in to make a few observations.
- Fire control - Advantage Big Green Egg. This was no surprise and I've blogged about it here before, but I find that temperature/fire control is much more consistent on the Big Green Egg and requires much less tuning. I find myself chasing the temperature on the Bubba Keg... a lot. In fairness, maybe I'm trying to apply too many BGE principles to managing the fire on the Bubba Keg.
- Heat Retention - Advantage Bubba Keg. I thought my BGE was well insulated, but then I discovered the Bubba Keg. I suppose the double walled construction with insulation makes the difference. I can lay my hands on the outside of the Bubba Keg with it at 300* and it's cool to the touch. The ceramic on the Big Green Egg is cooler than a metal cooker would be, but you still can't hold your hand on it for long at that temperature.
- Cooking Environment - Advantage Bubba Keg. The BGE has always produced moist and flavorful meat, so you can imagine my surprise on Sunday when I discovered that the Bubba Keg was even more moist. I don't use liquid in my drip pans, so I was shocked when I lifted the lid on the Bubba Keg after 2 hrs to find the pork steaks even more moist and juicy than those on the Big Green Egg. In fact, I'm still wearing the burn on my forearm from the escaping steam.
- Taste Test - Advantage Bubba Keg. As much as I'm an advocate for the Big Green Egg ( I've convinced about a half dozen people to buy one), I was stunned when my guests identified that the pork steaks from the Bubba Keg were more moist and tender than those from the Big Green Egg. In fairness, they were all good but there was a difference.
For this particular attempt (and much to my dismay), the Bubba Keg is the clear winner. However, I'll perform additional side-by-side tests to see if the results are consistent. Additionally I haven't weighted any of these areas but considered them equally for now. Every individual will value the characteristics differently and for me the fire control issue is huge and would outweigh the Bubba Keg advantages as it was only slightly better in the other areas.
Both cookers do a fine job and there are many other characteristics to consider when selecting an overall winner.
- Availability of accessories
- Online community/support
- User population & knowledge base
But I'll save those for another day.
Update: Here's a link to Round 2 of the Bubba Keg vs. The Big Green Egg.