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Entries in Big Green Egg (50)

Tuesday
Jul142009

Throwdown: Bubba Keg vs. Big Green Egg

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
  • Portability
  • Durability
  • Cost

But I'll save those for another day.

Cheers,

Braddog


Update: Here's a link to Round 2 of the Bubba Keg vs. The Big Green Egg.

Monday
Jul132009

Ceramic Repair on a Big Green Egg

Platestter Repair_1I knew there was a reason that I didn't simply throw away the platesetter that I busted last year.  I kicked it over and had to replace it, but I just couldn't bring myself to discard it.

Lo and behold, I added a Bubba Keg to my arsenal this spring and needed a way to cook indirect.  I finally got around to repairing the old platesetter (I had bought a new one for my Big Green Egg) for the purpose of using it with this cooker.  I'd read quite a bit on the intePlatestter Repair_2rwebs about using JBWeld to repair busted ceramic, so I picked some up at the local do it yourself store.

I simply followed the directions, mixing together equal amounts of JBWeld from each of the tubes in the package.  I applied it generously to the edge of the broken platesetter and let it cure for ~18hrs.  It sure seems to be a solid "weld", but the real test will be how it holds up to the temps on a BBQ smoker.

IPlatestter Repair_3'll keep you posted on how it holds up, but as for now it's doing fine with a load of pork steaks on the Bubba Keg.

Cheers,

Braddog

Tuesday
Jun232009

St. Louis Home Fires

Although I'm very happy with my Big Green Egg, I've been thinking about a cabinet style smoker for capacity.  A few times I've been asked to cook for parties and the like and I just don't have the capacity that I need to be able to take on those jobs.  So, I've kinda been thinking about my next cooker.

On Friday afternoon, I headed out to West St. Louis County to check out a local grill and fireplace shop that I've heard about.  They're listed as a dealer for Backwoods, Cookshack, Traeger & Big Green Egg grills & smokers, just to name a few. 

The shop isn't huge, but they have a decent amount of their space dedicated to BBQ gear, including everything from gas grill parts, grills & smokers, smoking woods, charcoal, rubs, and sauces (the rest is dedicated to fireplaces and the like).  I found the staff to be pretty knowledgeable about the gear they sell and when I told them about Grill & Barrel, they quickly turned me onto the St. Louis BBQ Society and some local events that are planned for later this year.

I picked up a few things from the store and I plan to go back and get a first hand look at a Backwoods Party in a couple of weeks.  So if you're in the St. Louis area, support your local dealer and give the guys at St. Louis Home Fires a shot the next time you're in need of some BBQ gear.

Here's their contact info:

St. Louis Home Fires
(636) 256-6564
15053 Manchester Road
Ballwin, MO  63011
2 Miles West of Woodsmill / 141


Cheers,
Braddog

Tuesday
Jun162009

Slumming it

Sorry I've been mostly radio silent for over a week. I took my family on a beach vacation for a little R&R (and that doesn't mean ribs & roasts as was suggested by a friend of mine).BGE Top

We met up with family at a beach rental in Florida and as the master of the flame, I was given the responsibility for all outdoor cooking. So I went on the prowl for what the rental had to offer in the way of a grill. My hopes were momentarily lifted when I found the ceramic cap to a Big Green Egg. But if the rest of the egg was there, then it must have been locked away in the "owner's storage".

I found what I expected, a $100 gas grill like you'd find at a discount store. And due to the exposure to the salty air, it was rusting through with burners that were in bad need of replacement. In fact, the whole thing should have been replaced.

Nonetheless, I soldiered through a series of grilling events. Hamburgers, fish & shrimp, and steaks all turned out okay. However, I sure got a whole new appreciation for what I cook on at home.  Next time, I just gotta figure out a way to get a cooker to the beach with me.

Cheers,
Braddog

Friday
May292009

The Long, Slow Burn

When I tell folks that the pulled pork they're enjoying cooked for 12+ hrs (or longer), I often hear comments like "Wow, how many times did you have to add charcoal?". People are amazed when I tell them that I didn't add any and that I got a good night's sleep besides. So here's an example to illustrate the burn times that can be achieved with the Big Green Egg.

Over the holiday weekend, I cooked pork butt on three consecutive nights. The last night, Saturday, I fired up the BGE at ~9:00pm for an all nighter. I filled the BGE with lump charcoal almost to the fire ring. The butts cooked until ~2:00pm the next day. At that time, we bumped the temps to 300 degree and put a load of ABT's on the cooker. At ~4:00pm, I removed the plate setter and continued to cook at 300-350 degrees while I put a couple of chicken breasts on.

All told, the cooker ran for ~20 hours on a single load of lump charcoal.  I accomplished this without the aid of an electronic draft device (i.e. a Stoker or BBQ Guru), just controlling temps with the vents and giving the coals a good stir when switching between smoking and grilling.

So how about it?  How long have you cooked a single load of fuel?  And gas doesn't count!  :)

Cheers,
Braddog

Monday
May252009

Doing the Triple!

Like most holiday weekends, I find myself cooking for almost the entire weekend.  But that's okay, I love doing it.  This Memorial Day weekend was no different.  And for large meals, there's nothing better than pulled pork.  It's pretty simple and goes a long way.  (Here's my method for pork butt/pulled pork on the Big Green Egg).
Hi-temp & Lo-temp cooking! Hi-temp & Lo-temp cookin
It's sort of a tradition for me to feed the guys at work on the Friday before a holiday weekend.  So, Thursday night I fired up the Big Green Egg and cooked two pork butts totaling ~13lbs.  They went on the cooker at 5:45pm on Thursday night and came off around 8:15am on Friday.  That's one all-nighter in the books.

On Friday, I offered to bring pulled pork to a family gathering on Saturday for lunch.  So once again I fired up the cooker and went with a single pork butt.  (I also fired up the Bubba Keg for some bratwurst for dinner.)  This time, a six-pounder went on the BGE at 5:30pm on Friday night and I took it off at 6:30am on Saturday.  That's two all-nighters.

My neighbor had planned a backyard party for Sunday and asked me to cook pork butt, so ~15lbs. of pork butt went on the cooker at 9:30 on Saturday night and came off at ~2:00pm on Sunday.  That's three all-nighters in a row.

Even though the BGE does a great job and doesn't require much tending, I have stayed up late and gotten up early for the past 3 nights.  I'm sure glad it's raining today, I could use a nap!

Cheers,
Braddog

Friday
May222009

Impromptu BBQ

porkbutt-on-the-bgeI guess there's really nothing impromptu about a 14 hr cook, but on the drive home from the office last night I decided to put a couple of pork butts on the Big Green Egg and surprise my team with BBQ today for lunch. I hit the supermarket (Schnuck's had whole pork butt on sale for $.97/lb.) at 5:00pm and by 5:45pm had the egg fired up and steady at 250 degrees and the meat on.

I left for my daughter's softball game and returned home around 8:00pm to find the cooker at ~290 degrees.  I used this as an excuse to "tend the cooker" and fine tune my temps.  That means I sat by the cooker with my neighbor and enjoyed the evening until turning in around midnight.  (Don't tell my wife that tending the cooker isn't really all that necessary, shhh)

This morning at 6:00am I found the BGE chugging along peacefully at 255 degrees.  God, I love the smell of pork butt in the morning. 

By 8:30, I had the butts wrapped and resting in a cooler for the trip to the office.  I just finished pulling the pork and setting out the spread.  I rang the lunch bell (figuratively of course) and the stuff was gone in nothing flat. 

Next time, I'll feed the other half of my folks at the other campus.  I guess the day before the July 4th holiday should work for that.

Cheers,
Braddog

Thursday
May212009

Big Green Egg Ash Pan

bgeeap-3tAs I've mentioned here a number of times, I cook primarily on a Big Green Egg.  For the first two years that I owned this cooker, I simply used a bucket and the BGE ash tool to rake the ashes out of the bottom of the cooker.  That worked great until I built my new egg table.  Now, it's impossible to place bucket under the BGE directly, making ash removal a bit tougher.



bgeeap-5A friend of mine happened to be in the BBQ store recently and came home with tales of an ash pan that was curved to fit the outside of the Big Green Egg.  So, I acquired one of these for myself.  This works like a champ and has made ash removal much easier now the egg is on the new table.

Cheers,
Braddog

Monday
Apr272009

Bubba Keg - Assembly

bkassembledAfter implying that I needed to get a first hand look at a Bubba Keg to answer some of my questions (Review: Bubba Keg), the folks there obliged by sending me an evaluation unit.  And today, I completed the assembly and cooked on it for the first time.

The unit was really well packaged.  Based on my experience with a Big Green Egg, I was glad to find that the lid and hinge were pre-assembled and attached to the body of the cooker.  The directions were straightforward and the Bubba Keg was easily assembled in just a few minutes.  The only time I wished for an extra pair of hands was during the placement of the cooker on the stand.  It slides onto the stand just as it slides into a receiver hitch for transportation on your vehicle.  I was able to accomplish this by myself, but I'd recommend finding someone to help.

bk-with-burgersOnce I got it assembled, I coated the cooking grate and top damper (these are cast iron) with cooking spray.  Then, I added just a small amount of lump charcoal in the firebox and lit it with my MAPP torch.  It quickly came up to temp as I expected with this basic design.  In fact, I was at 500° in about 15 minutes.  I let it cook at this temp for almost two hours just to burn the "new" off of it and to season the cast iron parts.

Once I felt it had seasoned enough, I put a few burgers on for dinner.  It cooked nicely and my family couldn't tell that I hadn't cooked dinner on my BGE.  I look forward to cooking on it some more.  I can't wait to transport it on a couple of outings that I have coming up and to try low & slow cooking.

As a side note, I received an update from the folks at  Bubba Keg that the price for the unit has been adjusted to $599.  It's now available at Home Depot and select Sam's Club stores at that price.

Stay tuned!
Cheers,
Braddog

Monday
Mar302009

Review: Michelbob's BBQ Rub



Over the past few years, my parents have officially become snowbirds. That means they spend 6 months per year in sunny Florida. Those would be the same six months that I'm battling cold temperatures and wind while trying to perfect my BBQ technique. 

Recently, they began to sing the praises of a BBQ establishment in Naples, FL, called MichelBob's. Now I've never been to the place and I can't substantiate their claims about having the best ribs in America. However, my folks did send home a bottle of their rub/seasoning so I thought I'd give it whirl.

I tried the rub on a brisket that I cooked on the Big Green Egg on Sunday. I found it to be a little saltier and have a little more garlic than my standard brisket rub. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. As the brisket finished up, it formed a nice bark and the was very tasty. In fact, I think enjoyed it even more the next day.

I hope to get to Florida to try their BBQ Ribs first hand, but until then I will definitely continue to enjoy their rub. I wouldn't mind giving their sauce the once over, but alas no one has come forward with a bottle of that!   8>)

Cheers,
Braddog