I love to cook outside, so I've made it an informal goal to put together a versatile outdoor kitchen. A few years ago I acquired a nice DCS gas grill with a rotisserie. Next I added an EVO flat-top grill, a propane-powered griddle. Excellent appliances—but they don't cook with real wood charcoal. And I wanted something that could pump smoky campfire flavor into food. I also wanted something that could crank out kiln-type temperatures for fast searing, or be dialed down to a slow bake for a whole turkey. When I learned about the Big Green Egg, I was pretty sure I had to add one to my arsenal of outdoor firepower. It has not been a disappointment
The Big Green Egg is a modern version of a kamado, a type of Japanese earthenware cooker. The Egg's shell is a thick, glazed ceramic. According to the manufacturer, a space-age technology makes it extremely durable, and this I know for sure: the shipping company didn't break the Egg during transit, and I used it all winter long, taking it from below 0° to 700°F without a hitch.
Using a remote digital thermometer lets you keep track of your meat's internal temperature without lifting the Egg's lid and losing precious smoke.
I've got the medium-size Egg ($399 at Hearthsidedistributors.com), which has a 15-inch-wide grill that's big enough to handle a small turkey or a half dozen small fillets at once. The key to the Egg's operation is a finely tuned air-supply system that lets you tweak temperatures very precisely. I've cooked chickens for a couple of hours at as little as 250°F—enclosed in the ceramic cocoon, the meat cooks evenly from all sides and stays remarkably moist. And I must say, the Egg delivers the smoky drumbeat I was after, both immediately and after the fact: broth made from a chicken cooked in the Egg is remarkable for its smokiness.
While whole chickens cook best at slow speed, red meat benefits from a different approach. For example, I recently put a London broil on the grill directly over a bed of charcoal that was really crankinga, 700°F. (With its potential to be tough and dry or tender and tasty, I've long considered London broil the blind date of outdoor cookery.) I seared both sides, closed the lid, and dialed back the heat to 350° for about 12 minutes. Amazing! Moist, tender, and incredibly smoky, it was the perfect London broil. To see if I could duplicate this magic act, I tried another one a few days later. Well, moist and smoky are still two out of three...