While the heat and humidity soar across the Tampa Bay area, there’s no better time to fire up your backyard smoker or cooker to wow your friends and family.
I have been an avid griller since I bought a cheap gas grill when I was 20. As a then-father of three, I wanted a way to cook hot dogs and burgers for my sons. Twenty-five years later, my life changed when I purchased an XL Big Green Egg in 2014. I’ve moved the 219-pound smoker across the country multiple times when I switched jobs and moved. I refuse to let any mover touch Precious — the name of my Egg.
Eggheads, as Egg owners call themselves, build outdoor kitchens and patios around their cookers. The Eggs are like the centerpiece of Grandma’s fine china on a Thanksgiving table.
When you light an Egg and the temperatures rise, the scent of meat or vegetables searing over lump charcoal permeates the neighborhood. You will never have a hard time getting relatives or friends to come for a cookout.
I often cook tri-tip, porchetta and picanha. Picanha is a cut of beef that comes from an area on the rump of the cow above a fat cap. It’s delicious and was made popular in Brazilian steakhouses. Many times, I have made paella on my Egg. It’s delicious. My favorite dessert to make on an Egg is blackberry cobbler.
Big Green Eggs are more expensive than gas grills and other charcoal smokers at big-box retailers. Depending on the seller, prices range from about $400 for a Mini Egg to more than $4,000 for an XXL model. (One benefit Eggheads love is the lifetime warranty.)
The kamado-style cookers are shaped like, well, an egg and have a heavy ceramic lid. The cookers use lump charcoal, not briquettes, and can smoke and grill any kind of meat. They can even bake pizzas, pies and cookies.
Unlike steel smokers, Eggs can hold temperatures for more than 18 hours without adding more coals or pellets. (Is it really grilling or smoking if you plug your cooker into electricity?) The heat in Eggs can reach more than 600 degrees to sear steaks like at high-end restaurants.
While I learned to smoke pork shoulders, briskets and other meats on other types of smokers, the methods did not transfer to the Big Green Egg. Lighter fluid is one thing you never want to use on a Big Green Egg. The liquid will permeate the ceramic cooker and the foul taste will permeate your food.
Another big difference is that I cannot simply open the lid of an Egg when I want to check the temperature of a meat. The Egg must be burped — raising the lid in stages — to prevent flames from shooting at your face or arms. I’ve singed the hair on my forearms more times that I want to remember.
The best deals are found at Egg events held around the country, including many excellent ones in Florida. (An Eggfest is scheduled for Oct. 2 in Tampa; check flgulfcoasteggfest.com for details.) The bigger events often have more than 100 Eggs throwing smoke for hundreds of attendees.
Eggfests allow cooks to show off their grilling, smoking or baking skills. The camaraderie revolves around the love of smoking and grilling meats.
The key to saving money is to buy the Egg before the event. The sellers, often grilling stores, offer a deep discount on Egg packages and accessories. The cooks use the Egg for the event and the people who buy the Eggs take the cookers home at the end of the day. You can save hundreds of dollars.
If you’re lucky, bargains can also be found at some retailers. My son and I once wandered into a store that had marked down all grills and cookers because it no longer wanted to sell them. In one corner sat two XXL Eggs. My heart raced when I spotted the massive cookers, each weighing 375 pounds. They can cook 40 burgers, 16 whole chickens or about 20 steaks on a 29-inch cooking surface.
I stood guard over them, thinking of multiple reasons why I needed to walk away — but I couldn’t. The retailer had reduced the price from $4,000 to $1,400. I called my wife a few times. She told me to quit wasting time and buy it. I waffled, though.
After 20 minutes, my son barked, “Will you make your mind up already? I’m buying the other one.”
Our XXL smokers were delivered days later. We’re egging.
BBQ Buddha Game Day Wings
1 pound chicken wings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Big Green Egg Sweet and Smoky Seasoning
1 cup Big Green Egg Vidalia Onion Sriracha Barbecue Sauce
Set the Egg for indirect cooking with the convEGGtor at 350 degrees F/177 degrees C with applewood chunks. Drizzle wings with vegetable oil. Add Big Green Egg Sweet and Smoky Seasoning to the wings and toss to cover.
Add the seasoned wings to the Egg. Cook for 30 minutes and flip to the other side. Cook another 20 minutes and remove from the Egg.
Increase the temperature of the Egg to 400 degrees F/204 degrees C. Coat the wings with the Big Green Egg Vidalia Onion Sriracha Barbecue Sauce. Place the wings back on the Egg and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce has caramelized. Remove the wings from the Egg and let rest for 5 minutes.
Optional: Garnish with cilantro, chopped green onions, toasted sesame seeds or fresh lime.