Anyone who is slightly befuddled by the title of this post probably isn’t a member of the cult of ceramic grills, which are also known by their Japanese name of kamado grills. I used to be one of those people who sneered at my friends who went on and on about how wonderful their Big Green Eggs were and how they could cook perfect ribs or chickens or pork shoulders all the time because of the incredibly well-insulated ceramic grills’ ability to hold a constant temperature for so long.
“They’re just weak,” I thought. “Part of being a pitmaster is the ability to constantly adjust your heat source and air flow to try to compensate for flare-ups and hot or cold spots in your grill.” Heck, I even bragged about how well I could smoke meat on my gas grill, thanks to the use of a smoke box and wood chips. Then I broke down and bought a ceramic grill…
You can officially color me a member of the kamado zombie cult now as I sing their praises to anyone who will listen. In fact, after I bought my first ceramic grill, a Primo XL for our cabin up in the mountains, it wasn’t a month before I bought a Medium Green Egg for the back deck at my house. Why are they so amazing? Take a look at this illustration from the folks at Big Green Egg:
The design and construction of ceramic cookers allows for an incredibly efficient use of charcoal to maintain a constant temperature inside the cooking area. As opposed to thin-walled kettle grills or gas grills that for safety reasons have to have multiple open area for fumes (and heat) to escape, kamados are almost completely air-tight. With just minute adjustments of the air vents below and above the fire box, you can achieve and maintain temperatures as low as 150 degrees for smoking fish or as high as 800-900 degrees for searing a steak Pittsburgh-style.
Because the energy usage is so efficient, you burn much less charcoal than with a traditional grill. These grills use natural lump charcoal and can hold a temperature overnight while you smoke a pork shoulder. Gone are the days of setting your alarm for the middle of the night to wake up and restoke the fire. You should never use any starting fluid in these grills, especially because the porous ceramic walls of the cooker will soak that nasty stuff up and make all your food taste like a petroleum product. Yuck.
Now that I’m the proud owner of two of these grills, both of which are manufactured in Georgia, I’m in a unique position. No, not broke, but close. These things are pretty darned expensive, but I keep trying to rationalize the cost by my savings on charcoal and propane. My unique position is that I can directly compare the Big Green Egg and the Primo, two of the most popular ceramic grills on the market.
First off, let’s look at the Egg.