The homebound world has forced us to find out which family members had quality cooking skills. Cooking gadgetry (air fryers? Instant Pot?) started trending. Now that the weather is improving, the backyard kitchen beckons, and it’s time to bring out the big guns: Big Green Egg and the Utah-based Traeger grills.
Both have a similar goal: optimize and simplify the ancient method of cooking meat (and veggies) slow and low. Here’s a breakdown of why these two outdoor cooking stars inspire fanatical followings (and how much it would cost to join the faithful).
BIG GREEN EGG
Enthusiasts call themselves Eggheads, and this ceramic cooker has a cultlike following for a reason. Recognized by its signature egg shape and dark green color, the BGE can grill, bake and smoke foods—and even make pizzas—regulated by its two air draft doors. The idea of cooking in ceramic is reminiscent of Moroccan tagines, known to produce tender, flavorful meals. The BGE is heated by specially formulated charcoal, and the larger eggs (there are seven sizes) can reach temps of 1,200 degrees. The temperature is achieved in good time, and the draft doors allow surprisingly specific heat control. Food cooks pretty quickly, unless you want the ribs to cook for a few hours, and then low temps are used.
COST: The Mini (smallest cooking surface, at 10 inches) is $400. The largest (29 inches) retails for $2000. Upside: These have been handed down in families because they are fairly indestructible.
COOKBOOK: Celebrating the Ultimate Cooking Experience, by Big Green Egg Inc.; Andrews McMeel Publishing; updated 2014. This book has recipes that run the gamut from appetizers to desserts and a vegetarian section, $38.
TRAEGER WOOD PELLET GRILL
This wood pellet grill is all about the flavor of cooking over an open flame with the versatility, convenience and safety of a convection oven. Hardwood pellets feed the flames and a fan circulates the heat, which adds that distinct wood-fired flavor to food—customizable with a variety of wood types, depending on what you’re grilling, smoking, roasting or barbecuing. While pork ribs are the most popular choice for people new to the “Traegerhood,” the oven-like controls allow for the consistent heat necessary for baking everything from cookies to the ever-trendy sourdough bread. Because you can just “set it and forget it,” there’s no need to hover over an open flame for hours checking and adjusting temps, and the built-in drip system means dreaded grease fires are a thing of the past.
COST: Traeger’s three series of WiFi-enabled home grills range from $800 for the Traeger Pro 575 to $2000 for the Traeger Timberline 1300. Portable wood pellet grills available for $300 to $470. (Add-on accessories include hardwood pellets, grill covers, grilling tools, sauces and rubs.)
COOKBOOK: Traeger Everyday Cookbook, by Traeger Grills; Traeger Pellet Grills, LLC; 2011. This book contains dozens of meal, appetizer and dessert recipes and guides to Traeger-brand wood pellets, sauces and spices. Traeger’s website also provides access to more than 1,600 recipes, including the devotee-favorite “3-2-1 Rib” recipe, and an active community of Traeger fanatics eager to offer grilling advice, $20.
Story by Christie Porter & Lynn Kalber