Why top chefs love the Big Green Egg

Why top chefs love the Big Green Egg

by Ollie Lloyd 8 June 2017

From slow-cooking directly on the coals to infusing a delicious wood smoke flavour into fresh peas, there’s very little the Big Green Egg can’t do. Ollie Lloyd asks some of the UK’s greatest chefs why they love them so much.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs.

Ollie is the founder of Great British Chefs. He has been experimenting in the kitchen since he was five years old. Never known for shying away from a challenge, he has taken on some of the most obscure cuts of meat and ingredients that he can lay his hands on. As a marketeer, he's worked in the US, South and Southeast Asia, always taking the scenic route that might involve food trucks, hawkers and elusive soup dumplings.

As every foodie knows, there has been a cooking revolution in the UK. However, one area that seemed neglected was the world of barbecue. For too many foodies, barbecues are still synonymous with undercooked and burned meat, the stress of getting the coals going and a meal that is more about the spectacle than the end results. I have always been against gas barbecues on principle and I found that my standard barbecue was only used on rare occasions, with ingredients requiring lots of pre-cooking to get the flavours right.

Then a few years ago I came across Big Green Egg. I had seen chefs like Daniel Clifford (who owns over seven!), Simon Rogan and David Everitt-Matthias using them (they're also used in forty Michelin-starred kitchens and 300 other restaurants across the UK), American friends of mine had mentioned them and when I tried a steak cooked on the Egg at a super-hot temperature, I knew I needed one. ‘The Big Green Egg’ might sound a bit weird, but this barbecue-meets-oven instantly opens doors for any committed foodie. If you want to stun your friends with your barbecuing prowess at home, this verdant metal orb is the key to unlocking next-level cooking with fire.

Whether you’re slow-smoking a pork shoulder to pull apart and serve in sandwiches, looking for the perfect sear on a thick, juicy bone-in rib-eye, want to go the whole hog and cook an entire pig over the course of twenty-four hours or just like to have a controlled flame over which you can cook anything you like, the Big Green Egg can do it all. It’s a world away from normal barbecuing. It’s also incredibly easy to get going – just a few firelighters lit twenty minutes before you want to cook is all that’s needed.

I use my Big Green Egg whenever I can, and might even be described as an ‘Egg bore’! I have cooked fish, meat, veg and even pizza on it. It is hard to describe how good asparagus is when you throw it on the grill with a dash of quality olive oil and salt. The results have been impressive and every time friends come round for dinner they always want to know about it. My wife told me last September that we were using the Egg too much!

Robin Gill
Robin Gill loves the versatility of the Big Green Egg and the control it gives him during cooking
He also likes using it to cook more unusual ingredients, such as Jerusalem artichokes or, as pictured here, heart

I am constantly trying new recipes on it and, like all good foodies, I wanted to learn a few more tricks and ways to cook on it. That’s why I talked to a couple of Britain’s top chefs to discover their favourite things about these must-have items.

'First and foremost, the important thing to know about the Big Green Egg is just how precisely you can control the temperature – that's what makes all the difference,’ says Robin Gill, chef-owner of The Dairy in Clapham. ‘It means you can try out different techniques or cook certain ingredients on it which a normal barbecue is too unpredictable for. Delicate vegetables such as peas or cabbage work great, but one thing we love to do at The Dairy is throw Jerusalem artichokes directly on the coals. You leave them for hours, and when you take them out and peel them you're left with this lovely, almost toffee-like flesh that's taken on all the wonderful flavours of the smoke.'

To the average person a Big Green Egg might look like a barbecue, but the way it controls heat and cooks food sets it apart. 'You need to approach cooking on the Egg in a slightly different way to a standard barbecue, but it doesn't take long to get used to,’ explains Robin. ‘Basically, the middle of the grill is the hottest part, which is great for searing and fast cooking, but around the outside is a little less intense, so if you don't want to cook something over such a high heat you can move it to the side. It's things like that which makes it such a useful tool for serious cooks.'

First and foremost, the important thing to know about the Big Green Egg is just how precisely you can control the temperature – that's what makes all the difference.

Robin Gill

The second you throw some dough onto the pizza stone in a Big Green Egg, it crisps up and looks beautiful.

Bruno Loubet

Bruno Loubet, head chef at London’s acclaimed Grain Store, is a big fan of the Big Green Egg, too. ‘I just love its versatility. You can bring it to a very high temperature or keep it low, depending on what you want to do. But it can do more than just grill – if you get it really hot and place a pizza stone in it you can cook pizza or bread just like you would in a proper wood-fired oven, something a normal oven (that only goes up to around 230°C) simply cannot do.'

Pizza, bread, Jerusalem artichokes – already, these are things you normally wouldn’t dream of cooking on your bog standard barbecue. But no matter what you want to cook, whether it’s an experimental slow-smoked recipe you’ve spent weeks perfecting or just a really nice piece of beef that deserves quality cooking, the Big Green Egg just gives you that extra element of control. And it’s that aspect which chefs seem to love the most. 'You can obviously cook anything you like on a Big Green Egg, but it will always cook it better than a normal barbecue because it's so easy to control the temperature and keep it at a consistent heat,’ says Bruno. ‘I love to cook shoulder of lamb – spiked with rosemary, garlic and anchovies – slowly for hours, and then open the vents towards the end of the grilling time to give it a really nice colour and crust. And as a keen gardener, I can grow things like baby leeks and just throw them on the Big Green Egg for a couple of minutes until they’re soft and beautifully charred.'

Foodies like me always want to know how chefs get the results they do. The Big Green Egg is one of those game-changing pieces of equipment that is worth its weight in gold. As we start seeing the first signs of summer there has never been a better time to get an Egg, and we even have a chance to win one on our site. Click here to enter, and good luck!