I really love cooking with charcoal! I consider myself lucky since I had the privilege of discovering the Kamado style BBQ very early on in my adult life thanks to my job. BBQ exhibitors can often be found in fireplace trade shows. In 2002, I discovered the Big Green Egg and fell in love with its concept. At last, it was possible to cook with charcoal while still maintaining perfect control of the temperature. We could even turn off the Kamado and reuse the charcoal for our next cooking session. In 2005, I finally bought my Big Green Egg. No one in my social circle had heard of the concept before but once they tasted the food I made, many of my friends purchased a Big Green Egg or a similar product from another brand.
Stealing the Show
Throughout the years and with the help of YouTube, I had a lot of fun making all kinds of dishes. Whether it was pizza, pulled pork, ham, brisket, smoked salmon, trout, shrimp, etc.; anything I would cook on the Big Green Egg was an instant hit and made our backyard an infamous spot for dinner guests to enjoy the best barbecue in town.
A Big Change
In 2018, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of Primo Grills, George Samaras. He truly has a passion for what he does! Evidently, it wasn’t long before he found out that I owned a Big Green Egg for several years. He was quick to tell me that if I wanted to reach a higher standard with my Grill, I absolutely had to make the switch for an oval Kamado. (The Big Green Egg is round).
In July 2019, I finally made the change! The project was not so simple, since my Big Green Egg was built in my outdoor kitchen counter. I had to redo the entire countertop in order to make the switch.
Take a look at my before and after pictures! The Big Green Egg is green; it's their trademark. After 14 years of use, it is still in excellent condition. It's undeniable that it's a high-quality product. However, as for the aesthetic look of my outdoor kitchen, the Primo is definitely an improvement! It is much more pleasing to the eye!
When installing the Primo Oval, I decided to place it on top of a non-combustible surface and facilitate access to the ash trap. This way, even if sparks escape, they will not damage the floor under the Kamado.
My Big Green Egg is the 'large' model. This is their most popular size. My Primo Oval is also the 'large' model. The depth of the Primo is almost similar to the diameter of the Big Green Egg. On the other hand, the width of Primo is by far superior. In fact, the BGE offers 255 square inches of cooking surface and the Primo Oval 300 offers 300 square inches.
The advantages of having an oval shape surpassed my initial expectations! I was able to fit two cedar boards at the same time on my Primo to grill salmon. I could never have done that in my Big Green Egg! The oval shape of the Primo is much more practical in terms of cooking space management.
Although I have no scientific method of measurement, I have noticed that the Primo releases less smoke than my Big Green Egg. Visually speaking, it seems to burn cleaner. Primo also requires less charcoal. I was wonderfully surprised when I realized, I could reuse the same charcoal 3 to 4 times when cooking. I could never use the same charcoal load more than twice with my Big Green Egg.
I like to use the reverse sear method to cook steaks. It allows me to have better control of the temperature of the steaks and therefore offer my guests the degree of doneness they prefer. With the Big Green Egg, indirect cooking can be done with the deflector plate. The only issue is that you have to remove it if you want to 'sear' the meat afterwards. Removing a hot deflector and placing it in a safe place can be a challenge.
With the Primo Oval, there is a 'divider' for the combustion chamber. This divider can put charcoal on one half of the firebox. Therefore, in order to warm up the meat, we can put the steaks on the side of the grill where there is no charcoal underneath. Once the steaks are ready to sear, we can lower the grill down closer to the charcoal and place the steaks in order to really sear them!
The firebox divider is an ingenious idea and it complements the oval shape of the Primo grill very well.
Another advantage that the Primo Oval offers is in the management of its grills. Instead of being in one piece like the Big Green Egg, the Primo Oval grill comes in two pieces. They are equipped with 'legs', which allows them to be positioned at two different heights. This feature had proven to be a real asset. We can move the grid closer to or away from the fire, depending on the intensity desired.
To light up the charcoal, I use the 'looftlighter'. This power tool looks like a stripping gun to remove paint on furniture. It has a heating element combined with a small fan that transfers high heat to the surface pointed by the ‘gun’. Igniting the charcoal takes about 2 minutes or less. The Big Green Egg takes about 10 to 15 minutes to reach 350F to 400F. The Primo Oval 300 takes between 15 and 20 minutes. I suspect that this is due to the heavier amount of ceramic in the Primo.
I'm really happy to have changed for a Primo Oval. It almost like reaching a higher level, a graduation! I will continue to experiment with different techniques in the coming months and years. For anyone who wants to increase the performance and flexibility of cooking on charcoal, the Primo Oval is the ultimate high-end option to consider!