I’m a modern guy. A feminist. I flout outmoded notions of gender roles, which were constructed by an authoritarian patriarchy invested in maintaining the incumbent power structure. I believe the wage gap is a disgrace, and I am aware of my cisgender privilege. Now, with all of that said: Me grill. Me man, and man grill. Fire for man. Make meat hot! Ouch, ouch! Fire make hand hot too! Should’ve listened to woman about gloves.
I don’t claim to be a good cook, but the grill is my domain. Guests salute my artistry with the searing burner, my subtle char on the corn, my nearly salmonella-free presentation of the chicken sausages. I know that my wife, Heather, could grill just as well as I do, if not better. But she doesn’t, because she lets me have that. She allows me to prod the steaks and flip the burgers and baste the chicken with a subtle marinade of testosterone and pride. And to raise my self-esteem just a little bit higher (or possibly to tear it down), she got me a Big Green Egg.
The Big Green Egg, if you’re not familiar, is an ovoid ceramic grill that inspires cultish devotion. Heather got me one to serve as a birthday/anniversary/Christmas gift for probably the next decade. I don’t know how much it cost, exactly, but I expect that this purchase set back my retirement by at least five years. Five mouth-watering, smoke-infused, fall-off-the-bone years.
The Egg itself is merely the starting point in your colossal grilling investment. I also had to buy fireproof gloves, an electric fire starter, bags of lump charcoal, a ceramic heat diffuser, a wheeled stand, charcoal tongs, a pizza stone, a pizza peel and a digital thermometer. I maintained some self-restraint, though. I didn’t get the official dough rolling mat or the patio string lights or the “chef’s flavor injector,” which brings to mind an anesthesia device that would’ve been used by an unlicensed equine veterinarian circa 1901. I don’t need my cooking utensils to look like they came out of the basement in American Horror Story.
The Egg is powered by lump charcoal, and I’m going to admit that I still don’t really understand what lump charcoal is. I mean, it looks like wood that’s already been burned, but I guess you can burn it some more? All I know is that I have to light the charcoal with an electric torch that is the second most dangerous thing I own, after the Big Green Egg. The red-hot tip of the torch causes sparks to explode in all directions, tiny meteors sizzling out onto your arms, the deck, passing gasoline tanker trucks, etc. Once your charred wood is somehow reanimated with unholy fire summoned from a door that should never have been opened, then you’ve got to figure out what to do with the torch, the tip of which is still in a state of plasma and will remain so for the rest of the week. I stash it inside my gas grill, the only prison that can hold it.
Supposedly, people buy the Big Green Egg because it makes your food taste better. That might be partly true—beer-can chicken with a Harpoon Flannel Friday was the best use of beer since drinking it—but I think the real appeal lies in the danger. I mean, sure, my gas grill is a little bit dangerous. It sometimes erupts in a raging grease fire, and lighting the outer burner means staging a controlled propane explosion. But compared to the Big Green Egg, a gas grill is as dangerous as a Snoopy Sno Cone Machine. The Egg is a cauldron of calamity, a 700-degree fire kettle that’s equally happy smoking some ribs or smoking your entire neighborhood down to smoldering ruins. You have to “burp” the Egg before you open it, lest a shockwave remove your eyebrows. Call me Kenny Loggins, because I’m in the danger zone.
Roughly the first 300 pages of the BGE owner’s manual are devoted to warnings about the many ways in which you can ruin the Egg or yourself. The forums—and yes, there are forums—are filled with photos of charred tables and decks. Basically, you want to surround the Egg with those tiles that protect the bottom of the Space Shuttle when re-entering the atmosphere. Then you put on one of those silver suits worn by foundry workers who tend the blast furnace. Then you wheel your Egg to a safe location, ideally the middle of the Mojave Desert. Even so, you’re still in mortal peril. One guy on a forum wrote about how he lit his Egg out on his driveway and nonetheless burned down his house when an ember blew into the garage. So badass.
Since we got the Egg, I’d say 80 percent of our meals have been grilled (the other 20 percent: smoked). In fact, I’m about to fire it up right now—chicken thighs, pork tenderloin and maybe a steak. Hey, come on over! Dinner’s ready when you hear the sirens.