We aren’t here to judge the cultural phenomenon that has formed around the Big Green Egg since its 1970s debut. Let’s just say that this ceramic beast of a charcoal grill and smoker has hatched numerous copycat cookers and die-hard devotees, who call themselves Eggheads.

We can, however, evaluate its performance and help you answer the question: Does anyone really need a $1,120 charcoal grill? For that price, you might expect an actual fossilized dinosaur egg, not a grill that looks like one. After all, some of our top-rated gas models cost a quarter of that price.

But the Big Green Egg isn’t trying to be an alternative to gas grills, and frankly, it doesn’t share much in common with the cooking experience of most charcoal grills, either. Rather than arranging coals to concentrate heat, you fill the lower hemisphere to capacity with lump hardwood charcoal. Once the coals are going, the design starts to make sense. Cast-ceramic walls an inch thick and a heavy lid with a heatproof gasket team up to trap heat. That allows you to use the dampers to precisely control temperature.

Barbecue Showdown
Two iconic charcoal grills face off.

Its design differences explain how the Big Green Egg is able to maintain low temperatures for long, slow cooking and also produce a roaring fire for searing steaks or grilling pizzas. We tested the Big Green Egg for both capabilities, and it performed extremely well.

For the low-and-slow test, our experts had no problem maintaining a temperature around 330° F for 6 hours. The impressive part is that we didn’t need to add coal or adjust the dampers once we dialed in the sweet spot—exactly the kind of control you’d want for ribs or pulled pork.

When we tested the Big Green Egg for high-heat cooking, we recorded an average temperature of 850° F at the grates. That puts the Egg on par with the commercial broilers used in some of the world’s best steakhouses, which allow chefs to char the outside of a porterhouse while leaving it perfectly medium-rare inside.

As nice as it is to be able to cook at both of these extremes, the burgers and brats you’re likely to cook this summer need nothing more than an even-burning fire. The Big Green Egg heats evenly, but it won’t do anything for your franks that a kettle grill wouldn’t. And it costs about 10 times as much. All of which is to say, the Egg is definitely not for the casual summer griller. But if you grill or smoke meats year-round or you routinely make coal-fired pizza, it might be worth considering this extraordinarily rare breed.


Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the June 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.