When I first saw the Grilla in person a few things jumped out at me. First, it was very unique but mildly ugly at initial glance. It took a closer look to really appreciate it. It was that thought that brought me back to the purchase of our Big Green Egg XL (BGE XL). That triggered a whole host of other ideas that basically brought me to the realization that the Grilla, whether it intended to be or not, was basically a pellet powered BGE XL.
That may sound odd at first but when you stop to consider price point, cooking ability and the size of both cookers, I think you can make a case for a side by side comparison. So I have jotted down my thoughts comparing and contrasting the two in hope of helping someone who is currently considering either of these two units. I understand before the first comparison is even made there will be members of both camps who will cry foul and make points contrary to my points. I completely understand this, as I too am passionate about the barbecue pits I own. This is just my take and comparison on the two having owned each and it is not a personal attack on you, your choice or your favorite barbecue contraption! With that out of the way let’s begin.
The list below is in the order that ideas occurred to me and I did not change it for purposes of publishing. Also in bold at the end of each paragraph I will list which unit is better in that particular category and include a tally at the very end.
- Size / Weight / Cooking Surface - Both the BGE XL and the Grilla take up approximately the same space when the BGE XL has it’s side tables (known as mates) folded down. They are not the same weight with the Grilla weighing in at nearly 100lbs lighter. The Grilla has a larger standard cooking area (488 sq in) than a Big Green Egg XL (452 sq in). An additional upper rack can be purchased for the BGE, but the reviews I’ve seen are mixed on this rack so I only compared what comes standard for this one piece. Winner: Grilla
- Assembly - For the Grilla there was none. Once you remove the shipping and packing material, it is ready to go. Nothing to put together, no shelves, no nest (a cradle of sorts made to elevate the Egg to a comfortable cooking height) to build, no hinge system for the lid, nothing. (I can tell you there is nothing more unnerving than paying over $1200 for a XL Egg and to sit on pins and needles hoping the nest they provide actually holds this 200lbs + of ceramic up after you have put it together). I understand why the BGE is shipped the way it is. It is after all an egg and is fragile so I don’t see any real way around the assembly issue for BGE. Winner: Grilla
- Sturdiness - I’ve had our BGE XL for almost a year and I have already broken two parts. Of those two parts, the first (the fire ring) was definitely my fault as I sat it down harder than I should have. The second part was the plate setter that broke while I had it propped up and was reloading some charcoal while the plate setter was hot. I don’t know in that particular instance that I was at fault. It literally cracked like a saltine cracker and fell apart in the middle of a competition. Honestly, I feel the way I reloaded the charcoal was in a manner in which any cook would have done. I can’t necessarily blame BGE, I realize I am probably asking more of the unit than it was intended for by competing with it. The rigors of competition and travelling are huge and unless a unit was designed with that in mind it might be a bridge too far. I don’t foresee that being a problem with the Grilla as it is 18 gauge steel and has a great powder coat and no fragile parts. I’ve only had the Grilla for a month and a half, but the Grilla wins here in my opinion. Winner: Grilla
- Lid - Each cooker has a unique take on lids. The BGE uses what amounts to heavy duty springs to assist in the lifting and holding of it’s lid up. This design works and I would hate to feel the full weight of it’s lid each time I had to open it. The Grilla addresses the lid with a swing design. There is no lid to take off or to lift up on a hinge, instead it slides open on a set of very smooth ball bearings. The hinged lid on the BGE requires more space to the rear of the cooker, meaning it takes up more space while you are cooking with it. The Grilla lid swings out of the way neatly and easily. The BGE method of dealing with the lid does provide a little more access to the pit, but it is nominal in comparison. All things considered for longevity of the moving parts, space, etc I have to give a very slight edge to the Grilla. Winner: Grilla
- Made Where? - This seems to be less of an issue for some people in our very global economy. For me, though, it’s still a very important factor. I served in the military and supporting products made in the USA is a priority to me, even when they cost more. The Grilla is made in the good ole US of A by Americans in Michigan. The BGE XL is made in Mexico. Most of the Grilla’s pellet pit competitors are made in China. They may be American companies but there are very few companies who actually manufacture pellet pits here. Grilla does and, to be honest, that makes me proud. I guess it is comforting to note that the BGE XL is at least made in North America. Again for some this is a non issue and is far less important than overall price, for me it is an issue. Winner: Grilla
- Full Product Line - BGE is a well established company, with decades of experience and millions of happy customers. They truly do have a BGE to fit just about every need. I think most of them are just flat too small and that is why we bought an XL over the mini, small, medium or large. Grilla currently offers only one size. I don’t know if there are plans for a larger unit, but I hope so. I have to give the nod to the BGE XL on this one. Winner: BGE XL
- Working Area - I think the BGE XL with it’s accessory “mate” shelves have about the same area as the Grilla’s shelves. The difference though is that the BGE XL’s shelves are only blocked on the back side. This allows larger pans to be balanced on the shelves. If you only considered this factor I would say BGE is the slight winner. If you take a minute to look at how the working area is constructed and the materials used I think there is a different story to tell. The Grilla’s shelves are stainless steel and are a fixed part of the unit. They are also so sturdy I stood my 9yr old on one to test it. I do not feel confident enough to stand a 60lb kid on my mate shelves, especially with as wobbly as the BGE is in its nest. I am going to call this a draw. Winner: Draw
- Cook-ability - I think both the BGE XL and the Grilla win here. The BGE XL wins because it can hit near crucible temps and you can find Royal Oak lump charcoal at nearly any hardware, big box store or grocery. The Grilla wins because it is just flat out easier to cook with it. You flip a switch and you achieve the temp you are looking for. Some in the BGE XL camp will of course bring up that you can hook up a BBQ Guru device and nearly do the same thing. Except you really can’t. The Guru, as amazing as it is, still only works once you have arranged your coal in the BGE XL and lit a proper fire. So no matter how you slice it, achieving the appropriate temperature is more difficult in the BGE XL. Both units can cook for hours and hours on end with a load of fuel and both have turned out some of the best and easiest barbecue I’ve ever eaten. If pellets were more of a mainstay and you could find them at any store I might give a slight edge to the Grilla. Because they are slightly harder to find I think I’m calling this one too close to call. Winner: Draw
- Moving - Every single time I move our BGE XL, I worry that I might break something. This may not be as pronounced with smaller BGE’s or for those people who are not moving their BGE frequently. I worry its going to tip or the nest is going to fall apart. Sadly for BGE XL it would be so easy to fix this with a much better designed nest. In fact the more I think about it, 90% of my personal complaints about the BGE XL center around that terrible contraption they pass off as a nest. If you pay $1200+ for something that is fragile it should come with something that ensures it’s safety, something that adds a sense of sturdiness and stability, something that…well isn’t poorly made to be frank. The Grilla is solid, easy to move and never gives you slightest pang of worry when moving it. This honestly is something I probably would never have noticed had I not owned a BGE XL. Winner: Grilla (by a mile)
- Accessorizing - Some people are all about the accessories that are available with a particular unit. In this area I have to give the nod to the BGE XL. There are accessories galore, most of which are over-priced, but they all seem to be of fairly good quality. The Grilla is so new that there isn’t much in the way of accessories. I think there will be in time, but I can only comment on what is available at the moment. Winner: BGE XL
- Roughing It - One of the negatives of all pellet pits is that they require electricity. So the ability to take them tailgating or off to a hunting camp where electricity may not be available is a limiting factor. Of course, some inventive pellet-heads have used batteries and generators but it’s not what the average guy would bother to do. That said, the BGE XL does not require electricity, so it gets the nod here even though I think it is very fragile and hauling it to a deer camp would give me pause. Winner: BGE XL (by the slightest of margins)
- Price - I know the pricing on the BGE XL’s vary and some folks have gotten some great deals. I will have to go only with what we paid for our BGE XL versus the shipped MSRP of the Grilla for comparison. Our BGE XL, with Nest, Plate Setter, Mates, taxes, etc out the door was just over $1200. The Grilla delivered to your door is $1495 (pricing based on information from Grilla and subject to change).
First off the Eggheads will say “but you don’t have to buy the plate setter or the mates.” My reply would be “Yes, you really do”. For low and slow cooking the plate setter isn’t an option, it’s a requirement. The mates (shelves) are optional to some, but not to me. Furthermore, many BGE owners would consider the purchase of a pit temperature control device such as a BBQ Guru’s Party Q a near requirement. This unit is the entry level of the BBQ Guru devices and rings in at $130. So by the time you factor all of that in we are talking very similar money.
The next argument from Eggheads will be that “I only paid $1000 for the same set up you have”. To that all I can say is: “Great! We worked a deal on ours but didn’t manage as good a deal as you did.” All things considered such as options, assembly, etc I am honestly going to call this one a draw. I know the BGE XL is technically cheaper, but I think you have to factor in the assembly time and accessories into the overall cost for this to be a like comparison. Winner: Draw
- Community – For many having a lively community of users and experts to ask questions of and interact with is the single most important factor. There are literally hundreds of sites dedicate to the BGE and kamado style cookers. There are nearly an equal number of sites dedicated to pellet cooking. No, the sites aren’t specifically for the Grilla, but you can bet there are plenty of pellet-heads out there to learn from. All things considered I would say this is pretty even, but since the Eggheads have been around longer I can only assume they have had more time to amass a great amount of knowledge and recipes pertinent to their specific cooking platform. Winner: BGE XL (by a very slight margin)
Totals*: 7 9
*all draws were listed as a win for both units
By my very nature I hate articles that call both units in a comparison a winner, it really is one of my biggest pet peeves. The whole purpose in comparing something is to pick a winner. Car and Driver and Consumer Reports does it and so should we as bloggers / reviewers. In this case numerically the Grilla did win based solely on the categories but I think more consideration has to be given to the actual cook who is going to use the pit. With that said the big question obviously is: which should you buy? Well that depends. :)
The BGE XL is a fine cooker and I still enjoy cooking on it despite my complaints about the nest and it’s fragile nature. For those that prefer a more hands on approach to cooking that includes lighting a fire and accessories then I would say the Egg is the winner. I’ve turned out a lot of great barbecue on our BGE in the year we’ve had it. I’ve even got a couple of trophies from the entries cooked on it. It is versatile, it is proven and despite some corners being cut in quality in an effort to make better profit margins, it is still a good cooker.
The Grilla is a fine cooker as well. I am learning to love it more each day and there really isn’t much to complain about other than price. I think the buyer who loves the ease of flipping a switch and turning out great food with as little effort as possible will gravitate to the Grilla. It’s hard not to love just how easy this cooker is and I know I can win trophies with it as well. As the pellet options and availability are addressed, I think the pellet cooking world as a whole will over take much of the grilling/barbecue market. That is just my personal opinion, but I think it’s a fairly safe bet at this point.
You honestly cant go wrong with either choice as they are both fantastic cookers. This is like trying to pick between a BMW and a Mercedes. No matter what you will be well taken care of. All I can say is I have driven both and as of this very moment if I had to write the checks over again I would likely buy the Grilla. I recommend you taking a hard look at the type of cook you are and what your expectations are of a unit and apply what you read in this review accordingly.
Happy Grillin’ Folks!