Smoked Dressing

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So you have decided to go against the grain and you want to do something a little different for the southern stalwart side dish of grandma’s dressing.  No, not stuffing, this is the south, its never “stuffing” its dressing and it wouldn’t be the holidays without it.  Grandma has her way that has been perfected over literally generations, but maybe you want to do something different.  If that is the case then let me recommend this version that I came up with that you can do on your smoker / grill.

The thought process is simple.  Most people (at least the grilling fans I know) are taking the classic Thanksgiving/holiday turkey and moving it outside and grilling it or smoking it.  Some are still deep frying but between you and me I think that is a fad that is dying out a bit as people realize they can get just as good, if not better of a result with much, much less danger and effort by grilling their birds.

With that thought I wondered, “what would some dressing taste like with some light smoke on it?” and I thought I would give it a try.  Low and behold it is a bonafide winner in my book.   Since I was already tossing this classic dish on the smoker I also thought “why not throw some other stuff in it and see what happens.”  With that my Smoked Dressing was born.  So here is how I did it with a lot of pics and commentary along the way.

Ingredients:

  • 1lb Sage Breakfast Sausage
  • 1 loaf French Bread cut into 1in cubes
  • 1 each Red, Orange & Yellow Bell Pepper Diced
  • 1 medium Onion Diced
  • 16oz Fresh Mushrooms Sliced
  • 3 stalks Celery Diced
  • 2 Jalapenos Diced
  • 3 boxes of Jiffy Corn Bread Mix
  • 7 eggs
  • 1c Milk
  • 48oz Chicken Stock
  • Dried Rosemary, Thyme and Sage
  • Salt and Pepper

About a day or two before you need the dressing you can complete the following steps, they can be done the day of, but letting the flavors marry together and letting the bread stale a bit helps.

First cut your French Bread loaf into 1in chunks and set on the counter in a bowl to let them stale at least over night.  You can toast them if you are rushed for time.

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Next make your cornbread according to the directions on the box combining all three boxes into 1 batch of cornbread.   Before you pour the mixture into your baking dish you are going to add 1.5tbs of of Thyme, Sage and Rosemary into the mixture and stir.  Bake the cornbread as directed by the instructions and set aside to cool.

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Now, in a large skillet cook your sausage until it is almost done and then add in all your chopped ingredients (celery, mushrooms, peppers, jalapenos and onions) and cooked them until soft.  Remove this mixture from the heat and put in a sealable container and rest in the refrigerator.

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The following day combine the french bread cubes and your cornbread.  Mix this well until each are broken down.  Now add in your meat and veggie mixture and stir to combine.  Now add your chicken stock to this mixture and re-season this mixture tasting it to see if you want any more salt, pepper or herbs, now is the time to add them.  Also if you like your dressing a little looser add more chicken stock or water to get it to the consistence you want.

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Once you are happy with this, add 4 eggs and mix well and then add to your baking pan.  This mixture will fill a 13×9 pan just about to the top.

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I lined an old metal pan with wax paper to keep this from sticking.  You can certainly use a aluminum pan, but do yourself a favor and dont use the wife’s nice pans here lol.img_3554 img_3559

Trim away any excess wax paper if you used any.

You can decorate the top with some fresh sage leafs if you wish.  Be warned this may cause the dressing to be pretty strong with sage, so you may want to remove just befor serving.

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Prepare your grill and get it up to 325 degrees.  This can be done on a kamado cooker, pellet smoker, or just about any other type of grill.  Just be sure you have even heat and you may want to wrap the top of the dish because the dressing may take on too much smoke.  In this instance I used the Grilla Grills Kong and set it up more for heat and light smoke.

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The Flameboss 200 Wifi was used for temperature control for this cook.  It really does a great job of pit management.

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Cook the dressing for about an hour.  You can cook it more or less depending on the texture you are looking for.  In this case I cooked this dressing until it was pretty firm and I liked the color.

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If you love dressing…and who doesn’t give this twist on an old classic a try.  It is a much meatier and chunkier version of grandma’s classic southern dressing.  It is also very herbaceous, but you can dial that back if you want something a little less in your face.  The addition of the jalapeno, the sage sausage and tri colored peppers make this a full meal in on pan and will complement any turkey, ham or is great just by itself.

 

 

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Dancing with a Grilla

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Many of you know the story: I’m a third generation pitmaster and spent my early years in and around my grandfather’s barbecue restaurant.  My grandfather cooked barbecue in a cinder block pit and stick burned mostly oak for his coals. He added those coals one shovel full at time until whatever he was cooking reached perfection.  To me, that  is “real” barbecue.  I know this probably offends some folks already, but I need you to know where I am coming from with this review.  Barbecue for me is something that takes a long time, takes a lot of work and is done with wood.  That is my preferred route to achieve what I consider barbecue nirvana.  This method is archaic, punishing, difficult and the reason many pitmasters don’t last very long.  

A couple of years ago I was forced to have a heart to heart with myself. It’s the same conversation many pitmasters have had with themselves over the years.  The questions when I boiled it down was “is it more important to put in 100% effort, go without sleep and come away with a product that is a 10, or is it more important to put in 50% effort, sleep, have a life and come away with a product that is a 9?”  What I came up with is an answer which allows me to have a life  stay married and see my kids.   When cooking for pure enjoyment, as backwards as it may sound, I still take the purest pursuit of that 10 and do it the hard way.  It is how I share kinship with my grandfather who passed several years ago.  When cooking to sell, for dinner around the house or just to practice, I take the easier path.    

This easier path has led me in search of new ways to cook as well as a new mission.  Obviously the cookers I needed for easier cooking included ones with constant fuel sources and some sort of automated temperature management.  We now have a few of these type of cookers in our arsenal and you know what, I’m glad.  I’m a much happier person overall when I’m not literally killing myself for my craft each time I cook.  These pits have given me a way  to extend what is my livelihood and time in this game.  

My new mission?  Well, that changed from just being able to turn out 9s and 10s to being able to turn out that quality on any type of pit, fired by any fuel in just about any configuration, under nearly any circumstance.  I got this idea from talking to Danielle Dimovski at Memphis in May this past year.  The idea that she can fly in somewhere, borrow gear and do well competing was a revelation of what it means to be a pitmaster today.  I realized that as much as I love the way my grandfather did things, the game has evolved. I realized that I had to lead Draper’s BBQ head long into this new world if we had any chance at longevity.  

Of all the pits we own, we did not have a pellet fired contraption, up until a few weeks ago.  Why?  Well, to be honest I didn’t like them, didn’t want one and never gave one a chance.  I often make the comparison of pellet pits to glam/hair metal back in the 80s/90s and how much the “true” metal heads hated and discounted the genre.  Those of us “real pitmasters” wouldn’t dare to cook on one.  It’s kind of like a true metal fan being caught listening a band like Poison, even though you often found your self singing along in your head to their songs.  Pellet cookers were a lot like that to me.  Yes, I know this is unfair, it’s wrong, it’s unfounded, it’s close minded…it’s..it’s just  the way I felt.  I grudgingly admitted that they had their place and couldn’t discount that many friends had won grand champions on them and love them. I just wasn’t quite ready to give in.

Recently, I stumbled across a new cooker called the Grilla when I noticed their postings in Twitter and read up on them.  Thankfully, not too long after that my good friend Jay Prince did a great review of the pit.  Based on Jay’s write up I contacted Fahrenheit Technologies to get more information because the pit was different and it intrigued me.  I was really more interested in the product from a competition perspective, but thought it might serve as a practice pit as well.  After several emails and phone conversations with Mark Graham I conceded that maybe it was time to try a pellet cooker myself and agreed to review the Grilla.

I don’t want  to completely retread what Jay has already done with his excellent write up from a back yard perspective, so my thoughts will mostly pertain to the competition capabilities of the Grilla.  Go check out his review!

Special Delivery

Since the Grilla is so new to the market there are currently few retail outlets, so you will likely have to order the Grilla direct from Fahrenheit Technologies.The Grilla is shipped via freight.  Shipping arrangements were easy and it shipped very quickly.  I had my unit in two days.  The Grilla came fully assembled, strapped to a pallet.  This evidently is a rare thing among most of their competitors.  The weight of the unit and pallet was right around 165lbs.  Very, very reasonable weight considering the unit is made of a nice thick steel.  

I wish I had pictures of this but unfortunately the SD card I had many of my pictures for this review on failed.  Thankfully Jay Prince allowed me the use of some of his pictures so you get an idea what the the Grilla looks like new.  I owe Jay a beer the next time I see him.

Initial Thoughts

When I first unpacked the Grilla and stood back to take it all in, the first thought I had was “this thing is a pellet powered Big Green Egg.”  That may sound odd at first given that one is steel and one is made of ceramics, but when you stop to consider cooking ability, size and pricing of both cookers you can see where I’m coming from.  I think that both initially strike the average consumer as mildly unattractive.  It’s not until you take a deeper look that you really begin to see the true beauty of each.  This thought hung with me so much that I have decided to do a point by point comparison of the two units that will be released shortly after this article. This should be of interest to those of you who may be trying to decide between the two.

Some Key Features

The Grilla website has a fairly extensive list of the cooker’s features.  I have included most of this list below with my two cents thrown in.  

  • Keep Heat Swing Lid – Makes checking of food faster because you don’t have to remove it completely, when swung all the the way open it allows access to all parts of the Grilla, can be left partially open without propping it. Nothing to lift is great!
  • Even Temp Chamber – The shape of the chamber itself eliminates hot / cold corners.  I found no hot or cold spots on the cooking area which the average cook will appreciate.
  • Never Flare Flavor Disc – prevents grease flare ups, keeps the flame away from food.  This is a nice feature and is included on many pellet cookers and even the Big Green Egg has it as an option.  On the Big Green Egg’s this device is called a “plate setter” and is removable if you want the option of flame grilling.  
  • Lower and Upper Grill Grates – This is something a lot of the Grilla competitors have as an option, but usually not as a standard feature.  Obviously having it is a good thing.  The Upper grate is ideal for large parties or for when you want more smoke and less heat on the bottom of your meat.  It also pops out easily to make room for whole chickens, turkeys, shoulders, etc.
  • Versatile Temp Range – With a range of 180°-550° Fahrenheit (F) and 16 smoke settings the Grilla truly is a pit and a grill.  
  • EZ Fuel Change Out – This feature is huge.  Swapping out one flavor of pellets for another takes less than a minute and is super easy.  You just flip open the door, empty the hopper and refill with new pellets.  I never would have thought of wanting or needing this but I am glad it is there.  Very nice feature that every pellet cooker should include.
  • 20 lb Hopper Capacity – This keeps the Grilla cooking for hours and hours.  The 20lb capacity isn’t unheard of.  I think it is just about right for pellet cookers.

Size and Cooking Area

The physical stats of the Grilla are as follows:  Height – 44in, Width – 31.5in, Depth – 29.5in, Weight – 145lbs.  What these numbers do not accurately portray is just how small a foot print that is.  This unit takes up about the same space as a Weber Kettle, Weber Smokey Mountain or Big Green Egg XL.  Of course, this small foot print does affect cook area, but you aren’t looking at this cooker if your intention is to cook a case of boston butts or half a dozen briskets at one time.  This is not to say the cooking area is undersized. There is, in fact, more cooking area in the Grilla (488 sq in) than a Big Green Egg XL (452 sq in).  You could fit a pork shoulder and brisket on the lower rack of the Grilla and still have room for a rack of ribs on the top shelf.

From a competition perspective I found the cooking area and overall stature of the Grilla to be very good.  I could easily see taking 2 or 3 Grilla’s, loading them on a small trailer and doing some serious damage out on the circuit.  This cooker is easily moved so load outs and off loads would be simple even with a single person or small team.  

Draper’s  has several much larger cookers, some of which will hold several cases of boston butts at a time.  While I love these cookers, it is a bit refreshing to have a smaller cooker on which to just flip a switch and cook some chicken,  burgers, steaks or a single shoulder. This is an especially nice cooker to have around just for practice and recipe invention.  I found myself trying new things just because it was so easy to get a fire started and ready cooking.

Build Quality and Design

This is one of the few things still made in the USA that makes me proud to be American.  When I say this thing is over built by a mile I mean it.  Seriously they could have cut 10 corners and no one would have ever known, but they didn’t.  Every weld, every seam and every surface is done impeccably.

A couple of the of the areas that deserve to be mentioned specifically are:

  1. Grates – Wow! These things are nearly pencil thick stainless steel.  I don’t know how much they would cost to replace but it seriously can’t be cheap.  These grates are so well built, I’m convinced they will survive a nuclear apocalypse.

  1. Swing Lid – Okay, so the fact that the lid swings instead of flips open or detaches completely, like on some units, is cool.  The fact that they thought enough about the lid to include bearings in the mechanism is AWESOME.  Such a smooth glide to the lid is a very classy touch.

  1. Wheels – The wheels for me are much like the lid.  You expect it to have wheels, but you don’t necessarily expect them to be nice 5 inch rubber wheels that roll like they are greased with duck fat.  Maybe roll isn’t the right word, perhaps I should say glide.  One quick, easy motion and the Grilla tips back and glides effortlessly wherever you want it.

  1. Side Tables – It’s a really a nice touch to make these stainless steel.  We have stainless on our Tucker Cooker and have never regretted opting for it.  Sun baked, 10 day old barbecue sauce cleans up easily and it really looks better long term.  The hooks to hold your utensils are also a nice touch.

  1. Cord Storage – This is a such a little thing but I wanted to highlight it because it is yet another example of a place where the engineers could have cut corners and slacked but they didn’t.  The electrical cord wraps perfectly around the holder and even has a perfect little notch where the end clips in to for secure storage.

  1. Auger, Motor and Fire Pot – Auger, Motor and Fire Pot – I think is the area where some lesser pellet grills are suspect, so  I was worried about this with the Grilla.  After doing some research I found out that Fahrenheit Technologies is a home furnace company. Guess where the auger, motor and fire pot were developed?  In their home units.  This heating system and pellet delivery mechanism has been proven over the past few years.  This to me is a huge relief. Fahrenheit Technologies has also backed the Grilla with a 3 year warranty, further showing their confidence in this product.

  1. EZ Fuel Change Out – I have to admit that at first I thought, “big deal.”  Then I needed to switch pellets and the hopper was full and you know what? It was a big deal.  This is a necessity that every pellet cooker should include and deserves to be highlighted.  You just turn the latch, the door opens to a 90 degree angle and has side walls to help funnel the pellets into your bag.  You can swap out a complete 20lb load of pellets in just a couple of minutes.

  1. Finish – This thing has a great powder coat finish that should have no problem holding up a long, long time.  It feels good to the touch, cleans easily, and is on nearly every surface inside and out.

Quick Cooking Thoughts

To test the cooking abilities of the Grill I performed a total of 7 different cooking tests.  These tests were designed to replicate the different cooking styles and methods a competition cook and backyard cook would use.  

To be a true barbecue pit, a cooker must first and foremost be able to cook low and slow.  To be a great grill it has to be able to sear meat and cook at higher heat.  A newer competition cooking trend is hot and fast, so I also ran a test to represent that method as well.  

1 – 14lb turkey at 250 degrees followed immediately by 150 MOINK balls.

2 – 8 thick all beef hamburgers cooked at 300 degrees.

3 – 18lb pork shoulder cooked at 225 degrees for 11hrs (low and slow).

4 – Medium sized beef brisket cooked at 350 degrees for 3hrs (hot and fast)

5 – 3lb beef tri tip cooked at 250 degrees

6 – 18 chicken thighs cooked at 275 degrees then at 375 degrees to set the sauce and finish.

7 – 1 rack of beef ribs cooked at 250 degrees for an hour and a half.

The Grilla did very well in all tests.  I admit for the first cook I had to get used to cooking on  pellets.  I was pleasantly surprised how fast it recovered temperature, held even cooking temperature and how much smoke it put out.  Never was I disappointed by the results.  It is a very solid cooking platform that in the right hands is capable of pulling off 180 scores in competition.  This pit has been my “go to” pit for at home cooking the past several weeks and I have come to realize the more I leave it alone while cooking, the better it does.  Yes, I know this is a basic idiom of barbecue, but sometimes we all need to be reminded we aren’t always as smart as we think we are.  This is especially true for me.

What I Liked

  • Build Quality / Design – I did a whole section highlighting this.  Nothing short of exceptional and being American Made is just the cherry on top for me.
  • Size – It really does take up very little space for the cooking punch it packs.  Fantastic form factor that is led by functionality and tempered with smart design.  
  • Mobility – This pit still surprises me at how easily it moves.  It’s such a small but very essential part of making the Grilla even easier to live with.  The Big Green Egg could learn a thing or 10 from the Grilla.  
  • EZ Fuel Change Out – Yet another “feature” that should be a “standard” on all other pellet cookers.  Don’t underestimate how nice this is to have and other pellet pit makers should take note.
  • Cooking Versatility – I cant think of a thing the Grilla couldn’t do…..ok it can’t do a whole hog, but neither can most pits.  Other than that though the temperature range and how quickly the Grilla can go from 225 degrees to 400 degrees make this one impressive cooker.
  • Cooking Ease – There are few pits that I would say can take a very average person and make them a great cook.  This one is one of them.  One good barbecue book such as  “BBQ Makes Everything Better” and the Grilla and the average Joe could turn out the best barbecue his buddies has ever had the pleasure of eating. Same pit plus a good pit master and the Grilla has a really solid chance at turning out world class results.  

What Could Be Improved

For those of you who know me or have read any of my reviews know that I do not review or give my comments about any product without also offering suggestions for improvement.  Here is my short list for the Grilla.

  1. Grease Catch Can – As it is configured now you can use an soup can or soda can to catch grease.  This is good, but not great and to me it’s not in keeping with the quality of the rest of the unit.  My suggestion would be to include a bucket, that could hold around 48oz of liquid.  (One with the awesome Grilla logo on it would be fantastic!)  I found the need for this larger capacity while cooking the MOINK balls.  Evidently when cooking the equivalent of 5 packs of bacon wrapped around meat balls it makes a whole heck of a lot of grease.  When the can overflows while you aren’t paying attention to the back side of the grill it makes a large mess that doesn’t make the wife happy.  The average user may never experience this, but if there is even a possibility that they could, an effort should be made to address the issue.

  1. Side Tables – I have no issue with the build quality or material of the side tables.  In fact I think those parts are great.  It is a minor nit pick but I would like at least one of the side table to be be able to hold a large aluminum pan.  I found myself sitting larger square pans on top of the hopper vice on the side tables. Understandably, making a larger side table would negatively affect the overall footprint of the unit, which could be considered a larger negative.
  2. Digital Up/Down Controls – Some folks will want a more precise control panel other than the one that is currently offered on the Grilla.  They will say they need control in 5 degree increments vice 15 degree.  I understand their reasoning, but I have to say I don’t necessarily agree.  I think this “precision panel” could be offered as an option for those that feel that strongly about it, but isn’t an absolute requirement.

  1. A Cover – All high end cookers are an investment.  To protect that investment the Grilla should either ship with a weather proof heavy duty cover or one should be offered as an option.  It is my understanding that one is in development.  I will be buyer number 1 when it is officially released.
  2. Price – After having the Grilla for a few weeks and comparing it with other pits I have to say I like it.  I really, really like it.  The only thing I found myself the least bit unsure about was the price.  The Grilla s a premium product, made in the USA and has no corners cut.  That means it also has premium pricing.  Is $1495 shipped expensive?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  With all factors weighed and lived with I can’t imagine not having the Grilla.  Therefore I would have to say “yes, it is worth it” and it gets a complete recommendation from me.

How To Get One

The availability of the Grilla is limited as of this writing.  I know Fahrenheit Technologies is working hard to bring dealers online and get units out to stores.  For now though to get one you  can order directly from their web store or contact Fahrenheit by phone at  616.392.7410 or email them at getcooking@mygrilla.com for more information.  Pricing as of this writing it is $1495 shipped to your door.    

Parting Thoughts

My time with the Grilla has changed my thoughts on cooking.  I still don’t think I am ready to give up any of my other cookers because  they each serve a purpose.   I will say that I am now a fan of pellet cooking. It has made some serious improvements since I first looked at it.  Most of which is just in general quality.  The pellets you can get now are a much higher quality and the pits you can get range from very cost conscious, mass produced units now being carried at Costco to very limited run, almost hand made units that you will have to get on a waiting list for.  The Grilla is certainly the latter of the two.  I am glad that my first real long term experience with a pellet pit was with one of such quality because I would pick a unit of less quality apart no matter how well it cooked.  I place a big premium on quality, always have, always will.  It is just who and what I am.  

If I had to put my thoughts about pellet cooking in general into one statement it would be this:  “Did I cook the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten on a pellet pit?  No, not yet.  Did I cook the best barbecue I’ve ever had for the least amount of effort?  YES, yes I most certainly did.”  I have had better barbecue.  That is the truth.  What is also true is that I’ve never had barbecue anywhere this good for the this small amount of effort.  For 98% of the people in this world the Grilla will make the best barbecue you’ve ever eaten.

The Grilla is a mainstay at my house now.  When it comes to everyday cooking or cooking for smaller groups, it’s just too easy not to have around and use.  I have to take my hat off to Jay Prince and Mark Graham for doing the impossible: changing my mind about pellet cooking!

 

 

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The Big Green Egg XL vs The Grilla: A Comparison

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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)

                       

                                BGE                                  Grilla

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!

 

 

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