A couple years ago we finally built the outdoor counter space of our dreams with a built-in gas grill and a spot for a Green Egg type ceramic grill/smoker. The only thing is that spot for the Green Egg has been sitting empty ever since! It’s really hard to pony up almost $900 for a grill that we’d certainly enjoy, but not use every day or even every week. So, with a craving for some smoked ribs to celebrate my 41st birthday last month, my husband Jason finally said let’s fill that empty spot for your gift.
Buying a Used “Egg” Ceramic Grill
As with any big purchase, Jason started off with some good ol’ research. He learned that while Green Egg is the biggest name in the popular kamado-style ceramic charcoal barbecue cookers, there are now many other brands available that are (arguably) just as good. Ceramic grills are very efficient because they retain heat for long periods of time, allowing you to maintain temperatures as low as 225° F or as high as 750° F + on a surprisingly small amount of lump charcoal. Whether you are smoking, baking, or grilling, these grills do it all and impart some amazing flavor.
We quickly decided black would be the best color for us, and Jason found a used Primo brand ceramic egg grill on Craigslist for only $250. Not bad considering a new one sells for $950!
I have to say I was SKEPTICAL when he came home with the used grill. It had mold inside, and the firebox (that holds the coals) was broken in two. But come to find out mold can actually be common when egg grills are not used for extended periods of time, and simply heating to 600 degrees for 15 minutes burns it off. So he gently cleaned it with our pressure washer (with a wide fan spray), let it dry, and then got a roaring fire going to kill it off. Now it’s almost as good as new! And my husband learned that if you clean the grill after each use and simply keep the air vent and chimney lid cracked open when not in use, the mold should no longer be an issue.
The cracked firebox is apparently also very common due to the expansion and contraction during really hot fires. And according to the manufacturer, it’s really not a problem at all because most will eventually crack at some point. They explained you can just leave the two halves joined like puzzle pieces (the grill performs the same either way), or if it bothers you they will send a replacement for free.
Other Small Fixes
The grill thermometer was also not working and an accurate one is critical so that was another item we had to replace (for a nominal fee). Also if the gasket between the top and bottom pieces of the grill is worn out, you can easily replace it yourself. Fortunately, this had just been done on the grill we bought.
We quickly discovered there are TONS of accessories for egg style grills! We wanted to keep the total cost down and only buy what we really needed, so Jason did more research and settled on these must-have items.
- Cooking Grate System, $55 – This is a very versatile system that doubles your cooking area while allowing you cook in different temperature zones (say veggies and meat at the same time) when used with the heat deflectors below. This combo is substantially less than the Kamado Joe “Divide and Conquer” system that runs $200.
- Heat Deflectors, $55 – Two half-moon deflectors can be used with the system above for indirect smoking or for cooking pizzas.
- Ash tool and bucket – Easily remove ash and store in the bucket until you are sure it is completely out and safe to dispose of.
- Mesh Vent Cover – While some grills have a screen on the intake vent, ours did not. My husband was concerned about embers escaping and catching our deck on fire, so added this piece for safety. He had to bend the metal slots a bit so it would fit, and it works great.
Smoked Ribs Recipe
I’m happy to share that in the end (with a little bit of work!) we got the barbecue cooker of our dreams for a fraction of the price. So now, back to those yummy smoked ribs I was craving for my birthday … here’s the recipe my husband came up with after some experimentation. They were deeelicious, and I can’t think of any better way to celebrate. :)
Smoked BBQ Ribs
- Set up your ceramic grill or smoker for indirect cooking (i.e. use a heat defector or remote firebox). Use lump charcoal and preheat the grill for a 250 degree F burn.
- Meanwhile, remove the membrane from the bottom of the ribs (peel it back at a bone and grip with a paper towel to pull off) and pat them dry with paper towels. Mix the honey and mustard and brush all over the ribs.
- Whisk the dry spices together in a bowl to form a rub and then coat the ribs all over with it. You don't want to over season them...whatever easily sticks on after shaking them a bit is enough. For easy cleanup, I like to cover a half baking sheet with foil to make a tray for this step.
- Once your fire is ready, add a few handfuls of hardwood chips to the coals (we like hickory) and then place the ribs directly on the grill, bone side down. Close the lid and maintain a temperature of about 250 degrees F for two hours.
- Double-wrap the ribs in foil (seem side up to retain any juices) and smoke for another two hours. You can add a few tablespoons of liquid if you want (water, apple juice, beer, vinegar, etc.), but this is not required.
- Remove the foil and place the ribs directly on the grill. Continue smoking until the ribs are tender with a nice crust, but not totally falling off the bone. Time to finish will vary depending on how tender you like your ribs, your grill setup, etc., but expect about an hour.