Since 1974, when founder Ed Fisher opened the prototype Big Green Egg store in Atlanta, the city has been the axis mundi for the evolution of the ancient earthenware kamado-style charcoal grill.
Nowadays, Eggs are everywhere — produced in seven sizes, from mini to 2XL, and available in more than 50 countries, with hundreds of accessories to satisfy the passions of the most die-hard of Big Green Eggheads.
But in addition to the ever-growing number of backyard enthusiasts, chefs have become some of most notable Egg users, utilizing the grills in restaurant kitchens to add smoke and flavor to all sorts of dishes.
In fact, Big Green Egg Culinary Partner restaurants are listed on the company’s website. And it’s no surprise that Atlanta chefs and restaurants are represented with the most links, from Canoe and il Giallo Osteria & Bar to Staplehouse and Wrecking Bar Brewpub.
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“It evolved, like many things here, by word of mouth,” says Jodi Burson, the director of brand enhancement for Big Green Egg.
“We joke and say we were viral at marketing before that was a thing. Because people would smell food cooking on an Egg in their neighbor’s backyard and lean over the fence and ask about it, then that person would go buy an Egg.
“So the same thing started happening in restaurants with chefs like Kevin Rathbun, who were fans of the Egg at home, and then thought, ‘I can work this into the restaurant, as well.’ For years, he’s done beef short ribs on the Egg. But so many restaurants have a specialty dish or two that the chef uses the Egg for when they want that nice smoky flavor.”
As an early adopter, Rathbun uses Eggs at both of his fine-dining restaurants, Kevin Rathbun Steak on Krog Street, and KR SteakBar in Peachtree Hills. And, yes, his Japanese BBQ Wagyu Short Ribs is still a menu favorite at Rathbun Steak.
“They’ve probably been on the menu for six years, and they’re still a big seller,” Rathbun says. “The Big Green Egg is something we’ve used for a lot of things. We smoke a lot of vegetables, and sometimes we smoke butter and stock to use in vegetable preparations instead of bacon. It’s how we get flavor and smoke into things.
“We have the extra large Egg out back, and I just like to use it. I’ve been involved with them for such a long time, and I just like the product. We smoke the short ribs on the Big Green Egg for a couple of hours, then we braise them until they’re tender. After that, we cut them into chunks and skewer them and glaze them. They’re a great share item for the table.”
Another longtime Big Green Egg devotee, Todd Mussman, the chef and co-owner of Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna, uses it to grill and smoke multiple menu items. But at a place known as a “deli by day and bistro by night,” sandwiches are perennial best-sellers.
“When we first opened in 2005, I was already a Big Green Egg guy,” Mussman says. “I really loved it, and I thought I’d love to cook on this thing in a restaurant, because it really produces a great flavor. So we’ve been using it for 13 years. We keep an XL on the line under the hood, and we have a 2XL out front.”
On the lunch menu, The Funky Chicken is a brined, Big Green Egg-grilled chicken breast, with Nueske’s bacon, provolone cheese and truffle aioli.
“It’s kind of a funny story, the way that one came about,” Mussman says. “I invented it for a funky cheese contest, and I did win the contest. But now we do it with provolone, which is kind of funky, and a truffle aioli, which is funky, too. It’s a really simple sandwich, and one of our most popular. It’s also something that’s really easy to recreate on your own back porch with your own Big Green Egg.”
A forever item on both the lunch and dinner menus, The Burger features a Big Green Egg-grilled grass-fed beef patty, with roasted poblano peppers, melted white cheddar cheese, red onion, cilantro aioli.
“We’ve had a version of the burger almost since we opened,” Mussman says. “But this version has stood the test of time, which is why it’s called The Burger. It’s the only one we have, and I really love the Southwest-stye flavor profile. Those flavors with the beef cooked on the charcoal is so good, and everybody seems to love it.
“I really believe that if there was anything I would put a flag in the sand and die on top of a hill over, it would be cooking that burger on a Big Green Egg. I just wouldn’t do it any other way.”
These recipes for the Big Green Egg from Atlanta chefs Todd Mussman and Kevin Rathbun illustrate the kinds of dishes they’re creating for their restaurants using the grill. The good news for home cooks is that you can easily duplicate the same kind of smoky, flavorful food in your own backyard.
The Funky Chicken
This simple chicken sandwich from chef Mussman is a favorite at Muss & Turner’s restaurant in Smyrna. For Big Green Egg lovers, it’s a perfect weeknight or weekend option.
Another favorite from the Muss & Turner’s menu, this Southwest-flavored grass-fed burger is a natural for the smoke and fire of the Big Green Egg.
Japanese BBQ Wagyu Short Ribs
Atlanta chef Kevin Rathbun has kept this sharable starter on the menu at Kevin Rathbun Steak for six years because he loves it, and so does everyone else. At the restaurant, it’s braised in stock after it’s smoked. But for this simplified recipe, the boneless ribs get wrapped in foil and put back on the grill to tenderize.