Ever wonder what it takes to grill anything at home? We thought who better to learn from than a grilling champion?
We sat down with Craig Tabor, better known as Big Green Craig, two-time winner of the national Eggtoberfest grilling competition and self-described griller of anything to find out.
CC: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into grilling.
BGC: I got into grilling out of necessity. My wife, who is a great cook by the way, decided one day that she lost her passion for cooking and was tired of spending the time to create a meal. I was faced with either taking my grilling to the next level or eating frozen meals for the rest of my life.
CC: Tell me more about Eggtoberfest. What is it, how do you plan for it, how do you choose what to prepare, and how do you build-up a winning team?
BGC: Eggtoberfest is the national Big Green Egg cooking event that features over 250 eggs and over 5,000 attendees. The event has traditionally been a People’s Choice Recipe Contest, which means attendees are the judges. I have always spent a ton of time on the recipe that we enter in to the contest. It’s very important to me to enter an original, creative recipe that stands apart from what other teams are featuring. I assembled my team by recruiting people from social media, and made sure to choose teammates that had the skills to cook anything I threw at them. I’ve captained a team for 3 years now. The first year we came in second, but won both other times!
You own a whole lot of grills. When faced with so many choices, how do you choose which grill to use?
BGC: I think there are about 12 cookers on my deck right now, which may be a bit of over kill. Over the years, I’ve learned that different cookers cook things differently. Just like in construction, it’s important to have the right tool for the job.
CC: It looks like you prefer charcoal over gas. Why?
BGC: The reason is simple: flavor. Gas is definitely more convenient in the sense that you can just push a button and you are cooking. However, gas lacks the flavor that charcoal provides. In my opinion, charcoal flavor is well worth the extra time and effort.
CC: What’s your favorite cut of beef to grill, and why?
BGC: It’s hard to beat a tri-tip roast. It’s a beef roast that you grill like a steak and slice like a brisket. There is a ton of flavor in this cut and my family devours it.
CC: You teach a method called the “reverse sear” as a way to make the perfect steak. Tell us more about this method, and why it works so well.
BGC: Restaurants pan sear a steak, then throw it in the oven to roast. This method works fine. However, it results in a perfectly-cooked center but over-cooked edges. A reverse sear is the restaurant method backwards. We start by slow-roasting a steak, then searing it at the end. The result is an edge-to-edge perfectly cooked steak. This method works great for steaks 1-1/2 inches and thicker.
CC: What advice can you give to the home griller aiming to perfect BBQ brisket or plate ribs?
BGC: It is very important to start with a fantastic brisket. We’ve all heard the saying, “You’ve got to pay to play.” This saying could not be more important for a brisket. I prefer prime grade or even better, wagyu. The higher fat content will make for a better, moister end result. Plus, fat is flavor!
CC: Your motto is: “There isn’t anything I won’t grill.” Which begs the question: What is the craziest thing you have ever grilled, and how did it come about?
BGC: One guy bet me that I couldn’t grill jello. That was easy. Past that, I’ve cooked crème brûlée, cheesecakes, cedar-planked cheese, breads, sushi rolls, pizza, and much more in a grill. Basically, there is only one thing you need in order to cook anything and that is a heat source. Once you figure that out, it’s just a matter of set up and you can grill anything!