Let me start by saying that I’ve cooked on the Big Green Egg for more than 10 years. To be more precise, I started on the Medium when it when I was only cooking for 2, and have since moved on to having multiple BGEs at home. In those 10 years, I never had a single ceramic piece crack.
Since owning an XL, I started experimenting with pizza more. To note, there is a wonderful pizza farm only an hour from my house, where they cook up wood-fired pizzas using ingredients grown right on the farm. I’m a huge fan of this concept, but as usual, I like to try things for myself whenever possible.
Following the videos and guidelines posted on the BGE site, I picked up the 21″ Pizza Stone, corn meal, etc. and then spent some time trying to rethink the recipes I made for sauce and dough when I was just a teenager. With all the ingredients in hand, and a couple videos later, I setup the Egg per the instructions provided at the BGE site (keep in mind, there are many other suggestions on how to setup the Egg for the baking stone), which is with the plate setter legs facing up, the grill grate on top, and then the baking stone on top of the grill grate. This was done in the first 10 minutes of lighting the egg, so that you don’t put cold ceramics directly inside a hot BGE and risk the baking stone or the plate setter from cracking.
Other examples from BGE owners include using the ceramic legs from older units as a replacement for the grill grate in the middle, or placing the baking stone directly on top of the plate setter with the legs down. The legs are not a bad idea, but I strongly recommend placing something between the plate setter and the stone, even if you tried using fire bricks. I believe the results from direct stone on setter contact will produce so much heat, that you might risk cracking either one or both in this situation.
After the equipment is warmed up to at least 600-650°F (Some like hotter, but a wood-fired pizza oven can reach temps as high as 800°F to cook a pizza in 90 seconds), which will take up to an hour (minimum of 30 min), the egg is ready to cook. To be sure, use an infrared thermometer and check the temperature of the baking stone surface. If it’s still cold, the bottom of the pizza won’t cook as fast as the top, leaving burnt toppings and a floppy bottom. Nobody likes a floppy bottom, trust me. 😛
After a couple nights of cooking pizza, I switched back to some low and slow pork shoulder. Generally this shouldn’t be an issue, but now on two occasions with the XL, the temperature swings on the plate setter have been too much for some reason. Nothing to do with how I handled it (I baby my ceramic accessories), but I wonder if the combination of temperature swings, plus the outdoor temperatures could have affected it (I’ve been known to cook in -40°F weather before). However, I’ve had the Medium for over 10 years and have never seen an issue with a single accessory.
My local dealer has been great on the warranty process to get a replacement. Starting with a receipt that is less than 3 years from the date of purchase, and no documented misuse, BGE will replace the cracked accessory. The catch is you have to wait up to a month to get a new one. The reason is that due to the weight, BGE won’t just put one in the mail. You’ll have to wait for the next freight shipment of Eggs and Egg accessories to come to your local store.
I thought losing a plate setter was bad, until I started talking to the local dealers about other horror stories. I’ve heard everything from an end user pulling on the egg from the backside and the egg falling over (Here’s why you can buy the Nest Handler), to a big green egg that go so hot that the bottom cracked. I’ll stick with losing the accessory of the entire egg, but waiting a month between indirect cooking is painful. Fortunately, I have more than one egg.