Benefits of Kamado Grills | Kamado Grill Buying Guide
What is a Kamado Grill?
Quick Answer: A time-tested method for cooking great BBQ
When we say “time-tested,” we’re not talking about the 20-plus years we’ve been in business — the history of kamado charcoal grills dates back a few thousand years to ancient China. They’ve evolved over the centuries, of course, but still rely on the superior heat retention of ceramics and the venting systems of Japanese mushikamado. Those basic properties make modern kamados into all-in-one grills capable of virtually every type of outdoor cooking style. Grilling burgers for the family? Just fire up the kamado. Bought a brisket that needs slow-smoking? Brisket, meet kamado. Want to bake a pizza somewhere other than your indoor oven? Well, you get the idea.
All this versatility is packed into a fairly straightforward cooking method that requires you to simply light some charcoal and adjust the vents as needed to control temperature. Yep, that’s it, no matter the cooking style! As if that wasn’t enough, kamado cookers can produce food with 30% more moisture retention because of the relatively low level of airflow used when cooking. It’s clear to see why this ancient cooking method still has such a prominent place in the modern grilling world.
Advantages of Kamado Grills
Ceramic provides such strong insulation that almost all of a kamado’s heat is captured and used to cook your food before exiting the grill.
Even, Steady Heat
Because ceramic is a poor conductor of heat and radiates it very slowly, temperatures will remain stable throughout the grill’s cooking chamber.
The ceramic walls of kamado grills take a long time to transfer heat, meaning they consume less fuel than normal charcoal grills or smokers.
Kamados are capable of grilling, baking, smoking, roasting, searing, and barbecuing, and certain accessories make each cooking style easier.
Less Moisture Loss
When smoking meat, kamado vent settings permit very little drafting within the grill, so your food is exposed to less dry, moisture-robbing air.
Though ceramic is quite fragile, it can last generations when properly taken care of. Cast aluminum kamados, meanwhile, will never rust.
Easy to Clean
Just get the grill roaring hot to burn everything off, then clean out the ashes. Ceramic absorbs liquid, so never use liquid cleaners on a kamado.
The nasty taste of lighter fluid will absorb into ceramic forever, so kamados give you no choice but to enjoy classic charcoal BBQ flavors.
What Can You Cook on a Kamado Grill?
Where to start? Steak, burgers, ribs, fish, whole chicken, pork loin, veggies, pizza — if you can name it, a kamado can probably cook it. They excel at maintaining the low temperatures needed for BBQ smoking, have all the same baking properties as a pizza oven, and expose food to the direct, radiant heat that’s best for searing. Of course, the method and setup for each cooking style are slightly different, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying them all. Let’s dive into how a single grill can do so many things.
Smoking on a Kamado Cooker
Thanks to the insulative properties of ceramic, charcoal kamados are great smokers in terms of both cooking power and fuel efficiency. They can smoke for up to 18 hours on a small load of charcoal (and much longer on full loads), making them the most economical smokers by far. The round design of most kamados encourages smoke to circulate through the entire grill body and around your food before exiting the top vent, which is all the more reason to add a smoker box for even more complex wood flavors. If there’s a drawback of kamado grills, it’s the single analog thermometer. These thermometers are highly accurate, but we still recommend you invest in a remote BBQ thermometer to alert you when your grill or food has reached a certain temperature.
Baking on a Kamado Cooker
A kamado charcoal grill is basically a ceramic oven, so all you need to excel at baking everything from pastry to pizza is a heat deflector plate that creates indirect, convective heat in the cooking chamber. If you’re feeling pizza, kamados generate the high-end temperatures, all-over heat radiation, and convection currents to get the job done. Kamado cookers are also capable of holding steady baking temperatures of 300–400 degrees Fahrenheit for breads and pastries, though newcomers to this style of grill should consider baking with the help of temperature controllers. They attach to the bottom vent and regulate airflow to maintain precise temperatures, essentially upgrading your kamado’s analog controller (you) to a digital one (the device).
Grilling on a Kamado Cooker
We love the versatility of charcoal kamados, but they’re called “grills” for a reason. Using a kamado without a deflector plate is identical to using a basic charcoal grill, and the resulting direct, radiant heat is more than enough to put steakhouse-level sear marks on a thick sirloin. Because grilling uses radiant heat from the charcoal below rather than the ceramic walls, there’s no need to preheat the entire unit when grilling. That’s why all you need is about 5 minutes to get your cooking grates roaring hot, whereas preheating an entire kamado to 200–250 degrees for smoking can take anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes. Just place a temperature probe at the center of the cooking grates to let you know when they’re hot enough to grill and sear.
A Note on Preheating Your Kamado: Be careful not to overdo your preheat when getting a kamado cooker ready for smoking or baking. It’s easy to heat up ceramic, but because it retains heat so well, bringing the temperature back down is much more difficult. You should preheat your kamado charcoal grill for about 30–45 minutes, until the ceramic reaches the temperature you want and no more. At that point, all you have to do is load your kamado with amazing meats, close the lid, and set your vents to the appropriate temperature settings.
Top Kamado Grill Brands
Kamado Grill Innovations | Modern Takes on an Ancient Design
It was only natural for kamado-style cookers to receive some upgrades over the course of a few thousand years. But manufacturers have really stepped up their game lately, outfitting kamado charcoal grills with new designs and features that maximize cooking power and durability. We’ve highlighted 2 of our favorites — the oval shape of Primo kamados and Kamado Joe’s SloRoller accessory — to show you just how far these grills have come since their early days.
Primo Kamado Grills | The Oval Advantage
By shaping its grills as an oval instead of the traditional round shape, Primo enables you to take advantage of 2-zone grilling. Primo’s cast iron firebox is split into 2 distinct areas that can be used to cook with both direct and indirect heat at the same time, something other kamado cookers struggle to achieve without the help of accessories. You can sear a steak over blazing coals placed in just 1 area of the firebox, while the other half of the grill will be warmed with indirect heat best suited for veggies and sides. And if you want to smoke or bake with indirect heat, just place your food over the side with no charcoal. The oval configuration also fits oddly shaped objects like whole turkeys or long-handled pots and pans, just another of the many benefits of Primo ceramic grills.
Blaze Cast Aluminum Kamado Grills
This might be the boldest take on a charcoal kamado we’ve seen yet. Rather than building another ceramic grill, Blaze tried something new with an entirely cast aluminum model. The benefits are clear — cast aluminum is far less fragile than ceramic, plus it’s a material that can never rust (testing included exposure to explosives and a dip in the salty Gulf of Mexico). No wonder the Blaze kamado has a lifetime warranty! Though aluminum doesn’t insulate heat as well as ceramic does, Blaze makes up for it with extra-thick walls that transfer heat much faster and more efficiently. This means Blaze charcoal kamados can reach extremely high temperatures, which is why they come with an interlocking aluminum hood flange that expands with heat to provide a tight seal.
Kamado Joe SloRoller Smoking Chamber
Kamado Joe has continually innovated kamado accessories since its founding, providing grillers with new and interesting ways to increase their cooking versatility. After making waves with split cooking racks, half-moon deflector plates, and much more, Kamado Joe introduced its most impressive accessory yet with the SloRoller. This hyperbolic smoking chamber was developed by Harvard engineers (yes, that Harvard) to manipulate airflow inside the grill, creating a ring that blasts your food with smoke around the edge of the cooking surface. Simply put, the SloRoller turns the Kamado Joe Classic III into a supersmoker. Remember that the SloRoller is coated with Teflon, which will hold up when low-and-slow smoking but breaks down at 500 degrees.
Read Top Kamado Grill Reviews
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