The latest kamado griller on the block? Seasoned veteran eager to learn a couple of new tricks? No matter your place in the smoky, wood-fired world of ceramic eggs and delicious smoked meats, we're here to teach you everything you need to know about kamado grilling. Featuring input from our experts on camera, lifelong grillers on our staff, and customers just like you, we’ve consulted our best and brightest for this definitive list of kamado know-how. Seamlessly add dwelling into your cookouts! Drop the "Minion" method in conversation with authority! Definitively finish the briquette versus lump debate, once and for all! There's always room for another kamado expert out there — with this glossary at hand, why can't that be you?
Air Lift Hinge
Similar to a spring-assist hinge, an air lift hinge shoulders the worst in lifting and lowering that heavy, resilient ceramic dome lid. The difference? Everything. An air lift hinge is a revolutionary improvement on the earlier design, removing 96 percent of the total lid weight. You can raise and lower that heavy ceramic lid — if you wanted — with literally the touch of a finger.
For easy disposal, ash accumulates in this small, simple drawer found at the bottom of the kamado. Use an ash tool to scrape this area clean to keep air circulation at a maximum in your grilling area. Some brands offer a sliding pan, while others feature an internal pan you lift out from inside.
Ash tools are, as the name might suggest, tools meant to clean out ash from within your kamado. This ash is usually caught in an ash pan that you would rake out from the front vent with a tool — typically on a long rod with a handle. This simple but important maintenance keeps air flow free and promotes circulation in your grilling chamber.
Kamado grills feature two vents: one on top for heat release, and one on bottom for oxygen input. The entire cooking process is the interaction between the circulating, intensely heated air of the grilling chamber, and how these two vents manipulate the oxygen levels within the kamado. More air? Hotter heat. Less air? Lower intensity. Consider a forced air controller for your bottom vent, which will fine-tune the air input, take the guesswork out of the thermodynamics, and carefully calibrate the overall heat within your kamado.
Contrary to lump charcoal, this lower-quality form of fuel is made from sawdust and leftover woods — forcing chemical additives into the mix, such as lighter fuel and other accelerants. Briquette charcoal burns longer, but at a few costs: it doesn’t get quite as hot as lump charcoal, it produces far more ash, and that chemical cocktail will soak into your kamado walls and forever taint the flavor of your food. Want to avoid replacing your entire grill thanks to the ruined taste of your cookouts? Use the good stuff instead.
Oxygen-starved charcoal can cause the rare flashback — but save the somber music, because these flashbacks have another name: fireball. Burp your kamado every time you open it during operation, and you, too, will avoid the world’s cheapest facial waxing job. Simply stand to the side (safety first!), lift the lid 1 to 2 inches, let a fresh burst of air flow in for a few moments, and then open the lid completely. Doing this ensures that the conditions for a burning blowback can never be met.
Ceramic is the most common material for kamado shells, and for a good reason: it is outstanding at heat retention, makes your charcoal more efficient, and withstands extreme temperatures like a champ. These properties make ceramic unparalleled in kamado designs, except for aluminum — which does all these things just as well, along with the significantly tougher durability of metallic shells.
Upon close inspection, the finish of your kamado may appear to have crack lines. These aren’t cracks in the ceramic itself — they are slight visual changes caused by the different expansion rates between the glaze finish and the clay. Think of it like a fingerprint: making every kamado a little different and just a little bit special!
Dual Zone / 2-Zone
The concept of dual zone cooking is simple: divide the grilling area into separate areas that provide a finer control of the cookout. Poultry baked over indirect heat can be moved to direct flame for a satisfying crisp. Alternatively? Grill up a juicy rack of ribs without a dollop of sugar, then sizzle on your secret sauce and caramelize it in the direct zone. Many kamado accessories make this kind of cooking a snap, while larger oval ceramic designs provide wider and more convenient surface area.
Interior cooks might brown meat on the stovetop, then stick it in the oven to finish. It works a little differently in the kamado world, but the same principles apply. To “dwell” meat, as enthusiasts call it, is as simple as leaving meat on the grill while closing the vents. This chokes the fire of oxygen and drops the heat inside from those higher intensities down to 200 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit in about five minutes flat. Searing a salmon fillet? Smoking a country ham? Dwelling your kamado can really be your friend here. Don’t forget: reopen the vents first, then burp that lid, every time!
This is where your charcoal and wood chips/chunks will sit. Several ceramic kamado brands now feature replaceable fireboxes; these guard your grill from the rigors of extreme temperature cycling, designed to (eventually) break instead of your kamado. Fear not, this is a good thing — a firebox is significantly cheaper to replace than a full ceramic enclosure. Note that metallic shells, such as aluminum, avoid this problem altogether.
When charcoal hits high temperatures and burns through its available oxygen, the sudden rush of air while opening the lid can combust into a fireball — or what we in the industry call a “flashback.” Though a useful, frugal way to save on wax (who needs arm hair or eyebrows, anyway?), the best and safest way to avoid this is to burp the lid every time your kamado is in operation.
Forced Air Controller
These convenient units, the pride and joy of the “set and forget” charcoal grillers, take a lot of the guesswork out of grilling. Connecting to most smokers over the bottom vent, they usually feature a pair of temperature probes — one clipped to your cooking grate, and another for your food itself. This helps the device regulate air flow to maintain those steady internal temperatures. Some come with Wi-Fi functionality and smart features, allowing you to keep an eye on the heat inside your kamado — or even adjust it on the fly — from hundreds of feet away.
This felt or fiberglass ring rims one (or both) of the kamado shell “halves,” providing a tight seal between the lid and the body while closed. This prevents smoke from escaping or additional air from sneaking in. Wear and tear are accelerated by cooking at temperature extremes — low and slow cooks can create tar deposits in felt, while high heat can burn it away. Replacement is often simple, and should be prioritized as soon as you notice the seal’s performance begin to break down.
Moving hot grates and grids is a snap with a handheld lifter, often shaped like a cool, bent pair of pliers or a thin rod ending in flared prongs. Either design fulfills the same need: easily moving and maneuvering hot grids and grates without burning yourself. Spend more time grilling — and less time rummaging around in your medicine cabinet for that aloe vera cream!
Elevate your grilling — we mean this literally — with a rack expander. Utilizing the underappreciated power of vertical space, an expander adds a second grilling half-surface that simply rests above your existing grids. Common uses for this include simultaneously grilling separate dishes, adding extra slabs of meat to the grill, and really racking up the compliments on your stylish grill.
These ceramic plates, often designed in a half-moon shape, section off a separate cooking zone within your kamado for indirect cooking. Heat deflectors rest beneath the grid and provide a physical barrier between your food and the open flame — this creates an entirely new method of grilling for food that would otherwise burn or scorch in such a high-heat environment.
Kamados doesn’t have to only cook over an open flame: they can bake, too! Thanks to heat deflectors, you can set aside a separate zone for indirect cooking that helps tougher or larger food cook without burning. Temperatures in this zone usually settle around 225 degrees Fahrenheit — this is useful for things like slow roasted chicken, smoked fish, or baking chocolate chip cookies and bread. You could also start your foods in the direct flame zone, then move them to the indirect heat for a great finish.
Without these small, indented risers lifting your kamado off the flat surface below, there’s a good chance the middle of the base will become much hotter than the outer edges. The feet prevent grill bases from cracking due to trapped heat and moisture against the bottom surface, as the bottoms of most ceramic kamados aren’t glazed with that protective outer coating. They're especially relevant to a combustible install; for most brands, kamado feet a requirement for using a flamable surface, such as a wooden table.
Freestanding kamados command attention, perhaps curiosity. Built-in kamados, having earned a place of permanence in your outdoor kitchen, command respect. Nothing says “I have earned my place” more than physically building your kamado into your BBQ island — and a kamado sleeve is how you get there. These aluminum backdrops support your grilling chamber and give your grill an air of professional purpose. Conveniently, many offer a drawer for storing supplies, such as lump charcoal or tools.
Unlike briquette charcoal, this traditional, high-quality fuel source is made directly from hardwood materials. Not only does it lack the synthetic chemical additives built into briquette charcoal, but it produces far less ash — a double whammy for people who like better-tasting food and less cleanup. Less ash means better air control, and better air control means far more consistent grilling temperatures.
Legend has it that John Minion (no, really) pioneered this charcoal starting process while setting up for a BBQ cooking competition. Pressed for time and cooking on an unfamiliar grill (a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker), he tossed the instructions aside and dumped in his charcoal, made a well in the center, then added lit fuel into the hole in the middle. The idea was for his fuel to gradually, consistently burn outward and evenly. It worked: he went home with first and second prize in separate contests. Since tested in grill competitions nationwide, this will work in your grill too — try it for low and slow cooks and add your favorite wood chunks on top.
A grouped name for surface probes (rounded tip) and meat probes (sharp tip), these devices are a must. In fact, they offer the only precise method of reading an accurate temperature at the grill grates, let alone accuracy inside the grilling meat. After all, your chicken isn't done at 1 hour 15 minutes — it's done at 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast. Many of these now offer smart features and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth functionality, allowing you to study the progress of your cook from a distance.
Ceramic: dense, thermally insulative, and abundantly resilient to temperature changes. It’s also quite heavy. Thankfully, commonplace on kamados nowadays is a spring-assisted hinge that aids in lifting the dome lid. Instead of struggling with lifting and lowering the dome lid, the kamado itself does half the work for you. For just about anybody, this makes simple tasks like topping off charcoal or brushing on a sweet, caramelizing glaze that much easier. If you'd like to read about the improvement on this design, see Air Lift Hinge.
Though the nature of a kamado is that it naturally creates a moist cooking environment, some grillers still love to use a trusty water pan. Ribs or brisket, especially in a low or slow cook, are a use case we commonly see — the extra evaporative moisture certainly doesn’t hurt to keep those tough meats tender. This doubles as a great place to catch drips over a long cook.
Burning wood chips over your charcoal load is a sure-fire way to bring those smoky flavors to the next level. Barbecue smoking wood chips come in a variety of wood grains, providing a tasty accent to meats, seafood, and vegetables on your grill. Consider blending a few like-flavored kinds of chips for greater complexity in your palate. Note that some folks perpetual a myth that soaking your chips overnight will help them last over a long cook, but this isn't true: wood, once dry, is impervious to water — remember, wooden boats crossed the seas long before sealants ever came around!
For longer cooks where wood chips won't cut it, turn to their beefier counterparts. Barbecue smoking wood chunks come in a variety of wood grains, providing a tasty accent to meats, seafood, and vegetables on your grill. Much like smaller wood chips, these chunks don’t need soaking — in fact, many providers recommend against it — and will impart a strong wood flavor to bring out the very best in your cookout. For a broader range of flavor in your grilling, toss in a few extra chunks from a similar mix and watch the compliments fly.
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