Kamado grills are gaining more and more popularity lately. Their versatility, aesthetics, and moisture-retention are just a few reasons why grillers love them.
But, since kamados are generally more expensive than your standard charcoal grills, you may be wondering if they’re worth the money. The good news is we’ve got answers.
First, we’ll break down the ins and outs of these ceramic grills. Then, we’ll go over some frequently asked questions. By the end of this article, you’ll know everything you need to know about kamado grills.
What is a Kamado Grill?
A Kamado grill is a ceramic, oval shaped, charcoal grill best known for its versatility, heat retention, efficiency, and longevity. They’re unique design allows for the use of a wide range of cooking temperatures as well as the ability to not only grill, but smoke as well.
Kamado is Japanese for “stove” or “cooking grill”. Although many people are only now becoming aware of their existence, they’ve been used in Japan for approximately 1700 years. And there is a reason they’ve been used for that long. Because they work well for cooking just about anything.
Of course, the models today have all kinds of add-ons and accessories to allow you to do everything from grill fish to cook pizza. After all, these grills have had over a thousand years to improve.
The Kamado: A Ceramic Egg
Not only is the material they’re built from unique, but kamados are egg-shaped and oblong instead of ball-shaped and circular. In fact, the company that’s perhaps most responsible for the recent kamado craze is called Big Green Egg. There’s a reason for this egg-shaped design, which we’ll get into shortly. For now, let’s talk ceramics.
Today’s kamado grills are made out of high-quality, refractory ceramic for heat retention and durability. Back in the day, they were made out of clay or ceramic— some things don’t change too much. The best models have thick walls and are pretty heavy compared to a typical charcoal grill, but that weight helps insulate your food and also serves to keep your kamado lasting for a very, very long time.
How Does a Kamado Grill Work?
Like other grills, kamados need two essentials to work: airflow and a fuel source. Kamados have two places for air to flow: one on the bottom and one on the top. These aren’t all that different from other charcoal grills. The difference becomes apparent when we take a look inside, where all the magic happens.
The oval design, thick walls, and streamlined airflow allow heat to stay trapped inside the kamado. As the air flows through, the oval shape helps to distribute heat evenly around the food. Little adjustments in airflow can go a long way because of this, which is why there are certain things you need to know before you buy a kamado. Which brings us to our next section on safety.
Are Kamado Grills Safe?
Kamado grills are about as safe as any other type of charcoal grill. Below we discuss everything you need to know about kamado grill safety, although much of it falls under the ‘common sense’ heading. However, there’s one safety concern unique to kamados that you need to watch out for. It’s called a flashback. Some people call it a flashover or a backdraft. Either way, it’s easy to prevent when you know what you’re doing.
Since the airflow in kamado grills is so streamlined and efficient, when you open the lid a sudden influx of oxygen can cause a flame to shoot out and singe your facial hair. This generally happens when you have very little oxygen flowing through the grill, like when you’re cooking low and slow.
Even though conditions have to be just right to cause a flashback, it’s best to assume that it will happen whenever you open the lid. Luckily, burping your kamado (yes, that’s what preventing flashbacks is called: burping) is a quick and easy process that can save your eyebrows!
- Open the lid an inch or two.
- Wait a few seconds for oxygen to slowly enter the kamado.
- Close the lid.
- Wait a few seconds.
- Repeat steps 1-4 once or twice more.
All you’re doing when you burp your kamado is letting air in slowly. You can also do this by opening your vents and letting air flow through that way, but it can mess with your cooking if you forget about them. Opening the lid a little bit two or three times is the best way to burp your kamado and prevent a flashback.
Other Kamado Safety Tips
Most of these tips you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever used a charcoal grill before, but it’s always a good idea to rehash best practices.
- Wait until the ashes have fully cooled before cleaning them out. Hot embers can remain hidden in the ashes for up to 48 hours in the right conditions. When you’re done cooking, close your vents fully to starve the coals of oxygen. Wait at least 24 hours before removing them. 48 hours is better, if possible.
- Do not allow children or animals around the grill when it’s in use. Children should never be allowed to open the grill because of the risk of flashback. Plus, the ceramic can get hot!
- Do not pace your kamado on anything but the stand it came with. The hot ceramic can damage anything you set it on.
- Do not use chemicals to light your coals. Only use a charcoal chimney starter or start your coals inside the grill.
- Do not move the grill while it’s in use.
- Do not use the grill inside.
Okay, most of those are no-brainers, right? Had to get them out of the way. Now, let’s get to the fun stuff.
What Are Kamado Grills Used For?
Short answer: everything.
Seriously though. Kamado grills are the most versatile charcoal grills out there. You could even make an argument that they can outwork gas grills. In fact, many people have made that argument. You can decide for yourself whether they’re right or not. But before we dive into that, let’s address a commonly asked question.
Can You Smoke in a Kamado Grill?
Since kamado grills are known for getting extremely hot and holding that heat, many people think that they wouldn’t be good for smoking. After all, smoking requires steady low temperatures for long periods of time. The truth is, what makes kamado’s so good at maintaining high heat is also what makes them good for maintaining low temperatures.
Plus, their design and limited airflow make them ideal for retaining moisture in your meats. Chances are that after you taste juicy, flavorful meat smoked in a kamado, you’ll never want to go back.
Kamado grills are excellent for smoking. In fact, they tend to require less fuel replenishment than other charcoal grills, making them a great choice for low and slow smoking. Simply add some wood chips to your lumpwood charcoal, leave the dampers slightly open, and commence smoking!
From Pizzas to Veggies: Kamado Grill Cooking
You can use a kamado grill for almost anything. Want to make an authentic, brick-oven pizza? Can do with a kamado. In the mood for hotdogs and hamburgers cooked on direct heat? No problem. A rack of ribs can come off a kamado grill packed with moisture and flavor. Crisping some veggie kebabs is no problem either.
Kamado Grills Have a Wide Temperature Range
Direct heat cooking is easy on a kamado, but you can also do raised-direct cooking. For indirect heat, you can use an accessory that puts a ceramic barrier between the coals and your food. This is great for cooking pizzas and loaves of bread at high temperatures and also works well for cooking ribs, brisket, and pork shoulders at low temperatures. You can even roast an entire turkey in a kamado!
Benefits and Disadvantages of Kamado Grills
So far kamado grills sound pretty great, right? But before you go buy one, read on to find out about the benefits and the disadvantages of kamado grills. They have a few of each, and the information will be beneficial to your decision-making process.
Benefits of Kamado Grills
We’ve already covered many of these, but let’s re-hash them.
Kamados are more versatile than any other charcoal grill out there— and most gas grills, too. They double as an oven for pizzas and bread! Show us a gas grill that can do that.
They are also extremely efficient with the charcoal, meaning you don’t have to add more very often at all. In fact, some kamado owners report that they’ve cooked low and slow for up to 18 hours on a single load of lump charcoal!
They’re also great at retaining moisture in your meats, so they come out juicy and flavorful.
Ideal for Cold Weather
Kamados are great for cooking in cold weather because they’re so well insulated. You don’t have to worry about losing heat and cooking forever on a cold or windy day.
Easy to Clean
They’re also very easy to clean. Really all you have to do is brush the cooking grates while they’re still warm and empty the ash when it has cooled.
Of course, we can’t forget the fact that food cooked in a kamado grill is super tasty. Meats are juicy and flavorful, veggies are crisp and juicy, and pizzas taste like they’ve been cooked in a brick oven— which they have, kind of.
Plus, they tend to last a very long time. But, not all kamados are created equal. Check the warranty information before you commit to one. The best companies have some sort of lifetime warranty behind their kamado grills, even if it’s a limited lifetime warranty.
Disadvantages of Kamado Grills
Now for the cons.
Kamado grills are heavy! The smaller ones weigh around 80-90 pounds, while the big ones can weigh as much as 500 pounds! Of course, those big ones are generally for use at restaurants or BBQ places, but still! This means they are hard to move, although you can get a stand with wheels on it, making this task a little easier.
Kamados are also quite the investment. While you can get a run-of-the-mill charcoal grill for under $100, you won’t be able to get a decent kamado grill for under $1,000. If you do get one, be sure your kids like it, because chances are you’ll be handing it off to one of them. They last so long, your grandkids may even enjoy it!
They aren’t the easiest grills to learn on. But, once you do get the hang of them, they’re incredibly accurate and easy to control. Don’t forget to burp your kamado before opening the lid fully. The fact that you can get a fireball in your face is definitely a con, even though it’s easy to avoid.
Lump Charcoal Only
Kamado grills aren’t designed for use with anything but lump charcoal. The reason being is that briquettes tend to have chemicals or binding agents that soak into the ceramic. Once they’re in the porous material, they aren’t going anywhere. That’s why it’s best to never use lighter fluid or chemical fire starters. Lump charcoal is generally more expensive than other types, but keep in mind that you won’t need as much because of the efficient kamado design.
Hard to Change Gears
Lastly, while kamados are versatile, they also take a long time to cool down. So, if you want to go from grilling with direct heat to smoking low and slow on the same day, you’ll have to wait several hours for the grill to cool.
That’s it for the disadvantages. Now, let’s wrap things up by answering the question you’re no doubt asking yourself.
“Should I Buy a Kamado Grill?”
If you consider yourself a serious griller then the answer is yes. Of course, we can’t really answer this question for you. They are incredibly versatile and efficient, but they’re also a little pricey and they’ve got a bit of a learning curve.
But if you’re reading this post, you’re probably a seasoned griller, anyway. And if you’re a seasoned griller, you’ll be able to appreciate how easy it is to control the temperature on a kamado to cook pretty much anything you want.
Your low and slow meat will come out juicy and falling off the bone. Your homemade pizza will have that authentic brick-oven taste. Your veggies will come off crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. Your roasted birds and smoked pork shoulders will be the best you’ve ever made.
Just remember to burp your kamado and clean out the ashes when you’re done to get it ready for next time!
If you do want to check one out, our pick is the Kamado Joe Classic II. At 18” of cooking space, it’s a good introduction to the world of kamado grills. Oh, and dont forget your lump charcoal!