If you’re someone who likes to cook, you’ve probably heard about kamado grills. Also known as a charcoal grill, these cookers use charcoal and a thick ceramic wall. This wall makes them heavy (think anywhere from 80 to 500 lbs), but it also makes food taste so much more flavourful than it ever could on a gas grill.
Whether you just want to up your beef barbacoa taco game or have a real passion for cooking, the following guide will give you the basics on charcoal grills to help you decide if it’s an investment worth making.
How do kamado grills work?
Kamado grills are based on the traditional Japanese kamado cooking vessels, which were both fuel-efficient as well as incredibly insulated, allowing them to cook at a sustained high heat. Kamado grills on the market today have retained the classic egg-shaped design.
The main components of a kamado grill are the ceramic walls, a bottom draft door, and a top vent. The ceramic walls insulate and reflect heat, while the draft door is used to create an airflow inside the cooker, much like an oven on the convection setting would do. Opening the draft door wide will cause the charcoal fuel to burn hot and increase the temperature (up to 750° F) while keeping it open just a sliver keeps the temperature low and steady for slow cooking.
What is the best kamado grill to buy?
With so many different kamado grills on the market today, figuring out which one is right for you isn’t easy. Some of the more popular brands include the Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, and the Primo Kamado Grill. The best kamado grill will largely depend on your lifestyle, budget, and what you plan to use it for.
Though most grills are made out of ceramic, some are manufactured out of aluminum and steel. The benefits of choosing a metal grill over a ceramic include it being lighter for frequent transportation and the ability to get up to higher temperatures.
However, ceramic cookers are less likely to rust and will last longer (a lifetime or more!) as long as they are properly maintained and the maximum temperature of ceramic grills is more than enough for most people.
Kamado grills come in three classes with three different price points: entry-level, premium, and luxury. For most buyers, the premium class is the way to go. Entry-level grills are generally a waste of money, as they are built with thin walls that do not retain heat and therefore entirely defeat the point of a kamado cooker.
On the other hand, luxury grills are made of cast aluminum that doesn’t rust and get extremely hot. Unless you have a specific need for these features, the premium will do everything you want and more.
What kind of fuel should I use?
Technically, you can use any type of wood you want in your grill. That being said, most kamado enthusiasts will recommend using hardwood lump charcoal. Charcoal briquettes will create a ton of ash and do not burn as efficiently or as hot as lump charcoal. Hardwood lump charcoal in particular produces very little ash.
Depending on what you’re cooking, you may want to use hickory, maple, or oat charcoal, as these contribute flavor to the food.
Fool-proof cooking tips for beginners
For those new to cooking on a kamado grill, there can be a bit of a learning curve. Some of the most popular types of cooking and cooking strategies include:
With an indirect cooking technique, you can use your kamado grill to do all the things your oven can do (yes, including baking!) plus more. In addition to roasting and cooking your favorite dutch oven dishes, the charcoal fuel and ability to cook at a low, even temperature means you can slow cook and smoke that juicy lamb roast shoulder to perfection.
A kamado grill will also cook your homemade pizzas better than your oven will ever be able to. Traditional pizza ovens require high heat, but most ovens only go up to about 500° F. Kamados come with all kinds of accessories, so all you need to achieve this recipe is a pizza stone.
Direct cooking can be done right on top of the hot coals or raised. A nice juicy steak or burgers can go directly on the coals, but to get that nice crispy skin on your rotisserie without losing all the juices, you’ll want to raise it above the coals a little bit. In addition to searing and grilling, direct cooking is the best way to make all your tandoori favorites without a tandoori oven.
Is a kamado grill right for you?
Before rushing out to the store to pick up a kamado grill, spend some time researching all the different models to determine if it’s the right investment for you. While a kamado grill isn’t cheap by any means, if you use it enough, you and your family will be able to enjoy it for years to come.
I don’t get to grill very often, but my brother is a huge fan. Are you a fan of grilling? Would you splurge for a kamado grill? Are you one of those people who grills in the snow just because you enjoy it that much? Let me know in the comments.
Until our next rendezvous…