As outdoor kitchens have become increasingly popular over the years, the interest in specialty exterior cooking equipment has skyrocketed as well, and one of the most popular items within that category is the Kamado grill. What exactly is this type of grill, though, why are home chef enthusiasts so enamored, and what do you need to know about using one in your outdoor kitchen?
What Is a Kamado Grill?
The Kamado grills seen in stores today are actually descendants of the Japanese Kamado, which was an earthenware cooking urn used as far back as three thousand years ago. The modern iterations are ceramic cookers that serve as grills, smokers, and ovens all in one. Because of this versatility, they’re incredibly popular among those interested in outdoor cooking.
They operate using lump charcoal and wood as fuel. Depending on what you’re cooking and what flavors you want to imbue into your food, you can opt for hickory, applewood, peachwood, or any number of other fuel types.
Although they come in different sizes, you can generally expect the grilling surface to be about fifteen to twenty-six inches wide.
What Makes the Kamado Different?
Because they are ceramic, Kamado grills have unparalleled insulation. This means you can use them effectively year round. Even when the temperature drops, you can still smoke a brisket or make a crispy, impeccable pizza. This is markedly different than traditional steel grills, which lose too much heat to be practical in most cold-weather situations.
The other big differentiating factor with a Kamado grill is the ability to precisely regulate temperature through airflow. With even more precision than many indoor ovens, you can set your Kamado grill to hit a specific temperature and to stay on that exact temperature for upwards of eighteen hours. This property, coupled with its ability to maintain moisture, makes it particularly ideal for smoking meats.
Their versatility makes them particularly appealing for outdoor kitchens because you get a lot of functionality in one device. When space is at a premium, this provides a huge benefit. Whether you’re looking for something to simply grill burgers or you want the blazing 750 degree temperatures of a pizza oven, these ceramic Kamado grills can accommodate. Essentially, you get a smoker, a traditional oven, a grill, and a pizza oven all in one relatively compact piece of equipment.
Kamado Grills: Maintenance, Upkeep, and Best Practices
Because these grills can be quite deep, the easiest way to clean them of ashes and debris is a simple Shop-Vac or small vacuum. (Note, always wait until the ashes are entirely cool before any attempt to clean the grill.) Some models do have ash collectors on the side, but most users find a vacuum is easier, more efficient, and more effective. It’s important to routinely clean out old ashes from the bottom of the grill because of the potential for mold or mildew. Being an outdoor grill, there’s always the possibility of water or moisture getting inside, and that can quickly lead to mold issues if chunks of wood or piles of ash are left for too long in that damp environment.
To minimize this chance and to preserve the grill’s exterior, it’s always a good idea to invest in a sturdy outdoor grill cover. This can stop errant water from seeping in, and it can generally protect the grill from outdoor elements.
The good news here is that even if you do end up with any mold or mildew issue, it’s actually a pretty easy fix. Simply load the device with wood, and fire it up to at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The intense heat will burn off any of this unwanted residue and clean out the interior.
The other important best practice with a Kamado grill is all about placement within the outdoor kitchen. Many home cooks find that having counter space on both sides of the grill is highly desirable. Establishing space for food prep or just an area to put down trays ends of being a lot more convenient and user friendly than slamming one grill next to another. Keep this in mind when you’re planning where to place the Kamado grill. Also, think seriously about clearance around the grill itself. Because it can operate at extremely high temperatures, you want at least six inches of clearance behind the grill. Ideally, it also won’t be butted up against or near anything combustible. Thinking through these small placement issues can help ensure you use the grill in the safest way possible.
Popular Kamado Grill Brands: The Big Three
The following are three of the industry’s most well-known and highly rated Kamado grills:
- The original Kamado-style grill, Kamado Joe, is highly popular in the United States. Brand loyalty is high with this product, and people who use it swear by it.
Big Green Egg
- Arguably the best-known of all the Kamado grill options, Big Green Egg has done an incredible job of marketing itself. This includes producing a line of their own correlated grill products, such as thermometers, lump charcoal (made in the United States from natural oak and hickory), SpeediLight natural charcoal starters, and more. The grill has temperature readings up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit and can be ready to use in minutes.
- Saffire Grills have an easy-to-use smoke chip feeder system that’s unique to this brand. This allows users to feed wood chips, small wood chunks, and sticks to enhance the smoke flavor—all without opening the smoker.
While all of the “big three” brands offer similar functionality and usability, each grill has unique quirks and specialties. If you’re especially serious about grilling at your outdoor cooking station, make sure to do your research in order to determine which grill will perfectly suit your cooking-related needs.
Along with high-end brands, such as Danver Outdoor Kitchen, Kamado grills have become increasingly popular in outdoor living areas—and with all the benefits and versatility they provide serious home cooks, it’s easy to see why. If you’re looking to update or to install an outdoor kitchen in your home, make sure to ask your design and build firm about the benefits of these amazing, time-tested grills.