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What Exactly is a Kamado Grill?

Posted by Jake Eller on

What Exactly is a Kamado Grill?
What is Kamado Grill?
In our increasingly globalized world, we are getting more and more access to obscure, previously-unheard of products. Where grilling is concerned, one of these relatively unknown products is the Kamado Grill.
For many, just the name “Kamado Grill” prompts little more than a head-scratching, confused expression. In fact, kamado-style grills have been around for centuries, and today, we’re going to get into the history of the kamado grill as well as the kamado’s place in modern grilling culture.
 
So, What is it?...
In the simplest terms, a kamado grill is a ceramic vessel used to cook food. Think about the clay pots you often see at museums -- those are essentially early versions of the kamado grill. These clay pots date as far back as 3000 years and were used to cook a huge variety of foods. Today, kamado grills can be seen as a sophisticated, modernized version of these early, fragile clay cooking devices.
 
Fun fact: “kamado” is Japanese for ‘stove’ or ‘cooking range’.
 
Looking at a modern kamado grill, the device can resemble a giant egg or urn. They’re typically made of high-fired ceramics or terra cotta -- similar to a kiln. The use of modern ceramic technology means that kamado grills are extremely crack and shatter resistant, provided you don’t simply drop them off a building somewhere. In fact, champion pitmaster Chris Lilly once said of the kamado grill: “Ask your children what color they want, because they’re gonna inherit it.”
 
The advantages of a Kamado Grill
So, aside from being damn-near indestructible, what advantages do kamado grills present? Because the heavy, ceramic domes absorb heat and then radiates it back into the grill, kamado grills function similar to brick ovens in many ways. This means that in addition to being great for smoking and roasting, kamado grills also shine when used for pizza... or brick-making. Thick walls create such a consistent temperature, in fact, that once the grill is brought up to temp, it’s basically set-it-and-forget-it. On top of all this, kamado grills can reach temperatures well into the 700-degree range.
 
All of this power comes with some caveats, though. Piloting a kamado grill isn’t exactly like your standard charcoal or electric setup.
 
How to use a Kamado grill
You never want to use any kind of lighter fluid to start a kamado grill. The ceramic walls are slightly porous, and petrochemicals can seep into the grill, causing serious problems. Another consideration is the sheer power of the grill. While 700+ degree temperatures are impressive, the machine takes some wrangling. You need to very slowly bring the kamado up to temp. If you overshoot your temperature, it’s going to take ages to cool down. In addition, vented kamados need expert handling of airflow to prevent flashover. When starved, you might open the lid, and allow oxygen to rush in, creating a veritable fireball.
 
All in all, the kamado is a great option for the experienced griller wanting to try something new. It’s certainly not entry-level, so beginners -- be warned! If you’re willing to tackle something new and challenging though, the kamado is what you want.