BBQ Smoker Basics

Kamado GrillHey Guys, Kevin here…

I wanted put a post up that may turn into a sort of series related to Kamado Grill information.  I’ll be doing some basic research into Kamado Grill cooking, smoking, and general information.

So, first things first… what is a Kamado Grill?

To begin developing an understanding of what a Kamado Grill is, we need to take a minute to look back into exactly when this style of cooker was introduced to the BBQ and Grilling world.

Here’s an introduction I found from Derrick Riches over at About.com.  From what Derrick shares, we know that:

When U.S. servicemen arrived in Japan as part of the occupational force after the Second World War, they had to adapt to a new way of life. One of these adaptations was to convert a centuries old rice cooker into what we know as the Kamado cooker.

Made of ceramic, these charcoal fired grills slowly caught on in the United States and in the 1970s the Big Green Egg company was formed. Slowly but surely this style of grill became one of the most popular charcoal grills on the market and more than a dozen companies have jumped into the market space.

What people quickly realized about this style of grill was that it was perfect for low and slow cooking. Because of the simple airflow design and efficient insulation of the ceramic shell, these grills make perfect smokers.  More on Kamado Grills from About.com.

As Derrick points out, Kamado Grill cooking is great for creating excellent low and slow BBQ because the two key elements of this type of cooking device are its ability to retain heat and maintain temperatures over long periods of time.

Another great overview from Meathead’s site over at AmazingRibs.com gives a bit more insight into the Kamado Grill and its history as a BBQ Smoker favorite.

The kamado or ceramic grill/smoker/oven is a fast growing category with more and more choices every year. With good reason. These charcoal fueled devices are modern versions of the Japanese Kamado, an earthernware cooking urn whose original design is probably at least 3,000 years old. Indian tandoors are similar in concept.

They look a bit like an ancient burial urn or a giant egg, and the most popular model is called the Big Green Egg.

Kamados come in two distinct flavors, ceramic and steel. Most are made of ceramics, terra cotta, cement, lava rock, and other refractory materials, the kind of stuff used to make kilns and crucibles, all extremely good insulators. If you don’t drop them, they last a long time. As champion pitmaster Chris Lilly says of the Komodo Kamado says “Ask your children what color they want, because they will inherit it.” Many offer a stand or table in which you can insert the device.

The steel units are well insulated and seal tight, but the sides are not as good at retaining and radiating heat as the ceramics. – More at AmazingRibs.com.

Of course, one of the draw backs to using a Kamado grill as your BBQ Smoker of choice is that they can be a bit on the pricey side. By far, the big boy on the block where Kamado cookers are concerned is the Big Green Egg (BGE).  Several other makes and models are available, however – so getting into a Kamado style BBQ smoker if you’re on a bit of a budget isn’t impossible.

Most Well Known Kamado Grill Manufacturers

At present, the following Kamado Grill makes and models are among the most popular.  This list is by no means definitive, and may change over time.

  • Big Green Egg
  • Kamado Joe
  • Primo Oval Ceramic
  • Broil King Keg
  • Grill Dome Ceramic
  • Saffire Grill Kamado
  • Viking Ceramic Kamado
  • Bayou Classic Kamado
  • King Griller Kamado

I’m not going to go into the specific qualities of the Kamado Grill makes and models listed above – as we’ll dig a bit deeper into each model in later posts.  For now, let’s just focus on some of the pluses and minuses of creating good BBQ on these types of smokers.

Kamado Grill Space Saver RibsKey Advantages and Disadvantages

BBQ Smoker Fans who love cooking on Kamado Grills treasure their ability to get up to temp and hold temp for a long period of time. I’ve seen BGE users and those favoring other styles of these cookers use a single bag of natural lump charcoal for much longer than may be expected from offset or more traditional style BBQ Smokers.

On average, a Kamado grill is capable of attaining temperatures at more than 750 degrees F.  Long lasting, a Kamado grill can easily become a family heirloom as they are nearly impervious to some of the more damaging elemental effects other BBQ Smokers have to contend with.

On the down side, a Kamado grill is going to set you back a pretty penny.  Obviously, there is a low and high end of the spectrum here. There is also the issue of spatial limitations.  A single Kamado grill – even a very large one like the BGE XL will not give you the same BBQ Smoker space as say, a larger gravity fed style smoker.  While you do see Kamado grills in use at BBQ competitions – Pitmasters that use them will often have either several on site or will mix it up and cook some of their meats in say, a Stumps or other type of smoker.

As you see from the photo on the right, one way to maximize space when cooking BBQ on a Kamado grill is to use an extended cooking rack.

Great Places for Real Kamado Grill Information

I’ve recently joined a cool Kamado Grill Facebook group called the Kamado Guru Group. At present there are 78 members in this group and the photos and information you find there are flat out awesome.  If you want to keep on top of what’s going on within Kamado Grill community, this is a great place to start.  You’ll find that the folks in this group are always willing to share stories and impart their advice and wisdom.

One BBQ Blogger I really admire who cooks on a Bubba Keg style Kamado Grill is Paul Haight over at No Excuses BBQ.  Paul uses his “Bubba Ho Keg” in various cool ways and always has killer photos and results info. It’s of the Big Steel Keg variety of Kamado Grill makes, and Paul always keeps you up to date on his BHG adventures.

Check out the first appearance of Bubba Ho Keg.  And be sure to read up on the rest of Paul’s BBQ adventures.  You can find him on Facebook here.