The kamado grill is the outdoor cooker of your dreams. It can do it all: smoke, grill, roast, bake, and sear.
If you are looking to take your grilling game up a notch or two this summer but don’t know how to use one properly, read on for how to get started with these easy tips!
What is a Kamado Grill?
It’s possible that the term ‘kamado’ is derived from a Japanese martial art because kamado grills are initially from Japan. They are also known as kamados or egg-shaped grills due to the shape of their cooking chamber.
Kamado grills are a relatively new product in the US and other Western countries. Still, they have been around for over two thousand years. The egg-shaped ceramic cooking chamber uses clay, sand, and other natural materials.
The kamado grill allows you to cook at high temperatures (up to 800°F) without the risk of flare-ups, so you get a smoky taste in your food, and it retains heat well. The kamado grill also has a large cooking surface to cook multiple items at once.
Kamado Grill Parts
Dome & Hinge: This is the lid of the kamado grill. It’s usually made from stainless steel or cast iron, which is lightweight and durable. This part will hold all the coals inside the oven.
Surface & Flavorizer Bars: These are responsible for distributing heat evenly across your cooking grates. They are available in different forms, such as lava rock or ceramic tiles.
Cooking Grates: These are responsible for holding all your food. Ceramic kamado grills have porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates, while steel kamado grills use stainless steel.
Firebox: The firebox holds the coals to produce the heat you need to cook your food. It’s typically made from ceramic or cast iron, but if you have a modern gas grill, you will make this part out of metal instead.
Temperature Gauge & Venting Stacks: These allow you to regulate how much oxygen gets into your kamado grill and which way it flows through the device. It ensures that each meal comes out perfectly cooked with great results!
You can also adjust these settings according to your altitude since cooking temperatures vary with each foot of elevation! If you live above 1,000 feet (305 meters), increase cooking temperatures by 5°F or 10 °C. And if you live above 2,000 feet (610 meters), increase them by 10 °F or 5 °C.
Upper air vent: This is the large vent at the top of your kamado grill. You can open or close it as needed, depending on whether you want to increase or decrease airflow.
Lower air vent: This is the smaller vent at the bottom of your kamado grill. It’s typically used to regulate temperatures inside your cooker, mainly if you use charcoal instead of lava rocks or ceramic tiles for your heat distribution method.
Draft Door & Ash Drawer: The draft door is a small metal door that allows you to clean out your charcoal and ash. The ash drawer sits below the grill grates and collects all the ashes that fall through.
Thermometer: This is a valuable feature that will ensure your food comes out exactly how you want it! Look for a thermometer that’s easy to read and made from durable materials.
Temperature Gauge: The temperature gauge will regulate the heat inside your kamado grill, which will prevent you from overcooking or undercooking your food. It is essential to use charcoal instead of lava rocks or ceramic tiles!
How do Kamado Grills Work?
How does the kamado work? A metal heat deflector sits between the coals and food, so you don’t have to worry about meat dripping onto hot coals or ashes falling into your food.
Food sits on a grate above the heat deflector, and you can control how much heat reaches the food by adding more coals or adjusting vents.
Kamado grills have many adjustable parts that help you control the temperature and cooking process.
The main parts you’ll need to master are a vent at the base of the kamado, a damper on the top, and a vent in the dome.
How to Use a Kamado Grill
Here are the steps you need to follow, along with illustrations and explanations:
- Start by preheating the kamado grill for about an hour on the highest heat. You should also close the air vents and open them only when adding food. If you do not preheat, your kamado grill will lose heat quickly once the meat is added – which means that it will take longer to cook your food. There’s a higher chance of burning or undercooking it.
- Prepare Your Food Before Adding It
- Before putting any food in the kamado grill, make sure that all ingredients are ready for cooking: peeled onions, butter, chopped garlic cloves, etc. The last thing you want to do is burn yourself by trying to slice an onion while grilling!
- Use Foil as a Barrier Around Meat When Grilling
- If desired, you can use foil as a barrier around meat for easy cleanup. Add the meat to your kamado grill and cook it until there are lovely caramelized stripes on all sides.
- Remove Your Food Using Long Tongs
- Do not scrape or brush off food stuck to your kamado grill with a wire bristle or something else that can damage its ceramic coating. Instead, use long tongs for removing food without damaging the surface of your cooking chamber. When you put new ingredients in, make sure they don’t touch previously cooked food – this will cause cross-contamination, which is bad for safety reasons (i.e., raw chicken feeling cooked steak).
- Clean Up After Cooking With Warm Water and Dish Soap
How to Control Heat?
The kamado is equipped with vents at each end which you can use to control the temperature.
The vent at the base of the kamado is used for adjusting airflow into or out of the firebox, and it controls how much oxygen reaches the coals.
The top damper is used to adjust airflow through the cooking chamber, and it controls how much heat reaches the food.
The vent in the dome is used to adjust airflow out of your kamado, which can be helpful when you’re cooking at low temperatures.
Kamado Tips and Tricks
When it comes to cooking, the kamado has a few tricks up its sleeve:
- You can adjust your vents according to your needs. For example, you can close the vent at the bottom of your kamado when grilling or searing meat to create a hot zone for that purpose only. You don’t have to do it, but you might find this helpful.
- You can add wood chunks during the cooking process for additional smoke flavor. Just make sure they don’t touch meat directly or burn and give a bitter taste. Also, keep in mind that large pieces of oak should be soaked in water for four hours before being added to your kamado grill.
- To get a crispy skin-on chicken, duck, or turkey, just put them skin-side down above the drip pan when cooking at medium heat with the dome closed. After an hour, flip them over and cook until done (it might take another hour). This method won’t work with regular grilling because the meat gets cooked too quickly.
- Kamados can be used for baking thanks to their even heat distribution.
- When cooking a large piece of meat, you can use a wire rack on top of the lower plate or firebox grate and put it vertically with the bone-side facing down – this prevents burning and helps meat keep its shape.
- You can adjust airflow using your kamado’s vents, as explained above.
How to Light a Kamado Grill
Let’s start at the beginning; a kamado is a grill that cooks with charcoal. It implies that you must light the charcoal each time you heat the grill and begin cooking. So, let’s get started with burning your coals.
If you want to use some starter fluid, you can soak the briquettes in lighter fluid.
Alternatively, you can also use some lump charcoal to get it started; afterward, you can add briquettes or other commercial hardwood charcoal.
Now, let the kamado grill get its ventilation going. Open your bottom vent by halfway and close your top vent completely. If the briquettes are correctly lit, some flame will come out of your bottom vent.
To avoid some difficulties lighting the grill, you can start it using some natural lump charcoal.
Afterward, you have to switch to your commercial hardwood charcoal briquettes.
If you want to use some starter fluid at this point, you can soak the briquettes in it.
Ensure the drip pan is in place and the top vent is open by about 1/3. Check the temperature if you have a kamado grill with a built-in thermometer. If it’s somewhere around 400 °F, you are good to go.
Suppose you want to time your kamado grill’s temperature. In that case, you can do it by using the built-in thermometer located at its dome.
By now, your kamado grill should be at about 400 °F, give or take 20 to 30 degrees. Now you can add some more charcoal if needed and close your vents completely to reach your desired cooking temperature.
You can use the thermometer at the dome of your kamado grill to check its temperature if you haven’t done that yet.
Kamados are more challenging to light than other grills due to all-in-one construction.
Now that the coals are lit, it’s time to get your grilling on!
How to Cook Different Meats on a Kamado Grill
Kamados are perfect for roasting, smoking, and grilling. They will give you evenly cooked meat with crispy skin.
First of all, the thicker the meat is, the lower you should keep your cooking temperature. You can cook thinner cuts at high heat or use searing techniques.
Meat Temperature Guide
Here are some general guidelines that will help you cook different types of meats on your kamado grill:
Poultry – 160°F to 175°F (71–79 °C) depending on size and cut. Turkey takes longer to cook, so it usually requires temperatures around 225-280°F (107-140 °C). When using a digital thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of white breast meat without touching any bone – this retains juices while ensuring that dark meat is cooked throughout.
Beef – 145°F (63 °C) for medium-rare or 160°F (71 °C) for medium. The easiest way to check the temperature is by touching the meat with your index finger and pressing it together with your thumb until you can feel the firmness of muscle fibers under the surface. Pork – 140°F (60 °C) for medium doneness.
Ground beef, turkey, or chicken burgers/meatballs – 160°F (71 °C). Cook them toward the end since they cook quickly.
Don’t Forget Temperatures Vary With Altitude! You need to adjust cooking times according to our altitude because water boils at lower temperatures as altitude increases. If you live above 1,000 feet (305 meters), you should increase cooking temperatures by 5°F to 10°F (2–5 °C).
How to Grill Steak on a Kamado Grill
Grilling steak on a kamado grill is as easy as it can get. Start by setting your coals to one side of the grill.
Make sure your steak is at room temperature before you begin cooking it. It will ensure that your coals are ready for cooking, and you will evenly cook your steak.
Season your meat, then place it on the side of the grill opposite the coals. Use a temperature gun to monitor your cooking progress and flip after five minutes. You can also use tongs for flipping if you don’t have one of these gadgets available.
You could also use a fork but make sure not to pierce too deep since this could cause juices leaking. These little bits of juice are called “burn-off” or “blackening” because they turn black during grilling due to high temperatures. They are tasty bonuses that cook into your steak resulting in juicy flavor! Another way how to grill steer is by using searing techniques.
When you’re about to flip the steak, place it on a different section of your kamado grill. You can always use tongs for flipping if you don’t own a temperature gun.
Remove your meat from the grill and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving so that its juices redistribute evenly. I recommend trying one of these delicious steak rub recipes to top things off.
How to Smoke Brisket on a Kamado Grill Using Wood Chips
Smoking brisket is quite popular among barbecue enthusiasts because beef is flavorful. The below steps will teach you how to smoke brisket with wood chips on your kamado:
For best results, start by seasoning the meat with salt and pepper. Place on top of some paper towels, then cover it with another layer of paper towels on the other side so that you can place your wood chips on top.
Get your coals on one side of the kamado grill and set up indirect heat by moving them away from the cooking section. You can also adjust these settings by using a heat deflector or even just an aluminum pan filled with water.
Place some soaked wood chips over hot coals to produce smoke. Cover your kamado grill, then let the meat slowly cook for about six hours at 235°F (113°C). If you have a digital thermometer, insert its probe into the thickest part of the meat without touching any bone. The beef should have a temperature of at least 190°F (88°C).
Remove the meat from the grill and rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing into it. You can then either use a knife or a fork, but make sure to cut against the grain. It will ensure that your food turns out tender rather than chewy.
Try using some low-carb beef recipes to make the most of your smoked brisket!
How to Bake Bread on a Kamado Grill
Baking bread is another common task among kamado grill users since there are so many delicious types of bread out there. This detailed guide will teach you how to bake bread on your kamado without any issues:
Start by preheating your coals – you can remove some of them if necessary. Preheat the grill at 400°F (204°C) and then lower temperature to 300°F (149°C). You’ll be baking bread for around an hour, so make sure you have enough fuel for this.
Don’t forget to adjust these settings according to your altitude since baking temperatures vary with each foot of elevation! If you live above 1,000 feet (305 meters), increase cooking temperatures by 5°F or 10 °C. And if you live above 2,000 feet (610 meters), increase them by 10 °F or 5 °C.
Prepare your bread dough according to the recipe directions, then place it on parchment paper. You can also use a pizza stone instead of standard baking paper.
Insert the parchment paper or pizza stone into your oven for around 30 minutes or until you see a golden-brown crust form on top of your bread dough.
Use a thermometer to ensure that your bread’s internal temperature is at least 190°F (88°C). It will ensure that all bacteria are killed and that your bread comes out safe to eat.
Remove your bread from the oven and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
How to Get Crispy Skin on Your Kamado Grill
One of the secrets to getting crispy skin is using direct heat.
Start by preheating your coals and setting up a fire using only charcoal. You can do this by removing some of them or adjusting your temperature controls.
Place the chicken skin down on direct heat, then cover it with a sheet of metal foil to trap all the heat inside. It will ensure that your skin ends up nice and crispy without overcooking the meat underneath.
Cook for around 50 minutes at 250°F (121°C), remove from heat, and rest for 10 minutes before serving.
To learn how to grill juicy burgers using indirect heat, check out our guide here.
How to Grill Pizza on Your Kamado Grill
Grilling pizza is another common task among kamado grill users since everyone loves pizza! This detailed step-by-step guide will teach you how to grill pizza on your kamado grill correctly every single time.
Start by preheating your coals and setting up a fire using only charcoal. You can do this by removing some of them or adjusting your temperature controls.
You can also adjust these settings according to your altitude since grilling temperatures vary with each foot of elevation! If you live above 1,000 feet (305 meters), increase cooking temperatures by 5°F or 10 °C. And if you live above 2,000 feet (610 meters), increase them by 10 °F or 5 °C.
Prepare the dough according to its recipe directions, then place it onto a parchment paper sheet. Make sure that it’s not too thin, or it might fall apart when you lift it! You can also use a pizza stone instead of regular baking paper. If using a pizza stone, make sure to cook the pizza on both sides for precise results.
Pour some olive oil onto the dough, then add your desired toppings, making sure to avoid any ingredients that might cause your dough to become soggy.
Place the parchment paper onto the grill grates for 5-10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 400°F (204°C) and uncover. It will ensure enough heat for the crust to cook correctly.
Cook for another 5-10 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool before serving!
Final Thoughts on How to Use a Kamado Grill
Grilling is not the only thing you can do with your kamado grill; many more options are available. Keep in mind that some people may disagree with how we cook our food and would like to show you another way.
So feel free to share your results! Just remember to use gloves and good judgment – do not attempt anything you’re uncomfortable doing. Your kamado grill is the Swiss army knife of outdoor cookers, so go ahead, have fun, and grill on!