Kamado style cookers have been around for centuries in Japan and China. The word kamado in Japanese is “stove” or “cooking range”. Today the market uses the word kamado to describe the popular “egg” shaped cooker that is typically fueled with natural lump charcoal.
There are many brands of kamado style cookers, some are green, some are red, some are black but they all work pretty much the same way. The cooker is egg shaped from heavy ceramic and finished with a high gloss glaze. The top half of the cooker is typically hinged with a hold open feature. There are two vents that control the amount of air introduced into the fire box, this controls the temperature. The bottom vent is where air flows in and is typically rectangular shaped with a sliding door for adjustment. The top vent usually has a couple of different ways to control airflow. The disk can be opened completely for high air flow which results in high temperature or the smaller disk can be adjusted with smaller holes for lower temperatures. Most of the popular brands work very much the same way. The features can set one brand apart from the others. The picture below is of a green kamado style cooker and shows how we can build them into a granite counter top for the cleanest appearance possible.
There are a few different sizes available from the various manufacturers with most brands offering 18” and 24” as well as other sizes. The most common size comes with an 18” cooking surface. I opted for the larger 24” cooking surface. Even though many friends have said things like “wow that’s huge” or “why did you get one so big?” I don’t regret it at all. In the picture here I am cooking some boston butt that I had the butcher slice into 1” pieces. This was dinner for 8 with plenty for leftovers.
The versatility of these cookers is amazing. You can cook pizza at 500 degrees tonight, steak at 650 tomorrow and smoke a pork boston butt at 225 the next night. The set up of the cooking grid is a little different for each type of cooking and you adjust the air vents for your desired temperature. Using natural lump charcoal gives the foods a slight wood flavor but nothing that has been too much for me or my family. We can barely even taste it in the pizza but the smoked meat does have a pleasant smoked flavor.
In the future I will post some more details about temperature control and cooking techniques.