bbq, grill, food

Where did the kamado grill come from?

As a guilty carnivore, I love grilling. Grilling as a practice started over 500,000 years ago. However, it gained popularity in 1940s and 50s because of the popularity of camping and backyard barbecues.

Kamado grill originated from the Chinese ceramic cooking device from about 3000 years ago. This device was used for cooking rice efficiently and was then called yan-steamer. It was then imported to japan between 250- 538 A.D and was called kamado there. However, this early kamado looked nothing like our recent mushi-komado. The kamado in japan meant a cooking range or a hearth which means something you could put your ceramic pots on.

At the end of the Meiji period, Japan was looking at the rest of the world for innovations. They had a challenge of having to lower the temperature halfway through when cooking rice on a hearth, allowing it to simmer at the end. So, the first mushi-kamados were made. This was in a place in japan where some little round ceramic grills (hibachis) were made.

It was made in such a way that you can integrate different cookers. A hibachi is found inside a tandoor that looks like an oven. You put your cast-iron rice pot on top of the hibachi. When your rice has boiled enough, you put a damper on the chimney and the air intake. Heat stored in the clay will be slowly returned and the rice would simmer perfectly.

An American soldier staying in japan just after the second world war was the one who saw the potential it had to be a grill. The Americans who started selling it at first installed a grid, added a hinge on it, made the damper on top and made the air inlet manageable so that you can control the heat.

Today, the kamado has greatly evolved but has retained some of the key characteristics of the old one. Some of the things that were improved upon are the durability (less chance of cracking), the level of comfortability and convenience of cooking on the kamado.

In the modern kamado, there’s an ash removal system, a hinged lid, a thermometer and better grill grates or ceramic plates that puts the internal to a better use. A great modern place to buy a kamado grill is

How it works

Kamados are mainly made from two materials; ceramics and steel. These materials, especially ceramic, makes them very heavy but also retain heat efficiently. Towards the base of the kamado, fire from the firebox draws air(oxygen) from the air vent found at the bottom.

Smoke and heat then go upwards passing through food and then exiting through the air vents found at the top.

The wall of the kamado (ceramic) absorbs and radiates heat for even and wholly cooking. The food on the grates is cooked quickly or slowly depending on the style of cooking chosen.

How to use kamado

  • First of all, for a better kamado grilling experience, it’s better to use natural hardwood lump charcoal. This is because it burns faster while reaching very high temperatures, has better temperature control, doesn’t contain chemical additives and produces less ash compared to the charcoal briquettes.
  • Start the grill by using 3 methods:
  • Using an electric starter – Place it on top of the charcoal after opening all the air vents fully and wait for 10 – 15 minutes for it to start burning and smoke to show up. Then unplug and remove the electric starter.
  • Using charcoal fire starters – Fully open all air vents and then put the right amount of fire starters on the charcoal. Wait for smoke to show up and for the charcoal to get hot. Close the lid after making sure the charcoal is burning well and wait for the desired temperature to reach.
  • Using a charcoal chimney – open all air vents and put newspaper sheets on the bottom of the chimney before filling it up with charcoal. Fire up the newspapers and wait until all charcoal gets covered with ash. Transfer the hot charcoal into the kamado, add more charcoal if needed and close the lid to get to the right cooking temperature.
  • You can use the direct or indirect cooking method in a kamado grill. The direct method is the default but if you want to use the indirect, you need to use heat deflectors.
  • If you want to maintain the right temperature, follow the following steps:
  • Open all air vents
  • After getting the charcoal to heat, close the lid, wait until it reaches 20-25 degrees before the desired temperature and close the air vent partially leaving about a quarter open.
  • Wait to see if the temperature gets okay.
  • If the temperature exceeds your desired temperature, close all the top air vents
  • If it’s lower than expected, open all the top vents and wait for it to reach the desired temperature.

Safety tips for using kamado

  • Do not open the lid rapidly as this will cause all heat and smoke to come out in an instant and might end up hurting you. Instead, make sure you’ve opened all the air vents, open the lid just a little and wait for a little while and open it fully.
  • Do not use kamado grill inside the house
  • Make sure the grill has cooled down before cleaning it.
  • Don’t put ceramic materials in water since it might crack in the future.