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How to Use a Kamado Grill

12 Mins read
How to Use a Kamado Grill

If you’re looking to take your outdoor cooking game to the next level, learning how to use a Kamado grill is a great place to start. These versatile cookers have been around for centuries and are beloved for their ability to retain heat and produce exceptional flavors. Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or a beginner, mastering the art of Kamado cooking can take your backyard barbecues to new heights. In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of how to use a Kamado grill so you can start grilling like a pro.

What is a Kamado Grill?

A Kamado grill is a traditional Japanese cooking appliance made of ceramic or porcelain. It consists of an oval-shaped ceramic grill with a domed lid. Kamado grills are very versatile and can be used to bake, roast, grill, and smoke various foods. The thick ceramic walls retain heat extremely well and provide excellent insulation, allowing Kamado grills to maintain a steady temperature for a long time. 

They are also very efficient, using minimal fuel to produce high, even heat. The domed lid circulates the heat and smoke within the grill, infusing the food with a delicious smoky flavor. Kamado grills have become popular with grilling enthusiasts and are praised for cooking food that is moist and full of flavor. With their unique shape and material, Kamado grills produce some of the best charcoal-grilled and smoked meat, seafood, and vegetables.   

How to Use a Kamado Grill

Kamado Grill

How to use a Kamado Grill – Simple way

Using a Kamado grill may seem intimidating at first, but it’s quite simple once you understand the basics. Here are some simple steps to get you started:

How to Light a Kamado Grill

Here is a summary of the steps to light a Kamado grill:

Open the draft door and lid vent fully. Keep the lid open.

Fill the fire bowl 3/4 full with natural lump charcoal. Leave a center space empty.

Use an electric starter or chimney starter to light the center coals. Let them ash over.

Pour the lit coals into the center space of the charcoal stack. Do not use lighter fluid. 

With all vents open, let the Kamado reach over 700°F for at least 30 minutes. This sears the interior.

Spread the coals evenly and close the lid. Monitor the thermometer until it reaches your target temp.

Make small vent adjustments to fine-tune the temperature. Change in increments of 10-15mins. 

Once at cooking temp, place grates over coals. Add your food. 

To end, close all vents to choke the oxygen supply. Let cool for 12 hours before ash removal.  

Some extra tips for lighting your Kamado grill:

Be very careful when lighting, as the entire grill gets extremely hot. Wear heat-resistant gloves and do not leave the grill unattended.

Do not overload the fire bowl with too much charcoal, or you may overshoot your target temperature. It is easier to add more coals to increase heat than reduce excess heat. 

Use lump charcoal and avoid charcoal briquettes. Lump charcoal provides a better wood smoke flavor. Never use lighter fluid, as it will affect the food flavor.

Keep the lid open at first to allow for maximum oxygen flow. Do not close the lid until the interior has been properly seared and the coals become glowing embers. 

Make only minor vent adjustments at a time. Large changes can cause dramatic temperature spikes or drops, making temperature stabilization difficult. Be patient.

Always choke the air supply and extinguish all coals completely after cooking before leaving the grill. Open vents or live coals will continue burning and can seriously damage the grill. 

Clean your Kamado after each use to prevent built-up ash and soot. Burnt residue inside the grill can affect future cooking performance and airflow.

How to Use a Kamado Grill

How to Use a Kamado Grill

How to Control Kamado Grill Temperature

Monitor the built-in lid thermometer to see when the target temp is reached and if any vent adjustments are needed. 

Open vents/draft door wider to increase temperature. Make adjustments in small increments, waiting for 10-15 mins between changes. 

Close vents/draft door slightly to decrease temperature. Again make gradual changes and wait for the new temperature to stabilize before adjusting further.

The lower vent/draft door controls airflow to the charcoal, impacting temperature the most. The upper vent is mainly for smoke release – only close partially when choking the grill after cooking. 

Do not overload the fire bowl with too much charcoal, or it may be difficult to lower the temperature. Start with less charcoal, you can always add more to increase heat.

Be patient when making vent changes and wait for temperatures to stabilize. The ceramic chamber retains heat well, so adjustments can take time to impact the internal temp. 

Consider purchasing an additional gasket or seal kit to maximize temperature control. Better seals mean less airflow for finer tuning. Some Kamado grills may require minor DIY sealing to improve temperature precision. 

Practice makes perfect. The more you cook on your Kamado, the better you will get at controlling different temperature levels for different foods. Maintaining steady low temps (225-275°F) for smoking and higher grilling temps (450°F+) will become second nature.

How to Use a Kamado Deflector Plate

A deflector plate sits above the lower fire grate and helps diffuse direct heat before it reaches the cooking grates. This allows for more even cooking temperatures, especially when smoking or baking.

To use, simply place the deflector plate on the fire grate and arrange your charcoal evenly around the edges of the plate. The center opening will remain clear for airflow. 

For smoking and baking, fill the outer area with enough charcoal to maintain 225-350°F. Monitor temperature to see if any adjustments are needed. 

For searing and grilling, remove the deflector plate for direct heat. Arrange charcoal under the entire cooking grate surface.

Some deflector plates can be raised or lowered to different levels or removed completely. This provides more precise temperature control for the cooking you want to achieve. 

Consider purchasing an additional deflector plate or heat diverter for dual-zone cooking. Place the deflector over part of the fire bowl for indirect heat on one side of the grill and leave the other half exposed for direct high heat. Perfect for reverse searing!

Deflector plates help make Kamado cooking as versatile as possible. From low and slow smoking to wood-fired pizza, a deflector plate allows you to control temperatures for a range of recipes on a single grill. With the right technique, you can master cooking many foods on your Kamado.

How to Use a Kamado Grill

How to Use a Kamado Grill

How to use a kamado grill for Different Ways to Cook

A Kamado grill is an incredibly versatile cooking tool that can be used for a variety of cooking techniques. Here are some different ways to use a Kamado grill:

How to use a Kamado grill for Grilling

Grilling is one of the most popular ways to use a Kamado grill, and it’s easy to do with a few simple steps:

Kamado grills are ideal for high-heat grilling. To grill on a Kamado, first, fill the fire bowl with lump charcoal and light using an electric starter or chimney starter. Let the coals ash over before pouring them into your Kamado. 

Once the grill reaches 600-700°F with all vents open, this will properly sear the grill grates and interior. Then, spread the coals evenly under the grate. For best results, spread in a single layer. 

Oil the grate thoroughly to prevent food from sticking while it cooks and getting sear marks. You can also rub oil on your food before grilling.

Place your food on the cooking grate and close the lid. Sear for 3-5 minutes per side, then check. When grilling at high heat, check frequently to avoid overcooking. 

Only flip the food once or twice in total while grilling. Excess flipping will dry it out. Brush additional oil or sauce on each time you flip.  

Make minor vent adjustments to maintain a consistently high temperature. Open vents a bit more to increase heat. Close slightly to decrease. Monitor the temperature gauge. 

Grill vegetables, seafood, poultry, and meats that benefit from a quick sear, such as steak, shrimp, zucchini, bell peppers, and more. 

Consider using a secondary raised grid or tray for vegetables and keeping them off direct heat. The tray will allow the veggies to cook from the ambient temperature and prevent over-charring. 

Once the food is cooked, remove it immediately to avoid overcooking. The Kamado will stay hot for a while after, allowing for quick cooking.

To end your cookout, close all vents to choke off the oxygen supply and snuff out the remaining charcoal. Let the Kamado cool completely before removing the ashes. 

With frequent grilling, you will master high-heat cooking on your Kamado in no time. Grilling on a Kamado allows for quick, delicious meals with friends and family all summer long.

How to use a kamado grill for Smoking

Smoking is another popular way to use a Kamado grill, and it’s perfect for creating delicious, slow-cooked meats. Here’s how to use your Kamado grill for smoking:

To smoke on a Kamado, fill the fire bowl with enough lump charcoal to burn for several hours at 225-275°F. Light the charcoal and let it ash over.

With vents open, bring the Kamado up to 300°F, then close vents to 3/4 closed. This will create clean smoke. Once at your target temperature, usually 225°F for most meats, place your choice of wood chips, chunks, or pellets in the ash catcher. Keep refilling as needed to generate smoke.

Place food on cooking grates, close the lid, and monitor the temperature. Make minor vent adjustments to maintain steady, even heat. Never open the lid, only check the built-in thermometer. Adding moisture with a water pan or spraying water will help food retain moisture. 

Smoke times will vary depending on the type of meat. Once done, the internal temperature should reach 195-205°F for most pork and beef. The meat should have a deep, russet color and pull away from the bone.

Wood preferences depend on the food being smoked. Fruit woods pair well with poultry and fish, hickory enhances the flavor of pork and beef, and mesquite intensifies red meat. Soak wood chunks for 30 mins before adding more smoke.

A durable thermometer probe inserted into larger cuts of meat is required for monitoring internal temperatures without opening the lid. A temperature controller can automatically control vents to keep a steady temp.

To end your cook, simply close all vents and let the fire extinguish itself, usually 12-24 hours. Opening the grill too soon can cause temperature spikes. Let cool completely before emptying ashes.

With the right technique and patience, your Kamado can produce deliciously smoked foods. Kamado smoking allows you to create barbecue classics like brisket, ribs, and pulled pork for friends and family.

How to Use a Kamado Grill

How to Use a Kamado Grill

How to use a Kamado grill for Roasting

Roasting is a great way to use a Kamado grill to cook large cuts of meat like whole chicken, turkey, or prime rib. Here’s how to use your Kamado grill for roasting:

To roast on a Kamado, fill the fire bowl 2/3 full with lump charcoal and light. With all vents open, bring the grill to your target roasting temperature – typically 325-450°F.  

Once preheated, spread the coals evenly and place a heat deflector over them. The deflector will help spread heat and prevent direct contact with food. You can also elevate food on a roasting rack for more even cooking.  

Season the meat generously all over with your favorite spices. Chicken, beef, pork, and vegetables can all be roasted. For extra crispness, dry the meat surface thoroughly and do not baste while cooking. 

Place food on a roasting rack or pan and close the Kamado lid. Check after 30 minutes to rotate pans or racks for even browning. Use the built-in thermometer to monitor internal food temperature – 165°F for poultry, 195-205°F for pork and beef. 

Roasting time will vary depending on the type of food and Kamado temp. Chicken and vegetables may take 1-2 hours, while larger cuts of beef can take 6-8 hours. Check for doneness and avoid opening the lid often. 

Make minor vent adjustments as needed to maintain a steady temperature. Never rapidly change vent settings, as this causes temperature spikes. Be patient and allow 10-15 minutes for any changes to impact the internal temp before adjusting again.

Once food reaches desired internal temperature, remove it immediately to avoid overcooking. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. This allows juices to redistribute and makes the meat more tender and juicy.

Your Kamado can produce juicy, flavorful roasts and sides to serve a crowd. With the proper technique, roasting on a Kamado allows you to create amazing full meals with your favorite roast chicken, ribs, potatoes, and more.

How to use a Kamado grill for Baking

Using a Kamado grill for baking is a unique and delicious way to prepare bread, pizza, and other baked goods. Here’s how to use your Kamado grill for baking:

To bake on a Kamado, fill the fire bowl 2/3 full with lump charcoal and light. With all vents open, bring the grill to 600°F for pizza and bread, or 350°F for most desserts.  

Once preheated, spread the coals evenly and place a heat deflector over them. The deflector will help spread heat for more even baking. You may also need additional racks or pans for certain foods. Ceramic baking stones can be placed in Kamados and help mimic the baking results of a traditional oven.

Prepare your dough, batter, or crust and place it on a heat-proof pan, stone, or rack. Close the Kamado lid to trap heat and monitor the temperature. Rotation and vent adjustments may be needed for even baking. Never open the lid which will drop the internal temperature.

Baking time will depend on the specific recipe and Kamado temperature. Most pizzas and breads need 7-12 minutes at 600°F. Check for doneness with a timer and avoid opening the lid. Desserts and pastries usually need 25-40 minutes at 350°F.

Make very minor vent adjustments as needed to stabilize temperature. Be cautious not to rapidly increase heat which leads to burnt bottoms before the inside is cooked. Lower temperatures in small increments and be patient.

Once done baking, remove food immediately to avoid overcooking. Your bread, pizza, cake, or pie can continue cooking for a few minutes after removing from the hot Kamado. Let rest as directed in your recipe before serving and enjoying!

Baking in a Kamado may take some experimentation to master, but with practice, you can produce amazing artisanal bread, wood-fired pizzas, and delicious desserts. Your Kamado allows you to step up your baking game and wow guests with homemade treats hot from your grill.

How to use a Kamado grill for Searing and smoking

Using a Kamado grill for searing and smoking is a great way to cook meats like steaks and chops that benefit from a crispy exterior and a smoky flavor. Here’s how to use your Kamado grill for searing and smoking:

To sear on a Kamado, fill the fire bowl with lump charcoal and light. With all vents open, bring the grill to 600-700°F. This high heat will properly sear the grates and interior, creating great sear marks on your food.  

Pat meat dry and brush lightly with oil. Place on hot grates and sear for 3-5 minutes per side, flipping once, until browned. Searing locks in juices while creating flavor. Once seared, remove food and brush with your favorite barbecue sauce to finish cooking indirectly. 

For smoking, bring Kamado to 225-275°F with vents partially closed. Add your choice of wood chips to the ash catcher and place a water pan under the grates to add moisture.  

Return seared food to the grates away from direct heat. The ambient temperature will continue cooking the food while the wood chips impart a smoky flavor. Monitor internal temperatures – 165°F for poultry, 195-205°F for pork and beef.  

Venting and temperature control are key to managing a Kamado for searing and smoking. Make adjustments in small increments, waiting 10-15 minutes for temperatures to stabilize between changes. Opening the lid causes significant heat and smoke loss, so only use the built-in thermometer. 

Food can be seared then smoked, or smoked then finished with a quick sear. Both methods result in a beautiful blend of flavors and textures. Your meat will have a delicious smoky crust and ring of pink meat below.  

With the proper technique, your Kamado allows you to sear for browning and lock in juices, then smoke low and slow for maximum flavor. Combining high and low-heat cooking methods on one grill results in competition-worthy barbecue in your backyard. Smoke and sear away!

Your Kamado opens up a world of possibilities for amazing, restaurant-quality meals at home. With the right recipes and patience in mastering temperature control, you’ll be cooking like a pro in no time.

How to use a Kamado grill for Simmering and braising

Using a Kamado grill for simmering and braising is a great way to infuse your food with smoky flavors while keeping it moist and tender. Here’s how to use your Kamado grill for simmering and braising:

To simmer or braise on a Kamado, fill the fire bowl 2/3 full with lump charcoal and light. With vents open, bring to 300-325°F.

Once preheated, spread coals evenly and place a heat deflector over them. The deflector will help distribute heat for gentle, indirect cooking. You may also want to add a drip pan to catch braising liquids. 

For simmering, add your choice of broth or stock to the drip pan along with aromatics like onions, garlic, and herbs. Add meat and vegetables and cover, adjusting vents to drop the temperature to 225-250°F. Simmer until ingredients are tender and flavors blended, usually 1-3 hours. 

For braising, pat meat dry and sear all sides until browned, about 5-10 minutes total. Place in a drip pan with broth or stock and vegetables. Cover and braise at 300°F until fork tender. Cooking time will depend on the type of cut – 3-5 hours for chuck roast, 1-3 hours for boneless thighs.  

Check food periodically and add more liquid as needed to keep it submerged at least 1/2 way. Make minor vent adjustments to maintain an even, gentle simmer or braise. Do not rapidly change temperature. 

Once done, remove the food and strain braising liquid into a saucepan. Skim off excess fat and reduce liquid until slightly thickened. Serve over top or on the side of the meat.

With practice, you’ll master the art of simmering and braising on your Kamado. Low, slow cooking results in extremely flavorful and tender meals. Your Kamado allows you to create homemade favorites like beef stew, coq au vin, ossobuco, and more.

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Website: https://scillsgrill.com/

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About author
As the founder and chief editor of Scills Grill, I'm a self-proclaimed BBQ nut. I love cooking outdoors over live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I use various grills, smokers, and wood-fired ovens to produce epic food. Peter Cobbetts is the president and founder of Scills Grill, with over 15 years' experience in barbecue. He's an exceptional pitmaster and grill expert who specializes in smoking briskets, pork shoulders - using charcoal, wood or propane grills/smokers - as well as reviewing kitchen appliances such as grills, smokers etc., having tried out almost every model available on the market.
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