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  1. Here's what I think – "these are two entirely-different styles of cooking appliances!" A "simple charcoal kettle" – Weber or otherwise – is a "direct-heating device." The burning charcoal is sitting there, and it's doing all the work." Whereas, a Kamado-style appliance is – or, can be – "a convection oven!" Within a space wherein both the entry and the exit of air can be fully controlled, there is an inner container, which allows air to recirculate. The consequence of this is that the food is for the most part "cooked by hot air!" Only a portion of the total air-draft escapes out the stack: quite a lot of it recirculates, perhaps "repeatedly." When you shut down a "simple charcoal kettle," there's nothing left there but ash. However, "the Kamado experience" is typically that the fuel-grate is mostly full, ready to be re-used next time. This, in and of itself, is a simple demonstration of the fundamental differences in the two cooking processes. Although "both of them are [obviously ...] a grill," I do think that the differences end there.
  2. Maybe the most-honest question might be simply: "Okay, it's charcoal. What, exactly, is 'best' ... to you?" Quite obviously, "it matters, to you." But why?
  3. "Wow ... must have been 'some kind of nuclear' to melt paint!"
  4. Really, I think that this is a bit of a quandary: "do you want the charcoal to contribute flavor, or not?" Obviously, you should be using real charcoal, not "briquettes," but you knew that already. If you do want the charcoal to contribute, then I have found you should pour in the chimney-starter contents slightly before all of it has caught on fire. The parts that are not yet fully glowing will contribute "charcoal flavor" until they burn. (In my experience, once they are glowing, they don't contribute anything. Your Mileage May Vary.™) Then, if you do want "a particular flavor," how about adding smoke-chips? Soak in water for half an hour, wrap in aluminum foil, poke holes with a fork, and drop them in. Add new packets periodically during long smokes. (I have no idea whether you could use small charcoal-chips for this ...) Now, you are fully in control. And-d-d-d-d ... "this is my (limited) experience. Your Mileage May Vary."
  5. "Well, it did sound like a rather personal question!"
  6. Maybe that temperature is a little-bit too high, but ... "you are cooking a pizza over a fire and on a stone." You should therefore expect ... and, I think, enjoy ... a wee bit of "crispness, underneath." It's part of the experience. Instead of doing it in your kitchen, you're cooking the pie in "a charcoal-fired convection oven."
  7. Just stick the wire between the top and bottom lids and be done. I've never seen leakage and even if I did who-cares. Don't over-think this.
  8. Definitely, "the trick is restraint." Now you know. After the chimney-starter has done its thing and you've closed the lid, open the top vent slightly and the bottom vent about an inch. Now, wait for the fire to "coast" up to about 300ºF and it should then stay there on its own. Now, you should be able to put on your meat and in my experience the grill should require no further adjustments. If you happen to be cooking fatty meat – like the 70% lean ground beef that produces those oh-so delicious hamburgers, then this fat of course will drip into the fire and act as an accelerant. But you can maintain control of this by slightly adjusting the two vents. (This does mean that tomorrow morning fat will be left on the inside of the grill and that you should now scrub the whole thing down.) For cooking big things, a probe-based electronic food thermometer is a big plus: you run the wire outside and now you don't have to open the grill nearly as often. A fundamental fact of Kamado grills, I think, is that "once you let them get too hot, it's rather hard to get them to cool back down." (But the metal Akorn is much easier than the ceramic big-green-things. ) When cooking, remember to take the food off when its internal temperature is about 10-15º shy of your target. ("140ºF = medium rare, 150ºF = medium, etc.) Put them on a plate and "tent" them with aluminum foil, putting them somewhere that your cats can't reach them. In the next few minutes they will "coast" to the target. Otherwise, they will "over-shoot the runway" and become too-done.
  9. Another key point for me is that I clean the grate thoroughly ... and indeed, wipe down the inside of the entire grill, the vent, everything ... the next morning after every use. (Yes, I use (Blue Dawn ...) soap(!) and water.) I remove all traces of grease and oil, then let the grill dry completely in the air. When I'm not using my grill, the bottom is removed and laid upside-down beneath the grill, propped up by a small piece of wood to allow free air-circulation. The top vent is left very-slightly open. (To me, one of the very best features of this grill, besides the fact that it is both lightweight and indestructible, is that the bottom can be removed ... and that the lid can be locked.) A soft scrubbing pad won't affect the seasoning, which is actually embedded into the surface of the metal. Once it is well-established you can't "rub it off." Check the grate each time for any signs of rust. If you find any, remove it with a Scotchbrite® pad and re-season.
  10. Most likely, you simply used too much oil. Here are a few tips that I use on all my cast-iron cookware (and, virtually everything in my kitchen is cast iron now ...) Use a canola cooking-oil spray, like Pam.® You only need to lightly coat the surface. (Coat all surfaces.) You can season several times. Check the ingredients list on the can. Place a baking dish or a layer of aluminum foil on a lower oven pan to catch drips. Some smoke will be produced, so turn on the exhaust fan above the stove. After about one hour, turn the oven off and let it cool down completely on its own. (Overnight ...) Lodge® has a short video on their web site ("it took us a hundred years to think of this ...") in which they demonstrate exactly how they "pre-season" their cookware at the factory. Yes, they use canola oil. (The aforementioned factory, and factory toy-store, are quite close to me ... which usually causes trouble at Christmastime.)
  11. Maybe I'm just weird this way, but I wash down my [Akorn, Jr., metal ...] kamado with soap and water after every session, having removed the bottom. I wash the cast-iron grate exactly as I do my cast-iron cookware (no soap or minimal soap), and when I bought the grill I "seasoned" the grate just as I do with skillets. So, to this day the grill looks very new. The seasoning developed very nicely so nothing sticks to it. As a rule, try very hard to let the fire get up to the desired cooking temperature but no higher: it can be hard to get the temperature back down. You don't need to put the food on right away: be sure the temperature has stabilized. Once it has, you shouldn't have to "fiddle" with the settings at all. Despite what the manufacturers suggest, you shouldn't "taste" the charcoal at all.
  12. As I've said before, I use my kamado as a convection oven, which can reliably rise to and then hold a desired temperature even for hours on end while being very stingy with fuel. If you then want sear, take it to your kitchen stove and heat up your cast-iron skillet very hot. Use a small amount of heat-resistant oil such as coconut oil or grapeseed. Use a spatter guard. Upshot: Quick, easily-controlled searing, no fire, no mess. (You will taste only the flavor of the fire.) Use your ever-present oven mitts to put the skillet in your oven to cool. Having seared them, "tent" them with aluminum foil and let them rest. One characteristic of kamados seems to be that if you let them get too hot, it can be hard to get them to cool down. So, "park" the grill at the desired cooking temperature, and do the sear on the stove.
  13. I have some friends that swear that, when you are cooking a large piece of meat, you should wrap it loosely in aluminum foil. Remove the foil only about an hour before it's reached temperature to let the smoke hit the outer skin. Pull it off 20º below the desired temperature, rewrap it in foil and let it rest. They suggest making several deep knife cuts to the core of the meat. They also swear by the importance of brining. I personally haven't cooked "large meat" on my grill so I don't know if it's true or not.
  14. ... with a small permanent magnet to keep the foil tent in place.
  15. I agree with Len. I use a chimney-starter to start the fire, wait until the flame has fully reached the top of the chimney, then dump it in. (The exhaust from the starter should by now be clear.) Now, set the inlet and exhaust of your grill to "your usual setttings" and wait for the temperature to stabilize. (My "sweet spot" is 300ºF.) The exhaust from the stack at this point should also be clear. Now, toss in your smoke-wood packs if you intend to use them: they should be the only source of smoke that you see until you actually start adding meat and thus start to burn fat-drippings. P.S.: "Gas" grills? "Bah! Humbug!"
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