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People who abandon kamado cooking

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  • Lighting - I can't believe how much I struggle with this one. This has to be my most frustrating piece. I've tried these methods and can't imagine that I am doing anything so wrong that they are as difficult as they are:
    • KJ Starters - I use a propane torch to light these. It usually takes about 30 seconds of me hitting one with a torch before it stays lit. Any shorter than that, the thing goes out as soon as I pull the torch away.
    • Chimney - I see videos of people with flames shooting out of their chimneys. I'm lucky if I get the bottom 3rd of the coals glowing after 20 minutes or so.
    • Torch - I've held the propane torch on a piece of lump for 2 minutes. Pull it away and the glowing stops.

 

 

I would check your lump charcoal.....it may be poor quality or could have gott'en compromised with moisture. All three of those methods are a simple way of lighting your kamado. Also check and make sure the firebox opening is lined-up with the bottom vent. I have had several guys call me with lighting & control issues, only to go out to theit house and find the opening and the vent don't line up. If that doesn't work I would completely remove the internal components and do a complete cleaning. Sometimes ash accumulates between the sides of the firebox and the inside o f the ceramic base. 

.....if you can't start a completely clean and correctly assembled kamado with good lump, firestarters, chimney or a torch  I don't know what to tell you. I used 4 chimneys the other night to start my Cajun Grill. This was after 10 minutes. You can see the fire is half way up on the back left chimney. They have a mixture of Kamado Joe and Royal Oak.....

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How can kamado manufacturers and dealers make this easier on the people who buy their grills to learn that it really is a whole different way of cooking? 

 

Include a nice, heavy stock "1 sheet" detailing the most common questions regarding the beginning of the hobby. Maybe include a few of the more common recipes too. That coupled with printed links on the "Startup guide or whatever to O/O Youtube accounts with detailed videos regarding the various details of operating, maintaining and using the kamado. Primo does and excellent video series with Derald, however there was no mention of this in the info packet with my grill. Wish I could say the other (Primo) videos are as informative, but I don't think that is their point. 

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I had a friend who had a BGE and she raved about all the food they cooked on it.

 

After deciding to get a Kamado Joe I googled Kamado Joe cooking and was lucky enough to find one of John's videos on KJ cooking. Looking back I think it was the "It comes with all of that?" video and then I watched ALL of his cooks. The best thing was the laid back style he has and he always tells you how much to crack the bottom vent and daisywheel to get a temperature. I used this as a baseline.

 

After finding this site I saw the excellent advise to play around with temperature before ever cooking anything to see how the cooker responded to temperature changes. I had already jumped into cooking but that was excellent advice.

 

The reason I left gas cooking was the lack of flavor. I had grown up on a Weber grill my Dad cooked on but gas cooking was so much easier and quicker for a young family. I never knew what flavor I was missing until I started cooking with a Kamado Joe with lump charcoal. I now feel comfortable enough to try some of the excellent recipes here for more exotic dishes after almost a year of cooking on the Joe.

 

Does that mean every cook turns out great, nope! Sometimes I think my family takes pity on me and tells me they like a new dish just because they know I worked so hard on it when it actually is just mediocre food. 

 

However, I do know they love pizzas/calzones on the Joe and ask for them almost every week. They love Boscoe's Carne Asada recipe and ask for that all the time as well. I found his Pico recipe and my wife loves that. This week we're adding pineapple and mango to it for a new twist.

 

Tonight I'm doing dogs and burgers on it for dinner with my son and daughter's dates before we break in the new fire pit we built in the backyard. 

 

Sunday I'm doing a whole leg of lamb with Greek spices and Naan on the Joe. If I hadn't have found this website and all of its excellent advice I probably would have gotten frustrated and thrown my hands up and never heard the end from my wife on my expensive new toy that burns our food. But thanks to all of you and John and YouTube I love cooking on my porch, jamming out to 70/80's rock making food my family loves.

 

A heartfelt thanks to you all!

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This is the book that should be sold along with a kamado to every new user especially the non Internet people. It really does go over almost everything one needs to know to cook on a kamado. From charcoal, different lighting methods, cooking styles etc.......

Of course all this information can be gotten off the Internet (especially kamado guru) but it would take a lot of time and effort searching out everything that you could flip through and read in minutes.

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I don't post often but read this forum every day or other day at least and I think without the help and advice contained I probably would have been less competent and would have faced a much steeper learning curve. I have a classic Joe and, I think, perhaps the documentation you get with it could be improved.

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I got interested in Kamado cooking because I wanted to see what is this BGE thing, then found the youtube videos and eventually bought my KJ and then found this forum.  I was just talking to my wife the other night, saying without the forum and youtube, I don't think I would have purchased the KJ, or I won't be able to find so many different things to cook on it.  The online experiences definitely increase the usefulness of the grill by at least a factor of 10.

 

Meanwhile, my sister in law has been coming over from time to time to eat meals prepared on the Kamado.  She was thinking about getting one herself.  I sort of discouraged her because I knew she's not the type that goes online to search out information like I am.  She's not going to visit forums or watch youtube videos.  She's interested in the food, but not interested in the process.  I suppose for people like her, it can still work out if they have a kamado cookbook, but the grill should come with DVD that has instruction videos like lighting and cleaning, etc.

 

What about an app?  I think that's the 21st century way of doing thing, instead of packaging DVDs with the product.

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Meanwhile, my sister in law has been coming over from time to time to eat meals prepared on the Kamado.  She was thinking about getting one herself.  I sort of discouraged her because I knew she's not the type that goes online to search out information like I am.  She's not going to visit forums or watch youtube videos.  She's interested in the food, but not interested in the process.  I suppose for people like her, it can still work out if they have a kamado cookbook, but the grill should come with DVD that has instruction videos like lighting and cleaning, etc.

 

 

For folks like that we can always encourage them into the smoking arena with buying either a pellet or an electric smoker. They can get the smoke flavor and they are set and forget. Then once they get hooked on it, it would be easier to talk to them about kamados.

Just my $0.02

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I don't post often but read this forum every day or other day at least and I think without the help and advice contained I probably would have been less competent and would have faced a much steeper learning curve. I have a classic Joe and, I think, perhaps the documentation you get with it could be improved.

I totally agree about the Joe documentation. They haven't even updated the manual to show the D&C! One of the best advantages they have, yet they don't show you have to use it.

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When I was looking for a new LP grill in May (I've always preferred the cleaner taste) I somehow ran into this site and read one of the introductions about the Akorn.  Looking at reviews for $500-600 (max budget) LPs, there were always complaints either about the temp range or the hardware.  Looked into the Akorn and I saw a lot fewer complaints.  After 2 days on this site, I knew how to light the grill (alcohol soaked cotton balls), control the temp, that I needed to always use lump (I'd never seen ANYONE use lump before, didn't know what it was), and how to enjoy myself doing it.  That was before I even bought it.  I wouldn't have gotten into kamado cooking if it hadn't been for this site, so I'm glad I ran into it.

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I don't think I am close to giving up yet, but I am definitely frustrated with the kamado process thus far. Overall, my food still comes out good, but it never goes as planned.

  • Lighting - I can't believe how much I struggle with this one. This has to be my most frustrating piece. I've tried these methods and can't imagine that I am doing anything so wrong that they are as difficult as they are:
    • KJ Starters - I use a propane torch to light these. It usually takes about 30 seconds of me hitting one with a torch before it stays lit. Any shorter than that, the thing goes out as soon as I pull the torch away.
    • Chimney - I see videos of people with flames shooting out of their chimneys. I'm lucky if I get the bottom 3rd of the coals glowing after 20 minutes or so.
    • Torch - I've held the propane torch on a piece of lump for 2 minutes. Pull it away and the glowing stops.
  • Temperatures - I can't hit the same temps consistently.
    • I spent a full day with a bag of charcoal and slowly ramped the temperature up, writing down settings as I went. I might as well use that paper in my next chimney attempt - I can't get the same results again.
    • I see other peoples settings, like in Kara's brisket post, and mine weren't anywhere near those.
    • On some cooks, I've been frustrated by not getting a temp high enough (say 375 - I've only done two cooks needing a higher temp) and I open both vents completely. Only to watch the temp SLOWLY crawl to a max that doesn't even reach 350 - or worse, the temperature drops.
    • I bought a KAB trying to improve air flow - I haven't seen a difference.
  • Shutting down
    • When I finally shut the thing down, it holds a 225 temperature for a long time - that's not unexpected due to the ceramic, but the coals take 5 to 6 hours to finally stop glowing.
    • I did receive a new bottom vent and slider last night, it looks like it was made MUCH better than my old one. I'll try to get that put on this weekend; it looks like it should make a big difference when shutting down. Maybe it was adding to my temperature struggles, too.
If it wasn't for forums like this, and people willing to help like all of you, I might have already given up on this thing. Actually, I probably wouldn't have tried in the first place, so you are all to blame! ;)

ETA: I've also tried to light with a paper towel with oil on it. It looked neat, but it didn't work at all.

Hang in there, it will get better. I bought an akorn a few weeks ago and love it. I haven't cooked on anything but gas for many years. Pretty busy lifestyle limits my outdoor grilling opportunities to maybe once or twice a week. My cousin has the BGE and got me interested but I was hesitant taking the plunge Due to the cost. Luckily he doesn't live in the same town so I wasn't in a big rush... lol.. about a month ago one of the guys I have coffee with every morning mentioned his akorn and the rest is history... lol... I've only cooked on mine 5 times so far but am really enjoying it. As far as your lighting issues go, what I do is make a pile and then open up just a small area maybe an inch or so around and maybe an inch or so deep. (Volcano)..Not knowing what I was going to use for starter material, I bought a box of the weber starting blocks or whatever they're called. I'm going to use them up and just go with cotton balls and alcohol or paper in the future. My first light when I seasoned my grill I put a block in the center, lit it and added a few pcs to pretty much cover the hole. Worked great. Since then, I've done the same scenario but only use about 1/2 of a block. Once lit, and some coal over the block, I shut the cover and open both vents wide open. Starting it in one place might take a little longer but I don't think it has taken more that 15 or 20 mins before I'm cooking. As the temp goes up, I close the vents down. If it gets to hot, I shut both vents and it doesn't take long at all to see it start to drop and then I can start opening and regulating. I've maybe been lucky... lol as far as your grill not cooling down when done cooking. I shut both vents and within a cple mins the temp starts to drop. I think the longest it has taken to put cool off is about an 1 1/2 hr and that is fire out and top vent cool to the touch and cover on.

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Does the cook make the kamado or does the kamado make the cook? I love to cook period! I really don't care what method as long as it turns out some good food. I still use my gas grill (I know I am not supposed to admit that but it is the truth) I bake a lot in a oven, I fry fish and shrimp from time to time, I dutch oven cook and cook over an open fire when camping. That being said I do love to cook on my kamado. So when I got my first kamado a year and a half ago, the learning curve was pretty small. I am glad I found this forum, some for the advice but a lot for the creativity that you folks have, definitely an area where I am lacking. Not creative but can borrow an idea quickly. People that like or love to cook will stick with it and figure it out. But if you don't really enjoy cooking and you just happen to get a wild hair one day and buy a kamado chances are you will use it a few times, then let it sit for a couple of years and finally get around to selling it. Not the kamados fault, not their fault either. Its just not their  thing. To answer my original question, it's a little of both, but I think mostly the cook makes the kamado. The kamado does make it much easier.

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I wonder how many people abandon their kamado versus what I consider "new toy" syndrom. Before they bought the kamado they may have grilled on the big holidays and possibly a few other times. For whatever reason (doesn't matter) they purchase a kamado and use it initially for every meal. After a while the new toy feeling goes away and they go back to using it on the holidays and maybe a few other times throughout the year.

One of the guys on another forum I frequent (non-cooking related) has a BGE. Over the years I witness him go through the above cycle. When he first got it, he was baking bread on the BGE and really using his BGE. Now he will use it occasionally. I know I will fall into the same. Right now I am learning to use my KJ. Down the road it will get used as much as I used to use the New Braunfel smoker it replaced. Maybe a little more since my KJ is a little more versitle then the NB was. That was part of my decision process. How much $ versus how often I would use it.

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I wonder if the folks that give up on the Kamado are folks that don't do long cooks.  If you bought your Kamado thinking it is just another grill and all you do is hot dogs, burgers, a steak and chicken pieces then I think any grill will work.  I think if all you do is these short cooks, then a Kamado is probably overkill.  For me the two big advantages of our Kamado Joe are low and slow cooks and high temperature pizza cooks.  Throw in reverse sear steaks and these are the type of cooks a Kamado was built for.

 

Another thing that might be great is to include a DVD with the Kamado that has a few videos like John's in it.  Some short videos about how to set vents for different temperatures and then showing a few cooks would go a long way in educating people who don't want to do a lot of searching.

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Some people go through fads, some want success without study and practice. I bought my Akorn over craigslist, unused. The owner kept it covered in a shed, but found it too much hassle to move in and out. When I first bought it, three months ago, I immediately joined two bbq forums and ordered a book. I also started doing all my outdoor cooking on it. I smoked ribs and baked pizzas. I'm not a fad guy, and not done with my Akorn. But for me, some things are easier on the Weber gas grill. I'm not obsessed with the Akorn, I'm not done with it either. It's another cooking tool like my electric skillet. My son just brought over a frozen pork butt whose future will be in the Akorn. Having the smoker has expanded my repertoire and my interest.

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Good OP, definitely a good topic to discuss!

FWIW, I always encourage someone who is interested in getting a kamado and successfully using it to visit here first. The wealth of knowledge from our collective successes and failures is immeasurable and FREE! Did I mention it's free? Not every kamado will behave the same, even across like brands/models, so one should expect to have to work a little to get optimal results. That's been my personal experience and I rather like it that way because I end up with a process that is similar to others but still uniquely mine.

One of the biggest things people should remember is that there are 100 different avenues to travel but the destination is all the same. What I mean to say is that there is no wrong way to do it so long as the end result is good food. No one here makes ribs the exact same way as another Guru but yet we can all still turn out the best ribs a friend has ever eaten on any given day of the week, and beat the pants off most every local restaurant. Just because "Bob" BBQs at 225 doesn't mean "Jim" has to do the same or his food is gonna be crap. So, newbies should stop trying to chase a certain temp or expect a condition that works for someone else to work for them, that, IMO, is setting one's self up for likely failure. Instead, start with the basics to establish a baseline and then play a little. My first few cooks were not disasters but they weren't without peril. Now, I can practically BBQ in my sleep and have great results. It comes with practice and some focus. Have patience and be attentive, also learn when to ride out a condition and when to make a small adjustment.

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