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A purchasing guide for the kamado grilling newbie


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If you’re currently like I was in the summer of 2012—a complete grilling newbie—this purchasing guide is for you.  First of all, welcome to what will become your new home: Kamado Guru.  KG was founded by John Setzler and he remains the supreme, but very benevolent overlord of the forum.  He also manages managed Man Cave Meals: http://mancavemeals.net/.  He is now the official cooking video guru for Kamado Joe.  Because of him I began my amazingly successful journey into grilling for the very first time last summer.  Thank you, John.  Seriously, thank you.  We’re a friendly bunch here and would enjoy welcoming you, dear lurker, as a member.  So sign up and introduce yourself.

 

All right, let’s get down to business.  Since you’re reading this, most likely you’re in the market for a kamado grill.  Good choice.  You will not regret the purchase of a quality kamado grill.  We’re here to ensure that.  Within the kamado grill world you really have three choices: cheap, expensive, and outrageously expensive credit card melters.
 

 

Grills

Cheap (less than $600): The Char-Griller Akorn at $300. But do not let the price of this steel grill fool you. It’s the first grill I ever purchased and it performs very, very well.  If you’re just starting out grilling, and don’t have a huge amount of money to spend, this is the grill to get. (At times, Kroger, Menards, and Meijer have this grill on sale at half price or better.)

 

Expensive ($600-$1,000): Now we’re out of the steel grills and into the ceramics. This would include the Big Green Egg (Medium and Large), Kamado Joe Classic, Primo Oval Jr., Vision Classic, and Bayou Classic Cypress.  This is not a definitive list—just some examples. (At times, Costco slashes the Vision’s price to $400 or less.)

 

Very expensive ($1000+): Big Green Egg XL, Kamado Joe BigJoe, and Primo Oval XL.  This is not a definitive list—just some examples.  Practice making an X with your forearms in front of your face now for when you have to tell your lovely wife you bought one of these.

Charcoal
Most members of Kamado Guru use hardwood lump charcoal instead of charcoal briquettes.  Royal Oak lump charcoal appears to be fairly well respected around here.  It’s commonly stocked at Walmart during the summer months and at some grocery stores and butcher shops year round.  For the nitty gritty on helping you find quality bags of lump charcoal, see the Naked Whiz’s Lump Charcoal Database: http://www.nakedwhiz.com/lumpindexpage.htm?bag (Link is safe for work, I swear.)

Starting your charcoal
You’ll want to get a chimney starter to light your lump charcoal when you want high heat cooks. This is to ensure you avoid adding a petroleum taste to your grilled foods.  Chimney starters can be found at Amazon, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and other places for $10-$20 easily.  Or, if you have a little extra cash, consider a Looftlighter.  MAPP torches also work fine, but wear appropriate eye and hand protection.  Lighter cubes are another option, especially if you want to do a low-and-slow cook.  For instructions on how to start your charcoal for a low-and-slow, see this post: http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/500-starting-a-fire-for-low-and-slow-definitive/  For the love of all the fluffy, bouncy bunnies in the world, don’t use lighter fluid to start your charcoal.

Measuring temperatures
To ensure only the tastiest, juiciest foods come off your grill you will need to have a way to measure the temps of your grill and food.  The Maverick ET-85 (wired, $25) and Maverick ET-732 (wireless, $55) thermometers are used in great numbers. The ET-732 has some rebranded variants that may be cheaper: Char-Griller Remote Thermometer and the Remington Wireless Thermometer.  Fellow forum members have indicated they put a dab of very hi-temp RTV at the spot where the wire enters the probe.  This will seal it so no moisture of food can get inside the probe, thus extending the life of the probe.  I would also highly encourage you pick up a quick-read meat thermometer in addition to something like the ET-85 or ET-732.  The CDN ProAccurate line of quick-read meat thermometers work well and are affordable ($15).  Also, ThermoWorks Thermapen is highly regarded, though it costs $95.  A worthy alternative to the Thermapen is the Maverick PT-100 at a cost of $50-$60.

Personal protection
Grab a nice set of welding gloves or BBQ mitts or some other set of BBQ gloves that can withstand high heat for a short to medium amount of time.  You may not use the gloves often, but when you need them you *really* need them.  Another set of gloves to get are insulated gloves for hot food. I have a pair of Butterball Carving Gloves.  Some other insulated food gloves would be Steven Raichlen Insulated Food Gloves and Mr. Bar-B-Q Insulated Gloves.

 

Always remember to ‘burp’ your kamado grill before opening its lid all the way when cooking.  Here’s why: http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/4593-kamado-flash-please-watch/  And never open you grill’s vents all the way unless you know exactly what you’re doing and you’re there constantly monitoring the grill.  Here’s a sad result of fully opened vents: http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/3273-akorn-damaged/  Here's a very scary picture of a massive fireball engulfing the arm of a fellow Kamado Guru member who did not burp his Kamado Joe: http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/7856-verified-you-need-to-burp-it-doh/?p=77688  Fellow forum member Mabzmuzik has earned himself a spot on the "Didn't Burp My Kamado" wall with his well-singed armhair (see the 5th picture): http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/8405-pork-butt-for-xmas-85-lbs/

How to cook on a kamado grill
Teaching you how to grill is outside the purview of this guide.  This forum is a superb resource on how to cook with a kamado grill.  See this thread for a comprehensive list of great kamado cooking videos: http://www.kamadoguru.com/topic/8100-kamado-cooking-video-index/  If you’re into books, let me recommend Adam Perry Lang’s ‘Serious Barbecue’ and ‘Charred & Scruffed’.  Both will explain the how’s and why’s of charcoal grilling as well as provide you some excellent recipes.  ‘The Barbecue Bible’ by Steven Raichlen is also a great resource for the how’s and why’s, in addition to containing a huge repository of recipes.

Best of luck and happy grilling!

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Teajunkie, Nice list. I'll add a couple of thoughts.

The Vision is a really nice grill at the $549.00 I paid for it but at $399, or even the $299 a few paid, it's a no brainer for a standard size ceramic kamado to start out.

You left out the "Very Very Expensive" category which would include the Komodo Kamado. (The kamado that all kamados aspire to become)

I don't feel the need for a chimney starter. My kamado is the chimney starter. (See Pic)

IMG_3296.jpg

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What an awesome post!! Thanks for taking the time...

 

You're quite welcome!  I hope it'll be useful to future newbies who may swing by this forum.

 

 

Teajunkie, Nice list. I'll add a couple of thoughts.

The Vision is a really nice grill at the $549.00 I paid for it but at $399, or even the $299 a few paid, it's a no brainer for a standard size ceramic kamado to start out.

You left out the "Very Very Expensive" category which would include the Komodo Kamado. (The kamado that all kamados aspire to become)

I don't feel the need for a chimney starter. My kamado is the chimney starter. (See Pic)

 

 

Yep, I know the Vision is real nice.  That's why I included it in the example list of retail price ranges.  Heh, I didn't even think of the Komodo Kamado--I find it ugly beyond belief.  But you are right, it reaches the insanity level of cost!  Ah ha, you are right, you have no need for the chimney starter with that blowtorch.

 

 

I would love to have a buyers guide type write up for each kamado.  I mentioned this in the past and didn't get much response on it.  Maybe it's time to re live that idea?

 

Possibly so. Since I own only an Akorn, I would not be very useful for writing about other grills.

 

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Great post and a wonderful guide for those who want to get into the game! 

 

I would love to have a buyers guide type write up for each kamado.  I mentioned this in the past and didn't get much response on it.  Maybe it's time to re live that idea?

 

John-Go for it. I never noticed we did not have one. I'm sure you can solicit plenty of help. It would be a great addition to the forum

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Great post and a wonderful guide for those who want to get into the game! 

 

I would love to have a buyers guide type write up for each kamado.  I mentioned this in the past and didn't get much response on it.  Maybe it's time to re live that idea?

 

John-Go for it. I never noticed we did not have one. I'm sure you can solicit plenty of help. It would be a great addition to the forum

 

 

How about a "Why Choose A Kamado" type thing? I considered everything from replacing my Char-griller duo, to building a custom stick burner, to a loaded Weber Summit. Then BGE, Primo, and finally Joe. I have to say John, that this site and the Man Cave Meals group of sites were why I picked the Kamado Joe. Ive looked at BGE quite a few times, and actually eaten food from them, but I made the decision on the Joe totally from your videos and the forums. Made my order and purchase without ever seeing Joe in person. 

 

There's a ton of how to's, but not really a "why". I considered versatility, usability, controllability, value, and appearance-pretty much in that order....There's alot that can be written about those subjects alone, and even more going brand by brand....There was alot of that "why" in my decision...

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Great post. My only thoughts for newbies is stay away from a chimney. If you're trying for low-n-slow you will almost always get too much lump going. (chimneys are great for the higher heat cooks) for low-n-slow stick with either a torch, fire cubes, or cotton balls - - less chance of getting too much lump lit (although still really easy to do if you don't pay attention)

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Great post. My only thoughts for newbies is stay away from a chimney. If you're trying for low-n-slow you will almost always get too much lump going. (chimneys are great for the higher heat cooks) for low-n-slow stick with either a torch, fire cubes, or cotton balls - - less chance of getting too much lump lit (although still really easy to do if you don't pay attention)

 

Good thinking.  I'll adjust the appropriate section.

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Great post.  I feel it should get it's own major topic, so new users can find it right away. No one besides Teajunkie and John should be allowed to edit it.

 

The only change I would suggest is to add a MAPP torch as a lighting option. They work as least as well as a Looflighter, require no electric source, and are cleaner than paraffin cubes and the such. The only caveat with MAPP torches is to never even think about using one without gloves and eye protection (your glasses are enough). They are safe except they cause sparks to fly out when lighting lump charcoal.

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Here's something that will certainly help newbies, and probably some kamado vets...From reading lots of threads, theres always a bit of confusion when talking about vents...Such as:

 

"My bottom is part way open, and my top if hallway open"

 

"My bottom is half open and the top is about a quarter"

 

 

Well we all have different cookers with different features, so this may not work for everyone. The biggest difference will be whether or not you have an ash screen...But this how I'm going to refer to my vents in the future. Maybe this will catch on? Who knows! Worth a try...Just be sure to say if you have a screen or not....Open to help and suggestions on this....

 

 

This is Wide Open, or 100%...Works for everyone

post-3139-0-10921500-1377204831_thumb.jp

 

For those of us with screens, this is 50%, or half open....

post-3139-0-75402300-1377204912_thumb.jp

 

With screen, 25%...Without a screen 50%

post-3139-0-82807700-1377204860_thumb.jp

 

With screen, roughly 10%...Without screen, roughly 25%

post-3139-0-29071300-1377205109_thumb.jp

 

 

The tops can be really confusing....So let's see how this works....

 

Top wide open:

post-3139-0-64970700-1377205275_thumb.jp

 

Top half open or 50%

post-3139-0-45961000-1377205319_thumb.jp

 

Top closed, wheel open     25%

post-3139-0-18424400-1377205404_thumb.jp

 

Top closed, wheel partially open   10%

post-3139-0-36979900-1377205448_thumb.jp

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Teajunkie- very nice job.  This will help so many people.  I know this forum and Mancave Meals helped me!

 

Second, Ryanmrash, your pics have actually helped me.  I always thought my bottom vent was 100% open when the screen was in place- not 50%.  Good to know.  

 

Thank you both for taking the time and to all the other gurus, seasoned or rookies.  The discussions on here are what make this site so great!

 

Happy grilling!

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