The ceramic grill (barbecue) is on the rise. Where it used to be about the latest cars at the coffee machine, people now talk about the last model of barbecue they have purchased. Of course, the barbecue they’re talking about is the sleek and fashionable ‘kamado’. Therefore, also for vegans and enthusiasts who want to get the most out of their combination of pyromania and cooking, the ins and outs of the ceramic grill at a glance.
What is a ceramic grill?
A ceramic grill is what the term says: a barbecue with a ceramic outer shell. The barbecue is usually egg-shaped, has a lid and is always used closed. Because the ceramic walls provide perfect insulation, you can control the temperature much better than with a normal home, garden and kitchen barbecue.
Because the ceramic grill can work with both low and very high temperatures, the possibilities are endless. Basically, the ‘kamado’, as the ceramic grill is often called, is a powerful charcoal-fired outdoor oven and grill.
A brief history
The ceramic grill has actually only been on the rise in Europe since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Yet the principle has been known for millennia and history. The name ‘kamado’ indicates an oriental origin and that is correct. Kamado is Japanese for oven or hearth. This is where the charcoal-fired clay pots ended up about 1,700 years ago. Those clay pots came from China and specimens dating back more than 3,000 years have already been found.
The Japanese turned this simple clay oven into a ‘mushikamado’ to cook rice by adding an inner pot. When they also devised a grille, they came close to the idea of the current ceramic gril.
We owe this device to the Americans. The soldiers stationed in Japan after World War II came into contact with the kamado. They took the barbecue to the United States, where barbecuing has been a daily activity for decades, and perfected it with current technology into the supersonic “ovens” that now adorn many gardens and outdoor kitchens.
There are several reasons why you only fire the ceramic grill on charcoal. The main reason is a plea to always use (good) charcoal, even on a regular barbecue: briquettes contain fillers and chemical additives that also end up on your carefully prepared food. Moreover, briquettes give off a synthesize taste than the pure charcoal.
Furthermore, a kamado works optimally on charcoal because the black chunks are much more erratic than briquettes. This makes the air circulation, important for temperature control, much better. In any case, temperature control with briquettes is more difficult because they retain their structure and form a layer of ash around the hot core as they burn. You can eventually use briquettes for your ceramic grill, but it is an insult to the qualities of the appliance.
The merits of a regular barbecue
Before we list the advantages of the kamado, let’s take a look at the traditional home, garden and kitchen barbecue that we fire with charcoal or the less desirable briquettes (or even electric or gas, but let’s leave those for a while). completely disregarded, because that is of course not the real thing).
We all have such a thing in simple or more advanced form and we mainly use it for grilling. In the carnivores world of meat, meat and meat, but fortunately the grilling possibilities of vegetables and fruit are also inexhaustible.
If you have one with a lid, you can even use the barbecue for ‘primitive’ smoking (smoked aubergine is really an invention…). The advantage of this barbecue is that it is usually easy to move and very budget-proof – a hole in the ground with some charcoal and a grid over it and you have the simplest shape – but on the other hand they usually don’t last that long. In addition, and that is the biggest disadvantage, the temperature is not really easy to control. That is why a lot of things burn on the barbecue.
The advantages of the ceramic grill
The ceramic grill can do a lot and is above all a versatile device for outdoor cooking, both in summer and winter. Grilling, roasting, cooking, steaming, baking, smoking, slow cooking, it’s all no problem if you can handle the device.
And that has everything to do with the possibility of temperature control. Because it is a closed system, where you can regulate the air circulation, you can adjust the temperature quite precisely. And that temperature scale runs from about 100 to above 450 degrees, the ideal temperature for a good pizza oven.
In addition, a kamado is economical. You don’t need a lot of charcoal because the device maintains the temperature so well. In addition, that thing cannot be broken without extreme violence and the barbecue lasts a long time. Warranty periods of five to fifteen years on a good kamado are no exception. Of course there are also disadvantages: those things are often quite heavy. Even if you have mobile models, you don’t move them as fast as they get in the way. And the biggest ‘disadvantage’: a good kamado is pricey, quite pricey even.
Why do you want a ceramic grill?
Especially because of the price, it is wise to ask yourself why you want a kamado. If it’s just a status symbol to show off in the garden and rarely used, leave it behind and use the money you save for a long weekend away with your loved one; memories have a longer lifespan than status. If you only barbecue a few times a year and do it only in the traditional way (grilling), buy a nice regular barbecue or stack some stones creatively with a grid above it and save hundreds of euros.
You buy a ceramic grill because you love pure cooking, grilling, baking with charcoal as a source and because you want more than just giving your vegan burger a nice color. The device is only really worth its money if you actually use it as an ‘outdoor kitchen’ and put it to work very regularly.
And that is also possible if you eat vegan. A delicious homemade crispy vegan pizza is not to be missed and a whole cauliflower slowly cooked in a charcoal oven or the aforementioned smoked aubergine are not only eye-catchers, but also taste bombs with which you can silence even die-hard meat eaters.
And if you still want to have that beautiful coffee machine conversation-worthy ‘egg’ in your garden to show off and barbecue once or twice a year, go ahead – an underused kamado is always preferable to no barbecue – but then know The ceramic grill works slightly differently than a normal charcoal fire with a grid above it.
How does a ceramic grill work?
A new ceramic grill needs some care. Therefore, do not let the temperature rise above 250 degrees the first few times you use it. This gives the clay the opportunity to harden properly. This prevents cracks and increases durability.
You also increase this durability by omitting the often fashionable rain covers. The moist air that settles under the cover as condensation, especially in the spring and autumn, only promotes rust and the growth of fungi. Just a clean wet rag every now and then and your kamado will still look great.
You always work with a closed lid on a ceramic barbecue because of the temperature control. It is important that you do not open the lid completely in one go when the charcoal is glowing happily. The sudden influx of oxygen can cause a large flash of flame. You have been warned; a kamado is really a different kind of sport.
Buy a ceramic grill
If you are not deterred by the above and you really go for your own kamado, know that there is now enough choice and that there are many providers, from specialized suppliers to Amazon. The second-hand market and the world of stunt offers also sometimes offer solace.
In any case, assume a budget of at least two hundred euros for a reasonable family barbecue and know that, depending on the choices and wishes, the amount can quickly rise to five hundred to a thousand euros. The Big Green Egg is probably the best-known brand by now, but Kamado Joe, Primo and Monolith also make good ceramic grill.
However, it is wise to pay attention to a number of things when purchasing. For example, cheaper kamados are often not made of high-quality ceramics, which is at the expense of the lifespan. It is also important to know whether the importer of the chosen brand is well represented in the Netherlands. That makes the lines shorter in case of problems with the device.
Finally, it is useful to pay attention to which accessories are supplied and whether the barbecue has standard sizes. It is difficult to find suitable accessories for different sizes. A good meat thermometer is not a necessity for the seasoned vegan, but in addition to the right size pizza stones, it is nice if you can also get suitable grill risers, potato grill racks, baking pans, loaf pans, side tables and more to sustainably increase the ceramic grill joy.
Also check out the similarities and differences in Big Green Egg vs Kamado Joe.
Do you already use a ceramic grill or are you planning to? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.