Perhaps you have seen them on random shopping trips or heard about them on television, but almost everyone has seen a Kamado style ceramic grill at one point or another. It is possible you weren’t sure what this egg shaped object was or dismissed it as a gimmick.
However, these egg shaped ceramic grills are the real deal and variations like them have been used in the Orient for thousands of years. The unique shape and the ceramic interior come together to create an interesting and unique cooking experience that produces excellent and delicious results and it is not just confined to grilling.
How It Works
Before going into the advantages and disadvantages of these ceramic grills, first, you should know where it came from and how it works. Used in the Orient, as mentioned above, examples have been found stretching back over 3,000 years in different parts of China, India and parts between.
Designed to work with charcoal, a staple cooking fuel the world over, the unique shape focuses the heat and when combined with the air flow, creates a focused, but even heat distribution that keeps meat juicy but thoroughly cooked.
It also allows for much higher temperatures, over 700 degrees, so the ceramic grill can be used for grilling, smoking, baking and roasting. The air enters at the bottom pulled in by the fire and adjusted by the top vent to create the right air channel for the desired cooking.
The Good Egg
Kamado style cookers come in a variety of sizes and styles and some come in material other than ceramic. However, the ceramic style is the preferred material as its properties lend better to the heat production and retention than other materials.
When compared to a standard charcoal grill, the egg shape combined with the material allows the grill to quickly get up to the correct amount of heat. It can take a standard grill 20-30 minutes to reach the right operating temperature but a ceramic grill can be ready in less than 15 minutes.
The Better Egg
As previously mentioned, a ceramic cooker such as the Kamado will do it all. Because you have such control over the air flow and heat ratio, you can fine tune the temperature to handle grilling, baking, slow smoking, and roasting.
This gives you a lot of versatility over a standard charcoal grill and even many gas grills. In fact, once you have mastered a Kamado grill, it will be hard to go back to regular charcoal grilling.
The Neutral Egg
Nothing is perfect and there is a downside to the Kamado style, ceramic cookers but there is one aspect that affects all charcoal grills. In a ceramic grill, you must use lump charcoal. Now the advantage here is the unique style and shape will cause the food to uptake more of the flavor than a standard grill. Thus, if you don’t use lump charcoal and all natural lump charcoal, you risk any chemical by-products such as any fillers or additives in the charcoal getting in your food.
This is a concern with standard charcoal grills so it isn’t exactly a downside for the ceramic grill but there is more of a chance of the food getting more of the chemicals because of the shape. So just switch to all natural lump charcoal and you will be fine.
The Bad Egg
Getting the right air flow between the bottom vent and the top vent is a must and often it has to be adjusted as the charcoal burns down. Also, it is possible to use too much charcoal and thus, you get a very hot grill that over cooks quickly.
Still Bad Egg
Another downside to a ceramic grill is that it can crack and break. Most modern Kamado grills, egged shaped or not, are made of modern ceramics and are less prone to cracking but it is still possible to break one.
Dropping one is by far the easiest way to crack or break one but depending on different factors, heat stress can be an issue especially if there is already a defect present.
Ceramic grills, in general, are more expensive than standard charcoal grills and some gas grills. There is the tradeoff that they tend to last longer when taken care of but the initial investment can be steep for basic grilling.
You can purchase a standard charcoal grill for your home for around a hundred bucks but a good ceramic grill will cost you several hundred dollars or more.
Does the good outweigh the bad? Only you can really decide that but if you love grilling and like to cook outdoors a lot, then a ceramic grill is certainly worthy of consideration. With the versatility, quick heating, and the superior flavor infusion, a ceramic grill will change the way you think about grilling and certainly how much you enjoy the results. If you love well prepared, grilled dishes then the ceramic grill is for you.