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Taming The Savage Kamado!

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    Taming The Savage Kamado!





    Many new kamado owners spend a lot of time “chasing temps”, i.e. trying to figure out vent settings to achieve specific temperatures. This can be maddening, especially during the midst of a cook! We’ve already discussed that airflow is the key to understanding a controlling temps. To understand how your cooker responds to what you tell it to do, you need to spend a day with it and getting to know vent setting and how your Kamado responds to changes in those vent settings.


    Your Kamado is unique. It's not like every other Kamado out there. Your Kamado may look like every other Kamado produced by the manufacturer, but its is quite unique, and those vent settings are a manifestation of its uniqueness. Once you figure out the vents settings that yield specific temperatures, those settings will never change as long as you don't alter your Kamado. When you finish the exercise I'm about to describe, you should have notes and pictures of the vents settings that yield 225, 250, 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, 400, 425, 450, 475, and 500°F. You'll also know how fast your Kamado will respond to changes in vent setting as you move from one temperature to another.


    Understand from the outset that those numbers on your bottom and top vents are useless. Absolutely useless. Forget about them. Most kamados don't have them and everyone cooks just fine without them. They'll only confuse you, so just forget about those numbers.


    Also, the bottom vent is meant for gross temperature control within a given range, i.e. 200-300, or 300-400, or 400-500. The top vent is used to fine tune your temperature to 225, or 350, or 425°F.


    Start off with a full fire bowl and light a single spot in the lump pile. Leave everything out of your kamado, i.e. no heat deflectors, no secondary grill, no pizza stone. I want you to just know intimately the kamado itself. Okay? So we’re just talking a full fire bowl of lump and nothing else but the main cooking grate in your kamado. Always fill up your kamado with lump before every single cook. Always. Having a full fire bowl is akin to having a full tank of gas in your car. You’re not going to burn a full tank of gas every time you go to the grocery or drive to work. You’re not going to burn a full fire bowl of lump every time to do a low-n-slow cook.


    After you light your lump pile in a single spot, leave the lid open for about 5 minutes after you light the lump. To speed things up, I will generally fully open my bottom vent. That makes certain your fire is well established. Shut the lid, and open the top vent fully for about another 5 minutes. You should see the temperature on the dome thermometer begin to rise. Now shut down both the top and bottom vents to about 1/2" on the bottom and about a 1/4" on the top. You want to creep up on 225 (and every other temp listed above). At about 200° or slightly less, close the bottom vent to between 1/8-1/4" and the top vent to a sliver. Watch how temperature reacts to these changes. Stabilize at 225° by adjusting only the top vent. Let your Kamado dwell at 225° for 30 minutes. During that time, you should take a rest as well … pop the top on the first cold one you have in the cooler next to you … you've got to remain hydrated! Take pictures of your vent settings for 225° and make notes of your impressions of how you got to 225° and how your Kamado responded to vent changes. You may also want to have a Sharpie Marker with you and mark the bottom vent for the setting that gives you 225.


    After 30 minutes at 225°, slightly open only the top vent a little bit more and watch how your Kamado responds to more airflow. Your job is to creep up on 250°. Again, make notes on the response of your Kamado to more airflow. Takes pics of the vents settings. Let your Kamado dwell at 250° for 30 minutes. Above all, remain hydrated! Repeat this procedure of slightly opening just the top vent for 275 and 300°. Keep this up until you've nailed 300° for 30 minutes. Please remember to remain well hydrated!


    Now, you're going to need to open your bottom vent some more to hit the temps between 300-400°F. I'd open it something like an additional 1/2 inch and shut down the top vent to about half of what it took to get to 300°. Watch closely the temperature and again, creep up on your next target, i.e. 325. Once you nail 325 and let your Kamado rest for 30 minutes, again open the top vent and creep up on 350°. Again, pics, notes, and personal hydration!


    Repeat this procedure for all the remaining temps. To get into the 400-500 range, you'll need to open up the bottom vent again, maybe something like an additional inch, and close down on the top vent to hit 425. Once you've finished and your Kamado is at 500°, open the bottom vent wide, leave the top vent unchanged, and see how fast your Kamado gets to searing temps. I personally sear and cook pizza pies at 500-550, but some have a preference to use 600 or 650. Some Gurus even cook pizza at 700°+.


    Once you've completely this exercise, you've a ripping hot Kamado. Sear a few steaks and enjoy them with your family. You've worked hard and deserve a good meal. Always remember to stay well hydrated as this exercise can be hot, hard work!


    Okay, lets examine a few things. First, I had you increase temperatures in 25 degree increments. You’ll probably never cook anything at every one of those temps, but what I wanted you to notice is how fast your kamado responds to changes in vent temps. I want you to get a really good feel for how small changes can lead to big effects in your fire bowl and in the interior space in your kamado.


    Second, I want you to know what vent settings yield which specific temps. Those vent setting aren’t going to change for your specific kamado. This means that if you want to heat soak your kamado while you prep the cook in your kitchen, after the fire is well established, all you do is set the vents to the temperature you want and go inside and prep your cook. It’s as simple as preheating the oven in your kitchen.


    Third, you should know by now that your kamado responds to your vents changes in a specific way. You know the “response curve” of your kamado. That means that you can estimate the time that moving from one temp to another will take. This is important when doing something like a reverse sear on your kamado. You might do the warm up at something like 250F and you want to sear at 600F. You now have a tool to estimate just how long that will take because you’ve seen how your kamado responds to changes in vent settings.


    Fourth, as many of you know, I’m a BIG believer in heat soaking a kamado for about and hour before all low-n-slow cooks and all pizza cooks. During the exercise outlined above I asked you to let your kamado dwell for 30 minutes at the temps your were looking to hit. Notice however that there were no heat deflectors, not secondary cooking grates, no pizza stones, etc. The reason for that is you don’t need all that additional thermal mass to do the exercise. You’ll get much better results with an empty kamado. Also know that when you add that kind of thermal mass, i.e. heat deflectors and pizza stone, the time to get to temp will be longer than what you’ve discovered in this exercise. The simple reason is that the additional thermal mass will soak up heat that originally went in getting the ceramics of your kamado up to temp. However, at the end of the day, that additional thermal mass will NOT change your vent settings one iota. That additional thermal mass will just add some time to get to temp.


    Now you intimately know your Kamado and you'll never chase temperatures again. Cooking on your Kamado will be a real joy instead of a battle you fight every single time. Because those vent setting will never change in the main, whenever you want to cook something, you'll know the exact vent setting that yields the temperature you're looking to hit. You can literally just light the lump, set the vents, and go prep your food for the cook.


    One last thing. At the onset of this journey, you only lit a single spot in your lump pile. For cooks between 200-300°, that's the proper procedure. To facilitate matters, for cooks between 300-400°, I light two spots in my lump pile. For cooks between 400-500° I'll light three spots in the pile and for cooks above 500° I'll light four spots.


    My good friend, Breadhead has posted a similar topic here, Post number 11. There is a difference in his methodology from mine. He like to use his bottom vent more than do I. No big deal. Whatever gets you through the night works for me. I would encourage you to experiment with the technique posted above and experiment with that posted by Breadhead. Both will work for you if you consistently use that one. Mix and match will not be a fun day for you.


    I hope this helps you and that you find this instructive.


    Questions? Comments? Thoughts?

    #2
    If I ever get a Kamado I'll just save your posts and have a Word document that represents 0.000008% of Kathryn's PBC document, but very impressive nonetheless.

    Nice write up and structure. What do/did you teach?

    Comment


    • CeramicChef
      CeramicChef commented
      Editing a comment
      Jerod Broussard - I taught Thermodynamics doing grad school in Chemical Engineering and then after my time in the b-school, I taught Biz Calculus, the Undergrad and Grad statistic sequences, and Management Strategy.

      Thanks for the feedback!

    • Jerod Broussard
      Jerod Broussard commented
      Editing a comment
      Neat. I am subscribed to a couple Engineering YouTube Channels. Crazy awesome how efficient turbine engines are. They had some PT''s from Canada on the crop dusters back home. Getting Smarter Everyday is good channel.

    #3
    Well written, Ken!

    Comment


    • Jerod Broussard
      Jerod Broussard commented
      Editing a comment
      Full sized spare!!!!!!!!!

    • billg71
      billg71 commented
      Editing a comment
      0% financing for 4 years plus heated and cooled seats!
      Great post, CeramicChef! If I ever get a day off I'll profile my SCG with your method.

    • MBMorgan
      MBMorgan commented
      Editing a comment
      "So tell me, what's it going to take to get you into a Kamado today?"
      CeramicChef - We'll, unless I lay the groundwork carefully ... probably a divorce

    #4
    Great piece for beginners and experienced folks who have acquired a new Kamado or who have never done this exercise before.

    Comment


      #5
      With each new addition it has become clear I have convinced myself the next backyard purchase will be kamado. Thank you CeramicChef and Breadhead for sharing your vast knowledge and passion for kamado cooking!

      Comment


      • CeramicChef
        CeramicChef commented
        Editing a comment
        Craigar - thanks for your kind words, So what kind of Kamado would you consider?

      • Breadhead
        Breadhead commented
        Editing a comment
        Craigar ... I'm with CeramicChef on this. Our intent is to post ALL of our knowledge and experiences that took us years to learn the hard way. There really isn't anywhere for new Kamado rookies to go that has everything posted. We want to shorten your learning curve in an easy and helpful way.

      • CeramicChef
        CeramicChef commented
        Editing a comment
        +1^
        Breadhead hit the nail on the head!

      #6
      LA Pork Butt - Thanks so much for your comments. I do this exercise every time I get a new kamado. I had a Primo destroyed in an act of vandalism, That Oval XL was replaced by insurance. While the vents setting on the new Primo were close, they were different enough to make a real difference. The new Primo ran about 25-35 degrees hotter than the previous Primo. but once you get those vents settings for your specific kamado, you're golden.

      The only time those setting will change is if you have wind blowing directly into the bottom vent. That should seem fairly obvious. However, you can get a change with wind blowing across the top vent due to the Venturi Effect. That will lower the pressure around the top vent and increase to draw associated with the top vent. Other than that, things are constant.

      Comment


        #7
        This tutorial needs to be put somewhere permanently. Period. Forever. For every Kamado owner. Forever.

        Comment


        • CeramicChef
          CeramicChef commented
          Editing a comment
          5698k - Thanks for that vote of confidence. I think based on what I've noticed that the Moderatos are making these Sticky Posts at the top of the Kamado section. Be well and here's to successfully chasing the hydrocarbons!

        #8
        CeramicChef right now I have the hots for the KJ Big Joe. The BBQ store in town, http://www.helpingubbq.com/ , has now become a BGE dealer and is hosting an egg fest in August, so I might end up with a green one instead of red. But as of right now I am standing firm on the Big Joe. The last time I was in the store the owner told me he has a customer who is thinking of replacing their 3 year old Big Joe with something else. I was told the customer loves their Big Joe but never keeps a cooker for more than 5 years as they love to tinker with new toys. If the price is right I might have the KJBJ by the end of the summer.

        Comment


        • Craigar
          Craigar commented
          Editing a comment
          I showed my wife the KK website knowing she would fall in love with the blue ones. Her lust dwindled when she noticed the price and weight of the 32. Thanks again!

        • LA Pork Butt
          LA Pork Butt commented
          Editing a comment
          I have a BGEL and my son-in-law has a Joe Jr. Both cook well and I am sure the Big Jo will cook as well as the BGEXL. You will love either.

        • 5698k
          5698k commented
          Editing a comment
          Craigar, KK makes 6 different grills, not just the 32". FYI. 😎😎

        #9
        CeramicChef and Breadhead thank you both for sharing your extensive knowledge! This is a great writeup that will help numerous current and future Kamado owners. It's an invaluable resource.

        Comment


        • CeramicChef
          CeramicChef commented
          Editing a comment
          fuzzydaddy - no big deal at all. It's a real pleasure to have such an actively involved group providing feedback, comments, and suggestions.

        #10
        Thank for the information! I've discovered how to get my KJ to like 900 degrees, but thats all I tried so far. CeramicChef and Breadhead will get me there.

        Comment


        • Breadhead
          Breadhead commented
          Editing a comment
          At some point you really ought to do the exercise that CeramicChef spelled out in great detail. No food, no cooking apparatus inside your cooker. Once you intuitively know how to control your cooker, the guessing game is over. You'll never chase temperatures again and everything gets easier.

        • CeramicChef
          CeramicChef commented
          Editing a comment
          W.A. - 900°F! WOWZERS! What are you cooking, Neopolitan Pizza Pies?! Be very careful not to torch your gaskets. At those kinds of temps, most gaskets are done in. All the best to you and we look forward to your comments and inputs.

        #11
        Craigar I got the kamado Joe Classic over the Big Joe for a few reasons. One was budget - I wanted to get a bunch of charcoal and all the accessories too. The other was weight/size - that thing is big! I would have had to unpack it to get it into the minivan and I cant lift heavy things like I used to. I also have a PBC so bigger smoking cooks I can always use that. I'll never run out of cooking space with the PBC. My Ace hardware has KJs, but with the Costco roadshow I saved $200. However, with Costco you do have to get it home yourself., and they didn't have the grill expander and pizza stone. Our Ace has a ton of accessories and parts. Google Kamado Joe Costco Roadshow to see when/if there will be one near you soon if you are interested.

        Comment


        • Craigar
          Craigar commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks W.A. unfortunately there are no roadshows for this area...yet. I am hoping for one in July or August.

        #12
        CeramicChef and Breadhead Thank you for the great post of very useful information. As usual the information on the AR site is the best! Thanks everyone for your posts and comments.

        Comment


        • Breadhead
          Breadhead commented
          Editing a comment
          You're welcome Skip ...

          That's what the Pit is all about... A bunch of backyard BBQ/grill guys/girls helping each other out.👍

        • David Parrish
          David Parrish commented
          Editing a comment
          Yep. What Breadhead said.

        • CeramicChef
          CeramicChef commented
          Editing a comment
          Skip - you're entirely welcome. We're here to exchange ideas, best practices, etc. to shorten everyone's learning curve. We'd love your continued participation and input. We appreciate the feedback!

        #13
        Great write up, I have been thinking hard about getting a Komado and this will be invaluable to have if and when I do actually pull the trigger for one of these monsters. Thanks CeramicChef !

        Comment


        • vandy
          vandy commented
          Editing a comment
          I am not really sure, I saw a demo at Costco with the Kamado Joe and they look really great. I thougt about a Primo at one time but there are no dealers around here to go look at one. There is a BGE dealer around the corner from me so that would be an option. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

        • CeramicChef
          CeramicChef commented
          Editing a comment
          vandy - Costco Road Shows are great. I personally think that given the price, included accessories, great customer service, KJ is the best deal in ceramic kamados. The BGE, with all the accessories ala carte, can get expensive. But the BGE is a very fine kamado. Either will serve you quite well.

        • BGWolf
          BGWolf commented
          Editing a comment
          If you're interested in a BGE, look for an eggfest in your area. The cooks at those fests are cooking on brand new eggs that are sold at the end of the day for a good discount (with a full warranty). You also get to sample some great food, talk to cooks that own eggs and have a great time.

        #14
        Thanks CC, I will just have to wait until I can afford one of these bad boys but thanks for all the advise and I will be reading your posts on the Kamado's with a lot of interest.

        Comment


        • CeramicChef
          CeramicChef commented
          Editing a comment
          vandy - thanks for the feedback. It's great ly appreciated.

          As was mentioned above, there are a variety of avenues to get a Kamado at reduced prices ... Eggfests, Costco Road Shows, etc. Heck, even the Komodo Kamado now has financing options!

        #15
        vandy ...

        I can see cooking bread, pizza, cake, pies and cookies on your new Kamado in your future.🤔 Of course that's after a 16 hour low and slow cook that you slept through the night for 8 hours.😎

        Remember... NO ONE needs a Kamado cooker, but those that have them are glad they got them.😆

        Some people love, love, love staying up all night tending & feeding fires.👍

        Some people are multi tasker's and like to smoke really, really great briskets & pork butts and sleep at the same time.😆

        Comment

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