A beginner’s guide to Kamado cooking (Big Egg-style) on a budget

What is a Kamado?

Kamado is just another name for grill, or range. In fact, it’s the Japanese word for stove. It’s got a long history (and a Wikipedia page!), but I’m guessing you might know it better as The Big Green Egg.

A typical egg.
  • it’s a wood burning vessel, no gasses here
  • it’s got crazy thick walls, perfect insulation for long cooks
  • it’s got vents on the top and bottom, for temp control
On the left: direct grilling. On the right: a ceramic insert diverts heat, for smoking.

Going cheap: Akorn

Spoiler Alert: I bought a new Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Cooker (they spell “Kooker” with a K, but I just can’t even) for around $230 on sale. That’s like a third or a forth of some other grills I was looking at.

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Kamado Skills

Making a fire

One reason I bought a Kamado was the simple fact that I like to make fires. Stacking coals, stoking embers, sitting around (really, I bought a little stool just for fire duty sittin’).

On the left: direct heat setup, aka big hot fire. On the right: a top-down burn, for long smokes.

On types on wood

I’m not even going to pretend I belong in this debate. Choice of wood is a long-argued and highly-differentiating factor of all sorts of grilling. The key is to experiment, to find what you like. Most grocery or outdoor stores carry a number of different varieties of hardwood, lump, and charcoal. Try them all. I’m only including this section because I expected someone to ask.

Controlling the temperature

For the most part, cooking with a Kamado is a set it and forget it process. It’s just that the setting it part is kinda tough. To control the temperature, the grill uses two ports, one on the top and one on the bottom.

Smoked Chicken Wings

This is probably the recipe I’ve hammered on the most. I even had a paper+pen notebook containing madman scratchings from each cook.

  • 3lbs wing portions (I usually buy them split)
  • salt + pepper
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s RedHot
  • 1/2 melted butter

Ham

Aside from smoking meats, lately I’ve been experimented with curing. I’ve done a couple pastramis, but by far the easiest and most delicious was this country ham I smoked for a recent poker night.

  • 3lb pork loin or shoulder (some fat is good)
  • 1 cup Morton Tender Quick (or some other curing salt/method)
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (raw or turbinado is best)
  • 3 tbsp pickling spice (I just used McCormick from the store)

Steaks

  • steaks
  • bigass fire

Other stuff you might wanna try

Another reason I bought into the Kamado craze was huge community of cooks out there. Aside from internet how-to’s galore (cough, not unlike this article, cough), there are are ton of awesome accessories out there, which you can use to soup up your grill according to your own mad desires.

Smoking stone

I mentioned it above plenty, but if you’re planning on smoking with a Kamado, you’ll need a ceramic insert between the fire and the meat. Some expensive grills come with them installed, but my budget Akorn made it an a-la-carte option. You’ll definitely wanna pick one up.
Amazon Link

Instant-read Thermometer

This is a tough one, because there are like a bazillion to pick from. But since I’m cheap, I’ve been using this $10 Weber unit and quite liking it. It reads in seconds, the head swivels, and that’s all. No fancy features, no bluetooth, but hey! It was ten dollars, folks.
Amazon Link

Jalapeño Rack

Stuffed jalapeños are one of my (not to mention, everyone’s) favorite BBQ sides, but making them without a rack is difficult (not impossible, just difficult). I’d vote the best stuffing is pimento cheese, but the possibilities are endless.
Amazon Link

Wrapping Up

While this pretty far from a comprehensive guide, I hope these tips and explanations are enough to get you kooking. (oh lord, I did it)

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Clark Wimberly

Clark Wimberly

I try to make things that are awesome.