Thursday, July 16, 2015

Barbecuen' in Ceramic

One thing that's always appealed to me about a Kamado grill is that they're pretty much airtight. Ultimately, controlling airflow is the single best way to control temperature in a grill. You don't need to control airflow to control temperature... you can play the sorts of games I've played, like propping open the lid with a chunk of a 2X4

But that isn't really best. For one thing, it's not really addressing the burn rate of the grill: so what I was effectively doing was burning a fire far too hot, then throwing away the heat from the fire in order to keep the temperature where I wanted it.

The Kamado, on the other hand, allows me actually to slow down the burn rate. So it's not merely that I'm keeping the grill down to 200°F, but I'm reducing the size of the fire. Very cool stuff!

I've tried a couple times to do barbecue to on my new Kamado. The first time, I followed the conventional wisdom the Kamado community follows and set up my grill with the ceramic heat deflectors just above the fire, then set up the cooking grates over that and put a pig shoulder on the grates.

The pig shoulder was done in about 20 hours, and I was very happy with it. The pork was smoky and tender.

Best of all, I didn't have to do much with it. The Kamado pretty much held the temperature for the whole time.

But... I missed the flavor of barbecue cooked directly over the coals. The question I was asking was, "Can I cook directly over the charcoal, but keep the temperature low?" The answer is, yes you can!

So on July 3, I fired up the Kamado and set it up for 215°F.  I got the Kamado going around 7:00 AM on July 3, and it ran until about 6:00 PM the next day. 35 hours of a 215°F cook without reloading the charcoal. Oh yeah!

In that time, I cooked chicken thighs, pork butts, and whole chickens:

Sunday, July 12, 2015


It's been a little over a month since we bought the Big Joe. We've done quite a bit of cooking on it since then:

  1. smoked salmon
  2. barbecue pork
  3. pizza
  4. bread
  5. Baptist Chicken
  6. steak
  7. burgers
to name a few. One thing we haven't cooked is ribs... we should rectify that soon.

The Big Joe is a great grill: easily the best I've owned. It's not been perfect, but the folks at Kamado Joe have been quick to respond when I reached out to them. They really stand behind their product. I would definitely recommend one to anyone who wants to buy a ceramic grill.

The Big Joe is the only grill I've ever worked with that could properly smoke fish. The difficulty with smoking fish is to keep the temperature low enough that the fish doesn't overcook while keeping the fish exposed to the smoke long enough to cure it.

I had some salmon a neighbor caught that lay forgotten in my freezer for a few years. That fish was pretty much inedible after a couple years in the freezer; only smoking it seemed like a feasible rescue strategy.  After curing the salmon with salt and brown sugar overnight, we put it on the grill between 175° and 180°F for about nine hours over a fire of mesquite and alder.

Even a ceramic grill has trouble below 180°F: the fire did go out once, but we managed to keep it going more-or-less steadily from about 3:00 PM until midnight.

The finished product was really, really good. It was chewy and smoky, like salmon jerky. I'm not a huge fish-eater, but I definitely love some smoked salmon!

It's ironic that smoking salmon is primarily a method of preserving it. But once you smoke it, it becomes really, really difficult not to eat it up entirely within a few hours. I did manage to squirrel some away in the freezer, but most of it was eaten within a week.