The History of the Kamado Grill

Americans have been cooking food over an open flame since before the Pilgrims arrived. But grilling, believe it or not, has an even-older history.

The practice of grilling began over 500,000 years ago after the domestication of fire. Grilling as we know it, however, began to gain popularity more in the 1940s and 50s thanks to backyard and camping barbecues.

This is where the Big Green Egg story begins; it starts with an idea in China that made cooking rice efficient, and then transformed into what we now know as the Kamado grill.

Where Did the Kamado Come From?

The Kamado grill has been known as the Big Green Egg for generations now, or at least since the early 1970s. However, its origins are not from the same time period as the hippies.

The origins of the Kamado grill trace back to China. Approximately 3,000 years ago, the Chinese developed a ceramic cooking device. The innovation around ceramic cooking has maintained prominence in some chinese dishes, and you can still get awesome ceramic pots that are great for chinese cuisine.

During the Qin dynasty, a device called yan-steamer cooked rice efficiently. The developers designed this device specifically to cook rice. China then imported the device to Japan during the Kofun period, and the Japanese called it a "kamado."

tasty meaty krabby patties

Photo by Bevan Kay on Unsplash

Transition From an Oven to a Grill

The original Kamado looks nothing like the Kamado grill we know today. Today's grills are based on the ideas of the mushi-kamado. The original meaning of Kamado refers to a cooking range or a hearth— basically a place where a cook would place a pot. So, the original Kamado cooked items if they were in a pot, but it could not hold meat directly in it.

Over time, the Kamado was retrofitted with a grate for meat, making it much more like the current Kamado BBQ grill than the ancient rice cooker in its history.

The Twentieth Century: Western Explosion

After World War II, westerners began to see the value of the Kamado, and they began to ship it to their homeland.

Then in the 1970s, Ed Fisher, the Green Egg designer, made a lighter kamado which was less prone to cracking; he painted them green. The Japanese brands typically came in green, orange, or black. So, Fisher most likely wanted his designs to have the same Asian flair.

How Does It Work?

The Kamado is a large, oval sphere— like an egg. As a result, consumers refer to it as theBig Green Egg.

Rather than heavy-duty steel, the Big Green Egg has ceramic walls that help retain the heat and create an uber-hot oven. You still use coals, but rather than charcoal briquettes that you must arrange precisely or gas burners you have to adjust, the Kamado charcoal grill’s lower hemisphere is filled to the brim with lump hardwood charcoal.

With a typical charcoal grill, you arrange the briquettes to control the heat, and with a gas grill, you control the amount of gas on the flame. With the Kamado charcoal grill, you open and close dampers to control the temperature precisely as the cast iron heats up and acts like an oven.

Because of the sturdy ceramics that a Kamado BBQ grill is made from, it’s especially easy to clean and wipe down after use. As long as you pair it with the right Kick Ash Baskets and Ash Cans that are made for your grill, you’ll have a long-lasting and clean grill that is easy to maintain.

What Makes the Kamado So Good?

Typical barbecue grills will dry food out, sucking all the moisture from them as it cooks them from the bottom up. The Kamado helps food retain moisture. Remember, the original design existed as a rice cooker, and rice cannot cook unless it has moisture that stays in it.

Barbecue kings and queens can use the best Kamado grill for anything they'd use a traditional grill for. They can cook flat-bread pizza when they use a flat ceramic or stone tray. They can cook meat and vegetables without the typical tough and dry texture.

Wood-fired ovens are the next-closest thing to the Kamado grill. You can both roast and bake with them. Some even have a rotisserie cradle for creating the perfectly juicy chicken or poultry you have with a rotisserie oven.

The best Kamado grills can maintain temperatures as low as 250 degrees and reach temperatures as high as 750. This high temperature is maintained with extensive vent systems, perfect for grilling in the winter when you want to make a run for the house!

By the way, the Kamado grill is not perfect for everyone. There are a few different types of charcoal grills that you should consider when you’re looking to buy a new grill. In addition to the Kamado variety, you can also find a traditional metal sphere grill or a wood smoker.

grilling burgers

Photo by Bevan Kay on Unsplash

What Variations Distinguish Kamado Style Grills?

Kamado grills maintain the same basic design, and are similar in that they all cook food exactly as described above. However, they differ in convenience and cleaning.

Some Kamado BBQ grills have convenient methods of cleaning with ash catchers or trays you can just pull out and empty. Others require a thorough disassembly to be cleaned thoroughly.

Accessories like the kick ash basket can make clean-up and convenience even easier for the Kamado, so you do not have to worry about a thorough disassembly or an ashtray.

Cost Variation

One of the biggest problems the average consumer has with the Big Green Egg is its price. Cheaper knock-off versions cost around $300, but the actual Kamado costs around $1,000. Some people go as far as to create DIY Kamado grills.

You must remember the quality that goes into the Kamado and its history. Its design makes it unique, and its ancient history gives it a solid reputation and confirmed value. The decades of tweaking and improving the green egg make it an enviable tool in the barbecue game.

Find all the information you need to make an informed purchase with this holistic comparison of the Big Green Egg vs. Kamado Joe!

Do Kamados Have Specific Recipes?

While you can cook anything on a Kamado that you'd cook on a grill (including those tasty hamburgers), the Kamado's design makes it perfect for cooking specific things. For example, the Kamado BBQ grill is also a smoker. So smoke a ham, a chicken, a turkey, or even some cheese on it.

The Kamado also works fantastically as a wood-fire grill or oven. Fire it up for flatbread and pizza.

The convention of the grill in the Kamado made it one of the best tools out there for grilling. Break out a beer and a chicken, and make your beer butt chicken. Season a brisket or some ribs, and then grill those up.

Better yet, try grilling your toughest piece of meat. Soak it in brine or massage it with a rub, and then cook it low and slow to test out your Kamado charcoal grill.

A Rich History

The Kamado style grill did not matriculate from the mind of a bored barbecue lover. It started as a necessity deep in the heart of Asia, and when westerners saw it, they capitalized on the idea.

Contact us to learn more about the accessories that keep your Kamado grill clean!