We have had the pleasure of demonstrating Kamados in many major department stores in most major cities in the United States and some foreign cities since 1960. These demonstrations have enabled us to compile a rather extensive list of questions from a wide range of interested people. The answers include, for the most part, responses from individual owners who have been delighted with the unique and outstanding qualities of „cooking in ceramics.“
What is the History of the Kamado and Cooking in Ceramics?
What is Ancient Cooking in Ceramics? From the beginning of time, even before the discovery of fire, humans used clay vessels in the sun to cook their food. Archeologists have found clay cooking pots and vessels from every part of the world. Many date back to the earliest time of man. For reasons discussed below, they are all ceramic and round. You might note that some are familiar in shape to our Kamado. Centuries later ceramic „crucibles“ were used to melt iron which was used in many applications, but not cooking. There was and is magic in cooking in ceramics.
What does the word „Mushikamado“ mean ? As cultures and people throughout the world cook and prepare their staple food (and favorite dishes) in ceramics, so do the Japanese. The Mushikamado is and always was a steam rice cooker. It was and is made entirely of clay found in Southern Japan . The shape or form is, like many cooking vessels around the world, very similar to today’s „Kamado“. That is, it is round and domed with chimney, damper, draft door and lid that lifts off the base. Inside there is a rice pot with a wooden lid suspended over the „firebox“ by a „fire ring.“ The fuel is wood charcoal. This remarkable device cooks rice that „looks and tastes different and better“. It is used in its original form, even today, for very ceremonial family functions. Note: The Japanese never used the Mushikamado for barbecuing meat, fish or anything else. It was used only as a steam rice cooker.
What is the definition of the word „Kamado“? Where and by whom did it originate? The name „Kamado“ was trade marked in the United States by Richard Johnson. It had no „stand alone“ or „descriptive“ meaning in Japan . That is, the name kamado had no „generic“ meaning in Japan or in the United States in 1960 or before. The name kamado is found in Mushikamado , a steam rice cooker, and was used by Richard Johnson to arbitrarily name the barbecue rather than to use this name to describe some function or characteristic of the product. Over the years the name „Kamado“ has become (and in some cases used without authority) synonymous with a ceramic barbecue. A noun, rather than a adjective. We use the word „Kamado“ to mean our Trade Name and to take advantage of the „good will“ and reputation of earlier efforts in designing, manufacturing and importing the original Japanese „Kamado.“
What is the history of the Japanese made Kamado? Richard Johnson designed the Mushikamado into a ceramic barbecue called Kamado in 1960 while he was an Airline pilot flying to Japan . Richard opened a factory in Southern Japan where the MushiKamado, now named Kamado® was made with a grill, hinged bands, prop, sliding draft door and other minor but important improvements. Thousands of the earlier Kamados were sold (sold?? for $12.00 or less) to U.S. Air Force crew members who brought them back in empty military transport planes. Initially, crates were not capable of shipping the fragile Kamado. After the crate problem was solved and the advent of container shipping we made and imported thousands of Japanese Kamados. We sold, delivered and demonstrated Kamados in every major department store in the United States . Including, for example, Rich’s in Atlanta , Bullocks, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, J.W.Robinson’s, and Breuners in Sacramento . They were featured in Sunset, Playboy, Esquire magazines and endless press releases. Most of these early purchasers are still using their Kamados. All love the way they cook. Many have abused, cracked, been patched, painted and look somewhat awful. These Kamados are, however, dearly loved and have lived up to Richard Johnson’s original promise i.e. „It’s the best barbecue in the world.“
What is the background of the American made Kamado? In the latter part of 1960’s a U.S. made Kamado was manufactured under patent and other ceramic formula rights of Richard Johnson. This Kamado was made of high fire ceramics and high gloss ceramic glaze. The formula was similar to „Corning Ware“ except it had beautiful colors. The U.S. made Kamado® corrected two major problems with the Japanese made Kamado. One, it did not crack with heat and weather and two, it was glazed instead of being painted. A major component of the U.S. manufactured Kamado formula was a ceramic mineral that contracts with heat, allowing for zero coefficient of expansion. This mineral came from Rhodesia and in early 1970’s the U.S. put an embargo on all imports from Rhodesia . All efforts to find a substitute formula failed and production of this beautiful product was discontinued.
What is today’s Kamado®? In October of 1996 the entirely new ceramic tiled Kamado was introduced by The Kamado Company . The research and development was done in California by the original Kamado patent holder, Richard Johnson, and he has incorporated all the outstanding features of ceramic cooking found in earlier Kamados along with many new engineering and aesthetic improvements. We hope that you agree that the result is a beautiful, lifetime functional product that will make a very special addition to your home. As discussed below, some of the major improvements and features of the New Kamado® are durability, beauty, a new much larger size (57% larger cooking area than the Japanese #5), much thicker, stronger and heavier walls, spring prop to assist in easily raising the lid, made in the USA and many other minor and major improvements.
What are the Advantages of Cooking in Ceramics?
The answer is the same throughout the world.. „food cooked in ceramics look and taste different and better“. Every country and people in the world prepare their favorite foods in ceramic. There is unexplainable magic in the result of food cooked in „Dutch ovens,“ „Crock pots,“ „Bean pots,“ „Mushikamado,“ (rice), Hawaiian luau „pits,“ „Pizza ovens,“ and the Southwestern Indian Beehive oven. Each country and people seem to have their own reason for this „magic.“ Everything from religious beliefs to secret ceramic teachings. For what ever explanation, all agree that there is something very special in the way food cooked in ceramics tastes.
We started the original manufacturing plant (in Japan ), imported and sold the very first Kamado in United States. In addition, we have cooked in and researched this phenomenon since 1960. The result of this somewhat vast experience and effort, is that we can not offer the slightest scientific reason for the magic of cooking in ceramics. There are, however, some definite observations that we all agree on.
- Moisture Retention – Foods do not dry out as in metal, gas or electric grills.
- Juicier – Meats, fish and foods are juicy even after long periods of time. Overnight, for example.
- Little or no shrinkage
- Natural flavor – There is no metal, petroleum or gas „flavor“. There is a „brick-oven“ flavor, as the Italians call it. Try a pizza or bread and see for yourself!
- Heat by convection – Proper heat circulation for uniform cooking requires the shape of the Kamado®. In engineering dictum, „round is better than square“ and „form follows function“
- Heat by Radiation – The retained heat in the heavy ceramic walls does the cooking. Thin walled metal barbecues can not cook by retained heat because there is none. When the fire goes out, cooking ends!
- Ceramic Insulation characteristics – The thick ceramic walls isolate as well as retain the heat. The exterior tile is safe to touch. These exceptional characteristics are found in ancient ceramic cooking vessels to the ceramic tile on the space shuttle.
What are the Additional Advantages of the New Kamado®?
Durability – You can expect a lifetime(s) of continued use. There is nothing to burn out. Our modern technology and new ceramic formulas have enabled us to make a product that is unaffected by heat. Further, the Kamado will withstand all weather conditions, including wind forces up to 70 mph. (Now you can cook your turkey while driving the freeway to mother’s Thanksgiving!)
Aesthetics – The Kamado is artistically tiled with the finest imported high gloss ceramic tile and our own larger hand made custom tile. The expensive material and dedicated labor costs are rewarded by a „work of art“ which will make a beautiful addition to your home or patio. You now have the opportunity to select a color to match your decor and will have a piece of functional yard art.
Larger – The heart wrenching problem of not enough room to stuff your Thanksgiving turkey in your Kamado has been solved. All Kamado users know there is absolutely only one way to cook turkeys. Now you are able to bake any size turkey or roast. The grill of the #7 Kamado is 57% larger than the Japanese #5 and our #5. That is, there are 398 square inches in the Kamado #7 (22 ½ inch grill), while only 254 square inches in the #5 (18 inch grill). In addition, there is no „fire ring“ inside that further reduces size and air circulation. The grill is now supported by a ledge in the ceramic wall. Note, the fire ring was used in Japan only to hold the large rice pot and not to support a barbecue grill.
Spring Prop – Earlier Kamados have no mechanical or other device to assist in raising and lowering the heavy lid. The new Kamado is much larger and even heavier . The compression springs inside the prop assist in the raising and lowering of the lid. Now the lid is a ladies fingertip operation.
Damper Top – The damper top does not fall off and break. It now screws up and down, allowing precise temperature control through restricting the airflow.
Draft Door – Slides in and out easily on runners which are protected from ashes.
How Do You Operate the Kamado? (Charcoal or other Hard Fuel)
What fuel or charcoal do you use? The Kamado is designed to use any customary barbecue fuel. All forms of hard wood charcoal are excellent. Mesquite , for example. All hard woods (not necessarily wood „charcoal“) are exceptionally good for matching the unique characteristic of the particular wood to the particular flavor desired in the food being prepared. I.g. oak, cherry, peach, maple, hickory and many other.
How do you start the Kamado? Lighting is quick and easy regardless of weather or wind conditions. Just use a few pieces of newspaper and twigs if available. The design of the heavy ceramic combustion chamber and the rapid air flow ignites the coals like nothing before. Thereafter, the heat is kept inside because of the thick ceramic walls. An electric starter is convenient. We avoid lighter fluid because of the residual petroleum taste. Our guarantee is that you can reach „500 degrees in 5 minutes“.
How do you control the temperature? Simply by adjusting the damper top and draft door you can regulate the temperature to within a few degrees. The effect of closing or opening the drafts is to restrict or increase the airflow to the charcoal in the combustion chamber. The more of an opening, the more air and thus a hotter temperature. To reduce the heat or extinguish the coals, simply reduce or shut the airflow to the combustion chamber by adjusting the damper top by turning it down and/or adjusting the draft door by pushing in or closing it. These settings will remain stable for hours without further adjustment since the thick ceramic walls provide excellent heat retention, insulation and radiation. Remember, the temperature is controlled by how much air is allowed to the coals and not how much charcoal is used.
What are some Cooking Tips?
Always cook with the lid down.
Place an exterior temperature gauge. This probe extends through a small hole drilled through the lid. By charting the actual temperatures you will be amazed at the accuracy and control you can obtain and maintain in your Kamado. There is just nothing like a Kamado®!
Use a meat thermometer.
Place an oven temperature gauge on the grill while first experiment with setting heat ranges.
Use lump charcoal instead of briquettes.
After your barbecue party, while your Kamado is still very hot, put a 15 or 20 pound turkey or roast on. Crack the damper top and draft door and go to bed. Do not add charcoal. The next morning you will have one of your best turkeys or roasts ever. (Note, tests have proven „slow cooking“ retains over 60% more moisture.) The retained heat in the ceramic walls will do this magic.
Cook year-around. In all climates, rain or snow, nothing will hurt your Kamado. Your char-broiled steaks will never taste better than on a cold rainy night. Your attention is rarely required, just start it, toss it in and come back for your masterpiece. In extreme cold, where thin walled metal barbecues dissipate all the heat and are useless, you and your guests will continue to enjoy your Christmas turkey like never before.
For little or no „charcoal“ or wood flavor, just let the walls get nice and hot. Let the fuel burn down or out and let the ceramic „walls“ do the cooking. This is called the „Brick Oven“ taste. Try this for baking bread or pizza.
For smoke flavor add a few moist aromatic wood chips to the charcoal.
Place the turkey or roast on a drip pan to catch the drippings for basting and gravy.
Baste without concern of „flare-ups“ or drippings. Remember, this is a true self cleaning oven.
Just „throw it in“. Do not be concerned with centering the food on the grill. The temperature is the same touching the walls or dead center. Our record, so far, is 21 whole chickens.
While cooking your turkey or large roast, try cooking some hors d’oeuvres at the same time.
What are some Favorite Meals?
Char-broiled Steaks. There is absolutely nothing that can sear steaks, without burning, like a Kamado. The key is that the high retained heat in the ceramic walls do the searing and not flames . The temperature can be well above (through 800 degrees) the normal broiling temperature of 450 degrees. Still there are no flames because the damper and draft door are adjusted to restrict air to the coals and thereby preventing flames from reaching the meat.
Turkeys . The bigger the better as they remain moist as you have never experienced. Include all vegetables and bread towards the end of the cooking time and you have a dinner without pans.
Roasts. For a large number of guests, there is nothing easier than a 20 to 25 pound rolled roast.
Complete Meal. It is often convenient as well as flavorful to do all vegetables, bread and other items while cooking the main course.
What Care and Maintenance is Necessary?
How do you remove the ashes? How often?
The ashes are removed through the draft door opening. They are safely retained inside the base of the Kamado, below the firebox. You do not remove the firebox. The temperature is extremely hot inside the ceramic firebox resulting in very few ashes remaining. The few that remain are removed every 3 to 4 months when used often.
How do you Clean the grill? The inside walls?
They are „self cleaning“. The temperatures inside the Kamado are much higher than in ordinary metal barbecues. You never have to clean the walls of grease or any basting you might have done. Although the Kamado cooks great from the start, you will find it actually cooks better the more and longer you use it.
Will the firebox burn out? Other parts?
No. The firebox is made of refractory ceramics that are unaffected by heat, nor will it ever rust or burn out as metal material. The holes in the firebox do not plug up. The tremendous temperature keeps it clean open.
Do you need to cover the Kamado?
No. The Kamado is unaffected by weather. We hope our „work of art“ will not be covered up. The coating on the metal should last for many years and then might require recoating with Rustoleum or similar. The tile will look the same „for ever“.
Can you re-grout to later change the aesthetic appearance?
Yes. Grouting is a simple and effective way to alter or match a particular color scheme. We can help, or your favorite tile store carries excellent grout samples from which to select.
The metal bands should be checked for tightness immediately after purchase. They should be tightened to a point where the bolts start to bend and/or the 90 degree bend on the band starts to bend. It is impossible to over tighten the bands. After a few years the bands should be checked to see that they are somewhat centered on the lip between the tile and the opening.
Can you replace tile if ever chipped or broken?
Yes. Although replacement tile is seldom ever necessary, it is easily repaired. A tile „kit“ is available, along with simple instructions in the removal and placement.
What are the Safety Considerations?
In General. The Kamado is by far the safest barbecue in the world. It is very safe and easy to operate. There are no major safety considerations, except keep in mind the following:
Is the Kamado safe to touch when in operation Is the Kamado safe to touch when in operation?
Yes. You can not leave your hand on the exterior but it is safe to touch. The thick ceramic walls keep the tremendous heat inside while losing a moderate amount of heat through radiation and conduction.
Can you place the Kamado directly on wood decks?
No. It should have one or two inches of air space beneath the base. Feet are included with the Kamado that provide this air clearance.
Will ashes cause a fire or any danger?
No. All ashes drop through the firebox air holes into a large area inside the base.
Will the lid „slam down“?
No. There are compression springs in the prop tubes that prevent the „slam“. A reasonable amount of care, however, should be taken to prevent fast closing of the lid.
Is a „flashback“ possible?
Yes. A flashback occurs when the dampers have been left open much longer than necessary and there is a tremendous amount of flames and to cool down the Kamado, the dampers are closed. For the first few minutes or longer, depending on how hot, the inside combustion chamber is starving for more air. You can see that if one were to open the lid rapidly, this sudden rush of air to the charcoal will cause the heated gases to ignite and flames can „shoot“ back or cause a „flashback“. Flashbacks are not unique to Kamados. Weber barbecues are somewhat famous for this.
To prevent flashbacks, two simple things should be remembered:
(1) There is never a need to allow your Kamado to attain extremely hot temperatures (by allowing the damper top and the draft door to remain open too long)
(2) If you have to close both the dampers to reduce the inside temperatures, simply open the dampers for a few seconds before opening the lid. This air circulation will prevent any “flashback“ .
What Accessories are Available?
Please see the latest accessories by clicking on this link.
What Other Ceramic Products Has Richard Johnson Designed and Patented?
There are two smaller sizes of Kamados; There are many other Kamado glazes; The Meridian Tiled Stove; The Meridian Fireplace Insert; A Marble Zero Clearance Fireplace., Brass foundry patterns and designs to accentuate the beauty of all his ceramic products. Some of the Patents have expired, some have been issued, others are pending. All these products are beautiful, unique and functional. If interested, for any reason, please call, fax or write.
How Do We Order a Kamado?
You may call, fax, e-mail or write to our factory office.
What is the Price and How are the Kamado’s shipped?
Price varies depending upon the size of the Kamado, the tile selected and the many ceramic glazes. Our most popular Kamado is, for