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Kamado cookers - worth it or not?
October 30, 2011 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Kamado cookers - worth it or not?

Following on from this deleted post, I'm curious to hear any experience, positive or negative, about kamado cookers.

For example, is it true that a Weber Smokey Mountain can, in fact, do whatever a kamado can at a fraction of the price? Or if not, is the extra cost worth it for potentially only a marginal improvement in cooking?

(I have seen this previous question, but it's over 2 years old, and maybe increased market penetration means there are new models, or more people with experience of these things)
posted by UbuRoivas to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
The comparison with a Weber Smokey Mountain is really weird, because the Weber is a smoker that's intended for cooking slowly at low heat. A kamado is perfectly serviceable as a smoker, but their main advantage is for a very different type of cooking, at high heat. If all you want to do is make things like slow-cooked barbecue you can do in a Smokey Mountain, then while a kamado would do that, it would indeed be an extremely overpriced way to go about it. But, for instance, if you want to make pizza at 800°F, or sear burgers or steak at 700°F, then a kamado is a more attractive choice.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:39 PM on October 30, 2011


A smoker and a kamado are two different things altogether, but the kamado can do what the smoker does.

A smoker is not designed to reach temperatures of 1000F. Look at the Weber website pages dealing with the Weber Smokey Mountain, as well as the owner's manual. It talks about cooking at temperatures well under 500F. The thermometer probably only goes up to the 300s.

A kamado is made with a ceramic shell that is several inches thick. Ceramic has a much lower coefficient of thermal conductivity, which means it holds the heat inside much more efficiently. I can touch the outside of my kamado when it's going, and I won't burn my fingers.

If you tried to heat up a Smokey Mountain to 1000F, it would dissipate most of the heat, and the outside would be blazing hot. You'd be lucky if it didn't melt.
posted by mikeand1 at 2:46 PM on October 30, 2011


One other thing about a kamado, versus a traditional metal/porcelain grill:

Food does not dry out as much as it does on a traditional grill. Again, I think this is because of the ceramic's ability to hold heat; it means you use less fire.

That's why people rave about chicken, turkey and fish cooked on a kamado. It always comes out really moist and juicy (provided it's not totally over-cooked). I can make barbecued whole chicken you'd kill for. Some people said the turkey I made last Thanksgiving was one of the best they ever had -- and it was the first time I'd ever made a turkey in my life. Forget about brining, you don't need it.
posted by mikeand1 at 2:59 PM on October 30, 2011


While Weber would probably like the notion that the Smokey Mountain can compete with a Big Green Egg (BGE) or a Primo GrillDome, there's not even really a comparison.

With the appropriate additional tools (forced draft fan and controller), you can easily hold temperatures of 180F inside a ceramic grill, which is excellent for hot smoking fish. You can also crank the thing up to 750F and do pizza crust quite amazingly, too.

The trade-offs, though, are not insubstantial. The price is through the roof, even used. Additionally, the surface area you can actually cook on is TINY, so if you're cooking for large groups, you're going to wind up spending a large chunk of change to get enough cooking space.
posted by conradjones at 7:03 PM on October 30, 2011


"there's not even really a comparison"

Yes, but have you tried a discarded washing machine drum?
posted by mikeand1 at 7:32 PM on October 30, 2011


have you tried a discarded washing machine drum?

I'd actually be interested in DIY options if I had a more sprawling sort of backyard where something like that could be tucked away out of sight. As it is, the grill / kamado / other will be very much in plain sight from my living room, so I think something tidier looking is in order.

Otherwise, I'd probably just rig up a 44 gallon drum, sliced in half lengthwise & lined with concrete, like the Portuguese people in my area use for their carne asado.

Thanks for all the answers so far, by the way.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:31 PM on October 30, 2011


The Big Steel Keg is an excellent cooker for grilling, smoking, and baking, especially with a Pitmaster keeping the temperature steady. A DIY temperature controller can be fashioned with a thermostat, a computer fan and some wherewithal, if you are so inclined. I've heard of people running one they rigged up to a wireless remote control so they could turn up the heat without leaving the couch.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:48 PM on October 30, 2011


For example, is it true that a Weber Smokey Mountain can, in fact, do whatever a kamado can at a fraction of the price?

I have both, for what it's worth.
The unambiguous answer is no. The longer answer is sort of.

The WSM is an excellent simple smoker. It can hold a BBQ temperature for a long time once you get the hang of it. It's generally predictable with competition worthy results.
It is an adequate roaster. Stability at higher temperatures is iffy, and it tends to consume large amounts of fuel to do it.
I've never had mine up at pizza temperatures, but honestly, I'm not sure I'd want to with it being made out of fairly thin metal. It certainly isn't designed for things like that.

The BGE (the kamado I have) is decent at holding a temperature for long periods. I find it tends to run hot, but that's easy to compensate for.
It is a very good roaster (or indeed anything oven-like). Where the food sits seems to give even coverage for the food.
It can get hot, real hot, backdraft hot. With the appropriate fuel, you can reach 800 degrees in 10-15 minutes. For things like pizza, the shape again promotes even cooking.

To compare between the two is tricky but:
The WSM turns out better ribs and BBQ. I think it's due to the big water reservoir for one, and the position of the food for another. The BGE has a tendency to dry out long cooked food. You could probably rig yourself a water sink in the BGE, but the convenience of the WSM is hard to beat here.

For roasting or baking, the BGE is a much better choice. The heat retention of the ceramic is miles better than the WSM (open the lid on a WSM and it takes a while to get back to temp. A BGE will happily settle in a few minutes). In a BGE, the food is positioned to catch the heat from all angles, whereas the WSM seems to have hot and cold spots.

For high heat applications, a super-hot steak or pizza, the BGE has the edge. Sure, you can build a fire on the second rack on a WSM, and leave out the water bowl, but the BGE gets hotter and stays hotter.

So, it really depends on what you plan on doing. If your main goal is BBQ with the occasional pizza, then a WSM will do just fine.
But if you plan on doing a lot more oven-like activities, yes, you can make a WSM do it, but you'll be happier with a BGE.

A final thought, though you didn't ask.
The WSM community is very strong and friendly. The "main" forum is quite active.
The BGE, while it has all kinds of evangelists, has a forum that is company-sponsored and never struck me as having the same tone.
posted by madajb at 8:49 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Any decent smoker grill can produce moist and juicy meat (especially if it's been brined first). Mine cost under $200 delivered, could smoke 4 whole chickens at once if I wanted to, and I'm confident that what I cook in it tastes as much "to kill for" as that done on a much more expensive (and as someone else said, smaller-cooking-area) BGE. Granted mine doesn't look as nifty as a BGE, but neither is it ugly or space-consuming.

On the other hand, a smoker grill is single-purpose - the top temperature on mine, for instance, is something like 300 degrees. On the other other hand, I can't think of a single time in my life I found myself thinking "I wish I had a way to cook things at 1000 degrees!" I've grilled quite lovely steaks on very cheap charcoal grills - and my stove top, for that matter - and pizza is, quite frankly, something that only exists in my personal universe as "food I get by making a phone call". Roasting? I've got a perfectly good oven that came with the house.

I guess my point is, be sure the things a BGE will do are worth the price to you.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:03 PM on October 30, 2011


"The BGE has a tendency to dry out long cooked food. You could probably rig yourself a water sink in the BGE, but the convenience of the WSM is hard to beat here."

It's very easy to do this in a BGE. I use the plate setter upside-down with a pan of water and/or cider on it. I've never once had long-cooked food dry out.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:15 PM on October 30, 2011


"I'd actually be interested in DIY options if I had a more sprawling sort of backyard where something like that could be tucked away out of sight."

This is the best DIY version I've seen. The main issue with this approach is how to handle the lid. It's going to get hot, and there are no convenient handles or hinges on it.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:18 PM on October 30, 2011


"I've grilled quite lovely steaks on very cheap charcoal grills..."

Have you ever had a 2-inch think NY Strip seared at 900-1000F? I'm not trying to be snarky, I really mean it.

I went many years without eating a properly-prepared steak; I had no idea what I was missing. It wasn't until I was in a podunk town Oklahoma when I first had a serious steak. The main secret is using really good meat, cut 2 inches thick, and seared at high temperatures. It's the most tender, juiciest, delicious steak you can get. There's no way to get even close on a Weber grill.

Similarly, there's no way to get truly gourmet pizza crust without seriously high temperatures.

But yeah, the question is whether you "need" these things badly enough to justify the price.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:25 PM on October 30, 2011


Yes, I've had steaks as you describe - seared in an inexpensive cast iron pan on my stove top. Anything cooked that quickly isn't going to derive a flavor benefit from being cooked over wood or charcoal instead of electric heat; and I couldn't tell you what temps that pan gets to, but I'd be willing to bet that the difference in taste between a steak cooked that way and one cooked at 900-1000 is pretty small.

Look, I really don't mean to rain on your parade. You obviously like your BGE, and that's fine. My point is that there are also cheaper ways to do most things. Chacun à son goût.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:49 PM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Yes, I've had steaks as you describe - seared in an inexpensive cast iron pan on my stove top."

I've cooked many, many steaks on a blazing hot cast iron pan. It's fine but it's not the same.

Look at any of the best steakhouses in the world. Not one of them makes steaks this way.

"Chacun à son goût."

That is certainly true. If you prefer steak that way, that's your choice. But it's not the same.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:34 PM on October 30, 2011


Look at any of the best steakhouses in the world

Been there done that too, and I'll put my stovetop steaks up against theirs any day.

And now I'm done flogging this dead cow.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:23 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


tl;dr - are you a maximiser who lies awake at night worrying you might not have bought the most bestest thing and that other rich idiots might think poorly of you? Are you unable to perform simple NPV calculations like 'hmm, maybe it's better, but is it three times the price better? What else could I do with the extra money, and would that make me happier?' Do you like to make outrageous claims about pizza and steak? Would you like to hang out with a bunch of people exactly like this online? Get an egg.

Do you want to eat barbecue? Get a WSM, or convert your Weber kettle with a Smokenator, or make an ugly smoker from a canola drum, and then buy a decent pan if you want steak. If a pan is good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it's good enough for you.

Or if not, is the extra cost worth it for potentially only a marginal improvement in cooking?

It depends. A few months ago, if I'd have said:

- 'Here's something you can get for AUS$350 that'll do ribs, chicken, brisket, pork, sausage, turkey and ham'; and then I said

- 'Here's something else that does that, though not as well, but you can also cook a steak on it without moving the racks around, and it's only AUS$650 more'

would you think that second option was value for money? If so, you'd have bought the Kamado Joe rather than the WSM. (It comes with a free poster of The Leader, and a 'HURF DURF WEBER' bumper sticker.)

Unfortunately, Amazon isn't selling WSMs landed in Australia in 4 days flat for $350 anymore, so now the WSM is $699 local. You could get a 'Vision' brand kamado-style cooker from Costco for $594, and maybe you'd be ahead (or maybe not - no idea about the build quality), or the KJ from BG for $999, or the Beefeater kamado for $1599, or...

Here's how it went for me: I could buy a Kamado Joe, or I could buy a WSM and a professional sous vide rig dedicated to steak and still come out ahead. (More on this in a moment.)

Yes, but have you tried a discarded washing machine drum?

Yes. You haven't, though - it wasn't 'designed' for fire, so even though it's stainless fucking steel something something the earth's core something. Maybe if I stuck a thousand dollar price tag on it and called it a Maytago (tm) you'd buy it from me. Make sure you only use this expensive coconut charcoal, though. It's 'gourmet'.

Have you ever had a 2-inch think NY Strip seared at 900-1000F? I'm not trying to be snarky, I really mean it.

Have you ever had a 2-inch thick strip cooked sous vide in a 12 cent ziplock bag in a cooler you picked up for a buck at a garage sale? Guess which one is better?

Similarly, there's no way to get truly gourmet pizza crust without seriously high temperatures.

What does 'truly gourmet' mean, exactly? I'm guessing 'cooked on something expensive'.

I (and many, many others) get perfectly awesome pizza crust using Jeff Varasano's recipe (or Reinhart's pain a l'ancienne) in my electric wall oven that maxes out at about 500F. Hydration, handling, refrigerated retardation - these make pizza excellent, not maximum heat.

Nothing funnier than watching somebody throwing their 'gourmet' fast rise, underdeveloped, double knocked down, kneaded to hell and back, overtopped pizza on their thousand dollar Kamado then waxing lyrical about how it's the best pizza ever because man, the temp is like, so high, and did I mention the coconut charcoal? It's like, four times as much as regular charcoal. It's gourmet.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:49 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you unable to perform simple NPV calculations like 'hmm, maybe it's better, but is it three times the price better?

Mate, NPVs & business cases are my day job. Would you or anybody else have any empirical figures on the energy that's bled per hour through the thin & conductive metal lining of a Weber, vs a typical ceramic egg?

I'd be interested in doing a sensitivity analysis, with starting assumptions of, say, 3x1hr + 1x8hr sessions per week, and whether over the mean time to failure of a ceramic egg (using MTF instead of a depreciation period, as I'm looking at actual value, not accounting value), the savings in operational expenditure (charcoal) would justify an increased upfront capital expenditure.

posted by UbuRoivas at 5:57 AM on October 31, 2011


I don't have a smokey mountain, but I've got something roughly similar from Coleman (sice discontinued, sadly) and I freaking love it. Sure, it's tempermental, and it's. It's not, in it's smoker configuration, going to get higher than 350 without some serious attention in the early going, but then again, there is very little I would want to be smoking in that range. With the lid off, and the middle ring out, it's a perfectly good grill, good enough to grill chicken parts, sausages, and corn with no problems.

What it, and the WSM can do is cold smoke. In my opinion, you can't claim to have a smoker unless you can smoke things at temps in the 40-50 degree (f) range. I've made my own smoked salmon, even smoked scallops with this thing, and it was pretty damn cheap. The green egg, for all of its woo factor just seems like crazy amounts of overkill for the home cook. Sure, it's nice, but there's a lot of 'nice' stuff out there that I'd like but don't need. I'd go with the WSM. As much as there's a big following and community for the BGE, I'd say the weber community has been there longer, and is even more rabidly insane and into all of the ins and outs of the WSM. If my current smoker ever needs replacing, I'd probably get the WSM.

And seriously, I've done everything with this thing: whole turkey, pulled pork, beer can chicken, hot smoked bacon, the salmon, the scallops, venison, boar, even pork neck. Next up will most likely be smoked sausages. For me, the difference between 'holy shit, that's amazing' and 'hot damn, that's the platonic ideal of X' just isn't worth the hundreds of dollars in difference.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:21 AM on October 31, 2011


I have a BGE and use it a lot; I also have a gas grill and assorted other grilling devices and although the gas grill wins for convenience, otherwise I prefer the BGE. I bought mine used and built a cart for it myself from plans on the internet so saved a little money that way. I use it for both all-day barbecuing and high-heat grilling and it does well with both.

Something I haven't seen addressed much in this thread is durability. Mine is about 15 years old and has held up very well. It is breakable (in fact the lid was broken when I got it) but replacement parts are available (there are a number of stores that carry them here and you can also order direct from the company). The only items that have worn out are the wooden handles (which I haven't gotten around to replacing yet) and the cast iron plate that the charcoal sits on, which rusted through after 12 years or so but was not a big deal to replace. So although they aren't cheap, the Big Green Egg at least is well-made and durable.
posted by TedW at 7:18 AM on October 31, 2011


"other rich idiots..."

You have a real problem with the personal insults. I'm not rich, and I'm not an idiot. I bought my egg for $650. Does that really make me "rich"? I don't think so...

"I (and many, many others) get perfectly awesome pizza crust using Jeff Varasano's recipe (or Reinhart's pain a l'ancienne) in my electric wall oven that maxes out at about 500F. Hydration, handling, refrigerated retardation - these make pizza excellent, not maximum heat."

Ahem. From Jeff Varasano's website:

"4- The Oven: I've got my oven cranked up to over 800 F. Use this section with caution: i.e. no lawyers please. I'm just telling you here what I did. I'm not telling you what you should do. You are responsible for whatever you choose to do. In Naples, Italy they have been cooking pizza at very high temperatures for a long time. There are some real physics going on here. The tradition is to cook with a brick oven. I don't have a brick oven. So this is what I do:

On most ovens the electronics won't let you go above 500F, about 300 degrees short of what is needed. (Try baking cookies at 75 instead of 375 and see how it goes). The heat is needed to quickly char the crust before it has a chance to dry out and turn into a biscuit. At this temp the pizza takes 2 - 3 min to cook (a diff of only 25F can change the cook time by 50%). It is charred, yet soft. At 500F it takes 20 minutes to get only blond in color and any more time in the oven and it will dry out. I've cook good pizzas at temps under 725F, but never a great one."
posted by mikeand1 at 8:21 AM on October 31, 2011


One other thing to include in your NPV calculations: The Big Green Egg comes with a lifetime warranty, and they're built to last a lifetime.

Webers do not, and they are not.
posted by mikeand1 at 8:30 AM on October 31, 2011


Mate, NPVs & business cases are my day job. Would you or anybody else have any empirical figures on the energy that's bled per hour through the thin & conductive metal lining of a Weber, vs a typical ceramic egg?

My observation is that the WSM gets hot enough to make you go "Oww" at smoking temperatures and hot enough to give you a burn if you really crank it up.
The BGE barely gets warm at smoking temperatures and will be unpleasantly warm at full bore (though opening the lid at full bore is a different kettle of fish).

Other than that direct comparison is hard, because I use briquette charcoal in the WSM and lump in the BGE.
posted by madajb at 8:57 AM on October 31, 2011


Just for reference, I found some data on thermal conductivity. There's plenty around, but this page has a number of different materials listed in the one place. Others tend to focus just on metals, or insulating materials.

Carbon steel = ~50 Watts per metre per degree (W/mK), where the K value would be the difference between internal & external temperature.

I can't find the value for egg ceramics without knowing their exact composition, but for comparison, fireclay bricks, concrete, regular bricks, mortar & Corian all hover around ~1-2 W/mK, so I'd feel safe in assuming that the egg ceramics would be probably at the lower end of that range, as they've been designed specifically for their insulating properties, so my ballpark figures are that WSM heat lost through conductivity would be roughly 50 times that lost in the eggs.

I doubt that would translate directly to 50 times the fuel used as there'd be overheads for heating up & then cooling down, and probably all kinds of complicated physics involved but assuming regular use, that's an undeniably strong difference regardless, especially if multiplied by the cost of this gourmet coconut charcoal I keep hearing about.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:19 PM on October 31, 2011


wait up, stainless steel is 16-19 W/mK
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:23 PM on October 31, 2011


Yes, but have you considered the benefits of some stylin' insulation?
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:55 PM on October 31, 2011


Woah, what a great idea! That levels things out more.

I'm back to square one with my calcs, though...need to use the thermal heat transfer coefficient W/m^2K (aka U-value) rather than the conductivity value W/mK. It gets complicated.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:06 PM on October 31, 2011


UbuRoivas: It gets complicated.

Overthinking a plate of brisket
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:18 PM on October 31, 2011


Yeah, I don't think I'm going to be able to quantify the difference in fuel use. Safe to say the Weber would use more to maintain the same temperatures, which means more trips to the gourmet charcoal supplier, and/or more space taken up in the already overpacked garden shed.

Here's my PMI analysis so far:

Weber

Plus
• Cheaper ($699)
• Long established company
• Active user forums
• Lighter & easier to move if needed
• Aesthetics OK
• Can cold smoke

Minus
• Narrower cooking range (lower temperatures only)
• Less efficient thermally – more fuel used, especially at higher temperatures
• Safety around children may be an issue (hot surfaces)
• Warranty?
• Less durable, built to replace (?)
• Stability at higher temperatures is iffy

Interest
• Available in any colour, as long as it’s black
• Probably subject to seasonal discounts & sales
• Not known if replacement parts are available

Kamado

(Kamado Joe, as BGE isn’t available here, KJ is at a sub-$1K pricepoint, and distributed by a large national chain so probably reliable for warranty repairs)

Plus
• Wider cooking range (higher temperatures possible)
• More efficient thermally (lower ongoing charcoal costs)
• Safer around small children (cooler surfaces)
• Aesthetics OK
• More durable, built to last (?)
• Active user forums (BGE)
• Replacement parts available (probably)
• “perfectly serviceable as a smoker”

Minus
• More expensive ($999)
• Very heavy, so not easily movable (eg for storage) – not actually an issue for me as it would have its own dedicated spot
• Small cooking surface area

Interest
• Available in any colour, as long as it’s terracotta
• National chain seems to have a “25% off everything” sale each Dec, which would bring it down to the ballpark RRP of the Weber (although presumably the Weber also gets the same discount)
• Forced draft fan and controller (eg Pitmaster) as an optional extra for more control over temperature
• Not clear what the warranty period is (not lifetime, could be up to 10 years)

posted by UbuRoivas at 8:46 PM on October 31, 2011


Not to belabor the point (I know, too late), but there are plenty other choices in grills besides Weber and Kamado - I assume; that's true in the US and surely so elsewhere. As far as I was aware before this particular thread broke out, Webers are considered to be on the cheaper end of the quality/price spectrum, and there are a LOT of grills of all types in between the WSM and expensive items such as the Kamado.

I vaguely recall some recent thread (front page? AskMe? some unrelated blog post? beats me) in which it was pointed out that there are two types of people in the world: those who go for the cheapest item, and those who won't settle for any less than the be-all-end-all item that may be expensive but covers every conceivable base. I fall somewhere in between (trending toward "how cheaply can I get the features I think I really need") so to me it seems like there's a rich spectrum of other brands and models that aren't getting much mention in this thread that might be worth exploring now that we've illuminated them from both ends.

Or in other words, I think strangely stunted trees nailed it in the first post.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:44 PM on October 31, 2011


Safe to say the Weber would use more to maintain the same temperatures, which means more trips to the gourmet charcoal supplier, and/or more space taken up in the already overpacked garden shed.

The WSM runs quite happily on plain old Kingsford charcoal, no fancy coconuts required. If you time your purchase right, you can lay in a good supply for dirt cheap (at least in my neck of the woods). I imagine your neck of the woods has similar deals.

Replacement parts for the WSM should be available for order at any Weber dealer. A lot of the internals (racks, handles, vents) are also used on the other Weber models.
Automatic temp controls are also available for the WSM. If you're into that kind of thing, there are several homebrew versions available on the forum as well.
My WSM has proven fairly durable, so long as you keep it covered when not in use. The bits that rust tend to be easily replaced internals. The shell is coated metal.
Just don't drop the base (like I did). If it gets out of round, you lose a good seal and thus a lot of your temperature control. heh.
posted by madajb at 10:35 PM on October 31, 2011


Also, for the record, while I am quite fond of my kamado, I'm not sure I'd pay a grand for it.
Just saying.
posted by madajb at 10:36 PM on October 31, 2011


I have no problem belabouring the point, as you're about to see.

I first got interested in this a month or two back, from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald debunking the idea that Australia is the land of BBQ expertise - for the most part, what passes for BBQing here is just grilling on a hot gas-fired plate.

This got me onto looking at charcoal alternatives, like the Latin American parillas, South African braai, as well as American style slow cooking BBQs, Webers & kamados.

While there are endless gas grills available on the market, most resembling the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise, there's much less available or known about charcoal burners. Webers (kettles) are well known, and I've got a fair bit of history with them, but try to stray from the Webers & the path starts to get much less trodden.

A charcoal BBQ, not gas, is my single non-negotiable requirement. Beneath this are a set of roughly equal requirements:
- should be quick & easy to use, heat up & clean
- should be neat & tidy when not in use
- ideally would be capable of smoking
- suitable also for slow BBQing
- safe around children
- reasonably priced
- can substitute for a range of indoor cooking, as I'm using passive solar design & insulation (rather than aircon) to keep the place cool in summer, so looking to cook outdoors as much as possible in the warmer months
- resistant to the elements, as it would be rained on (if at all possible, minus a cover)
- not massively fuel-hungry (hence looking at enclosed designs, not open braais etc)

I'm somewhere between "cheapest possible" vs Rolls Royce, but I do prefer to buy things for the long term, and despise throwaway consumer culture. Value for money is always an issue, but I also don't consider something like a $300 difference for something I would expect to last 10 years or more to be a stong factor in a decision (8 cents a day; who gives a shit?) and tend to believe that you get what you pay for.

You can scrimp a few hundred, and end up with something that has just one really annoying design feature that pisses you off every time you use it, and that to me is a false economy, or "knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing".

On preview: everything is a bit expensive here. Tyranny of distance, small market. I assume $700 for a WSM would be equally galling?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:52 PM on October 31, 2011


Upthread I mentioned the BSK. It seems right in line with that list, so I thought I should expand a little on it. It's not ceramic so it's less fragile and more portable than the BGE. Plus it has two (2) built in bottle openers. I think the old ones had a socket for a trailer hitch, on the new ones that's extra. Check out the BBQ Brethren forum; there are several more threads comparing cookers if you look around a bit. Also if you have questions you can join and ask there, where you'll get a variety of opinions from an agreeable crowd. Plus the photos and recipes and contests are off the hook.

Here's a BGE/BSK (used to be called the Bubba Keg) side-by-side comparison. Here's the link to part 2.

I'm not sure about the logistics/expense of getting one to Australia, but I imagine it would be comparable for any of the above.

I don't own a BSK. My brother does. A few weeks ago we baked two loaves of banana bread, a stack of cornbread, a flan-filled birthday cake, then crabapple smoked four racks of dry-rubbed spareribs (250°F/121°C for 5 hours, low and slow), and finally grilled up several pork chops for my nephew's fourth birthday weekend. We used one of those Pitmaster computer fan temperature controls, so the cooking was a breeze. The eating was fantastic; damn good, I tell you what.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:42 PM on October 31, 2011


BSKs are available down under, but retail at ~$1600...not really a price range I want to get into if I can avoid it, but the info would be useful for anybody stateside who comes across this question, I'm sure.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:59 AM on November 1, 2011


For your fuel costs estimates, this is highly relevant:

You don't use charcoal briquettes in a kamado; you use wood lump. They are two very different things.

Charcoal briquettes are basically made with compressed sawdust and glue. Lump is charred pieces of wood. The latter results in much better tasting food. Lump also burns hotter and longer, with less ash.

But I don't know what the cost factor is. I tend to use a helluva lot of lump in my egg, and lump is probably more expensive than charcoal briquettes.

The most important thing is something you can't really factor into your calculations: How much better the food is.
posted by mikeand1 at 1:40 AM on November 1, 2011


Oh, I was planning on using real charcoal regardless; those briquette things are the McNuggets of the fuel world.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:06 AM on November 1, 2011


BSKs are available down under, but retail at ~$1600

Wow, I had no idea... topsy-turvy world we live in.

In any case, the Brethren board is a good resource. Good luck, and bon appetit!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:01 AM on November 1, 2011


On preview: everything is a bit expensive here. Tyranny of distance, small market. I assume $700 for a WSM would be equally galling?

God, yes. You can get them easily for under $300(USD), and usually under $250 if you take a minute to look.

Oh, I was planning on using real charcoal regardless; those briquette things are the McNuggets of the fuel world.

Hmm. Keep in mind that the WSM is designed with briquettes in mind. Performance may be a little more variable with lump. I have had good luck with "upscale" briquettes, by which I mean those with less filler than our standard Kingsford.
posted by madajb at 8:46 AM on November 1, 2011


Is that true? Another mark against the Weber, then. I only ever had the conception of cooking with charcoal charcoal, not frankenfuel, so it seems a Weber doesn't actually do what I want...just a personal preference, like how I use a wood heater instead of gas or electric heating in winter.

Answers seem to be trickling out now, so I'll mark a few of the most useful answers (they were all food for thought) and continue watching eBay, catalogues & ads for some good prices.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:54 PM on November 1, 2011


Is that true? Another mark against the Weber, then. I only ever had the conception of cooking with charcoal charcoal, not frankenfuel, so it seems a Weber doesn't actually do what I want

Oh, you can certainly use it with lump, don't get me wrong. A lot of people do and it works great.

I find it personally to be more fiddling to get a stable temp. I'm a fire-and-forget kind of guy.
posted by madajb at 9:38 PM on November 1, 2011


Thanks for the clarification. It didn't seem intuitive that charcoal would be strictly ruled out.

I've also got a small update on the (Australian) warranty situation: 10 year limited warranty on the Weber, 20 years "on the firebox" for the Kamado Joe. The devil will be in the fine print, but on the surface they're both decent warranty periods, that show the manufacturers' confidence in their products (or their confidence in customers losing their purchase receipts).
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:31 PM on November 1, 2011


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