June 20, 2007

The Black Dragon Episode 1

Filed under: BBQ,Equipment,Home cookin' — Professor Salt @ 11:30 am

Komodo Kamado

(Full disclosure: the manufacturer provided this unit for review)

Meet the Komodo Kamado, my new outdoor oven. I’d call it a barbecue pit, but it does more than long, slow smoke cooking. I’d call it a grill, but it’s not limited to high temperature, direct heat grilling. Because it’s built from refractory materials similar to what kilns and furnaces are made of, it’s also an oven that easily withstands cooking temperatures of 1000 degrees F. Why would you need or want that?

If you’re a pizza freak like me, you can use the Komodo to bake the sort of charred-bottom, Naples style pizzas possible only in wood or coal burning ovens. Fans of American pizza restaurants like A16 (San Francisco), Mozza (Los Angeles), Grimaldi’s, Patsy’s, and Totonno’s (New York), Frank Pepe’s , or Sally’s Apizza (New Haven) know the sort of crust I’m talking about. It’s impossible to attempt pizza like this at home, unless you have an oven that can hit 800 degrees. Now I do!

I’m breaking in the kamado this week, and learning how to control its firebox. I learned to use the Minion method of starting a low temperature charcoal fire in the Weber, and that’s what I’m employing with the Komodo. Let’s look at some differences between the Weber and the Komodo.Side by side

  Komodo Kamado OTB 23 Supreme Plus
Weber Smokey Mountain
Cooking chamber material Cast refractory material Roll formed, porcelain coated steel
Weight 476 pounds 44 pounds
Grill material 304 stainless steel, 1/4″ or 3/8″ rod diameter Steel 3/16″ rod diameter
Grill surface capacity 23″ main + 18″ top + 18″ bottom 18.5″ top + 18.5″ bottom
MSRP US$ 3500. US$ 250.

The Komodo dwarfs a Weber Smokey Mountain, the smoker I’ve been using for several years with excellent results. The Komodo is made of two different layers of a ceramic-like refractory material. Its dense inner wall absorbs and reflects heat back into the cooking chamber. The thinner outer wall insulates that heat within the vessel. All that mass should keep cooking temperatures very stable no matter the weather or wind conditions.
Air intake

The draft door controls air intake to the firebox. The precision CNC-machined stainless door slides in and out smoothly, like a well-spittled trombone. Once the fire gets near the target temperature, the door is closed, and the daisywheel vent provides finer heat adjustment. The wood knob is beautifully turned from weather resistant teak. As a former machinist, I appreciate the Kamado’s extraordinary build quality.

Ash cleanout

The floor of the cooker is level with the draft door, which eases ash cleanup. Notice the cleanly machined metalwork.

Lower end

The round “eye” next to the draft door is a port for temperature control devices like the BBQ Guru or the Stoker.

Chimeny lid
Heat and smoke exhaust past this “hat.” The heavy stainless steel rod threads into its mate, which is cast permanently into the lid. A ceramic gasket material shuts out air effectively when it’s time to put out the fire.

Lid interior
Interior view of the lid. The ovoid shape of the lid is designed to reflect heat evenly across the entire grill surface. The Supreme Plus package comes with a top grill made of the 3/8″ stainless steel rod, and the main grill below it is made of the standard 1/4″ stainless rod. There is room for a third grill below.

The Komodo’s grill is much roomier than the WSM’s. Where I barely had space to fit a puny 9 pound slab of beef brisket on the Weber, I have plenty of room for a 15 pound monster brisket on the Komodo.

The lid weighs a whopping 108 pounds, but is spring loaded for effortless opening. Let’s look at how that works.

Spring in closed position

This is the heavy duty spring that lifts the lid. Notice the preload tension in the lid-closed position. Hinges are cast permanently into the Komodo, unlike hinges from other kamado manufacturers that require constant re-tightening.

Spring in open positition

Easily adjustable tension in the spring hoists the lid when the latch is opened.
Spring cover

A sleek fairing increases top speed on this bluff beast. Mine is made of black fiberglass, but current productions of the Supreme Plus model use a stainless steel cover.

Lifting handle

The lifting handle is made from stout 3/4″ stainless rod. It takes a serious bending jig to form that material into a graceful arc. When the lid is closed, the triangular piece in the center latches it shut automatically.

Weld detail

Closeup view of the lifting handle’s weld. When a nice looking bead isn’t ground smooth, it’s called a “show weld.” It’s not easy to lay down a tiny bead on thick material like that.

Its massive size, over the top features, and top notch build quality makes the Komodo the Bugatti Veyron of ceramic cookers. While I’ll never be able to afford the Bugatti, ever, even I, with modest means, could save up to splurge on this seriously fancy smoker / grill / oven.

In the next episode of the Black Dragon: “Gentlemen, start your engines…”

15 Responses to “The Black Dragon Episode 1”

  1. braine Says:

    I came for the writing, but I’ll stay to see this thing fired up.

  2. hrhboo Says:

    Man, that is one of the sweetest looking pieces of equipment I’ve ever seen!

  3. Big Fella Says:

    I’d say rather than sweet looking, truly phallic.

  4. Professor Salt Says:

    hrhboo’s hit on something the marketing department calls S.A.F., or Spouse Acceptance Factor. Would I be able to convince Gurlfren to live with a flat black, trailer-towed steel pipe BBQ catering rig? Hell no.

    Note to Gurlfren: I still want one, just not all blung up and ugly like the one below.

    Even though the Komodo is a dead serious Man Toy, its beauty make this hunk of patio art desirable to the ladies.

  5. Lost Husband Says:

    Yeah, the Komodo Kamado is indeed a sweet cooker. The owner has basically tried to improve on any and every little problem experienced by the other brands. He has also improved the appearance of tiled cookers tremendously. Kamado cookers have those hideous spring loaded tubes on the side. Also, Komodo Kamado has improved on materials. The Kamado brand cookers are made from plain old portland cement and crushed lava. They are proce to cracking over time. Also, the tiles on Kamado brand cookers are very prone to coming off because the manufacturer fails to cure the cookers and expects the owner to do it. And of course, the Kamado company’s service is appalling, bording on criminal. Komodo Kamado uses refractory materials, so heat is kept in the cooker. They also cure the cookers in a vacuum kiln so they can draw the water off the cooker and tile loss isn’t a problem. Komodo Kamado customer service is unbelievably good. A fellow owner’s cooker arrived with minor damage and the owner replaced the entire cooker! I love mine and recommend it highly.

  6. Turtle Says:

    I can’t wait to see your reviews and the food you cook on your Komodo!

    The Komoda is truely a masterpiece among cookers. It makes BBQ easy peasy and fun! The company is a first class operation too. I have had mine for about a year and was amazed at the difference from a “stealy” gas powered cooker.

  7. Professor Salt Says:

    Watch this impressive bit of film making to appreciate the Bugatti comparison. 407 km/h = 258 mph. Not low, not slow.

  8. BrooklynQ Says:

    Man, I am so jealous! That’s one incredible cooker.

  9. rantsnravesnreviews Says:

    It looks like a Spaceship!

  10. Chubbypanda Says:

    I can’t believe you actually compared it to the Weber. That would be like… Never mind. I’m not getting that crude. =b

  11. pete2repete Says:

    I moved up from a well used and appreciated virtual bullet to a (different brand) ceramic cooker just two years ago. Before then I had even pondered for a while the possibility of the one made in Mexico, but was put off by their “quirky” customer service and didn’t like all the extra but necessary costs. Having seen what Walt has wrought, I am SO glad I didn’t go for that. But now I am chomping at the bit to make this investment, which I never expected to even consider. Does anyone have any info about shipping costs to eastern PA? I really like the “volcanic” finishes.

  12. Professor Salt Says:

    pete, you should ask Dennis, the owner of the Komodo company. Head over to komodokamado.com, and fire off an email from there.

  13. dizzythorsten Says:

    I had a round kamado for years, then finaly got an oval primo,
    it has 3 times or double the capacity of other large round kamado cookers, I cooked 90 lbs of butts at once for a funktion, out of this world!!

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