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Every once in a while I read a message about "Dwelling" on the Kamado and other similar cookers.  There is often much confusion about how sometimes it is easy to lower temperature a few hundred degrees quickly, yet at other times, moving downwards only 100 degrees can take hours.   I hope to help eliminate some of the confusion.

Dwelling refers to shutting down the airflow and letting the meat sit there in a "tight" Kamado.

Think of it as an alternative to the way chefs sear a piece of meat on a grill or frying pan over high heat, and then "finish" the cooking in an oven at 400 degrees or so.

When grilling steaks at high temps, it takes a lot of air flow to maintain those high temperatures.  There are additional notes on the Hot Grilling page.

With a thick steak, I'll typically sear each side for a couple of minutes, then shut down the draft door and damper top, letting the steak "dwell" until the degree of doneness I'm looking for is achieved.  After shutting down the airflow, the temperature drops very quickly to baking temperatures.

There is often some confusion as to how a 750+ degree grill can drop fairly quickly to 450 degrees (great temp for dwelling), especially considering how well a K holds its heat.

Typically when doing a high temperature cook, I am ready to put the steaks on as soon as the grill temperature is good and hot. This is about 15 minutes from the time I light the coals. That said, the thermal mass of the K hasn't had time to be thoroughly saturated by the high heat. After I sear the meat, I shut down the air flow, and the temp begins to drop rather rapidly, because it needs the airflow to maintain the high temp. There are, at this point, a lot of lit coals, but they are being starved for air.

Important: When the air flow is shut down, you need to crack the lid very slowly before opening the lid (and I use gloves). Otherwise the flashback from a back-draft could be dramatic, frightening, and dangerous.

Another thing to consider is when cooking low and slow, trying to lower the K's temp takes a long time.  This is because the thermal mass has had hours to heat up, and will give back its heat very very slowly. 

If you've managed to overshoot a 225 degree temp during the night and it's been at 350 for a few hours, it might take several hours to get back down to 225.... that's quite a different scenario than going from 800 degrees to 400 in a few minutes by starving the coals in an otherwise pretty cool cooker.

To recap, it is easy to sear and then "dwell" in a Kamado or similar cookers.  The ceramic mass hasn't had enough time to get very hot, so as soon as you close the airflow down, the temp is easy to regulate into more "baking" zone temperatures. 

It turns out that dwelling works very well. There are also some folk that go just the opposite route... cook at a lower temp, then crank it up towards the end to produce the grill and sear marks. Their approach might make for a better smoke penetration into the meat.

Copyright 2000 by Zenreich Systems. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 13, 2017


All text and photographs copyright 1999 - 2017  Zenreich Systems. All rights reserved.