High Temp Grilling

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High Temperature Grilling Techniques

Part of the fun of making steaks on the Kamado is working with very high temperatures that are difficult, if not impossible on other home cookers.

To assure the high temps, I’ve settled in on the following routine.

  • Make sure the firebox holes are clear (I use an additional expanded metal grate an inch or so above the firebox to further refine the air flow)
  • Open the draft door and damper top all the way
  • Remove the thermometer (the target temps pin most thermometers)
  • I light a few handfuls of coals (either with the gas burner or an electric starter or fire starters from a camping store)
  • After the coals are glowing, I add a few more coals, roughly doubling the volume. This quickly sets these new coals on fire. Wait another few minutes.
  • Finally I add a lot more coal, high temps need fuel!
  • After about 15 minutes, the fire is raging, up in the 1,000 degree range. At the point that I’m finally ready to cook, I sometimes add a little wood, perhaps some hickory or apple or cherry.

  • When I've gotten the grill up to temperature, I do close down the draft door and damper top a bit (I don't want flames coming out the top of my cooker when I'm cooking)

  • Most of the time, the meat is cooked by a combination of the radiant heat from the coals, the heat stored in the dome's thermal mass, and the occasional flame licking the grill (when some fat drips down onto the coals).

When you open the top do so slowly… the magma-like coals are quite impressive.  You want to be very careful about controlling any backdraft flashbacks that may occur. 

For the steaks above, I cooked them for 2.5 to 3 minutes on each side, then shut down the damper top and draft door and let them cook (dwell) for another 2 minutes.

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 could be dramatic and frightening (and dangerous). 

Also, don't attempt to use a Polder or similar digital thermometer to measure the grill temperatures, as they typically melt their thermocouple at any temp above 400 degrees F.

I found a few things that help with the high temp cooking

  • A pair of black neoprene gloves
  • A pair of 16” Oxo tongs
  • A polder thermometer to act as a timer
  • A fire extinguisher nearby (just in case)

You need to pay close attention to what’s going on. Grilling at high temps is not a casual thing… we’re talking about some pretty serious fire, and it demands respect.  Oh, but the results are worth it

As for being brave with expensive prime meats... yes, it's a challenge... it's so easy to ruin them.  However, that's the reason for the timer. I figure that I can always undercook them and put them back on to dwell for a few more minutes if necessary.  I recently did four prime porterhouse steaks  ($50 worth of steaks!), and quite concerned about killing them.... but with enough fussing and worry... fortunately, they were winners.

There are additional notes on the Dwelling page.

Copyright © 1999 by Zenreich Systems. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 13, 2017


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