Every once in a while, I see common questions asked about installing and using a Kamado cooker. If you have questions, send them to Admin@Zenreich.com and I'll try to add them, and the answers, to this list.
I read that the K can maintain low temps for long periods of time with little maintenance. Temps are regulated with air control. Is the learning curve on damper settings long or relatively easy?
Temperature control is pretty easy, but with experience, it gets even easier. Invest in a good thermometer, that helps a lot. There are several "Polder" style thermometers out there.
I even recently got a digital thermometer with a radio transmitter so that I can monitor the temperatures of overnight cooking from my bedroom.
How is the charcoal started? Is it completely started in a chimney and then transferred to the K? Is it started in the K and the dampers closed down when the cooking temp is reached?
I used to use an electric starter, then switched to fire starter sticks that I got at a camping store.... then I installed a gas retrofit kit, so that's what I'm using now. I've always started my coal in the K.
Can the K stand up to accidental spills when hot without cracking or do I have to rope off the area when the K is opened and beer guzzling friends are present?
The outside of the K stays reasonably cool... even during high temperature cooking. I've never burned myself on the tile, though it might be too hot to hold your hand on comfortably.
The larger concern is letting beer guzzling folk anywhere near a fire. I know there is a strong link between BBQ and alcohol, but just keep in mind that a cooker is housing an open flame, and should be treated with the respect it deserves.
That said, a #7 K isn't going to tip over if someone tosses a football at it, or bumps into it, so it's one of the safer devices out there.
I've not tried briquettes on the K... lump charcoal burns hotter and cleaner... a much better solution.
Do you have to rent a fork lift to unload the #7 at delivery or is it sent broken down where several strong backs can unload it?
The Kamado arrives basically assembled.
If your Kamado is on wheels (I recommend this option), then two people can easily uncrate it and move it into position.
If you have only two people to move it and didn't get the wheel base, or have to move it up some stairs, then you can follow the directions and take off the dome (a simple process).
The dome is easily handled by two people. The base section needs probably 3 people to get it up a flight of stairs (I got mine up 3 stairs with only one helper, and I wouldn't do it again).
When your friends know you're getting a K... they become very friendly and will help with the lifting... they can sense the impending food in the air.
How do we get the temperature down with the top closed using just the gas? Will charcoal burn at a lower temperature?
Gas and coal burn quite differently.
To cool down your cooker using gas, you open the draft door and damper top... letting the colder air in. The amount of air for combustion is fed through the manifolds, it's not particularly dependant on the air flow from the draft door to the damper.
When cooking with coals, if you open the draft door and damper top all the way, you'll get up over 1,000 degrees rather quickly. The coal needs the additional oxygen for hot burning, and all air for combustion is coming from the draft door and damper settings.
When I use gas, I NEVER close down the damper top. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I want the heat to vent a bit. Second, I leave the top open a bit, and the draft door open a bit, so that the air has a place to go when I close the lid. If there is no easy way for air to escape, it's easy to accidentally extinguish the gas burner when you close the lid. Opening the vents and closing the lid reasonably (not "dropping" the lid down) keeps the flame from being puffed out by the internal air pressure that is present when the vents are closed.
This is particularly important if you're only using the center burner for lower temperature grilling.
I use charcoal for low temp (below 300 degrees) cooking. I may use the burner to start the coals, but the temp control with charcoal is much easier at lower temps.
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