Hardly any other grill is as popular as the ceramic grill: a ceramic grill is a thick-walled, ellipse-shaped grill. It is very different from the ordinary kettle grill: a kettle grill is usually equipped with a thin layer of sheet metal, which retains heat much less well than ceramics. Ceramics, on the other hand, can do one thing particularly well: store heat. That’s why far less charcoal is needed when grilling on a ceramic grill.
However, mankind has known about the advantages of cooking with ceramics since millenials…
The history of the ceramic grill, often called kamado (Japanese for oven), begins in the second century BC. At that time, during the Qin Dynasty in China, cooking areas were built that were lined with clay to better retain heat.
A few centuries later, the invention spilled over to Japan, where it was given the name kamado. However, these were fixed cooking surfaces that could not be moved. Nevertheless, it is the origin of what is now called a ceramic grill: the idea of cooking over an open flame with the help of natural stones is as old as cooking itself.
Over the centuries, numerous variations of the original kamado developed: people wanted to use cooking surfaces indoors as well and made cooking surfaces mobile. Later, the fragile clay was replaced by heat-resistant ceramic.
For a long time, the ceramic grill was something that could only be found in Japan: Everywhere else in the world, people had forgotten for generations how to cook with the help of natural stones and coal. The first kamado grill in its current form was first produced around 1900.
Ceramic grill in the USA
This changed with the Second World War: Legend has it that U.S. forces first encountered the kamado in Japan. They were so enthusiastic about the advantages of a ceramic grill that they took it back to their native soil in the U.S. and made it famous there. Numerous well-known ceramic grills still come from the United States today. In the decades following World War II, numerous patents related to ceramic grills were registered in the United States.
In Japanese culture, the kamado was for a long time the center of every kitchen: it was permanently installed in the house and had a smoke outlet that went through the wall to the outside. Rice was particularly often cooked on the kamado.
In Japan, people developed their own form of kamado grill just for cooking rice: The mushi kamado (Japanese for rice stove) is considered the direct forerunner of today’s ceramic grills. The mushi kamado was the first kamado to have a lid that covered the fire and the grilling surface. On the one hand, this stored the heat, and on the other hand, the fireplace could be extinguished quickly and the charcoal saved for the next meal.
Heat resistant ceramic
For a long time, a major problem with ceramic grills was that the ceramic quickly became riddled with cracks and threatened to break. In the seventies, various methods were developed to make the ceramic shell stronger and more resistant to cracking.
Some manufacturers even went so far as to work with space companies: To send a spaceship into space, particularly strong and heat-resistant ceramics are required. Some ceramic grills make use of this heat-resistant ceramic from space travel and thus benefit from a particularly long service life.
Direct and indirect grilling
One of the biggest advantages of the ceramic grill is that indirect and direct grilling is possible: in direct grilling, the food comes into direct contact with the embers (also called contact heat). This contact heat results in strong branding on a steak and other grilled meats.
After a steak has been grilled, it is usually placed in the indirect area to rest: In ceramic grills, a reflector stone is used for this purpose, which means that the steak is no longer directly above the glowing coals. This allows the steak to finish and achieve the desired degree of doneness. With indirect grilling, heat transfer takes place via hot air – also called convection.
Dishes from the ceramic grill
A wide variety of dishes can be prepared on a ceramic grill: Be it a steak, a casserole, grilled vegetables, pulled pork or a classic bratwurst. Everything that is prepared on a ceramic grill tastes different compared to when it is prepared on another grill.
Ceramic grills are not only suitable for grilling: A grill with a ceramic shell is also suitable for smoking. Thanks to its efficiency and long-lasting heat, a ceramic grill is particularly suitable for long jobs, where, for example, a pork neck is cooked for a long time to produce pulled pork.
In addition, you can bake with a ceramic grill: In large parts of Asia, there has been a ceramic oven known as a tandur for centuries. The tandur is often used to bake flatbread. The tandur represented the evolutionary step from an immobile fire pit to a mobile, portable ceramic pot.
Today’s ceramic grills combine the advantages of the tandur and the mushi kamado.
Numerous top restaurants around the world rely on the advantages of a ceramic grill and are convinced of the unique, millennia-old technology. With the help of ceramic grills, you can prepare numerous delicacies at home, which thanks to the charcoal and the heat distribution acquire a unique flavor.
Simon von Ludwig