We recently had the opportunity to get our hands on and use a Komodo Kamado Refractory Cooker, so we have put together this article
So who or what is Komodo Kamado? They are the newest entry into the "ceramic" cooker field, having been in operation in Surabaya, Indonesia for almost four years. After hearing about the availability of a crew of workers who had experience building ceramic BBQs, the owner of Komodo Komodo hired them and set out to design and build a new line of cookers. The new design was aimed at addressing what they saw as flaws in existing ceramic cookers' designs, based upon frequent complaints found on the Internet from customers of other manufacturers. They now offer two styles of cooker, Classic and O.T.B., in tiled and textured versions, and with four different packages for the metal components.
A Note About Our Cooker: The cooker that we have been using was given to us by the manufacturer under some fairly unusual circumstances. This cooker was shipped to a real customer in our fair city, but it was damaged in transit. (When the cooker entered the country, various government agencies had to inspect it to make sure there were no bad little men inside. That's good. But when they were done inspecting, they forgot to put things back together again, and that's bad. The lid ended up loose and was able to bounce up and down, damaging the front edge of the base where the lower part of the latch mechanism attaches to the base.) Komodo Kamado immediately shipped a new replacement cooker to the customer and asked us to remove the damaged cooker from the customer's premises. This we did and Komodo Kamado then helped us effect a repair to the damaged cooker which allowed us to use it for this review.
A Note About The Photos Used In This Article: Most of the photos used in this article were taken by the author. Some photos which we could not take ourselves (or we just plain forgot until it was too late) were provided by Komodo Kamado.
A Note About Technical Information Used In This Article: Ok, ok! One more disclaimer and we'll get on with it. Much of the technical information provided in this article was provided by the Komodo Kamado company.
The cooker you will see here is the 23" Textured Supreme O.T.B. cooker. At the time of manufacture (mid-2006) it cost approximately $1800. Visit the Komodo Kamado web site for the latest details on available cooker types, options and prices, as Komodo Kamado has been making constant improvements to their cookers and accessories.
The Komodo Kamado is not a "ceramic" cooker, per se, in that it is not manufactured from a ceramic material. Rather, it is constructed of a two-layer sandwich of refractory materials. What is a refractory material? According to Dictionary.com, "a material having the ability to retain its physical shape and chemical identity when subjected to high temperatures." Here you can see where the manufacturer has provided a photograph of a cooker which has been sawn to reveal the two-layer construction:
This two-layer sandwich consists of a dense inner layer and a lightweight outer insulating layer. The insulating layer helps to hold heat better, and the cooker's dense material is designed to withstand 2200 degrees F. The materials used are refractory material from Harbison-Walker. There might be some concern that materials used in refractory applications might contain asbestos. The materials used in the Komodo Kamado do not contain asbestos. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) as well as a letter from Harbison-Walker Refractories Company stating that the materials used by Komodo Kamado contain no asbestos are available from Komodo Kamado.
Here are some physical measurements. These measurements are all approximate:
You may ask how can one move such a monstrous cooker. Personally, we moved this cooker by removing the domed lid and the internal parts and then moving the base separately. Three people had little trouble getting this cooker up two or three steps in this manner. (The same three people also moved a cooker with the lid attached up a short flight of stairs, but removing the lid did make moving the first unit easier.) Removing the lid was easy. By releasing the tension on the spring attached to the hinge and then removing the spring, you can then remove a single pin from the hinge and the lid comes right off. Here's a series of photos showing how:
Notice that the cooker comes with ropes attached to the legs which can either serve as handles or as loops through which you can pass 2x4's in order to carry the cooker.
Now that you have read about all the interesting features on the Komodo Kamado, here's a photo tour of those features. Let's start at the bottom and work our way up the cooker. The legs are an integral part of the cooker's structure, protected by a band of stainless steel. The casters are heavy duty with high-density black rubber wheels:
Next up is the the lower damper door and the port for a BBQ Guru inducer tube or Stoker adapter. The damper door and it's frame is precision cut with a CNC from 304 brushed stainless steel sheet and then CNC precision bent. Rotating the circular vent gives you precise control over airflow. Pulling the damper out gives you control over large amounts of air. A BBQ Guru inducer tube can be installed by simply knocking out the plug in the side wall of the cooker and inserting the inducer tube. It can be held in place with some silicone caulk. See the section below detailing how to do this.
Moving up to the midsection we see the stainless steel handle and the latch mechanism. Notice in the first photo how there are no bands holding the base and lid. No bands to let loose or get out of alignment or to adjust. The lid and base are held internally by embedded bands. The latch mechanism is a two-position mechanism. The first position as you latch the lid works a little loose, but then you can push the latch down into the second position to pull the lid tight. Finally, around to the side you can see the hole for a thermometer cable (no more cables between the gaskets) and the socket for the rotisserie's external motor.
NOTE: In the center photo below of the latch mechanism, you can see the grey JB Weld that oozed out when we did the repair. This is NOT how a cooker from the factory looks. There is no glue or JB Weld used in the manufacture of these cookers. This is simply the result of our being a bit sloppy with the repair.
Around back we find the massive hinge assembly and spring. With other cookers, you have to lift the lid into the open position and then a spring or a latch holds it open. The Komodo Kamado spring hinge pulls the lid open and holds it open. So you can grab the handle, push down and release the latch with your fingers and then let the spring do all the work.
Now to the top of the cooker. First you can see the top vent is surrounded with a reinforcing band of stainless steel. The spider holding the threaded cylinder is also stainless steel as is the cylinder, so no stuck top dampers due to rust. You can see that the threads on the rod embedded in the top damper are large ACME threads and won't get stuck due to grease and soot buildup either.
Now let's open up the cooker and look inside. The first thing that should grab you is the unique two-piece firebox! To our knowledge every other manufacturer has at least some of their fireboxes crack and break. Reading the forums, you see post after post suggesting a two-piece firebox. Well, here it is. So far no sign of cracking. Next to it you can see the fire basket which is made from heavy duty stainless steel rod. There are two parts their, the central smaller basket and the lower larger basket.
Backing away, we can see the interior of the cooker. There are ridges to hold the lower grate and the upper grate. The lower grate has an opening at the front for adding wood chunks if necessary. The upper grate has a hinged opening for this purpose. Both grates are made from heavy duty 304 stainless steel rod.
And finally, here's a look at the double ceramic gasket which seals the dome and base:
Metal parts start life as a sheet of flat brushed 304 stainless steel. They are precision cut on a 1.2 million dollar CNC laser cutter and then bent into form and TIG welded into shape by craftsmen in a state of the art ISO 9001 workshop. No carbon steel work is done in this same workshop so as to prevent carbon contamination of the stainless steel.
Here is a pictorial set of instructions for installing a BBQ Guru inducer tube in a Komodo Kamado cooker. This, of course, allows you to use a BBQ Guru to control the temperature of your cooker.
There you have it. Allow the sealant to dry and you are ready to use your BBQ Guru temperature controller with your cooker. When not using a controller, you can use the silicone kill plug that comes with your BBQ Guru controller to plug the tube.
Temperature control and vent adjustment, like on any ceramic cooker, takes a little time to learn. For one who has "grown up" using Big Green Eggs, it took a bit of relearning. With the Big Green Egg dual function metal top (a.k.a. daisy wheel top), you can directly see the size of the openings. With a spinner top like that on the Komodo Kamado, you can see how far you have turned the top, but it took us a few cooks to realize how much of a difference a small turn can make as the threads are large. However, after a bit of guidance from other users on the Komodo Kamado forum, we had no trouble adjusting and controlling the temperature after a few more cooks. And of course, with all the mass of the cooker itself to help stabilize the heat in the cooker, keeping a constant temperature was relatively easy.
We considered comparing the efficiency of the Komodo Kamado with a large Big Green Egg (the only other brand of ceramic cooker we own), but we don't really have a way to measure the relative efficiency of the two cookers since they vary so greatly in size. However, we were able to heat both cookers up and then measure the surface temperature of the domes. We used BBQ Guru Competitors to keep both cookers at 400 degrees (dome temperature) for two and a half hours. We then measured the surface temperature of the two cookers at various locations on their domes, from their lower edge up to the upper vent, using a Type K precision surface probe. The temperature of the dome on the Egg varied from 180 degrees at the lower edge of the dome to 245 degrees at the top of the dome near the upper vent. The Komodo Kamado varied from 110 degrees at the base of the dome to 160 degrees at the top near the upper vent. While the dome of the Egg was scorching hot to the touch, you could leave your hand anywhere on the Komodo Kamado's dome for at least a few seconds. Clearly the Komodo Kamado is keeping more heat inside the cooker.
What does this mean in practical terms? Two things. A more efficient cooker uses less fuel, so less charcoal expense than a less efficient cooker of the same size. But also, a more efficient cooker means that you need a smaller fire to maintain a particular temperature. And as we should all know by now, a smaller fire means the cooker is ingesting and expelling less air. Lower airflow means less moisture from the food is carried away by the air and thus you should experience better results in your cooking.
In the time we have had the cooker, we have managed to cook a small variety of foods including beef and pork ribs, grilled salmon, roast leg of lamb, roast turkey breast, brisket and steaks. We have cooked mostly using "natural" temperature control, and a few times with a BBQ Guru. Needless to say everything has turned out well, and the cooking process has been a snap once we adjusted to using the vents of this style of cooker. So, overall we were very pleased with the process and the results.
The Komodo Kamado Supreme O.T.B. cooker is certainly a top of the line cooker with many first class features. The thought that went into fixing problems and improving upon designs of other brands of ceramic cookers really shows. Features like construction materials, a two-part firebox, elimination of external bands and their adjustment problems, the integrated stand/wheels, precision metal work and elimination of the need for a break-in period all show thought and commitment to cooker performance and quality. We can also say that based upon our experience with Komodo Kamado and the stories from their customers that Komodo Kamado is devoted to first class customer service. If you are looking for a first class product with first class service, Komodo Kamado should definitely be on your short list.
Komodo Kamado is owned and operated by Dennis Linkletter who has been designing and building these Komodo cookers for almost four years now. He has also been designing, manufacturing and exporting teak furniture and flooring in Surabaya, Indonesia for 18 years. You can contact Dennis via email or by visiting the Komodo Kamado online forum. For the latest prices on all the various models and accessories, visit the Komodo Kamado website: