Tips and Tricks we have learned about cooking in a kamado
Using a Kamado Joe or Big Green Egg (kamado grill) to cook a pizza can give you genius results. There are a couple of things that have to all work right for the pizza to cook perfectly. The Pizza-Porta is designed to make cooking pizza more efficiently and therefore reduce some uncertainty. A couple of challenges surfaced in our continual testing of the device. Here are the categories and some potential fixes:
Getting up to 500F-600F temperature:
On a couple of occasions we had trouble getting a kamado grill up to 550-600 degrees. Possible problems:
- Moist charcoal – charcoal stored outdoors in the paper bag will get moist. Try to store charcoal in a dry place.
- Small lump impeding airflow – Using the last remnants of a bag of lump left a bunch of small pieces that tightly packed around the fire grate holes blocking the ventilation. Hand place some large chunks in the bottom, or use an accessory like a Kick Ash Basket ®.
- Running out of fuel – grill will start cooling down slowly regardless of air adjustment. Start with a very full load because consumption of charcoal is high at 600F. A full load can last 2.5-3 hours at 600F with a Pizza-Porta. (That is like 20 pizzas!)
- Not getting a big enough fire burning. If you do not let the fire get big before switching to the Pizza-Porta vents, it will not advance to 600. Leave top open until the Egg reaches 500F, then switch.
Balancing the heat or stone too hot:
It is critical to arrange the components inside of the kamado grill (BGE) to balance the heat. In a kamado grill (BGE) all the heat is generated below the cooking surface. The trick is to pass some of the heat around the pizza stone into the dome above the pizza. Ceramic is really good at conveying heat. Putting a pizza stone directly on top of a plate setter or cooking on the plate setter at 500F-600F will burn the bottom of the pizza. Even using bricks will pass too much heat through to the stone. You must create a thermal break that will not conduct a great deal of heat. The metal grate, large balls of foil, tiny flower pots, or spacers from a kiln should be placed between the pizza stone and the plate setter. This will help balance the temperature of the stone with the temperature of the air in the dome. Some other tips:
- We have tried nearly every configuration inside the Egg. We have had good luck with the plate setter legs down, then a rack or spacers, then the pizza stone. Additional spacers are helpful to get the stone a little higher in the dome. An aluminum pizza pan under a pizza stone also does a great job of deflecting heat. The plate setter legs up allows heat to sneak around and overheat a pizza stone on the grill. A double rack is a great addition that allows flexibility between the top and bottom heat characteristics.
- Placing a raw pizza on the stone cools the pizza stone slightly. Cooking one after another will keep a stone cooler. If you take a break between pizzas, beware, the stone will be hotter!
- Bottom line - no matter the set up, check your pizza often. Every pizza cooks in a different amount of time. The Pizza-Porta allows you to inspect without losing heat and changing temperature.
- "Doming" - This is an important technique used in brick ovens. Using a metal peel, hold the pizza up as high as possible in the dome for 20-30 seconds - this will cook the top of the pizza with dome heat without cooking the bottom much further. Useful if your stone gets too hot. Be careful to slide the pizza around on the peel so that it does not stick.
If you usually cook 'low and slow' in your kamado grill and have not had a high temp cook in a while you may have excess smoke until that pork goodness burns out. This may give your pizza too intense of a smoke flavor. Cook it all out before starting pizza. Other points:
- Ensure that the area around your base and dome is clear of flammable items.
- Keep plastic containers away from the grill
- Make sure your Kamado is centered in the table cutout - especially a wood table.
- Your dome may be left with a white powdery residue – this is normal.
Before you invite the neighborhood over for a pizza block party, practice. Pizza is a bit of an art. Try a recipe or two for dough, or try a grocery store dough to get a feel for the process. The professionals make it look easy because they practiced. After cooking a few pizzas, you will become better and better.