Note: This post is part of the “Kamado 101 – The Definitive Guide to Amazing Barbecue” series, in which I cover everything from the foundational aspects of Kamado cooking all the way through advanced concepts designed to transform you into a backyard barbecue pitmaster. View the entire series here.
So. You’ve just spent the early evening unpacking and assembling your shiny, new Kamado grill. Congratulations! You’ve got yourself an amazingly capable cooker that’s got over 3,000 years of ingenuity and refinement behind it, so you can rest assured that it’s probably just a little more tried and true than the latest and greatest grilling technology and fads that come and go every few years.
Believe it or not, it’s true. Many people don’t realize that their Big Green Eggs and Kamado Joe’s are really just modern day takes on the ancient tradition of cooking food in clay vessels. Clay pots were used to cook food in due to their heat retention properties and their ability to prevent food from losing excess moisture as it cooked.
While they’ve been greatly enhanced with modern materials, the heat-retaining property of the ceramic used in the construction of your Kamado is just an improved version of the clay pots that archaeologists have found dating back to ancient Chinese and Indian civilizations.
From Ancient Necessity to Modern Luxury
It is believed that the Chinese introduced the concept of the Kamado cooker to the Japanese approximately 1,700 years ago, between 300 and 500 A.D.. Over time, the Japanese refined the Kamado cooker to suit their diet (with rice largely being the staple), hence the development of the “mushikamado” or “rice cooker”, which utilized a pot inside the cooker to contain rice and water. In fact, it’s the Japanese who we have to thank for naming the ceramic cooker the Kamado which translates into “stove” or “cooking range”.
It is not known exactly when it was done, but a cooking grate, for roasting meat, was eventually retrofitted into an existing mushikamado and became the precursor for the modern day Kamado grill.
It was after World War II that Westerners discovered the cooking capabilities of the Kamado and began flying them back to the U.S. in cargo planes. Not long after, American companies used the growing popularity of Kamados to their benefit and set up shop in order to produce and sell their own lines of Kamado grills.
The Birth of a Kamado Icon
American entrepreneur, Ed Fisher, was the brain child behind one of these newly formed Kamado manufacturing companies. While he first set out as an importer, he quickly realized that the cement mixture comprising the grills he was selling was substandard since it began breaking down within a matter of a couple short years.
Determined to raise the bar for his Kamado grill company, in 1974, he began developing his own line of Kamado cookers using much more modern, space-age ceramic that were not only capable of retaining heat and moisture better than the predecessors, but perhaps most importantly, were able to withstand years of exposure to outside elements.
You know Ed Fisher’s company today as Big Green Egg, Inc., the most successful Kamado retailer in the world.