How to use a Kamado" is fairly common question.
A Kamado is actually really easy. And believe it or not, you' re way less likely to ruin your food.
How a Kamado works – It's all about oxygen.
The Kamado is a simple machine. Air flows in through the bottom, over the coals, and out the top. The more air the coals get, the hotter they become. But starve the coals of oxygen, and they cool down and burn for a very, very long time.
A ) air in from bottom Vent
B) air out from top vent
You regulate air flow by using both the vent (left) and the damper (right). Note, in this photo, both are "very open." My Kamado would get to 500 degrees or so with this much air flow.
So, using a Kamado is really just about managing the amount of air flow, and it' s easy. There' s a vent at the bottom. There' s another vent (or damper) at the top. You either open the vents a lot for hot, or just a sliver for a slow cook.
Every other option is just steps in-between. And you can generally get the Kamado to within a few degrees of any target temperature.
Oh, and when you' re done cooking, close both vents entirely. This cuts off all the oxygen, and in a short while, your fire is kaput.
What to do when you first get your Kamado
The first thing you need to do is buy some quality lump charcoal, start a low heat fire, and cure the cooking chamber. The first thing you need to do when you get your Kamado is buy some quality lump charcoal, and slow cook a delicious pork butt.
Curing just means you need a slow, cool burn in the Kamado for about 24 hours to prep the clay for a long, healthy life. That doesn' t mean you can' t cook a pork shoulder on the grill while doing so. So follow the instructions here– but make sure you keep the temperature at 200 degrees, and not hotter. Do that, and ta-da, your Kamado is cured.
Lighting the grill
Open up your bottom vent widely. Open the damper widely. You want maximum air flow.
Take your lump charcoal and make a pile on one side of the grill basin. There aren' t that many recipes that require direct heat. More times than not, piling your coals on one side of the grill allows you to put your food on the other side, and avoid direct heat.
You don' t need a basin full of charcoal. Usually a shoe-box sized pile is plenty. A modest sized pile is sufficient for most recipes.
The way it lights: Lump charcoal is easy to light with a little help from sawdust bricks which you can get at almost any grocery store these days. These bricks are hunks of sawdust held together by a flammable wax, and are more eco-friendly than lighter fluid. Tear 2 or 3 pieces off, place them strategically in your pile of charcoal, and sure, with a single match, you can light them. You' ll have a hot fire in about 10 minutes.
While the coals are trying to get hot, go ahead and leave the lid of the Kamado completely open. You want as much air helping the process as much as possible. But then close the lid for a good 3 to 5 minutes to check your temperature.
Getting the Temperature you want
The first tip here is to get the coals hotter than you need them to be, then cool them down.
So, for example, if you' re going to slow cook a pork butt at 200 degrees, get your Kamado up to about 300 (by allowing plenty of air flow), then close the top and bottom vents to where they’re practically sealed shut and watch the temperature drop. Only the slightest amount of air needs to trickle through for a 200 degree cook.
The second tip is one someone first told me when I got my grill. The bottom vent tends to adjust temperatures by 10 degrees or more with each slight adjustment, whereas the damper on top tends to adjust temperatures by 5 degrees or less with each turn.
But the tip does make a good point: The bottom vent makes big changes happen, top vent makes smaller changes happen. So, first use the bottom vent to get close to your temperature, then the damper on top to get it to just where