Checkout Secure
Authorized Dealer | FREE Shipping | No Sales Tax


Mon-Sat 9am-5pm Eastern

How To Light A Kamado

By UJJBARAN October 20, 2021

Kamado cooking is done over charcoal so the first thing to do is for fill your fire box with charcoal.

Getting the versatility and temperature stability out of your kamado is all about your ability to control air flow so to get the most of kamado cooking, here are the important things to remember.


Always use virgin hardwood lump charcoal. Cheap charcoal is made from softwood and won't burn at such a high temperature. Cheap charcoal is also made out of old furniture (varnish and all) which will taint the flavour of your food. Briquettes are made from charcoal dust which leaves a sediment as it burns and this can hinder air flow through the kamado.

All of the top kamado brands produce their own charcoal and given the premium price I used to think that this was a bit of a con...but it's not. The quality of the charcoal is without doubt superior and considering that kamado cooking is so economical on charcoal I think that it makes sense to use the manufacturers brands and pay that bit extra.

Look for FSC certification for sustainably sourced charcoal too.

Using A Charcoal Basket

Some manufacturers include a stainless steel charcoal basket with their standard kit. Others offer it as an option at extra cost. You can also buy them separately and are often referred to as kick-ash baskets.

A basket provides two benefits:

  1. It separates the charcoal from the sides of the ceramic firebox thus aiding air flow. Better air flow makes for more consistent temperature control and less time to reach the higher temperatures
  2. Many baskets also feature a divider which helps create 2 distinct cooking zones giving greater versatility to your kamado cooking

The basket is less important when cooking low and slow. In fact I prefer not to use a basket in this instance because it means that you can get more charcoal in the firebox and therefore cook for longer periods of time.

Note: Primo include a cast iron firebox divider in their larger ovals and this is a good alternative 2 zone solution.

Lighters, cubes and fluids

Any lighter fluid / cube that is petroleum based will taint the flavour of your food not just for this first cook but also for future cooks because the accelerants get absorbed into the ceramic.

Always use a non petroleam based firelighter. Place the firelighter in amongst the charcoal, light it, leave the kamado lid and the bottom vent open. When the firelighter has done it's job and has extinguished, close the kamado lid and fully open the dual disc cap (daisy wheel) so that you get the maximum airflow. It's at this point that you need to keep an eye on the temperature gauge because it'll shoot up pretty quickly.

Temperature Regulation

One of the major plusses to kamado cooking is that once the temperature is set, your kamado will sit at your desired temperature without continuous tending or adjustment to the air flow.

Having lit your kamado & with the top and bottom vents fully open, the temperature gauge will just keep on climbing 10 degrees every minute.

My general rules for the warm up phase:

  • Temperature stability isn't just controlled by the intensity of the fire, it's also about the warmth of the ceramic so take time to ensure that the shell has time to absorb heat.
  • Warm the kamado up while empty (no cooking parts) so that there is heat build up into the ceramic walls.
  • Inserting the deflector stones / cooking grates will inhibit air flow so expect a temperature dip when you do this. Note that the greater the heat build up in the walls, the less dramatic the temperature drop.

There are different approches to temperature regulation and exact settings will differ brand by brand but here's my quick operating guide:

  • Top and bottom vents full open and the temperature rockets
  • When you reach your desired temperature, close off the bottom vent to about ½ inch to stabilise (a thumbnail if smoking low and slow).
  • Use the bottom vent for large changes in temp but when in the “area” you need to be, use the top daisy wheel for fine tuning (+/- 25°)
  • Only change the setting on the bottom or the top, never both at the same time
  • If you have the small top vents open and close them half way, the temp will reduce by approx 10°C / 18°F
  • A steady smoking temperature is approximated by the bottom vent open a quarter inch and the small daisy wheel vents half open.
  • I grill with the bottom vent open an inch and the small daisy wheel vents fully open

If you simply want to set up for roasting, somewhere between 150 - 180°C (300 - 350°F) then a simple way is to fully open the bottom vent and just have the small holes on your dual disc daisy wheel open. You can light up, close the lid and leave it in this set up for about 30 mins and you'll have well warmed through ceramic walls and you're ready to cook.

Note: The dual disc daisy wheel is the tried and tested design for the top vent because it provides endless variability to the air low. Generally speaking, alternative designs instil compromise.

Cooling A Kamado

Occasionally you might want to start your kamado cooking on high temperature and then cool down to a lower temperature.

Some kamado "nay sayers" will tell you that it's impossible to reduce the temperature in a kamado and this is the biggest negative to kamado cooking. To be fair they have a point, although there is a simple solution.

The heat stored in the ceramic walls makes a kamado slow but not impossible to cool down mid way through a cook. The easy way to do it is to place a large pan of cold water on the grill grate, close the lid and close both top and bottom vents for 10-15 minutes.

The lack of air will damp down (but not extinguish) the fire and the pan of water will absorb heat from all parts of the kamado. Simple and effective.

How To Cook On A Kamado

Despite my insistance that a kamado is the most versatile piece of outdoor cooking equipment there are in essence two basic set ups for kamado cooking.

Direct Cooking

For grilling and searing. There's no barrier between the charcoal and the food.

How To Grill On A Kamado

Cooking styles that use direct heat:

Clean Down

To clean the exterior of a kamado, cart and side
tables, use water and mild cleaning agent. Never use
water to clean the inside of a kamado.

The interior can be cleaned by using high temperatures. Remove all stainless steel components before commencing.

  • Completely open both top and bottom vents (make sure there is enough charcoal in the firebox).
  • Raise the temperature to 400°C and leave for 10 minutes.

Be careful not to exceed 400 °C because this could damage the gasket.

After the the kamado has cooled down, remove any ash from the ceramic components with a soft brush and clean the grill grates with a wire brush.


You mean you're not kamado cooking all year round??? Well some of us do go on vacation now and then.

If you leave a barbecue outside for a long period of time without using it then inevitably you will get a build up of mould inside as moisture builds up in the grill.

Scrape away the mould or mildew with a spatula or grill brush, burn away the rest by raising the temperature to 400°C and leave for 10 minutes. The heat will burn off all the remaining mould & mildew residue.

Tip: If you plan not to cook for a longer period of time then you can minimise the mould build up by removing unused charcoal from your kamado as charcoal will draw even more moisture into your grill.

A cover will protect your grill from the elements. If you use one then make sure that the top and bottom vents remain open while the cover is on so that air can still flow.

Older Post Newer Post


Added to cart!
Authorized Dealer | FREE Shipping | No Sales Tax Free shipping when you order over XX You Have Qualified for Free Shipping Spend $x to Unlock Free Shipping You Have Achieved Free Shipping Authorized Dealer | FREE Shipping | No Sales Tax You Have Achieved Free Shipping Free shipping when you order over XX You Have Qualified for Free Shipping