This blog is written by a group of beginner-kamado-users who wanted to find out how kamados work by trying out a few simple recipes. Fornetto is happy to share their experiences to help guide other beginners!
We are a small group of kamado novices, who between us have plenty of years of experience cooking with a conventional oven but are relatively new to kamado cooking. A couple of weekends ago, we tried out the Lento Medium Red and we were really impressed to discover how much better things can taste when they have been prepared in a kamado! Read our blog below to find out:
- The basics of kamado cooking – direct vs indirect cooking and controlling the temperature
- Roasting whole sweet potatoes and onions using indirect cooking
- Recipe: Grilled pork chops with a nectarine sauce
- Tips for making great pizza in a kamado
- Recipe: Grilled ribeye steak with mushrooms
- Recipe: Sourdough pizza dough
The basics of kamado cooking – direct vs indirect cooking and controlling the temperature
In a nutshell, we quickly discovered that kamados can be used to cook food in a direct way – straight over the coals like a traditional charcoal barbecue, or indirectly using the half-moon deflectors. They can be used very hot for searing, or with the temperature right down, low and slow. Kamados are incredibly versatile – they can grill, roast, bake or smoke – but we found out that whatever method is used to cook the food, the thick ceramic insulation means the charcoal lasts for ages.
This blog focuses on a few simple recipes using direct and indirect heat, but we didn´t get the chance to turn it down a notch, so watch this space and another blog will be coming soon when we will record our attempts to cook the food low and slow.
Roasting whole sweet potatoes and onions using indirect cooking
The first recipe was incredibly simple. We brushed a little olive oil on half a dozen each of medium sized sweet potatoes and whole onions, and a sprinkling of salt. We placed them directly on the oiled grills of the kamado, with the deflector plates in place, at a temperature of about 200ºC, and turned them once during the cooking process. After 40 minutes they were completely soft with a crispy brown exterior.
We served each sweet potato with half a roasted onion and some couscous salad. To make the couscous salad we cooked 200g of couscous (according to the packet instructions). We cooled the couscous, fluffed it up with a fork, and added a packet of baby spinach leaves (which had been wilted in a frying pan with a clove of finely chopped garlic), a large handful of roughly chopped pistachios, a handful of chopped dried cranberries, a packet of feta cheese cut into cubes, the chopped flesh of a couple of the roasted onions, chopped fresh basil, salt and pepper. We finished the couscous off with a generous glug of vinaigrette dressing.
Recipe: Grilled pork chops with a nectarine sauce
We bought fat bone-in pork chops about 3cm thick. Prior to going in the kamado, we prepared half of them with a generous amount of Wyld Smoke Rubs’ Stockmans Meat Rub on each side (available from Bunnings Australia) and the other half with salt, pepper and finely chopped garlic. We allowed the chops to come up to room temperature while we prepared the kamado and made the nectarine balsamic reduction.
We brought the kamado up to temperature at 160ºC with one of the deflector plates in position.
While the kamado was stabilising at the right temperature, we poured 200ml of balsamic vinegar and a sprig of thyme into a saucepan and boiled off 75% of the liquid to get a balsamic reduction. We added three ripe nectarines (chopped into small pieces) into the balsamic reduction, along with a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar and the grated zest of a lime. We stirred for a few minutes until the nectarines had started to break down and caramelise.
Once the kamado was ready, we positioned the seasoned chops, two at a time, in the area of the grill over the half-moon deflector plate until the internal temperature reached 60ºC. Then we moved them to the front of the grill, where they were seared directly over the coals for 2 minutes on each side, while the next batch of two took their place over the heat deflector. The chops were left to rest for 5-10mins.
They were served with a spoonful of the balsamic and nectarine reduction. By cooking them using this reverse sear method, the pork chops were deliciously succulent!
Tips for making great pizza in a kamado
We had never made pizza in a kamado before and were really impressed with the results. The base was much crispier than it is possible to achieve in a conventional oven, perhaps because a kamado is a much drier environment, and the moisture is driven away through the pizza stone.
We made sourdough pizzas and have provided brief instructions on how to make the sourdough dough at the end of this blog. However, if you do not already have a sourdough starter, you can use a traditional pizza dough instead, using the instructions provided here on the Fornetto website for perfect pizza dough.
Earlier in the day we had made a tomato sauce, by gently frying a couple of cloves of finely chopped garlic in olive oil with a couple of sprigs of finely chopped rosemary and thyme. After a minute we added a kilo of skinned and chopped plum tomatoes (skin the tomatoes by first immersing them in boiling water for a minute or so). If you don’t have access to ripe fresh plum tomatoes, you can use a couple of tins of plum tomatoes. They are nearly as good! After about 30 minutes of gently simmering, we seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper and used a stick blender to get a thick sauce.
Here are a few tips regarding the assembly of the pizzas:
- When shaping the dough, use lots of flour to stop the dough from sticking to your hands.
- Make the dough base on a work surface and then lift the base onto a pizza peel dusted with a flour and semolina mix. Assemble the pizzas on the peel and leave for 10-30mins to give the dough some time for a final rise.
- Minimise the number of toppings you use. The best pizzas have a minimal number of top-quality ingredients. We made a Margherita (tomato sauce, Mozzarella cheese, olive oil, fresh basil, and black pepper) and a second pizza with tomato sauce, mixed mushrooms, black olives, parmesan and basil.
- Transfer the pizza to the hot kamado with a stabilised temperature using the peel. We cooked at 300 ºC with the deflector plates in place and a pizza stone on the grill. The pizza should be ready in about 9 or 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it, and towards the end of the cooking time, gently lift the pizza at the edge with a spatula to check the base isn’t too brown.
- Consult our recipe below and pictures for how to make sourdough pizza.
Recipe: Grilled ribeye steak with mushrooms
We bought two large ribeye steaks about 3cm in thickness which we rubbed lightly with olive oil, and liberally applied some BBQ rub to each side before refrigerating for about 5 hours. We used Blue Smoke Texas-style BBQ rub, for a smoky and spicy flavour (available in Bunnings Australia). Before cooking we bought the steaks up to room temperature. We also bought half a kilo of mixed mushrooms which we diced and marinated in a few tablespoons of vinaigrette dressing.
We pre-heated the kamado for hot direct heat, at least 380ºC.
Once the kamado was up to temperature we patted the steak dry and put them directly on the grill over the hot coals and closed the lid. After 1.5 minutes we flipped the steaks. After a further 1.5 minutes we checked the internal temperature. We were aiming for somewhere between medium rare (55ºC) and medium (60ºC). Once done we removed them from the heat and dotted them with some herby butter. We then loosely wrapped them in foil and left the steaks to rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile we grilled the mushrooms in a grill basket over the direct heat until the mushrooms were nicely browned. We seasoned the mushrooms and stirred in some chopped chives, before placing them on top of the rested steaks. Simple, easy and delicious!
Recipe: Sourdough pizza dough
Here are some pictures of us making the sourdough for our pizzas, and some brief instructions. We are assuming you already have a sourdough starter, but if not, you will either need to obtain one from a friend (if you know somebody who bakes with sourdough) or make your own, which will take about a week to make from scratch. We have had the same sourdough starter in our fridge since the first Covid-19 lockdown of May 2020, when a kind friend gave us some to mitigate a national shortage in baking yeast. Since then, we have made numerous loaves, pita breads and of course pizza!
The first picture shows our sourdough starter, which we have kept in the same jam jar with a lid for the last 2 years (the starter doesn’t go bad since the yeast cells prohibit the growth of bacteria or mould). About an hour earlier we had fed the sourdough starter with a “feed” of equal quantities of flour and warm water, amounting to 350ml, which is the same amount of sourdough starter we were going to use to make our pizza (that way the level in the jar never drops!). The bubbles in the middle are an indication that a chemical reaction is taking place. After an hour or so, the starter has risen and is ready to use. We mixed the contents of the jar with a spoon.
The third picture shows a big mixing bowl containing 450 grams of strong flour and 400 grams of plain flour (ours contained a mix of wholemeal and white flours, but it is up to you what you want to use). The fourth picture shows the same bowl with the addition of 350ml of the sourdough starter and 10g of salt. Combine everything by first mixing with your hands, as shown in the fifth picture, and then kneading the dough in the sixth picture. Stretch and work the dough using the heel of you hand. It will take 5 to 10 minutes of kneading before you can form a ball of smooth elastic dough.
Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl, which has plenty of room for the dough to grow and leave in a warm place. It will take about 6 hours for the ball of dough to double in size, but this will depend on the ambient temperature. The eighth picture shows somebody knocking back the dough, by immersing the fingertips in the dough, prior to removing a smaller ball of dough about the size of a small apple (approx. 150g). Stretch the ball of dough into a pizza shape ready for topping. You should have enough dough to make about 8-10 small pizzas. Enjoy!