I love Greek food so had a thought to create a Greek style pizza. As with most of my food, this is pretty simple to do. It does take a little preparation but personally, I think it is worthwhile. The rest of the family had some doubts but I ended up with pretty good feedback on this one.
The base sauce of the pizza was made up yogurt, with some mint added. Next time I would be tempted to add some cucumber to make it more like a Tzatziki sauce.
For the toppings I used chicken breast which had been marinated in the Gyros Rub from Angus and Oink. I also added some slices of Red Onion and cubes of Feta Cheese. I cooked this on the OONI Pro pizza oven – it’s a great piece of kit.
I really enjoyed this Greek style pizza. As mentioned above the rest of the family were not convinced but it went down pretty well. In additon to making the tweak in the base sauce I also think I would do less feta and maybe add some mozarella. The feta tasted a little sharp, so I think using less and also adding the mozarella would help this. Will definately be cooking this again though!
Towards the end of last year, Petromax got in touch with me to ask if I would be interested in trying any of their products. I already owned a couple of Lodge cast-iron pans and also some Weber iron accessories for the GBS. I had been extremely impressed with the Lodge cast-iron, but that will be no surprise to those of you who already own some Lodge.
Petromax sent me a couple of cast-iron skillets, a sandwich iron, a coffee percolator, and a few other useful accessories.
So Why Cast Iron?
Some people don’t like cast-iron because of the weight but there are a number of benefits to cooking on cast-iron:
Gives excellent and even heat distribution
Non-stick: once well seasoned they basically become non-stick
Lifespan: they are made from tough material which if treated right will last for decades
Cost: they are cheaper than many other materials and are much more durable and long-lasting if treated right
Versatile: they can be used on the BBQ, on the hob or in the Oven
Heath Benefits: adds iron to your food and are chemical free
Easy to clean: once well seasoned you will find cast-iron incredibly easy to clean
To Season or Not to Season?
Cast-iron will get better with age if treated properly. The Petromax cast-iron comes pre-seasoned but I decided to still put a few layers of my own seasoning on it. This involved covering the surface with a thin layer of vegetable oil and then placing them in a really hot oven for 20 minutes. You then need to remove them, allow to cool before repeating the process a couple more times.
The Petromax cast-iron really came up a treat. Now that I have cooked on them numerous times (and have re-seasoned) they are building up a fantastic non-stick surface.
If you want to find out more about seasoning your cast-iron watch this video from Barbechoo James. It not only covers how to initially season them but also has some great information for on-going maintenance.
I have now done a number of cooks on the BBQ using the Petromax cast-iron. They have included prawns, chicken, potatoes, (smash) burgers and fennel to name a few. The cooks have all gone really well and since receiving the Petromax products it has encouraged me to use cast-iron a lot more.
The other great thing with cast-iron is that they also work with induction hobs, which was something I only learned fairly recently. Definitely, a good investment to make in general.
As you can imagine the cast-iron get really hot so you will end up with some burnt bits on the pan but they always clean up really well. It is recommended that you don’t use any washing-up liquid when cleaning them. This is a great piece of advice as you really don’t need it.
If I get any stubborn burnt bits, I use the Petromax Chain Mail Cleaner which helps to shift any residual food. After drying well I then apply the Petromax Care Conditioner before putting away until the next cook.
I am not an expert with cast-iron by any means. I have been cooking with it for 2 to 3 years, but the Petromax cast-iron is definitely on a par with my Lodge cast-iron. The weight is comparable and the coating is definitely improving over time, meaning I can cook most things on it without any sticking.
If you are in the market for a cast-iron pan (or even a new pan) I would definitely consider looking at Petromax as I don’t think you will be disappointed.
I was in 2 minds whether to write this up as these Spicy Corn-on-the-Cobs are so good and probably don’t count as a recipe. However, over the years I have got so many good ideas from just seeing a simple cook.
The Preparation and Cook
So these are simple to prepare and cook. Get the Corn-on-the-Cob and spread butter over the surface before sprinkling over your favourite rub. I love using the Mexican Jalapeno and Lime Rub from The Smokey Carter. I love the spiciness it adds which is not over-powering.
Once the rub is added, place them on some foil and create a parcel around the corn. Try to seal as much as you can but leave a little air pocket in the parcel. This will help the steam cook the corn.
I use the Corn-on-the-Cob from Costco which is so so so juicy!
To cook place on the indirect portion of the BBQ for 20-25 minutes before removing from the parcel and cooking directly to add some char to the corn.
These always feel like a treat when I have them. I have used just water before but these taste so great with the butter and the spicy rub. If you don’t like spice try a more mild rub or seasoning as it really does take these to the next level.
Get your corn and spread butter over the surface. Next sprinkle your favourite rub all over the corn but be careful not to overdo it.
Wrap the corn in foil and place on the indirect area of the BBQ for around 25 minutes. Next remove the corn from the foil and cook directly, turning frequently so you get a nice char but don’t burn them. Remove and serve! So simple!
One of the foods I have grown to love cooking on the BBQ is Chicken Wings. They are simple and quick to do and using different rubs and marinades, it is easy to get different flavours and play with how spicy you want them.
I recently had a weekend away and cooked over a firepit for the first time. Hence, this is where the name ‘Firepit’ Chicken Wings came from – not imaginative I know! You don’t need a firepit to cook these wings, but the method I used is one that I will be using in the future.
The Preparation and Cook
For this cook, I used a firepit with a grill suspended above it. The grate was also height adjustable so this was a great way to control the cook.
The Chicken Wings were taken out the fridge an hour before I wanted to cook them. I gave them a liberal sprinkling of ‘The General’ rub from Angus and Oink and covered until ready to cook.
The Chicken Wings were placed directly over the wood. There were only a few logs in the firepit so there was plenty of space around the outside to move the wings to an indirect area if they started to cook too quickly.
I ended up cooking them for around 30 minutes, turning a few times to try to get an even cook on both sides. If you are cooking on a BBQ just use your normal method.
To finish them off I cooked the Chicken Wings in the Lodge cast-iron pan and added the Chipotle & Bourbon BBQ Sauce from The Smokey Carter, cooking briefly before removing from the firepit and enjoying.
These were probably the best wings I have ever cooked. I personally think it was down to the method rather than the equipment. Cook the Chicken Wings using a dry rub, then add to the cast-iron to char a little and add the sauce and any other ingredients. It just worked!!!!
A liberal sprinkling 'The General' Rub (or alternative)
3 Tbsp of Chipotle & Bourbon BBQ Sauce (or alternative)
3 Spring Onions thinly sliced
Take the chicken out of the fridge 1 hour before you want to start cooking. I then sprinkled the chicken with the rub. Next time I do this I would add the rub and let it marinate for a little longer.
Light your coals and prepare both an indirect and direct area on your BBQ. Whilst the coals are getting up to cooking temperature prepare your Spring Onions by slicing thinly.
Cook the Chicken Wings using your normal method. On the firepit they took around 30 minutes turning a few times. When I cook these using the ‘BBQ Vortex‘ they take 45 minutes, and around 25 when I just cook them normally on the BBQ.
Move the Chicken Wings to the indirect area or remove completely. Add a cast-iron pan to the direct area of the BBQ and get it nice and hot. Then add the Chicken Wings to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, moving the wings occasionally to ensure they don’t burn.
Next add the BBQ sauce, ensuring the Chicken Wings are well covered. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will find the sauce starts to caramelize. Add the Spring Onion. Give the pan another good stir and cook for a further 1 minute before serving.
Andrew is one of my favourite cooks on Twitter and Instagram. He is constantly turning out really unique and innovative dishes on a weekly basis. One of the things I try to do is cook different things on the BBQ, and Andrew really shows that almost anything can be cooked over a naked flame.
Some of the cooks Andrew has cooked have been done using his Flower Pot Tandoor. This is such a great idea and you will see from some of the photos below what a wide range of cooks he has produced and how great they look. I need to say a huge thank you to him for writing up this article and sharing how you can build your own Flower Pot Tandoor.
I’d love to see a few more of these popping up!!
What is a tandoor?
A tandoor is a cylindrical oven traditionally made from clay. Heat is generated from a charcoal or wood fire in the base and thick clay walls retain heat resulting in much higher temperatures than conventional ovens. Tandoors are most commonly associated with Northern Indian cuisine, although their use is more widespread. Food can be cooked in the central chamber of the oven, often on skewers such as tandoori chicken or directly against the heated walls like naan bread. The high heat and smoke created from dripping juices give a delicious flavour profile.
Why make a tandoor?
Commercial tandoor ovens are very large and costly and I began reviewing designs that could be made at home, light enough to be portable and relatively low cost. This is where I came across the flower pot tandoor. This is not my original idea, in fact, there are so many variations online dating back many years it is difficult to identify where the design first came from. Through trial and error, I have worked through several designs, which I share below to hopefully help you avoid my mistakes. If you find any ways to improve this method please do share!
What is it made from?
Garden flower pots are commonly made from terracotta, a form of baked clay, they are readily available, low cost with good heat retention capacity. The walls of a clay tandoor oven are much thicker than the average terracotta flower pot, for this reason, the flower pot version requires an extra layer of insulation to retain heat. This one uses vermiculite, a naturally occurring lightweight mineral used for commercial insulation that can be found in builder’s yards. Vermiculite also retains water like a sponge so another place to find it is in garden centres where it is used in hanging baskets and failing that could always be ordered online.
Angle grinder and safety equipment (goggles, mask and gloves)
Drill with masonry drill bits (to avoid cracking pots)
3 unglazed terracotta flowerpots as shown in the diagram below. Glazed can contain lead-based paint and should be avoided.
One large external pot (blue)
Two smaller pots that fit end to end to make the cooking chamber (green) and firebox (yellow). The base of cooking chamber removed with an angle grinder to make a lid (red dotted line). Charcoal represented by black
Inverted terracotta plant saucer or rim of the terracotta pot to raise cooking chamber (orange)
Vermiculite (grey shading)- volume will depend on size (I used about 1/3 of 100L bag)
Terracotta feet or house bricks to lift tandoor allowing inward airflow from underneath
Smaller terracotta dish to sit inside firebox and support charcoal for ease of cleaning
Cover or lid to protect from elements
How to assemble
The two internal pots can be any size but should fit together snuggly ideally with the cooking chamber (green) pot overlapping the firebox (yellow) to give a tight seal and allow a ledge to form making it easier to position skewers. There should be at least a 2cm gap from the edge of the cooking chamber to the external pot (blue). The amount of charcoal required is relatively small so if possible go for a larger cooking chamber as shown in the diagram. I found a bowl-shaped pot for the firebox works best and the rim inside allows easy placement of a cooking grate for searing.
The firebox (yellow) needs to be elevated so it is not sitting directly on the external pot to avoid the risk of cracking. You can use an upside-down plant saucer with drilled holes or a circular off-cut from another pot, this works well and easier for height adjustment.
When you are happy with the fit and height of the pots drill holes into the base of the external pot (blue) and firebox (yellow). The pots already have one large central hole for drainage and I have found another 4 provide enough airflow (but you can make more if needed). Ensure the holes are at least 1cm diameter to prevent blocking with ash. If you’re not confident start with a smaller drill bit and then increase the size. If using an inverted plant saucer (instead of circular off-cut) ensure the holes align with the firebox.
The top of the cooking chamber should be cut off 1-2cm from the end using the angle grinder (wearing appropriate safety equipment) to form a lid. You do need an angle grinder for this as initially, I got through quite a few saw blades. Some methods cut the lid into 2/3 and 1/3 sections like a cake as shown below, with the idea being that you can keep the tandoor partially covered while cooking. I think it is easier to keep the lid a whole and slide as necessary during cooking otherwise smaller portion can sometimes fall inside. You will need to use gloves when handling the lid once it’s fired up as it gets very hot!
When the components are in the correct position pour in the vermiculite around the sides lightly pressing down until 2cm from the top of the cooking chamber. Use the bricks or feet to elevate the external pot and you are ready to go! If you like you can place a flat plate underneath to catch any ash that falls through but there is usually so little I don’t bother.
The flower pot tandoor is remarkably energy efficient given the excellent insulation and requires only a small amount of charcoal. A third of a standard chimney starter of charcoal is usually enough for a cook lasting several hours. I previously used to light the charcoal in a chimney starter and pour into the chamber but on one occasion this caused the firebox to crack. If it does crack don’t worry too much it generally doesn’t affect the performance but now I light the charcoal in the firebox using odourless eco-friendly firelighters. Avoid using lighter fluid or blocks as the terracotta is porous and can absorb unwanted smells tainting the food. When lighting keep the lid off for 15-20 minutes until the coals are glowing then replace it until reaches the desired temperature.
I have used both charcoal briquettes and lumpwood. I have reached higher temperatures using the briquettes probably as they fit more uniformly into the fire bowl, but they do produce a lot more ash which can affect the airflow after an hour or two. Now I stick to lumpwood and very easily hit temperatures above 370C (700F) within 1 hour of lighting using an infrared thermometer gun to guide me when it’s time to start cooking.
When it comes to cooking there are many ways to use for flower pot tandoor and the fun is in experimenting. You can use skewers, place above the firebox for searing, hang food into the cooking chamber or cook naan bread on the walls.
Cleaning and storing
I find using a small plant saucer at the base of the firebox helps with the clear up but you will need to drill holes to align with firebox for air flow. This can then be lifted out when cool and the ash disposed of. Any remaining ash can be pushed through using a soft brush. To remove ash from the bottom (orange) section carefully tilt the flower pit tandoor and use a bottle brush bent to 90 degrees to sweep around and you’re ready to go again. The tandoor can be kept outside but as vermiculite is very absorbent it can take a long time to dry out if it gets waterlogged and limit the temperatures you can achieve until it is fully dried out so I keep mine in a sheltered spot using a plastic plant saucer as a cover.
Thank you for reading and please let me know any questions or improvements!
You can’t beat a freshly cooked Scotch Egg, ideally with a warm runny yolk. I had some pulled pork left over from the last time I cooked it so I thought why not make Pulled Pork Scotch Egg! I have done a similar thing with Pulled Pork Sausage Rolls and it works really well.
This is pretty simple to make with the tricky bit being the preparation of the soft boiled egg and making sure you get the shell off clean.
I decided to use the BBQ Vortex for the scotch eggs this time in the hope to get a crispy outside. I initially made the eggs and set the BBQ Vortex in my Weber, using a chimney starter that was about 3/4’s full. When it was ready to cook on I added an oak chunk for some extra smokiness.
I placed the 3 scotch eggs at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock rotated the lid every 5 minutes and cooked these for 20 minutes in total. I also turned the eggs over after 10 minutes. The vortex worked and did add a little crispiness to the outside.
I really do like these scotch eggs on the BBQ. The added smokiness really works for me. I also thought the added pulled pork was a really nice addition. The other thing I liked was using the Mexican Jalapeno and Lime Rub from The Smokey Carter in the breadcrumb mix. It gave a little heat to the egg and I would definitely do these again.
Next time I would like to try to get the yolk a little runnier but they tasted great anyway.
Start by bringing a pan of water up to the boil and then carefully place the Eggs in the pan.
If you want the yolk to be runny, boil the eggs for around 5 minutes (a little over will be fine).
Before you start cooking your eggs, prepare a bowl of ice cold water. When your eggs are ready to remove from the boiling water place directly into the ice cold bowl of water. This will help you when you come to peel your eggs.
Next prepare your sausage meat and pulled pork. Add both into a food processor and blend until the 2 are well combined.
Combine the breadcrumbs and rub into a bowl and mix well.
Back to the eggs. This bit can be bit fiddly. Remove the eggs one by one from the bowl of cold water and gently peel. To start this off I gently tap one side with a teaspoon and then start to peel. I try to get under the skin of the egg which helps pull larger pieces of the shell off. Repeat for all the eggs.
Take a good chunk of the combined pulled pork/sausage meat and flatten in your palms until around 5mm thick and roughly circular in shape. Gently place a peeled egg in the centre of the flattened sausage meat and gently wrap the edges up and over the egg. Keep working the sausage meat until the egg is fully covered and then gently roll and compress the ball until there are no joins visible. Make sure you do this step thoroughly to prevent your eggs opening up / splitting.
The next step is to then roll the ball of sausage meat in the breadcrumbs and cover well.
Repeat this process for all your eggs.
To cook place the eggs directly onto the grill grate and cook for 20 minutes. Rotate the lid 90 degress every 5 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the eggs over to try to get an even cook.
I have known James from Barbechoo for a few years now. He is one of nicest guys I have met in the UK BBQ Community. He is always willing to help and through his website, YouTube channel and social media accounts, produces tonnes of great content with the aim of helping people to BBQ.
The fantastic news is James is starting The Barbechoo Academy. This will be an online subscription service, where for a one-off fee you will be able to get access to a series of BBQ video tutorials that will help you learn how to BBQ. The content will really suit people that are new to BBQ or have not been at it for long.
So What Do You Get?
The initial subscription fee will get you lifetime access to the Barbechoo Academy and the first course which will be BBQ Basics. You will join the Barbechoo community and get direct access to James, so you will able to ask him specific questions about cooking challenges you face. This means that in addition to the great tutorials you will be receiving personalised support, which can only improve your cooking.
The content you will get from the first course include:
9 exclusive Video Lessons
8 exclusive Video Recipes
6 Quick Reference Cheat Sheets
Access to an Exclusive Member Community
James is also planning future courses including courses for the intermediate and advanced cook, low ‘n’ slow and cast-iron cooking to name a few.
If you watch any of James’ regular videos you will know how informative and educational they are. I know every time I watch one I learn something new. In addition, they get my creative juices going and get me thinking about what I can cook and how I can cook.
How do you Sign Up?
This is going to be such a great resource. I am quite envious in one way that something like this didn’t exist when I was in the early days of learning how to BBQ. I know I would have got loads out of it and doubly so having tuition from someone like James.
The course isn’t open for enrolment yet. However, if you want to hear more about it, and also get notified when it is, click on the link below to join the waiting list.
James has also put out a video with some further details:
Introducing Barbechoo Academy! The Online BBQ School - YouTube
Early Adoption has Benefits
As an early adopter/founding member, you will receive a discounted membership. You will also be able to help shape the courses and tutorials moving forward, by providing James with feedback on the good, the bad and the ugly.
There will be a limited number of places available at launch so get your interested registered and make sure you don’t miss out on this great initiative.
For more information on the details and benefits click the link below:
@kungfuBBQ did an awesome looking Gyros cook last year. He did this as a series of recipes he developed for Angus & Oink. I have been meaning to get round to cooking this, and whilst I haven’t done one the same size as Nathan, I used the same ingredients to put this one together. To be honest, mine was more of a kebab!
Graig Farm Organic Chicken
For this cook, I used some free-range organic chicken from Graig Farm. They are based in Montgomeryshire, Wales. The farm has been in the family since the 1940s, and Jonathan Rees, the proprietor of Graig Farm Organics, has lived there all of his life. The farm is very much a family affair, with Jonathan’s parents continuing an active role, and his wife Sally and three young sons, Maldwyn, Max and Archie, and Daughter Annie also involved!
All of the butchery and processing is carried out at the new processing facilities on the farm. The Head Butcher, Mariusz Hetman, and his team ensure that high standards are achieved and maintained at all times. Jonathan and his family have won a series of prestigious awards, including the ‘True Taste’ awards, in recognition of the quality of their organic meat. Welsh lamb is argued to be the best in the world and the Rees’ have won awards for their lamb five times. This year they won the Silver Award for their organic lamb, and last year achieved the top prize for their organic sirloin of lamb.
The Preparation and Cook
I used 2 boneless chicken thighs for this cook and cut them up into cubes, leaving the skin on, which is not something I normally do. The plan leaving the skin on was that I hoped it would crisp up but it didn’t really work so I would remove next time.
I mixed all the ingredients together to make the marinade and then added the cubed chicken thigh to the mixture, which it sat in for around 5 hours.
The Russian Skewers were out again with this cook. The chicken was cooked direct over charcoal for around 15 minutes, turning regularly. I love the Russian Skewers as you can take out the grate in the Weber and just lay the skewers across the Weber. They are a nice height away from the coals and with not laying them on the grate they don’t end up sticking.
I made some home-made pittas and like the ones Nathan did, these were the greek style ones that are flat and you can wrap them around the food. Finally, I made some Tzatziki and spread this on the pitta before adding the cooked chicken.
The quality of the chicken for this cook was outstanding. It is expensive in comparison to supermarket bought chicken, but you are paying for an organic free-range chicken. I only used 2 thighs and you can see the amount of meat they produced.
The Greek rub from Angus and Oink was lovely. I am looking forward to trying this next time I cook Souvlaki. I would marinate for longer next time (overnight) to really let the flavour get absorbed by the chicken.
I loved this with the home-made pitta and Tzatziki – both really easy to make from scratch. I think with a few tweaks next time this could be a winning dish.
Mix together the Yogurt, Olive Oil, Lemon Rind, Lemon Juice, Oregano and Gyros Rub in a bowl. Really stir well so the ingredients are well mixed.
Dice you chicken and at it to the marinade. Again mix the chicken in really well to make sure it is well covered. Place in the fridge for a few hours but preferably overnight.
Remove the chicken from the fridge about 1 hour before you are ready to cook. Set you BBQ up for direct cooking and whilst the coals are coming up to cooking temperature, add the chicken to the skewers.
Add a wood chunk to the coals for some added smoke and then cook the chicken directly for 15 minutes, turning every 3-4 minutes so it doesn’t burn.
Remove the skewers from the BBQ and then warm up your pittas. Whern you pittas are cooked, spread the tzatziki onto the pitta followed by the chicken. I also added some grilled sweet pepper and feta cheese on top of the chicken.
A few weeks ago I got the dreaded call that my 77 year old dad had been taken into hospital. He lives up in Hull, and on my journey my brother was giving me updates, but the prognosis did not look promising. Fortunately, he made a recovery and was released from hospital a couple of days later. As he lives on his own I decided to stay with him until he was feeling better.
Growing up my parents loved to BBQ. Nothing fancy, but after living in Cyprus for a few years, they developed their own style of BBQ. Halloumi, Sausage in a Pitta with Pickled Cabbage and Houmous, Pork and Chicken Souvlaki together with Kebabs all made a regular appearance. I think that’s where I got my love of cooking outdoors.
My dad has rarely BBQ’ed in recent years. When he comes down to visit, we are outside most of the weekend, eating BBQ and have a beer or two, which he loves.
I decided when I was up in Hull I would get cooking outside, nothing fancy but getting back to the basics I grew up on.
The Kit Matters or Does It?
I borrowed a small portable BBQ from my brother. He thinks he got it from Asda as an own-brand BBQ and it cost about £15. It was a reasonable size but had no vents in the bottom so controlling the airflow was going to be a challenge. The lid had vents that could be closed/opened which was something.
The body of the BBQ was quite thin and it wasn’t particularly deep either, with not adjustable grill height.
The only charcoal I could get hold of was some instant lighting bags, which I generally never buy. This was from Aldi and I have to say I was pretty impressed with it, once I got cooking with it.
For the first cook, we started with some Halloumi and Baby Tomatoes followed by one of my dad’s favourites of Sausage in a Pitta with Houmous. Amazingly simple, but the combination of the Pitta, Houmous, and Sausage really does give a different take on the humble BBQ’ed sausage.
On night 2 I went for some Padron peppers. I have not been able to find these where I live but managed to get these ones in Morrison’s. I then cooked some steak which was 32 day-aged Sirloin from Aldi – again very impressed.
The steak seemed to go down really well with my dad. For lunch the next day we went for a steak sandwich, cooked on the trusty portable and served in a panini with some salad. Again a big hit!
I really enjoyed cooking on the small portable. It was not as straight-forward as cooking on either my Weber GBS or Go-Anywhere. I didn’t have any of my normal tools and especially missed the Thermapen, but I managed to get by and most importantly it was fun. Scrub that, the most important thing was that my dad loved it!
What my recent experience tells me is that whilst paying more for BBQ kit gets a host of features to help make cooking a little easier, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get cooking and start on your BBQ journey. If anything it was the accessories I missed the most.
Ady (8t8 on Twitter) did a challenge for UK BBQ Week a couple of years ago where he managed to buy a BBQ together with the key accessories for under £50, and did some brilliant cooks using the gear he bought. You can read all about it here.
The key message here is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to produce great cooks. There are some essentials in my view to help make cooking easier and again these do not need to costs a fortune.
More Good News!
My dad is recovering really well, but there is more good news. Him watching me using the portable gave him back the confidence that he could get cooking outside again – something he used to love doing.
He is now cooking reasonably regularly, enjoying a pint of lager as he cooks, sat outside tending to his food. He’s doing his favourite cook fairly often (sausage, pitta, houmous) but this week he made some lamb kebabs, where he marinated the meat for a few hours before enjoying his cook. It is something that he seems to be getting a tonne load of pleasure from again.
What started out to be a situation where I feared the worse has seen my dad re-discover the delights of cooking outside over charcoal.
I have been following Ted on Twitter for sometime now and his account is definitely worth a follow. He is regularly cracking out great BBQ cooks every week and always shares what went well, and on the rare occasion it happens, what went less well.
He produces a wide range of cooks on different equipment, with the ALDI Kamado being the latest bit of kit added to his collection. It has a great price point, so I was delighted when Ted agreed to write a review to share his honest view on his new purchase.
How it happened
I have a good selection of BBQ kit including an Outback 6 burner gas grill, an Ooni 3 pellet oven and several Webers (Smokey Mountain, Master Touch, Smokey Joe), but was in the market for another, either a pellet grill or kamado, or both! With the cash burning a hole in my pocket I was intrigued when a friend sent me a message that ALDI had a special on a kamado which could be pre-ordered via their website. Only having heard of the big brands before I was a little skeptical, but with a price tag of just £349.99 plus £3.95 delivery, I quickly searched online for reviews and found lots of positives with hardly any negatives. Coupled with the 3-year standard warranty, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it.
Delivery and unpacking
The kamado arrived around 9 days after ordering and I was impressed straight away by the careful packaging. The side panels and lid were slotted together and easy to remove giving full and easy access to the contents, which in turn were all carefully packed and well protected.
The delivery included, as well as the kamado, the grate, heat deflector, two-level grill, ash removal tool and also a cover.
The grate is powder coated 4mm thick steel. The heat deflector is a single piece ceramic, 10mm thick and 29cm diameter, so it’s something like a pizza stone rather than the split-level system. The cooking grill is 41cm (approx. 16 inches) in diameter so a little smaller than, for example, the Kamado Joe Classic II at 18 inches. The second level grill is approximately 34 x 28cm.
The assembly was straightforward and I managed it by myself, although the most frustrating part was peeling the backing of some self-adhesive pads which protect the kamado shell from the frame when in place. It took me around 15 minutes (and a lot of cursing) to peel the back off the first one before figuring out a method of scraping back the felt from the front. After this minor setback was overcome, the total assembly time was probably no more than 40 minutes and was helped by the very clear assembly pamphlet.
My main concern when ordering this kamado, and after reading reviews of other low-cost models that are available, was that the quality would be questionable, however, I needn’t have worried. The first thing I noticed was how solid it all was, with well-fitting frame components and reassuringly chunky, lockable casters.
The fire box is a single moulding with an expansion slot and is 30mm thick. There’s no ash removal box, but the included scraper seems easy enough to use. The top vent is also steel and doesn’t have the element-proof protection feature of the brands. However, as I don’t normally cook in the rain, I don’t think this will be an issue. The vents slide easily and the whole top vent assembly also slides fully to give the full opening on the lid. The seal is a felt material rather than fibreglass mesh and time will tell how good it is but I think that, if I ever have to, I will be able to upgrade this by myself quite easily. There’s no latch on the lid and the hinge is sprung rather than air damped and so it would be possible to have the lid drop down with potential to damage the ceramic, but it’s very easy to lift and also very stable when fully open. The two side shelves are made from bamboo with underside hooks and the edges are bevelled, which I thought was nice attention to detail.
Lid Temperature Gauge
The first thing the instruction pamphlet advises is to bring the temperature up slowly to around 200-250°C using a couple of handfuls of lump wood charcoal, in order to ‘season’ the ceramics. I was interested to see how accurate the lid thermometer was of course and so calibrated it against my therm-pro which I dropped in through the top vent to the level of the main cooking surface. I was amazed to find that the lid thermometer and therm-pro were in agreement to within 3-5°C over the range 90-210°C, which was as high as I took it, being more accurate at the higher end of the scale.
Never having used a kamado before, but being aware that over-shooting temperature is worse than being under because of the large thermal mass of the ceramics, I then tried to see how easy it was to bring the temperature down. I closed the top vents half way and it took 15 minutes for the temperature to drop by 10°C. I then closed the bottom vents half way and recorded a further 10°C drop in 15 minutes. With the bottom vents closed to just a quarter, the temperature settled at 175°C after another 15 minutes, which gave me a feel at least for what to expect during cooking. I had put just two large fist-fulls of lump wood charcoal in for this and was blown away with how little fuel is needed in these ceramic cookers. After this period of ‘pfaffing around’ as my wife referred to it, I decided to try my first cook.
Early on the same morning, I had made an hour round-trip to a good quality butcher for a pork shoulder for my first cook, figuring ‘in for a penny…’ and all that. Completely ignoring all the advice regarding correct fuelling methods, I chucked it on and set it at 110°C, adding some hickory wood chunks for smoke. Whilst waiting for the smoke to go from white to blue I carefully checked for any signs of leakage through the lid seal (or anywhere else) and was really pleased to see that the only smoke escaping was through the top vent.
The temperature was rock-steady for the first two hours, but because of my haste, and because I hadn’t put enough fuel in for fear of over-shooting the temperature, I had to refuel a couple of times. This isn’t as easy to do as in the Smokey Mountain because, even though the cooking grate is hinged for refuelling purposes, it’s not easy to get the fuel through the gap between the side wall and the heat deflector (~30mm), something that I remembered Gary (@glitch33) had the same trouble within his review of the MasterTouch GBS Premium. Far easier, but again a bit of a pfaff, is to remove the grill and heat deflector, which I did. This was a lesson learned and I will fuel in the correct way for low and slow from now on. The pulled pork came out well enough I have to say, and any deviation from perfection was operator error rather than any issue with the kamado.
As I wrote earlier, I haven’t used a big brand kamado before and so can’t really make a direct comparison. Time will tell, for example, if I wished I had the split deflector and if the components are up to the long-term task. At this price and with this warranty, however, and also after experiencing the build quality first-hand, I have no doubts that I’m going to enjoy kamado cooking in general and would have no hesitation in recommending this model specifically as a good starting point.
If you have any question on the ALDI Kamado feel free to get in touch with Ted through his Twitter account. I am certainly looking forward to watching Ted’s cooks on this!