The Fundamentals of Fire and Kamado Grilling

Fire is the single most important ingredient in successful kamado cooking – and it’s made from just three elements: oxygen, heat, and fuel. Learn how to control them, and you’ll know how to control your fire.

Flavor Comes From Fuel

Only use premium hardwood lump charcoal, such as our Big Block XL Charcoal, to fuel your fire. Combustible liquids (starter fluid, etc.) will impart undesired flavors, damage your grill and create a fire hazard. Remember: flavor comes from your fuel. The taste you put in will eventually come out on your plate.

Good Fire Starts with Good Air Flow

Add charcoal to the firebox until the mound reaches the fire ring. Maximum charcoal amount for the Classic III is 6lb (2.7 kg). If you’re aiming for high temperatures, you can arrange your charcoal mound for maximum air flow—large chunks on the bottom, smaller pieces to fill in. Now you’re ready to light your charcoal. Fire is a living thing. It needs to breathe a little while before you begin adjusting the temperature, so leave the dome open for about 10 minutes after lighting.

Tip: Charcoal can be re-used until it’s gone. Before your next cook, make sure to stir the charcoal to knock off any loose ash, remove the ash from the ash drawer and then top off the firebox with the desired amount of new charcoal. We recommend a full box of charcoal for high-temperature cooking.

More Air, More Heat, Less Air, Less Heat

The Kamado Joe’s top and bottom vent system is like a volume dial for your fire. Air moves in the bottom vent and out through the top. Open them to accelerate air flow and ‘turn up’ the temperature; close them to lower it. If you want a hot fire for searing, you’ll need both vents to be mostly open. A low fire for smoking? They should be mostly closed.

Control from the Top Down

The Kamado Joe can achieve temperatures ranging from 225°F to 750°F (105–400°C). It’s easiest to reach and maintain your target temp by setting the bottom vent and adjusting with the top vent. With the dome closed, keep the top vent all the way open until you are 50°F (10°C) away from your target temp. Then begin closing the top vent down, wait a minute or two and make necessary adjustments by closing or opening the top vent more.

Give the Fire Time

The biggest mistake you can make is shortchanging your Kamado Joe on time after lighting the charcoal. You get beautiful results from your grill because its ceramic walls absorb, retain and distribute heat like nothing else—but it takes time for those walls to evenly absorb heat. Give your grill 20–40 minutes after lighting to stabilize its temperature before starting your cook. And while you’re working to raise the grill’s temperature, go slowly. Because those ceramic walls retain heat so well, it’s much easier to increase the heat slightly than it is to bring the temperature down after overshooting your target.

Good kamado cooking begins with a good foundation. Learn how to master the elements and control your grill – and you’ll be on your way to incredible flavor.