Now that the cool, wet spring has morphed into summer, it’s time to fire up the grill! I’m gizmo averse, so we’ve spent the last decade using primitive twin hibachis that have finally succumbed to rust. We need a replacement. Gas grills are easy and fast, but reproducing outdoors what I do indoors seems beside the point, and you don’t get that lovely, smoky taste, either. As one online commenter on the subject put it: “Gas is about efficiency, charcoal is about soul.”
So charcoal it is. Warren Kitchen & Cutlery in Rhinebeck — one of my favorite shops — just started carrying the Primo Ceramic Grill and Smoker, which advertises itself as “top of the line in ceramic kamado-style grills,” and is the only one of its type made in America. (Buy local!) Kamado, Google informs me, is the Japanese word for “oven” or “stove” and kamado grills are based on the domed clay ovens the Japanese were using 2,000 years ago.
The Primo user’s manual promises “worry-free outdoor cooking pleasure” (my favorite kind) along with a testimonial written by one Maria Nation, aka Grill Girl, about how simple the thing is to use. (Even for a girl is her point, I guess, but let’s ignore that). Richard Von Husen, the manager at Warren, says the Primo is similar to the Big Green Egg grill that’s been popular for a while. “You can use it for low smoking at 100 to 150 degrees, or for grilling — it can get super hot, up to 700 degrees if you want. Or you can use it as an oven,” he says. Add a pizza stone, and you can make pizza and bread in it.
“The oval shape gives you more diversity,” Von Husen explains. “You can put a divider in, so you can do high and low temperatures, independent of each other, and the grilling grate is split, so you can have the grates at different heights.” The firebox divider also lets you light just part of the grill, if you’re cooking small amounts.
Warren carries all three sizes: the oval Junior, which costs $699; a medium round one for $769; and the Extra Large, another oval that will set you back $1,099, but is big enough to fit two turkeys. “We’ve been using the medium one to cook at the store,” Von Husen says. “It takes a little practice, cooking with the lid down or open, but it works great — it’s hard to mess up. There’s a thermometer in the lid, and you control the temperature by regulating the drafts. It’s very efficient, too, because when you’re done cooking, you close the drafts and the fire goes out, so you can relight the charcoal next time.”
The Primo works best with hardwood charcoal — briquettes are not recommended — and it’s guaranteed for 20 years. You can leave them outdoors all winter, which is good, as they’re very heavy. (Warren also sells a wood or stainless cart to set them on.) A cover will protect any metal bits, but otherwise, Von Husen says, “I can’t imagine what could go wrong with them.”
I like the irregular, handcrafted look of the thick black, ceramic shell, too. Anybody got one? I’d love to hear your opinions.
» Visit Warren Kitchen & Cutlery in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, NY
» Visit Warren Kitchen & Cutlery Web site at www.warrenkitchentools.com
» Read more On the Home Front blog posts
» Go to the Hudson Valley Home & Garden Guide