While charcoal and gas units still dominate sales in the grill market, a different outdoor cooking product is growing in popularity due to its versatile nature: kamados.
Casual Living recently ran a reader poll asking about popular cooking products for 2019, and of our respondents, 28.6% said kamados will be the most popular. This is followed by smokers and pellet grills, both at 25%, gas grills at 17.9% and charcoal grills at 3.6%.
While the popularity of kamados is no surprise, Michael Mettendorf, vice president of sales and marketing for Primo Ceramic Grills, says he was surprised pellet grills didn’t take first place. “While pellet grills are trending well because of an incredible amount of marketing and national advertising, kamado grills are a much more versatile appliance due to their convection and ability to retain extreme heat,” he says.
Kamados have been in use for over 3,000 years, but they only came to the attention of Americans after World War II. And interestingly enough, even though the word “kamado” means “stove” in Japanese, the kamado itself originated in Korea and was brought to Japan.
According to Rick Jones, North American sales manager for Everdure, the popularity of the kamado really started to pick up with the introduction of the Big Green Egg. He says the ability to cook low and slow with controlled temperatures, along with normal grilling functions, grew kamado use in the U.S.
Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product at Kalamazoo, says the number of custom outdoor kitchen cabinets the company builds to accommodate a kamado has grown steadily over recent years.
“I think people are embracing a broad spectrum of artisan cooking tools, techniques and flavors, especially outdoors,” Faulk says. “Enthusiasts want to be more engaged with their cooking than ever, and I think building and managing a live fire is the most engaging way to cook outdoors. There is a lot of tradition behind kamado cooking, and a kamado has added appeal because it is perceived as a ‘pro tool.’”
Faulk also said a lot of people take great pride in their prowess at the grill, and even more so when using a live-fire grill like a kamado. “While it has a lot of advantages for low-and-slow cooking—holding temperature efficiently for hours at a time—a kamado does require more skill to get the best out of its capabilities than a conventional charcoal grill does. I think it is a pride thing for many kamado enthusiasts.”
As for the future, Jones says he’s heard that the kamado craze is slowing a bit, but that it’s hard for him to believe that there will not continue to be overall growth in this category.
There’s no telling how popular kamados in five or 10 years from now, but companies are continuing to innovate the products in new and different ways. For example, Kalamazoo recently introduced its new Shokunin kamado, a rectangular, modern-looking unit that will be available starting this summer. “Kalamazoo is contributing to the future of kamados with a rectangular kamado concept, and I’m excited about its forthcoming release. Time will tell what part that concept really plays in the future of kamados.”