His cooking fuel of choice – charcoal. He alternates between lump charcoal and briquettes, depending on which grill or smoker he uses.
“I’m committed to Cowboy lump charcoal for the kamado,” he says, beaming with pride. “Briquettes for my Weber kettle grill, but I’ll sometimes use lump in that, too.”
Greenville, NC, is arguably the epicenter for Eastern North Carolina BBQ (ENC BBQ), and Steven is steeped in those traditions. He learned from his granddaddy, who still cooks a mean whole hog for special occasions like Father’s Day – even makes his own peppery, vinegary BBQ sauce.
One of those ENC BBQ traditions is that everything must be cooked over charcoal or wood. No gas – that’s cheating.
Amongst purists, charcoal (preferably lump charcoal) is the only fuel to use. Lump charcoal is the traditional charcoal made from charred hardwoods. It’s been made for thousands of years, starting in the hardwood forests of Central and Northern Europe. Charcoal production was such a huge operation, it contributed to the massive deforestation of Europe. The increasing scarcity of easily harvested wood was a major factor behind the switch to coal for industrial use.
As you might remember, many modern surnames come from ancient professions – Miller, Baker, Cooper, etc. The name of a professional charcoal maker – “collier.”
Charcoal briquettes came later, in 1897, as a byproduct of the lumber industry. The process was invented by Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer of Pennsylvania, but Henry Ford was a camping enthusiast, saw the potential of mass-produced briquettes, and had some leftover wood and sawdust from his modest automobile business. He launched Ford Charcoal (which you might know today as Kingsford).
Gas does have its uses, primarily convenience. Ultimately, though, the reason so many grillers stick to charcoal – taste. “Gas can present an artificial taste to most meats,” Steven says. “Charcoal allows for a more natural approach, flavor, and if you master it, a timely cook.”
The surge in popularity of ceramic kamado grills like Kamado Joe, Primo and of course the Big Green Egg (not to mention a host of imitators) have renewed interest in cooking with lump charcoal. With a kamado grill, while you can use briquettes, lump charcoal is recommended because it produces less ash, and oftentimes briquettes use fillers that can produce an aftertaste in food. Plus, lighter fluid with briquettes is not a good idea for the ceramic body of the kamado, as it can affect the durability.
One of the main draws of a kamado is its versatility. Because of its ceramic construction and the vents, temperature control is a major aspect of a kamado grill. It can be used for everything from high-heat searing to slow & low smoking.
Patrick Schiltz of Arlington Heights, IL, converted to a Kamado Joe after seeing them on display at his local Costco. He loved it so much that he bought a second one to feed his family of six. He has cooked all three meals on his kamados, as well as different courses, including dessert – even in the dead of the Chicago-area winter.
“The technology is so simple, it’s boring,” Patrick says. “But that’s the beauty of it.”
If you’re looking to build your dream outdoor kitchen, and you’d like a kamado to be a part of it, check out the ways that Werever Outdoor Kitchens can help you integrate it into your design.