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Robb Report Vices

Getting Shelled

Troy Johnson

Shaped like a dinosaur egg and constructed usually of ceramics, terra-cotta, or lava rock (think tandoor), the kamado grill has served as a trusted cooking apparatus for thousands of years. It’s brilliant for slow cooking, smoking, even baking pizzas, which is why the market is flooded with ’em. Despite the grill’s popularity, Dan Nichols, executive vice president of the Caliber Range Corporation, decided it needed some refinement. After two years of research and development, he unveiled his Thermashell Pro. “Kamados cook and hold heat well, but they’re very inefficient,” he says. “If you’ve got to heat up 225 pounds of ceramic clay, you’re going to go through a lot of charcoal. We use two layers of 304 stainless steel, and in between is a 2-inch compressed, high-temp ceramic insulation—the same insulation we use for self-cleaning ovens.”

All of that produces a kamado that weighs 75 pounds (a third as much as most models), burns longer, uses less charcoal, and won’t crack or send you to the burn ward. “Instead of using just the heat from the charcoal, we keep all the good, moist heat inside with lightweight insulation and make it do twice the work,” Nichols says.

To be clear, Nichols didn’t completely reinvent the wheel by using stainless steel; other lightweight stainless-steel models exist, but most don’t retain heat nearly as well as clay—which is the whole pointof a kamado. “The big moment for us was when we ran a test against another top model,” Nichols says. “Ours got much hotter faster. Twenty-four hours later, the temp in our cavity was 200 degrees. The other kamado was room temp. I’ve never heard of a kamado that can do an entire brisket run on one batch of fuel. Thermashell can.

But there are other noteworthy attributes. Thermashell’s exterior doesn’t get overly hot (it won’t burn you at 130 to 140 degrees), the rack space is about 10 percent larger than that of most other models, the racks are closer to the top edge (for easier access), and the air vent is lower, which keeps in more of the moist heat. The Thermashell is also equipped with a built-in rotisserie—the only kamado to have one.

“It’s 21st-century technology on an ancient way of cooking,” Nichols says. “But it’s not about being lighter or prettier or more modern looking. It’s about food quality.”

We couldn’t agree more. Bon appétit!

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