Grilling has been a tradition in many cultures but one that has gone from a necessity to an art form in the West. One of the newest innovations is actually one from over 3,000 years ago and that is the ceramic cooker or ceramic charcoal grill.
Ceramics and grilling have gone hand in hand for generations but now it is becoming a serious aspect to the backyard grilling scene. However, many people still don’t understand the purpose of going with a ceramic charcoal grill instead of the traditional charcoal style or gas grills. While each have their advantages and disadvantages, ceramic cooking offers versatility that the others can not offer.
Not Your Mom’s Ceramics
Ceramics have changes a great deal and now encompass a wide range of materials. While the other materials like stoneware, terracotta and porcelain are still around, newer composite materials now comprise many ceramics.
In reference to grilling, most often the ceramic charcoal grills are a variation of stoneware with other fine particulates that are vitrified to remove or reduce the chemical water content to form a hard and resilient material. The point being, to produce a ceramic composite that absorbs and releases heat in a semi-controlled fashion to maximize the cooking potential. In fact, the science behind some ceramic materials used in charcoal grills is so proprietary that the manufacturers will not state what materials the ceramics are made of.
Lining or Whole Material
Before delving into the specific advantages or disadvantages, it is important to understand the differences of grills lined with ceramic and those who are wholly made of ceramic. Some have a steel exterior with a ceramic interior and while the main purpose is to reduce the chance of cracking or breaking, it still doesn’t have the same heat characteristics of a complete ceramic grill.
Primarily due to the fact that the steel or metal exterior acts as a heat sink allowing the heat to be removed via convection instead of being applied to cook food. That does not mean to imply that steel lined ones won’t cook well, they cook fine but they don’t have the same characteristics of the fully ceramic ones.
How It Works
Controlling a ceramic grill requires maintaining the right balance between heat production and air flow. Air enters from the bottom and flows upwards to the top control vent. As this air moves, it provides the convective element that contributes to cooking the food but it does not do all the cooking. The ceramic interior also adds an infrared element to the heat sealing in the juices and keeping the food from developing hot and cold spots and keeps the moisture in the food overall. Thus, a ceramic grill is said to use both convection cooking and infrared cooking to accomplish what other grills can not.
Because of the unique nature of the interaction with the air flow dynamics and the ceramic material, these types of charcoal grills can do just about everything. They can grill, sear, slow roast, smoke, bake and more. Therefore, you can make pizza or grill burgers or cook anything you want. They require less charcoal than standard charcoal grills, thus saving money and once you get the process right you can fine tune it to perform all types of culinary delights. Additionally, ceramic charcoal grills can cook as high as 750 degrees or more whereas a standard charcoal grill has a limit of around 600 degrees maximum.
Of course, nothing is so perfect as to not have a down side and ceramic grills are no exception. Ceramic grills do have a small learning curve. Getting the air flow dynamics in balance can be challenging at first. Also, they can develop cracks if not cared for properly. At the same time, dropping one is a sure fire way to get it to crack or worse, break. Finally, one big disadvantage is they tend to be more expensive than their standard counterparts. A simple, compact charcoal grill can be had for less than $50 dollars, whereas a ceramic grill of a comparable size will run hundreds of dollars. The upside to the expense is as long as they are cared for, ceramic grills tend to last longer and don’t rust.
Overall, the advantages of being able to cook just about anything you want and do it quicker than standard charcoal grills outweighs the disadvantages of being broken by being dropped or neglected and potentially cracked. While it is true that the ceramic grills are more expensive they also last longer and can do the same things as a standard grill and more. Ceramic grills and cookers have been used for thousands of years and it is easy to see why.
Versatile and highly useful for even everyday use, these ceramic style grills are perfect for any size home or size of family. Even if you don’t grill often, having a ceramic grill can improve not only the quality of your grilling but can also function as a healthier way of cooking for many.