Over Christmas I bought a Big Green Egg. I read all the marketing blurb in the brochure and it captured my imagination, I’ve already written about how good it is and published some kamado barbecue recipes but I was still intrigued to find out more about the origins of such a versatile piece of cooking equipment. I wrote an article about it but since publishing it, I’ve done more research and found that some of my original findings may have already been creative in their origins.
My preliminary research on the internet determined that it’s origins lay in clay cooking pots from China that were later adapted by the Japanese a few hundred years ago. The end result was the Mushikamado and looking at photographs on the internet it’s pretty clear that this part of the story is clear cut.
Where things become a little less clear is in the 1960’s when the kamado as we know it today arrived in the USA. There’s a lot of published work that refers back to Richard Johnson, a man who founded the Kamado company that it was he who brought the kamado to the USA and also it was he that first called it a kamado and patented the name. Further research leads me to believe that some of these points are not true.
The first point is that kamado is in fact a real Japanese word and not one made up by Johnson. The word kamado actually is part of the Japanese language and means stove, and to further the point there are also many derivations of the word in the Japanese language:-
Yukikamado – A pot with a stove attached that could be carried around
Tsukikamado – Another word for the stove, constructed with stones, tiles, and clay.
Magatamagata kamado – A large range with polished black tops, a base, and a stoke hole in a curved or horseshoe plan with as many as eleven cooking holes.
Ishikamado – a steel rice cooker that is inserted into a stone frame.
Niwakamado – A temporary cooking range set up in the earth floored area of houses from the first to the third of January as part of the New Year festivities.
Kamadodono – A building with a hearth or cooking stove.
Koujinsan-no-kamado – In some districts, such as Saga prefecture, a large cooking range mainly used for special occasions.
Kamado matsuri – Cooker and Well Festival
Mushikamado – rice cooker
The second claim made by Johnson is that he trademarked the word kamado, but careful investigation at the US patents and trademarks office has proved this claim to be untrue as well.
So who should we believe and do we really care? Looking around at how many businesses use the word kamado and the evidence above about how well utilized the word is in the Japanese language it would appear that some of the claims made by Richard Johnson may well be considered good marketing rather than a statement of fact. Having said that, I’m thoroughly enjoying cooking on my kamado all year round, I’m excited about the results that I get when using it either as a barbecue grill or a meat smoker and all the smoker grill recipes I use are contributing to the factual proliferation of the internet.