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Reasonably priced alternative to Kalamazoo hybrid grills?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I just discovered the Kalamazoo hybrid grills - For me, always juggling with a very busy life but at the same time being in love with food cooked on true wood fire, that sounds like the dream barbecue...

...except for one minor detail: the price. :(

Any lower priced alternatives out there that let you cook with gas AND/OR charcoal/wood?
post #2 of 17
You can get two very good barbecues for the price of a Kalamazoo. Heck, I used to have four: Open face with a kebab rack; Gas with lid; Charcaol with lid; Charcoal fired, offset smoker. Now I'm down to two: Charcoal with lid (Bar B Chef Texas); and Gas fired offset smoker (Bar B Chef offset, with an Afterburner H).

Be a man. Step up and buy something!

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Oh I'll buy something. But the fun part is to waste hours on the internet day dreaming about what I could buy. Once I buy something, that fun is over. :mullet:

Anyway the part I loved about the Kalamazoo is that you start it like a gas grill, put your wood in a drawer and bam, there you go! Easy as gas, good as wood. Or at least that's what it sounds like.
post #4 of 17
FF, look into pellet grills. I have a Traeger and a Louisiana Country Cooker. They use pellets made of wood and both have digital thermostats(not standard, but suggested).

Super easy to use. I don't get mine hot enough to put good grill marks on, the Traeger won't get that hot anyway, maybe 450*? The CC will but I don't like to do that, we like steaks cooked slower. They also make excellent smokers, what I use them for 90% of the time. I cook from 225-350(max, for chicken skin).

Anyway, there are others out there. Fast Eddies by Cookshack, Green Mt. Grills, and I'm sure others.

Just an idea.
post #5 of 17
Pellet burners have their charms, but they reserve most of them for smoking. Besides, as grills, they're not very "California," if you know what I mean.

The Fast Eddy is a fantastic smoker, but you can't afford it.

Are we looking for a smoker or a grill?

If a grill: Gas? Charcoal? "Santa Maria" wood (or charcoal) burner?" What? You don't have a Weber kettle? Budget?

If a smoker: Stick (includes stick/charcoal)? Charcoal (plus hardwood chunk for flavor)? Gas for heat/ chunk for smoke? Offset? Bullet? Cabinet? Actually the Weber Smokey Mountain (aka WSM), a bullet which does amazingly darn well doubling as a portable grill, is the obvious choice. If you're willing to drop some bucks, cabinets have overtaken offsets on the comp circuit. Budget?

Ceramic cookers like the Big Green Egg (BGE), Kamado (expensive), Primo (the value choice for a ceramic, but still expensive) are wonderful. The Kamado has the highest WAF of any outdoor cooker, by light years.

Needs? Hopes? Desires? Wifely constraints? Budget?

I used to know the outdoor cooking market very well; but that was three or four years since. Perhaps I could still help. Like to try, anyway.

Let me know,
post #6 of 17
...............deleted, could be taken wrong. sorry
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys. Smokers are foreign to me. I'm not sure I want to go there, at least not right now. The reason I don't just continue using my El-Cheapo-Weber-Style-Kettle-Charcoal grill, beside the fact that next time a bird sits on it it will fall apart from years of rusting, is time. I have a one year old, which means time is now a luxury.

None. Let's be honest, I don't NEED anything. I have this 10 year old $150 rusty crap gas grill that a friend gave me a few years back, and 85% of the time it does just fine. I've entertained large crowds with it despite its 58 sq inches cooking surface (ok so I'm exagerating a bit, but the thing is tiny).
I guess my hopes is to keep getting better at it, keep getting better at it, keep getting better at it. I love food, and I want to make people around me love it to. I married a die-hard vegetarian, who I've since convinced to eat chicken, filet mignon, ham, bacon, pork chops, braised pork butt, sausages, meatballs etc... just because "it smells soooo good in this kitchen" as she says. That's my pride - I guess my hope is that one day she'll enjoy a rare duck breast or leg of lamb? One can dream.
Wifely Constraints
Honestly I don't really understand that. If my wife gave me constraints I probably wouldn't be with her. I can do whatever I want, and I don't have to convince her. The only constraint is that she wants her steak well done and with lots of cayenne, and she wants her chicken breast dry, boneless and skinless. But if tonight I tell her "look honey I finally bought that kalamazoo grill", the only thing she'd reply would probably be "Hmmm it's not that pretty - didn't they have it in red or something?" :smoking: Guess I'm lucky that way.
I keep going back and forth on that one. On one hand paying $1,000 for a gas grill seems like way too much money to me, on the other hand I dream of one day building a custom made outdoor kitchen. But somewhere between my old rusty 58 sq inches gas grill and my custom outdoor kitchen lies reality, and that's probably the $1,000 gas grill - or something close.

I grew up in the Alps, in France. To my friends and I, when we were 16, going out meant grabbing a sleeping bag, a guitar, some merguez and some steaks, and going up into the mountains. We knew a few magical places where we had an incredible view of the valley, we would gather wood, put stones in a circle, thread those merguez onto wood sticks, slap those steaks onto one of the flat stones around the fire, and we felt like a million bucks.

Now I would love to recreate that experience - or something close.

I really tend to think that you're right BDL: I need two grills. One for when time is of the essence, one for the real wood fire experience.

So here's what I'm thinking now.

1) A gas grill: Broil King Sovereign XLS 90
I saw you recommend that grill a while ago and it seems to have everything I "need" and more, plus right now it's on sale for $715.

2) A wood fire pit
I was originally considering having one built, but I'm not sure how easy/pricy that would be? Another way would be to get something like that, but I'm a bit wary of spending $500 on a made-in-china piece of equipment I've never seen in person.

BDL, you're in L.A., maybe you'd know a place where I can buy a serious wood fire pit? Or maybe I should just have someone build me one. My concern with those is, how do you get the ashes out of the pit? Shovel them out?

Anyway, that's where I'm standing as of now. :thumb:

Thanks so much for sharing ideas and pointers guys.
post #8 of 17
Klose BBQ BBQ Pits by Klose - Houston, TX makes several that could fit your needs. They can also add gas ignition. Not cheap but they will last a lifetime if cared for.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks Mary. I've been looking at their catalogs, they seem to have some serious barbecues! Although right now I'm really leaning toward that gas grill and a fire pit for the perfect combo.
post #10 of 17
I've tried looking into that firepit and haven't found anyone who's used it. All I can tell you is that it seems to be made for Comalco -- which isn't a particularly god or bad thing; and that one of the retailers is Spitjack -- which is a good sign anyway, as Spitjack is fairly selective about what they sell. I don't see how the rotisserie on top could be of much use -- but you never know until you try.

The best kettle type firepit with a "Santa Maria" style up and down grill that I know of is made by Peoria Custom Cookers, barbecue smoker pit trailer custom barbecue pit smoker. There's is a lot more expenisve than the Comalco, but it's a serious piece.

I'm sure there are some good builders in So Cal. I've owned two custome pits. The guy who built the first one is, alas, no longer with us. Unfortunately, I don't know who built the other -- someone in Glendale probably. It was an Armenian style kebab grill, a gift from a client which stayed with my ex when the previous marriage collapsed.

Anyway, I don't think what you want should be a big deal to make; but simple thought it is it won't be cheap. One thing for sure, you'll have to source a cast iron wheel for the axle because they are so much cooler than a basic crank handle.

You might want to talk to Santa Maria Grills (nee Santa Maria BBQ Outfitters) in (wait for it) Santa Maria. They are the masters of this sort of grill (if not firepits): Santa Maria BBQ Grill Outfitters

We dealt with the problem in a not-all-that-different way. We have a smoker; a charcoal grill with a "crankavator" charcoal-grate lift and hood (Bar B Chef Texas, which may no longer be made); and a chiminea. Sometimes we talk about buying a portable IR gas grill, but Linda's never in so much of a hurry for her steak she can't wait for me to start a charcoal fire. We just like charcoal enough more that gas isn't worth it.

I'm not telling you to try selling my solution , just saying that I know what you're dealing with and like your ideas for doing it.

Mary's suggestion about a really nice charcoal grill has its charms. The Klose open face steak grills (with or without hood) are very nice indeed, if very pricey. Peoria has a nice grill -- and for serious bucks will weld an offset firebox to it. We're getting well out of your proposed price range.

If you're interested in a smoker you might want to think about a Weber Smokey Mountain. They have a new 22-1/2" which doubles as a fair sized and very effective grill. Their old 18" model is just as good, cheaper, and very portable to top it off. While a WSM isn't my smoker and/or grill of choice, they're near the top of the list for what you should look at first.

Also the ceramic eggs are nice. Don't let your wife see Komodo Kamado's website (Komodo Kamado - Home), or you'll be writing the check. Their WAF is unbelievable.

Firepits, in and of themselves, are quite inexpensive. So you can easily combine one with a pretty good smoker grill.

Like I said, just some rambling; your plan is awesome as it stands.


PS. Edited following Duck's catch of my reference to the wrong ceramic manufacturer. Obvious h/t to Duck. Quack.
post #11 of 17
I'm a huge fan of The Big Green Egg. In fact I often say IMO it's one of the greatest cooking tools I have ever used. Generally speaking I would extend that to most ceramic cookers. However Kamodo is NOT one of them. Kamodo has a ton of problems and a lot of people have been burned by that company. (pun intended)
You know some things not right when a company has dedicated fraud forums.
While the names get confusing I have heard good things about Komodo kamado which is a completely different company but a similar style of grill. Technically it is not a ceramic cooker if that matters. (bottom link)

Kamado Fraud :: View topic - Pictures of Kamado's NEW Surabaya Indonesia Factory

Kamado Fraud :: Index

Komodo Kamado - Home
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #12 of 17
If you are shopping in the $1.000 price range look at the Big Green Egg. Lump charcoal lights fast and is ready to go in a fraction of the time it takes most gas grills to get hot. Most gas grills struggle to hit 600 degrees while a ceramic cooker with charcoal can hit 1100 at the grate. You won't ever look back after you sear your first steak. The really great thing about them is that they are so hassle free and they are also smokers. You can put two 8 pound pork shoulders in a Large BGE, set it at 220 and 20-22 hours later you will have the best pulled pig you have ever tried. A large with nest, tables, plate setter and all the goodies runs right about $1,000. There are other brands but BGE has been around a long time and has a large dealer network. They even use these at the CIA.
Here's a few links to wet your appetite.

Big Green Egg, World's Best Smoker and Grill


Naked Whiz Ceramic Charcoal Cooking, Kamado Style Cookers and Lump Charcoal)
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #13 of 17

Thanks for the head's up and correction. I DID mean Komodo Kamado when I wrote about the ceramic with the high WAF. They're the guys who keep their stock in Carson (near Long Beach), doing the beautifully tile over ceramic pits. I just wrote the name wrong. Here's a link: Komodo Kamado - Home

One of our best couple-friends has a couple of them, they're incredibly nice. To really put the WAF in perspective, when Marla talks about them she says "mine," not "ours" or "David's."

Like the BGE and Primo they're excellent grills and good smokers -- with their primary limitation as a smoker being size. What all three do extremely well in either capacity is make fire management, including temperature management, extremely easy. All are relatively easy to keep clean, lack any real maintenance issue, and use charcoal ridiculously efficiently.

There are a couple of national and California KCBS competitors who use BGEs. Ray Lampe is famous (notorious?) for his. Considering what's required to schlepp them around balanced against the sheer laziness of certain competitors I could name (you know whom you are), that's a heck of a recommendation.

Bearing in mind looks and price along with performance and available options, I think the BGE, Primo and Komodo Kamado (got it right that time), come out as roughly equal to one another. What one does well, the other does more cheaply or prettier. From a performance standpoint, they're roughly equal to the WSM; although the WSM is a better smoker while the ceramics are better grills.

Bottom line: Each of the three ceramics mentioned is an excellent choice for top charcoal-fired all-rounder.

When we moved to Monrovia five or six years ago, we were on the verge of buying a Komodo Kamado (like my friend's), but fell into the very complicated deal leading to the two Bar B Chefs instead (roughly 50% off on the pair). I could see being very happy with any of the ceramic cookers; but could also see being occasionally frustrated by their lack of space as smokers. I could see being happy with a WSM too.

That said, I think Frenchy's gas grill plus Santa Maria/firepit looks fair to partly amazing as a choice for a SoCal patio.

post #14 of 17
Not even close amigo. While there are no fleas on a WSM, especially for the price it is a Rpita (Capital R) to smoke on them for extended low and slow cooking. Not to mention you just dont have the same ability to control the in-direct heat with out a lot of didilin around most of which is futile compared to the ceramic cookers. The ceramics also have the benefit of moisture retention.
IMO you will never make a WSM a "better" smoker than the ceramics. With a BGE you can set the vents to smoke at 220 and not pop the lid again for 20 hours unless you want to. Even then you have enough charcoal left for another burn.
The only real factor here is price. If you can afford a ceramic cooker over a WSM it's a no brainer.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys for all the suggestions and advice.

First, the Sovereign bbq went from $688 to $933 overnight on Amazon. :mad: I didn't know Amazon had such volatile prices! Guess I should have purchase the other day. That'll teach me to procrastinate.

Second, aside from that gas grill I'm interested in making WOOD fires. Not smoking, not charcoal fires. What attracted me to the Kalamazoo was its ability to put real wood in the drawers on top of the gas burners. Now that I'm going for the more reasonable dual-grill approach, I'm really interested in one gas grill, and one wood fire.

BDL, when I said I was considering having a fire pit built, I meant with bricks and mortar, like a permanent fire pit. Then I was thinking of just having a fixed grill on top - I never really gave any thought to an adjustable height grill, even less to a hand cranked adjustable height one. I can see where the adjustable height could come in handy obviously, but I'm not sure if it's feasible to add such a system to a brick fire pit. I'm under the impression that a brick fire pit would run me less than $1,000 but I'm not sure exactly what it involves.

That's why I was considering the alternative steel fire pit that I could just put on the ground and go to town with. Still I like the idea of the fire at around ground level rather than waist level.

More searches have turned up very intersting fire pits, but none seems to be as close to what I'm looking for as the one I pictured in my previous post. EDIT: those two last ones listed at the bottom have my attention.

Just for reference anyway:

Firepits & Barbecues / Fire Pit Barbecue

Olympic Feuerstelle | Skagerak | Shop

Fire Ring | Flip-Back Campfire Grill

BBQ Guys 30 Inch Super Grill Fire Pit at Cooking.com

Yardiac.com - 24" Monterey Fire Pit

Horizon Smokers 30 Inch Horizon Fire Pit : Outdoor Kitchens Depot
post #16 of 17
Yeah I heard about Kalamazoo grills recently, and they look awesome, but some of them cost more than my car... If I had the budget I would definitely buy one, but right now it doesn't seem to be in my cards. The only substitute I can think of is to get a gas grill and a wood/charcoal grill. They're not exactly a hybrid grill, but there's not much other way to get gas or wood in one grill. I havent' heard of any cheaper brands that can do both fuels at the same time. The weber performer sounds like one, but it's just gas-assisted lighting for coals - you can't actually cook with gas on it.

The fire pits look really cool. I have one in my backyard, which is basically just a ring in the lawn made of stones. Nothing fancy in that sense - you're just burning wood right? Throw a grate over it to cook meat or whatever, throw a dutch oven, ears of corn, or tinfoil-wrapped potatoes in the hot ashes to cook 'em up. It's really great for something out of the ordinary. I've had it for two years and never had to remove the ashes, cause they just get burned away or get absorbed into the soil. If you get one of those metal ones and want to remove the ashes, you can use it for fertilizer in your garden.

for real charcoal grilling though, I use a weber kettle
post #17 of 17

We have owned a Kalaazoo for about 4 years.  Live on the ocean and have never had a better grill.

gets super hot and my husband loves the smoke/wood part.  It has stood the test of the elements,

and he just made a stainless plate for searing.  Works great on fish.  We love it and it is well worth 

the money.  Most grills are not made for numerous seasons but this one is  a keeper.

Good luck!

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