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My latest obsession: baking bread in a Primo Kamado charcoal grill

Posted by BConk on Friday, March 13, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I got a Primo Kamado cooker - like a Big Green Egg - only it's oval and it's made in the USA. I've been using it mostly to bake breads and pizzas so far, though I did cook a wicked good spatchcocked chicken on it the other day..

There's a bit of a learning curve involved but I'm confident when I get my technique just right, the Primo will be making breads to rival a brick oven.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Kamado grilles, they're basically big ceramic pots with lids. You put lump charcoal inside, light it and the closed ceramic pot retains heat and moisture.

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They're expensive (mine was $1,300 assembled w/ tax and delivery ) but they're very versatile. You can use them for all sorts of things from cooking pizzas on a stone or flash searing steaks at 800°+ to 30 hour long low and slow BBQ's at 200°

They're very economical with the charcoal...when you're done with the cooking, you close it all up and the charcoal goes out. The next day it's surprising to see how much charcoal is left over. This was left after cooking a 4 pound chicken and 4 yams at 350° for an hour.

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It looks pretty much the same as when I started out..only some of the coals have a coat of ash.

You control the temperature by opening and closing the vents top and bottom. The more open they are - the higher the temp. How high? I've been reading that they can get temps at the level of the grill as high as 1,100°!! Apparently, the vent openings and the interior shape create a venturi effect with air rushing in the bottom to feed the flames. Once you get the temperature you want you close the vents a bit until the temp stabilizes. When you have the vents at the right setting, the temperature stays the same as long as you have charcoal in there.

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Once you have the thick ceramic of the cooker all heated up, you can even close the vents off and the heat will fall slowly..like maybe 50° in 30 minutes.

To use the grill to bake, you put ceramic deflector plates inside to give you an indirect heat, then put in your grill racks above the deflector plates.

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To bake pizza, I put a pizza stone on top of the grill racks with the deflector plates inside.

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Here's a photo of the separate elements - everything comes it two parts and I've removed half of them so you can see better

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To use it to grill steaks, burgers etc. directly over a fire, just leave out the deflector plates.

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You can also put in a drip pan instead of the deflector plates.

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My Primo bread baking adventure continued this past Tuesday ... with mixed results and with more lessons learned. Like I said - there's a bit of a learning curve involved, but it's fun trying to get it right. I'm confident I'll have it down pat within a few more attempts.

It was a nice day weather wise, with a clear blue sky and temps in the low 40°'s. All in all a great day to spend an hour or so outside cooking on the patio.

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I baked two loaves: one, a wild yeast sourdough rye batard and the second, a wild yeast pain au levain boule.

I had intended to use a cloche I made from a flowerpot to get a nice steamy bake to set the crust -

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but I ended up using a large Magnalite covered roasting pan instead.

It's been out hanging unused from the rafters of my shed for years but when I was imagining different ways to get a steamy bread baking environment it seemed it might be well suited for bigger or longer loaves. As luck would have it - this roaster fit right into the grill on top of the D plates as you can see in the pic. I would have liked to get it higher up in the cooker but it was too big to put on the grill racks and close the lid - even with the grill rack legs up. (The grill racks can be put in with the legs down, to raise them higher off the coals, or with the legs up to lower them)

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Knowing I'd be using the roaster the next day - I proofed the rye bread the night before on parchment paper on top of the aluminum insert that fits inside the roaster.

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Since this insert is so close a fit I knew I would probably burn my fingers if I tried to lower it into the roaster by hand. Using butcher's twine I jury rigged a method to lower the loaf into the pan. You can see the string in the photos.

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The plan was to hold the ends of the strings evenly, then lower the loaf into the pan, then pull one end of each string to pull the strings out. There are little dimples on the bottom of the insert that make it stand about 1/4" off the bottom of the pan. I fugured that as long as the string didn't get stuck under one of the dimples it should work OK

With my loaf on the insert, I put the whole thing inside a plastic container. To keep it moist while it proofed I spritzed the inside of the container with water.

Once the loaf had risen for the second time, the whole container went into my fridge to retard overnight. I did pretty much the same thing with the boule - letting it rise under a plastic dome from the bottom of a salad spinner, then put the whole thing in the fridge (luckily I've got two refrigerators;)

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An hour or so before bake time I took the rye out of the fridge to let it warm up. Then when it came time to bake I put the roaster in the Primo and brought the temp up to 450° then let it stabilize for about 10 minutes. I slashed the loaf with my home made chopstick lame, spritzed it with water and sprinkled some caraway seeds on top....they kinda look like mouse turds don't they

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then I lowered it inside the roaster. Once it was in, I just pulled the strings from one side and out they came - that little trick was slick as otter snot!

I put the lid on the roaster, set the timer for 15 minutes, closed the lid on the Primo and shut both vents. The plan was to let the temp work its way down to 425° and after 15 minutes, remove the lid from the roaster and let the crust brown up nice for the 15 minutes remaining of the bake.

At first the temp fell as I'd expected, but the drop was just from opening the lid. It quickly recovered to 450° and then, even with the vents completely closed, it went up to 500° !

I opened the lid to blow off some of the heat and I got a backdraft flare up when the volatile organic compounds in the smoke ignited in a burst of flame....it's OK though, I was getting sick and tired of picking dried bread dough out of the hairs on the backs of my knuckles. The backdraft took care of all them pesky little hairs in one swell FOOP.

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Luckily, after that the grill soon stabilized at 425° with the vents closed and so I just sat and waited for the timer. I noticed there was lots and lots of steam coming out and it was smelling very bread-like indeed.

I think the smell and activity might have attracted our resident Bluebird over as he stopped and watched me for quite a bit from the upper branches of one of my apple trees.

He and his mate will be hanging around a lot in the near future - if you look back to the pics of my patio, you'll be able to see a nest box I built for them on the post just behind the rusty old charcoal grill. I'll pull the post and move it out further from the house for them to nest in sometime in the next few weeks. Since we moved to this house, that nest has served as home for 6 new generations of bluebirds and one of tree swallows.

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Though he brought me a smile and a photo op - he didn't bring any luck when it came to my rye bread...After only 15 minutes I pulled the lid off and found the bread was rather flat and almost totally burnt! Not only that but the parchment paper had charred as well. I quick pulled the loaf and stuck the thermometer in the bottom of it - the crumb was already at 200° in the middle!

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I set that loaf aside and this time I let the cooker come down to 400° - then I turned the uncooked boule over gently and peeled the paper off - I didn't want any more scorched paper like the last time.

I was able to transfer the boule onto another aluminum pan insert. I then slashed the boule, sprinkled some sesame seeds on it, spritzed it with water and then popped it into the roaster, spritzed some water in with a sprayer then closed the lid. This time I set the timer for 10 minutes, removed the lid and set the timer for another 10 minutes as the crust was looking good but it had only just begun to brown.

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At 20 minutes total I checked it again, and let it go another 10 minutes. At the end of the 30 minute cook the Primo had only fallen to 375° I pulled the loaf and it looked pretty good. Not my best - but good enough

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Once the loaves had cooled completely I cut into them. The crumb on the rye was good - but the crust was so so

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The pain au levain boule, on the other hand - was EXCELLENT. The crust had that wonderful crisp crackle and the crumb has just the texture I'm looking for. That's by far my favorite bread anyway - but I'm very pleased to learn I can get a good crust like that when I do it half right.

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Like I said - I'd have loved to get a little more oven "spring" ..when I get it just right those boules puff right up like balloons in the oven and I get a nice high loaf like this one below, which I baked in the kitchen oven a few weeks back.

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Observations -

· I didn't get the oven spring I imagined and I'm not quite sure why. Both loaves were proofed the night before then "retarded" overnight in the fridge. The rye batard had more than an hour on the counter to warm up before baking, but I forgot to pull the boule so it got only about 30 minutes out of the fridge. That might have effected the amount of spring I got with the boule but it doesn't explain the rye. I'm thinking the cooker was just to damn hot for the rye so the crust set hard before the crumb had time to spring up. Shoot - the whole darn loaf was done in less than 15 minutes!

· I think next time I'll stabilize the cooker at 400° and go from there. I like the way the roaster works - though I'd like to get the roaster a little higher of the coals if it could. It won't fit inside if I set it on the grille level. Perhaps next time I'll put less charcoal in the firebox and get the bread a little further from the fire that way.

· The roaster worked very well to keep the heat even - the loaves browned evenly despite the fact that I did not rotate them.

· BUT I've got a hunch that if I put a pie tin or a skillet on the deflector plates under the pizza stone, I'll get enough steam to set the crust by dumping a cup of hot water into the pie tin just before I put the bread in. This cooker does a good job of holding the moisture in. Maybe I don't need a cloche or roaster after all??



16 comments on “My latest obsession: baking bread in a Primo Kamado charcoal grill”

clio Says:
Friday, March 13, 2009 @7:40:03 AM

Wonder how it would cook possum? Your avatar shows you are ready to hunt possum.

BConk Says:
Friday, March 13, 2009 @7:43:32 AM

dunno 'bout possum - but the chicken I cooked in it was just as tender and juicy as you can imagine

frailin Says:
Friday, March 13, 2009 @7:58:11 AM

Dang.  Wish I didn't live so far away.  I'd be game to be your guinea pig on food cooked in this spiff new grill ANYDAY!

Cool, B!

Craig

PS - That bluebird... is he smilin' at me?  Nothin' but bluebirds do I see.

bob gregory Says:
Friday, March 13, 2009 @8:43:41 AM

Top looking bread mate looks likes fun, what is the metal thing you have

looks like it has a flue out the top is it some kind of cooker to.

Regards Bob

 

BConk Says:
Friday, March 13, 2009 @9:46:37 AM

Bob - That's an "Orion" cooker - I bought it a few years back to cook a ham for a Christmas party when there wasn't enough room in the kitchen oven. You fill the outer ring with lit charcoal and put a few burning coals in that "can" on top. The meat goes inside. The heat from the charcoal sets up a convection/steam/smoker/cooker inside. It can cook a 14 pound turkey in 2 hours or so and the meat comes out incredibly tender. With some woodchips in the bottom of the inside it'll give a nice smoked flavor to whatever's in there.

I used it this year to cook a Christmas ham but I don't use it much anymore - it uses way too much charcoal - a whole 15 pound bag of briquettes for one cooking.

Now that I've got the Primo Kamado I'm looking at the Orion and wondering if I can convert it into some kind of a retort for making my own hardwood charcoal [;)]

clio Says:
Friday, March 13, 2009 @12:05:22 PM

It's beautiful in Connecticut.

mainejohn Says:
Friday, March 13, 2009 @4:58:12 PM

I can almost smell it from here...don't be surprised if I just show up....

BConk Says:
Friday, March 13, 2009 @7:16:59 PM

I better buy a bigger chicken ;-)

rinemb Says:
Monday, March 16, 2009 @6:35:48 AM

Great descriptions and pics, and I am jealous of your back yard.   When baking bread in my old 1930-ish magic chef stove with 6 burners and 3 ovens I never get enough steam generated from a preheated pan of water.  I always wanted to try to making a little still from tubing and a kettle, then put the kettle on the stove and run the tubing into the oven to inject/circulate steam???  With all of those cookers on your porch, hummmm? Keep us posted!  Brad

BConk Says:
Monday, March 16, 2009 @8:55:04 AM

Brad - in addition to the pan or skillet - I've used a plant spray bottle to spritz the walls and door of the oven just before putting the loaf in. Then go back two or three times in the first 15 minutes and spritz the oven good again.

But if your oven is well vented and all the steam flies right out of it - maybe your best bet is baking for the first 15 minutes in a preheated cloche or covered roaster / Dutch oven. After that crust sets you just take the lid off and brown the crust up nice.

KE Says:
Wednesday, March 25, 2009 @7:40:51 PM

I found a cooker called the "Bubba Barrel" at the hardware store today. It looks similar to your Kamado. I may buy one just for the braggin rights and the fact it's fun to say "Bubba Barrell."

BConk Says:
Thursday, March 26, 2009 @5:37:59 AM

Ken - I'd like to see a picture of that - I Googled "Bubba Barrell" to no avail..

vintagewells Says:
Thursday, April 2, 2009 @1:48:20 PM

really beautiful loaves of bread....so where are the recipes, or you like me, that looks about right, maybe another pinch of.....

My compliments to you.

I  make a potato bread that has been a tradition for many, many years. and to me there is nothing like homemade bread, and even if it doesn't come out right, it disappears rather quickly.

Lorna

 

lami88 Says:
Thursday, April 27, 2017 @12:03:55 AM

Yes really beautiful loaves of bread..."Bubba Barrell" righ.. pretty! common rail come from sensor

Texasbanjo Says:
Thursday, April 27, 2017 @4:36:41 AM

Do not click on URL from Lami88. She's a spammer!

junsukiu Says:
Thursday, July 27, 2017 @9:37:32 PM

good. I really like this, I just found out about this. This was an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for providing these details. geometry dash
five nights at freddy's

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