James Mammarella -- Casual Living, May 6, 2011
EVERY YEAR ABOUT THIS TIME, IT FEELS LIKE JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY - CONSUMERS, MEDIA and retailers - wants to know what's new in barbecue. After all, May is National Barbecue Month, and with more than 82% of North American households owning a grill or smoker (according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association), it's a legitimate inquiry from all.
I think anybody who walked the floor at HPBExpo this year knows one of the answers: anything and everything connected to kamado cookers. Between the ceramic grills themselves, cabinetry and accessories, I was reminded of that television commercial with the tagline, "You've come a long way, baby." While we are talking about a different kind of smoking now, the tagline still holds true when we're talking kamados.
Interestingly, for the first time, we can't even call them ceramic cookers with accuracy. Kamado Joe entered the market this year with Pro Joe, a brushed and polished 304 grade stainless steel kamado cooker, which was well received at HPBExpo. This particular model is the first in the company's new Revolution Series, and it has attributes such as a perfectly counterbalanced hinge, so users can open the lid as little as 10-20 degrees and it will stay open. "We spared no expense in the engineering of our grills," said Bobby Brennan, co-founder of Kamado Joe, based in Flowery Branch, Ga.
Brennan added that this particular model offers a solution for many high-end customers who prefer the flavor of charcoal grilling but want an ultra-stylish outdoor kitchen. "The Pro Joe is very aesthetically pleasing," he said. "You see homeowners do these expensive outdoor kitchens in all stainless steel, and before, if they wanted a kamado cooker, they had to have a color grill. Not anymore.
The Pro Joe is a great complement to other high-end stainless appliances."
And it's not just about what these grills/ smokers are made of. It's also about the accoutrement. From tables to toppers, it seems that almost everyone is making a product that can be used with a kamado.
Grill manufacturers offer their own carts or tables, with some such as Kamado Joe, Saffire and Primo offering basic carts as well as more upscale versions in teak or stainless.
Big Green Egg has long offered a Nest, but new players entered the market this year. At Expo, Select Outdoor Kitchens introduced The Roost, which attaches to the existing stand of either an EGG or a Kamado Joe. In addition to being small, compact and UPS-shippable, The Roost is extraordinarily durable because it's made of marine-grade polymer. So it's actually made to take a beating from the sun.
"Our dealers wanted a product made with materials at a lower price point," said Mike Miller, president of Select Outdoor Kitchens in Springfield, Mo. "The MSRP of The Roost is $999. And we chose a configuration that works with various sizes of the EGG and the Kamado Joe because that's what our dealers carry." The Roost is also very consumer- friendly because it's available in eight different colors, Miller said.
Other companies also are interested in coddling EGGs and other oval grills. Southern Specialties Outdoor Living Products, located in Tulsa, Okla., offers a mobile table that can be ordered with a left - or right-handed orientation. It has a large drawer with soft -close sides for holding accessories as well as vertical cabinet space for storing flat accessories. The tables are available in stainless or six different powder-coat colors.
Fleetwood Group, based in Holland, Mich., also introduced a line of cabinetry this year that it describes as "mobile grill kitchens." Several standard features are available, such as removable/slide-out tote boxes, fixed or adjustable shelving, full 270-degree swing-open door hinges and all-weather UV-resistant materials, with several granite and cabinet color options. The company is happy to build to custom specs.
Perhaps no company has the accessories nailed like Big Green Egg, which is not much of a surprise. BGE offers about 125 EGGcessories in multiple sizes, 28 of which it introduced last fall as part of its new rack system, according to Jodi Burson, marketing manager at BGE headquarters in Atlanta.
"Our rack system allows any dealer to very visibly and attractively have a display for our products," Burson said. "They can have a fully built rack system that has a small footprint for not a lot of investment."
With the imminent introduction of five more accessories, Burson said that this past year was the exception rather than the rule. "In a normal year, we do about 10, but our focus recently has been on expanding our accessory line."
She added the company believes in offering a wide variety of accessories to provide dealers with a way to increase add-on sales and to draw customers back into the store. "A lot of dealers make a huge portion of sales on EGGrelated accessories," Burson said. "They are a big piece of the EGG pie. Dealers who don't sell accessories really are missing out."
Other kamado makers also offer add-ons. Primo's offerings include a Firebox Divider and extended cooking racks that expand cooking capacity, and Saffire is now offering an optional patent-pending Smokin' Chip Feeder.
Even companies that specialize in accessories are getting into the act. Mr. Bar-B-Q offers a Stainless Steel Half Kettle Grill Topper, which can be used on kamado grills that have a cooking grid that is 22 inches or larger. Two Dogs Designs, based in Philadelphia, Pa., specializes in coverings for grills and outdoor furniture. It offers a line of Round Grill & Smoker Covers, including long-table covers for those round grills and smokers that are snuggled into a cart.
These were just some of the items that were introduced in Salt Lake City. More new grill products will be shown off this month at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. By the time we all get to Atlanta for HPBExpo next year, I suspect there will be even more news from makers of kamado grills and accessories of all kinds.
Meanwhile, I hope you will be a part of National Barbecue Month. Invite customers for demonstrations of the newest kamados and fire up your grills.
Kamado Joe has added a polished 304 grade stainless steel kamado cooker, Pro Joe, to its Revolution Series.
Big Green Egg’s EGGcessories rack system makes it easy for dealers to display grill tools and other add-on products.
Select Outdoor Kitchens now offers The Roost, a marine-grade polymer attachment that extends kamado cooking space.
Saffire developed the Smokin’ Chip Feeder in response to the popularity of kamado style smokers.