The Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23
The moment the 700 pounds-plus packing container with my Ultimate 23 arrived in my driveway, I was in love. This grill is absolutely incredible in every possible way.
Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23
Unpacking the Komodo Grill
I was so excited to start unpacking my Ultimate 23 that it's hard to remember all of the details. I needed two tools to get my grill out, and I couldn't do it fast enough.
The lid of the crate needed a few screws removed, which I did with an electric screwdriver. The lid is then flipped over and works as a ramp to roll the Komodo out of the packing. Then there were 8 bolts in the base. I used a ratchet wrench to undo them, and then my eleven-year-old daughter helped me lift the sides of the crate off and over the grill.
Once the lid was off and the included ramp in position, three strong guys grabbed the rope straps that came pre-tied to the legs, and we rolled the giant off of its base and into my backyard.
It really doesn't matter how we unpacked the grill, but it did give my first glimpse of how incredibly well the entire process has been thought-out for unpacking and transporting this behemoth of a grill.
The First Thing You'll Notice
The first thing I noticed as I was brimming ear-to-ear is the quality. The stainless still grills are 3/8 of an inch thick, and they feel like they're indestructible. The first thing my wife noticed was how attractive the grill is—her first words were, "It's much better looking than I thought it would be." Followed by, "You should have bought this a long time ago." When we ordered the grill, my wife chose an ocean-blue tile color. If a grill had been in stock, it would have taken a few days to arrive, but since I wanted a specific color, I chose to wait for it to be manufactured in Indonesia, shipped, put through Customs, and then delivered to my house. It took about six weeks total.
Definitely worth the wait!
What Are the Must Have Accessories
I got just about every accessory there is for the Ultimate 23. After it arrived, I even ordered the cabinet and the side table. That said, I would hold off on several of the accessories (which Dennis recommended to me) until you get cooking.
Here are a few of the accessories I think are the best:
- Rib rack: In my second cook, I smoked six racks of baby back ribs. The rack held all six on the middle grill.
- Deflector plate: I didn't think I'd use this so much, but I do. It's designed to sit perfectly on the bottom grill. It pushes the heat to the sides of the grill and prevents a hot spot in the middle.
- Drip pan: You don't necessarily need the Komodo drip pan, but it's just about as pretty a drip pan you'll ever see when it shows up new.
For those that like to grill fish:
- Large baking stone. Dennis has a new, large baking stone. Like everything on the Komodo, it's designed to the shape of the middle grill where it fits perfectly inside the upper stands of the upper grill if you want to use both at the same time. This stone will grill pizza really well, but I'm loving it for fish.
If you want to cook without charcoal?
- The gas burner. It comes with a propane and natural gas jet. I've used both, and they both work great. When I was breaking in my grill, I used the gas burner to heat up the grill. With the extra gas, it comes up to temperature really quickly, but if you use charcoal at the same time, it will light it from underneath and use more charcoal than if you light it from the top. So, when I want to get the grill hot quickly, I use the gas burner, but mostly, I light one piece of charcoal on my stove, place it under a few pieces of charcoal in the basket, and then hit it with a blow drier to get the charcoal (learned this from Dennis Linkletter). This works great.
After a week, I needed a finishing touch.
- Cabinets and side tables. Originally, I didn't order side-tables or a cabinet, but after about a week, I wanted them. I gave Komodo a call, and they were delivered in about three days. I'm super happy I did. Like everything on this grill, it's designed to perfection. The deep cabinet sits against a wall and has a cutout so that the grill can be opened with the proper clearance, yet the cabinet closes the gap between the grill and the wall. The side table has a basic bracket that screws on to the side and two steel rods that slip in perfectly. Adding the side tables was a two-minute job. There are several options for cabinets. I chose a teak deep color with two drawers. It's beautiful.
The Brilliance in the Design
I've been debating with my friends and neighbors what the most brilliant design attribute of the Ultimate 23 is, and it's not easy to pick. Here are my personal three favorites:
- The offset Chimney and Easy Screw Top: Unlike my previous Kamado (by Richard Johnson), the Primo XL (Review here), and the BGE, the chimney isn't in the center of the grill where the hot air is directly syphoned out of the grill, but it's offset to the back. This keeps the upper-oven portion's heat extremely stable and heats much more even in my experience. The chimney-top screws into a fitting that has deep channels. The deep channels allow the top to spin effortlessly. As the grill heats and cools, the top still spins easily. If you have used another ceramic BBQ, you'll realize how incredibly well this works. Love it!
- The acrylic grout for the tile. The constant heating and cooling of the grill is a lot to take, and if the grout was traditional tile grout, it wouldn't last long. But the Ultimate 23 has an acrylic grout that handles the expanding and contracting. When the grill gets really hot, it almost feels like the tile is floating (it's not), but it is pretty obvious that it's not typical grout. When I asked Dennis about this, he said that it was a product used by NASA with attributes that could take the extreme heating and cooling that ceramic grills produce.
- The draft drawer. For old-timers like me that have used a draft drawer that slides in and out to control the bottom airflow (requires constant adjustment to hold temperature), the draft drawer on the Ultimate includes a knob attached to a dial-style vent that makes controlling airflow a breeze. The drawer still opens and closes, but I haven't needed that. Instead, I tweak the dial to control the airflow, and it is incredibly precise.
I know I said three, but it's too hard to pick. Here's the runner-up.
- The latch on the lid with second cam. I didn't notice this at first, but when you close the Komodo, the latch easily slips into place, but a little smoke will escape from the seal. However, if you put a little pressure on the lid, the latch will roll over a cam and the lid will seal airtight. None of the ceramics I've used do this. The bottom portion has a gasket and the top has a 45 degree angle that locks completely together. Just another really nice design feature of the Ultimate 23.
My Biggest Concern
My biggest concern isn't the price. I think this grill is an exceptional value for the build quality. The heavy duty steel and the high grade refractory materials are top-notch and should last a lifetime. The tiled grill is about $4,200, and when you add the table, cabinet, and accessories, we were a bit under $2,000 in additions. You can certainly get a functioning charcoal grill for less; however, as others have said, it's like comparing a Ferrari to a Honda.
After I took the leap, my biggest concern was what to grill first. After pondering it, I decided on the king of beef. An entire beef tenderloin that I seared on the lower grill, and then let it grill on the upper grill at 400 degrees until it was a perfect 120 degrees inside. Delicious.
For my second cook, I smoked six racks of baby back ribs with a custom rub and a bacon bourbon bbq sauce at 225 degrees for three hours. I barely adjusted the airflow, and it held completely steady. Not a single rib was left over.
The third cook was a delicious salmon with a spicy mango salsa grilled on the baking stone at 400 degrees.
From low and slow, to high temperature searing, this is by far the greatest grill I've every had my hands on. Incredible!