By: Max Good
In 2017 Kalamazoo introduced their luxurious gravity-feed charcoal smoker cabinet in both built-in and freestanding models. The terms luxury and charcoal smoker rarely appear together and, to the best of our knowledge, Kalamazoo offers the only under counter, stainless steel outdoor kitchen cabinet smoker on the market, designed to fit seamlessly with their entire collection of beautiful high performance outdoor cabinetry. That’s a big deal and a timely idea we expect other outdoor kitchen manufacturers to emulate. The growing interest in traditional low and slow American BBQ smoking continues to spread worldwide from small metropolitan patios to large estates with full blown shiny stainless steel ensembles that include, sinks, refrigerators, pizza ovens and now, a high quality-easy to use-under the counter smoker.
Gravity-feed designs are tried and true and have been around for many years. They employ a charcoal chute or hopper that is filled with fuel and gravity provides a steady supply to the fire below, aiming to eliminate the babysitting required with stick burners and some other smoker designs. They are typically heavily insulated and sealed for precise air control. While many high quality brands such as Stumps can produce similar results, they lack the sleek aesthetic qualities characteristic of all Kalamazoo products. In fact, Kalamazoo’s major challenges in executing this mature design were repackaging a live fire smoker to work under a counter, not exceed 36″ width and 30″ depth, and provide optimal air flow while restricting the heat to the smoke box and nowhere else.
The entire food chamber is a welded, double-wall stainless steel structure with insulation between the walls. The charcoal chute, fire chamber, all doors and upper chimney structure that extends through the countertop is insulated as well.
Fresh air to fuel the fire flows in through a louvered door on the right side of the unit. The adjustable air intake damper is a ball valve mounted to the fire door that seals off the fire chamber. The gravity fed charcoal in the charcoal chute sits on a fire grate, where it burns. An ash pan is below the fire grate. Wood chunks may be placed in the ash pan, where embers from the fire cause the wood to smoke. A tool for removing and holding the ash pan when you want to replenish the wood is included. Kalamazoo does not recommend mixing wood into the charcoal column, because this does not generate much smoke. You want the wood to smolder, not to burn, so wood is used in the ash pan only. Large wood chunks are best.
A BBQ Guru DigiQ temperature controller is included, (above upper right). Temperature controllers are a blessing for long cooks, especially ones that go overnight. The BBQ Guru temperature sensor is placed near the food to send cooking temp readings to the Guru controller which regulates a fan or blower mounted to the air intake ball valve, (above lower right). The ball valve is left wide open and the Guru turns the fan on and off regulating the oxygen supply to the coals which, in turn, regulates the temperature. You set the desired cooking temp on the BBQ Guru and walk away just like with your indoor kitchen oven. The digital controller will regulate air flow to maintain your chosen cooking temperature set point as long as the charcoal hopper has fuel to burn. The slide up fire door with ball valve tightly seals the charcoal fire box and ash pan for efficient air/temperature management.
Hot air and smoke from the fire chamber flows into the food chamber through what Kalamazoo refers to as the smoke tube. The smoke tube extends into the center (laterally) of the food chamber below a baffle at the bottom of the food chamber that distributes the heat and the smoke. There are three 17 inch wide x 25 inch deep adjustable height cooking racks.
The chimney is in the top of the food chamber, and it vents out through an upper structure that extends through the countertop, (below upper right). There is an adjustable exhaust damper on the chimney. A door to the charcoal hopper is integrated into this upper structure, (below lower left). Kalamazoo claims a single seven-pound load of charcoal can maintain an ideal 225°F smoking temperature for up to 16 hours.
Standard models are constructed of heavy gauge top grade 304 stainless and a 316 marine grade stainless option is available for upper crust cookers on the coasts. Marine grade stainless is a popular, but pricey, choice for outdoor kitchens in salt water climates where even high quality 304 grade is susceptible to corrosion. It increases the cost of Kalamazoo’s smoker by about 30%.
Our MSRP below is for the freestanding model The built-in is $11,995.
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet is widely recognized for their stellar design and construction. Their unique hybrid fuel design allows cooks to use gas, charcoal, wood or any combination. Many top chefs love these beautiful machines and if you get a chance to see one in action, it’s easy to understand why. They occupy a rarefied space in the BBQ cosmos by manufacturing some of the best grills money can buy. And you will need a lot of money to buy one. They cost as much as a car. Is Kalamazoo worth the price? Most of us can’t afford to realistically entertain that question, but check out Kalamazoo’s American Craftsmanship video below to get an idea of what goes into the making of these beautiful machines.
Part Rolls Royce, part tank, with fire power and versatility to spare, Kalamazoo grills are imposing in appearance, performance and price.
Published On: 3/19/2017 Last Modified: 3/17/2021
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