Welcome to the Grill Dome Kamado, or should I say welcome back?
The popularity of ceramic kamado barbecues here in the UK continues to grow. The heat retention properties of ceramic make for great cooking results with sparing amounts of fuel, add in the weather resistant durability, variety of cooking options and you can see why kamado cooking in the ascendancy.
The Grill Dome kamado was first launched on the UK market around 2014 and failed to make an impact but now it's back with the Infinity X2 so it's time to give it a (second) first look.
★★★☆☆ - A kamado is forgiving, easy to control and the Grill Dome is no different so speaking from the cooking capability perspective, I'm not going to argue.
At £1395 however, value for money could be better, the Stack and Rack system should be standard at this price and I would prefer to have the re-assurance of a segmented fire box.
Following the reports of other users, the lack of after sales service remains a concern.
It's a ceramic barbecue and it behaves like a ceramic barbecue in that it heats up quickly, it's easy to keep a stable temperature and the quality of the results is up there with what you'd expect.
The Grill Dome kamado is made in India and is manufactured using a proprietary ceramic composition branded as Terapex. It's a slightly thicker wall compared to other kamado brands and Grill Dome claim that it performs to higher temperatures although I've yet to be frustrated by the temperature limitation of any kamado that I've cooked on.
Cosmetically speaking, UK availability of the Grill Dome kamado is restricted to the colour black and a 456mm (18") diameter cooking space which competes directly with the Classic kamados from Monolith, Kamado Joe and the Large Big Green Egg.
This latest incarnation of the Grill Dome kamado features some interesting similarities and differences to other ceramic kamado brands:
Stainless steel banding and hinge assembly! At last, another kamado brand (in addition to Monolith) that understands the value of rust resistant type 304 stainless steel over the cheaper powder coated steel that others use.
The hinge system is similar to that featured on the Goldens cast iron system and is designed to give a light touch to lifting the lid. That said, most other top brands (Primo being the exception) have redesigned their hinge mechanisms to give a similarly light touch.
Each of the above takes a different approach to the same / similar result so the Grill Dome solution doesn't really stand out from the crowd any more than another.
The stainless steel is also extended to the side shelves, handy when you've just lifted a hot pan out out of the barbecue and need to quickly put it down.
The surface of the Grill Dome kamado is smooth, with the exception of Primo, most other kamado grills have a dimple effect on the surface. Those with the dimple will tell you that this is more than just an "effect", the dimples actually help prevent cracking during thermal expansion.
The Dome surface is a baked on enamel as opposed to the ceramic glaze used by most other brands and Grill Dome claim that this eliminates the craquelure (crazing pattern in ceramic glaze) which occurs through heat expansion. From what I've seen it looks good when new but I have seen older examples where the enamel has started to flake.
The lid is a slightly different shape to the other round kamados which translates into a greater height and therefore larger volume in the cooking area. If you're into cooking chickens vertically on beer cans or chicken sitters then this may be an important factor to consider.
The cart aka "Dome Mobile" doesn't look great but it's functional, somewhat reminiscent of the cart that you see at the budget end of the market. The upper belt makes for better stability than some others on the market but the lack of stainless steel casters is disappointing.
As with all many other kamado brands, the top vent moves away from the older style dual disc daisy wheel.
The slide mechanism is designed to ensure that the aperture of the exhaust vent doesn't move when the lid is opened and closed and it certainly does the job. The vertical exhaust design is tried and tested.
Last point to make here is that the gasket is glass fibre mesh which to be fair is what you would expect when the price point is £1,395.
Considering the price point is in the premium sector of the market you'd expect there to be the capability to simultaneously cook directly and indirectly together with a segmented firebox the internal don't live up to expectation.
Grill Dome has a half moon grill system and frame (that looks similar to the Monolith SGS), it's been dubbed the Stack and Rack system but this is available only at extra cost. Considering the price point, I would have expected this to be included.
The fire box is the single piece design that most top brands have moved away from in previous years. The fire box is the part that is exposed to the greatest thermal tolerances and this old single piece design is a potential weak point for cracks and breaks.
The Grill Dome warranty is "limited Lifetime" on the ceramic parts and 5 years on the gasket. The hinge is backed up by a lifetime warranty against rust but then it's stainless steel so that shouldn't come as a big surprise but there's no mention of a warranty on any other metalwork or parts.
In theory that should offer some level of re-assurance but user experience demonstrates that the service required to back up the warranty is sadly lacking.