Koken op de Speksteen – Kamado joe tools review
It’s about 2 year I’m working on the Kamado Joe Classic II by now. I must admit I’m a bit of a fanboy of this BBQ Brand. The innovation and options that the Kamado Joe aims for seperates them from other brands in the scene if you ask me. In a dutch post a while ago I wrote a comparative review about the similarities and differences between the Pellet Grill and Kamado (when interested give me a notice I still need to translate it). A few days ago Kamado Joe sent me a package with some nice accessories including the soapstone to try out. In this post I share the first experiences with cooking on the soapstone. The critical readers will probably be already be biased by the thought: “Yes, but he is paid to say it’s good…”. Nothing could be further from the truth…
Disclaimer: The products used in this post were donated by Kamado Joe. I do not receive any financial compensation for writing a review, No expectations or obligations were attached to these given products. All opinions expressed are personal and sincere. Affiliate links are used to pay for the maintenance of this blog but do not cost you anything extra.
Yes indeed! I got these products for free, just like I got the Kamado Joe Classic II a while ago. However, I am not paid and there are no obligations associated with writing these posts. Even more I contacted Kamado Joe on my own initiative because I’m a fan of the brand. I even turned down a paid offer by a competing brand at that time hoping to be able to work with a brand I truly believe in. I do not support the other brand nor their products because I was in doubt by the quality and service. From a commercial point of view this was a stupid decision, yet it seems the most fair thing to do. I can say with the hand on my heart, that my enthusiasm for the Kamado Joe is sincere. Whether this also applies to all accessories is just something I need to find out by trial and error.
COMPARISON WITH CAST IRON
For this review on the soapstone I’ll make a full meal in which meat, vegetables and potatoes are processed to see what effect the soapstone has on the respective parts. To keep it accessible for everyone I use basic ingredients without complex techniques. We eat fried potatoes, grilled vegetables and merguez sausages. To have a reference point I make the comparison with the cast iron plate. Why? Not everyone has the financial possibilities or the luck to be able to test all products. Consequently, it is often a matter of choosing between products. I assume that in case of doubt people will be chosing between the soapstone, pizza stone or the cast iron half moon. Since the pizza stone has the least similar properties, the choice of cast iron seemed more obvious to me.
Kamado Joe describes the “Soapstone” as “A thick, bacteria- and dirt-repellent plate that ensures even cooking with less heat from the direct fire. The pieces of meat cook in their own juices leading to a better end result.” Due to its characteristics, the stone gradually absorbs heat and distributes it back evenly. The stone stays warm for a long time therefor it can also be used to serve food. Compared to the cast iron, you can expect it to be more easy to maintain, to distribute the heat more evenly and to retain juices better. On the other hand, the cast iron plate (of which I’m a fan by the way) will heat up faster and distribute the heat more powerfully.
BUT IS ALL OF THIS TRUE?
The findings in this first test seemed to give some clear indications that support this idea. To make the comparison, I chose to distribute all the ingredients over the 2 accessories and to prepare the products at an equal temperature +-200°C dome temperature (only the potatoes were pre-cooked). It’s a wide range of products with different cooking times and needs, so based on this first test some things became more clear to me:
- Can you get a nice seared crust using the soapstone?
- Do the products remain juicier?
- Is the soapstone better for delicate products?
- Is the soapstone stain-free and easy to maintain?
Can you sear on the SOAPSTONE?
By way of illustration, a few pictures are linked to this blog post. As you can see from the plate with the finished sausages, most of them have a nice color. Both the soapstone sausages and cast iron baked sausages got a tint making it hard to differentiate them by the looks on this picture! However, it should be added that 2 sausages from the cast iron plate where on the edge of cremation and I moved all of them over to the soapstone over time to prevent them from burning. The same goes for the potatoes. With the soapstone a slight crust formation was noticeable, while the crust formation on the cast iron plate was awesome. Even better for this purpose than the results for the soapstone baked potatoes.
Summary: to crust meat and fry ingredients short and vigorously, the Cast Iron plate wins. However, this does not mean nothing is happening while cooking on the soapstone. A subtle crust formed while the sausages gently baked in their own juices. I am therefore very curious how the skin of a piece of salmon will fry on the soapstone (stay tuned for this I think it will be great).
JUICIER RESULT WITH THE SOAPSTONE?
I am fully aware that a review based on one session only gives limited information. Nevertheless, it does give a good indication of the expected results for future sessions. As mentioned earlier, the sausages on the cast iron plate were coloured very quickly. Even before they were fully cooked. Moreover, they had already lost a lot of moisture in the process, which turned out not to be the case with the ones on the soapstone. The sausages still sprayed moisture when pierced and were very juicy in the end. Plus they were evenly cooked through, without risk of burning them. The difference in juiciness of the vegetables was hardly noticeable. Although the harder vegetables like carrots were cooked more evenly without burning which turned out to be a far better result than the “crispy/thougher” cast iron ones.
Conclusion: Products that need a longer cooking time and need an even cooking method, will therefore stand out using the soapstone. Vegetables such as zucchini or meat where it’s less important, such as steak, lamb, … will benefit more from the scorching on the cast iron plate. Of course, a combination of both is also possible.
SOAPSTONE FOR DELICATE PRODUCTS?
Judging from the previous results discussed, the answer seems clear! The combination of even cooking with a slightly better shielding of the direct heat in combination with the properties of cooking in its own moisture makes it easier to prepare delicate pieces such as fish and vegetables. You can get the benefit’s of cast iron cooking without the fear. You run considerably less risk of burning your product. Nevertheless, you still have the option of crusting a piece of meat or fish off the skin. I am therefore looking forward to preparing a piece of salmon on the skin side.
MAINTENANCE AND DURABILITY?
Hence the results I can’t deny the advantages of the soapstone based on this first experience. But is it actually as easy to maintain as it is claimed to be? Is it a stain-free product? I have my doubts at the moment. So far I have managed to get the stone relatively clean again, yet it turned out a lot darker than before. The texture however doesn’t seem to have been affected and it took quite a bit of cleaning. In online movies I see stones that match my expectations (pitch black). Therefore I contact the gentlemen of Kamado Joe with the question why it’s turning black and how the stone is best maintained.
At Kamado Joe they confirm the stone will turn black in the end. With stain-free they are not talking about the looks of the soapstone but rather refer to it’s characteristics. Because the soapstone is completely closed, it does not absorb any odors or flavors and no bacteria can be transferred from one session to another. This way no stains from your previous session will remain on the stone. For maintenance it is recommended to rub the stone with a little oil and himalayan salt before use. Afterwards you can wipe off the grease with a spatula and then clean the soapstone clean with a proper cloth.
After first usage it’s clear to me that the soap stone is a very soft rock! Some caution is therefore required when handling the stone. To avoid scratches, it is recommended to work with a wooden or plastic (heat resistant) pliers and spatula. But also when placing and removing the stone, it is important to make sure that you don’t bump into anything. You will notice that the edges of the stone are loosening easily. This certainly does not mean that you do not have a solid product in your hands with the soapstone. With the necessary care and love you can certainly work with it for a long time!
In summary, we can say that the soapstone can certainly add value to your BBQ accessories. If you have to chose between different accessories, it strongly depends on what you’re going to prepare the most and what you already have at home. If you’re looking for an accessory to do a short and thorough sear, you’d better opt for the cast iron plate. If, like me, you also like to prepare a variety of vegetables and delicate products such as fish, then the soapstone is definitely worth considering! It’s expensive to buy (2 times the price of the cast iron plate) and in terms of maintenance I feel it’s just a little more complex than the cast iron, but on the other hand it can compete with some of the properties of cast iron in delicate preparations. By the way, small cast iron pans/accessories are easier to find than small soapstone tools.