The Bottom Line
The Black Olive is an impressive hybrid of kamado grill design, with wood burning pellet technology. The question is, brilliant or gimmick? The answer is a little more complicated. The Black Olive is more than just a kamado grill with a pellet auger attached to the side. Serious engineering went into its construction. The problem is that the design is also its greatest shortcoming.
The company behind this, Canada's Sherwood Industries has the experience in pellet heat and fireplace design, and perhaps this is why they are so confident in this grill. The real problem is that because of the enclosed and straight airflow design, this grill can be temperamental, requires a high level of maintenance, and can turn foods black with soot.
- Wide temperature range
- High temperature capacity up to 650 degrees F.
- Wide range of available accessories
- Solid construction
- Requires very frequent cleaning
- Soot accumulates on food
- Support seems spotty at best
- Uneven heat
- Pellet auger frequently clogs
- 290 square inches of primary cooking area
- 150 to 650 degree F/65 to 345 degrees C temperature range
- 11-pound capacity pellet hopper mounted on the side
- Porcelain coated cast iron cooking grate
- Basic electronic temperature control
- Ceramic body with steel components
- Made in Canada by Sherwood Industries
Guide Review - Black Olive Pellet Grill
A kamado grill is usually a ceramic charcoal grill based on designs brought from Japan after the war by American GIs. These grills are highly efficient, capable of both low and slow cooking and intense heat. Kamados are beloved by their owners and while expensive (typical kamado runs around $700USD to $800USD) these grills last for many, many years and do amazing things.
A pellet grill burns little wood pellets made from waste sawdust and generally produce a good smoke flavor in a grill that looks and works something like a gas grill. The Black Olive is the body of a ceramic kamado grill with the technology and mechanisms of a pellet grill. The best of both worlds, right?
On paper, this really is an impressive grill. Capable of temperatures between 150 and 650 degrees F. While the capacity is small compared with other pellet grills it is comparable to most kamado grills and is large enough to fit the needs of most people. The construction quality is good, particularly the ceramic shell. As the instructions say, the grill can be turned on, set to a specific temperature and left to run for hours, up to 40 hours on its lowest temperature setting. Unfortunately, this is where the paper ends and the real world starts.
The first evaluation of the Black Olive that I ever heard was how amazingly efficient it is. So efficient in fact that the ash catcher never seems to have any ash in it. Problem. Burning wood produces ash and there isn't a way around that. The ash wasn't collecting beneath, it was being carried through the grill where it can accumulate on food.
As one person I spoke with described it, "Black Potatoes!?!". The configuration of this grill, like any kamado style grill is similar to a furnace. Temperatures can be very high, but that also means a high airflow. This airflow will carry ash from the firepot, over the food, and out through the top vent. It is a basic flaw of the fundamental design.
Probably because of the soot problem the manufacturer says that the firepot and internal components will need to be cleaned after 25 pounds of pellets. Add to this, their requirement on extremely low moisture pellets and this suggests a serious limitation. Just to put that in context, at maximum temperature the Black Olive will empty its 11-pound hopper in two hours. This means that for the person who only does high temperature grilling, the entire unit will need to be cleaned after a little more than four hours of run time.
Even the serious low and slow barbecue cook will be doing this process every few cookouts.
Another problem that I have heard from several owners and is that of support. Sherwood Industries will refer problems to the dealer who may or may not be willing to provide help. It is my experience that this kind of lack of support comes from either a lack of confidence in a product or the belief that the product is infallible and it is the consumer that is always at fault. Either way, for me this puts the Black Olive in the category of gimmick, a $1,700USD gimmick.