Best Kamado Grills – Buying Guide

kamado grillsNo, that’s not an ancient burial urn or a large egg in you’re neighbor’s backyard. It’s actually a charcoal grill that can do wonders for your next barbecue party. A Kamado-style grill is a modernized version of the “mushikamado” which is a Japanese cooking stove that is fueled by wood or charcoal that has been around for more than 3,000 years. First introduced to Americans in the wake of World War II, the Kamado grill has certainly increased in popularity since then. So, what makes them stand out from the rest of the other charcoal grills in the market aside from the way they look? Well, there are several benefits to owning a Kamado grill and we’ll be discussing each of them. We’ll also point out some of the drawbacks of using one so you can accurately judge if this is exactly what you’ll need for your next grill.

Why Kamado?

Kamado Grill Benefits

Versatile & Efficient: The absolute best thing about owning a Kamado grill is the fact that you get to have a grill, a smoker, a roaster, and a baking oven all rolled into one. These grills are usually made of ceramics, cement, terra cotta, lava rock, and other refractory materials. Kamado grills also have thick walls that soak up a lot of heat. Because of its material and design, the Kamado grill excels at retaining and radiating heat evenly as well as holding the temperature steady for 12 hours or even longer. The temperature ranges from a low 225°F to a high 750° F (great for searing steaks). A Kamado grill is also great at retaining moisture because it is efficient in controlling air flow. This enables you to smoke meats that remain deliciously juicy. And just like wood-fire ovens, baking bread and pizza at around 500 degrees are a snap. Some high-end models come with a rotisserie so getting a perfectly browned, crisp meat is also on the table.

Aside from versatility, Kamado grills are very efficient in burning charcoal. You can use one bag of charcoal and slowly cook meat for 12 hours without having to worry about running out. And at the end of a cook, you can just close all the dampers to starve the coals. This makes it quite easy for you to use the leftover coal the next time you grill.

Ease of Use: Obviously, gas grills are a great deal more convenient. But, when compared to other charcoal grills, the Kamado grill is pretty convenient all around. Putting together your grill takes around 15 to 30 minutes so you definitely can have a barbecue on the same day that you bought it. Another convenience is the start up time which is around 15 minutes – a lot faster than other charcoal grills. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like outdoors (year-round cooking, anyone?) because the insulation enables you to get your fire going with little oxygen and charcoal. As for cleaning, you only need to empty out the ash tray and brush the cooking grate after use. Because Kamado grills only use natural lump charcoal which produce less ash, cleanup is even way easier. Maintaining your grill is also quite painless. You’ll only need to check the band screws (connected to the hinge as well as holds the base and lid) once a year to make sure that they’re tight. The felt gaskets which help create an air-tight seal when the lid is closed only need to be replaced every couple of years.

No flareups: Unlike traditional charcoal grills, the food is placed high above the charcoal so flareups aren’t something you ever have to worry about.

Space: Unlike other charcoal grills, Kamado grills are usually only 18 ½ inches so you can barbecue to your heart’s delight even with limited outdoor space. And even though it is smaller than some kettle and barrel grills, you can use an extended cooking rack to help you maximize your cooking surface.

Kamado Grill Drawbacks

Slow to cool down: One small flaw you face with a Kamado grill is that it takes awhile to cool down because of its excellent heat retention. That’s alright when you’re just cooling it down after your barbecue session. However, if you happen to overshoot the temperature you’re going for, it’ll take a bit of time to get it back down to where you need it.

Very expensive: While ceramic is great at retaining and radiating heat, it can be very expensive. The prices of this type of Kamado grills range from $600 to $1000 unlike other charcoal grills that can cost you less than a hundred bucks. The cost is even higher compared to some gas and electric grills in the market. And since it’s very expensive, many manufacturers sell them without some necessary tools such as a deflector plate that you’ll need for indirect cooking. In short, buying a Kamado grill is definitely an investment. Good thing that it lasts a long time as long as you maintain them right.

Fragile: As we all know, ceramic isn’t exactly sturdy. It’s quite easy to crack especially when it’s hot. Just scrubbing the surface with a wire brush can damage it. And since it is fragile (and quite heavy), it’s not really a grill you can take with you for a picnic at the beach or a tailgate party. There are some manufacturers that offer carts with casters to make them more maneuverable. Just make sure you don’t tip it over while in transit or you’ll have to say goodbye to your investment.

It’s important to note that some Kamado grills are made of insulated steel which makes them a sturdier choice than ceramics. However, this type of material isn’t as good at retaining and radiating heat as ceramics are.

Safety: Like flareups, sparks aren’t that big of an issue with Kamado grills because the coal is a bit of a distance from the grate. However, there is a different danger that you’ll need to look out for – a flashover. A Kamado grill is almost airtight so it’s easy to starve the coals of oxygen when you’re trying to lower the cooking temperature or shut it down. But if you suddenly open the lid and oxygen comes quickly pouring in, you can create a fireball that’ll burn your eyebrows off or worse. It’s the same thing with gas grills. In this case, to avoid such an occurence, be sure to slowly open the top vent bit by bit and then opening the lid slowly. Be sure to stand on the side rather than the front of the grill.

Caliber Pro Kamado Grill On Stainless Steel Cart – Black


Kamado Grills Reviewed

Char-Griller Kamado Akorn Grill


$291.704.1 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews – 514
Review Score – 4.1

Typically, Kamado grills are really expensive. But, as we all know, the investment is totally worth it. Unfortunately, not all of us have that kind of money to spend, and we’re left salivating over what it would be like to actually own one. Until now, that is. Char-Griller is a manufacturer that is widely known for producing decent enough grills at a really low price. This time, they have produced something way better than “decent enough.” The Kamado Akorn is a big step up in terms of delivering top quality performance at less than half the price of a traditional Kamado grill. Before we go into the details of this amazing grill, let’s talk features.

Features:

  • 314 square inches of primary cooking space
  • 133 square inch removable warming rack
  • cast iron cooking grate
  • body is made of 22 gauge steel with powder coated steel as the exterior finish and an interior finish of porcelain coated steel
  • cart is made of tubular steel with rubber wheels (locking caster on front)
  • indexed top damper to help maintain temperature control
  • locking lid
  • two folding black metal shelves
  • removable ash pan
  • triple-walled insulation
  • stainless heat gauge

Why we love it:

The Kamado Akron isn’t the cheap version of the expensive ceramic kamados in the market today. It may be made of steel, but it definitely performs pretty close to traditional Kamado grills such as the BGE. This is because the Akron is triple walled to ensure that the grill is able to hold in the heat consistently and far more efficiently than any charcoal grill. This means that you’re able to burn less coal but still reach those really high temperatures (max of 700 degrees Fahrenheit). The Akron is built to seal tight so you can also expect it to cook low and slow at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for long periods of time, making this grill an excellent smoker as well.

Aside from virtually identical results with those high-priced ceramic Kamados everybody’s raving about, the Akron has other benefits too. It’s lightweight and easily portable – something that ceramic grills aren’t known for. They certainly aren’t fragile either so you don’t have to worry about dropping them. The side tables come with hooks for your grilling tools and utensils. The ash pan is easily removed for cleaning. And with a little bit of practice (as is always the case with charcoal and kamado style grilling), using the dampers is a breeze.

What we don’t like:

In Kamado style grilling, it’s very easy to overshoot the temperature. It isn’t as easy to cool it down to the desired temperature. The Akron faces the same problem that all Kamado grills face since they are all built to retain heat extremely well. So you can’t expect to serve a deliciously grilled meal on the same day you get it. You’ll need to do some trial runs before you go for a real meal. Another thing that concerns us is durability. How long will this grill last? Char-Griller isn’t always known for producing long-lasting grills. Some customers have already complained that the high heat burned off the paint and enamel protecting the steel from rust.

The verdict: This is truly an exceptional Kamado style grill in terms of cooking performance. There’s no question that it ranks equally with the traditional ones in the market today. If you want to try out what the big deal is about Kamado grills, this is a great way to do it because the Akron is sold at such a very low price. There’s no big investment involved. You also don’t have to be so careful in transporting it when needed because it’s not fragile at all. The best part? You can use the years with this steel Kamado to save up for a ceramic one that lasts a lifetime.

Primo Kamado All-In-One


$925.004.8 out of 5 stars

For those who aren’t converts to the oval design, Primo also offers the traditional round Kamado-style grill. This 18.5” grill comes with a cradle stand, an ergonomic handle, a grid lifter, an ash tool, and side shelves. The cooking area is 280 square inches, almost the same as the Primo Oval LG 300. Basically, you get the complete grilling package; the only thing you’ll be lacking is the charcoal and the meat. You can be sure that this grill is solidly constructed using only the best ceramics available. With all the additional features added, this is a bargain for any outdoor chef. The only downside to this package is the round shape of the grill. We’ve already established how versatile the oval-shaped grills are so going back to the traditional round shape is a bit disappointing. But if your backyard barbecues are more about steaks, burgers, chicken, and pizzas, then this is definitely a good choice. For those who love slow cooking ribs and briskets (which fit perfectly on an oval-shaped grill), this might not be the right grill for you.

Kamado Joe ClassicJoe


$1,245.663.8 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews – 5
Review Score – 3.8

This 18″ Kamado Joe Classic is definitely one of the best-looking ceramic cookers in the market today. And its elegant design isn’t even its best feature. This kamado has a thick-walled, heat-resistant shell that makes holds the heat effectively for even cooking. Their top vent has a dial control that allows for more precise heat control. Like most ceramic Kamado grills, the ClassicJoe does an incredible job at low and slow cooking as well as high temperature grilling. However, there are a couple of things that make it stand out among the rest.

Features:

  • 18″ 304 stainless steel cooking grate (fits 10-12 fillets or chicken breasts at a time) which is hinged on one side
  • spring loaded lid
  • Divide & Conquer Flexible Cooking System
  • dual-disc vent system (top vent is cast iron while bottom vent is 304 stainless steel)
  • split heat deflector
  • slide-out ash drawer
  • ash tool
  • built-in thermometer
  • folding HDPE side shelves/handle
  • cooking grate gripper
  • firebox separator
  • cast iron cart with locking wheels

While it has a number of similarities with the Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe offers several features that are usually offered as upgrades. With the Divide & Conquer Cooking system, you get a multilevel grate and a split heat deflector that allows you to perform 2-zone cooking – a technique that usually cannot be set-up in round Kamados. Their slide-out ash drawer also is an added innovation that makes cleanup with this particular Kamado a breeze. What it really comes down to is this: the company enables you to truly enjoy the wonder and flexibility of a Kamado grill without asking you to shell out extra money for nifty add-ons. With this Kamado Joe, you get the complete grilling package.

Kamado Joe BJ24RH


$1,399.003.8 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews – 14
Review Score – 3.8

There’s no real difference between the features of the Classic Joe and the Big Joe. Everything that makes the Classic an amazing Kamado grill can be found in its big brother. You still get the Divide and Conquer Flexible Cooking System, the slide-out ash tray, the dual-disc vent system, the spring loaded lid, the stainless steel cooking grate, the built-in thermometer, the cart with locking wheels, the grill gripper, etc. The only reason you’ll be choosing this one would be for its side which, naturally, increases its flexibility in terms of the amount of food you can cook at a time. With the Big Joe, you can easily fit in three full racks of ribs for you and your very large number of guests. So if you’re looking for a good-sized Kamado grill that comes loaded (well-accesssorized) and is ready for use as it is, then you need to get yourself the Big Joe

Kamado Joe Junior Grill


$545.393.3 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews – 8
Review Score – 3.3

Obviously, most Kamado grills aren’t transportable. Made from ceramics, these are really heavy grills that are very fragile. And so, most kamado grill lovers have come to expect that they can never take their kamado grills anywhere. They’ll just have to make do with enjoying the wonders of this amazing grill at home. Well, that’s no longer true today. Kamado Joe has come out with the first ever kamado grill that’s perfect for camping, picnics, and tailgates – the Joe Jr. With this portable kamado grill, you get a grill (of course), a smoker, and an oven that can be ready for cooking in 15 minutes.

Features:

  • 1 1/4 inch thich ceramics
  • 149 square inches of cooking space
  • 304 stainless steel hinged cooking grate
  • stainless steel bottom vent
  • powder-coated galvanized iron lid hinge
  • powder-coated cast iron fire grate
  • built-in thermometer
  • HDPE handles
  • grate gripper
  • heat deflector
  • ash tool

While this grill doesn’t feature the unique Divide & Conquer Cooking system that the previous two have, it’s still equipped enough to meet your grilling needs and then some. You get even cooking, smoking hot temperatures when you need it, and maintains the temps really well. Plus, at only 68 pounds, there’s no question that moving this grill around won’t be a problem. Also, in case you’re wondering, this kamado grill is solidly constructed with quality materials just like its bigger brothers.  If you’re in the market for a smaller grill for your home or one for on the road, you might find that the Joe Junior is the grill you’ve been looking for.

Final Thoughts

Though they might burn a hole in your pocket, Kamado grills are a lifetime investment that you’ll never regret. Like any other grill in the market, it does have some flaws but nothing that can’t be overlooked. If you’re looking for a grill that can cook more than just your average burgers, hotdogs, and steaks, a Kamado grill just might be what you need.