No, 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.
Table of Contents
- Top Kamado Grills of 2019
- Why Kamado?
- Kamado Grills Reviewed
- Char-Griller Kamado Akorn Grill
- Char-Griller 6520 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill with Cart
- Broil King Keg 5000
- Blaze Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill
- Primo Kamado All-In-One
- Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker
- Kamado Joe Classic II, Blaze Red
- Duluth Forge Ceramic Charcoal Kamado Grill and Smoker
- Pit Boss 71220 Kamado BBQ Ceramic Grill Cooker, 22″
- Cal Flame BBQ15K21 Kamado Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
- Hanover Grills HAN191KMD-RT Kamado Style Ceramic Grill
- Primo Ceramic Charcoal Smoker Grill On Cart
- Louisiana Grills 61220 Kamado
- Kamado Joe ClassicJoe
- Kamado Joe BJ24RH
- Kamado Joe Junior Grill
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.
Kamado Grills Reviewed
Char-Griller Kamado Akorn Grill
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.
- 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.
Char-Griller 6520 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill with Cart
You don’t have to fork over a lot of cash for a reliable Kamado grill. The Char-Griller Akorn Kamado with Cart is just the thing for those of us who don’t have a big budget. This Kamado grill features triple-wall insulation for heat retention, top and bottom adjustable dampers for easy temp control, an ash pan that’s easy to dump out, a stainless heat gauge, and cast iron cooking grates. The Kamado grill has a powder-coated exterior finish and a porcelain-coated steel interior finish. The primary cooking space is 314 square inches while the warming rack has 133 square inches. Now, some may be wary about this Kamado grill because it’s made of steel but they shouldn’t be. In terms of performance, the Akorn actually performs pretty much like a ceramic Kamado grill. It’s sealed tight and can hold the heat consistently. It’s lightweight so moving it around is going to be easy, especially since this one comes with a cart. At this price point, the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado with Cart is a steal.
Broil King Keg 5000
The Broil King Keg 5000 is no ordinary Kamado grill. While it may not be egg-shaped like many of the other Kamado grills in the market, that doesn’t make this one any less great. In fact, it’s one of the best in the market. The grill features an insulated steel design which uses modern fiberglass and features a powder-coated exterior that keeps the outside of the Kamado cool even while the temperature inside is pretty high. That fiberglass body makes the grill so lightweight that you can easily transport it from one place to another. You can even hitch it to your trailer (attachment is a separate purchase). The Root-Draft damper system enables precise temperature control. The Keg 5000 also comes with a stand, shelves for extra prep space, an extender rack, and even a multi-tool that enables you to rake the ash as well as handle the dampers and grate. The only thing we don’t love is the price. But if you’ve got the money for it, you definitely should invest in a grill like this.
Blaze Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill
The Blaze Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill isn’t your typical Kamado grill. It has a unique design. Constructed out of 1-inch thick premium cast aluminum, the grill features a tongue and groove design that creates this exceptional seal, holding the heat inside and maintaining temperature for a long period of time. There’s an exhaust cap for controlling temperature as well as an integrated temperature gauge. The 304 stainless steel hinge enables you to lift the lid easily. The premium 12mm hexagonal grill grates are also constructed of 304 stainless steel and features hinges so you can easily access the charcoal beneath on both sides. You even get a second 18-inch cooking grate which enables you to cook much closer to the fire if needed. And have we mentioned how awesome those grates are at creating those lovely sears? The only thing we don’t love about this is the price which is quite an investment and it doesn’t even come with side shelves or a cart.
Primo Kamado All-In-One
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.
Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker
Budget grills are a family’s best friend. It can help you feed the masses without breaking the bank. And when it comes to low-priced grills, Char-Griller is the best in the market. If you’re looking for a fairly priced Kamado grill, you won’t be disappointed with Char-Griller’s Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker.
– triple walled 22 gauge steel
– top and bottom adjustable dampers
– powder-coated exterior finish
– porcelain-coated steel interior finish
– 153 square inch cast iron cooking grate
– easy dump ash pan
– built-in temperature gauge
– two durable handles on the side
– short sturdy legs
– versatile and efficient; can be used for grilling and smoking
– efficient use of charcoal
– gets hot very fast, great at retaining heat
– easy clean up
– no flare ups
– takes up limited space
– can be used for grilling on-the-go
– cooks fast
– can feed 2 to 4 people
– heavier than other portable grills
– not easy to install; some users have had problems with fitting the screws
– needs to be put on a table because the grill is small
This Kamado grill is a good starting point if you haven’t the budget or the skill yet to get a Big Green Egg. Or if you just want to bring a Kamado grill with you on your adventures, whether it’s off to the beach, the great outdoors, or to a football game.
Kamado Joe Classic II, Blaze Red
The Kamado Joe Classic is one of the best Kamado cookers in the market. And it’s got the fans and the price to prove it. What happens then when you improve upon what’s already a great thing? Well, that’s what the Kamado Joe Classic II is all about. Like the original, it has a Divide & Conquer Flexible Cooking System, a slide-out ash drawer, an ash tool, HDPE handles, a cooking grate gripper, and a split heat deflector. We all know how good those features are. Basically, this baby allows you to cook via direct and indirect heat AT THE SAME TIME. But what makes the 2.0 version even better? It features air lift hinges which lessens the dome’s weight by 96%; a patented all-aluminum, no-rust, rain-proof control Tower top vent; double-thick wire mesh fiberglass gasket; and a multi-panel firebox. What do they all mean? Well, for one, if it rains, there’s no way in hell water is getting inside your Kamado Joe through the top vent. Secondly, you can use your pinky finger to lift the dome and check on your food. And third, the firebox is less likely to break due to thermal expansion. Do we like the improvements? Yes, we do. But is it worth the increase in price? Not that much, really. Still, you can’t go wrong with a Kamado Joe.
Duluth Forge Ceramic Charcoal Kamado Grill and Smoker
Kamado grills are usually worth the expense. They’re versatile, easy to use, and take up so little space. But does the Duluth Forge Ceramic Charcoal Kamado Grill and Smoker make our list of favorites? Well, it’s not as high up on our list as a BGE or Kamado Joe but there are a lot of things going for it that any griller will love. It features a stainless steel dual-action top vent; a bi-level porcelain-coated steel cooking grate with plate setter that provides 567 square inches of cooking space; a stainless steel thermometer; 1.25-inch thick ceramic walls; and commercial grade stainless steel bands, hinges, and springs. In terms of durability, this kamado grill seems very well built. Temperature control is never a problem. And it also cooks like a dream. Whether you’re grilling, smoking, or baking, it’s got your back. Clean up is also as easy as pie, just like how it is with any kamado grill. However, it doesn’t come with a stand at all which isn’t good. We all know how fragile these grills can be. Having to balance it on some stones isn’t going to ensure it’s longevity. Aside from the lack of stand, there’s little to complain about with this grill.
Pit Boss 71220 Kamado BBQ Ceramic Grill Cooker, 22″
Looking to barbecue like a pit boss? Well, the Pit Boss 71220 Kamado BBQ Ceramic Grill Cooker just may be able to help you out. As the name already implies, this kamado grill is made out of ceramic which makes this baby excellent at heat radiation and retention, exactly what you need to create fantabulously cooked meals. The grill also features a cast iron calibrated top damper, solid fold-down bamboo side shelves, an easy-to-read thermometer, and two-tiered stainless steel cooking grates. What we love about this grill is the use of quality materials which increases its durability. It includes fold-down shelves for added storage and prep space. It also comes with a rolling stand – four wheels of which two are lockable. If you think about it, a lot of its features rivals that of our beloved Kamado Joe. And at a lower cost. Of course, there are things that are better with the Kamado Joe like the Divide & Conquer system and the temperature gauge. But the Pit Boss’ thermometer can be changed to something better. And at this price point, you get a lot more than what you paid for.
Cal Flame BBQ15K21 Kamado Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
In Kamado grills, there are two very important things that you want to look out for: ceramic build for excellent heat radiation and retention, and airtight seals. Because that’s what this type of grilling is all about. With the Cal Flame BBQ15K21 Kamado Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker, you do get those two things and more. First, the grill is constructed out of heavy ceramic and features a fireproof fabric seal. This means you can easily get the heat level you want and retain it. Plus, your meat doesn’t lose its moisture as you cook it, ensuring you get that juicy meal you’ve been craving even after hours of cooking. Even better, the company offers a 20-year warranty on all ceramics. Second, there are dual air vents that allow you precise temperature control. The built-in thermometer helps you ensure you’re maintaining the right temp. And you get sturdy fold-down side shelves for added prep space, a sturdy handle, and a cart with locking wheels. The grate is stainless steel. Like any Kamado grill, this does an excellent job in grilling, smoking, and baking your meals. It’s easy to use though a newbie outdoor chef may need to give himself time and loads of YouTube videos to perfect his style. But what we really love about this kamado grill is its price. While it’s not as well-known as a Kamado Joe or BGE, that doesn’t mean it offers less quality.
Hanover Grills HAN191KMD-RT Kamado Style Ceramic Grill
Obviously, this is one cute looking Kamado grill. But cuteness is not a main factor in shelling out a great deal of money for something like this. Fortunately, Hanover Grills included other great features in its HAN191KMD-RT Kamado Style Ceramic Grill. This grill has well-insulated thick ceramic walls to ensure efficient heat radiation and retention. Adjustable draft doors enables users to control the temperature in the grill. This 19-inch grill has a built-in lid-mounted thermometer with labels such as smoke, bake, and grill for newbies who want to experiment with this cooker’s versatility. The cooking space is 285 square inches which can fit around 17 burgers at a time. It comes with this small stand which is just a round metal tray with small feet where you can stand your kamado grill so it doesn’t sit directly on the floor of your patio, etc. For those who are interested, Hanover Grills offers this kamado cooker in a variety of colors including red, gunmetal, and desert. Cooking with this kamado grill is a breeze. But we found the lack of a higher stand very trying, especially for a tall person. Having to bend down to tend to the grill, look at the temp, or get the food can get tiring after awhile. Hopefully, they’ll start offering this with a real stand in the future.
Primo Ceramic Charcoal Smoker Grill On Cart
Primo’s Oval XL is one badass kamado grill that is probably the most versatile in the market. It features an enormous grilling space with its oval-shaped design which measures at 25 inches by 18.5 inches. Coupled with a high-sitting lid, this means that you get to cook several racks of ribs, pork roasts, whole chickens, or whole turkeys at a time. The grill is made out of premium grade ceramics that have a scratch-resistant glaze so you know you’ll be using this kamado grill for several years to come. And it features split, reversible porcelain-coated cooking grids which allows you to place on nearer to the charcoal while the other remains farther from the charcoal. Along with the firebox divider, you can use this grill to do direct and indirect cooking at the same time. The cart is powder-coated steel with side shelves that can be used for prepping your food and hooks for hanging your tools. The wire basket at the bottom allows for storage while the four heavy-duty swivel casters allows you to move your kamado grill where you want it and locking in place when you’re ready to cook. Everything about the Primo is great except for the price. It lacks a lot of accessories at this price point. You’ll be spending an additional $200 just to get all the other necessary stuff.
Louisiana Grills 61220 Kamado
For a kamado grill, this is probably one of the most affordable ones in the market that is built out of ceramic. It also features a stainless iron top tamper, solid bamboo side shelves that fold down, dual-tier stainless steel cooking grates, and 567 square inches of cooking surface. The grill has fireproof felt edging which functions as a shock absorber for when you close the lid. The heavy duty stainless steel spring and hardware along with the wooden handle allows you to lift the lid without breaking a sweat and hold it in place while you do your thing. The built-in thermometer helps you monitor temperature while the bottom stainless steel vent helps you more accurately control temperature. This kamado grill comes with a stand that has four wheels and two locking casters that enable you to take your kamado grill to where you want it to go (only within your patio or backyard, of course). Assembly is easy though you will need assistance. And for performance, you get what you pay for. While the ceramic and stainless steel construction is of high quality, the grill isn’t as airtight as you’d want it to be. You may want to do a bit of DIY on the bottom vent to ensure that air doesn’t get into the grill.
Kamado Joe ClassicJoe
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.
- 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
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
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.
- 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.
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.