You have a gas barbecue and/or a Weber Kettle. You’ve been cooking with them for a while and want to try something new.
You’ve probably heard of the kamado/ceramic grill. But you don’t know where to begin, what to look for and how much to spend.
In the first section of this article, I’ll start off with a roundup of reviews for some of the finest kamados on the market.
After that, it’s a brief history of the kamado, followed by how it works. I’ll then conclude the article with an in-depth buying guide.
In the end, you’ll know which is the best kamado grill for you and your family.
In A Hurry? Here Are My Top 10 Picks For Best Kamado Grill
- Best Overall: Big Green Egg Kamado Smoker
- Runner-up: Kamado Joe Ceramic Grill Classic III
- Best High-end: Komodo Kamado Grill
- Primo Oval Ceramic Smoker Grill
- Grill Dome Infinity Kamado Smoker
- Monolith Kamado
Other Materials (Steel & Cast Aluminum):
- Best For Beginners: Char-griller Akorn Steel Kamado
- Broil King Keg BBQ Kamado Grill
- Blaze Kamado Barbecue Grill
- Weber Summit Charcoal Series
Notice: The links above will direct you to either Amazon, BBQ Guys or Home Depot for more details and the latest information on the products.
Best Kamado Grill Reviews
There are ten grills that I reviewed. I decided to split this section into two camps – ceramic and other materials (steel and cast-aluminum) – to help you navigate easier.
Read on, grillers!
Best Overall – Big Green Egg Kamado Smoker
Boast itself as the king of kamado grill since 1974. BGE has dominated the industry for over 40 years now. In fact, BGE has become a “cult” with a large number of devotees, a.k.a eggheads, from all walks of life.
A quick search on Google will yield a handful of forums and Facebook groups that are dedicated to eggheads. These are places where they hang out, share tips and tricks as well as their love for BGE.
Besides online forums and groups, BGE community also hosts their regional Eggfests and the annual Eggtoberfest near BGE head office in Atlanta, Georgia. Here, you can join other fans to enjoy a day full of great people and good food.
One cool thing about this event is that you can purchase one of the Eggs used in the event at a discounted price. You can do so at the regional Eggfests as well.
BGE comes in 7 sizes (from portable to enormous) that can accommodate your every needs:
Because of its huge following and a lengthy monopoly of the market, there has been little innovations from BGE in recent years. It is sad to see a great company resting on its laurels for so long that it fails to react to market changes quickly.
Another drawback of BGE is the fact that there are no accessories included with the final sale. You only get the Egg and nothing else. The price of the Egg is about the same as other kamado grills that actually come with useful add-ons.
Furthermore, BGE can only be purchased through its approved dealer network. Any purchase of BGE from unauthorized dealers will void the warranty.
Speaking of warranty, BGE offers a lifetime warranty on all the ceramic components. However, you have to pay for shipping if you make any warranty claim.
All in all, despite some of its shortcomings, BGE is still a great product that stood the test of time and backed by a massive amount of followers and fans.
- A well-established name in the industry
- Comes in 7 sizes
- Huge following with community events
- Little innovation in recent years
- No accessories included
- Can’t purchase anywhere else except its dealer network
- Pricey with no add-ons compared to other kamado grills
Runner-up – Kamado Joe Ceramic Grill Classic III
If there is a list of young and innovative companies out there, Kamado Joe should be on it. Established in 2009, this company has gone through three makeovers of their product line over the course of ten years. It started with Kamado Joe 1.0, Kamado Joe 2.0 in 2017 then the new redesigned Kamado Joe 3.0 in 2019.
The company’s lineup consists of the Classic 18”, which is the most popular, the Big Joe 24” and the portable Joe Jr 13”. There is also a Pro Joe that is more suitable for commercial usage.
Here is a quick breakdown of the three main versions:
- Big Joe – 487lbs, 452 square inches of primary cooking area.
- Classic – 282lbs, 254 square inches of primary cooking area.
- Joe Jr – 68lbs, 148 square inches of primary cooking area.
For the recent 2019 version, Kamado Joe came out with a brand new insert called the SloRoller. What this thing does is to create a cyclonic airflow to coat food with even smoke, transforming the Kamado Joe into one of the world’s greatest smokers. A team of Harvard scientists set out to develop this new technology for Kamado Joe.
Many people reported smoking great food from this new gadget while some said it’s a money grab from Kamado Joe. The insert will be able to fit into the older versions of the Classic and Big Joe.
But, according to some users, there is not much clearance to put any other accessories. Good thing that Kamado Joe is working on a redesign to retrofit the SloRoller into the KJ 1.0 and 2.0. Nonetheless, this insert is still new and only time will tell if it’s actually useful or not.
Besides the Sloroller, there are many new features that come with the 2019 KJ 3.0:
- The good ol’ Divide and Conquer system has been upgraded to three levels now. This will allow for more cooking space and different heat zones.
- KJ replaces the fire grate with a charcoal basket. This thing makes cleaning out the ash and leftover charcoal a piece of cake. There is a divider in the basket so you can set up two zones cooking with ease. Because of the grid design, the basket actually allows more airflow and quick temp response compared to the holes from the old fire grate.
- The cart is now made of galvanized steel with extra storage space underneath the cooker. For the 3.0, KJ also gets rid of the old HDPE or plastic side tables and installs a new powder-coated aluminum ones.
Overall, the new 2019 version of Kamado Joe looks well-made, sturdy and high-quality. It also includes a lot of accessories in the purchase with a lifetime warranty for the ceramic parts, five years for the metal ones, three years for pizza stone, heat deflector and one year for thermometer and gaskets. If you claim a Kamado Joe warranty, shipping is on the house.
Another good thing about this company is the owner, Bobby Brennan, is very active on Kamado Joe’s Facebook group. He actually responds and listens to your concerns in regard to making Kamado Joe a better grill. John Setlzer, the face behind the Kamado Joe Cooking Youtube channel, is in the group as well.
One minor complaint about Kamado Joe is that they don’t have their own version of Eggtoberfest or Eggfests given that their customer base is growing.
Great community and innovative products. That’s all I gotta say about Kamado Joe.
- Young and innovative company
- Many accessories included
- Well-made, high quality construction
- Owner very involved in the community
- Doesn’t have their own festivals
Best High-end – Komodo Kamado Grill
Listen, this grill I’m about to show you is an exquisitely designed and masterfully crafted piece of art! It will impress the heck out of your friends and family because this thing is a beauty. Seriously, the grill is a fine sculpture.
Meet the Komodo Kamado.
According to its chief designer, Dennis Linkletter, who happens to be the grandson of the famous TV personality Art Linkletter, the Komodo Grill is a total overkill but absolutely necessary.
This thing uses THREE layers of extremely well-insulated material that will trap heat inside for a long, LONG time. In fact, it can burn 16lbs of charcoal for 85 hours at 235F. That’s over 3 days.
There is no metal bands wrapping around the lid and base of a Komodo Kamado. Its outer layer of ceramic tiles actually expands and contracts as the grill heats up and cools down. As a result, you don’t run into the risk of the lid falling off or the gaskets get burned.
Speaking of gaskets, they are made from food grade silicone that is high quality. Other parts of the Komodo Kamado are made from 304 stainless steel, from the cooking grid to the handle. This material can stand up well to the elements and is rust-proof.
There is a heavy duty and robust hinge that connects the lid to the base. The hinge is there to support the heavy lid. With just a tug of your fingers, you can close it with ease. The hinge is also made from 304 stainless steel.
Unlike other ceramic charcoal grills on the market, the top vent moves up and down on a strong screw to adjust the internal temp of the grill. It also acts as a rain cap and won’t get hot at all. The bottom vent has two dial regulators: one regular vent and the other one has an array of small to large holes for fine tuning the grill’s temperature.
With 3 levels of cooking surface and a deep tear drop shape, the Komodo Kamado offers a copious amount of space for cooking, grilling and meat smoking. The grill also includes many accessories and is BBQ Guru or Stokker ready for temperature control.
Given all the features, the Komodo Kamado won’t come cheap. However, Dennis does offer a payment plan option.
The earliest version of the Komodo Kamado is the 23” Ultimate and there are now six other sizes, including the 16” and 42”, available for purchase. The Komodo Kamados are also heavy as well. The Ultimate weighs 588lbs while the biggest 42” weighs around 1400lbs. Goddamn!
Due to the value of the grill, you can’t purchase it from big box stores. The only way is to buy directly from Dennis himself. You can actually communicate with him via phone, email or live chat on KK website. Lifetime warranty and everything is shipped from and made in Indonesia.
This is truly the ultimate kamado grill. Anyone with a deep pocket and a passion for grilling should buy one of these bad boys. If I could, I would!
- Beautiful piece of art
- Comes in many sizes and colors
- High quality components and accessories
- Payment plan available
- Can communicate directly with the owner/designer
Primo Oval Ceramic Smoker Grill
There are two features that help Primo stand out from the rest of the pack:
- BGEs are made in Mexico, Kamado Joes are made in China but Primo grills are manufactured entirely in the USA.
- Their distinctive oval shape. This provides more cooking space than a conventional round kamado does. You can also add a firebox divider to create two zones grilling. This means that you don’t need the heat deflector to create indirect heat at all.
Primo grills don’t come with fire ring due to its shallow bottom. Less part to assemble. One complaint about the grills is the lack of a spark screen at the bottom vent so watch out for those embers.
They also come without any accessories included. But you can buy the All-In-One version for the extra cradle, side tables, ash tool and grate lifter.
There are four sizes and only one color (black) available:
- XL 400 – 400 square inches of primary cooking area, 15 – 25 steaks (the most popular)
- Jack Daniels Special Edition
- Regular Edition
- LG 300 – 300 square inches of primary cooking area, 10 – 20 steaks.
- JR 200 – 210 square inches of primary cooking area, 8 – 15 steaks.
- The biggest portable kamado grill out there.
- Comes with the new Primo GO which is a 2-piece cradle plus a base. You can attach the JR 200 to the cradle and carry it around. If at home, install the cradle to the base to act as a shelving cart for the JR 200.
- Traditional round 18.5” – 280 square inches of primary cooking area, 10 – 12 steaks.
- Include extra add-ons.
- Can be purchased as a stand-alone.
Limited lifetime warranty with a 20-year guarantee on ceramic parts. 5 years on all metal components. 1 year on all cast-iron parts. However, only 30 days on thermometers and felt gaskets.
- Made in USA
- Oval shape for extra cooking space
- Firebox divider allows different heat zones
- One color
- Only 30-day warranty on thermometers and felt gaskets
- No accessories included except for the All-In-One
Grill Dome Infinity Kamado Smoker
Grill Dome was first released by Tarhem Kohli, who once made kamado cookers for Ed Fisher, in 1989. This company is the fourth kamado grill manufacturer that is based in Georgia, USA. The other three are BGE, KJ and Primo.
Grill Dome brags itself in using a better and thicker ceramic than its competition. Combined with 304 stainless side shelves, hinges, handle and draft door, this thing is a beast.
Another unique feature about Grill Dome is the glossy and shiny finish. This is different than the classic ceramic glaze. Some customers stated that the paint from the finish can flake off but some said they touched it up with automotive paint.
Grill Dome currently offers 3 sizes for their Infinity Series:
- XL – 22”, 380 square inches of primary cooking area, 5 colors
- Large – 18”, 260 square inches of primary cooking area, 5 colors
- Small – 13”, 135 square inches of primary cooking area, 2 colors
They also introduce the new Infinity X2 that is only available in black:
- Taller lid to accommodate the new 3-level rack cooking system.
- New high-temp fiberglass gaskets.
- Only available in the 18” version.
Lifetime warranty on ceramic as well as hinges. 5 years for gaskets which is pretty decent. You also have the option of customizing the color of your Grill Dome, either the dome or the base or both. Great way to show support for your favorite sports team.
One problem with Grill Dome is its customer service. Many people reported mixed support from the company.
All in all, Grill Dome Infinity and X2 are solid grills. There aren’t many differences from other brands but they will still cook you some great food.
- Built like a tank
- Thicker ceramic than the competition
- 304 stainless steel on other parts
- Glossy and shiny finish
- Color customizing
- Taller lid
- Mixed support from customer service
Based in Germany, the Monolith is very well-established in Europe. The biggest feature that makes the Monolith different is the wood chip feeder. The feeder is a small channel in the middle of the grill base that allows you to add smoking wood or pellets to your hot charcoal without opening the lid.
A quick breakdown of Monolith’s product line in Europe (only available in black and red).
- Classic – 18”
- Le Chef – 21.5”
- Junior – 13”
- Same size as the Classic
- No wood chip feeder
- Stainless steel components has been replaced by powder-coated steel
- Pro Series 1.0 (only for Classic and Le Chef)
- Improved smart grate system
- Improved multi-panel firebox with sliding out ash tray
These are only available in Europe so it will be hard to get them outside of the EU.
However, Monolith has been working with BBQ Guru to bring their grills, called the Monolith BBQ Guru Edition, to North America. The wood chip feeder will still be there in addition to a built-in temperature control fan. The fan is compatible with BBQ Guru’s DigiQ and CyberQ Cloud.
This will be a game changer for all the meat smokers out there. The combination of a temp control and a wood chip feeder is perfect for overnight low n slow. It will be completely automatic and hands-off so you can spend time doing other important stuff.
If you happen to use the CyberQ Cloud with the Monolith, there is this cool website ShareMyCook, developed by BBQ Guru themselves, where you can connect with other grillers, share recipes and information of your cooks.
ShareMyCook also provides detailed graphs of your cooks with temperature data from the food probes over the whole cooking duration. Other people can comment on them with feedback as well.
ShareMyCook won’t work with DigiQ though.
One thing I want to point out that you don’t have to use BBQ Guru temperature control if you don’t want to. You can use other brands as long as the control can fit into the intake vent of the Monolith. Otherwise, the fan will shut off if not in use.
For the Monolith BBQ Guru Edition, it is available in one color black and comes with two sizes: Le Chef and Classic. You can buy the grill with or without the temperature control. The Monolith BBQ Guru Edition also includes useful accessories such as cart, heat deflector, ash tool and so on. The same goes for the European Monolith.
- European Monolith – lifetime warranty on ceramic and 5 years for metal components.
- BBQ Guru Edition – 10 year for ceramic, 2 years for the temp control and 1 year for all wooden parts.
The Monolith is a versatile cooker with a concentration in smoking. Good thing that they are now available in North America. Unfortunately, you can only purchase through BBQ Guru website.
- Feeder for adding wood chips without raising the lid
- Built-in fan for BBQ Guru temp control system
- Great for smoking
- Comes with many accessories
- Charcoal basket for two zones cooking
- No lifetime warranty for The BBQ Guru Edition
- Can only purchase via BBQ Guru for the North American Edition
OTHER MATERIALS (STEEL & CAST ALUMINIUM):
Best For Beginners – Char-griller Akorn Steel Kamado
Although Char-griller doesn’t have the reputation of providing quality products, the Akorn Kamado Grill might be an exception.
One thing to notice right away is that it is made of coated steel wrapped around one inch of insulation. This makes the Akorn lighter than other ceramic grills on the market. It also won’t crack if you happen to drop it so that will give you a peace of mind.
In terms of performance, the Akorn does as good of a job as other ceramic kamado grills. Many people reported great cooking experience with it.
However, they also said that it might take a while to master the temp control of the Akorn. This is because of being made of steel, the Akorn is actually more heat efficient than ceramic grills. And that’s not an advantage at all.
The grill heats up really fast. On top of that, many people said the gaskets leak. That makes dialing in low n slow temperature a challenging task.
Sometimes, you have to shut off the vents which will smolder the fire. Akorn does have a closing latch between the dome and base; however, it doesn’t seem to provide an airtight seal. I’ve seen people modifying the latch to make it tighter nonetheless.
With that said, this grill is still a perfect training tool for people who want to get into kamado grilling.
It won’t set you back much like other ceramic grills. And it does a great job of cooking if you don’t mind the difficult temp control. It comes with an extra grill expander. It won’t crack and you can move it around with ease.
The Akorn has 5 years warranty on the lid and base and 1 year for the ash pan and defective parts. Please don’t forget to buy a cover. The Akorn will rust, especially the ash pan, but that’s just the nature of coated steel.
In short, the Akorn is great for kamado beginners. You might have to replace or throw it away after 3 – 4 years but after that, you know for sure if you want to pursue kamado grilling or not. If you can cook on an Akorn, you can cook on anything.
The Akorn has a smaller, portable version called the Akorn Junior.
- Great entry level kamado as well as training tool
- Lightweight and crack-proof
- Minimal investment
- Perform as well as other ceramic charcoal grills
- Harder to control temp
- Gaskets leak
Broil King Keg BBQ Kamado Grill
Tired of all the Humpty Dumpty-looking grills? Meet the Broil King Keg.
The Broil King Keg resembles a keg. Duh!
Weighing around 126 lbs, the Keg is durable and portable. With a hook connector, it can hitch a ride with you to your favorite tailgate party. Better yet, there are two bottle openers pre-installed to the front handle so you can crack open a cold one with the boys or girls.
Originally known as the Bubba Keg or Big Steel Keg, this thing is made of double steel wall wrapped around a high temp insulation. The inside is coated with ceramic to retain heat like other ceramic grills.
There are two versions of the Keg: 5000 and 2000. They both have the same 280 square inches of primary cooking area. But the Keg 5000 also includes a secondary rack with 200 square inches of space. That is about 480 square inches of total cooking surface for it. You can turn the rack expander to the side if needed.
The 5000 has two side shelves and durable wheels while the 2000 doesn’t have any of those. However, the 2000 does include a rack for extra storage space underneath the cooker.
They both feature a locking mechanism for tighter seal when closing the lid. Their top vent has a numbered settings for fine tuning the internal temperature. One cool thing is that the vent won’t swing open when you raise the dome which is a common problem on many kamado grills.
The Keg 5000 and 2000 come with a multi tool that helps you handle small tasks such as scraping ash, adjusting the vent system or removing cooking grids. Many people reported that the tool sometimes slipped off of the cast iron cooking grids so they fell down and cracked as the result.
Broil King makes many accessories for the Keg although none are included in the final purchase. With that said, plenty of Large BGE’s add-ons fits into the Keg because of the similar internal dimensions.
Made by a well-established Canadian company with a motto “Proudly Made In North America”, you can’t go wrong with the Broil King Keg. It’s lightweight, perfect for tailgating and won’t crack like other fragile kamado grills on the market.
For warranty: 10 years on body and 2 years on parts and paint.
- Portable with hitch trailer adaptor
- Lightweight compared to ceramic grills
- Sturdy and crack-proof
- Bottle openers
- Keg-shaped instead of ovoid
- Fit Large BGE’s accessories
- Doesn’t come with any accessories
- Some parts can rust if not covered
Blaze Kamado Barbecue Grill
If the Komodo Kamado is the Ferrari then the Blaze Kamado is the Tesla of kamado grills.
It is the first kamado grill that is made completely from cast aluminum on the market. The inside of the grill has no internal insulation, just a solid, non-porous cast aluminum housing. Because of that, it allows you to use any type of fuel or ignition methods without damaging the interior. You can also hose it with water whereas you can’t do that with conventional ceramic kamados.
The fire grate resembles normal cooking grate with large gap between the rods. This will prevent small bits of charcoal from blocking the airflow from the intake vent at the bottom. Large gaps also help air circulate which, as a result, get the grill up to temp better. Underneath the fire grate is the ash pan with handles for easy cleanup.
There are no gaskets in the Blaze Kamado. The dome connects with the base through an overlapping lip. This eliminates the need to replace the gaskets if they are burned up or overused.
With its silver color, the grill can blend right into the rest of your outdoor kitchen. The color also gives the Blaze Kamado a high-end feel to it. It weighs around 170lbs and built like a tank. It won’t crack or break if you happen to drop it.
One complaint about the Blaze is the outside of the grill can get really hot. Good thing that Blaze put a warning sign on it but please beware of it. Better safe than sorry, especially if you have your children around with their eyes glued to their phone.
You need a cart to move the Blaze around but you have to purchase it separately. Same for side tables. At the time of this writing, the Blaze only comes in one size which is 20”. Kind of a bummer!
Lifetime warranty on the whole shebang though.
- Sturdy cast aluminum body
- No gaskets so no need for replacement
- Can use any type of fuel or ignition methods
- Lifetime warranty on everything
- Outside of the grill can get hot
- Cart and side shelves purchased separately
- Only one size 20”
Weber Summit Charcoal Series
Weber Summit is the latest entry to the kamado niche from a veteran of the grilling world – Weber. The Summit has blended the versatility of a kamado and the performance of the Weber Kettle into one ultimate grill.
Being similar to the Kettle, the Summit allows you to divide up your charcoal for two zones grilling. This is hard to achieve on other kamado grills without the use of a heat deflector or charcoal basket.
The fire grate has two levels: one is close to the intake vent for medium heat while the upper level is about 4” below the cooking grate for high searing heat. There is also a gas igniter underneath the fire grate to heat up charcoal.
Weighing around 114lbs, the grill is lightweight compared to a Big Green Egg or Primo Oval. Made from porcelain-coated steel, the Summit will never crack if dropped.
There is a metal band to keep the lid and base together. Weber actually screws it to the lid so you don’t have to tighten it as part of your routine maintenance plan. This actually solves the loose band problem that leads to the lid falling off on many ceramic kamados.
Weber Kettle is a great grill but many criticize its single wall which is not great to hold temp steady. The Summit addresses that. By adding another wall of steel with air in between, the Summit is now better than the Kettle at keeping the hot air in and cold air out.
One complaint about its double-walled air-insulated body is that it’s actually harder to hold temp in colder weather. It is something that traditional ceramic grills do very well. Because of that, it will take some practice to nail down the temp control on the Weber Summit if you live in a colder climate.
With all these great features, the Summit doesn’t come cheap. And for its price tag, there are a couple of things that make you think twice.
First, the wheels are plastic instead of durable rubber. Next, hooks are not great for tools without string. There is no grate lifter or ash tool included. Lastly, the fake leg socket at the bottom of the grill has no use at all. Some people don’t mind them but if I have to pay a high price, I want something excellent, not good.
Overall, the Weber Summit is a great, versatile kamado charcoal grill. You can do anything with it, from searing steak at high temp to smoking brisket low n slow to two zones cooking. As long as you maintain it regularly, the sky’s the limit with this grill.
- Can cook two zones
- Hold temp well
- Lightweight and crack-proof
- No need to tighten band
- Gas igniter to heat up charcoal
- Takes some practice to control temp
- Plastic wheels instead of rubber
- Hooks are not great for tools without string
- Fake leg socket serves no purpose
The History – What Is A Kamado Grill?
Kamado cooking isn’t new. This technology has been around for a long time. The earliest form of the present-day ceramic BBQ grill was made of clay and found some thousand years ago in China. The concept of the Indian tandoori oven is also similar to these Chinese clay cookers.
Over time, the earthenware cooker somehow made its way to Japan. The Japanese were fond of this new product and incorporated it into their everyday cooking. They added a dome lid to these stoves and used them to cook rice. These rice cookers, or “mushikamados”, are in fact the prototype of the modern kamado grill.
After the Second World War, US troops stationed in Japan were impressed by these “mushikamados” so they brought them back for their family.
Then American ingenuity came into play.
Some people started to tinker with these clay pots. They turned them into grills by installing top/bottom dampers and a hinged lid. However, these things didn’t catch on until the end of the Vietnam War.
In 1974, a man from Atlanta named Ed Fisher started selling oblong ceramic grills called kamado to the public. It was a hard sell for Mr. Fisher at first. But after giving them a unique name and color – the Big Green Egg (BGE), the rest is history.
BGE ruled the industry for years. In fact, many people consider it the OG of kamado grill. Until recently, many grill manufacturers started to enter this market and threatened BGE’s monopoly.
In short, a kamado is not only the latest invention in the grilling world but also the oldest form of cooking in human history.
Fun fact: Ed Fisher wasn’t the one who held the utility patent for the kamado grill. A gentleman named Farhad Sazegar did. If you’re interested in seeing the original patent, click here.
Kamado Grill Anatomy – How Does A Kamado Grill Work?
Now that we know a bit about the history of the kamado. Let’s dive into how it works by examining its features.
Kamado grill has a distinctive ovoid or egg shaped body. Some, however, resemble either a keg or reverse teardrop rather than the common oblong shape. The cooking surface of these egg shaped grills is generally round while one model on the market has an oval surface.
There are two major parts in a kamado:
- Upper portion (⅓ of the total length) or the lid (a.k.a the dome):
- Dome lid – with heavy-duty hinge that connects it to the lower portion or the base.
- Built-in thermometer
- Top/exhaust vent – at the top center of the lid. This is where air escapes. Use for temperature control of the grill.
- HDPE (plastic) or bamboo handle.
- Lower portion (⅔ of the total length) or the base:
- Firebox – where all the burning takes place. Underneath the firebox is the ash catcher. The hole on the side of the firebox lines up with the bottom vent so air can go straight to the firebox when you open the draft door.
- Draft door – outside near the bottom of the base. The draft door is the bottom/intake vent and where air comes in. This is also where you get access to the ash catcher.
- Fire grate – the charcoal sits on it, in the center of the firebox. It is made from cast iron (was ceramic before). There shouldn’t be any small pieces of charoal blocking the holes of the fire grate. That is to ensure proper airflow and maintain a good temperature.
- Fire ring – on top of the firebox. You can place many accessories on the fire ring.
- Cooking grid – above the fire ring.
There is a strip of gasket, made from felt or fiberglass, attached to the bottom of the lid and the top of the base. They act as an airtight seal that closes the two halves together. With the gaskets and a high thermal mass ceramic interior, the kamado style grill is truly a beast at trapping heat inside and keeping a consistent temperature.
There are also two metal bands around the kamado. The purpose is to secure and connect the lid and dome by a hinge. This is the common design of a kamado grill.
Now, a kamodo grill expands and contracts when heated so the bands need adjustment regularly. This actually poses two problems if you don’t tighten them often:
- The lid might fall and crack when you open it.
- The hot air might leak through the opening and burn up the gaskets.
Some kamado grills mentioned later in this article offer alternative design that fixes these problems.
A kamado grill can sit on its own with ceramic feet. If you plan to put the grill on a wooden structure, you need something underneath to prevent it from catching fire. Manufacturers offer stands or pre-made tables for their kamodo grills. Most grills also have shelf attached on both sides for extra working space.
Kamado Grill Buying Guide
What Are The Benefits of A Kamado Grill?
Kamado cooker is made from high quality material (ceramic, terra cotta, etc.) that is a good heat insulator. Therefore, it requires less airflow while keeping a consistent temperature throughout its interior. That will not only help cook the food evenly but also prevent it from drying out and remain juicy.
You and your family will appreciate the final product after every cook once you nail down the techniques. In fact, many people say they won’t go back to gas grill after they discover the kamado.
Moreover, because of the high thermal mass of the kamado, you can start a cook with little charcoal in windy or cold weather and the grill will still heat up and hold temperature for a while.
The next advantage of using a kamado style grill is its versatility. As I mentioned above, the material used in a kamado is good for holding temperature steady. Combined that with the intake/exhaust vent system for precise airflow control, you can go through a wide range of temperatures to cook different foods. You can bake cookies, smoke briskets low n slow or even sear steaks at a very high heat. Really, the sky’s the limit here.
Some Drawbacks Of A Kamado
Hard To Cool Down
Although kamado ceramic grill is good at keeping temperature, it’s not great at cooling down at all. In fact, if you put too much charcoal at the beginning, you might end up going above your target temperature.
The rule of thumb with kamado cooker is to start small and work your way up gradually. It will take some learning to master the airflow control, especially if you come from a gasser background and don’t have a lot of experience cooking with charcoal.
Hard To Achieve Indirect Heat Cooking
Many people criticize the komado grill for the lack of different heat zones. Most kamado grills have a round cooking surface with a deep bottom. That’s not a proper structure for splitting the charcoal into two halves.
Fortunately, kamado grill companies realize this drawback and offer a heat plate or deflector to achieve indirect heat cooking.
One company, Primo, makes their grill oval with a more shallow bottom that is easier to create different heat zones.
Speaking of cooking surface, kamado style grills tend to have smaller cooking space than gas and charcoal grills on average.
You might think you only need a small one for you, your wife and kids. But sometimes you have to throw a party for your extended family as well, especially when they find out that you can grill some mean steaks. In that case, you need a bigger one.
Heavy & Fragile
Most kamado cookers are heavy. They are also fragile. If dropped, they can easily break. In fact, they are more stationary than mobile. Manufacturers do make smaller/portable version of their main product line such as the Kamado Joe Jr or BGE Minimax. You can move them around but they are made from a delicate material after all. They still break if dropped.
There are some good quality steel/cast aluminum komado grills on the market though. Examples are the Broil King Keg and the Blaze Kamado. Many BBQ cook teams actually prefer the steel kamados over the ceramic ones because they are more durable and crack-proof. They are also lighter and easier to move.
Due to the high-quality material used in making a kamado smoker, it isn’t cheap. Therefore, you should consider it as an investment, not a purchase. If you have some spare cash and experience with charcoal cooking, a kamado should be the next upgrade of your grilling arsenal.
Steel/cast aluminum kamado grills tend to be a bit cheaper but not much.
I have a cool video for you.
No jokes, huh? They call this flare-up flashback or backdraft.
When you close all the vents to let the charcoal extinguish, the airtight nature of the kamado will block all the oxygen needed for the fire to continue.
Then you open to check on the grill. A sudden rush of oxygen to a starving fire will ignite it instantly. The result is no more arm hair and eyebrows! (Don’t worry! I heard microblading is trendy these days)
Now, if you want to check on your grill after you close all the vents, proceed to “burp” it first.
To do that, you would stand on one side of the cooker (never in front), then slowly raise the lid a couple of inches for a few seconds before opening it completely. Also remember to wear heat-resistant gloves and never let your children near the cooker.
Armed with this knowledge, please be careful when using your kamado. Love grilling but love yourself and your family more.
Before You Buy
Kamado ceramic grill is a great and versatile cooker. Different brand has specific features that will serve you in a particular way.
For example, the Monolith grill has a small channel outside of its base to add wood chips without opening the lid. Kamado Joe has a Divide & Conquer system that allows you to set up different cooking configurations with ease.
Nevertheless, they all share certain things that you need to consider first before spending your hard-earned cash.
This is the first thing to look at. Kamado grills range from few hundred dollars for a steel entry-level cooker to thousands of dollars for a high quality ceramic tiles behemoth. So knowing what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend is important.
If you just get into kamado grilling, I’d recommend going for a cheaper one. You might end up replacing or throwing it away but at least you know if you like kamado cooking or not. The initial cash outlay is minimal here.
If you’re a seasoned griller with some thousand cooks under your belt, maybe it’s time to go for a better one with a higher price tag. You know what you’re doing so you get a “buy once cry once” sort of deal.
Whatever budget you may have, keep in mind that kamado style grills come with loads of accessories so you might need some extra money for them.
Once you know your budget, you can now start looking at other factors.
Komado grills offer relatively smaller cooking size compared to other types of grill. This is one of their drawbacks but also a key thing to consider when buying one.
Oftentimes, you think you get the right size for what you need but wanting more cooking space after a while. You might have to throw a party for ten people in the future or you might eventually get into smoking brisket which is a big cut of meat.
The rule here is when in doubt, go one size up.
The majority of kamado grills on the market is made from ceramic. Some are made from steel. A new one, Blaze Kamado, is made from cast aluminum.
Kamado purists may argue that kamado grills should be made only from ceramic because of its heat retention nature. However, ceramic BBQ grills are heavy, fragile and difficult to move around.
If weight and portability are your concerns, you may want to switch to a steel or cast aluminum kamado. It might not perform the same as its ceramic cousin but it still turns out some great food.
Personally, I always like to have extra workspace such as side tables to put my thermometers (one of my favorites is the ThermoPro TP08), tongs and gloves.
Some people function fine without them.
Kamado manufacturers do sell pre-made stands if you don’t want the side shelves.
Kamado grills have a lot of accessories. These gadgets allow you to do many things with your kamado. For example, pizza stone to make pizza or dutch oven for soups and stews.
Now, some accessories might not come included so it is advisable to check what is included and what is not in the package.
Also, remember to factor in the cost of accessories when you make the final decision between two specific grills.
We’re dealing with a fragile material, i.e. ceramic, so knowing what the warranty will be covering is critical.
The common problem of the kamado grill is the cracked firebox. Most companies replace it free of charge if cracked under regular use. However, it is always better to double check.
Ceramic cookers normally have a lifetime warranty while steel kamado grills only have 5 – 10 year warranty.
Reputation & Support
As I mentioned above, a komado grill is a big investment so you want to ensure you buy from a company that you like and trust.
If you want a young, innovative company, check out Kamado Joe.
If “made in America” is important to you, Primo is obviously the choice.
If you have extra disposable income and want the highest quality with some space-age design, go with Komodo Grill.
During the research phase, consider giving a company you’re interested in a call to see what their support is like. This will give you a feel of how they run their business. It is also important to know that their support is responsive. Things, such as missing or broken parts, might happen after the purchase.
Another thing I’d suggest is talking to your local barbecue dealers. The reason is to see if your chosen brand has any support at the dealer level.
Better yet, if you have a friend who owns a kamado grill from a brand you like, talk to him or her.
Few Other Things
If possible, check out the grill you like in person. It can be different from what you imagine. It can be bigger or even smaller.
After considering everything and it’s time to make that final choice, go with your intuition.
If you always want a BGE, pull the trigger and get it.
But if you like the shiny, glossy look of a Grill Dome better, buy it!
Really, most kamado grills are very similar in terms of internal structure and how they work. At the end of the day, you don’t want to end up with something that you regret buying.
Do I Have To Break In Or Not?
You don’t have to do any break-ins. You can cook at any temp when you bring the cooker home. I would personally do something simple like kebabs or chicken wings to get things started. Regardless, you should check your user guide to see if any procedure is required before burning the charcoal. If you’re new to kamado or charcoal grilling though, I would recommend doing some dry runs without the food. The reason is to familiarize yourself with the kamado’s temperature control.
Briquettes vs Lump Charcoal
Some people say that briquettes work fine for kamado grill. Most enthusiasts will suggest using lump charcoal because lump produces less ash than briquettes. The ash catcher in kamado grill is fairly small to take all the ash from burning briquettes. Too much ash will block airflow and reduce the efficiency of the grill. With that said, dust from the bottom of a lump charcoal bag can also restrict airflow.
So which one should you use? As long as you have enough space for ash and clean it out regularly, you should be good to go with either of them.
How Much Charcoal Do I Need?
It depends on what you’re planning to cook. If something simple like burgers, put enough to fill the firebox. If you want slow n low smoking, fill it up to the fire ring. Either way, start with a bit less than you think you need. It is because you don’t want to overshoot the target temp if you burn too much charcoal. Kamado grill can soak up a lot of heat and is slow to cool down.
If you happen to use more charcoal than you need, you can close all the vents and let the fire go out. Then save the remaining charcoal for the next cook. Remember to stir the used charcoal to get rid of ash or small chips though.
This will come with some trials and errors.
Does The Outside Surface Of The Grill Get Hot?
Do I Have To Clean The Grill Often?
No, except for the cooking grid and the ash catcher. The inside of the grill will get dark and that’s normal.
Should I Clean Out The Ash After Every Cook?
Yes if you use briquettes which will produce a lot of ash. Ash will restrict airflow and make it hard to bring the cooker to temperature. Make sure the holes in your firebox and fire grate are not blocked.
Should I Cover The Grill?
If you have a steel kamado grill, I’d recommend a cover because some parts can rust if frequently exposed to the elements. Even for the ceramic ones. It is because rain can get inside via the top vent and mold can develop inside your cooker.
Will My Kamado Freeze In Cold Weather?
Yes, that can happen. The gaskets between the dome and the base can get wet; then, when the weather is really cold, they will freeze. To prevent the freezing, invest in a cover for your kamado.
The Lid And Base Are Stuck Together. Please Advise!
Another thing that can get the base and dome stuck together is melting gaskets from flashback/backdraft. To cure this, you have to cut through the gaskets and pry the cooker open. You have to install new gaskets though.
It’s time to wrap it all up.
All kamado grills work the same way. It might take some practice on some models but they all produce the same results: delicious and tasty food.
Your friends and family will certainly be appreciative of that. And seeing their smiles and sharing those fondest memories together are the most important thing after all.
So please use all the information here as a guideline to pick the best ceramic grill for your situation. Yours might be different than others’.
If you want to get started with kamado cooking, try out an Akorn before anything else. If you know what you’re doing, upgrade to a BGE or Kamado Joe. And if ceramic breakage is a concern, a Blaze Kamado or Broil King Keg is the way to go.
I hope you find all the information here useful. I actually enjoyed the whole process of writing this article, from researching to talking to people to seeing and trying out some of the kamados myself.
If you have any questions or something to add, please feel free to contact me or drop a comment down below.
In the meantime, take it easy and let’s barbecue!