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Kamado grills are a wonderful addition to any backyard BBQ setup. In fact, they are so versatile that they are the only grill you need in many cases (unless you want to supplement with a gas grill). The versatility of the kamado grill to both sear at high heat and smoke at low temperatures is amazing, and the engineering of these grills is a true marvel.
Kamado grills work in part because of their thick walls. The top kamados are made of ceramic, which allows them to be used year-round no matter what the weather. Thick walls also allow the egg-shaped grill to retain heat more efficiently than a flatter, rectangular grill. Air that enters the grill at the bottom, is blown over the hot coals into the main cooking space, before exiting out the top vent. This allows for direct and indirect cooking, while many kamados have tiered grates for handling different foods at different temperatures. Most manufacturers offer accessories for additional cooking space, should you need it.
You'll want to keep all this in mind while picking out the grill for you. Here are the best kamado grills to have in your backyard.
Best Overall: Kamado Joe Classic II Charcoal Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 46.5 x 28 x 48 inches | Cooking Area: 256 square inches | Weight: 232 pounds
This Kamado Joe grill is in the goldilocks range for kamado grills and that makes it the best overall for me. With an 18-inch split-level stainless-steel cooking grate that translates to 256 square inches of space, it’s not too big and not too small.
Kamado Joe's Classic II grills have absolutely stellar temperature control with a water-resistant top vent and a wire mesh fiberglass gasket seal that keeps the interior airtight when the lid is closed. Speaking of, that lid has an air-hinge to make it easier to open and a stainless-steel latch to keep it closed.
I also like that this grill comes with lots of extras including a cast iron cart and locking wheels, fold-out side tables, and a grill gripper and ash tool. There are also tons of accessories including a grill expander and the ability to add another grate (adding both options increases the cooking area to 660 square inches). If you are looking for an all-around wonderful kamado grill that can smoke meats at a steady temperature for hours and sear at very high heat, this is the one that checks all the boxes.
Best Budget: Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 45 x 31 x 47 inches | Cooking Area: 447 square inches | Weight: 97 pounds
A budget kamado is kind of an oxymoron. It’s expensive to make a sturdy grill that can both grill at high heat and maintain smoker-level temperature for hours. Not a lot of companies even attempt to make an economical version of the kamado grill. But this steel-walled Akorn Kamado Kooker grill is your best bet.
For starters, it's triple-walled steel, which is sturdier and lighter than ceramic cookers, but there is definitely a learning curve for maintaining a steady temperature. There are top and bottom dampers to help with the airflow though. Inside the grill, you'll find the main cast-iron cooking grate, which gives you 314 square inches of space, while a removable warming rack adds another 133 square inches. It does have some bells and whistles of pricier models like locking caster wheels, folding side shelves, and an easy-to-clean ash pan.
That said, there’s no doubt that you can make a great meal on this grill, so it's a great option for those on a budget.
Best for Beginners: Kamado Joe Classic I Charcoal Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 46.5 x 30.1 x 48.5 inches | Cooking Area: 245 square inches | Weight: 200 pounds
Maybe you've tried your hand on the Kamado Kooker grill and want to upgrade to a ceramic cooker. Or maybe you already have a nice gas grill and a pellet grill and want to round out your collection. Enter the Kamado Joe Classic I, a little more economical version of the Classic II and a great beginner option for kamado grilling.
This model also has a 2-tier cooking surface that creates 245 square inches with 18-inch stainless-steel grates. It comes with a built-in thermometer and a cast-iron top vent for temperature control. A felt gasket creates an airtight seal when closed, while folding side shelves and slide-out ash drawer makes cleanup easy. A model like this will definitely get you very comfortable cooking with this unique style of grill.
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Best Portable: Vision Grills Icon 101 Hybrid Electric Kamado Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 22 x 20 x 25 inches | Cooking Area: 214 square inches | Weight: 85 pounds
Kamado grills are by their nature heavy so, but this Vision Grills kamado is about as portable as it gets. At 25 inches high, it’s half the size of other grills, but still has enough cooking area for five burgers at a time.
This a fascinating little grill because not only is it a normal charcoal cooker, but also has an electric adapter for it. It's a fully ceramic grill with tiered stainless-steel grates, each tier providing 107 square inches of cooking space. With charcoal, you'll use the cast-iron top vent to help control the temperature and a removable ash drawer for cleaning. Switch it over to electric with the heat-resistant plate and lava rocks. Both ways, you're able to use the lava stone for indirect cooking.
Keep in mind though that this portable version weighs 85 pounds so you’ll probably need a buddy to help you carry it to your cookout!
Related: The Best Portable Grills
Best for Smoking: Big Green Egg Large Kamado Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 21 x 21 x 30 inches | Cooking Area: 262 square inches | Weight: 162 pounds
Representing the high-end standard in kamado grills, if you smoke meats a lot the Big Green Egg is the way to go. It’s absolutely the best at heat retention and keeping a steady heat for many hours without having to add more fuel. If you’re tight on space, it’s a great option instead of having a smoker and a grill separately.
Of course, this all comes with trade-offs. For starters, this large version is HEAVY. You will need at least one extra set of hands just to help you move it and then you will never want to move it again! Also, the Big Green Egg is a pricy item. It will give you 262 square inches of cooking space on stainless-steel grates and its patented top vent. There are also patented hinges for easy opening and closing.
One note on Big Green Eggs: They don’t generally come with add-ons and you might want things like a stand and other tools. Be sure to remember that those are all added on later when purchasing.
Related: The Best Grills
Best for Entertaining: Big Green Egg X-Large Kamado Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 24 x 24 x 27.25 inches | Cooking Area: 452 square inches | Weight: 219 pounds
A larger version of the Big Green Egg is perfect for any entertainer. This version can hold up to two 20-pound turkeys. That’s a party!
The Big Green Egg X-Large comes with a 24-inch stainless-steel cooking grate to give you slightly more than 450 square inches. It too is equipped with a patented top vent and easy-to-use hinges. Like the other version, this one is compatible with various accessories including the "eggspander" with gives you multiple different ways to increase your cooking space. The X-Large version is more than big enough for even the largest BBQs and it’s a beautiful piece of outdoor cooking engineering. If you can splurge on it, it’s worth it!
Related: The Best Lump Charcoal
Steller temperature control, split-level grates, and a great amount of cooking space, the Kamado Joe Classic II Charcoal Grill (view at Amazon) is a worthwhile kamado grill. If you're looking for something a little more moderate, pick up the steel-walled Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Kamado Grill
It’s very important that your kamado-style grill is made with sturdy materials, with thick walls that are well insulated. Since these grills do not run on gas, it’s important that they are very well insulated or you’ll lose heat rapidly. For most kamado grills, that means an all-ceramic egg, though you will find some crafted from steel or porcelain. Inside, the grates can be made of stainless steel or cast iron.
Kamado grills are some of the priciest grills around and you can save some money by getting the smallest grill that fits your space and needs. Don’t just think you need the biggest one on the market, especially since they're not that easy to move if you want to downsize. A medium or large-size grill is generally great for the average family of four.
Airflow, and being able to control it, is one of the most important factors on a kamado grill (apart from insulation). This is how you'll control the interior temperature. The bottom vent is good for large temperature changes (an open door means hotter charcoal). The top vent is for fine-tuning the temperature. Be sure to understand how vents work with whatever model you pick!
Do you need to season a kamado grill?
No, you don’t need to season a kamado grill. However, seasoning it will make for better flavors and prevent sticking. Seasoning will also help prevent rust.
How do you start a kamado grill?
First, fill the chimney with charcoal. "Light some fire starters at the base of the kamado and place the chimney over the top," says Chef Derek Wolf of Over the Fire Cooking. "Let the coals heat up until they are red hot (about 10 minutes)." Once hot, "pour the coals into the grill and close the lid," he says. "Bring the grill to your cooking temperature and get to cooking!"
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Nick Evans has been developing recipes for the home cook for over a decade both on Simply Recipes and his personal blog, Macheesmo. He’s used and tested a huge range of both indoor and outdoor cooking equipment over the years. For the last few years, he’s tested a variety of grills and outdoor cookers.
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