The versatility of the kamado—it can both sear at high heat and smoke at low temperatures—is amazing, and it makes these grills a wonderful addition to any backyard BBQ setup. In fact, it's such a versatile choice that it might be the only grill you need unless you want to supplement it with an inexpensive gas grill.
This type of grill is unique because of its thick-walled construction, egg-like shape, and multi-tasking ability, and the airflow is, too. It's controlled by vents that help you monitor and adjust the temperature. Most manufacturers offer accessories for additional cooking space, should you need them. You'll want to keep all this in mind while picking out the grill for you.
Kamado Joe Classic II Charcoal Grill
What We Love: Ideal size, superior construction and temperature control, great extra features
What We Don't Love: High price, heavy
With an 18-inch split-level stainless-steel cooking grate that translates to 256 square inches of space, this Kamado Joe grill is in the Goldilocks range for kamado grills. It’s not too big and not too small, and that's why it's the best overall.
Kamado Joe's Classic II grills have 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 the lid, it has an air hinge, which makes make it easier to open, and a stainless-steel latch to keep it closed. The durable construction definitely makes it a heavyweight, both literally and financially, as this excellent 232-pound grill isn't cheap.
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 ribs at a steady temperature for hours and sear at very high heat, this is the one that checks all the boxes.
Price at time of publish: $1,299
Dimensions (LxWxH): 46.5 x 28 x 48 inches | Cooking Area: 660 square inches | Weight: 232 pounds
Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
What We Love: Spacious cooking area, not as heavy as other models, less expensive
What We Don't Love: Learning curve, more susceptible to rust
A budget kamado is kind of an oxymoron. It’s expensive to make a sturdy grill that can grill at high heat and maintain smoker-level temperature for hours. Not many 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. Just make sure you keep a sturdy cover on it when you're not using it; unlike the ceramic models, steel kamado grills are more susceptible to rust.
Price at time of publish: $375
Dimensions (LxWxH): 45 x 31 x 47 inches | Cooking Area: 447 square inches | Weight: 97 pounds
Best for Beginners
Kamado Joe Classic I Charcoal Grill
What We Love: Two-tier cooking area, easier to use, ample cooking area
What We Don't Love: Pricey for a beginner grill
Maybe you've tried your hand at 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, which is a bit easier to use than the Classic II and, therefore, a great beginner option for kamado grilling.
This model also has a two-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 grill cleanup easy. A model like this will definitely get you very comfortable with this unique style of grill, but at $800, it's still pretty expensive for a beginner grill.
Price at time of publish: $800
Dimensions (LxWxH): 46.5 x 30.1 x 48.5 inches | Cooking Area: 245 square inches | Weight: 200 pounds
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Best for Smoking
Big Green Egg Large Kamado Grill
What We Love: Incredible heat retention, don't need to add lots of fuel, doubles as a grill
What We Don't Love: Heavy, expensive
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 for 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 pricey item. But for all this expense and heft, the grill will give you 262 square inches of cooking space on stainless-steel grates. There are also patented hinges for easy opening and closing and a patented top vent.
One note on Big Green Eggs: They don’t generally come with add-ons, and you might want things like a stand and other grilling tools. Be sure to remember that those are all added on later when purchasing.
Price at time of publish: $1,000
Dimensions (LxWxH): 21 x 21 x 30 inches | Cooking Area: 262 square inches | Weight: 162 pounds
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Best for Entertaining
Big Green Egg X-Large Kamado Grill
What We Love: Compatible with many useful accessories, excellent construction, outstanding heat retention
What We Don't Love: Very heavy, very expensive
A larger version of the Big Green Egg is perfect for any entertainer. This version can hold up to two 20-pound turkeys for barbecuing. That’s a party!
It's as stellar in its construction and as outstanding in its heat retention capability as the other Big Green Eggs, as you would expect. But 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," which gives you multiple ways to increase 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 and have someone who can help you move this very heavy item, it’s worth it.
Price at time of publish: $1,399
Dimensions (LxWxH): 24 x 24 x 27.25 inches | Cooking Area: 452 square inches | Weight: 219 pounds
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Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr. Charcoal Grill
What We Love: Lighter weight, easy to move, triple-walled construction
What We Don’t Love: Assembly can be a little tricky, long burn-off is needed to eliminate odors and off-gassing.
Kamado grills are heavy and unwieldy to move, so it may seem like there’s no way to make a good portable one. However, this Char-Griller Akorn Jr. weighs in at 33 pounds, which is very light compared to its full-sized heavyweight counterparts. Don’t be fooled, though: This grill is small but mighty, with triple-wall, powder-coated stainless steel construction instead of ceramic (which can crack easier). This grill has a hinged lid that reveals a cast iron cooking grate and about 155 square inches of cooking space—enough for about eight burgers.
We're big fans of this grill aesthetically, too—it kind of resembles a droid from a Star Wars movie and comes in an array of colors. Aesthetics aside, this grill gives you the same functionality as a larger kamado, but with much more flexibility. The portable size makes it ideal for small patios or other situations where you might need to move the grill elsewhere for storage.
Some reviewers, however, felt it was a little cumbersome to assemble and that they needed to burn through a lot of charcoal at first to eliminate some off-gassing and unpleasant odors.
Price at publish: $168
Dimensions (LxWxH): 20 x 20 x 26 inches | Cooking Area: 155 square inches | Weight: 33 pounds
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With stellar temperature control, split-level grates, and a great amount of cooking space, the Kamado Joe Classic II Charcoal Grill is a worthwhile kamado grill. If you're looking for something a little more moderately priced, pick up the steel-walled Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill.
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 sufficient for the average family of four.
Airflow, and the ability 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.
What is special about a kamado grill?
The egg-shaped design is definitely different, and the thick-walled construction is, too; both enable this kind of grill to get very hot and stay hot. How it works is unique as well. Air that enters the grill at the bottom is blown over the hot coals into the main cooking space before exiting the top vent. This allows for direct and indirect cooking, as many kamados have tiered grates for handling different foods at different temperatures. It gives you a lot of flexibility and control as the griller.
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!"
Are kamado grills worth it?
These grills are very versatile, so if you want to skip the expense of having both a smoker and a grill, a kamado is a good bet. Having one item that can do several functions can also potentially save you money if you aren't buying more than one piece of equipment for backyard cooking.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Nick Evans has been developing recipes for the home cook for over a decade 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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