I love Kamados. So much so that it has almost become an addiction, and my wife tells me that our backyard may have just one too many. What she doesn’t know yet is that I want to get one more.
But that personal bit aside, if you are considering getting a Kamado grill for your backyard, you are probably on the right track. Kamados are fantastic outdoor cookers and are amongst the best choices a grilling enthusiast can make.
However, with the dozens of models available today, it can sometimes be confusing to choose the right one for yourself. If you are in a similar state of mind, this guide may help.
I will start with a detailed buying guide so that you know what to keep in mind while evaluating a purchase. Then I will share five models that, in my opinion, are the best of the best and finally round it off with brief thoughts on other models that made it to my initial shortlist.
Right at the outset, my stated goal for this guide is to make it the most comprehensive Kamado buying guide on the internet. So if I miss anything, please let me know, and I will make amends.
Let’s get going?
At a Glance: My Recommendations
- Kamado Joe Classic II – Best Overall
- Primo Oval LG 300 – Runner-up, Overall
- Broil King Keg 5000 – Best Portable
- Komodo Kamado Ultimate – Best Luxury
- Char-Griller Akorn – Best Budget
- What exactly is a Kamado Grill?
- What I love about Kamado grills
- What’s not to like about Kamados
- Buying Guide – What to keep in mind while purchasing a new Kamado
- Best Kamado Grills – My Recommendations
- Rest of my Shortlist
- Final Thoughts
What exactly is a Kamado Grill?
A bit of history first
Believe it not, the modern-sounding Kamado is based on a technology that’s at least 3000 years old. Humans have been using clay cooking pots since ancient times, and Kamado is just yet another evolution of the same.
But if as we track the specifics, most archaeologists believe that the very first Kamado ancestor was a clay cooking vessel that originated in China. This vessel slowly found its way to Korea and then to Japan. The ever-ingenious Japanese refined this vessel further to suit their staple at the time, that was mostly rice.
They started calling this new evolution the ‘Mushikamado’ (Mushikamado means rice cooker in Japanese). This design saw further improvements over time and somehow somewhere a cooking grate to roast meat found its way in instead of the pot that held the rice in.
The first time, we Americans came across these Mushikamados was towards the end of the world war II. Our brave soldiers discovered the flavorful meat that these unusual cooking vessels produced, and some of them just fell in love.
When they came back from the deployment, they carried these cookers home. Seeing this phenomenon and sensing a business opportunity, many industrious entrepreneurs started importing and selling these vessels in our homeland.
Ed Fisher was one such entrepreneur. During his initial kamado selling years, he saw that the cookers he was selling were fragile and kept on breaking within first two years or so.
Determined to solve for this and to raise the bar for his company, he experimented with using ceramics instead of clay. He found that ceramics are not only much more durable, but they are also much better at retaining heat and moisture. And this is how the very first Big Green Egg was born. Within a few years, many more manufacturers copied this improved design and introduced yet more improvements.
By 1980s or so, the Kamado revolution in America had truly begun.
So, how does it actually work?
As explained above, a modern-day kamado grill is primarily a cooking vessel powered by charcoal. Despite all the innovations that have been introduced over the last few years, the basic design hasn’t changed much and stays similar across the brands.
A typical kamado cooker sits on a stand and has two distinct parts:
- The base that is about the bottom two-thirds of the cooker
- The lid (or the dome) that is top 1/3rd
The base is typically made of insulated thick ceramic walls (or metal) and hosts the firebox, the fire ring, the cooking grates, and the ash drawer. The lid covers the base and hosts the top air vent as well as the temperature gauge. Exchange Bar & Grill has done an excellent job depicting this basic design.
Each of these components plays a vital role in kamado’s functioning. But in brief, the lid holds the heat and smoke inside the grill itself. The interior of the cooker is shaped to distribute the heat evenly, and the lining (mostly made of felt but sometimes fiberglass and stainless steel also make an appearance) at the edges creates an air-tight seal when the lid is closed.
The top air vent on the lid and the attached daisy wheel allows you to control the air-flow and hence enables a precise temperature control. The thermometer can be used to read the current temperature in the dome (note that the temperature reading on the lid typically differs from that of the main cooking area by about 50 degrees).
The cooking grate (also called a grilling grate) is used to hold your food and below this grate is a fire ring. This ring is essentially a circular ceramic piece, and its whole purpose is to create some space between the burning charcoal and the cooking grate.
The firebox is where you put your charcoal (or wood if you choose so) in and at the bottom is the fire grate. This grate is essentially a metal plate with slots or holes that allow small pieces of charcoal/wood and ash to fall through to ashtray which can then be removed and cleaned.
The bottom vent (or the draft door) is the primary air source for your kamado, and you will have to keep it open at all times during your cooking.
It may sound complex, but in practice, it is not a very complicated design. Essentially, the oxygen flows in from the bottom and flows upwards to the top vent, the burning charcoal transfers heat to the cooking grates, and the domed lid reflects the heat that’s generated and hence ensures an even cooking.
Here is yet another depiction of this basic design by Primo Grill.
What I love about Kamado grills
Because of how they are constructed and how well they regulate the heat, Kamados are the perfect set and forget type grills. All you need to do is the fire up a Kamado, get it to the desired temperature and let it work till the meat is ready.
The ceramics are excellent at retaining the heat inside the grill and are good for outdoor cooking even in freezing climates. Even in those harsh northern parts, you will find that a Kamado can go on and on without much refueling.
The kamado design allows for a wide range of cooking temperatures – from very low to very high. This range and the ability to regulate temperature in a precise manner means that you can do just about any kind of cooking on a Kamado.
You can grill, you can sear, you can slow roast, you can smoke, and you can even do pizzas. And Kamado is excellent at all of them. By the way, if you don’t know, the kamado cooker, kamado smoker or the kamado grill mean the exact same thing as this one device can do it all. It is an incredibly versatile grill.
Because of their excellent insulation and heat retention, the charcoal efficiency of these grills is outstanding. You don’t waste any charcoal, and because you can simply put down the fire by closing the vents, you can use the leftovers for the next time.
However, the best part by far about the Kamado is its food quality. Kamados tend to retain the entire moisture inside, and the meat doesn’t dry out even a little bit. To think of it, almost without exception, my best BBQs have always been on a Kamado Joe.
Finally, most Kamado grills have an excellent build quality and will last for years if not decades. The design is relatively simple, and there are very few moving parts that need regular maintenance. And because ceramic is an excellent insulator, they also score pretty high on the safety aspect. If you have kids or pets running around all the time, it may be comforting that the outside surface will still be relatively cool.
What’s not to like about Kamados
So what do I not like about kamados?
Well, the first bit is their price. These grills are expensive – like really expensive. While some entry-level models start around $150, a proper mid-range Kamado will cost you anywhere between $700 – $1500 and can go as high as $5000. That’s a lot of money, especially given that a classic Weber kettle comes at around $100.
Kamados are great at getting to the high temperatures, but once it gets there, it will take a long time before it can cool down. This is an excellent news if you know what you are doing, but if you overshoot your desired temperature even by a little bit, the enduring wait can be quite frustrating.
This inability to cool quickly also means that you can’t use a Kamado for multiple cooking styles in the same day (i.e., unless you have a true two-zone cooking system). As you can see, there is a bit of steep learning curve that’s comes with Kamado cooking.
Most kamados are also prone to Flashback (also called a Backdraft). When you close the cooker vents, the burning charcoals will use the remaining air supply quite quickly. If you are not careful and open the lid before these charcoals have wholly extinguished, you will get a nasty flare-up that’s quite a safety risk. Check this video to see what I mean.
Because they are made of ceramics, most kamados are heavy monsters and not easy to move around. The typical weight is at least 150 lbs, and it goes all the way to half a ton. You can’t exactly lug most kamados to, let’s say a beach party.
Ceramics are brittle, and if you drop your Kamado, almost assuredly you are looking at a cracked wall. These cracks may also appear over time if you abuse your Kamado (e.g., banging the lid against the base instead of gently closing it).
But, don’t let these disadvantages scare you. In my view, and I have tested them all, the Kamados are still worth it. Yes, they are pricey and yes, there is a learning curve, but they are also incredibly long lasting and versatile enough to handle any type of cooking.
If you can have only one grill in your backyard, I will strongly recommend that you get a kamado.
Buying Guide – What to keep in mind while purchasing a new Kamado
1. Build Quality
Goes without saying that you ideally want to get a grill with exceptional build quality. It is even more critical for Kamados as you are probably spending a lot of money and are banking upon the grill lasting you for a long time for that expenditure to make sense.
Pay attention to any complaints on leaky seals or vents or the grill otherwise having a loose hinge. You will struggle to hold a steady temperature if the grill is not completely air-tight.
Check the build quality and avoid models that don’t seem to have strong enough or thick enough walls. Once you receive the grill, immediately check for cracks or imperfections in the body. Make sure that you are aware of return policies just in case there is a quality control issue with the unit you got.
In general, the build quality directly correlates with the price you pay. Higher it is, longer will be the lifespan of your grill and better will be your cooking experience.
2. What material is it made of?
You will mostly get Kamados either made of ceramic, refractory material or of stainless steel (though recently some manufacturers have started experimenting with cast aluminum too).
In my view, unless you want portability, you should almost always go for ceramic or refractory material. These materials hold heat much better and won’t rust or wither away. If you take good care of your ceramic grill, it will last you many years. Regardless of what the manufacturer says, steel will rust, and you can’t just leave your grill outside in inclement weather repeatedly and expect it to be rust free for decades.
But, if you need portability, a steel kamados are probably a better choice. They are lighter and will resist cracking even if you drop them accidentally. And of course, most steel models are also significantly cheaper.
3. Size & Cooking Capacity
Size of your grill will approximately determine the available cooking area and the amount of food you can cook in one go. With most brands, you have an assortment of options, ranging all the way from a starter 10” grid to a monster 42” grid.
It is important to carefully consider the cooking area that you actually need as Kamados increase exponentially in price as their size increases – the smallest grills will start at about $300-400 while just going one size larger can cost you upwards of $1000. The largest of these grills can go as high as $9000. So if you don’t need the bigger sizes, you may end up saving several hundred dollars.
On the flip side, don’t buy a Kamado that’s smaller than your real requirement. Multiple rounds of BBQing are no fun, and you don’t want to plop out cash to get a second grill a year or two down the line.
4. Warranty & Return Policies
The warranty is the surest sign of confidence that any manufacturer places in their product. Kamados are expensive, and you are probably banking on the longevity of these grills. You ideally want the manufacturer to back that longevity too.
Don’t accept anything less than a 5-year warranty on the ceramics and in fact, a lifetime ceramic warranty is becoming more and more common. The firebox, the cooking grids, and other parts should have a 2-year warranty at least. Also read through the exclusions carefully.
Check the return policy of the brand before you get the grill home. Even the most prominent brands can have QC issues, and you don’t want to end up with a dud. Any brand, worth their salt, should have your back just in case.
5. Dome Shape
99% of Kamado brands out there will have a round dome and a similarly circular cooking grid. But some brands like Primo and Komodo Kamado challenge this convention with their oval-shaped domes.
While the round vs. oval debate can go on forever, in my view, the oval shapes lend themselves better to two-zone cooking. They enable better heat separation while the round domes even out the heat rather quickly.
Even the round grills can do the two-zone cooking (Kamado Joe’s Divide and Conquer is a great example), but in general, they won’t be as efficient at maintaining the temperature differences.
Oval domes are also more space efficient and will allow you to load your grill with more food than what you can do in round domes.
On the flip side, you can’t use a ton of accessories that you may have already purchased. Round domes are the standard, and many accessories that will fit most round kamados won’t fit your unique oval shaped grill.
My advice – if you need perfect two-zone cooking, go with Oval else stick to Round.
6. Accessories & Extras
Kamados are versatile in no small measure thanks to their never-ending range of compatible accessories. Before you get a grill home, check which accessories the manufacturer includes as part of the purchase package and which ones you will have to buy separately.
You will want to get at least the essential accessories like the pizza stones, and the frying pans so take that into account while deciding your budget. If you are buying a non-popular brand, make sure that the compatible accessories are available.
Also, keep a watch out for special unique features. For example, Kamado Joes come with a removable ashtray that makes the cleaning up afterward a breeze and Vision Grills use an electric starter port that makes starting the fire just that bit more convenient and so on.
Most kamados can’t be directly used as a true two-zone cooking system but if you want to, keep an eye out for inserts that help you create indirect heat zones. To know more of what I am talking about, watch this video.
7. Your Budget
Kamados are not cheap, and hence it is important to have a realistic budget in mind. However, it is also equally possible to go crazy and spend thousands of dollars buying the top-of-line model and related accessories. Ideally, you want to start with a figure and stick to +/-20% of that.
My advice – set about a grand aside. That’s the budget you will need to get a high-quality grill home.
Best Kamado Grills – My Recommendations
1. Kamado Joe Classic II – The Best Overall
In my opinion, Kamado Joe Classic II is easily the best Kamado grill available in America today. Yes, it’s a bit on the expensive side, but it’s worth every single dollar.
The first thing you will probably notice about this grill probably is its striking Red color – it is one beautiful grill that’s also built exceptionally well. The ceramic shell is thick walled and is excellent at retaining heat and moisture. Quality wise, it is amongst the best if not the best.
The gaskets are made of plush fiberglass wire-mesh and should outlast the common felt lid insulations by a mile. A self-activating stainless-steel latch automatically secures the lid when it is closed everything seems to fit snugly. It is quite clear that Kamado Joe has paid a lot of attention to the overall build quality.
Classic II comes with an 18” cooking grid and has about 256 square inches of cooking space. If that doesn’t sound much, you can utilize a grill expander to increase this space to 407 square inches or use two separate grates to expand it to 508 square inches. If you need more, look at the Big Joe that comes with a 24” cooking grid.
The lids in typical ceramic grills can get pretty heavy, but it’s no different with Kamado Joes too. However, the Air Lift hinge makes lifting the lid a child’s play. Literally, you can lift the lid with a finger, and it will stay put where ever you let go of the handle. It’s surprising how much difference such a simple innovation can make.
The Divide and Conquer system, allows you to put split cooking grates at different levels and helps create two different heat zones. This system is great for two-zone cooking, normally an area that Kamados used to suck at.
Source: Kamado Joe
All Kamado Joe grills feature a removable ash try system. The drawer slides out and makes the cleanup post cooking very easy. Interestingly, the firebox comes as a collection of six separate pieces. This design is another Kamado Joe innovation to take note of. Ceramic fireboxes can sometimes crack due to the repeated expansion and contraction, and multi-panel box eliminates this risk almost completely.
Regarding purchase options, you can either get a ‘standalone unit’ or go for the entire package. If you go for the whole package, you will get a cast iron cart (with four casters), two fold-down side tables, divide & conquer system and an ash rake in addition to your grill. All thoughtful accessories that will make your life easier.
But, regardless of the package you go for, you will still have a bunch of other compatible accessories to look forward to. JoeTisserrie is my personal favorite and worth a look.
You will get a limited lifetime warranty on the ceramic parts while the metallic components are covered for a 5-year period. The heat deflector comes with a 3-year warranty while the thermometer and the gaskets are warranted for 1-year.
Overall, Classic II is an excellent grill and you won’t find many that are better built or perform better. It is a bit pricey, but if you can afford it, you won’t go wrong.
- Excellent Build Quality
- Air Lift Hinge
- Divide & Conquer System
- Excellent & Innovative Accessories
- Exceptional Performance
While the classic II is by far the most popular Kamado Joe model, if you need extra cooking space, look at the Big Joe from the same family. Big Joe comes with the same great features but has an additional firebox separator that further helps with dual-zone cooking.
2. Primo Oval LG 300 – Runner-up, Overall
Primo has an outstanding reputation in the grilling community and for a good reason.
They are an old hand and launched their first Kamado back in 1996. But it was in 2002 when Primo made things really interesting by launching the very first Oval Kamado. Oval LG 300 was launched a few years later and quickly became quite a popular grill. This model, in my opinion, is amongst the best kamados in the market today.
The first aspect you will notice about this grill is its rather unusual shape. Instead of the round Kamados that you are probably used to seeing, Primo Oval range comes with an oval-shaped dome.
This unique oval shape effectively increases the amount of space that’s available for your ribs and steaks as Oval is inherently more efficient for longer cuts. If you are grilling large steaks regularly, this will be a welcome change.
Additionally, the company claims, and I tend to concur, that this grill also delivers an outstanding two-zone cooking experience that most round-shaped kamados can’t. The cast-iron firebox divider fits perfectly in the fire grate notches and allows you to build a fire just on one side, hence giving you an option to have direct and indirect cooking at the same time. And the oval dome won’t reflect the heat as symmetrically as a round dome and hence will maintain the temperature differences for longer.
Overall, in my experience, it is easy to maintain a temperature difference of several hundred degrees and even with the recent dual zone innovations by Kamado Joe, Primo Oval performs much better.
The cooking grid measures 15” by 22” and offers 300 square inches of overall cooking space. This space can be further increased to 495 square inches with an optional grill extender rack. The grill is excellent at retaining heat and moisture and won’t dry your meat at all. The grates are also reversible, i.e., depending upon the orientation, you can either cook close to the coals or further away from the flame.
However, note that these grates are made of porcelain coated steel and not stainless steel. This is great when it comes to the stickiness (or lack of it) and cleaning, but if you scratch them somehow, they will become prone to rusting. And if you indeed manage to scratch them, be ready to season them every single time you grill.
The overall build quality is excellent – the ceramics are heavy duty, and the lid is quite heavy too. Fortunately, the easy lift hinge comes as a standard, and you won’t feel like as if you are building muscles when you are operating this grill.
And if it matters to you, Primo is probably the only remaining major Kamado brand with a manufacturing facility in USA (fun fact – their facility is less than 50 miles from where I live).
Primo Oval vs. Kamado Joe
Where Primo Oval is better
- Two-Zone cooking
- Made in USA
Where Kamado Joe is better
- Design & Finish
- Better Accessories
Primo Oval comes with a limited lifetime warranty that’s backed by a 20-year guarantee on the ceramic parts. There is a 5-year warranty on non cast-iron metal parts and a 1-year on cast iron parts. The thermometers and the gaskets have a 30-day warranty each.
Till now, everything that I have talked about this grill is quite positive. But there are two things I don’t like about this model.
The first and this is inherent to the design – because of its oval shape, the after-market accessories that are compatible with most round kamados don’t fit this grill at all. And to add to the injury, Primo doesn’t include many accessories even in their all-in-one package. It will pinch if you already have a fair number of accessories.
The second thing I don’t like about this grill is its overall finish. It comes in black and has an understated look but compared to a BGE or a Kamado Joe, it just doesn’t shout premium.
This is still an exceptionally versatile grill that values function over form. Go for it if you are a fan of dual-zone cooking and if you want to support the companies that manufacture in America.
- True two-zone cooking
- Exceptional build quality
- Reversible cooking grates
- Divisible Firebox
- Overall Finish
If you want a larger grill, look at Primo Oval XL 400. It comes with a grid spanning 18.5” by 25”, and your cooking area gets bumped up to almost 400 square inches.
3. Broil King Keg 5000 – Best Portable Kamado
Broil King Keg 5000 (BKK 5000) is a great Kamado cooker especially if you want one hitched to the back of your car.
In my view, no other portable kamado model is similar in size and equally good in performance. Yes, some kamados are lighter, but almost invariably they are also much smaller and won’t be a good fit even for a reasonably sized group.
As you know, ceramics crack easily and are not that great fit for portability. BKK gets around this problem by not using the ceramic body at all. They instead use a dual-walled steel body with a built-in insulation layer.
This design seems to retain heat almost equally well as your standard ceramic grills. But the metallic walls impart additional strength and resist cracking even if you accidentally drop the keg (but please don’t test it).
Keg 5000 seals the lid, and the base with a fiberglass strip instead of your typical felt insulation. The grill heats up relatively quickly, and as mentioned before, the overall heat retention is excellent. Even with this metallic body, the Keg doesn’t get too hot on the outside and can maintain consistent temperatures even in cold weather.
The cast iron cooking grids measure 19” in diameter. You will have a total of 280 square inches of cooking area, and you can extend it to 480 square inches by using a secondary rack. This secondary rack pops in on the main grate and can be swung away if required.
The grill weighs 126 pounds which is relatively light-weight. But, the stand-out feature by far is the optional tail-gating accessory. You can get a trailer hitch adaptor that you can attach to the back of your vehicle and carry your BKK anywhere you go.
It is seriously a great choice for those camping trips.
BKK has a nice metallic grey color, and the overall finish is quite pleasing. The outside of this grill doesn’t look like a typical kamado and is rather shaped like a Keg (just like the name implies).
The inside, however, is very similar to that of a Big Green Egg. So much so, that the accessories that fit a Large BGE in all probability will also fit the BKK 5000.
You can expect a stand, two side shelves, an extender rack, and an all-purpose multi-tool (that can be used as an ash rake or to handle the grates) as standard accessories alongside your purchase. Interestingly, there are two bottle openers mounted under the front handle – that’s some thoughtful design for those beer and bbq parties.
The build quality is excellent, and the 10-year warranty on the main body reflects it. The parts and the paint are warranted for a period of 2-years though.
Broil King is better known for their gas grills, but the Keg model stands on its own in kamado category. The only aspect you should note is that the grates are made of cast iron, and that makes them prone to rusting (and breaking as cast iron is inherently brittle).
For what it offers, BKK 5000 is priced rather competitively, and that is one of the reasons behind its ever-increasing popularity. This grill is a great choice for those who are looking to purchase a high performing kamado that’s good for an occasional trip too.
- No ceramic cracking issues
- Excellent heat retention
- VFM Price
- Brittle Cast Iron grates
4. Komodo Kamado 23” Ultimate – Best Luxury Kamado
If money is not an issue and you want to get the best of the best with no compromises on anything, Komodo Kamado 23 Ultimate is the model you need to look at.
This grill is an incredibly over-engineered piece of beauty and don’t be surprised if you fall in love on the very first sight as it is that striking visually.
It is nigh indestructible and is made of a high-grade refractory material and almost 85 pounds of heavy duty steel. The 2-inch thick refractory material is like concrete, and the lid is massive. Fortunately, the spring assisted hinge makes lifting the lid a child’s play. The mechanical components are laser cut, and everything is just super precise.
23” model has three cooking grids – an upper, middle and the lower. These grids are 3/8 inches thick and are constructed from 304-grade stainless steel. If you have had a normal cooker till now, you will be impressed by the build quality of these grids. Overall, these three grids offer a total of 978 square inches of cooking area (375 square inches on the main grill, 274 square inches on the upper grill and 329 square inches on the lower grill).
The tiles that create that visually striking look are bonded to the grill body through an acrylic grout. A traditional grout can’t handle the repeated expansion and contraction due to heat, but that’s not a problem with acrylic grout. It is a well thought out manufacturing decision.
Because they use tiles on the outer surface of the grill, there is a multitude of colors that are available. In my opinion, the bronze and the cobalt blue look the best amongst all these choices.
Komodo Kamados come with three layers of insulations and are excellent at retaining the heat inside. The company claims that with 16 pounds of charcoal can burn for 85 hours at 235 degrees and I tend to concur with that. The heat retention is easily the best I have seen in any kamado grill.
The rotating dial at the bottom acts as an airflow damper and can come out entirely if you want so. The upper damper is designed to keep the rain out and can be easily lifted if needed. Controlling temperatures is quite easy, and you have precise control on the airflow.
The Tel-Tru dial thermometer comes as a standard and is relatively more accurate compared to most other grills. But if you are the type to use a separate thermometer, the dome has a hole for that too.
Like Kamado Joe, Komodo too has realized the usefulness of multi-panel firebox. Though, instead of six separate, their firebox comes in two parts only. None-the-less, it should resist cracking all the same.
Komodo is an Indonesian company that is being run by Dennis Linkletter. If you are embedded into the grilling world, you will know that this brand is a labor of love for him and it shows. The customer support is exemplary, and the grill comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
23” ultimate costs about $5000 but then this is the Lamborghini of the grilling world. It is a cooker that’s going to stay in your family for decades to come if not generations and you seriously can’t do better regardless of the money you want to spend.
Well, to think of it again, you can actually do one better if you go a size higher and get a Komodo Kamado 32” Big Bad (or a 42” Serious Big Bad). But whichever model you go for, it is going to be a case of serious grill envy for all your friends.
If you are indeed interested in this model, buy it directly from Dennis.
- Best Build Quality
- Best Insulation
- Over Engineered
- Thoughtful Design
- Excellent Support
5. Char-Griller Akorn – Best Budget Kamado
Char-Griller Akorn is a relatively inexpensive Kamado that delivers a stunningly good cooking performance which almost rivals its much more expensive competitors.
Similar to the design Broil King used for BKK 5000, Char-Griller Akorn uses a triple-walled insulated steel body instead of your regular ceramics. The insides are coated with porcelain while the outer body is powder-coated.
Char-Griller has obviously used the Kamado design quite effectively. It comes with 314 square inches of cooking space, and an additional rack can bump that further up to 447 square inches. The grill gets hot reasonably quickly, and I saw no real issues with the heat retention.
Frankly, despite the cost, when it comes to basic BBQing and smoking, you will get virtually identical cooking results as you will with a much more expensive kamado cooker.
Cleaning is reasonably easy as the ash pan unclips and can be removed. A heat indicator gauge is included though in my view you will need to get a separate thermometer as it wasn’t very accurate.
The grill comes with a steel cart and two folding metallic shelves. Other common accessories like the heat deflector stone and the adjustable charcoal grates need to be bought separately.
It comes in a nice black, blue or red color and the outer finish looks pleasing. But, to be honest, the build quality leaves much to be desired. The gaskets and the dampers don’t compare favorably with any other grill in our lineup and should be improved. Some users also complained about the paint and enamel burning off as they used the grill. This exposes the underlying steel to rust.
Cast Iron grates anyway are prone to rust and will need to be seasoned regularly. The biggest concern by far is the potential rusting of the ash pan. If that part rusts, it will cause air leaks and will diminish your ability to maintain a consistent temperature throughout your cook. For this reason alone, you should keep your Akorn under cover at all times.
Char-Griller offers a 5-year warranty on the hood and the bottom and a 1-year warranty on the ash pan. All other parts and accessories are covered for a period of 1-year. Any rusting, predictably, is not covered under this warranty.
Overall, it’s not a grill that will last you forever. But if you don’t want to spend a grand or so on a typical good Kamado, it is probably the best choice you have. It still delivers the same stunning kamado cooking performance and does so at a fraction of price. The build quality is admittedly average, but nothing beats the bang you get for your buck.
- Great Performance
- Build Quality
- Prone to Rust
If you are ok with a smaller cooking area (153 square inches to be exact), you can save even more money by getting Char-Griller Akorn Jr. It is a small grill that is perfect for your balconies or rooftops.
Rest of my Shortlist
In the interest of complete transparency, and because otherwise, I won’t do justice to my stated goal of this guide being the most comprehensive kamado buying resource out there, I want to share my thoughts on five more models that made it to my initial shortlist but missed making it to the final recommendations.
Right at the outset, most of these models are incredibly popular and them not making it to my recommended list doesn’t mean that they are bad choices. It is just that, dollar for dollar, there are better options out there in my opinion. With that said, let’s look at each of these models briefly.
1. Big Green Egg Large
No conversation on kamados can be complete without the Big Green Egg (BGE). It came into being back in 1974 and has acquired a diehard cult following since then. There is no doubt that it was once the greatest of the kamado cookers and is still amongst the biggest names in the industry.
Big Green Eggs first became famous for their durable, well-built ceramic shells that are excellent at retaining heat and moisture and the current generation is no different. The current generation of BGE grills come with a multi-layered design with glazed ceramic on the outside and a terracotta layer on the inside. This design ensures that the grill won’t lose heat even if it’s frigid cold outside.
The temperature control is precise too as the top, and the bottom vents give you complete control over the air-flow. And the overall build quality is excellent.
These grills come in seven different sizes – ranging from a Mini with a 10” cooking grid and 79 square inches of cooking area to a 2XL with a 29” cooking grid and 672 square inches of cooking area. Most of the normal households, though, will do just fine with the large size that comes with an 18.25” grid and 262 square inches of cooking area.
The characteristic green color is immediately recognizable and will inspire many conversations at your BBQ parties. There are a ton of compatible accessories, but you should know that you will have to buy all of them separately as there is no accessory that included as a standard. Yeah, not even the basic grill stand (or the ‘nest’ in BGE lingo).
Big Green Egg offers a limited lifetime warranty on the ceramic parts and a 5-year warranty on the metal parts. All other components carry a 1-year warranty.
Overall, BGE was and still is an excellent choice for a Kamado grill. But if it so good why is it not part of my recommendations list?
Well, the answer to that is a fellow known as the Kamado Joe.
You see, the Kamado Joes have largely been inspired by the Big Green Egg. And if it weren’t for colors, a layperson would find it tough to differentiate between two. And apples to apples (i.e., comparing a standalone BGE to a standalone Kamado), they are also priced quite similarly.
But when it comes to what you are getting for those hundreds of dollars, Kamado Joe steals a clear march. BGE enjoys an excellent reputation, but one can’t help but feel that they have been resting on their laurels in the last few years. Some examples:
- Kamado Joe has their patented multi-level divide and conquer system that’s incredibly versatile. BGE continues to offer a single level cooking system.
- Kamado Joes use a wire-mesh gasket that is higher quality and should last much longer. In comparison, BGEs continue to use felt gaskets that are prone to damage.
- Kamado Joes have a six-piece firebox that resists cracking. BGEs still have that old one-piece firebox.
- Air Lift hinge makes lifting the lid on Kamado Joe a child’s play. You have to use it once to see how much better it is as compared to the common lid system used by the BGE.
You can also check this video from BBQGuys that does a great job at this comparison
Having said that, BGEs do have an advantage. They have a much bigger and much more passionate community compared to what you will get with a Kamado Joe. You also can’t deny the iconic status of the brand and the aura it will add to your backyard.
I guess, in crux, if you want a better bang for your buck, you should opt for the Kamado Joe. But if you are buying the grill to be part of the cool egghead crowd, BGE is the choice.
2. Grill Dome Infinity Series Large
If you want a value for money grill that comes with a ton of features but doesn’t compromise much on the build quality, Grill Dome Infinity Series is worth a look.
Grill Domes are known for their heavy construction and Infinity series is no different. The outer body is made of 304 stainless steel and the instead of standard kamado ceramic, Grill Dome uses their own version they call as Terapex. They claim that Terapex is thicker and can withstand much higher temperatures. I didn’t put this claim to the test, but I am inclined to take the company on face value as the overall heat retention is excellent and the thermal efficiency compares with the best of the Kamados.
This model comes in three different sizes with the largest clocking a grid size of 22” and the smallest having a 13” grid. The middle size, known by the moniker ‘Large’ has an 18” grid and offers 255 square inches of cooking space. It can be further extended if you use an additional rack.
The outer body is made of stainless steel, and the build quality is about average. In terms of features, this grill has everything that you will expect from a decent Kamado. There are dial-in airflow controls and the Featherlite hinge that ensures that the lid can be lifted with a finger.
There are five different colors, though I like blue the best followed by red. Black is pleasing too and has a nice finish on the outer metallic body. Copper and Silver will find their aficionados.
There is a lifetime warranty on ceramics as well as against the rusting on the hinge. The gaskets are covered by a 5-year warranty too. However, a fair number of users have reported having issues with customer support so take that lifetime warranty with a pinch of salt.
Overall, this is an above average grill that doesn’t have any apparent weaknesses but no ground-breaking strengths as well. It’s pretty and comes in a wide selection of colors, but a below-par customer service balances that out.
Having said that, if you are getting a good deal, check it out.
3. Vision Professional Series
If you visit a local Costco or a Home Depot, you will probably come across a lot of BGE lookalikes. Vision Grills started off as one of these lookalikes but have carved their own niche off late.
Their build quality is above average and ceramics are predictably solid. However, the lid and the stainless steel doors may feel a bit flimsy relative to other grills I have reviewed earlier. The lid is supported by a spring-loaded hinge and comes with a front shock absorber that reduces the impact of banging (you shouldn’t be slamming your lids anyway).
There are two stainless steel cooking grates, each measuring approximately 18” and the grill offers a total of 604 square inches of cooking space. There is removable ash drawer, and an electric start port is a stand-out convenience feature. There are no heat retention issues as such, and the calibrated draft vents offer precise temperature control.
Unlike some other top brands, Vision packs in a nice steel cart with two side-shelves and a vinyl weather cover as part of the standard package. There is no electric starter to make use of that starter port though, and you will have to buy same separately.
There is a lifetime warranty on all ceramic parts and a generous 5-year warranty on all metal parts. The cover, the thermometer, and the gaskets are warranted for a 1-year period while the side shelves and the Bakelite have a 90-day warranty. The customer support is reasonably decent, and there are no adverse user reports on same.
I have looked at the Professional S Series model that’s available in home-depot while most other retailers carry the C-Series which is mostly similar. To me, it seems like that the difference in designation is just indicative of different channel partners.
The reason so many of my friends have asked me about my views on Vision Pro grills is because of their value for money price. They are not the cheapest, but they are also not as expensive as let’s say a BGE or a Kamado Joe. And if you happen to catch one of those retail promotions, well, it is a lot of value for your money.
In my view, this is the grill for those who want to cautious and not spend too much on a Kamado, but also don’t want the build quality hassle that comes with buying a cheap grill. If you are interested in this brand, make sure that you check your local Costco or Home Depot first to see if there is an ongoing offer.
4. Pit Boss Kamado
Pit Boss is yet another brand that you will come across fairly frequently in the grilling world. Their kamado grill is positioned as a value for money model and is a close competitor to the Vision series I reviewed above.
Like most Kamados, you won’t have many cooking performance complaints from this grill. The heat retention is quite good, and the vents are easily adjustable. The build quality, however, is at best average and it is not uncommon to find reports of chipped ceramics and misaligned lids. Insulation too seems to be a weak point for this grill.
The handle is made of wood which is a nice touch and adds some grace to the overall black finishing. The lid is supported by a spring loaded hinge and comes with a shock absorber that prevents cracks if you end up slamming your lid.
There is a two-tiered cooking grid system, and both these grids are made of 304 stainless steel. The 22” model comes with a total of 567 square inches of cooking space while the 24” model bumps it up to 662 square inches.
A four-legged stand, two bamboo folding shelves, a cover, and an ash removal tool come standard with the grill. However, because of their somewhat unusual size, you may not find many compatible third-party accessories.
There is a limited lifetime warranty on all ceramic parts and a 5-year warranty on metal parts. There are no adverse reports on customer service, and it seems to be about the same as most other brands.
There are almost always a ton of deals on Pit Boss BBQs so keep a watch out if you are interested in a budget Kamado. However, if you can spend a few hundred extra, with no doubt, go for the Kamado Joe.
5. Weber Summit Charcoal Grill
Weber Summit isn’t exactly marketed as a Kamado grill, and in fact, it doesn’t even look like one. But it is based on the same design principles, and it is only fair that you get to know how it compares against other well-regarded competitors.
Unlike most Kamados, this grill doesn’t use any ceramic or refractory materials. Instead, the bowl and the lid are made of two layers of metal with air trapped inside those layers.
This dual walled air insulation completely replaces ceramic from a functionality perspective and is part of Weber’s genius. By not using ceramics, Weber has avoided all fragility issues associated with them and as a bonus has managed to keep the weight down.
While you can argue that this design is not as effective as ceramics are in holding the temperatures, it is certainly much more responsive to temperature changes. Your typical kamados hold their temperature incredibly well, but one of the annoyances with them is that they also take ages to cool down if you overshoot your desired range.
Weber Summit, on the other hand, cools down quicker than any other ceramic Kamado I have seen. It is a blessing for the beginners. And by the way, this grill holds the temperatures just fine so that shouldn’t be a concern at all.
It comes with a piezoelectric ignition system that’s powered by a small gas cylinder. You press a button and charcoal gets ignited automatically. The 24” stainless steel cooking grates are hinged and offer 452 square inches of cooking area. You can use an optional extender grate to increase this capacity further.
The top vent makes it easy to control the air-flow, and because it is all metal, there won’t ever be any cracking issues typically associated with fireboxes. Quite impressively, the charcoal grate is also adjustable. You can lift it to move it closer to your food if you want to sear some steaks or leave it in the low setting for smoking.
I have been a fan of Weber’s one-touch cleaning system for long. It is an excellent design, and all you need to do is to rotate a handle and ashes will be fall in an aluminum ash catcher at the bottom. Cleaning doesn’t get easier than this.
Summit Charcoal comes in two configurations – a ‘grill only’ configuration and a ‘grilling center’ configuration. The grilling center configuration comes with an attached table that offers some food prep area, a slide-out basket, and a charcoal storage bin. The grill only configuration comes with a sturdy three-legged stand instead.
True to Weber’s reputation, the build quality on this grill is fantastic. The outer body is made of black porcelain-coated steel and is exceptionally sturdy. Even the gasket is made of braided stainless-steel threads and seems like that it will last for a long time. Even with such an excellent build quality, the grill is quite lightweight, and the shipping weight is only 111 lbs.
Weber provides a 10-year warranty on the bowl and the lid. The cooking grates, the one-touch cleaning system, and the other plastic components are warranted for 5 years, and all other parts carry a 2-year warranty.
As you have probably guessed, Summit Charcoal is comparable to the Big Green Egg XL and the Kamado Joe Big Joe. And it is also priced similarly. It is a brilliantly engineered grill that can do almost everything and comes with a fair number of innovations. It looks like Weber started by wanting to remove all the minor annoyances from kamado cooking and ended up with a Summit Charcoal model.
If you want an actual Kamado, you are probably better off with one of my earlier recommendations (Kamado Joe is genuinely excellent), but if you just want a grill that’s made well and can do most of what Kamados can do, and don’t care about premium pricing, this is one good grill.
I am actually quite impressed.
Which charcoal type is suitable for a Kamado? And is it ok to use briquettes?
I won’t recommend that you use cheap briquettes in your Kamado grills. Briquettes produce more ash than lump and can block airflow over those long low and slow cooks. Rather, use a decent quality lump charcoal instead. These burn better and don’t leave much ash behind. They are also easier to stir around at the bottom of the firebox as may be needed.
Can I use a lighter fuel to light up the Kamado?
No, don’t do that. Ceramic is porous and can absorb liquids it comes in contact with. Lighter fuel is no different. This phenomenon can give your food a strange taste. Some brands (BGEs) outright void warranty if you use lighter fuel to start the Kamado. Use a chimney or an electric starter instead.
So yeah, that’s it. This is the end of this rather longish guide.
I hope this guide is useful and you have now been able to decide which of the Kamado above is right for you. If you are still confused, just go with the Kamado Joe, you won’t regret that one bit.
If you like this guide, please pretty please, share it with your friends and family. Please feel free to ask any questions, and I will do my best to answer those.