Getting the best kamado grill for yourself is not a small investment, nor it is a decision to be underestimated. There are many reasons why Kamado grilling is still attracting a large number of cooks, chefs, and cooking enthusiasts. The number of pros, cons, and specifications to be considered is quite admirable, so it would be best to arm yourself with knowledge and patience.
If we want to be sure what kind of kamado grill suits your needs and appetites in the best possible ways, we are also going to go through some kamado grill reviews. Let’s get right into it!
Advantages and Drawbacks of a Kamado Grill
Like every other serious piece of cooking equipment, kamado grills come with some drawbacks. No type of cookware is perfect, and it would be best to analyze both good and the not so good parts of this type of cooking. If you are opt-in for a kamado, you are taking your cooking skills to a whole new level, but it does require some practice and experimentation. Even though we mentioned the simplicity of this technology, a small learning curve is involved, if you want to become the master of fire-cooked food.
1. Advantages of Kamado Grills
We would be mad if we didn’t put the best advantage on the first spot. Of course, we are talking about taste. Yes, if you invest a bit of time into learning how to properly use a kamado grill, the payoff is gigantic. The food you smoke or cook on the kamado will have that professional “steak-house” taste, or even better.
Following up is the sole versatility of this type of grill. From just smoking a piece of meat to outright pizza baking. With the highly-durable body and a vent temperature control system, you will be able to cover a huge variety of temperatures.
With high thermal capabilities comes a well-built body. Kamado grills are made to last for decades. They are sturdy and solid and weigh quite a lot. This is, however, a much-needed feature because you are working with coal and everything needs to be solidly in its place.
Fuel and heat efficiency is the strongest suits of a kamado grill. Because of the ideal body shape, perfectly picked heat-retaining materials, and the cover on top, you will save a lot on coal. Standard backyard grills often eat a lot of coal, with you constantly adding more coal to keep the fire burning. Kamado grills use all of the generated heat with utmost efficiency, thus saving you time and money.
1.5. Low Flare-up
Considering every factor that makes cooking so good inside a kamado, add the fact that flare-ups happen rarely. As opposed to standard grills, in kamado grills the food is placed further away from the coal, this allows it to be cooked evenly, without the risk of burning it to a crisp. From this point of view, kamado grill recipes are getting more and more popular.
1.6. Heat Consistency
Lastly, one of the main reasons people like to use a kamado is food smoking. To properly smoke a piece of meat, you need to have a stable low heat, which a kamado is ideal for. Additionally, a lot of meat smoking enthusiasts like to add a special type of taste to the meat, by inserting some sort of desired wood into the coal chamber. This way, you can experiment and find the taste that fits your pallet perfectly. Consider the below chart to get the temperature perspective.
2. Kamado Grill Drawbacks
- The first thing you will find slightly troublesome is the lack of mobility. These grills are made of dense, heavy materials in order to work properly. That is why you should consider the fact that larger kamado grills are not to be relocated often. There are, of course, smaller grill models, but the size comes at the expense of the amount of food you can cook. Not to mention that some ceramic materials can seriously be damaged by moving a lot, thus decreasing the efficiency and the lifespan of the grill.
- One of the drawbacks (although many don’t consider it to be that bad) is the learning process. Once you start using a kamado grill, you are embarking on a journey to master and learn this ancient cooking style. Anyone can get into it, and with a little practice, become a master. The biggest part you will have to master is temperature control. When you go over the desired temperature, it takes some time to go back down.
- And, of course, one thing you need to be aware of is the price. These cooking appliances are made to last for a long time and to withstand large and long cooking sessions. That is why we are preparing you to choose the right one.
Best Kamado Grills Comparison Chart
KAMADOJOE KJ23RHC GRILL, BLAZE RED
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CHAR-GRILLER E16620 KAMADO GRILL
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PIT BOSS 71240 KAMADO BBQ CERAMIC GRILL
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KAMADO JOE KJ13RH JOE JR GRILL, RED
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VISION GRILLS CF1F1 PRO KAMADO BBQ GRILL
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BLAZE CAST ALUMINUM KAMADO GRILL
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CHAR-GRILLER E06614 CHARCOAL KAMADO GRILL
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Best Kamado Grill Reviews
1. KamadoJoe KJ23RHC Grill, Blaze Red
Right off the bat, we have a popular choice among grill enthusiasts. This KamadoJoe grill is made entirely out of ceramics. The body is mounted on a wheeled stand, but it is not that easy to transport around due to the amount of ceramics used in the build. However, the dome is easy to use, with an airlift hinge that reduces its weight. This particular model is premade with dual heat zones installed. This will enable you to cook at different temperatures at the same time, utilizing the cool zone for smoking and cooking, and the hot zone for searing and quick roasting.
- The sturdy and solid ceramic body helps in temperature retention and even distribution inside the grill
- Dual zone heating system doubles the possibilities of the kamado grill, depending on your requirements
- Additional table surfaces are provided for you to store spices and cookware needed during the food preparation process
- Because of the high-quality ceramics, this model weighs 188 pounds (but has a wheeled stand to improve upon its portability)
- The ash compartment is somewhat smaller than the average in this class, so you will maybe have to do one or two extra disposals.
- The total heating surface of this kamado grill model is 266 square inches.
2. Char-Griller E16620 Kamado Grill
Next up, we have a more affordable, slightly smaller black model from Char-Griller. This kamado grill is made out of 3 different materials: the outer body is 22-gauge steel, and the inner layer is stainless steel coated with porcelain, which certainly helps the heat retention. The best part is the grill cooking surface, which is made out of cast iron, meaning it will last for a long time and it will only add to the flavor of your food.
The grill is mounted on a 2-wheel system, and the whole construction weighs just under a hundred pounds, making it one of the most portable kamado grills in its class.
- The grill comes with a warming rack, that can be attached to stay at the top inside the grill. This makes your food stay juicy for a longer time.
- This kamado grill model is quite portable, weighing under 100 pounds and having a 2-wheel system.
- There are installed foldable shelves on the side of the grill, for sauces, spices, and cookware.
- The grill cooking surface is cast iron, which is a respected material among cooks.
- The outer shell of the body is made of 22-gauge steel, which has a slightly less thermal capacity than the usual ceramic shell
- If precision is a concern, you will have to use a better thermometer, because the built-in one is a bit off.
- The total heating surface of this kamado grill model is 314 square inches. With an additional 133 square inches of warming rack space.
3. Pit Boss 71240 Kamado BBQ Ceramic Grill
Here we have a beautiful black model by pit Boss. This model’s strong suit is the double-leveled cooking surface, which enables you to cook a bunch of food at once. The body is made of black ceramics, and it is mounted on a 4-wheel stand. The handles and the side shelves are made of solid bamboo, and the vent on top is made of cast iron. All these components make this kamado grill weigh a total of 220 pounds, making it a heavy unit. The dual level cooking surfaces are made of steel, which is convenient for people that cook a lot, being that steel is the easiest to clean.
- Dual level cooking surface allows you to cook for 4+ people simultaneously.
- The whole body is made of ceramics, making the kamado grill preserve and save a lot of heat.
- The top vent is made of cast iron, which furthers the durability of the grill
- The cooking surface is made of steel, which gives off a lot of heat, so the occasional black dot is to be expected
- The grill weighs over 200 pounds, which is considered less portable than the other models in its class.
- The total heating surface of this kamado grill model is 567 square inches.
4. Kamado Joe KJ13RH Joe Jr Grill, Red
A unique pick on our list is this portable kamado grill from the famous Kamado Joe. Kamado grills are known to deliver great taste but require some time to master. It is fully built out of high-quality ceramics, with great heat capacity. Powered by burning coal, this small grill can be used for smoking food, besides grilling it.
The heat is controlled by opening and closing the vents, by feeding or choking the fire, but be careful not to go over the wanted temperature, because cooling off takes some time. The whole grill weighs around 75 pounds, and it is mounted on a solid, non-movable stand. The grill grate is made of stainless steel, making it easier to clean, and the heat can rise up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit if the recipe requires it.
- High-quality ceramics make this model stand out when it comes to heat retention and heat distribution
- Gives you the option of smoking meat, even on the go
- It has a built-in analog thermometer which is a much-wanted asset when smoking meat
- The grill is portable despite the fact it is a kamado type, which is usually non-movable
- Ceramics make grills somewhat more vulnerable to physical damage, so extra caution is advised.
- This small grill is one of the most expensive on our list, but it does make it up in quality service.
- The total heating surface of this kamado grill model is 148,5 square inches.
5. Vision Grills CF1F1 Pro Kamado BBQ Grill
This black, traditional looking kamado grill has an amazing cooking surface of just under 600 square inches. This is achieved with a dual level, of course. The body is made of ceramics, while the handles and additional shelves are made of wood. The dual grill grates are made of stainless steel, which makes it great for high-temperature grilling, and the maintenance is easier as well. The grill is mounted on a stand with 4 wheels, weighing a total of 252 pounds, which is not that portable. A great virtue this grill packs is the detailed vent system on the bottom, allowing more intricate temperature raises.
- This model has one of the largest cooking surfaces in its class
- There is a detailed venting system installed, for ultimate temperature control
- Has extra protection against flare-ups and hot spots, increasing its efficiency even more
- A somewhat smaller ash disposal tray, so you will have to empty it a few extra times
- The installed analog thermometer is not always accurate, so using an electric one is advised
- The total heating surface of this kamado grill model is 596 square inches.
6. Blaze Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill
The manufacturers of this kamado grill took a slightly different approach when it comes to material choices and the overall design. Designed to look futuristic, this model is made entirely out of cast aluminum. It weighs around 180 pounds, and it doesn’t come with a regular wheeled stand. Most of the users are installing it inside the kitchen carpentry. Even though the grilling size is on average, because of the materials used and the technology implemented, you will start cooking like a pro in no time. Regulating temperature is made easier, and the built-in thermometer is quite accurate. However, this model comes with a larger price tag.
- Modern design made to be built into the kitchen carpentry
- Cast aluminum is made to last for a very long period of time
- The ash disposal was just the right size, fitting perfectly underneath the grill
- The model is a bit pricier compared to the others on this list, but it delivers results that match the price
- Aluminum tends to cool down faster, which a lot of pro cooks do not like
- The total heating surface of this kamado grill model is 400 square inches.
7. Char-Griller E06614 Charcoal Kamado Grill – Red
Lastly, we have the extremely portable kamado grill model from Char-Griller, weighing an amazing sum of only 37 pounds. This makes it the most portable on our list by far. The compact grill body is made of steel, and the grill grate is made of cast iron, which is always a welcome bonus. The body is mounted on three super-convenient standing legs, enabling you to stick the grill into the ground for extra stability.
The coal chamber can be opened from the bottom in a convenient way, enabling quick ash disposal and coal refill if needed.
- One of the most portable kamado grills on the market, weighing under 40 pounds
- The grill grate is made of cast iron, which is a preferred material when it comes to meats and juicy foods
- Ash disposal tray is easy and intuitive to use
- This grill can only prepare food for 2 on a single load
- There are no additional stand or shelves provided, but the model makes it up in portability.
- The total heating surface of this kamado grill model is 153 square inches.
What is a Kamado Grill?
Over 3,000 years old, kamado grills are an old-school approach to smoking, grilling, and searing different types of food. The word kamado itself means stove in Japanese, but it is not just any stove. This oval, egg-shaped, sturdy grill combines different technologies and materials in order to bring you the best thermal specifications for cooking.
They come in different sizes, however, the oval egg shape is necessary for it to be an actual kamado grill. This shape makes ideal airflow possible, allowing you to control the temperature in the most natural way, by restricting or allowing airflow over the fuel (more about that later).
Speaking of fuel, kamado grills use charcoal (lumps or briquettes) to achieve the perfect temperature ratio for the task at hand, with smoking requiring the lowest and searing the highest temperature levels. It is important to have in mind that kamado grills save a lot of coal, being that the whole heating process is in a closed environment, down in the burning chamber (also known as a fire pit, coal pit, coal chamber, etc.). This saving is achieved through controlling the air vents on the bottom and the top of the grill. There is a huge difference in the amount of needed charcoal, compared to the best tabletop grills.
Kamado grill will enable you to cook meat, mushrooms, or juicy veggies like a pro. It takes some time to master, and it is not exactly the cheapest of cooking appliances out there. However, you do not need to worry, because we are going to go through every important detail regarding kamado grills – their use, maintenance, cleaning, and general points of direction, so you know what to expect from this traditional, yet popular, cooking appliance.
How Does a Kamado Grill Work?
The technology behind this awesome invention is somewhat simple, yet incredibly effective. The Kamado grill can be split (for explanation simplicity) into 4 major parts. Let us go through each part and get to know what it does, thus learning how a kamado grill works.
1. The coal chamber
As the name suggests, this is the bottom part of the Kamado grill. The coal goes inside in order to burn and give off much-needed heat. The egg-shaped housing is at its narrowest point at the coal chamber part. This way it can do its part in distributing and redistributing the heat evenly and cost-efficiently. The burning chamber has an installed ventilation shaft on the side. This vent is used to regulate heat (more about that later).
2. The cooking surface
The very first thing we see above the heat is the cooking surface. This can be a griddle, grill or any kind of cooking surface that matches that particular grill. Here is where the magic happens. Some larger kamado grills have enough space for two-zone cooking, which is always welcome. Sometimes, usually in the case of smoking meat, an additional metal cover is added between the coal chamber and the cooking surface, to furtherly inhibit higher temperatures.
3. The shell itself
One of the most important parts a kamado grill needs to work properly is a well-constructed body. By body, we refer to the outer shell, which is made to last for a long, long period of time. It is always made of high-quality heat refractory materials, such as terracotta, ceramics, special cement mixture, or even lava rock and cement mix.
4. Placement system
When it comes to placing the kamado grill safely, you can either expect it to have its own folding table, or to be landed on the ground. Like offset smoker grills, kamado grills are always used outside, and they are made to endure a lot, however, some ceramic can be severely damaged if not handled properly.
With these parts combined, you will be able to slow cook, roast, or smoke meat/mushrooms/veggies in a totally new and unique way. It is a closed heating system, powered by coal, and controlled by controlling the airflow.
Kamado Grill Buying Guide
By now, you have probably realized that these grills are here to stay. They bring a whole lot to the cooking culture, and some would even consider it a must-have. This is not far from the truth, because kamado grills will enable you a unique way to cook your food and have a rewarding feeling during the whole process. It would be great to go through the things you should look for before making the final decision.
Because heat retention and distribution are all so important in a kamado grill, the first thing you should look at is the material it is made of. The body is made of two or three layers, with the inner layer almost always being some sort of ceramic coating. There are no huge variations from the standard builds, however, we can differentiate 3 main groups when it comes to the material itself:
- Ceramics – This is the most common, and the eldest material for kamado grills. Ceramics are great at retaining and using the heat that coal provides. They also tend to maintain hot after the fire is put out for a longer time, which can be used to keep the food warm for later. Keep in mind that ceramic kamado grills are a bit more sensitive to damage, physical and chemical. But, after all, the body of a kamado is made in layers, so it is not extremely delicate.
- Stainless steel – Even though the inner layer will probably be coated in ceramics, the outer layer made of stainless steel can brings something different to the table. The special thing with steel is that it can heat up faster than ceramics while retaining heat for a long time.
- Aluminum – The material of the future, some would say. Aluminum makes a kamado grill much lighter. However, aluminum heat capacity makes it heat up fast and cool down fast. This feature is wanted by people who use their kamado grills often. Because of the extra portability, it is somewhat easier to clean than a ceramic or a steel grill. Which brings us to our next point.
Compared to similar grills or griddles, kamado grills are definitely less portable, especially if we are talking full ceramic body. However, if you want to get yourself a portable model, there are options. Smaller kamado grills may not have the capacity of cooking 10 pounds of food simultaneously, but they can help prepare food for a couple of people with ease. Some people, like fishermen, like to bring their kamado on a camping trip and prepare food on the spot. Just make sure to properly transport your grill.
If, however, you are looking for a stationary large kamado grill, you will be happy to know that every kamado is more than solid in its place. The added weight of the body material also serves as stabilization, so installing a kamado in your backyard will propose no challenge.
3. Cooking surface
This is the point where you should ask yourself about the kind of food you like to prepare the most because different cooking surfaces provide different results. The most common cooking surface provided with the kamado is a grill. A single grill plate can do most of the work, but there are other options. You can also install a griddle or a combo. One of the most sought-after cooking surfaces is the “dual heat zone” grilling system. This allows you to cook meat over indirect heat, in the “cool” zone, while having the option to sear or roast on the “hot” zone. Here is a short video showing how a 2-zone system works.
Now, we need to touch the topic of materials again. We strongly recommend getting a model that comes with a cast iron grill cooking surface. Cast iron gets better with time, even though it requires a bit of special care. On the other hand, stainless steel provides you with a durable cooking surface, that is more resilient to physical damage.
4. Fuel loading and firing process
We already established the fact that kamados use burning coal to generate heat. However, there is more to it than just loading a batch of coal inside the coal chamber. We find it extremely important to do this step carefully, and always do it right. That being said, let’s go through the process of coal loading and correct firing of a kamado grill:
- Make sure that the coal chamber is clean and empty, no matter if you have usable coal leftovers from before.
- Get the best lump charcoals and stack them on the bottom of the Kamado grill. By putting the big pieces first, you ensure that smaller pieces and said leftovers cannot fall inside the vent holes.
- Load the leftover coal and smaller pieces on top and create a small clean space on top of the pile.
- Open every thermal regulating vent (usually one on top and one on the bottom)
- Put the fire starter inside that clean space and fire it up. Right after that put a few of the larger coal pieces on top of it and wait for the coal around the fire starter to catch.
- Once you see the rest of the coal catching fire, put the accessories and the cooking racks on top.
These are the basics that every kamado grill follow. Also, always read the instruction manual of your particular model, just in case the manufacturer has any special demands before firing up the kamado.
5. Thermo-regulating vents
The ventilation acts as a thermo-regulator when it comes to these grills, which is another reason why they are so wanted nowadays. By lowering the amount of air available to the burning fire inside, you slow down the rise of temperature, and vice-versa. There will almost certainly always be a top and a bottom vent, with the different types of vents, depending on the model. The more options a vent has, the better. Try and look for models that have double vents, allowing finer temperature setting, and monitoring.
Even though kamado grills come with a built-in analog thermometer, we recommend using an electric one as well. You should at least practice this until you master the heating process. Let us not forget that kamado grills cool down slowly, so you will want to heat it up to the desired temperature and control it from that point onward. Some people tend to exaggerate how hard it is to learn this, but it is actually easy. Just do not expect to make it perfect on the first try.
6. Additional features
Even though these appliances are simple, any additional accessory is welcome in your path to become a master cook. Here is a list of additional features you should look for with your kamado grill:
- Ash drawer – Many models have it, yes, but you should always look for the shape and size that matches your cooking style. For example, people who tend to smoke their meat more often than cook or sear it, a smaller ash drawer will be just enough. If you like to cook grand, make sure that the kamado model you pick has a larger ash compartment.
- Help surfaces – These are usually installed on the side, and serve as a table or a rack to keep necessities on. You can use them to hold spices, cookware or whatever you need while cooking.
- Cookware – If a manufacturer includes any kind of cookware (pliers, pincers, grabbers, large forks) consider it a large bonus. Provided cookware is usually made out of the safest material for the provided kamado grill. You do not treat stainless steel, aluminum, or cast iron the same way.
- Wheel system – Some kamado grills will have wheels installed to increase the portability of the model. Do not be afraid to utilize them, just use extra caution.
- Always cool handles – Considering that you will be cooking on higher temperatures, these handles will definitely come in handy. It would be enough if just the main, largest, handle is covered in the “always cool” material.
FAQ about Kamado Grills
1. Can I use lighter fluid as an igniting agent in my kamado grill?
When igniting the coal in the chamber, always try to avoid putting any type of liquid inside. As we mentioned, the inner layer of a kamado grill is usually covered with ceramics, and ceramics do not go well with fluids. The lighter fluid can get into the microscopic holes which ceramic has, and ruin the coating. The best bet would be to go with a solid igniting agent of some sorts and try to use the same brand if possible, or the brand that the manufacturer recommends.
2. Should I use coal briquettes or lumps as a fuel source?
There is no right answer to this question, it all depends on how you intend to use your kamado grill. Some people prefer to use smaller chunks and briquettes for faster ignition and faster temperature rise. However, with smaller parts you risk some of them falling through the vent, making a mess. There is one guideline, though: try to use the coal of the same brand as much as you can. Different coals burn with different heat, and by using the same brand, you diminish the chances of over-burning.
3. What kind of cleaning agents should I use to clean the coal chamber?
Usually, you do not need to worry about dirt inside the coal chamber at all. The heat is the highest on the bottom, and besides a regular dust-off, you do not need to put any kind of cleaning agent inside. No harmful bacteria can live in a high-temperature environment as the one kamado grill produces. As long as you regularly remove ash and wasted lumps of coal, you should be fine with the cleaning part.
4. What should I do to avoid overheating the kamado grill after firing it?
The process of temperature calibration needs only one thing: patience. After you fire the kamado grill and begin the process of temperature setting, make sure to measure the heat every minute or so. After the heat rises under a 100 degrees F of the wanted temperature, start closing the vents and keep tracking the temperature. Repeat the process until you get there. There is nothing wrong about going over, but you will have to wait for the grill to cool down a bit by choking the fire with closed vents. This skill takes some time to master, but it is easily attainable.
Now you have the much-needed knowledge when it comes to kamado grills. Deciding is not easy, we understand, and to avoid any bad calls, we recommend to make a checklist of things you expect and go through our kamado grill reviews a few times before the time comes to get one.
Getting the absolute best kamado grill for your household will enable you to approach cooking with a new, fresh style, and enjoy meals that are usually available only in expensive restaurants. Some even call it the art of smoking meat. Having a kamado grill is like having a food laboratory, where the only thing you need is imagination and patience.
We certainly hope that we helped you get to know these cooking giants better. In case you want to add or ask, something, feel free to do it in the section below, and we will gladly provide an answer.