If you’ve been getting the most out of either your charcoal or gas grill and want to take things to the next level then a kamado grill could be the way to go.
Some might dismiss the idea of an upgrade as shiny object syndrome, or a needless waste of money, but I strongly disagree.
This guide is on hand to give the lowdown on everything you need to know to get the best kamado grill possible for you.
From what everything you need to look out for, what to avoid, as well as our top five recommendations, this comprehensive aims to cover absolutely everything you need to know about quality kamado grills.
Let’s take a closer look at the best kamado grills out there, as well as some more in depth reviews.
1. Kamado Joe
We kick off our list with the best of the best. There’s plenty here to unpack, with lots of stand out features that show just why it’s our pick of the bunch.
This isn’t the first offering from Kamado Joe, but they’ve taken an already popular grill of theirs and updated it to make it even better.
At its core it’s constructed with a thick heat-resistant ceramic shell. This does a great job at lock in smoke, moisture and, more importantly, heat.
This excellent heat retention means that it offers a mightily impressive cooking range of up to 750°F.
One of the biggest complaints with kamados is that they’re so heavy duty that they’re too heavy to shift, including opening their (ridiculously) heavy lids.
Not so with the Kamado Joe. They’ve created a lid that they’ve named the Air Lift Hinge. This hydraulic system means that the lid is far easier to lift and shut, and will stay exactly where you left it… even half shut.
This hydraulic system means that the lid has in effect become 96% lighter. This means no slamming shut and no painful accidents.
It has an impressive 406 square inches of total cooking space. This is extremely good for a kamado.
Smokers of all kinds are sometimes prone to being exposed to the elements, but the kamado has a fantastic top vent that helps to eliminate some of this risk. It has a wind and rain-proof design that helps keep your vent settings just how you want.
Finally, a special mention should go to its ‘Divide and Conquer’ system that helps give you so much more flexibility in your smoker. The system effectively creates two different cooking environments in the same smoker, providing different temperatures simultaneously. This is great for allowing you to cook food indirectly for long periods of times, before then searing it directly over heat.
All in all this is a truly exceptional piece of gear that anyone of any skill level would be happy to own. It’s reliable, durable, and extremely effective at cooking food in the traditional kamado way. An excellent kamado grill.
2. Primo Oval XL
With cooking size being a primary concern for people looking to make the leap from traditional gas or charcoal grills, Primo have made a kamado that’s a fantastic compromise.
Instead of sticking to the kamado’s traditional surface area shape of being circular, Primo offer a solution that’s oval in shape. This provides greater width across the grilling area, which in turn offers far better flexibility.
Yes it means that you can fit in much more food, but it also means that you can employ different cooking zones on your grill surface. Two-zone cooking is key to good BBQ, and the larger the zones the better. Fortunately, Primo’s grill gives you the opportunity to do just this.
You can place your coals under one half of your grill grates to provide direct heat, and then have none below the other to create non-direct heat. This is fantastic for using the ambient temperature of the grill to cook meat like you would with an oven, before then searing it above direct heat to give it that unmistakable barbecue finish and flavor.
What’s more is that it has an in-built rack system that can offer you even more cooking space. By adding an extra rack, it’ll upgrade your cooking space from 300 square inches to a mightily impressive 495.
It’s not all about the cooking space though. The grill is made with heavy duty ceramic, giving you a smoker chamber that boasts excellent heat retention. The downside of this is a grill that is extremely heavy. But, hey, if we wanted something lightweight then we wouldn’t get a kamado.
The Primo Oval XL is a worthy runner up. Offering an almost arrogant amount of space, with a heavy duty insulting shell, it’s a serious bit of cooking equipment that even the most seasoned of cooks will love using.
3. Weber Summit Charcoal Center
Weber have long been held as the gold standard for charcoal grilling, and one of their first forays into kamado cooking doesn’t disappoint.
One of the first things that will strike you is the appearance of the Summit. It looks far more like one Weber’s own gas grills (like the Performer Deluxe than it does a kamado.
However, this packs in more than enough to warrant a place among kamado grills.
Weber have built the Summit with convenience in mind, and as such have provided a gas-fired igniter. Instead of laboring over trying to ignite your coals, you simply push the ignition button and the Summit gets going instantly.
Some people might like the authenticity of the struggle of fighting with chimney starters, fire lighters, or even fluid, but for those of us who just want to cut out the fuss this is a welcome feature.
In terms of cooking space, the Weber Summit compares well. It has an excellent 452 square inches of space to work with, meaning that you can pack in a lot more than just a few burgers.
What’s even more impressive is that Weber have made this to be only 110 pounds in weight. While traditionalists might prefer a heavy duty tank sat in the corner of their grill, for more casual fans it’s great that a portable option like this exists.
What’s the catch? Well, rather than made of ceramic the Weber Summit is constructed with porcelain enameled stainless steel. While still a solid enough material, this isn’t as heavy duty as the ceramic we see in other kamados.
The compromise here then is are you willing to take good grill size and portability over more heavyweight materials?
Regardless of build material, this is still an excellent grill. The gas-fire ignition system might put purists off, but for those of us who like things to be made that little more convenient and user-friendly, this is a fantastic addition to the kamado marketplace.
4. Broil King 911470 Keg 5000 Kamado Grill
One of the key considerations when buying a kamado that I’ve outlined has been choosing between heavy duty ceramic, or lightweight steel. Both have their pros and cons.
But what if you want something durable as well as portable?
Broil King have managed to weld the two together by coating the inside of their chamber with ceramic, and having the exterior of the shell made of steel.
By marrying the two together, Broil King have managed to provide an inner shell that guarantees excellent heat retention, while providing an exterior that offers far better portability by virtue of being lighter.
This means you get a grill that’s just 126 pounds in weight, while still offering the heat retention that the very best kamados do.
With portability in mind, the Broil King Keg does compromise slightly on cooking area size. It provides 280 square inches of cooking space. However with tailgating and camping being such an obvious primary focus of this grill, I think this area size is more than adequate enough.
What it also has going for it is its price. It’s much more affordable than of the more well established kamados on this list, making it perfect entry point for beginners or newcomers to kamado cooking.
5. Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker
Another entry-level grill with newcomers in mind, the Kamado Kooker aims to provide all the joys of kamado cooking at an affordable price.
Part of its savings can be seen in its build. Char-Griller have made a shell that, instead of ceramic, is made of double wall insulated steel. This does make it lighter and cheaper than ceramic, but it still holds up well.
I’ve had a funny relationship with Char-Griller over the years. They’re undoubtedly a brand that aim to make grills that are cheap to buy for newcomers or people adhering to a budget. Sometimes they do this and create something excellent, and sometimes they make something that is as cheap in its application as it is in its price.
I’m happy to say that I don’t have such misgivings with the Kamado Kooker.
Yes it’s not ceramic, but despite this its durability and heat retention is on a par with so many more traditional types of ceramic kamado grill.
All while doing so at a fraction of the cost.
With a lighter material comes easier portability, making this another excellent option for tailgating or camping.
What I really like about this grill however when compared to other more lightweight options is that it looks like a kamado.
Other low budget models have tried to reinvent the wheel almost as a means of distracting users from the fact it’s not a ceramic grill. Char-Griller have done away with that and created a sincere grill that looks every bit as authentic as it cooks.
It has 314 square inches of primary cooking space which, again, is truly impressive for a budget grill of this kind. This means that you have a good amount of room to set up 2-zone cooking
Its chamber has one-inch thick insulation, which makes it almost unparalleled when compared to other cheaper varieties of kamado. This helps the grill reach its maximum temperature of 700°F which, while not as high as true ceramic models, is still very strong and more than hot enough to cook your choice of food with.
It also features calibrated dampers for efficient heat flow, as well as a removable ash pan for easy clean up (the bane of every BBQ user’s life).
Any down sides? It has a few added features that I think are a bit cheap. So cheap that they’re effectively worthless. For example, it has a thermometer built into its lid. It’s garbage though, so I’d recommend getting rid of it and investing in your own grill thermometer.
The importance of proper heat gauging can’t be overstated, so do yourself a favor and get a good two probe grill thermometer. If you don’t have one read my roundup of the best grill thermometers here.
All in all this kamado is a surprising addition to the kamado world, but one that I think is greater for it. For an entry level grill this is excellent value for the price and well worth the attention of any beginner.
What is a Kamado grill?
Kamado grills take up an unusual corner of the market where they’re seen as one of the newest innovations in outdoor cooking, yet remain one of the oldest forms of barbecuing.
Kamado-like ovens have been around for thousands of years, with its original form being traced back to China and Japan. It wasn’t just used to cook meat, but also other things like rice.
In fact, this change to being a rice cooker by the Japanese is where it started to take the name that we recognise now. They called it the ‘mushikamado’. Kamado in Japanese translated to ‘stove’.
It’s not too dissimilar to a tandoor, which finds its roots in Central and Western Asia, and very possibly might even share similar origins.
The Japanese design caught the eye of Americans in the wake of the Second World War, and has now been adapted in the West within the inclusion of lids and vents as a Kamado-style cooker or barbecue grill, designed to cook meat as well as rice.
Since this, it’s evolved to being built with ceramic instead of clay, and has given way to perhaps the most famous kamado grill out there: The Big Green Egg.
How Does a Kamado Grill Work?
Kamado grills distinct aesthetic and design means that they function in an equally distinct way too.
The bottom half of the egg-shaped chamber is where the coals sit, burning beneath the grill grates in the chamber, with an intake vent at the bottom to take in air to feed the coals. Its domed lid helps round off its egg-like design with its exhaust vent sitting in the lid to allow air out. Together the intake and exhaust vents (or dampers) work together to regulate air flow through the grill, giving the best quality air flow for the flames.
One of Kamado grills’ best assets is their ability to insulate and retain heat well. When the lid is shut, they’re perfectly designed to keep heat in, while their reflective interior is designed to efficeitnyl reflect heat so that the heat is distributed as perfectly as possible throughout the chamber.
A common complain with charcoal grills in particular is that it’s easy for hot spots to emerge across the cooking surface, even when using indrecit grilling, however this tends not to be the case with kamados because they’re built with distribution so keenly in mind. (why is ceramic good for heat retention/distribution).
Kamado works perfectly with lumpwood charcoal. I’d always avoid using briquettes regardless pof whatever type of grill you’re using, but for em this is particularly true of kamados. Briquettes burn too quickly and dirty, you’ll end up with a nasty cooking environment that will only harm your food. Lumpwood charcoal burns much more ambiently and cleanly however, and is great for the oven-like cooking that kamados can generate.
If you want to use your kamado for smoking then it’s equally easy to set it up for this by adding wood to the charcoal. Smoking wood often comes in different types and flavored characteristics. Longtime favorites are oak, hickory and mesquite, while varieties like cider and applewood are great if you’re feeling more adventurous and want to add hints of fruit to your barbecued meat
Why are kamado grills a good choice?
Kamados are about so much more than just an egg-shaped oven in your garden. While they might seem like glorified expensive firepits, what you get in return (in my humble opinion) more than warrants the added expense.
They’re incredibly well put together machines that are durable enough to last you for years, making buying a kamado an excellent investment.
But one of the kamado’s greatest assets is its versatility. While grills tend to be best for searing, and smokers best for longer cooking, a kamado can do both really well. It can generate really hot temperatures for grilling meat quickly, while also mastering the warm and stable temperatures that you need for smoking meat over several hour.
A benefit unique to kamado grills is how it reflects heat to generate even and stable cooking temperatures. As a result of this it’s brilliant for cooking more than just burgers, but also more unusual things like fish and pizza. Yep, even pizza.
Are there any limitations to kamado grills?
There are perhaps a few things you should take into consideration before making the leap to kamado.
One is that kamados do tend to be more limited in size than other types of grills or smokers. This isn’t always a big deal, but if you’re aiming to cook a large batch of food then the limited grill space might force you into cooking food in rounds or stages, which isn’t ideal particularly with long form cooking.
Limited heat zones
Big part of grilling for a lot of people is creating two heat zones across the cooking surface area, one which allows you to cook at a stable temperature, while the other allows you to sear directly over high heat and get those iconic grill marks we all know and love.
Kamado’s strength mostly lies in creating one heat zone, not two. It can do either very well, but both.
What should be said though is that some kamados now have special inserts that you can use to do indirect grilling, which does mean that in theory you can do both, but it’ll be a little more work.
There’s no getting around the fact that kamado grills are heavy duty. Unfortunately, the durable and robust builds come at a price, with them weighing the best part of 150 pounds.
This is not necessarily a bad thing though, and just ensures that it’s a durable and sturdy build.
If maneuverability is important to you then I recommend looking into getting a stand with study casters. These will help you transport it around your garden should you need to.
They take practice
The learning curve involved with mastering kamados can put a lot of users off. Mastering temperature control in non-gas grills can take a lot of getting used to, with the intake and exhaust dampers often difficult to master.
What features should you look out for?
What should you like out for to know what marks the very best out from the rest?
I’ve mentioned durability a lot so far in this guide, so it makes sense to mention the important of build quality first on this list of features.
If a kamado is built well then there’s absolutely no point in spending anything on it. As soon a kamado is shown to be cheap, it loses all of its ability to retain or generate heat, which contradicts everything a good grill should be able to do.
While cheap prices might be tempting, if it breaks within a few months compared to a few years, then that extra couple of hundred would have been a sensible expense.
Look out for a given grill’s ability to retain a stable and constant cooking temperature, as well as potential areas for air leakage, and cheap metal fittings.
Within build quality, the construction material is a really key consideration. The majority of Kamados are made of ceramic, although a good number also feature enamel coated stainless steel.
I would personally always opt for ceramic. It retains heat superbly, which is what kamado grills are all about.
Stainless steel isn’t a bad choice as such, but it just doesn’t have the same guarantee of heat retention. However it being enamel coated does help distribute heat wonderfully, which is fantastic for ensuring even, low and slow cooking.
I’m sure that all of us would love a hefty sized cooker in our yard if money were no object, however smaller grills shouldn’t be looked down on. There are a lot of smaller models that still offer a lot.
However if you do go for a smaller model then keep this in mind: Kamado grills are already smaller by default when compared to regular gas or charcoal varieties. By virtue of this, they already have a more limited cooking size on offer. So if you choose a small kamado grill then you might be limiting yourself even further. Pay close attention to the cooking surface on offer when choosing your grill.