Kamado grills have been around for thousands of years, and at first glance, you might think they’re just a really expensive version of your classic charcoal grill. However, Kamado grills are in a league of their own and we will explain why in our ultimate kamado grill buyers guide.
Their unique shape and construction material give them the ability to do more than just grill a steak. You can also use them as outdoor smokers and ovens. Whatever you want to cook, the kamado grill can handle it and take your food to a new level of flavor, texture, and presentation.
When properly cared for, these long-lasting grills will keep going for generations, meaning you can pass on your grilling legacy.
There are, however, a variety of sizes, styles, configurations, and brands of kamado grills, each differing from the last. So just because you’ve moved to the kamado side doesn’t mean you don’t have a few more decisions to make to get the best kamado grill for your outdoor kitchen.
In this ultimate kamado grill buyers guide, I’m going to give you everything you need to know for buying the best Kamado grill so you can choose the right size, materials, accessories, and more. Enjoy this Grilling Life guide to buying the best Kamado grill.
What You Can Expect From This Kamado Grill Buyers Guide
This kamado grill buyers guide will break down everything you need to know about kamado grilling, including what it is, how it works, and the advantages of choosing a kamado grill.
We’ll also make a deep-dive comparison of different kamado grill styles and build materials so you can be confident in your purchase.
Before we’re done, you’ll know exactly what to look for in a quality kamado grill as well as what must-have accessories to add to your list.
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
Click a topic below to be taken directly to that section.
What Is a Kamado Grill?
Ceramic grills originate from Asia over 3000 years ago in China, although they were initially made with clay.
It wasn’t until after World War II that the modern version of kamado grills was introduced to the United States by Japan. The term “kamado” comes from the Japanese word for “stove.”
We now say “kamado” when referring to any ceramic grill, whether it’s used for smoking, roasting, grilling, or baking.
Why Choose a Kamado Grill?
The ceramic body of the kamado grill retains more heat than traditional metal charcoal grills functioning more like a wood-fired oven. Because there’s very little metal on a kamado grill, rust is rarely an issue.
The kamado’s round or oval enclosed shape helps hold in more heat, smoke, and moisture resulting in more flavorful, moist food. It also regulates the heat’s airflow better than a standard charcoal grill, ensuring a more even cook with less fuel needed than other charcoal grills.
How Does a Kamado Grill Work?
Kamado grills are fueled by charcoal or wood that sit at the grill’s bottom in a firebox. Once lit, air enters the grill through the bottom vent near the fuel source and travels out the top vent and out, much like a wood stove.
The thick ceramic walls absorb and maintain heat. The oval or circle shape of the lid circulates heat and air around the food. Keeping the lid closed during all cooking sessions ensures that less heat escapes so food can cook more evenly like a convection oven.
Kamado grills can stay at low or high heat for long periods, and you can adjust the temperature by changing how much air flows into the grill.
You can build up the fire for searing steaks or keep a slow burn going for indirect smoking.
Kamado Grill vs Conventional Charcoal Grills
The biggest difference between a kamado grill and a conventional charcoal grill is its ceramic body. Ceramic holds in more heat and is resistant to rust, unlike the metal body of a traditional charcoal grill.
The thicker walls also ensure that smoke and moisture penetrate deeper into food and offer more insulation overall, making them ideal for use as a smoker or even a pizza oven.
Ceramic Kamado Grills vs Metal Kamado Grills
Kamado grills made from steel rather than the traditional ceramic are beginning to gain popularity. But do metal kamado grills offer the same benefit and quality as a ceramic kamado grill?
Both work well for outdoor cooking, including low-and-slow cooks. However, there are some significant differences between the two that are worth considering.
Here is a breakdown of each.
Ceramic will always excel in insulation and heat retention. Because the thick, porous nature of ceramic holds the heat better, they are also much more fuel-efficient.
If they aren’t dropped, kamado grills can easily outlast most metal grills because they won’t rust. However, if the lid is slammed repeatedly or if you try moving your kamado grill frequently, it will be more prone to cracks and breaking.
Because of their heavy weight, ceramic kamados are not ideal for loading up and taking tailgating or camping. They’re best as a permanent feature in your outdoor kitchen.
Unfortunately, ceramic kamado grills are pretty costly, but the heat and moisture-retaining nature of its long-lasting material result in the best-tasting food, hands down.
Price is the metal grill’s biggest advantage. Ceramic grills will always cook better, but if it’s outside your budget, then a heavy-duty steel kamado grill will get the job done too.
Metal kamado grills are also more portable overall thanks to their lighter weight and more durable material in the sense that they won’t crack or shatter if dropped. Unfortunately, they are more susceptible to rust and weather corrosion.
If you decide to go with metal, look for a cast aluminum model that gives you all the advantages of a metal kamado and protects against rust and weathering.
Metal kamado grills tend to cook much hotter than ceramic, meaning you need to take extra caution when handling and consider wearing heat-resistant gloves. It also means you’ll burn through fuel faster.
Ultimately, it depends on what’s most important to you and what your budget looks like as to whether you go with a ceramic or metal kamado grill. Price, portability, longevity, and cooking preferences will help you decide whether metal or ceramic is right for you.
The one exception to the rule is the Blaze Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill. This is a high-end kamado and as the name suggests, it is made from long-lasting and weather-resistant cast aluminum. If you’re not familiar with the Blaze kamado, you can learn more here Blaze 20-Inch Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill
Choose Your Kamado Grill Configuration
As with any grill, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to kamado configuration. Whether you want the flexibility of a stand-alone grill or the durability of a built-in, there’s a kamado out there that will check all your boxes.
Stand Alone Kamado Grills on a Cart
Freestanding or stand-alone kamado grills give you the freedom of mobility. Place your grill out by the pool on warm spring days, or move it under the gazebo on rainy days. If you don’t use your grill much in the winter, store it in the garage to protect it from the weather.
Another advantage of a grill on a cart is that it allows more airflow from the top and bottom grill vents for better temperature control.
Cleaning out ash is also easier when you can move your grill to get a better angle with the shop vac or dust broom.
A downside of using a grill cart with your kamado is that there is a slight chance of it tipping over and cracking your grill. Obviously, the more often you move your kamado, the bigger the risk of damage.
There are different sizes and styles of grill carts you can choose from to find the one that best fits your grill and outdoor space.
Built-in Kamado Charcoal Grills
Alternatively, you can install your kamado grill in your outdoor kitchen alongside an existing gas grill or on its own.
The most popular ways of building in your kamado grill include a drop-base in a cabinet or drop-in to an island.
If you want to keep the grilling height while still allowing sufficient airflow, a drop-base cabinet design is the way to go. Essentially, the bottom half of your grill sits in a hole in a customized cabinet while the grill area and lid sit at countertop level.
Unfortunately, the drop-base cabinet design is less than ideal if you opt for a metal kamado grill. At the very least, you will have to include an insulated grill jacket to prevent the cabinet from catching fire.
A drop-in kamado built-in is similar, including access doors for steady airflow and easy cleaning and maintenance. The island must be made with non-combustible materials to avoid any accidental fires.
Choose Your Kamado Grill Shape
The rounded lid is a quick identifier of a kamado grill, but did you notice the oval shape is slightly different from the egg shape? While both styles are popular among grill masters, each has different advantages. Consider what each shape offers before purchasing your new kamado grill.
Oval-shaped kamados are increasing in popularity due to their dual-zone cooking capability. Simply adding a center divider allows you to grill burgers steaks on one side over direct heat and slow cook larger cuts of meat on the other with indirect heat.
The versatility of oval kamado grills isn’t their only draw. The oval shape tends to hold and circulate heat better than the egg shape resulting in better tasting food in less time.
The surface area of the oval kamado differs as well, making it easier to reach and access all areas of the grill without getting your hands too close to the heat.
You can find some examples of Oval Kamados here: Oval Kamado Examples
While the oval shape is superior because of its dual cooking zones, the round kamado or egg-shaped kamado is perfect for radiating heat to the center of the grill. The even heat allows you to cook pizza, smoke brisket, or slow cook ribs optimally.
Using multi-level cooking racks and heat deflectors allows cooking with indirect heat. They allow you to achieve that two-zone cooking by establishing a second temperature zone.
Unfortunately, it can be challenging to move the deflector if you need to adjust temperature mid-cook, and it is only possible with heat-resistant gloves.
You can find some examples of Round Kamados here: Round Kamados Examples
Choose Your Kamado Grill Class
If you’re still not sure what kamado grill you want to add to your outdoor kitchen, there are other things to consider, including its grill class.
Here we’ve broken kamado cookers down into three classifications, including luxury, premium, and entry-level. Keep reading to understand each class’s overall quality, performance, and extra features.
Luxury Kamado Cookers
Luxury kamado grills are just as they sound – high-quality, top-of-the-line cookers backed by lifetime warranties.
These kamado grills are constructed with cast aluminum, so they are lighter than traditional ceramic and can sustain high heat but are protected against rust.
The sleek, modern stainless steel is the perfect addition to any outdoor kitchen decor, regardless of your style.
You can see some luxury kamado cooker examples here: Luxury Kamado Cookers
Premium Kamado Cookers
Premium kamado grills are most reminiscent of classic kamado cookers. Made of traditional, thick ceramic, temperatures stay stable, withstand heat, and insulate your food while it cooks.
You can find both egg or round-style cookers in this class, as well as an oval-shaped ideal for two-zone cooking.
Additionally, more cooking accessories are available with the premium class than the other two options giving you more cooking versatility overall.
You can see some premium kamado cooker examples here: Premium Kamado Cookers
Entry-Level Kamado Cookers
Even if your budget is tight, you can still find decent entry-level kamado grills.
Unfortunately, because they’re made of either painted steel or thin ceramic, they won’t retain heat as well. Because they cost less upfront, their warranties are pretty limiting.
But if you’re looking for something affordable for BBQ smoking, an entry-level kamado cooker will do the job. Just don’t expect to find many accessories on the market to diversify your cooking methods.
You also won’t get as high heats or two-zone cooking, but you’ll still be able to achieve good BBQ at a lower heat.
You can see some entry-level kamado cooker examples here: Entry-Level Kamado Cookers
What to Look For When Buying a Kamado Grill
Kamado grills can be a large investment. By now, you probably already have a good idea of which kamado grill you want to buy. But before you hand over your credit card, make sure you consider the following so you can be 100% certain you’ve got the right one.
Quality Build Material
If you want a top-of-the-notch kamado grill, you’ll want to go for thick ceramic. It’s durable, holds in heat, resists rust, and will last for many years to come. The only downside is that if you plan on moving it a lot, there is a greater chance of it cracking if it falls or is dropped.
Ceramic grills tend to be a bit smaller than other options, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fit enough food for the whole family.
Steel units with a porcelain glaze are the next best option if you think you’ll need to move your kamado grill often. They also hold heat well, are durable, and are less prone to rust than painted steel grills.
Because steel is lighter than ceramic, they come in much larger options, so keep size in mind when choosing your materials.
Check things like metal fittings in addition to wall thickness when shopping for your grill. The more metal on the grill, the more likely it will rust, which will, in turn, affect the seal and overall effectiveness of the grill.
A Quality Kamado Chimney
Your kamado chimney is exposed to both the high levels of heat and the outside elements. Because it goes under so much stress, you want to make sure it’s made of durable, long-lasting materials that won’t rust.
Fittings should also create a tight seal, so airflow regulates and heat moves through the cooker evenly.
Top Vent Style
For the most accurate temperature control, you’ll want to find a vent that has a double wheel if possible, as opposed to a single wheel. The double wheel is more precise, so you can set your grill at the exact right temperature.
Quality Temperature Gauges
When slow cooking a roast or getting a pizza nice and crispy, the last thing you want to do is repeatedly open the hood to check the temperature. Not only is it a hassle, but each time you lift the lid, you’re letting out heat and cooling the food down.
Opt for a high-quality, accurate thermometer to avoid inconsistent readings. If your thermometer is accurate and quick, you’ll spend less time with the hood open, and you’ll get a precise measurement so you can take food off at the perfect moment.
Check for Overall Sturdiness
You’ll be able to quickly see how sturdy a kamado grill is by inspecting things like the latches and hinges. The moment you touch it, you’ll know if the base is strong or if it feels rickety and cheap.
Not all cooking grates are created equal. The materials especially vary from grill to grill.
Most kamado grills come with enameled steel cooking grates, but some models have 305 stainless steel. Both are perfectly respectable options.
Another factor you should consider when it comes to cooking grates is whether or not they have hinges. A hinge makes it easy to access the area below the grate so you can add more smoking wood, or if you want to get a deeper clean when you’re done cooking.
Hinged cooking grates are ideal because you won’t have to remove the grate entirely, searching for a place to set it while you access the space below.
Ample Cooking Space
Nothing is more frustrating than when you don’t have enough room to cook tri-tip, brisket, or rack of ribs. Before you buy, think about what cuts of meats you plan on cooking and the number of people you’ll most likely be hosting.
A large kamado of at least 20 to 24 inches is best if you plan on cooking between six to ten people at a time or if you want to use the dual-zone cooking method.
Otherwise, if you’re just cooking for yourself and a friend or two, a smaller, standard size of 9.5 inches will suffice.
Kamado grills can be a hefty investment, so if you want a grill that’s worth the money, choose one that’s from a brand you can trust. Generic or store brands are cheaper upfront, but the quality and warranty are often lacking.
Kamado grill brands we recommend include:
- Big Green Egg
- Kamado Joe
You won’t go wrong with any of the above brands.
Additional Things to Consider Before Buying a Kamado Grill
It’s the little details that make all the difference when it comes to buying a kamado grill. If you think you’ve got it all figured out, but you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of kamado grill models, use the following additional things to consider to make your final decision.
Hood-Lift Assist for Kamados
Ceramic is common for kamado grills because it’s closer to the traditional clay used in ancient times. It also holds on to heat for longer and distributes it evenly.
Unfortunately, a ceramic hood is also very heavy when compared to metal hoods on other grills. So opening and shutting the grill takes a little more muscle power.
Also, if your metal hood slips from your hand, it will fall shut without any damage. But ceramic can easily crack if not let down slowly.
The solution? Buy a kamado grill with a life-assist function. It will make it easier to open and close and make accidents less likely. Your grill hood will be in better shape and last longer and you won’t feel like you’ve been working out at the gym each time you grill.
Kamado Vent Hoods
Vent hoods are great for keeping smoke and cooking fumes out of your eating and entertaining space.
If you’re looking into installing a hood vent with your built-in kamado grill, just make sure the brand you buy permits charcoal grills to be placed below their vents.
Some brands don’t recommend it because charcoal grills don’t have a maximum heat setting. So avoid spending money on a hood vent that’s not meant to be used with a charcoal cooker, because it could void the warranty.
Availability of Kamado Accessories
Some kamado grill brands come with more grill accessory options than others. Depending on how you plan to use your kamado grill, you’ll want to make sure you can get all the accessories you need before investing in a specific model.
Accessories you might want to include are dividers, heat deflector plates, multi-tier racks, charcoal trays, and pizza kits. Some even offer rotisserie kits!
Whether you want to use your kamado grill in your outdoor kitchen or as a stand-alone set up don’t forget to think about how much room you’ll need for prep, utensils, sauces, seasonings, plates, or other items you’ll need quick access to while you cook. Side shelves are handy! And definitely make sure there’s a convenient spot for a cold drink.
Availability of Kamado Grill Covers
If your kamado grill isn’t under a roof and you want to use it year-round, invest in a sturdy cover. Protecting your grill and smoker from the elements will help it last longer, prevent it from rusting or getting discolored, and protect the top vent from water.
Easy Cleaning & Maintenance
Cleaning and maintenance are the last things you want to think about when shopping for a kamado grill, but they’re some of the most important features when it comes to actually using it.
Look for grills that can be quickly taken apart for easy cleanup and maintenance. Large ash pans and levers to empty ash are must-have, time-saving features on any size of kamado grill.
Removable Ash Tray
If the ashtray isn’t removable, you’re going to have a heck of a time cleaning out ash after your cook. No one wants to pull out the shop vac after a long day of grilling. You’d rather enjoy the food you cooked and kick back with your buddies at the end of the night.
Avoid the mess and opt for a kamado grill with easy access to the ash pan. It will keep your grill clean, prevent buildup, and give you more free time to relax at the end of a long BBQ session.
Kamado grills can range from $300 to $3000 depending on the grill’s brand, size, and material. You’ll also want to consider which accessories you want and how much they will cost when setting your budget.
The good news is that the more you spend on a kamado grill, the longer it will likely last. Kamado grills, especially the ceramic or porcelain finish ones, can last for decades without any rusting or cracking when properly cared for.
Final Steps Before Making a Kamado Grill Purchase
Now that you have in mind the kind of kamado grill you want and what is within your budget, you’re almost ready to buy. But before you do, don’t forget to take these final steps before purchasing.
Check Current Owners Feedback & Opinions
As with any purchase, the most honest feedback you’ll get is from reviews and testimonials by real owners. Don’t just look at overall ratings, but take time to read about real experiences. You want a full view of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You can also learn a lot from online forums and social media communities, so you’ll feel confident in your purchase.
Good Customer Support Matters
When you read reviews, take note of first-hand experience with customer support. Was it a nightmare to get a company to honor their warranty? Do companies take a long time emailing you back? How long do you have to sit on hold when you call customer support? Are the representatives knowledgeable and offer clear solutions?
You can guarantee that if a customer had a bad experience with the support team, it will be mentioned in the online reviews. Do your research before you buy!
Get To Know the Warranty Options Before You Buy
When a company offers a generous warranty, it means they believe in their product, and they expect it to last a long time. On the other hand, if a company only offers a short-term warranty, less than a year, then you can almost plan on something malfunctioning shortly.
Because kamado grills tend to last longer than propane or metal charcoal grills, you can also expect a longer warranty. A ten-year warranty is best, and it should cover replacement parts and heavy use during that time.
Paying for a kamado grill that costs more but is guaranteed to last longer will save you money and a lot of precious time.
Kamado Grill Tools & Accessory Must Haves
There’s no end to the variety of kamado grill tools and accessories available. Some will make your grilling experience slightly more convenient, while others will land on your must-have list.
Once you think about your habits and idiosyncrasies, you’ll be able to narrow down which tools and accessories are worth the investment.
Because all brands offer different accessories and not all will work with every kamado, I will only discuss general accessories that will work for all kamado grills.
Here are some of our favorites.
A Charcoal Chimney Starter
A downside to charcoal grills is that you can’t start them with a push of a button. You have to light the coals or briquettes yourself.
A charcoal chimney starter simplifies and speeds up the process. Just place a firelighter or some newspaper under the coal-filled chimney and light it.
The unique design helps keep the fire burning hot, so you have glowing coals ready for grilling within fifteen minutes.
You check out my recommended Charcoal Chimney Starters here: 10 Best Charcoal Chimney Starters
A kamado grill requires you to use your hands more so than gas grills. Whether you’re handling the chimney full of hot coals, moving grates mid-cook, or flipping food, you want to keep your hands safe from burns. Even the lid and fire chamber can get very hot.
A pair of heat-resistant grilling gloves will give you the confidence to grill without getting burned, and you’ll have better control over the hot pieces and cooking food for better results.
You check out my recommended Heat-Resistant Glove here: Best Heat Resistant Gloves For Grilling
Regardless of what accessories you buy, you won’t want to pass up on a quality spatula and sturdy BBQ tongs.
Traditional kitchen utensils are usually shorter and don’t hold up to the high heat produced in your kamado grill. Purchasing utensils specifically made for grilling will prevent accidents and keep your outdoor cooking gear separate from your indoor kitchen.
Here are some great Grilling Tool options: Grilling Toolsets
The best way to know if your food has reached the desired doneness without losing any of its precious juices is to use a thermometer.
Instant-read thermometers are an excellent investment because they are quick, accurate, and don’t require you to keep the lid open for long periods.
Another option is a dual probe grill thermometer. It lets you read the temperature of the air around your food as well as the internal temperature of your food, so you can easily make adjustments as needed.
Check out my recommended Instant Read Thermometers here: 10 Best Instant Read Thermometers
Check out my recommended Digital, Dual-Probe Smoker And Grill Thermometers here: 10 Best Digital Meat Thermometers
A Good Grill Brush
Never cook on a dirty grill. It’s a breeding ground for bacteria, will make your food stick worse to your grates, and is more likely to lead to carcinogens leaching into your food.
Additionally, when your grill grates stay dirty, the quicker they will break down and the sooner you’ll need to replace them.
A good grill brush is the key to avoiding build-up. You should use it on your grill at the end and start of every cooking session to keep grates clean.
Skip traditional bristle brushes as the wires can break off and get into the food. Look for bristle-free brushes or wooden scrapers.
You can see my recommended Grill Brush’s here: 10 Best Bristle Free Grill Brushes
A Kamado Grill Cover
If you want to use your kamado grill year-round, make sure to invest in a kamado grill cover. It will protect the vents from filling with water, metal pieces rusting, and the hood fading in the sun.
A Kamado Grilling Guide
Kamado grilling is unique from grilling with gas or even other charcoal grills. If you’re new to the world of kamado grills, make sure to do your research and consider buying a grilling guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of your kamado grill.
A recipe guide like the one found on this site will come in handy. Kamado Cooking – The Complete Guide To The Ceramic BBQ
Kamado Grill FAQ
If you still have questions, we’re here to help. Our goal is to arm you with enough information to not only buy the best kamado grill for you but to also provide you with everything you need to know to be successful in using and maintaining your kamado for years to come.
If you don’t know much about kamados but are in the market for one of these next-level cookers, we’ve got you covered!
These popular grills offer long-lasting features that standard wood and charcoal grills don’t and are perfect for outdoor chefs who want to take their charcoal-fired flavor to a higher level.
Below we provide answers to a few frequently asked kamado grill questions to get you started. For a much more comprehensive kamado grill FAQ guide, check out this article: The Ultimate Kamado Grill FAQ
Is It Worth Buying a Kamado?
Kamado grills are worth buying if you are someone who grills regularly and who wants a versatile, all-purpose grill. The versatility you get from a kamado grill is unmatched in the charcoal grill market. Although they are more expensive up front, they last much longer and are more fuel-efficient making them a great long-term investment.
How Long Will a Kamado Grill Last?
Today’s kamado grills can essentially last, well forever. I’ve known people who are still using 40-year-old clay kamado-style cookers and today’s kamados are built with much tougher and thicker ceramic or cast stainless-steel materials. How many gas grills would you have to replace in the same amount of time?
You may have to replace a few parts from time to time as they wear out (think gaskets, cooking grates, bands, thermometer), but many offer limited lifetime warranties for expensive parts. Take good care of your kamado and it will take good care of you.
Can I Use Charcoal Briquettes in a Kamado?
No, you should never use charcoal briquettes in a kamado. Charcoal briquettes are made from lump that is ground up and boding agents and chemicals are added when pressed together. Since kamado ceramic is porous, it will absorb these chemicals making your food taste bad. Once these chemicals are absorbed, there is no getting them out.
Charcoal briquettes also produce a lot more ash than lump charcoal which can block the airflow and causes the charcoal, in extreme cases, to go out. It makes temperature control more difficult.
Finally, the ash build-up from briquettes will hinder low and slow longer cooks and will also not achieve the same higher temperature cooks.
Final Thoughts on Our Kamado Grill Buyers Guide
Take your grilling expertise to the next level with a kamado grill. The ancient tried and true design will give you results that until now you could have only dreamed of, results that have been celebrated for thousands of years.
Kamado grills take classic charcoal grills to the next level. Because of their unique shape, they can handle so much more than grilling. Sear a steak, smoke a brisket, fire-roast a pizza, or bake a loaf of bread. There’s nothing a quality kamado grill can’t handle.
Upfront kamado grills cost a little more than other charcoal grills, but they last for generations when you maintain and store them properly. Imaging passing it down to your children or even your grandchildren, keeping the legacy alive.
Now that you’re at the end of the kamado grill buyer’s guide, you should have a good idea of what size, style, configuration, and accessories you want to invest in. Taking into consideration your budget, outdoor kitchen space, and the reputation of the kamado brand will help you make the final decision.
Whether you’re new to charcoal grilling, or an old pro, a kamado grill will let you expand your grilling skills and opportunities, taking them to the next level.
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