best kamado grill

Best Kamado Grills and Smokers in 2021 [Ceramic and Metal]

You’ve probably noticed them in your favorite grill store – those egg-shaped charcoal grills that look like they’ve just landed from outer space.

They’re called kamado grills, but what’s the deal with them? Are they worth the price?

Read this guide to learn the basics of kamados and find the right kamado grill that suits your budget and needs.

Our recommendations for Best Kamado Grill and Smoker:

Why Kamado Grills are Becoming so Popular?

Kamado is the Japanese word for a stove, but this grill style goes back to the clay ovens used in ancient China and Asia. They are quite similar to the Indian tandoor oven.

Most kamado grills are now made out of ceramics, making them fundamentally different from nearly every other type of grill on the market. There are many benefits to building grills with ceramic bodies.

kamado grill smoker explained
Kamado grills have a heat insulating body and air vents that enable both searing in high heat and cooking low and slow

On average, kamados are more expensive than regular charcoal or gas grills. Still, they are becoming more popular all the time and chances are you have already spotted one in your neighbor’s backyard or some local hardware store.

Next, let’s take a closer look at what makes kamado grills worth the price.

The most important advantages of kamado grills are:

Better Heat Retention: Kamados retain heat much better than normal grills, so they’re perfect for holding their temperature and using their fuel effectively. You can use them to smoke, roast, or grill. They also make great pizza ovens.

Gets Hot Faster: Since the structure keeps the heat locked inside, Kamados heat up and are ready for cooking faster than other grills.

More Taste: Kamados have tight-fitting lids, which means you can lock in more smokey goodness for longer recipes. And the outside of the grill stays cooler to the touch and won’t rust.

Even Cooking: In addition to holding onto heat well, kamados are also the perfect shape for cooking. That strange-looking egg allows the air to circulate effectively, and it makes the dampers super effective at controlling temperature. Since hot air isn’t escaping through gaps and thin-metal construction, it is very efficient.

Metal Kamados

There are also many conventional grill manufacturers making metal grills that are designed much like the ceramic kamado grills. They come at an attractive price point, and there are still many benefits to the design.

The shape circulates air efficiently, and the makers add hefty gaskets around the lid to keep the heat in. With thick double or triple-walled steel, metal kamados can also retain heat far better than conventional kettle or charcoal grills.

Here is a short video that explains the advantages of kamado grills:

Kamado Grill Benefits | Kamado Grill Buying Guide BBQGuys

5 Best Kamado Grills and Smokers Reviewed

There are dozens of brands that make kamado grills offering hundreds of products to choose from. We have picked the 5 best options to be reviewed here.

Whether you are looking for the best product overall, a metal kamado, or a budget option, you can find something that fits the bill here.

Best Overall: Kamado Joe Classic II 18 Inches

Kamado Joe has nailed the kamado grill design. Their grills are sturdy and heavy, with thick ceramic bodies and cast iron carts.

Yet, using them is easy, thanks to innovations like the top vent for easy airflow control and their patented air lift hinge, which makes the lid feel 96 percent lighter.

Kamado Joe Classic II

Specifications:

  • Grilling Area (sq.in): 256
  • Weight: 232 lbs
  • Build Materials: Ceramic, stainless steel, and cast iron
  • Dimensions: 46.5″ x 28″ x 48″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: Lifetime (ceramic parts), 5 years (metal parts), 3 years (most other parts)

Quality design comes throughout this grill, from the Advanced Multi-Panel (AMP) firebox to the Kontrol Tower Top Vent. The vent system is especially nifty, allowing you to adjust from smoking temps around 225 degrees Fahrenheit to super hot 750-degree sears.

Kamado Joe Kontrol Tower top vent
Kamado Joe uses patented Kontrol Tower top vent for precise temperature management

The Classic II is an 18-inch grill on caster wheels. It’s an attractive grill, too, in a bright red finish. The two-tiered cooking grate allows you to control your food placement better. There’s a pull out ash drawer for easy cleaning, and accessory side shelves you can use as prep space.

What We Love

  • Superb quality and design
  • Sturdy construction
  • Great vent system for temperature control
  • Versatile: Good for grilling, smoking, and baking
  • Lifetime warranty on ceramic parts (3-5 years for most other parts)

What We Don’t

  • Quite pricey

Best Metal Kamado: Broil King Keg 5000

The Broil King Keg 5000 is a steel-bodied kamado-style grill. It uses heavy, double-walled steel and cast iron to retain heat better.

Indeed, Broil King claims that the grill will use half the charcoal that regular grills need. As a bonus, the steel won’t absorb moisture or odors as ceramics do.

Broil King Keg 5000 Steel Charcoal Kamado Grill

Specifications:

  • Main Grilling Area (sq.in): 280
  • Secondary Grilling Area (sq.in): 200
  • Weight: 126 lbs
  • Build Materials: Painted steel and cast iron
  • Dimensions: 41″ x 27.5″ x 47″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 10 years (body), 2 years (all other parts)

The Keg 5000 has a 280 square inch cooking rack with a secondary swing-out 200 square inch rack. That’s a lot of cooking space compared to many kamado-style units. 

It’s a sturdy grill backed by a 10-year warranty for the body, so it should outperform pretty much any other metal charcoal grill on the market. And like ceramic kamados, it has a tight-fitting lid that will trap in heat and flavor.

What We Love

  • Works well with both low and high heat
  • Heats up fast
  • Sturdy and durable construction
  • Plenty of cooking space
  • Easy to use and clean
  • Includes a swing-away secondary rack, detachable side shelves, and multi-tool

What We Don’t

  • The grate is quite high which makes searing a bit difficult

Best Budget Option: Char-Griller Akorn

A great budget-friendly option comes from Char-Griller. It’s also a steel-bodied kamado made of 22-gauge steel, which is powder-coated to protect it from the elements. The cart and frame are tubular steel, and the cooking grate is cast iron.

Char-Griller Akorn

Specifications:

  • Main Grilling Area (sq.in): 314
  • Secondary Grilling Area (sq.in): 113
  • Weight: 90 lbs
  • Build Materials: Powder-coated steel, porcelain-coated steel, and cast iron
  • Dimensions: 26.6″ x 24.8″ x 21.65″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 1 year

The Akorn features 314 square inches of cooking area, plus a 133 square inch warming rack. The steel cart comes with folding side prep and storage shelves. 

At 97 pounds, the Char-Griller is also a heavy and sturdy grill. With proper maintenance, it can last years.

What We Love

  • Durable steel construction
  • Great quality for the price
  • Large cooking area
  • Lighter weight compared to ceramic units
  • Convenient removable ash catcher

What We Don’t

  • The grill stand could be more solid

Best Large Kamado: Kamado Joe Big Joe III 24 Inch

Need space to cook for a crowd? Look no further than the Kamado Joe Big Joe III. It shares all of the great innovative features of the smaller Classic models but is bigger for bigger feasts. At 487 pounds, it’s a monster!

Kamado Joe Big Joe III 24-Inch Ceramic Kamado Grill

Specifications:

  • Main Grilling Area (sq.in): 452
  • Secondary Grilling Area (sq.in): 412
  • Weight: 487 lbs
  • Build Materials: Ceramic and stainless steel
  • Dimensions: 58.4″ x 35.8″ x 53.7″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: Lifetime (ceramic parts), 5 years (metal parts), 3 years (most other parts)

The Big Joe III has a new and improved split rack system. The 3-tiered rack allows you to configure it with more flexibility. You can have 6 half-moon split cooking grids with 2 half-moon split heat deflector plates. The option is to have 4 half-moon split cooking grids and the SloRoller insert. This allows you to for example cook with direct heat on the other side while having indirect heat on the other.

Speaking of the SloRoller, it’s a parabola-shaped smoke chamber that creates a cyclonic rolling smoke ring centered on the cooking grates. It’s great for adding more flavor when slow-cooking foods like BBQ briskets and ribs.

Overall, the Big Joe is a great kamado with large cooking space, great features, and enough versatility and accessories to cook anything from whole chickens and large pieces of meat to searing steaks or baking pizzas. If you don’t mind its heavy weight and high price, this beast will definitely be the king of your backyard!

What We Love

  • Great design
  • High-quality materials
  • Huge cooking area
  • The went system is highly adjustable for precise temperature control
  • Very versatile
  • Lifetime warranty on ceramic parts

What We Don’t

  • High price
  • Very heavy

Best Small Option: Char-Griller Akorn Jr.

What if you have a small patio, or are just cooking for two but still want to get a kamado? Maybe something that you can easily carry in a storage space when it’s not in use. Or even take it along for camping and road trips.

The Char-Griller Akorn Jr. is a great starter kamado that is very affordable, compact, and lightweight.

Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Charcoal Grill and Smoker

Specifications:

  • Grilling Area (sq.in): 153
  • Weight: 37 lbs
  • Build Materials: Powder-coated steel, porcelain-coated steel, and cast iron
  • Dimensions: 20.5″ x 21.5″ x 25″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 1 year

The Akorn Jr. has a 14-inch grate with only 153 square inches of cooking space, but that’s just the right amount for occasional cookouts.

The triple-walled steel structure makes it much lighter and more affordable than ceramic models. The dual dampers allow complete temperature control. And at just under 40 pounds, this is the only kamado-style cooker that is practical for RVs or tailgating.

What We Love

  • Very affordable
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Heats up fast and provides even heat
  • Fuel efficient
  • Easy to assemble

What We Don’t

  • The side handles could be more sturdy

What to Consider Before Buying a Kamado Grill

Build Quality and Materials

Like all grills, the cooking experience you get from your kamado will have a lot to do with its design and build quality. You would also want to get a unit made with high-quality materials so that it will last for many years to come.

Ceramic Units

Ceramics don’t last forever, especially when they’re heated and cooled repeatedly. Tiny microcracks will eventually form, and that will begin to break down the ceramic.

The best solution is an interior firebox made of ceramics, which takes all of the abuse. This saves the grill itself, and the firebox is replaceable.

kamado grill structure
Kamados often have a ceramic firebox inside, this type of structure provides excellent heat retention

With that said, many grill manufacturers are making kamado grills out of super heavy-duty reinforced ceramics, and they’re built for the long haul. They should outlive any metal grill if adequately cared for.

Metal Kamados

If you’re looking at metal kamados, you need to make sure that the materials used are strong, thick, and double-walled. The double-walled design is critical to maintaining heat.

Most manufacturers use steel, which will rust if not properly cared for. Make sure any paint chips are mended immediately with the proper high-temp paint.

Cart and Grill Grates

The rest of the grill is conventional. For the band and cart, you’ll want as many components as possible to be stainless steel or aluminum to avoid problems with rust. The cooking grates in kamado grills are usually made of enameled cast iron.

Size and Accessories

Picking the right kamado for your needs will likely come down to two factors – how big a grill area you need and what accessories are available. The grate size is a factor of how many people you cook for and how oven. 

Like most charcoal grills, you can arrange your fuel in one area to downsize the cooking area if you need to. But what you can’t do is add more real estate to the cooking grate when the entire family stops by.

Since these grills’ design is less modular than metal grills, there are far fewer universal accessories on the market for them. It’s not easy to slap on a rotisserie kit, so if something like that is a priority, you should shop for it to begin with.

The most useful accessories for kamados are:

  • Stackable grill grates
  • Vertical rib racks
  • Cast iron griddles
  • Pizza stones
  • Rotisseries
  • Meat temperature probes
  • Grill covers (for weather protection)

Temperature Control

Easy temperature control when slow cooking is one of the most important qualities of a kamado grill. So you’ll definitely want to consider the design of the air vents and lid.

How does air flow in and out of the grill? Are the vents adjustable enough to effectively control the combustion? Is the lid tight-fitting enough to use it as a smoker? 

A kamado is a significant investment that should last decades, so try not to rush into any decisions. For this guide, we have only picked products that have proper vents and are designed for optimal airflow.

Warranties

Warranties vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and they’re somewhat relative to the quality of construction. Better grills should have longer warranties. 

When buying a high-end kamado, the grill body should have a warranty of at least ten years as a rule of thumb. Ceramic parts usually come with lifetime warranties.

If you go for a budget option, you can’t expect to get a long warranty. Just take good care of the grill so you can maximize its lifetime in your backyard.

Check the warranty policy carefully because each component may be listed separately. For example, gaskets and high-wear items might only be covered for one or two years.

Cooking on a Kamado

There are some notable differences when cooking on a kamado that you should be aware of. However, one thing that’s not too different from other charcoal grills is that you can arrange your coals for direct or indirect cooking.

ribs on a kamado grill
Kamados are great for cooking those ribs low and slow

If you are using a kamado for smoking, it’s recommended to add chunks of wood on top of the charcoal. This will result in additional smoky flavor and the great thing is that you can try different types of wood for different flavors.

For example, when choosing which wood to use when smoking a brisket, you can choose fruit woods for a milder and sweeter taste or go all-in with something strong like hickory.

Choose the Right Charcoal

Charcoal selection is essential with a kamado since you will be closing the lid and trapping all the smoke inside. You don’t want to use briquettes with lots of chemicals like the easy-lighting ones do. 

Shop for natural hardwood lump charcoal. This type of charcoal burns more efficiently and hotter anyway, which is perfect for the kamado. You can get away with using quite a bit less charcoal fuel than you would in an open metal kettle grill.

Besides taste, another fundamental reason to avoid briquettes, and all lighter fluids and chemicals in general, is that the walls of a ceramic grill will absorb those chemicals over time. The smell and taste will eventually wind up in your food. Your best bet to get the charcoal lighted is either an electric starter or a chimney starter.

Safety

An important safety consideration when using a kamado is understanding the possibility of a flashback.

A flashback occurs when the charcoal has been starved for oxygen – a real possibility with the kamado’s tight-fitting lid, and if the dampers are closed too much. If the lid is opened, the charcoal will likely send a powerful and dangerous flame suddenly out the lid!

Prevent flashbacks by burping your kamado every time you open it.

It’s pretty simple:

  1. Start by making sure the lower vent is open and then stand to the grill’s side at arms distance.
  2. Ensure the lid opening is clear, and open it just a few inches to let more air in.
  3. Once any charcoal flare-up has occurred, open the lid and proceed with your cooking. 

Flashbacks are rare anyway, but with this procedure, you’ll never have to worry about them.

Besides regular cleaning, you’ll also want to tighten the band that holds the lid in place occasionally. This is usually accomplished by tightening down on a few bolts, but it’s essential to ensure that the lid stays in place.

Kamado Gill & Smoker FAQ

What kind of dishes can I cook with a kamado grill?

Kamado grills are very versatile, so you can cook almost anything with them.

Some of the most popular options include ribs, pork butts, and beef briskets as well as whole chickens and turkeys. Kamados are also great for steaks and burgers. And you can make excellent pizzas with them if you get a stone for that purpose.

Are metal kamado grills any good?

While most high-end kamados are made with ceramics, there are definitely some great metal kamado grills available too.

For example, the Broil King Keg 5000 is a durable and well-designed steel kamado grill that offers great heat retention and is not as heavy as the ceramic units.

If you’re on a tight budget or want a portable unit, you might also consider Char-Griller’s Akorn or Akorn Jr models.

Do kamado grills have any drawbacks?

While kamado grills have many advantages, there also a few drawbacks to consider:

Weight: Because of the materials used and their heat retaining structure, kamado grills tend to be a lot heavier than regular gas and charcoal grills. This means that they are not very portable and might even require a few strong guys to move your unit to the winter storage.

Cooking Area: Kamado grills often have a quite limited cooking surface. So if you’re going to grill some steaks or burgers for a bunch of people, you might have to cook them in several batches or have an additional grill that is larger. However, if you’re slow-cooking a large chunk of meat or a whole bird, you can fit a lot more pounds inside.

Heat Zones: One of the best things about kamados is that they provide even heat. But this also means that you can’t really create different heat zones for searing and then finishing off with low heat. Yet, some high-end models, like Big Joe III, offer solutions for creating both direct and indirect heat zones inside the grill.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Joonas!

As soon as I learned to walk, I started to assist my dad and uncles with grilling and smoking. I always loved helping them and later took over the role of the grill master in my family.

My goal is to cook tasty barbecue food, enjoy it with family & friends, and help others do the same!

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