Whether you want to grill burgers, sear steak, smoke brisket or just do some baking, then rather than spend time in the kitchen, why not get outside, make the most of the sun and use a kamado grill? Designed to do all these cooking functions and more, the kamado is much more versatile than the grill and can be used in the same way as a smoker or even a wood-fired oven!Some kamado grills are traditional - a full ceramic cooker, while others may be a kamado style grill, but they both offer multipurpose cooking. Our personal preferences and budget are just two things to factor in when looking to buy the best kamado grill, so in this article we look at some bestselling kamado and kamado-style grills and some handy hints that we hope you will find useful in your quest for a new kamado grill.
The multipurpose Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Grill and Smoker is our best pick with its generous cooking space and porcelain coated interior.
The Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Red Charcoal Grill is our budget pick for portability and a temperature range of 200°F to 700°F – allowing it to hold its own with its heavyweight grilling brothers.
Quick Comparison: Top 7 Best Kamado Grills
1. Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Grill and Smoker
The Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Grill and Smoker supports cooking temperatures of between 200°F and 700°F. It has a porcelain coated 22 gauge steel internal finish and a powder coated finish. It offers a 314 sq. in. cast iron cooking surface and a 133 sq. in. removable warming rack – making a total of 447 sq. in. of cooking area. As the cooking surface is cast iron, it will need seasoning before use.
It has a stainless heat gauge and an easy dump ashpan. The Akorn also has two side shelves with utensil hooks that can fold away when not needed. Like any large item home delivered, do take time to check that all the parts are present and that there is no cosmetic damage to the item before assembling.The front wheels are 8 in. and the rear castor locks for safety. It comes with a one year warranty for defects and a five year warranty for rust or burn-through.
2. Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Red Charcoal Grill
Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker red charcoal grill is a mini version of a Kamado style grill, with cast iron grates and a 153 sq. in. cooking area, ideal for smaller spaces and suitable for RVing. It is a lighter weight and made from 22 gauge steel, with a triple wall insulation
designed to retain heat. Unlike similar types of grills, this is not a smoker, although you can buy a smoking stone and cover from the manufacturer. You can also buy a heat deflector for indirect cooking. It has durable handles so that you can move it easily and it comes with an easy dump ash pan. Although it has an in-built temperature gauge, for better temperature accuracy, you may wish to use a separate wireless thermometer in the cooking area.This grill comes ready to assemble, although you may want to check that you have all the fixings before you begin, it is also worth checking for any cosmetic damage. If there are any issues, there is a manufacturer warranty on this item.
3. KamadoJoe KJ23RHC Classic II Ceramic Charcoal Grill
The blaze red KamadoJoe KJ23RHC Classic II Ceramic Charcoal Grill is a charcoal grill with a thick walled and heat resistant shell to lock in smoke and moisture. Its feather-touch air lift hinge gives easy lifting and allows the lid to stay in any open position if you move your hand away. Its 304 stainless steel cooking grate is divided/multi-level to allow you to cook different foods at different temperatures – known as the Divide & Conquer Flexible Cooking System.
It has a 406 sq. in. cooking surface and can cook foods between 225°F and 750°F. It also has an oversized thermometer and HDPE folding side shelves and handles. This is a heavy ceramic grill that may need a few extra pairs of hands during assembly, but once assembled it does come with locking castors to allow easier moving. You may also want to check the grill for any damage on delivery. Its ash pan is slide out and it comes with an ash rake, and grill and grate gripper.
4. Large Grill Dome Infinity Series Ceramic Kamado Charcoal Smoker Grill
Large Grill Dome Infinity Series ceramic kamado charcoal smoker grill (blue) is a multipurpose grill with a temperature range of between 225°F and 750°F plus. It uses a proprietary Terapex Ceramic blend for juicier food and its thick ceramic walls allow maximum heat retention.It has a Featherlite hinge on the lid for easy opening and closing and has a temperature gauge. Some current owners may have experienced paint cracking on the dome, although this does have a warranty (lifetime for ceramics and five years on gaskets). If you want extra grilling accessories you will need to buy separately, and this model does not come with feet – although they are available to buy directly from the manufacturer. Neither does it come with castors for easier moving.
5. Broil King 911470 Keg 5000 Charcoal Barbecue Grill
Supplying a total of 480 sq. in. of cooking space, the Broil King 911470 Keg 5000 charcoal barbecue grill has an insulated steel design. Its cooking chamber is porcelain coated. Although not as heavy as a full ceramic grill, it is still very heavy.
Its main cooking grate is heavy duty reversible cast iron, which you will need to season regularly, and it has a chrome plated steel secondary cooking surface that rotates for easy access to the main cooking grate. It also comes with a wheeled base that can be adapted for transporting by trailer hitch and it has two removable side shelves. There is a manufacturer limited warranty for up to two years.
6. WEBER Summit Charcoal Grill
The WEBER Summit Charcoal Grill is a gourmet BBQ system. It has a charcoal grill and smoker with a Snap-jet individual burner gas ignition. The available cooking space is 452 sq. in. The double-walled bowl and its lid are porcelain enameled and it has a built in thermometer. It has an aluminum ash pan and a stainless steel one touch cleaning system.It is suitable for direct or indirect cooking and has a stainless steel tabletop and storage basket; all sitting on a heavy duty steel frame cart with castors. It also comes with a ten year limited warranty.
7. BBQ Guru Monolith Ceramic Grill with Digital DigiQ Temperature Control
The BBQ Guru Monolith Ceramic Grill with digital DigiQ temperature control is a multipurpose cooker that allows you to insert smoke chips over charcoal without needing to raise the lid. Its thermometer will check the temperature of your food as well as inside the cooker and this combines with a built in fan to control cooking temperature. As this helps to improve its fuel efficiency, it means that it uses up to 50% less charcoal than similar grills.It is suitable for direct or indirect cooking, as well as smoking, grilling and baking. It comes with a cart with castors, two bamboo side tables, an extension grate and various other accessories.
Things to Consider Before Buying The Best Kamado Grill
Advantages of a Kamado Grill
Kamados are very versatile, allowing you to grill, smoke, sear, cook wood-fired pizza or even bake bread outdoors. It is worth checking that the grill you are thinking of buying will allow you to use it as you want – not all cookers will come with all the parts necessary - you may have to buy extra racks, smoking stones or heat deflectors from the manufacturer.
Ceramic cookers, such as the Japanese mushikamado (‘rice cooker’) were used in various cultures over the centuries. It is believed that China introduced the kamado to Japan during the Kofun period. After World War 2, US soldiers brought the traditional cookers home with them and then US companies began to manufacture them.
Kamados and kamado-style cookers all work on the same principles. They are wood (charcoal) burners, have very thick walls to insulate and have vents at the top and bottom. They need minimal supervision when lit – the charcoal can burn for 12 hours or more without needing refilling. Kamados take around 15 minutes or so to warm up and food tends to cook faster and stay moister on these than on a gas or charcoal grill.
A kamado can stay outside throughout the year; although you may want to cover it up in winter to help prevent any water from leaking into it and unlike other types of grills, the surface of a kamado does not get as hot.
How the Structure of a Kamado Grill helps it Function
Knowing the grill parts, their functions and how these help the kamado grill cook is useful, especially if using one for the first time.
The bottom vent is the main air source when cooking, drawing in the oxygen necessary to keep the fire burning. Controlling the temperature with this will take some practice, although some models now have marked vents, so you know where to open it to. If the vent is open wide it will increase the temperature - ideal for grilling. If you need to smoke, then the bottom vent should be almost closed.
Above this, the fire box has a fire grate on which your charcoal and wood sits. The fire box usually has some pre-drilled holes in it to support air flow and likewise so does the grate. The small holes in the grate also allow ash to fall through.
The ceramic fire ring is above the fire, keeping clear space between the charcoal and cooking grate. The grate is usually stainless steel and when you become comfortable with using the grill you can add different racks, griddles etc.
The lid or dome helps create a tight seal when closed, not only to keep in heat but to help stop moisture loss when cooking. The dome connects to the base by a hinge and the hinge needs checking and tightening regularly to minimize the risk of the dome loosening and falling off when in use.
Most kamado grills have a thermometer on the dome and while useful, the temperature this gives can be off from the cooking surface temperature, so you may wish to use another suitable thermometer inside.
The top vent of the grill allows fine temperature control.
Starting Up and Damping Down a Kamado Grill
Be patient! It will take some practice using vents to control the temperature when you start cooking with a kamado grill.
Unless the manufacturer recommends differently, the basic way to start up a kamado grill is to add the desired amount of charcoal to the firebox and one or two fire starters. Once you have lit it, leave the dome (and top vent) and the bottom vent open for ten minutes or so. Then close the dome. Once the temperature gets to around 50°F of the temperature you want, then you can begin closing the top and bottom vents.
Once you have finished cooking then close the bottom vent. When the temperature falls below 400°F then adjust the top vent to almost closed. If you want to cover the grill, do not do so until the dome is cool to touch.
Benefits of Lump Charcoal
A kamado can preserve its heat well and can keep going unattended for around 12 or more hours, especially when using lump charcoal. This burns hotter than standard charcoal and for longer, ideal for smoking larger cuts at lower temperatures. Lump charcoal also produces less ash than typical charcoal, allowing better air flow.
You can re-use charcoal until it is all gone. Before the next cook, just stir the old charcoal to release any loose ash, empty the ash pan and then add some new charcoal to the firebox.
Smoking with a Kamado
If your kamado does not come with a smoking stone, then you will need to buy one. This is just a ceramic insert that you place between the fire and your meat. Although some of us may prefer a water pan if smoking, it is worth testing out the cooker first as adding extra water might make it too wet.
Direct, Indirect or Raised Direct Cooking
Direct cooking is when your food goes straight onto the grate over the fire. This is ideal for food such as burgers, thin chops or tender vegetables, as these need less cooking time. Indirect cooking uses an internal heat barrier to diffuse the direct heat from the charcoal. This barrier is a heat deflector, usually made from the same material as the kamado and allows airflow to continue. Food cooked with the heat deflector cooks in a similar environment to a charcoal-fired oven.
For raised direct cooking, the food needs to be 8" to 10" above the fire. This allows it to cook slower and is useful for roasts such as tri-tip or tenderloin. It can also give crispy skin on chicken without sacrificing its juices.
A kamado is also ideal for low and slow. At around 225°F, it can usually take between 5 to 15 hours to cook joints and you can add wood chips to the charcoal to smolder.
Basic Cooking Temperatures
As a guide, cooking temperatures in a kamado for smoking are 225˚F to 275˚F, roasting is 300˚F to 450˚F, baking 300˚F to 750˚F, grilling 400˚F to 600˚F or searing between 500˚F and 750˚F.
Burping your Kamado Grill
When you are cooking above 350°F, you should always open the dome carefully (burp the grill) to prevent flashback. This is even more important when both vents are closed! To do this, you just lift the dome slowly and slightly (1" to 2"), then lower. Repeat a few times before lifting the dome fully. You may wish to burp it every time you open it – good practice for when you are cooking at higher temperatures. Also, wearing a heatproof glove when opening the grill will help prevent any burns to your hand if some flames do escape.
Basic Maintenance Tips
Manufacturers usually give specific advice on how to clean their grills, but here are some basic tips we hope you will find useful.
The ash pan needs cleaning after every use to prevent ash from blocking up the air vents and reducing air flow. Once you have stirred the charcoal so that the ash falls through, you then need to open the lower vent and remove the ash pan or tray, empty and return it to the grill.
Kamado grills can be prone to mold developing inside them as they do accumulate moisture. It is not safe to use any chemical treatments in a grill, so the easiest way to kill off and remove the mold is through heat. If you put all the accessories such as grates and heat deflector into the cooker, you can then light it, close the dome and leave both air vents open. Once it reaches around 600°F, try to keep it at that for around 20 minutes. Then you can close the bottom vent, leave it for another 15 to 20 minutes then close the top vent. You can let it cool down then and once cold, use a brush to clean as you would a normal grill.
Although kamado grills are self-cleaning, you can still carry out a deep clean once or twice a year. Like the mold treatment, heat it up to at least 600°F, leave for 30 minutes then open both vents and allow it to cool. Once cool, you can remove all the parts from the grill, use a soft brush to clean the grates and ceramic stones and remove any ash residue with a vacuum cleaner. The grill can all go back together and is ready for its next use.
Whether you are looking for your first kamado grill or just to replace your existing one, we hope that you have found this article helpful. Whether you decide to splash out on a kamado-style grill, or a traditional full ceramic style, then we have given you some of the information that will hopefully help you decide which is the best for you, as well as some tips on using and getting the most from your grill.Whether you want to grill, sear, smoke, bake, or even wood-fire your pizza, then instead of turning on your kitchen oven and grill, why not fire up your choice of best kamado grill and let it do all of the cooking while you and your family make the most of the great outdoors.