There really aren’t many grilling jobs you can’t handle with a kamado grill. It takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, the kamado grill can circle your standard. They are also great for cooking, a technique that consistently delivers delicious results.
These grill champions are usually made of ceramic and boast an amazing ability to retain heat. A little fuel goes a long way and allows you to run the kamado stove at low and low temperatures all day long. Plus, you can fire up your grill and get hot. I’m hot enough to cook an authentic Neapolitan wood fired pizza. The Kamado grill is also great for searing a real steakhouse-style steak, and frankly just about anything you’d consider grilling.
The Big Green Egg is the most famous example of a traditional kamado grill and kamado smoker, but competing kamado manufacturers such as Kamado Joe, Char-Griller, Vision and Char-Broil add to the grill category. You’re tempted to add one to your outdoor kitchen arsenal and? I tested the Big Green Egg and its four main grill competitors to find the best kamado grill – here’s what I found.
More than 200 smoky hours later, I’ve cooked over 10 pounds of hamburgers, 20 pounds of pork ribs, and six chickens, along with a few steaks for good measure. Having said all that, I can confidently say which brands make the best kamado grill for my taste and which ones you should probably avoid.
Here are my picks for the best kamado grill options for 2022. I will update this list as I review new products.
Big Green Egg, the company that started the kamado craze, still has a winner. Of all the kamado-style grill options in my test group, the Large BGE model had the best heat performance, heat retention, and stability. Once the egg was set to a low and slow temperature of 225F, it pretty much ran on its own. According to our thermometer, the Green Egg stuck to this temperature range, with only small and infrequent fluctuations.
The big big green egg was also the most sensitive. If for any reason I had to make an adjustment to either the top or bottom vents, I quickly saw a difference. I’ve usually noticed course corrections in just 6 or 7 minutes.
The food I cooked in the Great Big Green Egg was also quite tasty. While my BGE test unit lacked additional heat deflector accessories, the chicken and pork ribs had a convincing barbecue flavor. While it wasn’t as flavorful as what I smoked in the Kamado Joe Classic III, the food from BGE was a close second. Big Green Egg does make a heat deflector accessory, called the ConvEGGtor, but it’s another accessory.
True to its name, the Kamado Large Big Green Egg Grill and Smoker is large and gives you plenty of space so you can grill, smoke and cook to your heart’s content.
That’s why I recommend the Large Big Green Egg as one of the best kamado grills for almost everyone. You’ll have to go through your local dealer, and again unlike the Kamado Joe Classic III, everything is extra except the stand. Ultimately, though, the total cost of the Large Big Green Egg should be less than the cost of a fully decked out Classic III.
Char-Griller Akorn delivers true kamado performance at the lowest price. It costs less than $350, which is incredible considering that typical kamado grills will set you back $800 to $1,000. The Akorn’s cooking temperature and temperature control are not as stable as the more expensive kamados I’ve used. I suspect this is because the body of the Akorn is made of triple-coated steel, as opposed to a heavy ceramic stove. The grill fire was also harder to light and keep lit than the Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe Classic III.
When I let it burn through our low-slow test (adjusted to 225F), the Akorn’s fire went out within 45 minutes. After re-igniting, temperatures inside the stove climbed to 370 F in just 15 minutes. I didn’t even add any more fuel, just one paraffin lighter. 35 minutes later, the heat level inside Akorn reached 405 degrees. Temperatures then stabilized but remained hot and did not drop below 387F for the next 3 hours.
Things were completely different when I watched Akorn. With a starting temperature of either 225F or 350F, it only took a few adjustments to the ventilation to get the airflow back on track. And because it’s made of steel and not a ceramic kamado, the Akorn weighs less (100 pounds) than traditional kamado grill options (200 pounds or more).
The food I cooked with Akorn wasn’t bad either. Both the slow-roasted ribs and chicken had a pleasant charcoal flavor. That said, they couldn’t match what came out of the Kamado Joe grill thanks to its bundled heat deflector smokehouse system. However, this low price outweighs the many disadvantages, making the Akorn Char-Griller a fantastic addition to the kamado-style grill range.
At nearly $1,500, the Kamado Joe Classic III may have a steep price tag, but it packs a lot for the money. That means lots of kamado grill accessories that aren’t standard on other grills, including the Big Green Egg Kamado. This kamado grill and smoker also works well. In our slow and low grill test, we set the grills to 225 F (107 C) and let go of the controls to see what happens. In this test, the Kamado Joe Classic III demonstrated excellent temperature control.
The grill got a little hot (315F) in the first 30 minutes, but then settled down at the 1 hour mark. From there, this ceramic grill ran on cruise control, parking the needle between 253F and 219F for nearly 3 hours. Only the Big Green Egg turned in a tighter temperature curve, humming for hours in the steamy sweet spot.
One feature that really sets the Classic III apart is something called the SloRoller. Billed as a “hyperbolic smoke chamber,” the Kamado Joe is an hourglass-shaped metal contraption that sits above a fire. The device functions as both a heat deflector and a convection aid. Basically, it prevents the radiant heat generated by the coals, which falls on the food sitting on top (on the grill grate). This will prevent the meat from drying out during the long baking time. According to Kamado Joe, it also promotes air circulation (smoke) in the brewing chamber.
In fact, the Classic III comes with a lot of extras right in the box. This includes an additional set of ceramic heat deflectors (one for each half of the grill), a charcoal feeder and an aluminum charcoal basket. You also get two halved aluminum grates and an ash removal tool, plus a three-level grill grate that you can configure to your grilling needs.
In contrast, everything on the Big Green Egg except the rack is extra. Keep in mind that you can also save a little by choosing Kamado Joe’s Classic II. At $1,200, it’s nearly identical to the Classic III, but lacks the SloRoller accessory and has a different stand.
The Classic III construction feels very solid; I especially like the sturdy side shelves, ideal for grilling and smoking, also standard. All this makes it one of the best kamado grills if you can afford it.
How we test kamado grills
Testing kamado grills is an intense experience for the griller. It requires playing with fire (literally) and high temperatures, albeit in a controlled and responsible manner. The most important element of kamado performance is heat, specifically temperature control and how well the grill holds one temperature. If you want to smoke meat low and slow, the magic number is 225 F. Good smokers, kamados or otherwise, will hold at this temperature for as long as 12, 15, or 20 hours. This means that a thermometer is key and so is the ability to control airflow with vents or flaps.
To capture temperature readings, we placed a thermocouple on each kamado grill. The thermocouple, which is basically a sensitive temperature sensor made of a probe and an attached wire, hangs suspended just 1 inch above the grill grate. It is connected to a data logger and finally to a computer that records changes in heat levels over time.
We try to perform temperature tests on all grills at the same time. We also use the same weight and brand of lump charcoal (4.4 lbs or 2 kg), often from the same bag. This also applies to fire starters (one per grill).
We then light them up according to the instructions in their manuals if available. This usually means letting the coals catch for 15 minutes with the lid open and then closing the grill. At this point, the vents remain wide open until the grill reaches the 50 degree target temperature.
We carefully fiddle with the vents to get there. Finally, we release the controls and observe.
We use the same process for our higher temperature test with a target of 350 F. The goal is to simulate the heat output needed to roast chicken and other poultry.
And speaking of food, we also do a lot of “unofficial testing”. Smoke a rib in each grill (225 F). We wind the chickens into bow ties and also bake them. They come from your local Costco and weigh roughly 5 pounds each. Finally, grill a set of four 8-ounce burger patties at high heat (600 F).
Want more options? Here are the other two kamado grill models I evaluated for this test group. Although they didn’t make it to my selection, you might want to take a look for comparison: