Versatility and great insulation are certainly among the greatest advantages of kamado grills. Doesn’t matter if you prefer grilling or smoking, this type of grill is phenomenal in both cases.
Personally, I mostly use a ceramic grill for grilling, but when I have enough time I also deal with smoking.
Not everyone knows that the history of these charcoal fueled, ceramic grills dates back as far as 3000 years.
The best kamado grill is made of ceramics and that’s what I recommend the most, but due to the very high prices for ceramic grills, steel kamado grills started being made as well.
Visually speaking, they are not that much different from ceramic models, but you have to know that they offer much poorer insulation and durability. Their advantage is that they are even several times cheaper than a ceramic kamado smoker which is good news for beginners or those with a limited budget.
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The 3 Best Kamado Grills – Ceramic & Steel Options
Below you will learn about several of my favorite options, including what I believe to be the best ceramic grill as well as a lot of useful information such as pros and cons of both types of kamado.
Today’s kamado models differ significantly from the ones from years ago, first and foremost they are more functional, they have better insulation and a lot of useful solutions such as an ash removal system.
A solidly built ceramic kamado grill that is characterized by high quality of workmanship and innovativeness. Kamado Joe is a relatively new yet very valued manufacturer of modern ceramic grills.
It is surprising how new manufacturers keep showing up who wish to perfect something that’s been on the market for so many years and they always manage to succeed 100%.
Kamado Joe Classic II is a great example of freshness and innovativeness that has made so much commotion lately that even loyal fans of Big Green Egg are considering switching to the red kamado grill.
The air lift hinge is one of those innovative elements – Ceramics are characterized by very large weight, the bigger the grill the bigger and heavier the lid. The air lift hinge lowers the lid’s mass to the minimum, making it possible to open it with just one finger. On top of that, you don’t have to worry about the heavy lift dropping down, which might cause it to crack or your hand to get crushed.
Divide & Conquer or a multi-level cooking system that increases versatility. It makes it possible to create different zones, using them to cook different food at the same time.
The redesigned Top Vent is made of a better material (lighter and resistant to corrosion) and with better adjustment options, which is very important in grills of this type.
More experienced people will notice a completely different, 6-part construction of the fire box, which eliminates cracks.
I can very confidently recommend it to everyone, no matter if you’re a beginner or simply want to try something new in BBQ – I recommend watching a video that show it in action.
Kamados are characterized by their insulation but this can vary a lot. Manufacturers use gaskets in their models but it’s a good idea to focus on the quality of those gaskets as it turns out in practice that most of them soon need to be replaced. Kamado Joe focused on high quality Wire Mesh Fiberglass Gaskets, which are characterized by better insulation and what is most important, much better durability.
Another important advantage is the removable ash drawer that makes cleaning a charcoal fueled grill mega easy, convenient and effective.
On top of that, when it comes to Kamado Joe you can expect a lot of separately sold accessories that improve the functionality and cooking convenience of your grill even better.
All the other elements such as cast iron cart or wheels are made of high quality materials. The only thing I would complain about are the side shelves, I’d much rather have a wooden shelves option.
Kamado Joe Classic II is my favorite ceramic grill that has all the essentials at this price compared to the Big Green Egg, which doesn’t come with quite as many accessories at a similar price.
One could say that it is a budget kamado grill, even despite the price still being pretty high compared to other types of grills. If you look at ceramic kamados, you will see that they all cost at least twice as much.
Char Griller Akorn is a steel kamado which I mentioned a little at the beginning of this guide. It looks just like every other normal kamado but it was made of steel which makes it so much cheaper.
It has its upsides and downsides, which you will learn more about in the informational part of this article.
First and foremost, it is lighter, cheaper and more mobile, but on the other hand it is characterized by poorer insulation and sadly, steel is prone to corrosion (ceramics are 100% resistant).
Char-Griller focused on making a grill that differs as little as possible from the ceramic kamado while also costing as little as possible. It is an option especially considered by those who never came across this type of grill and don’t want to spend around a thousand dollars on ceramic models.
Akorn is a well-built and solid grill but you have to get prepared for rust appearing in the future, especially that it was mostly made of steel. Despite not being made of ceramics and not having the same insulating parameters, it is still among very cost-effective grills.
It comes with all the necessary elements and accessories so you can start cooking right away without any additional costs.
Someone experienced will see a huge difference in efficiency when cooking on a steel kamado. Ceramic ones are much better, but their price makes them mostly a choice for experienced cooks for whom BBQ is a passion.
For that kind of price, it is a great option, be prepared for it not being as durable as ceramic models but it has all the conditions for preparing equally delicious barbecue, which is what matters the most.
A tiny kamado that combines the most important characteristics that made it so popular – these are the price and mobility. Such low price is very motivating to try your hand at this type of grill.
Of course it is not a typical ceramic grill like Kamado Joe Classic II or Big Green Egg but it makes a great alternative for small money and provides a very similar cooking experience.
Char-Griller Akorn Jr. was mostly made of steel which makes it lightweight, you could easily call it the best portable kamado grill.
There’s not much space under the lid, but it is more than enough to prepare food for a few people. If you’re planning to cook much more, however, I suggest considering a slightly bigger option from the same manufacturer (Akorn model).
Thanks to its small-sized structure, it can reach the adequate temperature very fast. It also, just like every other kamado, uses much less fuel thanks to its insulation.
When somebody asks me about Kamado, I almost always recommend this model to start with, especially if they don’t have much experience with grills. It doesn’t cost much and allows to feel what it’s like to cook on this type of grill without spending a fortune.
Once you gain experience, you will know perfectly well whether this is a cooking style for you, if yes then there’s no reason not to buy a ceramic kamado.
What is a kamado grill ?
Their history dates back as far as 3000 years, it is interesting considering that in the USA they’re just starting to significantly gain on popularity now.
Of course modern kamados differ a lot from those made many years ago. Originally, kamado comes from China and Japan, but similar ones can also be found in India (tandoor). It has been known under different names in many places around the world, but in reality they all refer to the same thing.
They have always been made of fireproof materials such as terracotta, clay, cement or ceramics. They were all characterized by one thing – good insulation and consistent maintenance of a fixed temperature.
Today it is a fact that the best material to build a kamado are ceramics and that’s the kind of grill you should be looking for. It guarantees durability and phenomenal insulation, but sadly it costs a whole lot.
Today the Kamado grill is known under many other names such as kamado cooker, ceramic smoker etc, it all refers to the same thing. The reason for such great differences in naming is large versatility of kamado.
They make great smokers, roasters, pizza & bread ovens, paella & tandoori cooking as well as any classic grilling of hamburgers, steaks or wings. It is hard to believe, but these are all things a ceramic kamado is great at, all while giving a very intense, characteristic smoky flavor (charcoal fueled).
Tips for buying a new kamado grill
Budget – It is one of the few types of grills where the price range is that much diverse. Plan your budget and take into account that a ceramic kamado costs even a few times more than a steel kamado.
Construction Material – Analyze the upsides and downsides of the two most popular materials kamados are made of (ceramics or steel).
Size – For that kind of price and size of the construction, the kamado doesn’t offer that much space (the exception are models with multi-level cooking systems). Remember that the bigger the size the much higher the price and lower the mobility.
Features – Pay attention to whether the kamado you’re interested in comes with all the essential accessories. Some manufacturers sell kamados without the basic elements which at the first glance attracts a customer with the lower price, but it turns out that the price might be much higher if you account for the accessories sold separately.
Warranty – An integral element of every purchase, especially those where you spend a lot of money, which might well be the case when it comes to kamado grills. Even the best manufacturer has the right to make a mistake, which is why you should look into what the warranty actually covers.
Stainless steel or ceramic ?
Each of those materials comes with plenty of upsides and downsides, so let me discuss the key ones here.
Price – A steel kamado is a perfect option for those with a limited budget or simply those who just want to try cooking on a kamado without spending a fortune on a ceramic grill. That way you will gain experience and will know whether this type of grill suits you, if yes then I really encourage you to buy a ceramic kamado.
Weight and mobility – Ceramic models are very heavy and don’t have much to do with mobility. Steel models, on the other hand, are much lighter which makes them easy to move.
The quality of workmanship – Ceramics are characterized by much better quality of workmanship and it comes with less separate elements and construction flaws. Kamados made almost entirely out of steel are more likely to come with different manufacturing flaws.
Durability and Warranty – Steel models are much more resistant to mechanical damages and better for traveling, their lifetime is much poorer on the other hand. Over time, steel falls victim to corrosion, which in case of cheaper materials takes place much sooner. Ceramics are 100% resistant to corrosion, but prone to cracking when dropped, for example. That’s why ceramics usually come with a lifetime warranty and if you take good care of it, it might really be a grill for many years to come.
The pros and cons of buying kamado grill
Flavor – A charcoal fueled grill always wins in terms of flavor against all the other types of grills. What also matters in this case are air flow and insulation which gives the food an even better flavor.
Versatility – Kamado is phenomenal in grilling and smoking, but with all the available accessories it can also turn into a great pizza oven, bread oven, paella and much more.
Durability – In that case, it only applies to ceramic models, which are characterized by 100% resistance to corrosion which in good hands makes a kamado an investment even for a lifetime.
Great insulation – There is no grill more airtight than kamado, especially the models made of ceramics, which is characterized by great insulation. The insulating properties of kamados are so good that I recommend it as the only grill to cook during winter.
Effectiveness – The advantage of great insulation is holding the heat, which means you need much less fuel to maintain the same temperature as in a regular charcoal smoker, which due to poor insulation loses heat much faster.
Low & Slow or Fast & Hot – Kamado is great at maintaining a fixed temperature over many hours or at achieving a very high temperature, it all depends on the technique and skills. That makes it great both at quick grilling and slow smoking.
Price – It only applies to ceramic models, which cost even several times as much as the steel models. A ceramic grill is among the most expensive grills, they tend to costs at least 10x as much as a basic charcoal grill.
Temperature control and time – Beginners may have a lot of problems with temperature control. All changes to the air vents require time, just like getting the charcoal burning and achieving the right temperature.
Sensitive to errors – Great insulation has its downsides, reacting too aggressively might have a negative impact on the temperature. Too much charcoal results in temperature being too high, you need to figure out how much charcoal is needed to achieve your desired temperature. Also very important are the air vents but all of that requires some experience. Remember not to overdo it with temperature when smoking or else you’ll have a hard time trying to lower it in a short time.
Weight – This applies mostly to ceramic models as well, which are simply very heavy. It’s the kind of grill that should stay in one place as it’s not that easy to move something this heavy. An alternative might be steel models, especially the smaller ones like Char-Griller Akorn Jr.