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A Kamado Grill Will End Your Search for the Best Charcoal Grill

For all the types of backyard barbeque grills that are available, the popularity of the charcoal grill endures for many reasons: Smell, flavor and cooking control are just a few. And, one of the hottest types of charcoal grills around today is the Kamado grill, which is actually a modern version of an ancient cooking technique. It’s prized for its ability to grill, roast or smoke foods with great success thanks to its shape and construction. Of course, even within this popular style of grill, there are different models available with a range of features, so here’s a guide to Kamado grills to help you pick one that will make your backyard cookouts more fun — and tasty!

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Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Ceramic Grill
Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Ceramic Grill

Durable wire mesh fiberglass gasket offers a superior air-tight seal

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Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Stand-Alone Ceramic Grill
Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Stand-Alone Ceramic Grill

Air lift hinge reduces dome weight, allowing you to lift the kamado lid with ease

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solid construction
Blaze 20-Inch Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill With Stainless Steel Cart & Tool Hook Shelves
Blaze 20-Inch Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill With Stainless Steel Cart & Tool Hook Shelves

First ever solid cast aluminum construction offers superior durability and outstanding temperature control

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maintains temperature
Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24-Inch Ceramic Grill
Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24-Inch Ceramic Grill

Cast aluminum Kontrol Tower top vent allows for consistent airflow & prevents rain from entering the grill

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reversible cooking grids
Primo Oval Large 300 Ceramic Kamado Grill On Steel Cart
Primo Oval Large 300 Ceramic Kamado Grill On Steel Cart

Primo offers the highest sitting lid available allowing you to cook whole chickens and turkeys vertically

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History of Kamado Cooking

The cooking technology on which today’s kamado grill is based originated in China over 3,00 years ago. Those clay vessels evolved, and eventually, a clay pot with a removable dome lid became popular for cooking in Japan. The “mushikamado” runs on charcoal and features a damper and door for better heat control. This version found its way to America after World War II and eventually was known as a “kamado,” meaning “cooking range” or “stove” in Japanese.

Top Kamado Features

Users say that using a kamado grill is easy but it does take a little time to get familiar with it and used to using it because it is very different from a run-of-the-mill charcoal grill. Because they are typically made from ceramic, these grills hold their temperature very efficiently so the food does not need to be tended as carefully. They also heat up faster than a regular charcoal grill: You can be ready to cook just 15 minutes after starting the fire. On the flip side, if you get the grill too hot for whatever you’re cooking, it can be a challenge to bring down the temperature.

  • Ceramic Construction

An improvement on clay, modern kamado grills are made from ceramic because of its excellent and long-lasting heat retention. You can grill, smoke, and bake with a kamado because they can consistently hold temperatures from 225° F to 750°+ F. Airflow can be precisely controlled with the venting system which makes them function like a wood-fired oven.  Fuel efficiency is another great feature of the kamado grill, making charcoal last.

With proper care, ceramic kamado grills can last decades, however, they are prone to cracking if dropped or the lid is slammed because repeated heating and cooling creates microfractures. Ceramic is also very heavy, meaning that these grills are not portable. Finally, ceramic is an absorbent material so lighter fluid and chemical cleaners are never a good idea with these grills.

  • Solid Cast Aluminum

In a move to improve on the great kamado cooking method, innovative new designs are being created, such as the industry’s first indestructible kamado grill. The solid cast aluminum style means that it is more durable and, above all, portable, while still providing the characteristic consistent temperature control and versatility that a conventional kamado grill offers.

Fueling a Kamado Grill

Kamado grills use charcoal, but just dumping in a bag of commercial briquettes might not be the best option. Those bagged little blocks are made from a mix of wood shards and dust along with other materials. All that is compressed into little bricks with rounded corners, which helps airflow and combustion. While they might be convenient, they leave behind a lot of ash, which can create problems with airflow inside the grill and even cause the fire to go out.

Most manufacturers and grilling aficionados recommend using hardwood lump charcoal in a kamado grill. This is because it burns hotter and more efficiently than preformed commercial briquettes, which provides several other benefits: You need less charcoal, no chemicals are involved, it produces little ash and it is an environmentally sustainable fuel. This type of charcoal is made from charred hardwoods that also contribute to the great grilled flavor of foods that you’re looking for. The most common types used are oak, hickory, and maple, which give the best flavor. Even better for your bottom line is that the fuel cost is roughly half that of commercial briquettes.

Grilling enthusiasts who like to smoke foods can also incorporate some wood chips in a kamado grill to impart greater smoky flavor. And, of course, a kamado grill is great for smoking foods.

Maintenance and Operation

  • Burping — There’s a fairly rare phenomenon called “kamado flashback” that can cause a fireball. This happens when the interior of the grill has lost most of its oxygen and the sudden burst of air from opening the kamado grill lid ignites. This can be prevented by keeping the bottom vent open, but you still want to be safe when opening the grill by burping it. Stand to the side, lift the lid an inch or two and wait a little bit before completely opening the lid.
  • Ash Cleanout — There’s not a lot of upkeep required for a kamado grill. If you’re using hardwood lump charcoal, there won’t be as much ash to clean out. that said, you should clean up ashes after each use and certainly if the amount of ash starts interfering with airflow. Some models have an ash pan that is removable for easy emptying or come with an ash-removal tool. Grease and drippings should be burned off from time to time.
  • Band Tightening — Part of the characteristic look of a ceramic kamado grill is the band around the middle, forms the seal when you lower the lid. It also holds the hinge mechanism securely for the lid. As you use your grill the repeated heating and cooling will loosen the seal, so about once a year you’ll need to use a wrench to tighten all the bolts.

Ready to try out a ceramic kamado grill?  Here’s a roundup of the best kamado grills around:

1. Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Ceramic Grill – KJ23RHC

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Today’s versions of the Kamado are super popular, especially those from Kamado Joe, immediately recognizable by their fire-engine red exterior. The Classic model has the brand’s characteristic 1 1/4-inch thick ceramic shell that holds the heat for even and long-lasting grilling. The porous nature of the material also helps keep meats moist while they cook, so you’ll be serving up plenty of juicy foods infused with that highly desirable wood-fired flavor. With 254 square inches of cooking surface, you can grill up most types of foods for family and friends. Even better, Kamado’s Joe’s signature Divide and Conquer Flexible Cooking System features two split heat deflectors that let you grill and do indirect cooking and baking at the same time.

The Classic includes the company’s patented Kontrol Tower top vent, made from cast aluminum, which helps manage the temperature. A gasket band around the dome lid and the base are made with a double thickness wire mesh fiberglass that creates an air-tight seal and a stainless steel lid latch activates when you close the lid, sealing in the heat. Some fabulous features of the Kamado Joe make it one of the best grills and they include a powder-coated cast iron fore grate, patented slide-out ash drawer for easy cleanup and an air lift hinge that cuts the dome’s weight by 96%, making it easy to lift the heavy ceramic lid.

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Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Ceramic Grill
Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Ceramic Grill

Durable wire mesh fiberglass gasket offers a superior air-tight seal

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Pros:

  • Kamado Joe metal and cast iron parts are warranted for five years, while heat deflectors are covered for three years and the thermometer and gaskets for one year. Registration is required for the warranty to be valid.
  • Every Classic grill comes with the accessory package that includes a grate gripper, ash tool, flexible cooking rack, accessory rack, and a heat deflector, valued at $205
  • The airlift hinge makes it easy to open and close the lid safely on these notoriously heavy grills.

Cons:

  • Ceramic kamado grills are very heavy and not at all portable.
  • Some people find the split grill surface a pain to clean.
  • The 18-inch size is a little small for larger families or parties and might be challenging for smoking oversized pieces of meat.

2. Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Stand-Alone Ceramic Grill – KJ23NRHC

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The stand-alone version of the Kamado Joe ceramic grill has all the fabulous features of the regular classic, but it comes with four ceramic feet giving you versatility with placement. The feet are necessary for support and stability if you don’t install it in a table, and they prevent the bottom of the grill from touching any surface that might act as a heat sink and draw heat from the grill. It still has the brand’s characteristic 1 1/4-inch thick ceramic shell that holds the heat for even and long-lasting grilling. Your meats will always be flavorful and juicy thanks to the ceramic’s porous nature that helps keep them moist while they cook. It also features the same 254 square inches of cooking surface, along with Kamado’s Joe’s signature Divide and Conquer Flexible Cooking System. This system has two split heat deflectors — included with the grill — that let you grill and do indirect cooking and baking at the same time.

The patented Kontrol Tower top vent, made from cast aluminum, helps manage the temperature. The iconic gasket band around the dome lid and the base is made with a double-thick wire mesh fiberglass that creates an air-tight seal. This is enhanced by the stainless steel lid latch that activates when you close the lid to help seal in the heat. The stand alone model also has the Kamado Joe powder-coated cast iron fore grate, patented slide-out ash drawer for easy cleanup and the air lift hinge, which cuts the dome’s weight by 96%, making it easy to lift the notoriously heavy lid.

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Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Stand-Alone Ceramic Grill
Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Stand-Alone Ceramic Grill

Air lift hinge reduces dome weight, allowing you to lift the kamado lid with ease

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Pros:

  • Kamado Joe metal and cast iron parts are warranted for five years, while heat deflectors are covered for three years and the thermometer and gaskets for one year. Registration is required for the warranty to be valid.
  • The accessory package that comes with the Kamado Joe grill includes the necessary heat deflectors, which for most other brands are a separately purchased accessory.
  • Numerous optional items are available, including a chicken stand, grill expander, pizza stone and a “joetisseie”.

Cons:

  • Some people may find the 18-inch size too small and will need to cook in batches.
  • The split grill surface is a pain to clean according to some buyers.
  • Ceramic kamado grills are very heavy and not at all portable.

3. Blaze 20-Inch Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill With Stainless Steel Cart & Tool Hook Shelves – BLZ-20-KAMADO

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Rated a best kamado smoker for 2019, the Blaze 20-Inch Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill With Stainless Steel Cart & Tool Hook Shelves is the first kamado grill to be made from solid cast aluminum. This type of construction offers some great innovations over ceramic, which is prone to cracking and breaking and is notoriously heavy.  The aluminum shell is one-inch thick and offers improved durability along with the superior temperature control found in the ceramic models. Its surface is nonporous and you can use any wood or charcoal you want with this grill — even briquettes and lighter fluid if you must. The Blaze features a 20-inch diameter cooking grate made from stainless steel that is hinged on both sides to make adding fuel easy and offers cooking area than some other kamado-style grills.

Convenient features include a lift assist for the lid and an innovative tongue and groove seal around the lid. The design seals in the heat while eliminating the need to tighten or replace the gasket. The top exhaust vent is also crafted from cast aluminum for great heat control and it doesn’t slip out of position. At the bottom, the firebox has a stainless steel ash pan with handles that’s removable to make cleaning out the ashes a breeze. The front of the grill also has a large temperature gauge that makes it easy to keep an eye on what’s happening with the cooking temp. Best of all, the grill cart — which is stainless steel — has casters, meaning you can move it around on your patio or deck.

solid construction
Blaze 20-Inch Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill With Stainless Steel Cart & Tool Hook Shelves
Blaze 20-Inch Cast Aluminum Kamado Grill With Stainless Steel Cart & Tool Hook Shelves

First ever solid cast aluminum construction offers superior durability and outstanding temperature control

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Pros:

  • The Blaze Kamado cast aluminum grill comes with a lifetime warranty inside and out, as long as you register the product within 30 days.
  • Buyers say it’s nearly indestructible.
  • According to users, the heat retention of the cast aluminum is just as great as the ceramic models.

Cons:

  • The full-width ash pan is very effective but requires that all three grates be lifted out for clean up.
  • In general, if you want a light-and-go grill with no fussing, a Kamado style charcoal grill is probably not for you.

3. Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24-Inch Ceramic Grill – BJ24RHC

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The Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24-Inch Ceramic Grill offers up one of the largest kamado cooking surfaces in the industry at 452 square inches. This big boy has all the same features that the smaller ones do but as one reviewer says, this “surface space is fantastic and allows for voluminous amounts of food to be cooked at once.”  The brand’s characteristic 1 1/4-inch thick ceramic shell holds the heat for even and long-lasting grilling and you’ll cook up flavorful and juicy thanks to the ceramic’s porous nature which helps keep things moist while they cook. The Big Joe has the signature Divide and Conquer Flexible Cooking System, which uses two split heat deflectors — included with the grill — that let you grill and do indirect cooking and baking at the same time. This larger model comes with a split firebox so that you can create separate temperature zones within the Kamado grill —  or use just one side for a small meal.

Just as with the other Kamado Joe grills, the patented Kontrol Tower top vent, made from cast aluminum, stays in position and helps manage the temperature as well as keeps out the rain. The iconic gasket band around the dome lid and the base is made with a double-thick wire mesh fiberglass that creates an air-tight seal. This is enhanced by the stainless steel lid latch that activates when you close the lid to help seal in the heat. And, speaking of the lid, you can cook with it open in any position if you choose to. The Big Joe has the durable powder-coated cast iron fire grate, patented slide-out ash drawer for easy cleanup and the air lift hinge, which cuts the dome’s weight by 96%, making it easy to lift the notoriously heavy lid.

maintains temperature
Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24-Inch Ceramic Grill
Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24-Inch Ceramic Grill

Cast aluminum Kontrol Tower top vent allows for consistent airflow & prevents rain from entering the grill

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Pros:

  • Kamado Joe grills require registration to activate the warranty that covers metal and cast iron parts for five years, heat deflectors three years and the thermometer and gaskets for one year.
  • The accessory package that comes with the Kamado Joe grill includes the necessary heat deflectors, which for most other brands are a separately purchased accessory.
  • The Big Joe has a massive cooking area and some buyers say you can add another set of grates and cook enough for very large gatherings.

Cons:

  • If you regularly cook just for two, the Big Joe might be too large.
  • Ceramic kamado grills are very heavy and not at all portable, and the Big Joe is even more so.

4. Primo Oval Large 300 Ceramic Kamado Grill On Steel Cart

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More than just providing a different profile, the Primo Oval Large 300 Ceramic Kamado Grill gives you some extra versatility thanks to its shape. The oval design lets you cook more food at one time and taller lid allows you to cook whole chickens or turkeys vertically.  Made in the USA, the Prion is crafted from a premium ceramic and then coated with a lead-free, and scratch-resistant porcelain glaze. It also features reversible ceramic cooking grates that are easy to clean. With the generous cooking area and the split grates, you can raise the grids on one side and keep the other side lower to create different cooking environments within the grill. It’s also very versatile when it comes to cooking methods because it can smoke meats at temps as low as 180 degrees Fahrenheit or grill your favorite cuts at 500 degrees. Having both a chimney cap and a stainless steel lower vent door allows for precise temperature control for success every time.

The Primo comes with an easy lift-and-lock hinge system that conveniently and safely keeps the lid in place when raised and the soft-close felt gasket protects the ceramic from damage while you’re opening and closing it. This Kamado grill sits inside its own powder-coated steel cart that also has two handy side shelves made from marine grade plastic material and it resists rusting. The entire set up rides on heavy-duty swivel casters that let you roll it across the patio and then lock it in place for cooking. Primo provides a limited lifetime warranty on the ceramic parts which are also backed by a twenty-year guarantee. The metal parts are covered for five years and all cast-iron parts for one year. The thermometer and felt gaskets have a thirty-days warranty.

reversible cooking grids
Primo Oval Large 300 Ceramic Kamado Grill On Steel Cart
Primo Oval Large 300 Ceramic Kamado Grill On Steel Cart

Primo offers the highest sitting lid available allowing you to cook whole chickens and turkeys vertically

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Pros:

  • The Primo has been called the most versatile, innovative kamado grill.
  • The brand’s firebox divider add-on allows for direct and indirect cooking at the same time.
  • A taller lid lets you cook beer butt chicken or turkey, or oversized pieces of meat.

Cons:

  • Primo’s cooking grates are porcelain-coated steel and while this is nonstick, if they become scratched they must be kept seasoned with oil to prevent rusting.
  • The limited “lifetime” warranty on the ceramic parts is capped at 20 years.

Whether you like to grill, smoke, roast or bake — or all four — you’ll find the kamado-style grill to be a winner. The heft of a kamado grill means they’re not portable, but if you’re looking for a charcoal grill that offers up the most versatility, consistently great food and ease of use, make your next grill a one of these.