Let me start this post by saying that Kamado grills are the most versatile barbecues around. That is a pretty bold statement, but I will shed more light in my attempt to explain “What is a Kamado grill.”
When I saw a Kamado grill for the first time, I thought ‘Wow, this is a space ship.’ It looks groovy and very different to you average bbq grill.It doesn’t take a lot of space which is ideal for smaller outdoor spaces.
Let’s dive into the subject.
A kamado is a traditional Japanese wood or charcoal fueled cook stove. The word kamado means “stove” in Japanese. A moveable kamado is called a “mushikamado”. (source Wikipedia)
The origins of the Asian Kamado can be traced back 3000 to 4000 years ago found in China and India. Traditionally they were made from clay.
The modern day kamado style grills are made from different materials that are less prone to crack and withstand high temperatures of up to 750ºF (400ºC). The materials include high fire ceramics, refractory materials, double wall insulated steel, traditional terracotta, and a mix of Portland cement and crushed lava rock.
In a nutshell, a Kamado is not your ordinary BBQ. It is a bbq, smoker, slow cooker, and wood-fired oven all in one.You won’t find this versatility in any other bbq grill.
Let’s get started.
How Does A Kamado Grill Work
As with any other grill or wood-fired oven, there is a slight learning curve involved in how to use a Kamado style grill to get the most use out of it.
The Kamado works like a convection oven where the air that flows around the food transports the heat and cooks the food quick and efficient. The radiant heat locks in the moisture, and the meat stays moist, flavorsome and succulent – just delicious.
The Kamado is designed to be used with the dome lid closed. The charcoal is based on the bottom. Air will flow in from the bottom vent, raises up and goes out through the top vent. The more oxygen is available to the charcoal the hotter the temperature will get.
So, you can control the temperature by closing the vents slightly or entirely depending on what temperature you want to achieve.
As a thumb of rule, start with a lower temperature and increase it over time. It is easier to increase the temperature rather than waiting for the heat to cool down.
The ceramic walls retain the heat for a long time (up to 12 hours or longer) which means
- you can make the most of the charcoal and only need a small amount
- cook more food
- use it as a slow cooker
- use it as a smoker after you have finished with grilling your meat, fish or vegetables
- achieve a temperature as high as 225ºF and as high as 750ºF.
These are the most important parts
- Ceramic or stainless steel bowl to hold the charcoal.
- The outer surface is mostly a high gloss ceramic glaze.
- Usually, the kamado grill features a stainless steel grate but you can other styles as well like a cast iron grate.
- The fire grate sits on the bottom of the fire box. The slots allow small pieces of wood to fall through.
- The Bottom vent also called draft door, is the primary air source. It draws in the oxygen to maintain the fire.
- The Top vent, also known as dual function metal top (DFMT) helps to maintain airflow.
- The Dome/Lid creates a nearly airtight seal when it’s closed. This air tight seal is perfect for heat retention. The dome also has a temperature gauge inserted so you can check if you have reached the desired temperature.
It is important to know that the terms can be slightly different depending on the model/brand you have or going to buy. The functions are still the same.
Some Words About The Fuel
Your best bet will be to use lump wood charcoal which burns at high heat and also leaves fewer ashes than charcoal briquettes.
Charcoal briquettes also contain additives that can change the flavor of your food.
The benefits of lump wood charcoal is
a) it burns hotter and
b) it burns for longer periods of time.
That is a major factor since the Kamado grill retains heat for up to 12 hours thanks to the heat-retaining ceramic vessel.
Lump wood coal may cost more than the alternative coal, but in the long run, you’ll be better off with the superior quality since you only need a small amount of charcoal to heat up your grill.
How To Light A Kamado Grill
I discovered a different and much easier way to light a Kamado grill. I have found it in the book “The Kamado Smoker and Grill Cook Book” by Chris Grove, which by the way I highly recommend.
Chris calls it the paper towel lighting method. You simply drizzle some cooking oil on a paper towel, roll and twist it tightly together and put it on top of the coal. Now you cover it slightly with some more coal. Finally light both ends of the paper, close the lid and open the bottom and top vent to allow air flow.
Your grill should be ready in 15 minutes to cook those yummy T-Bone Steaks. 🙂
How Much Does It Cost
You have heard by now how versatile and amazing a Kamado style grill is. But how much do you have to pay for one of these charcoal grills?
There is a huge price range starting at around $ 500 up to $2000. It depends on the size, the brand, additional extras and materials used to build the grill.
I probably would go for a medium price range at around $500. Considering the quality, versatility, and durability, it is great value for money. It is safe to say that a Kamado grill should last at least five years and longer.
Most manufacturers offer a generous warranty which provides even more quality and value to an already great product.
Now it’s the time to have a look at the best Kamado style grills for under $1000 the most.
If you want to find out what the best Kamado grill is and my top picks, please click here.
Introducing Three Quality Kamado Style Grills
The Kamado Joe is a very popular, high-quality Kamado style grill which features a solid ceramic vessel. It retains the heat perfectly, so you only need a small amount of charcoal to heat the grill up.
The temperature gauge in the lid is very accurate and consistent. The slide-out ash drawer makes for easy cleaning, and the whole grill is easy to assemble.
Not only is the Kamado Joe a solidly crafted grill, smoker, slow cooker and pizza oven all in one, it also comes with some nice extras – a multi-tier grill, side shelves, a heat diffuser plate, an ash tool and a grate gripper.
I am sure you will also like the divide and conquer system: that means you can cook on one level, or one-half of the grate can sit on the upper and the other half on the lower level, closer to the coals.
Warranty: A lifetime warranty on the ceramic parts, 5 years on the metal parts, 3 years on the heat deflector and pizza stone, 1 year on the thermometer and gaskets.
# 2 Char-Griller 16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
Unlike other Kamado grills, the Akorn doesn’t feature a heavy ceramic body. Instead, it is constructed with a triple walled of 22-inch gauge steel. The Lid has a built-in temperature gauge, and overall, this grill can reach a temperature of a minimum of 200ºF up to 700ºF.
Does 314 square inches of cooking space on a cast iron grate sounds good to you? The Akorn also offers a warming rack as well.
The interior is finished in porcelain coated steel and the outside with powder coated steel. The two metal shelves on the side are foldable which is a clever feature as well as the easy dump ash pan. It makes cleaning out the charcoal a breeze – a brilliant solution.
The Akorn Kamado Grill weighs only 90 lbs and is available in three colors: Black, Brown, and Red. Due to its double wall insulation, it retains the heat for an extended period and makes it also an ideal slow cooker and smoker.
Warranty: 5 years for rust-through and burn-through; 1 year for defective parts.
#3 Broil King 911470 Keg 5000 Charcoal Barbecue Grill
The Keg features a double steel wall design for efficient heat retention. You will also find to sturdy removable side shelves and a removable ash pan for cleaning out your Keg.
The cooking surface is generous with a 280 square inch cast iron cooking grate and a warming plate that sits on top of the cooking grate. The grate can be placed in an upper or lower position. Broil King designed a helpful little multi-tool that is included in the price.
The Broil King multi-tool will help you to place the grate into place, remove it from the Keg but also contributes to adjust the bottom and top damper, so you won’t burn your hands.
The built-in temperature gauge is very accurate, and the lid itself fits tightly with no air draft.
Warranty: There is a limited 2-year warranty.
What To Look For In The Best Kamado Grill For You
There are some important factors you should look out for when you decide on the for you best Kamado style grill.
One important factor is the size of the cooking surface. If you are planning to bake lot’s of woodfired pizzas or grill for big crowds than you might like to get a bigger sized one like the Broil King Keg.
If it is just for you and your family, you will get away with a smaller sized grill.
Be sure it is a breeze to clean out the ashes, probably one of the most dreaded chores when cooking with charcoal. So definitely the Kamado should feature a removable ash tray for easy cleaning. And luckily it seems to be standard now for most Kamado grills available on the market.
Cooking and Grilling with the Kamado should ideally be done with the lid closed. A good quality Kamado has a firm fitting lid that won’t let escape air otherwise the cooking temperature will suffer, and you will need more charcoal to cook. So be sure to have a well fitting lid.
A comprehensive warranty is a big thing because if you are spending a fair bit of money on your new toy, then you want to have some peace of mind. A fantastic customer service makes all the difference and in a world of Facebook and Amazon reviews, where a brand can’t simply afford not to deliver to a customer’s expectation. By far the best Warranty is provided by Kamado Joe with a lifetime warranty for the ceramic parts. A big thumbs up!
The price plays an important role when you make a decision which Kamado grill is best for you. As mentioned before, a Kamado Grill is not necessarily the cheapest item on the market. I believe that you don’t need to spend an ‘arm and a leg’ for an excellent quality Kamado style grill. Some people will disagree with me, and that is okay. But it is one of the reasons I have been concentrating on these three grills for under $1000
I believe that you don’t need to spend an ‘arm and a leg’ for a great quality Kamado style grill. Some people will disagree with me, and that is okay. But it is one of the reasons I have been concentrating on these three grills for under $1000.
The Akorn Kamado Kooker is the most reasonably priced one because instead of using a ceramic body, the Chargriller Akorn Kooker is constructed of 22 gauge steel. I think it is a great starter model if you want to get into the whole new way of cooking and grilling.
The most value for money, including the accessories plus the amazing lifetime warranty plus the solid quality plus the innovative Divide and Conquer Cooking system, offers the Kamado Joe – hands down.
How about the Big Green Egg, I hear you asking? Well, the Big Green Egg is a fantastic Kamado style grill with a huge fan base and a long history. But don’t get me wrong. For now, I am focussing on the around $1000 price mark. I am going to discuss the BGE at a later stage.
Since most Kamado grills are quite heavy, a durable, sturdy cart with (lockable) wheels is an absolute must. One original feature which the Broil King Keg offers is the Hitch Adapter Kit. Take your grill to a party, camping or picknick! In a matter of minutes, you can take the grill of the cart and attach it to your car. How fantastic is that!
The Benefits Of A Kamado Style Grill In A Nutshell
Let’s have a closer look at the benefits of having a Kamado Style Grill.
- Most Kamado grills are high quality which will last for a long time. They are durable and more resistant to rust. Some Kamados like the Kamado Joe grills come with a lifetime warranty for the ceramic parts.
- They are easy to use. The assembly is pretty straightforward and takes around 15 – 30 minutes. The start-up time from lighting the coals to putting on the meat takes only 15 minutes.
The Kamado needs minimal maintenance. Check the hinge now and again, so the dome sits correctly on as well the felt gasket to keep the grill airtight. The felt gasket might need to get replaced every 2 to 3 years. The Kamado is easy to clean and perfect for small outdoor areas.
- The Kamado style grill is the most versatile and efficient grill you will ever own. You can bake, grill, smoke, roast, slow cook and even bake a wood-fired pizza. To bake the pizza simply place a pizza stone on top of the grill grate.
It is efficient because you only need a small amount of charcoal that will last for a long time. It retains the heat much better than your ordinary barbecue.
Cook at a temperature as low as 225ºF up to as high as 750ºF.
Are There Any Cons
To be quite honest, there aren’t many flaws that come with a Kamado, but hey nothing in life is perfect, so the saying goes.
Due to the ceramic body, they can be quite heavy at around 188lbs. That is when the wheeled carts are coming in handy. 🙂
The Akorn Kooker is lightweight with around 90lbs due to the use of 22 gauge steel instead of ceramic.
A Slight Learning Curve
A kamado grill operates differently than a ‘normal’ outdoor bbq grill. It uses the same principle as a convection oven. The heat circulates the cooking vessel and cooks the meat to perfection. The temperature gets regulated by the bottom and top dampers. It takes a bit of time and experimenting to get these factors right. Here is an example:
A flashback or a sudden burst of flame can happen when you open the lid of the Kamado. This can only happen though when both vents have been fully closed e.g.when you finished cooking. If you were to open the lid in one go, the vast amount of oxygen would bring the fire back to life in a not very pleasant way for you.
To avoid burned eyebrows and maybe worse, always approach your Kamado as you will get a draft back.Better be safe than sorry!
Please follow these tips!
Best practice is to open the lid slightly to control the amount of air going into the grill. Broil King has a nice little video that explains the process and what the best practice is. (Towards the end of the video).My tip: always open the lid slightly and hold it for a few seconds before fully opening it up
Wrapping It Up
Are Kamado grills worth the investment? I certainly think so. No other grill is as versatile as a Kamado grill. I’d rather invest in a quality equipment than buying a new BBQ every two years.
If you have tasted a nice juicy slow cooked brisket falling off the bone or spicy, delicious spare ribs roasted in one of these grills, you will wonder why you haven’t gotten one a few years back. Well, it is never too late.
I do like that it retains the heat for such a long time and that I can even cook a pizza on it. What more do you want? Oh well, a succulent piece of meat is fantastic too.
Another pro for me is the relatively small size, great for our back porch. Since we have three children, it is also a huge factor for us that the Kamado grill is so well insulated and the outer layer doesn’t feel overly hot.
Disclaimer: this post is intended as a guide only. It is not my intention to replace the manufacturer’s instructions and user manual. Always check the instructions that come with your chosen model.
Some grills need to be cured at a low heat before you can heat it up to higher temperatures. So please, read the manufacturers instructions carefully.
If you have any questions or feedback, please leave them in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you.
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