For any backyard griller looking to improve their barbecuing game, investing in a kamado grill is often the way to go. These egg-shaped grills have been in use for more than 3,000 years in Asia because they’re not only versatile but also extremely reliable, efficient, and easy to use. Most kamado grills use charcoal as fuel, which means your food acquires a delicious smoky flavor — but they’re not just for grilling. You can smoke, roast, and bake, too. So if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making pizza on the grill, you’ll have great luck with one of these.
Keep reading our shopping guide for all the information you need to choose the best kamado grill for your backyard. We’ve included a few specific product recommendations, too, such as our top choice, the Kamado Joe Classic II Charcoal Grill, which provides more than 400 square inches of total cooking space and features a wheeled cart, so you can move it around your backyard more easily.
Considerations when choosing kamado grills
Kamado grills usually aren’t as large as standard charcoal or gas grills, so you want to be sure to choose a model that’s large enough for your needs. The grills are typically marketed as large or extra-large, but keep an eye out for the specific cooking surface dimensions to be sure a grill is suitable for your family.
If you only cook for one to two people, a kamado grill that has a cooking surface with a 16-inch or smaller diameter can be a good fit. For three to six people, opt for a grill with at least an 18-inch diameter. If you’re cooking for a group of six to eight, choose a grill with at least a 24-inch diameter.
In general, kamado grills are heavy because they’re made of ceramic or ceramic-coated metal. A large model usually weighs about 150 pounds, which means you’ll have a difficult time moving it around your yard. If you’re concerned about portability, opt for a kamado grill that features a cart with wheels or casters to make moving it easier.
The materials that a kamado grill is made of play a significant role in how durable and high-performing it is. Traditional kamado grills feature a ceramic body, which offers excellent heat retention and rust resistance. Ceramic can crack if dropped, so it’s a bad idea to move a ceramic model too much. Other kamado grills are made of stainless steel that’s coated with ceramic, porcelain, or enamel. Stainless steel isn’t as effective for heat retention. It doesn’t rust, so it’s still highly durable. Steel models won’t crack if dropped either, so they’re a good option if you expect to move your grill frequently.
When it comes to the grill’s grates, you can typically choose from stainless steel or cast iron. Stainless steel grates offer easy cleaning and don’t corrode easily. Stay away from enameled steel grates, though because they don’t sear meat well. Cast iron grates, on the other hand, transfer heat extremely well, so they provide an excellent sear. However, they require a lot more upkeep than stainless steel grates.
A traditional kamado grill has a round grate, but you can also find some models with oval grates. With an oval grate, you’ll be able to create two grilling zones with different temperatures. A round grate doesn’t allow for two-zone grilling because the heat circulates evenly throughout the interior, so you’re unable to create different temperatures on each side of the grill. You can do it if you purchase deflectors and racks, but that adds to the overall price of your grill.
To ensure your food cooks evenly, choose a kamado grill with a built-in thermometer in the lid. That way you can check your grill’s temperature without having to open it, which allows heat to escape.
Kamado grills often include accessories that can make grilling easier. You can find grills that have carts with wheels or casters to make moving them around your yard a cinch. Many of these carts have side shelves that you can use for food prep, too.
Some kamado grills also include additional racks that you can use to increase the cooking space and/or a cover to protect the grill from inclement weather.
Kamado grills usually cost between $125 and $1,300. Small models that feature ceramic-coated steel typically range from $125 and $350. Small to medium grills that feature ceramic generally cost between $350 to $700. Medium to large ceramic models usually run from $700 to $1,300.
Q. Can I use a kamado grill for basic grilling like burgers and hot dogs?
A. While a kamado grill can be used for more advanced cooking techniques like smoking, it works just as well for burgers, hot dogs, steaks, chicken, and other barbecue classics.
Q. Am I supposed to leave a kamado grill open or closed while grilling?
A. You should leave your kamado grill closed unless you’re adding or removing food.
Kamado grills we recommend
Best of the best: Kamado Joe Classic II Charcoal Grill in Blaze Red
Our take: A feature-packed grill that makes grilling a breeze and features durable construction that allows you to use it for years.
What we like: High-quality construction distinguishes it from the competition. Comes with a rack that doubles the total cooking space. Outer shell is rust-proof, and sturdy cast-iron cart is built to last. Ash-removal tray makes cleaning easy.
What we dislike: Pricier than other models. Can take as long as two hours to assemble.
Best bang for your buck: Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker 20″
Our take: A high-quality grill that’s easy to put together and offers a good amount of cooking space at an attractive price point.
What we like: Can fit as many as 15 burgers, so it’s ideal for large groups. Features excellent construction, and includes a convenient cart to make it easy to move. Side shelf provides plenty of food prep space. Maintains even cooking temperatures for excellent cooking results.
What we dislike: A few users experience rust issues; though rust only occurs after several years.
Choice 3: Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker
Our take: A sturdy travel-friendly grill that boasts many of the same features as larger options.
What we like: Compact size makes it ideal for tailgating, camping, and road trips. Has durable carrying handles on the sides for easy carrying. Ash pan makes cleaning easier. Comes in at a more affordable price point.
What we dislike: Due to its portable size, it doesn’t offer much cooking space. Some buyers have noticed missing parts and exterior scratches when the grill arrives.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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