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Kamado grills claim a legacy going back thousands of years, but a kamado grill, as we know it today, is an insulated egg-shaped grill with a hinged lid that creates plenty of space above and below the grates for airflow. The best kamado grills are still made of ceramic, though some are made of steel or even cast iron. Their thick walls give them excellent insulation, high efficiency, and the ability to hold very high and very low temperatures, making them perfect for both grilling and smoking.
The Kamado Joe Classic III Charcoal Grill snagged the top spot by our experts with its high-quality construction, impressive cooking area, and three-tier cooking system. If you're bargain hunting and want a more compact, lightweight grill, then the Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill is a good option.
Understanding how the kamado works can be a little tricky at first, but once you learn how to control the temperature, this versatile grill can produce exceptional results—and it just may become your new favorite way to cook.
Here, the best kamado grills on the market.
Best Overall: Kamado Joe Classic Joe III Charcoal Grill
Ceramic body retains excellent heat
Smoke chamber is included
Three-tiered cooking system
Easy to install
Changing temperatures takes time
The folks at Kamado Joe certainly don’t rest on their laurels. While the previous Kamado Joe Classic was a high-quality grill that rated well in our tests, the Classic Joe III has reached another level of cooking perfection with the patented SlōRoller insert that creates cyclonic airflow that controls both the heat and smoke for low and slow cooking, all the way up to 500 degrees. When it’s time for higher temperatures, which can reach up to 750 degrees, the SlōRoller can be swapped out for heat deflector plates for the perfect sear on a steak or an amazing restaurant-style pizza.
The integrated thermometer makes it easy to monitor the internal temperature, while the top vent makes it simple to control the smoke and heat. The heavy-duty wheeled cart makes it easy to move into the perfect place for grilling, and the ash pan makes cleanout a breeze when cooking is done.
Like the Classic Joe II, this grill has the three-tier Divide and Conquer cooking system that allows cooking in layers, which provides more cooking space closer or further from the coals, as well as different cooking surfaces for different types of food. The total cooking space with the system is 510 square inches, so it’s great for family dinners as well as parties. Another benefit of Kamado Joe grills is the variety of accessories available to further customize the cooking experience.
While it's definitely a splurge, the Kamado Joe Classic III is a worthwhile upgrade from the Classic II thanks to its larger cooking area, SlōRoller insert, superior smoking abilities, heavy-duty cart, and dual-zone charcoal basket.
Cooking Area: 510 square inches | Weight: 262.5 pounds | Dimensions: 46.5 x 50.5 x 30 inches
"I was impressed with how it reached searing hot temperatures of over 700 degrees Fahrenheit for grilling, and the heated dome made it especially useful for making pizza." — Renu Dhar, Product Tester
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Kamado Joe Classic II Charcoal Grill
Eye-catching color and design
Incredible heat retention
Simple to operate
Heavy to move
Temperature reductions take time
Ceramic is breakable
It’s hard to find something to quibble about with this classic 18-inch grill that’s a clear favorite among users. From the stainless steel hardware to the lid that opens with two fingers and stays in any position to the unique ash drawer that makes clean-out a breeze, this grill is a pleasure to use. It has a total of 406 square inches of cooking space and can maintain heat from 225 to 750 degrees, so you can use it for low-and-slow cooking or blast the heat to quickly cook pizzas.
The integrated thermometer lets you check the temperature easily, and the top vent is designed to stay exactly where you set it, to maintain the heat you need. The side shelves give you space for tools and plates, while the stand with four wheels lets you position the grill perfectly.
The Divide and Conquer cooking system lets you cook different foods at different temperatures, and the included grate gripper tool makes it easy to move or rearrange grates the way you want them. You’ll get a multipurpose stainless steel rack, two halved grill grates, and two halved ceramic heat deflectors with this grill, so all you need is charcoal and some food to grill.
Cooking Area: 406 square inches | Weight: 232 pounds | Dimensions: 46.5 x 31 x 48 inches
"Because the heavy ceramic holds in the heat so well, you don’t need to burn as much charcoal to keep the grill at the right temperature." — Danielle Centoni, Product Tester
Best With Smoker: Char-Grill Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill
Durable metal construction
Lighter in weight than ceramic kamados
Exterior stays surprisingly cool
Smoking accessories not included
Heat control takes practice
This grill offers 314 square inches of primary cooking space on cast iron cooking grates, plus an additional 133 inches on the upper rack, so you’ll have plenty of room for cooking, smoking, and more. It can maintain temperatures from 200-700 degrees for everything from low-and-slow to blasting hot. The damper has numbers on it, so you can easily remember the damper position you prefer.
This grill is made from triple-walled 22-gauge steel rather than ceramic, and it has a powder-coated exterior and porcelain-coated interior. Two metal shelves give you space for sauces, rubs, and spices, and they fold down to get out of the way when not in use. When it’s time to clean up, the ash pan makes it easy.
This includes a cart made from tubular steel, with 8-inch rubber wheels to help you position it perfectly. While it’s still a heavyweight at 100 pounds, it’s lighter than ceramic grills of the same size. It also comes with a cookbook, which is helpful if you’re a kamado grill novice.
Cooking Area: 447 square inches | Weight: 97 pounds | Dimensions: 45 x 31 x 47 inches
"The double-walled construction kept the exterior cool enough to touch, so the grill is safe when kids or pets are playing in the yard." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Budget: Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill
Lightweight enough to be portable
Large temperature range
Front handle is tricky to install
This grill will appeal to folks on a budget as well as people who don’t want to commit to a large, heavy grill. At just 37 pounds, this is petite enough to be portable. Side handles make this easy to move, while short, sturdy legs keep it stable on uneven surfaces.
The 153 square inches of primary cooking space is enough for a family meal on the 14-inch diameter cast iron cooking grate. Even though it’s small, this has many of the features of a larger grill, including triple-walled 22-gauge steel construction and the ability to maintain temperatures from 200 to 700 degrees. The interior is coated with enamel, while the exterior is powder-coated, and the ash pan makes cleanup easy.
Cooking Area: 153 square inches | Weight: 37 pounds | Dimensions: 21 x 21 x 25 inches
"Kamado grills are made from heavy, engineered ceramic material and once heated or 'heat soaked,' they will cook very efficiently for hours with minimal effort. They can be used to smoke a prime rib, roast veggies, bake a cheesecake, and grill up burgers—all in the same day! There’s almost nothing you can’t make on a kamado grill." — Paul Sidoriak of Grilling Montana
Best With Table: Vision Grills Kamado Pro Ceramic Charcoal Grill with Grill Cover
Ceramic shell holds heat for even cooking
Excellent ventilation gives you great heat control
Works great as a smoker
Can be shut down to snuff out remaining charcoal
Sacrifices a level of quality for lots of gimmicks
Most kamado grills come with stands, but this one takes the design to another level with an acacia wood table that holds and surrounds the grill, making it look like a quality piece of furniture for your deck or backyard. The table gives plenty of space for tools, plates, and condiments next to the grill, with even more storage on the shelf below. The table is slatted, so rainwater will easily drain off, and has wheels that make it easier to position it in the perfect place. This grill has a bi-level cooking grate that offers 604 square inches of primary cooking space. Duluth Forge also offers larger grills, sold without a table.
Cooking Area: 604 square inches | Weight: 191 pounds | Dimensions: 52.75 x 29 x 47.9 inches
"This grill also an innovative numbered dial vent system which makes it a little easier to know exactly where to set the vents for specific temperatures." — Derrick Riches, Product Tester
Best Portable: Vision Grills Icon 101 Hybrid Electric Kamado Grill
Cart and cover included
If you don’t have the space for a full-size grill, this little guy is compact, portable, and perfect for tabletops, tailgating, and condo living. It has two stand options, tabletop or cart with side shelves, and it even comes with a cover. A second-tier grate increases cooking space to 449 square inches, which is a respectable size for a grill with such a small footprint. It comes in three colors, as well, including a gorgeous teal. Reviewers say it’s a great size for two to three people.
Cooking Area: 214 square inches (main), 449 with second tier | Weight: 110 pounds | Dimensions: 32 x 44.5 x 21 inches
Best Oval: Primo Grills All-In-One Oval Junior 200 Ceramic Kamado Grill With Cradle, Side Shelves And Stainless Steel Grates
Includes cradle and some accessories
Pricey for its size
If you prefer an oval shape, which some grillers say maintains heat more efficiently, this grill features 3/4-inch thick ceramic and includes a cradle, side shelves, grate lifter, and ash tool.
This brand has one of the highest-sitting lids, which allows you to cook a chicken or turkey vertically. A new locking hinge system keeps the lid open securely with a soft-close, so the ceramic doesn’t chip when the lid closes. It’s also made in Georgia, so you’re supporting U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Cooking Area: 210 square inches | Weight: 145 pounds | Dimensions: 22.75 x 43.88 x 51 inches
Best Griddle: Royal Gourmet PD1301S Portable 24-Inch 3-Burner Table Top Gas Grill Griddle
Flat cooking area
Griddle top detaches for cleaning
Prone to hot spots
Griddles offer plenty of cooking space for breakfast favorites, such as bacon and eggs, or dinner dishes, such as salmon and shrimp kebabs. This three-burner unit delivers 25,500 BTUs on three separate burners. The cooking surface is 316 square inches, which is plenty for tailgating or picnicking with three or four people. Reviewers say its flat surface makes it easy to clean, though they suggest making sure it’s on a level surface to prevent grease drips.
Cooking Area: 316 square inches | Weight: 20 pounds | Dimensions: 25 x 16.3 x 7.9 inches
The Kamado Joe Classic III is pricey, but worth every penny, thanks to an impressive temperature range, superior smoking abilities, a three-tier cooking system, and a heavy-duty cart that will wow any griller. For an unbeatable budget option, we recommend the Char-Griller Akon Jr. Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill.
What to Look for in a Kamado Grill
Ceramic is the favored material for a kamado grill because it’s durable and provides excellent heat retention at both high and low temperatures. The thicker the ceramic, the better job it will do maintaining temperatures—and the heavier it is. Indeed, weight is the main drawback of ceramic. While it’s highly resistant to heat, cold, and other outdoor elements, if you were to drop a ceramic grill (because, you know, it’s heavy), it could easily crack on impact. Many competitive barbecuers have developed innovative methods of transporting their ceramic grills, but others opt for lighter-weight, double- or triple-walled steel models. Steel is lighter and less expensive than ceramic, but because it’s more susceptible to the elements and corrosion, it won’t last nearly as long. Kamado grills may also be made of cast iron.
Due to their vertical design, free-standing kamado grills don’t have a huge footprint, but they are somewhat limited when it comes to cooking surface area. The listed size of a kamado grill refers to the diameter of the grill grate. The overall diameter of the grill will be about six to 10 inches more, not counting any stands, handles, or table attachments. In order to have enough space to grill burgers for a crowd or smoke multiple whole birds, you’re going to want at least an 18- or 24-inch grill, which gets into “large” or “extra-large” territory—but remember, the bigger they are, the heavier they get, so keep that in mind if you move frequently or plan to travel with your kamado grill. For comparison, while the standard Weber kettle grill is 22 inches and weighs 32 pounds, a 24-inch Kamado Joe weighs 371 pounds and a 24-inch Big Green Egg weighs 219 pounds.
Bells and Whistles
The beauty of a kamado grill is its ability to maintain temperature so simply. In its most basic form, a kamado grill has an egg-shaped body with a hinged lid, grill grates, and top and bottom vents (most feature a daisy wheel, which is a vent cover, on top)—the latter to let the user control the airflow in order to maintain or adjust the temperature. Most models also have a built-in or replaceable thermometer on the lid. We recommend against gimmicky features like built-in electronic or motorized elements, as they’re unlikely to work for the lifetime of the grill. Instead, we recommend putting your money toward a material or size upgrade and using accessories or attachments that can be easily removed and replaced.
There are a few accessories that you absolutely need (legs and a reliable thermometer to start) and others that will make cooking on a kamado grill much easier and more enjoyable (e.g., table, grill grate expander, ceramic heat deflector, etc.). Some brands include everything you need to get started, while others sell a basic grill body and allow you to pick and choose your preferred accessories for an additional cost. The cost of the accessories can add up quickly, too, so when shopping, pay close attention to what’s included with the grill you want to buy.
A kamado grill—especially a large ceramic one—is an investment, and for most buyers, it will be important to protect that investment. Before you buy, be sure to read the brand’s warranty information, as many of the lifetime warranties only cover certain grill parts while other components have much more limited terms. If you’re considering buying a kamado grill secondhand, you may want to rethink that decision as some of the top brands will only honor the manufacturer’s warranty for the original owner.
This is one category where price is generally pretty indicative of materials, craftsmanship, and size. With so many options on the market, the cost of kamado grills can vary greatly, with smaller steel models starting around $300, and high-end “designer” kamados commanding nearly $10,000. For the most part, hobby grillers should expect to spend $1,000 to $2,000 for a large ceramic kamado grill with enough accessories to start cooking. That said, it’s certainly possible to spend more or less depending on what brand you buy and what accessories you purchase with it.
Big Green Egg
When most people think of a Kamado-style grill or egg-shaped smoker, they think of a Big Green Egg. That’s because the brand has been making high-quality kamado grills since 1974. For more than 30 years, it was the go-to brand for this style of grill. You can only get a Big Green Egg through an authorized seller—which sometimes made buying one a challenge in the past, but many retailers now sell online and even offer free shipping. The brand now manufactures its signature deep-green kamado grills in seven sizes, from 10 inches (Mini EGG) to 29 inches (2XL EGG).
Newer to the market, but no less popular, the Kamado Joe brand is Big Green Egg’s biggest competitor. With its signature red exterior, Kamado Joe grills are high-quality ceramic cookers with a range of innovative accessories. Most sizes also feature the brand’s proprietary Divide & Conquer tiered grates, which allow the user to elevate half of the grill grate. Kamado Joe grills are also more accessible, with availability at big retailers (including Amazon) as well as specialty barbecue stores. The brand currently sells 10 different models (including an 18-inch pellet version) with a variety of features and accessories. The smallest is the 13.5-inch Joe Jr., while the Big Joe and Pro Joe models are 24 inches.
Comparing the Two
It’s hard to talk about buying a Big Green Egg without also talking about buying a Kamado Joe and vice versa. Both brands are known for their superior quality and customer service, and both offer a limited lifetime warranty on ceramic parts, as well as various warranties on other grill parts. There’s sometimes a misconception among Big Green Egg devotees that Kamado Joe is the “cheaper” alternative, when in fact, comparable Kamado Joe models are generally more expensive. That’s due (at least in part) to the fact that Kamado Joe grills include more accessories with the initial purchase. When you buy a Kamado Joe, you have everything you need to start cooking right out of the box—whereas with a Big Green Egg, even some of the most basic accessories need to be purchased separately. This means the process of buying a Big Green Egg may be more enjoyable for grillers and smokers who know exactly what they want, while the included Kamado Joe accessories may be more appealing to someone new to this style of grill.
Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe may be the most ubiquitous brands on the market, but they’re not the only manufacturers of kamado-style grills. Plenty of competitors, such as Char-Griller and Char-Broil, have entered the space with steel models, and Vision has a line of (comparatively) affordable ceramic models. The most worthy competitor, however, may be the Primo Oval, a ceramic kamado grill that comes in four sizes and features a sleek black exterior.
When properly maintained, a ceramic kamado grill can last a lifetime (and it will perform better every time you cook). Like any grill, you will need to thoroughly clean the grates after every use. It’s also important to clean out the ashes with regularity to ensure the grill can breathe. But if you’re just doing a quick cook, like searing a steak or cooking burgers, you can kill the airflow and save the coals for your next cook. If you’re doing a low-and-slow overnight cook and have no coals left, you’ll want to clean the ashes out before adding more coals. The daisy wheel will need to be cleaned when it gets sticky or clogged, while other parts, like the gasket (the heat-safe stripping that provides a tight seal when the grill is closed), will likely need to be replaced over time. A grill cover is an affordable investment that not only protects the exterior of your grill, but also helps keep moisture out of the interior when it rains or snows.
There’s a seemingly endless list of accessories available for kamado-style cookers (here are some of our favorites), but there’s one that’s a must. No matter what make and model you choose, you’ll need something to elevate your kamado grill, because the bottom vent on the underside is integral to airflow and operation. Some brands and styles come with a basic stand, while you may need to buy legs or a cart for others. So if you’re making a cost comparison, factor in this potential purchase.
A handful of Kamado Joe-brand accessories, including the JoeTisserie rotisserie attachment, will fit the Big Green Egg. Many kamado users also love the addition of a ceramic surface to deflect heat. This allows for indirect cooking, and many cooks use it to turn their grill into a smoker or outdoor oven. Both Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe have their own version of this ceramic piece, and you can use them interchangeably between both brands.
Beyond Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe, many brands manufacture accessories—like upgraded chimney caps, grilling surface expanders, and digital temperature controllers—for kamado-style grills. It’s also possible to increase cooking surface area with a variety of grill grate attachments and expanders, which create an additional surface for indirect cooking, warming, smoking, and more.
What is a kamado grill?
Kamado grills are fairly unique in their design, and these grills stand out from other charcoal grills thanks to their egg-shaped form and ceramic walls. The ceramic exterior retains heat better than traditional metal grills, and it also helps to keep moisture and smoke sealed inside, giving your food a richer flavor.
How do you light a kamado grill?
Lighting a kamado grill is very similar to lighting a charcoal grill. You'll want to open its air vents all the way to ensure oxygen can enter the chamber, then you can use a chimney starter or electric starter to light your lump charcoal.
How do you clean a kamado grill?
As with any grill, you'll want to use a grill brush to clean the grates of your kamado grill after cooking. Additionally, it's important to empty the ash collection pan after each use—you're typically able to slide the pan out from the bottom of the grill.
Once or twice a year, you'll want to give your grill a more thorough cleaning. Use a plastic bristle brush to clean the inner walls of your kamado grill, and vacuum out any lingering debris in the bottom. This is also a good time to check the tightness of the grill bands to ensure they stay in place properly.
Are kamado grills good for smoking?
Kamado grills are popular for smoking for several reasons. First, thanks to their superior heat retention, they're able to smoke for a long time using just a small amount of charcoal. Further, they seal in moisture better than many other smokers, which keeps your meat from drying out. Their round shape also encourages smoke to cirulate within the cooking chamber, infusing lots of flavor into your food.
How do you control the temperature on a kamado grill?
Kamado grills do have a bit of a learning curve, especially if you typically cook on a gas or pellet grill. To control the temperature of a kamado grill, you have to adjust the vents at the top and bottom of the cooking chamber. For high temperatures, you'll want to open the vents more to let oxygen into the grill, and for low temperature, keep the vents partially closed.
How do you use a kamado grill?
Although there’s a bit of a learning curve, you’ll quickly discover how stable the temperature inside a kamado grill is once you get the hang of things. For starters, always use natural lump charcoal, which burns more efficiently. Fill the grill box with charcoal chunks, putting the biggest pieces on the bottom. To get the fire going, tuck a fire starter brick or two into the charcoal, sort of nestled in, but not all the way to the bottom. Alternatively, you can use an electric starter to ignite the charcoal quickly. Never use lighter fluid to start a kamado grill because it will penetrate the ceramic and cause a funky odor.
Make sure the bottom intake and top vent are open all the way. Now, let the grill come to your desired temperature. You’ll use a combination of the top and bottom vents to control the amount of air that flows through the grill. The more air allowed in, the hotter the grill will get. To cook at a lower temperature, limit the airflow that comes in the bottom and escapes from the top. Try not to let your grill get above your desired temperature because it’s difficult to lower because of how ceramic holds the heat. Once you reach temperature, start cooking.
Why are kamado grills so expensive?
They’re pricey because they’re made from thick, heavy, heat-resistant ceramic rather than lightweight, relatively inexpensive metal. However, because of their solid construction, they typically last many more years than a traditional grill.
What can you cook on a kamado grill?
Basically, anything you can cook on a regular grill. You can sear a steak, grill veggies or fruit, or use your grill as an outdoor oven to bake pizza or grill polenta. It’s also ideal for smoking salmon, a whole chicken or pork butt.
Can you use briquettes, wood or wood pellets in a kamado grill?
Read your manufacturer’s instructions for fuel recommendations; search your model number online if you don’t have it handy. Generally, natural lump charcoal is the recommended fuel because it’s made from charred wood with no additives and burns hotter and more efficiently than briquettes. You can also use hardwood chunks, such as maple, oak, pecan, or hickory to further imbue smoky flavors to your food. Most kamado grills can use wood pellets, too, but read the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure. If so, use wood pellets marked for outdoor cooking, not the ones manufactured for heating.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author as well as a writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats. She stays up to date on all the latest grills and gadgets and personally tested a kamado grill for this roundup.
Danielle Centoni is the author of five cookbooks and a writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats. She also tested one of the most popular kamado grills on this list.
This roundup was updated by Arricca SanSone, who has been grilling since she owned her first tiny hibachi in college. She’ll grill anything, but her favorite food to grill is homemade pizza with veggies and herbs from her own garden. She is a health and lifestyle writer for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, House Beautiful, PureWow, and many others.