A kamado grill is a ceramic egg-shaped barbecue with a Japanese origin. It can be used to grill, smoke, roast, or cook food, and this can be done all together or separately.
The Big Green Egg is perhaps the most well-known kamado grill on the market, with Crain’s Cleveland estimating sales at annual revenues of almost $5 million. The Kamado Joe, however, has proven to be a worthy competitor.
Kamado grills have existed in China and Japan for thousands of years, but they began making their way to the United States shortly after World War II when soldiers began bringing certain goods home with them. Big Green Egg first opened in 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia, and was founded by Ed Fisher.
Advantages of Kamado Grills
- Versatility — A kamado grill is capable of reaching temperatures as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit while also being used at much lower temperatures if so desired. You can also use kamado grills for grilling, smoking, roasting, searing, baking, and high or low temperature cooking. Barbecue is also an option. Partake in direct heat cooking, indirect heat cooking, and raised direct heat cooking. The range means you can cook a wide variety of items from steaks to burgers to fish to chicken to pizza to cakes.
- Fuel Efficiency — The thick insulation of kamado grills means less fuel will be burned to reach or maintain temperatures. The ceramic material again plays a major role here, helping the kamado grills limit fuel usage. The adjustable top and bottom dampers will provide complete control over how fast or slow you want your charcoal to burn, and the flame stays steady for the duration of the cooking time. When you pull your meal off a kamado grill, you can just close the dampers to smother the fire and then conserve the remaining charcoal for subsequent use.
- Consistent Heating — The ceramic design of most kamado grills means they are ideal for retaining heat. Even the aluminum versions hold up well in this concern. The heat retention makes kamado grills ideal for radiant cooking. The temperature will remain stable throughout the cooking chamber. Cook longer with less fuel. Temperatures stay stable and heat is dispersed more evenly. The heat radiates from 360 degrees. There are no real hot spots in the kamado grill and the heated ceramic will do most of the work. The vents will allow you to regulate the amount of airflow and proved complete control of the grill’s temperature.
- Safety — Aside from how hot the grills can get, kamado grills are generally much safer than other grills because merely using a pan under the meat to catch rendered fat can minimize grease buildup and avoid flare-ups.
- Flavors — You lose less moisture cooking with kamado grills, so your food will not be dried out. Smoked meats are thus exposed to less hot, dry air, so food will stay tender and juicy.
- Long-Lasting — Kamado grills have proven to be durable, able to withstand the elements when left outside in grueling winter months. Even aluminum kamado models will never rust.
- Easy Cleaning — To clean a kamado grill, you merely empty the ash tray and then put the tray back. Then remove the grill grates and deflector plates, using a grill brush to clean them.
- Warranty Coverage — A good number of kamado grills now come with lifetime warranties. That is an exceptional level of coverage that fewer people will complain about. Definitely be sure to ask what the warranty coverage is on any kamado grill you are looking at. Keep in mind that most manufacturers recommend using lump charcoal over charcoal briquettes, and using briquettes could void your warranty.
Disadvantages of Kamado Grills
- Portability — Make no mistake, kamado grills can be very heavy. Moving one can be a two-person job. Kamado grills are thus not ideal for taking to picnics or other outdoor barbecues.
- Longer Cooldown Period — Keeping in mind the ceramic nature, it will take quite a bit of time for a kamado grill to cool off before you can hope to touch it or move it.
- Price — Kamado grills are not cheap. They generally start at a few hundred dollars and can reach prices going into the thousands. This is typically much more expensive than your standard charcoal grill. Worse yet, the base kamado grill price only gets you the grill. You will have to spend extra to get accessories such as side tables or stands.
- Heat Control Takes Practice — Most first-timers are not going to be too successful with managing the heat on they kamado grills. It can take some time to get the hang of how the process works. Be prepared for a leading curve. While there is a gauge on the lid to help monitor interior temperature, learning the exact positioning needed takes time. Cooking in general on a kamado will involve a certain degree of practice, so many people will be in a state of trial and error. The good news is that many people can get the hang of things in only a couple tries.
- Cannot Dual Function — If you are going to, say, smoke and grill two different meats, then you will have to swap out your deflector plates that yet to cool down. Kamado grills generally are not good for trying to do two different things at once. Larger kamado grills can allow for two-zone fires but even these still have limitations.
- Not as Smoky — You will not get the same kind of smoky flavor you typically get from a charcoal grill.
- Smaller Capacity — Most kamado grills are not large enough to handle big loads, so you are usually going to have to cook in batches.
- Gasket Replacement — Kamado grills come with gaskets around the lid that will need to be replaced every year or two. Some models have gaskets stapled to the ceramic and will last longer. But many will have to replace gaskets every few years.