Kamado smokers are all the rage. These wood-fueled ceramic grills have a distinctive egg-like shape. The food cooked in them has a lovely, smokey flavor that is deliciously addictive. As opposed to basic, Kamado cookers are very flexible. They can reach piping-hot temperatures to search and they can maintain heat for hours at low-and-slow speeds. This means you can use them steakhouse-style starch, cook wood-fired pizza in minutes, smoke true barbecue and everything in between.
The Big Green Egg is the best-known example of a traditional camado grill and camado smoker, but falls out of competing brands such as the Camdo Joe, Vision, Char-Griller, and Char-Broil Grill that offer the benefits of chemado cooking. Huh. Should you be tempted to add one to your arsenal and, I put Big Green Egg and its four major grilling rivals over 200 hours of testing to find the best Kamado-style grill – here’s what I found.
After over 200 smoke-filled hours, I have cooked over 20 pounds of pork ribs, six chickens and 10 pounds of burgers, along with some steak for good measure. After all that, I can say with confidence which brands make the best Kamado grill for my taste, and which ones you should avoid.
Here are my reviews and pics for the best Kamado grill options of 2020, which I will update as a review of new products.
Chris Monroe / CNET
At $ 1,700, the Chemado Joe Classic III may have a steep price, but it saves a lot for the money. This means that a lot of standard type of camado grilling accessories do not come with other grills, including the Big Green Egg Chemado. This Camado grill and smoker also performs well. In our slow and low barbecue grill test, we adjust the grill to 225 F (107 C) and see what happens. In this test, the Camado Joe Classic III demonstrated excellent temperature control.
The grill heated slightly in the first 30 minutes (315 F), but then settled at the 1-hour mark. From there it crosses the needle between 253F and 219F for about 3 hours on cruise control. Only the Big Green Egg turned into a strict temperature curve, the smoker humming for hours within the sweet spot.
One feature that really sets Classic III apart is Slogler. Billed as a “hyperbolic smoke chamber” by Kamado Joe, it is an hour-sized metal contraceptive that sits on fire. The device acts as both a heat deflector and a convection aid. Essentially, it prevents radiant heat generated by coal, which results from the striking food sitting above (on the grill grate). This prevents the meat from drying out during prolonged cooking. According to Kamado Jo, it also encourages the diffusion of air (smoke) within the cooking chamber.
In fact, the box has a ton of bundles with the Classic III right. It consists of a ceramic heat deflector (one for each half of the grill), a coal stoker, and an aluminum charcoal basket. You also get two half-aluminum grates and an ash removal tool, as well as a three-tier cooking rack that you can configure as needed for grilling.
Conversely, everything except the stand costs extra on the Big Green Egg. Keep in mind, you can also save a bit by choosing the Classic II of Kamdo Joe. For $ 1,200 it is almost identical to the Classic III, but it lacks a slotter accessory and has a separate stand.
The classic III construction feels very solid; I especially like the strong side shelves, ideal for grilling and smoking, also standard. All that makes it one of the best kamado grills, if you can afford it.
Chris Monroe / CNET
Big Green Egg, the company that started Kamadow’s craze, still has a winner. Of all the Kamdo-style grille options in my test group, the larger BGE models had the best temperature performance and stability. Once prepared for low and slow temperatures of 225 F, the egg went too much on its own. According to our temperature gauge, the green egg remains up to this temperature range, with only minor and infinite fluctuations.
Large Big Green Egg was also the most sensitive. If for any reason I had to make an adjustment for either the top or bottom air vents, I quickly noticed a change. I usually saw course corrections in 6 or 7 minutes.
The food that I prepared in large big green egg was also very tasty to eat. While my BGE test unit lacked the extra heat deflector accessory, the barbecue in the chicken and pork ribs was reassuring to the taste. While I came across the Camado which was not as tasty as Smoked in Classic III, the food from BGE came in a very close second. Big Green Egg makes a heat deflector accessory, called Convergent, but is an additional add-on.
True to its name, the Large Big Green Egg Chemado Grill and Smoker is big, giving you plenty of space to grill, smoke, and cook to your heart’s desire.
This is why I recommend the Big Big Green Eggs as one of the best kamodo grills about anyone. You have to go through a local dealer, and, again, unlike Kamado which is Classic III, everything except the stand is extra. In the end, however, the total cost of the Large Big Green Egg should be less than the fully decked-out Classic III.
The four-griller Akorn offers real Kamado performance at a rock-bottom price. It costs just $ 323, which is incredible considering that the typical Kemado grill will set you back from $ 800 to $ 1,000. Akorn’s cooking temperature and temperature control is not as naturally stable as the more expensive kamados I used. I suspect that the body of the acorn is constructed from triple-walled steel, as opposed to heavy ceramic. The grill fire was also harder to keep ignited and lit than the Big Green Egg and Camado which was the Classic III.
When I let it burn through our low-and-slow test (adjusted to 225 F), the Akorn fire was over within 45 minutes. After refitting, the temperature inside the cooker rose to 370 F in just 15 minutes. I didn’t even add extra fuel, just a paraffin fire starter. Thirty-five minutes later, the heat level inside Akorn reached 405 degrees. The temperature subsequently declined, but did not drop below 387 F for the next 3 hours.
Things were very different when I stared at the acorn. With an initial temperature of 225 F or 350 F, it only took a few vent adjustments to munch the air flow back on the track to the grill. And since it is made from steel, not ceramic, the Akorn weighs less (100 pounds) than traditional Kamado grill options (200 pounds or more).
The food I cooked with akorn was not bad either. The slow-cooked baby back ribs and chicken both had a pleasing charcoal flavor. That said, those Kamoda who couldn’t match their bundled heat deflector smoker system came out of the grill. This price has very low arrivals, however, the four-griller Akorn joins a great Kamado deal.
How do we test camado grill
Testing the Kamala Grill is an intense experience for the griller. It requires playing with fire (literally) and high temperatures, though in a controlled, responsible manner. The most important element to performance is heat, especially temperature control and how well the grill is at a temperature. For smoking meat less and slower, that magical number is 225F. Good smokers, Kamdos or otherwise, will stick to this temp for 12 to 15 or 20 hours. This means that temperature gauges are the key, and therefore the ability to control airflow through air vents or dampers.
To capture temperature data, we place a thermocouple on each Kamado grill. Essentially a sensitive temperature sensor made up of a probe and a connected wire, thermocouple hangs just 1 inch above the grill grate. It is connected to a data logger, and eventually a computer that records changes in heat levels over time.
We try to run temperature tests on all grills simultaneously. We often use the same weight and brand lump charcoal (4.4 pounds or 2 kg) from the same bag. This fire is also true of the beginning (one per grill).
After that, we light them, as instructed by their manual if available. This usually means letting the coal hold for 15 minutes with the lid open, then closing the grill. At this point, the vents remain open until the grill is within 50 degrees of the target temperature.
We carefully fiddle with the vents to get there. Finally, we look at the controls and observe.
We follow the same procedure for our high temperature test with a target of 350 F. The idea here is to simulate the heat performance required to roast chicken and other poultry.
And speaking of food, we also perform a lot of “anecdotes cooks”. We smoke a rack of baby back ribs (225 F) in each grill. We also butterfly (aka Spatchock) chickens and roast them. Sour from local Costco, they weigh about 5 pounds. Last, we grill a set of four 8-ounce burger patties in high heat (600 F).
Want more options? Here are two other Camado grill models that I evaluated for this test group. Although they did not make it to my liking, you want to have a look for comparison: