Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.
What Is a Kamado-style Grill?
Kamado-style grills are dome-shaped or egg-shaped containers, made of ceramic or other heavy insulating material, designed to be heated with charcoal or wood. They were adapted from the traditional mushikamado clay rice steamer of Japan and are like the tandoor oven of India.
Advantages of Kamado-style Grills
- Even heating: Unlike traditional gas grills, Kamados have few hot spots because the fire seated low in the grill gradually heats up the ceramic materials, which distribute the heat through the domed architecture of the cooker. This combination creates the most evenly cooked meats I have seen.
- Flexible fuel requirements: Kamado-style grills can use different types of wood, wood chips, charcoal, or gas. Some allow you to add on a gas heater to get the grill started quickly (you can add a few wood chips for flavor). A gas option for lighting the wood or charcoal is easier and cleaner than newspaper or lighter fluid. When you have more time for grilling, you can use small oak logs, great for a Santa Maria style barbecue.
- Temperature range: Kamado-style barbecues cook at a wide range of temperatures. Brands differ, but the specs of different models say they can cook at temperatures as low as 140 degrees, for long slow cooking, or as high as 900 degrees, for searing meats (though I’m not sure it even makes sense to get your grill this hot, since searing only takes a few minutes at 700 degrees).
- Appearance: Grills of this type, sleek and massive, are almost like outdoor furniture; they can be the showpiece of the patio. At least two makers of Kamado-style grills let you customize the outer layer of tile.
- Versatility: A Kamado grill can be used as a traditional grill or as a smoker, so it's not necessary to have multiple grills.
Disadvantages of Kamado-Style Grills
- Cost: Kamado-style grills are on the expensive end of the grill spectrum. With options, the price is usually well over $1000. Unless you barbecue a lot, this can seem like a high price tag.
- Weight: Kamado-style grills, especially the ceramic ones covered in tile, are heavy--close to 500 pounds. While they have wheels, they are difficult to move upstairs. They take up a lot of space.
Learning to Use a Kamado-style Grill
The main skill you need to learn, when barbecuing or grilling with a Kamado, is how to control the heat. The temperature in the Kamado is a function of the amount of fuel (wood or charcoal); the airflow into the “draft door” in the bottom of the grill; and the airflow from the top through the damper. It takes a little practice to control the airflow. The more air that flows through the charcoal or wood, the hotter and faster it will burn. You can use a thermometer to gauge the temperature. Once the grill reaches the desired temperature, it takes very little tuning to maintain the temperature within a few degrees.
You have to keep in mind that quickly heating a Kamado-style grill to a high temperature can crack the ceramic; you need to raise the heat gradually. Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding breaking-in and maintenance.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- What's the lowest temperature at which you can use a Kamado-style grill?
- 100 - 200 degrees
- 200 - 300 degrees
- What's the highest temperature at which you can safely use a Kamado-style Grill?
- 700 degrees
- 1500 degrees
- 2000 degrees
- Can you cook with wood in a Kamado-style grill?
- What type of material is the Komodo Kamado made of?
- Ceramic Material
- Refractory Cement
- Which Kamado-style grill maker has lots of fraud complaints online?
- The Big Green Egg
- Komodo Kamado
- Kamado Company
- Can you cook pizza in a Kamado-style grill?
- Do Kamado-style grills require a break-in period?
- Yes, and regular maintenance
- No, just use it
- 100 - 200 degrees
- 700 degrees
- Refractory Cement
- Kamado Company
- Yes, and regular maintenance
Which Kamado-style Grill Should I Buy?
Here are the results of my own research and experience, plus helpful forum responses from other authors/readers.
Komodo Kamado Grill
This is the highest-end make of Kamado-style grills, costing in the neighborhood of $4200-4500 for the medium size ("Ultimate," formerly "OTB"). All the reviews call it the highest quality grill. It uses two different layers of high-tech refractory cement, designed to withstand very high temperatures and retain heat. This combination is reported to last a long time and be much less prone to cracking and damage compared to other Kamado-style grills. The Komodo Kamado comes in tiled and coated versions. The tiled Kamados weighs nearly 500 pounds, but they look like works of art. Like most premium products, they come with few add-ons, although a gas starter is an attractive option, and I think a side-table option is coming soon. All in all, this is the top Kamado on the market and the most beautiful grill I've ever seen. If the price wasn't an issue, I'd go with the Komodo Kamado grill.
Big Green Egg
The Big Green Egg, or BGE as loyal fans call it, is perhaps the best known ceramic grill. Its options are limited: it doesn’t come in any color but green, and if you want the convenience of a gas starter, you will have to get an aftermarket starter and add it on. Big Green Egg Inc. appears to be the most professionally run of all the Kamado grill makers. Its website is informative, although you can't buy new Big Green Eggs there, or even price them; you have to buy them from other online dealers or go to a specialty barbecue store. As of 2013, the medium size was about $650. For a mass-produced Kamado-style grill, I think the Big Green Egg is a nice choice. During past summer grilling seasons, Costco has carried the medium-sized grill; it was tempting that it came with Costco's top-notch warranty, which easily beats any store warranty I've ever seen.
Vision Grill "Classic Kamado"
Until recently, at least, Costco Online was carrying one of Vision Grill’s “Classic” models for only a fraction of its price for the Big Green Egg. This grill comes with a two-tier cooking grate. While I've looked at this grill hands-on, I haven't had the opportunity to do significant cooking with it; nevertheless, with the Costco warranty, I would consider trying it out.
I'd consider this an entry-level Kamado-style grill for the casual barbecue fan. My biggest issue with this grill is that the stainless steel door feels flimsy. Also, it is for use with charcoal and wood chips only; the ideal Kamado grill, at least for me, would work with whole pieces of wood. In style, I find the Vision Grill, like the Big Green Egg, uninteresting.
But what it lacks in sizzle, it makes up for in extras. For the price, this is likely one of the better bargains for a Kamado-style grill.
Kamado Company K7 Grill
This is the original Kamado grill and a bit of a sad story. I purchased one in 2010. I've loved it, but it came broken and with missing parts, and I got very frustrated with the customer support. My neighbor also has a Kamado Company grill and loves it, but he too has had issues getting replacement parts.
I was very close to purchasing another Kamado Company grill, but as I did additional research, I became concerned. Early on, Kamado built a loyal following, but quality issues came up, manufacturing moved to different countries, and customers complained about long delivery times, tile falling off, and long waits for replacement parts.
For a while, the company answered its phone quickly and explained that many of the complaints were from people who didn't follow the break-in instructions. Still, it worried me that there was a dedicated forum purely for the purpose of complaining about the product. The final red flag for me was that when I went to place my order for a new grill, they would only take a check. If I couldn’t get the insurance provided by my credit card company, I was not going to risk buying a grill from a company with so many complaints.
By late 2011, the Kamado Company had been sold. The Kamado.com website is now just a forum, and kamadocompany.com doesn’t seem to have been updated since mid-2013.
Kamado-style Grills Compared
|Maker||Model||Price||Review Quality||Gas Option||Exterior|
About $4200-4500 fully loaded
Tiled or coated, custom options
Big Green Egg, Inc.
Big Green Egg, medium
About $650 (before options); over $1000 total
Was about $1500
Poor (for customer service), may be out of business
Tiled or coated, custom options
$1,200 + table
Alternatives to Kamado-style Grills
I’m still seeking the ideal grill to replace my old Kamado K7. I had a chance to play with a Primo Oval XL last year, but I am still looking.
My ideal grill needs to support both high-temperature cooking and low-and-slow smoking; it needs to be able to handle the heat of small oak logs, and it needs to look great.
If I didn’t get another Kamado-style grill, I’d consider the Engelbrecht 1000 Grill. On paper, this looks like a great grill for smoking and cooking with wood, and ought to last many years. But it’s homely, compared to the artistry of the Komodo.
My dream grill remains the Komodo Kamado, and I hope to have one someday.
Update: I purchased a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.
What Other Kamado-style Grills Do You Like?
jeffreythomas2020 on January 20, 2020:
Who can pick out for me the best product from the list provided in this site? https://bestoffsetsmokers.com/best-kamado-smokers-...
Tamra Perryman on December 05, 2019:
I read your entire article and I genuinely like it.Thank you for discussing this great post.
Jessica on December 31, 2016:
What about Kamado Joe? Why didn't it make your list?
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on October 28, 2013:
I'm in the market again for a new bbq. Updating with fresh research.
Chris on January 13, 2013:
I just got a huge kamado,It's around 5' tall. Can anyone tell me which one i have. All i can say is there it come to my chest and is cover in deep blue tile
jjb on June 02, 2012:
Costco sells one
ed gallant on May 23, 2012:
i have vision pro its great takes a little time to light. elect start there a slot to slide and it does not touch charcoal light fast it cleans easy, i cook a samon on ceder plank it was something to kill for real easy to control heat it took me a little time to get the used to it now it a piece of cake never buy a gas bbQ again. and it look great ED
Josh on March 17, 2012:
I purchased a used kamado from Craigslist. I have been very happy so far. I have made a purchase from the new management and I was very pleased with the service and quality of the product. Also I was able to use paypal to pay for my product so I did have insurance in case there was a problem. If the new management keeps up their hard work I will definitely recommend them in the future!
Bruce Forster on December 15, 2011:
Been enjoying all of the comments. Check out the newest entrant into the Kamado segment. www.visiongrills.com
Patty on September 26, 2011:
Menards has a 150 mail in rebate off the 389 price that brings the price to 239+tax. At that price it is worth giving it a try!
Ron P on September 24, 2011:
I just found the Avocado on clearance at Menards for $389. I am going to fire it up today.
DG on August 21, 2011:
To JB, I just found out who made Avocado Kamado at Menards. Here is the weblink: http://www.kamadochina.com this company is Sunrise Creamics CO., LTD.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on August 16, 2011:
The weber is pretty darn good for the money.
Ronny on August 16, 2011:
I wanna try the avocado even though it's china made. Do I waste 400 or do the extra for the American made product. Until the my simple weber will have to do
JB on July 21, 2011:
Just picked up a 499 Avocado Kamado at Menards. Still trying to find out who makes them and where to get parts. Stainless cart is cheap and casters look like they could break off any time. Grill cooks the best though. Have been cooking every night and this one is every bit as good as BGE at 40% less in price.
PiaC from Oakland, CA on July 19, 2011:
At a party last weekend, my friends made tandoori Chicken on a BGE. It was one of the best tandoori chickens I've had in a long, long time! I'm still looking for a perfect grill for our needs, but the BGE has suddenly emerged as a contender. I now think of it as the Le Creuset of BBQ grills :)
Tim on July 16, 2011:
Anyone ever heard of the Avocado Kamado that is available at Menards this weekend for $499?
Bill on July 13, 2011:
Read article NYTimes 7/13/11 on the Kamado and wonder why I would need to order parts due to wear and tear as I should imagine such an expensive item would rarely, if ever need any. My old Weber grill has been tootling along for years without any problems. But I was impressed by one of you folks on the astounding Costco pizza taste revelation on this grill. Will check it out Costco in Commack LI. Thx
David on July 04, 2011:
To all that want a Kamado grill Costco is selling them and they are fantastic. 499 for a Dragon Kamado.. good deal.
Kingsthorpedavid from Toowoomba Queensland Australia on June 25, 2011:
I use Queensland Gidgee lump charcoal for my Big Steel Keg and Weber Performer kettle grill. Gidgee being a native hardwood and the best charcoal available in Australia. I am seriously considering buying a temperature controller from the US for the BSK and will go for the DIGIQ DX with 10cfm fan and bulkhead addaptor.
I have had problems keeping low and slow fires going when smoking meat for 6 to 8 hours. I used pickled pork with Hickory lumps and it came out the best ham ever after 5 hours in the Big Steel Keg.
Kingsthorpedavid from Toowoomba Queensland Australia on June 24, 2011:
I recently purchased a Big Steel Keg, a Kamado style grill made of steel. It has many advantages particularly in weight and has two big wheels to shift it around. I later imported the diffuser kit from the US for indirect cooking and smoking. Another advantage is the cast iron grill grate and a second stainless steel grill grate is positioned above and swings out.
I am in Queensland Australia where the BSK is marketed by Gasmate.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on June 15, 2011:
haven't heard of it, but I like the look of the Viking Kamado style grill. Also, just got an email from Dennis Linkletter he has Komodo's in stock. I wish I'd gotten that grill over the Kamado.
G on June 15, 2011:
Has anyone heard of the Kamado Ceramic Charcoal grill made by vision grills? They're for sale at Frontgate, which typically only sells high end products. It's listed at $799.00. I can't really find any info on them. The other grills Frontgate sells are mostly viking, but there does not appear to be a relationship between the two.
Bob on January 16, 2011:
I am also in Australia and seriously considering a Kamado Joe. Here in Oz, the grill dome does not come with stainless steel grills which is a big let down. The Joe does. But does anyone know the differences between these and the dragon fire?
andyk on December 13, 2010:
did you buy from BBQs Galore have you seen or has anyone had experience with the dragon fire or royal kamado grills.
have cooked on aBGE and loved it..
i am in australia
any help before purchasing would be greatly appreciated
James on October 22, 2010:
I live in Australia and the local Barbeque chain store started selling Kamado Joe vice BGE. The price was about 60% of the BGE and seemed as good if not better that the BGE. I purchased the Kamado Joe as my first Kamado and like it very much. Takes about 10-15 mins to light and I had it up to 700F and as low as 220 for 10 hours. I chose the Joe because of parts and sevice since the store here is only going to carry that brand, but BGE and the Joe side-by-side, I would still buy the Joe based on price.
dustin johnson on August 14, 2010:
Kamado Joe is by far the best grill on the market. It is cheaper, lights better, stays lit for longer, and has thicker ceramics than all of its competitors. Before you buy BGE or grill dome, take a look at this.
myrvsales on August 13, 2010:
I'm trying to find out how much my Kamado Barbeque Smoker is worth. It is very old, and was in the patio of a condo I purchased, the owner left it behind. It has a Cookbook inside that says First Printing 1976, and lists info about the smoker. The previous owner put an arrow to the "Ancient Type" Pot Number of #2 with a grill size of 14". It is sitting in a metal thing with rollers to move the smoker around. It's old, the wood handle is very weathered, but the cooker is still in great condition and has all the parts, even the charcol stirrer is there. Anyone have an idea of what this would be worth? E-Bay has an item for sale that is a reproduction of the patent that was originally filed. My Smoker looks like the one on the patent. It's not shiny tiles, but dull tan colored and rough textured. Thanks in advance for any info you can provide. Barbara firstname.lastname@example.org
MERRILL PITTMAN on July 15, 2010:
I have two Kamados a K3 and a K7. I broke them in according to the manual. Both have tiles falling off all the time. Other parts are breaking too. They don't answer the phone or emails and delete all complaints from their forum. It is a corrupt company that sells junk and refuses to honao any and all warranties. Keep in mind they have a full lifetime warranty, lol. Richard should be in jail. If you are so naïve to buy anything from them after all the warnings posted all over the internet you are a fool.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on July 06, 2010:
Anthony - While I did end up getting my K7, it took many months longer than told and I still haven't received all the parts. It's pretty incredible that people really want the product and will even send half of the money in advance. I did some research and felt that it was 5050 if I would get my grill, but I still sent my check in. Crazy, I know, but I just couldn't find another grill that had the features like the Kamado. I'm hoping my gas starter finally comes.
Anthony Bertolotti on July 06, 2010:
Ordered a Kamado Grill on October 9th 2009.... No grill to date... they won't take my calls and won't send the grill... and have my $550.00 down payment. They have consistantly told one story after another
Steve on July 05, 2010:
I drove to Parker Colorado early this year and was at a good friends house that I had not seen in awhaile for a BBQ. First I will let you know I work at Costco part-time. Anyhow, my buddys wife Mary returns from grocery shopping and Wayne asks, "What did you get for the BBQ honey" ? She says "Costco Pizzas" ! Well my heart sank and I was disappointed to hear that because I eat Costco pizza all the time at work and was burned out on it. I kept my mouth shut and Wayne procedded to start the first pizza inside his already heated egg shaped Kamado. It was the first time I ever saw one and was very curious about it. He said it took him a year to learn how to properly cook with it but was well worth the money and learning experience. I thought to myself that it could not be that much better than other BBQ,s. When he removed the pizza from the egg , I could smell and see that it was different than any other store bought and cooked Costco pizza. I could not believe my taste buds after my first bite !!! It was some of the best pizza I ever tasted and it did not taste like Costco pizza ! ! ! I ate all the crust which I never do because it was nice and crispy and well done, no gooey dough anywhere ! The smokey flavor and crisp crust blew me away ! I am in the process of looking for one now if I can fit it into my budget.
David on June 21, 2010:
Cannot get my BBQ from Kamado. Do not buy from them they don't answer the phone or email back once they have your money. I don't believe they are legitimate.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on June 18, 2010:
I have one of the last Kamado Grills produced overseas. It's a great grill, but it's cracking after a few weeks and I haven't received the missing parts from my order.
Bill Harger on June 18, 2010:
Grill Dome Is #1 in my book. Easy to light; easy to maintain temp; great, moist food and outstanding customer service. I bought mine through bbqguys.com because they compare and demo manu of the kamado type grills. Further, they are beautiful. Bill Harger, Chuluota, FL
Thew on May 13, 2010:
I've just started using the big steel keg. Love it so far
Jan Charles from East Tennessee on February 20, 2010:
Ok - now I need one. Didn't think I did. Now I do.
Robert Ferguson on January 11, 2010:
Primo Grills are made in the USA. Buy American!
grillrepair from florida on December 26, 2009:
I have the grill dome and it works great. i have no complaints and i have used the green egg and the primo in the past. I have also loked at the new dragon fire kamado which looks great for a reasnable price.
Jason on September 21, 2009:
Currently, I don't think gas is available on either cooker.
I think Primo had a gas option a while back but was unsuccessful in marketing them as there wasn't much demand as compared to the charcoal models.
The Large Infinity GD runs about $630 - $700. The Infinity SuperDome is $950.
The Primo Oval runs about $850 - $1000
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on September 21, 2009:
Do the Grill Dome and Primo have gas options and what's the price range for them?
Jason, Thanks for the info about them.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on September 20, 2009:
Yes, there are other Kamado Grill makers. I'd be happy to add descriptions of the others if you want to leave them in the comments.
What's your opinion on the Grill Dome and the Primo?
Jason on September 19, 2009:
What about Grill Dome? You are missing at least of couple of the other big players in the market. Also there is the Primo. The Komodo Kamado is a way overpriced unit IMO. People buy these grills for the food not for the hardware.
danbr7777 on August 16, 2009:
It takes about 7-10 minutes....depending on the temp you are aiming for, how many places you light the coal etc. If you are aiming for 400 degrees or so, it takes about 7-10 minutes to get up to temp. If you are aiming for 650 or more, figure about 15 minutes or so. The key is to light in a number of places and open up the opening at the bottom all the way and remove the top cap until you get up to the temp and then add the daisy wheel on top and fine tune the temp.
FYI: I use the little starter chunks and a lighter. The electric starter that costs about 15 dollars or so starts the coal in about 9-10 minutes. The crazy thing is that a lot of people start their BGE with a MAPP torch. Those start in a few minutes.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on August 16, 2009:
Has anyone ever seen the Komodo Kamado go on sale?
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on August 16, 2009:
The big green egg definitely has a loyal following of bbq enthusiasts. In the BGE forums, there are lots of great looking recipes as well. I still think I want the gas option.
How much time does it take you to add charcoal, light the BGE and get the grill to a hot temperature?
danbr7777 on August 15, 2009:
Nice breakdown on the Kamados. Very informative!
I have a Big Green Egg. It is well worth the money and holds temperature very well. I don't believe that the gas option matters that much. I thought that I would care, but lighting is so easy that it is a very minor point to me. The Big Green Egg has a very large following. There are a lot of forums dedicated to the BGE. It is very easy to use to get GREAT results. I have baked breads, smoked pork butts, ribs, brisket, cooked steaks, appetizers, pizzas....you name it.
I have not seen many negative reviews about the BGE. However, I would say almost all reviews are Excellent.(I had to say almost all because I have not seen all reviews on it, but have never really seen much negative said about the BGE)
Thanks again for this HUB. Good Stuff!
gredmondson on August 13, 2009:
Stephan T has a Kamado grill.