The Best Kamado Grills For Efficient Smoking In 2020

Kamado grills have seen a burst of popularity in recent years. Based on traditional Japanese earthen cookware, kamado grills (Kamado = “stove” in Japanese) are favored because of their versatility, heat retention properties, ease of use, and quality of cooking. Many Kamado grills are made from ceramic which is a nice alternative to metal and many are small enough to be portable. You can use a Kamado as a high heat grill for steaks and burgers or as a smoker or BBQ and long-cooked meats. Kamado grills tend to be inexpensive, long-lasting, and run on charcoal too.

There are a lot of Kamado grills out there that vary in quality and price, from $100 to a few thousand dollars. We want to make things easy as possible for you, so we looked around and put together this list of the 9 best Kamado grills of 2020. These Kamado grills have been selected due to their overall quality, versatility, quality of life features, and affordability.

Let’s not waste any more time and get straight to it.

The 9 Best Kamado Grills to Step Up Your Cooking Game

1. Char-Griller Akorn Jr.

Char-Griller Akorn Jr.

Let’s start with the basics: The Akorn Jr. sits around 20 inches tall, is made from triple-walled solid steel with a coated enamel interior, and has a 150 sq. in. cooking surface. The Jr. is can be seen as the younger brother to the larger Akorn model, but it does not skimp on quality. It is extremely portable at just 37 lbs., so it’s easy to take around.

The triple-walled steel construction gives the Akron Jr. some of the best heat retention we have ever seen in a grill. The Akorn Jr. can manage temperatures between 200-700 degrees F so it can be used for searing on the grill or slow cooking at a lower temperature. Heat can be controlled by two dampers—one on the top and one near the bottom—and you can unscrew the entire bottom to remove charcoal ash when you are finished.

On the sides are two heavy-duty cast handles that are heat resistant and a latch for locking the lid to trap in smoke and flavor. The legs of the grill are very sturdy, but they are somewhat short and don’t have wheels, so you’ll have to pick it up to transport.

Overall, the Akorn Jr. is a great kamado grill for both newbies and experienced grill masters. It cooks well, has great heat retention, is easier than a traditional portable grill to tote around. 

What We Liked:

  • Compact and portable
  • Extremely durable steel/ceramic construction
  • Great heat retention
  • Can be used for grilling or smoking
  • Removable bottom makes for easy cleaning
  • Sturdy and stable

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Legs are sturdy but might be too short for some
  • No wheels, so you have to carry it
  • Cooking surface might be too small for some

2. Kamado Joe Classic 18” Charcoal Grill

Kamado Joe Classic 18” Charcoal Grill

Kamado Joe has made a name for themselves in recent years as a manufacturer of quality Kamado grills. The Kamado Joe classic can be seen as their flagship entry that combines the traditional ethos of a Kamado grill with some western flair. The Kamado Joe stands about as tall as a traditional BBQ grill and features a unique “mutli-surface” cook system that lets you cook different food on different surfaces and which effectively doubles the area of the cooking surface.

The Kamado Joe has two half racks at different levels for different heat levels. So for example, you could cook fish on the higher rack and beef on the lower rack to get the right internal temperatures and not overcook or undercook. The entire grill is made out of high-quality ceramic that is naturally resistant to weathering and discoloration.

One thing we really like about the Kamado Joe is the new air hinge lid that reduces the weight of the lid by almost 96%, making it much easier to open and shut. The grill can hold any temperature between 250-750 degrees F and an adjustable top vent lets you modulate the heat as you please. It is also very easy to clean, just remove the slidable ash drawer and hose out the interior. Lastly, a convenient temperature gauge built right into the lid lets you know the current heat at all times. 

What We Liked:

  • Interesting fusion of Kamado and western-style grills
  • 2 cooking grates at different levels for more precise heat control
  • New air hinge makes the lid much easier to open and shut
  • Retractable side shelves for food prep storage
  • Removable ashtray for easy cleanup
  • 4-locking wheels make moving it easy

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Heavy
  • On the pricier side
  • Not that large compared to the price of the grill

3. Char-Griller Akorn Kamado

Char-Griller Akorn Kamado

We previously talked about the Akorn Jr. and now it's time to introduce its burly big bro. The Akorn Kamado is the full-size Kamado grill from Char-Griller and is made for solid steel with a porcelain-coated interior. With up to 314 sq. in. of cooking space, it is one of the larger Kamado grills out on the market.

One great thing about the Akorn kamado is that it is very affordable, especially if it’s your first Kamado girl. As such, it may not be “top-of-the-line” per se, but it is a great entry-level option. It cooks well and can be used for a variety of options, from tough steaks to softer fish and veggies. Along with the built-in temperature gauge and air damper on the top, the Akorn kamado has convenient side shelves that fold down when not in use. A pair of heavy-duty caster wheels let you wheel it around from place to place.

The double-wall insulation gives the Akorn good heat retention and the lid seals well enough that it won’t lose much smoke if you want to use it as a slow-cooker. We especially appreciate the inclusion of a 130 sq. in. heating rack that can be removed and detachable ashtray for easy cleanup. 

What We Liked:

  • Great value. The Akorn is affordable and good quality
  • Extremely tough steel
  • Very efficient, does not have to be reloaded with charcoal while in operation
  • Heating rack is a nice touch
  • Built-in temperature gauge. 

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Steel can rust if not maintained
  • Quality control seems to be hit or miss
  • Some may want a higher quality grill

4. Viemoi Kamado Grill

Viemoi Kamado Grill

First things first, we absolutely love how this kamado grill looks. The neat bumpy exterior and elegant black metal finishes make it look more like a fancy safe from Victorian England rather than a Kamado grill. But, kamado grill it is and it is exceedingly competent for virtually every grilling need you can think of.

Now, the Viemoi is pretty small even for a Kamado grill and it does have a relatively high price tag compared to its size. However, it still has excellent cooking quality. It is made from stainless steel with a ceramic coated interior and features a high-quality bamboo lid handle that resists heat. A built-in temperature gauge on the top and air damper lets you monitor and control the heat. It also has a removable ashtray at the bottom for easy cleanup.

We will level with you, the Viemoi is definitely not the best quality Kamado grill out there, but it has a couple of great things going for it, including its style and useful bamboo handle. If you are looking for something based on sheer performance, you probably should look elsewhere. But, if you’re willing to take a chance on an oddball, the Viemoi might be the right choice for you. 

What We Liked:

  • Looks cool and goes with any home set up
  • Bumpy steel exterior makes it easy to grip
  • Useful wooden bamboo handle
  • Ornate metal fixtures look good
  • Removable ashtray

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Not the best quality
  • Small relative to the total price tag
  • Ashtray hinge can wear down over time

5. Pit Boss Ceramic Kamado BBQ Grill

Pit Boss Ceramic Kamado BBQ Grill

Sitting at the halfway point is the Pit Boss Kamado BBQ grill. First of all, the Pit Boss has a massive 537 sq. in cooking surface distributed between two-level, more than enough space to cook a whole meal for an entire family. This large surface area means it is pretty heavy but the 4 locking caster wheels on the bottom make it easy to move around.

The Pit boss uses a robust spring system to make the lid easy to remove and a strong wooden handle on the front resists heat so you won’t accidentally burn yourself while the grill is hot. The grill rim is lined with a fireproof felt edge that fully seals the grill when the lid is closed so excess smoke doesn’t leak out. On the side are two wooden shelves for food prep storage that can fold out of the way when not in use. The grill grates are made from stainless steel that can be removed for individual cleaning.

As we said, the Pit Boss is pretty heavy and tough to move around. Unfortunately, this weight means there is the possibility of the ceramic finish cracking if it tips over on its side. Unless you are cooking on a very uneven surface, the grill is wide and sturdy enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about it tipping over.

Overall, the Pit Boss is big, tough, and reliable to boot. The dual-layered cooking grates open up a lot of options for cooking and it can be used to make BBQ, steaks, or oven-fired pizza. Ne final word; the Pit Boss is designed to be used with lump charcoal, but you can use some wood chips if you want. It is not recommended to use 100% wood as your fuel source, as it won’t burn as efficiently as lump charcoal.

What We Liked:

  • Very large cooking surface
  • Dual-layered cooking grates make cooking more versatile
  • Looks great; the black shiny ceramic finish looks elegant and rustic at the same time
  • Big wooden shelve retracts when not in use. 
  • Locking wheels make it easy to move and set up
  • Spring-loaded hinge makes opening the lid much easier

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Heavy
  • Ceramic finish can crack from weight if it tips over
  • Designed for charcoal only, wood use is not recommended

6. Broil King Keg 5000 Kamado Grill

Broil King Keg 5000 Kamado Grill

Say you like to get around a lot and go camping or trucking frequently. A ceramic Kamado grill on the go has one major problem; ceramic can break pretty easily if you are not careful with them. That’s why we have the Broil King Keg 500 Kamado Grill. This Kamado grill has a solid steel frame and an interior coated with a porcelain enamel finish. True to its name, the Keg 5000 looks like a big keg and comes on a sturdy detachable frame that has two wheels. You can also buy a compatible adaptor and hook it directly on your trailer hitch.

The Keg 5000 offers 280 sq. in. of cooking space and has the option to attach a secondary grate to cook more meat. Each grate is made from cast iron and so retains the seasoning of previous items cooked. While other Broil King products are gas-powered, the Keg 5000 is one of their few 100% charcoal powered offerings. They even install two handy bottle openers on the front, so you can enjoy a cold beer when cooking on the grill.

When though it comes with a convenient wheeled cart, the Ke3g 5000 is pretty heavy at over 120 lbs. Cast iron, like ceramic, can be pretty brittle, so some report cooking grates and the interior coating cracking after being handled roughly. Don’t let the inherently brittle nature of ceramic and cast iron turn you off though because they are such useful cooking surfaces. Our advice? Just be careful and don’t drop it!

What We Liked:

  • Looks like a big beer keg and that’s pretty cool
  • Solid steel frame is very tough and rust-resistant
  • Comes with a handy wheeling cart
  • Can be mounted directly on your trailer hitch with the right attachment
  • 2 cast iron cooking grates at different elevations
  • Built-in bottle openers

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Though it is light compared to some Kamado grills, it’s still pretty heavy
  • Resin handles and foldable tables seem cheap
  • Cast iron and ceramic are brittle

7. Komodo Kamado

Komodo Kamado

Sitting at 7th is the world-famous Komodo Kamado. Let’s get this out of the way quick, the Komodo Kamado is probably the single most expensive commercially available Kamado grill on the market, but with very good reason. The quality of the Komodo is, quite frankly, unparalleled. First of all, it looks incredible. The stainless steel frame is covered in small ceramic tiles that look like the scales of the Komodo dragon and comes in over 40 different color variations, as found on their website.

The inside of the Komodo offers a huge 1000 sq. in of cooking space divided between a lower, mid, and upper cooking grates. Each grate is made from 3 mm 304-grade stainless steel along with the charcoal basket and ash screen. The quality of these materials is unparalleled and is a large part of the reason the Komodo Kamado stands a head above the competition.

The pure steel construction of the frame, cooking grate, and fixtures means the Komodo is very heavy. In fact, the entire grill weighs a whopping 588 lbs, so moving this thing around requires a literal team effort. The lid itself weighs 120 lbs, but the patented auto-open hinge makes the lid extremely easy to open and shut. So even though the entire grill is very heavy, one person can use it without too much trouble.

It is also incredibly efficient. A single 16 lb bag of charcoal will keep it running for 85 hours so you will save money in the long run on charcoal coasts. The main model of the Komodo Kamado sits 24” high but they have a larger 42” version called the Serious Big Bad’ that weighs over 1,500 lbs. So it nearly 600 lbs, doesn’t cut it for you, you can upgrade to a bigger Komodo. 

What We Liked:

  • Unparalleled quality
  • Over 40 different color options that all look great
  • Everything is 100% high-grade steel
  • 1,000 sq. in. of cooking space
  • 4 different grate positions

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Very heavy (heavy because its made from quality materials)
  • Very expensive

8. BBQ Guru Monolith Kamado Grill

BBQ Guru Monolith Kamado Grill

Coming in at 8th is this high tech Monolith Kamado Grill from BBQ Guru. The first thing to notice is the digital control integration. The Monolith comes with a small digital control panel that has a digital display for temperature and knobs that let you change airflow to raise or lower the temperature. Like its namesake from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Monolith is kind of an evolution of barbecuing technology that incorporates digital elements.

Aside from the digital control panel, there is nothing particularly unique about the Monoloth’s construction. It has a ceramic base with an enamel coating and multiple interior racks at different levels. What distinguishes the Monolith is how it is designed specifically for smoking. About halfway down the front of the grill, a small knob opens up a pullout shoot that lets you add wood chips to flavor smoked meats. It is a really simple addition but it makes smoking so much easier and versatile.

You can buy the Monolith grill piece alone or you can purchase the accompanying rack and stand, or with simple ceramic feet. If you have the extra money, we recommend buying the cart with wheels as the Monolith is pretty heavy. One final problem with the Monolith is the availability. It is made by a German manufacturer so it may be more difficult to find in US markets compared to the UK or EU. 

What We Liked:

  • Digital panel tells temperature and makes heat control more precise
  • Built-in smoker tray lets you add wood chips without opening the charcoal basket
  • Charcoal tray has “multi-zone” cooking spots
  • 3 sizes in 2 colors, red and black

What We Didn’t Like:

  • No damper cap
  • Stand/cart must be bought separately
  • Might be difficult to find in North America

9. Primo Ceramic Charcoal Grill

Primo Ceramic Charcoal Grill

The penultimate spot on our list is filled by this ceramic charcoal grill from Primo. The exterior features a ceramic blend coated with an abrasion-resistant porcelain coating that offers excellent heat retention and durability. The Primo model is relatively simple compared to some other offering covered, but it absolutely nails the fundamentals of a good Kamado grill. The interior space is ample enough to fit two different cooking racks and the special ceramic makes it very efficient at burning charcoal.

A simple temperature gauge on the front of the lid lets you know the current heat and an iron damper mechanism on top lets you control airflow. One amazing feature of the Primo we really like is the generous 20-year warranty plan that covers any and all damage to ceramic pieces. Considering that ceramic can break easier than metal, this warranty is a nice touch. 

What We Liked:

  • Simple, no-frills design
  • Very durable 100% ceramic grill bucket
  • Removable ashtray
  • Very efficient
  • Built-in temperature gauge
  • Can be built directly into your kitchen set up to be a permanent fixture

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some people may want some more bells and whistles
  • No handles or stand
  • Charcoal basket is not that large

Conclusions

So there you have it, the 9 best Kamado grills for the money. Kamado grills are a great way to switch up your basic cooking routine and bring something new to your cookouts and tailgate parties. Combining the amazing properties of ceramic and the utility of a slow cooking charcoal grill, Kamados seems to be here to stay, so why not pick one up when you get the chance?

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