The Best Kamado Grills For The Money

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Kamado grills are quite an interesting little beast. They offer a unique advantage over regular grills in having a very wide range of temperatures and greater control over airflow than traditional grills, making them a more versatile tool to use. You wouldn’t bake a cake in a traditional grill, but it’s something you can absolutely do in a kamado.

While it is debatable which is the better at grilling or smoking (some advocate for one, some for the other), it can’t be denied that the kamado is good, and will do a bit more for you than a regular grill, so it’s up to personal preference.

Since you’re here though, I’m assuming your preference is toward the kamado…or you’re willing to be persuaded that way. So we’re going to go over why you should buy one, what sets a good


The 9 Best Kamado Grills Reviewed For 2019

1. Best Overall Kamado Grill – Kamado Joe KJ23RHC Classic II Charcoal Grill

This kamado grill is excellent, and is the perfect example of everything we’re looking for in one. It has a  great mix of size and features while still being a great price compared to similar kamado grills. While others out there are larger, that comes with a proportional increase in price, and the ceramic is the bulk of what increases the expense of a kamado grill.

What We Liked

  • Cooking Space: You’re working with between 406 and 508 square inches of cooking space, depending on how many grates you use. That’s quite a lot, though somewhat small compared to a standard grill, and good for a large amount of various foods.
  • Variety: More than just the size, the Classic II’s cooking surfaces offer a variety of options. It comes with a small flat top (though no replacement for a full sized one and a number of removable grates, which can be mixed and matched to cook a variety of small foods like sausages or the like or removed to make room for larger things like whole roasts or briskets.
  • Ash Drawer: The ash drawer slides out for easy removal, which is something I always look for in a grill.
  • Locking Wheels: Wheels are sturdy and lock in place, enabling you to move the Classic II anywhere and then make sure it stays there as long as you need.
  • Construction: The entire affair is sturdy, thick, crack resistant, and all around well made. The seal is tight and the latch slides on easy but provides a secure grip, keeping the lid closed for all the smoke to stay inside and keep your food warm and juicy.
  • Temperature Range: The Classic II provides the full 225 degrees to 750 degrees Fahrenheit cooking temperature.

What We Didn't Like

  • Lack of Included Accessories: The only thing holding the Classic II back from perfection is this lack. If it came with a full sized flat top included it would be completely perfect for my needs, and the needs of most other people.

The Big Joe II is just like the Classic II, but as the name implies it is, well, bigger. Everything that makes the Classic II great is represented here, but it offers a good deal more cooking space to work with. So why does it fall lower on the list? Well, the simple answer is: cost. I don’t think the price increase is justified by how much extra space it gives.

What We Liked

  • Size: As mentioned, the Big Joe II is a quite sizable kamado grill, giving you between 452 and 608 square inches of cooking space to work with depending on how you set up the various grates and cook surfaces inside.
  • Variety: Just like the Classic II, the Big Joe II offers the collection of mix and matchable grates and a mini flat top to use as you please to cook whatever you please.
  • Air Lift: Air lift hinge reduces the weight of the dome lid by 96%, making it smooth and easy to open and close, without the danger of dropping and damaging the lid or bottom by slamming them together.
  • Seal: Seal is a double thick wire mesh that is meant to last 10 times longer than the industry standard gasket.
  • Wheels: Wheels lock in place but glide smoothly when unlocked, making the Classic II easy to wheel around or make a permanent stationary fixture as you wish.

What We Didn't Like

  • Price: The Big Joe II is between 50 and 100 square inches larger than the Classic II…but costs $600 more. That’s a 1/3 increase in price for only a 1/5 increase in size. I really don’t think it’s worth it either in the cost to increase ratio or in absolute terms; $600 is a lot more money for extra space you’re honestly probably not going to need.

3. Best Small Kamado Grill - Kamado Joe KJ13RH Joe Jr Charcoal Grill

This is a great intermediate grill, better than the cast iron models below but not as good as the larger Kamado Joe variants, and occupying a price point between the two as well. While smaller, don’t confuse it with being too small to use. It works great for single family meals, and is plenty big enough to roast a whole chicken for example. Great for someone who wants a kamado grill and doesn’t care about entertaining for huge crowds.

What We Liked

  • Construction: This takes all the pieces that make the overall construction of the larger models great and shrinks them down. It still has the solid ceramic construction which holds in heat so well, along with the double thick wire mesh that seals in heat better and will last 10 times longer than a standard gasket. It even has the air lift lid to prevent you dropping and damaging the grill by letting go of the lid too soon.
  • Lightweight: This grill only weighs 88 lbs, far less than the standard kamado grill. It’s far more portable than a full sized variant, meaning you can use it outdoors and then store it inside much more easily.
  • Heat: Despite the reduced size, it still regulates heat in the same 225 degrees to 750 degrees Fahrenheit range with no issues or added work in maintaining it, though you may need to add more charcoal slightly more often than usual.

What We Didn't Like

  • Cooking Space: The issue isn’t just the size, though it is very small (148.5 square inches). That’s to be expected for a grill that is much smaller and MUCH cheaper than the other models in the series. The issues is the size severely curtails the different kinds of cooking spaces you can use; no multiple grates or half and half flat top and grate cooking or anything. It’s one or the other, never both.

The standalone version of the Big Joe II is an objectively good grill in a lot of ways; it’s exactly the same as the Big Joe II after all, save it lacks the legs and wheels. Unfortunately it’s hard to recommend with that lack due to it being, basically, an inferior version of a good product.

What We Liked

  • Cooking Space: The standalone model shares the same 452 to 608 square inches of cooking space; more than enough for almost any meal.
  • Versatility: As the other Kamado Joe models, this kamado grill offers a great variety of cooking options, with a series of removable grates and a half sized flat top that can be mixed and matched to your needs. This lets you cook a variety of meals simultaneously, or one large cut of meat uninterrupted.
  • Construction: The construction is largely the same as the other two, with the double thick, insanely durable gasket, air lift hinge, sturdy ceramic design, great air vents, removable ash tray, and all of the other construction features that made the Classic II and Big Joe II excellent.

What We Didn't Like

  • Standalone: The standalone model lacks either the wheels or attached tables. Losing the tables is less of a big deal than it sounds; this model is clearly meant to sit on some type of concrete tabletop or similar heavy work surface designed to hold something this heavy. The loss of the wheels though is questionable. The Big Joe II weighs in at a ludicrous 395 lbs. Having the option for the cart, and it is an option for the non-standalone variant, increase its portability by an almost infinite amount. While clearly meant to be stationary you will want to move it at some point, and the negligible price drop is not, to me, worth it.

5. Best High-end Kamado Grill - Viemoi Kamado Grill Mini Kamado Charcoal Grill

This kamado grill is downright adorable. This is an absolutely tiny kamado grill, but don’t let that turn you off; it’s more than enough for single family meals, and it has a very affordable price attached to it. If it didn’t compare so poorly to the Joe Jr. I could recommend it wholeheartedly.

What We Liked:

  • Size: This thing is small…and that’s a good thing! It weighs only 50 lbs, making it easy to move around, and it’s small enough to store pretty much anywhere. It’s light enough to go on any reasonably sturdy table without issue (just make sure it’s concrete or something), which makes up for it slack of attached arms or anything.
  • Price: You’re looking at ¼ the price of our top model, which is an excellent deal for a kamado grill.

What We Didn't Like

  • Cooking Space: Unfortunately with its compact size, come smore than compact cooking space. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good enough to cook a lot of meals, with about as much space as your standard crock pot or slow cooker (and as an avid user of those, I can tell you that’s plenty of space for most things). However, 89 square inches of cooking space is very small, and you will struggle to cook things like, say a rack of ribs cut into quarters.The Kamado Joe Joe Jr. does not have this issue, being close to twice the size…but only $100 more. You’re better off just shelling out the extra cash for the other Kamado Joe features (accessory support, better gasket, air lift hinge, etc.) and enjoying the doubled size as an added bonus.

6. Best Budget Kamado Grill - Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker

This Char-Griller kamado-style grill is…flawed, but works as a more affordable option for someone wanting to experiment with some of the advantages of a kamado grill without taking the plunge on an over $1000 purchase.

What We Liked

  • Lightweight: Due to its material, this grill weighs only 90 lbs, making it far more portable than a true kamado grill.
  • Attachments: The attached arms fold out of the way for easy storage, and the wheels are sturdy and roll nicely on most surfaces. The underside storage is likewise welcome, and is something I look for in most grills.
  • Sturdy: The cast iron and steel construction is very durable and can weather pretty much anything you throw at it, which is nice.
  • Price: The Akorn costs about ¼ what our top model will run you, which makes it quite affordable.

What We Didn't Like

  • Materials: The main drawback of this grill is it’s not made of ceramic…which means it’s not really a  kamado grill. Pretty much everything about a kamado grill is negotiable, save that. The specific temperature retention of ceramic and clay is what makes it such a good material for these grills. Cast iron simply does not do the job. Don’t get me wrong; I love cast iron cookware, it’s excellent, but it’s not right for this kind of grill, and that’s the kind of flaw that can’t be easily dismissed.
  • Insulation: The gasket is quite flimsy and doesn’t hold in heat and smoke very well. It’s about as cheap as you can get in an airtight seal, and will wear out fairly quickly.

The Akorn Jr. is very similar to the Akorn, but smaller. You might expect me to say this makes it worse, as I was not a huge fan of the Akorn, but that’s not necessarily the case. The more compact you make your grill, the more cast iron works out as an insulator. It’s still not going to be as good as the real deal, but it’s definitely better in that regard.

What We Liked

  • Lightweight: This grill weighs under 40 lbs, making it emninetly portable. Easy to pick up and go wherever you need to, removing the need for the wheels it lacks.
  • Good Heat Retention: As mentioned the smaller surface area makes the heat retention leagues better, making this quite an efficient little cooking machine.
  • Price: The Akorn Jr. is even more affordable than its big brother, and is a great buy on its own merits. In the same price range, standard grills cook a lot worse than this grill does for many purposes.

What We Didn't Like

  • Size: One of its advantages is also its greatest weakness. This grill is ultra tiny, having only 153 square inches of cooking space. It fulfills the same purpose as a small camp grill in terms of how much it can cook, but is less suited for that purpose with the factors of its increased weight, bulk, and price (a grill of that type can cost you under $20 in some places). It falls into an awkward position where it cooks very good food but it’s unclear who is meant to purchase this.
  • Standalone: Similarly the standalone feature is weird. It’s only good for cooking small meals, is too bulky to be a camp grill, and yet is setup like a stationary, permanent grill fixture for an outdoor kitchen or something similar. The design makes no sense when taking the product as a whole.

My issue with the Classic II standalone is much the same as I have with the Big Joe II standalone: it’s not much cheaper, and yet it has a much bigger drawback. While not as unwieldy as the Big Joe II, this thing is still heavy, and you gain little by the lack of wheels.

What We Liked

  • Construction: This has everything that made the Classic II so great. The air lift hinge which reduces weight by 96% and prevents the lid from slamming when dropped is excellent. The Fiberglass, double thick wire mesh that seals in heat so well and last 0 times longer? Still good here. The ceramic construction is of course excellent. Plus the feet that this one comes with are very sturdy for setting on a table durable enough to hold it.
  • Cooking Space: You have the same 406 to 508 square inches of cooking space as the other Classic II, and the same benefits as well. You can mix and match the grates however you like, and it comes included with a half sized flat top for cooking everything from eggs to scallops to vegetables like asparagus. Everything about the interior of this grill is excellent.

What We Didn't Like

  • Bulk: As mentioned before, this thing is heavy; 215 lbs of bulk to shift around. This is an issue when it doesn’t have wheels. Kamado grills are no stranger to the outdoors, but they’re not actually meant to be left in the elements. This means you either need to build a kitchen specifically to accommodate this thing or keep lugging it back and forth. I could see it being practical to leave under a simple roof with a cover in places with no extremes of weather, but I live where hurricanes and thunderstorms are commonplace, so I’m leery of just letting it sit outdoors full time, even with a roof. Roofs don’t protect from rain that flies sideways.

This is, bar none, my least favorite grill on this list. It is not even really a kamado-style grill, though it tries to masquerade as one. Making the grill out of cast iron to make it more affordable is one thing; that’s an understandable cost cutting measure and still leaves the grill as reasonably effective. This however takes the worst parts of a kamado grill and melds it with standard grill features, creating the ultimate worst of both worlds experience.

What We Liked

  • Attachments: The fold down table is always nice, and the wheels are sturdy and roll well.
  • Lid: Lid is properly hinged and opens easily without risking slamming shut.

What We Didn't Like

  • Material: Steel is great for standard grills, and even other kettle style grills like this, but is absolutely terrible for doing anything low and slow, and cold smoking is one of the big features for kamado grills.
  • Size: 379 square inches of cooking space is pretty small, all things considered, and that is an absolute measure; unlike a real kamado grill it does not have multi-tiered cooking surfaces.
  • Dampers: Dampers are simplistic and the bottom one is placed wrong. It sounds like a nitpick but the bottom flue being side mounted instead of fully on the bottom is a huge deal, and fundamentally changes the air flow of the grill. This is by far the biggest design flaw; without the distinct air flow, this will not cook anywhere near the same consistency or with the same flavor as a real kamado or even kamado-style grill.
  • Construction: Users reports shoddy materials, particularly in the screws and washers used to put the grill together, making it a wobbly mess of a grill on top of all of its other inherent flaws. Avoid like the plague.

Final Verdict

As a brand, Kamado Joe is the clear winner here. Their products are quality, and other brands compare unfavorable to them in terms of either construction, materials, or technology they bring to the table. The Classic II is by far the best, with the Big Joe II and Joe Jr. being very close runners up depending on what you really want them for.

I personally would stay away from the standalone variants of the above, but they do have uses for people with very specific outdoor kitchen setups, so they’re not a complete waste, just not to my preference or climate.

The only “sleeper” I’d say to consider is Viemoi’s mini kamado grill. It’s quite good for what it is, even if it doesn’t compare super well to the Joe Jr. If you find the size of it perfect, it doesn’t hurt to save that extra $100 and grab it instead, and the overall quality of the grill is very good, even if it lacks the nice extras that Kamado Joe’s models bring to the table.


What Is A Kamado Grill?

A kamado grill, or just kamado, is a traditional ceramic cooking device popular in many Asian countries for thousands of years (the earliest known appearing in China over 3000 years ago). The kind of grill we’re looking at today would be more technically referred to as a “mushikamado”, the portable variant (the original kamado were large affairs, akin to a modern stove and oven) that became popular in Japan.

Their unique ceramic construction makes them ideal for a variety of cooking purposes. While excellent at grilling and smoking (otherwise we wouldn’t even be talking about them here), the word kamado basically just means “stove” in Japan, and it can of course be used as such.

The great thing about a kamado is that, much like a range top grill, you can cook almost ANYTHING in this, making it less of a semi-specialized tool than traditional American grills.

What Do I Look For In My Kamado?

The basic construction of all kamado grills are the same: a ceramic cylinder or “egg” as the most popular brand coined the shape with top vents and a bottom draft door.

That’s all you really need to make a kamado function, as the ceramic material and specific style of construction is what makes them good in the first place.

Everything besides that is bonuses that make your life easier.

Sturdy legs with wheels are one of the big ones. Kamado are HEAVY and hard to move by hand (you’re looking at over 200 lbs at least), so if it doesn’t have wheels you’re not going to be inclined to move it a whole lot. Plus these things are short if they’re just sitting on the ground, so being a bit taller is convenient.

Much like any grill, side tables and the like are good to have, for obvious reasons. A thermometer is a must.

Look for brands that offer a variety of cooking surfaces, like pizza stones or range top attachments so you can take advantage of the kamado’s ability to cook anything you want. Among the best kamado grill accessories is the range top; it’s a big deal that I can’t overstate the usefulness of. I recommend it for any grill actually; having a flat cooking surface to use infinitely increases the variety of foods you can cook. For a simple example, eggs cooked sunny side up on a range, heated by fire and flavored a bit by the smoke? Beautiful.

And as always be sure to keep in mind the basics for any grill. Things like cooking surface; you want enough to cook enough food for everyone at whatever sized group of people you tend to cook for. Nobody likes waiting in line while everyone eats. Make sure the ceramic is crack resistant, the seals seal properly, and all of the other checks to basic quality you need to do to ensure this purchase lasts you a long time.

The final thing to keep in mind: kamado are expensive. They’re worth it, but expensive. Look for warranties and similar things, like satisfaction guarantees and the like. You don’t want to get stuck with a  defective piece of $1200 ceramic.

Now, on to the reviews themselves!