Note: This post is part of the “Kamado 101 – The Definitive Guide to Amazing Barbecue” series, in which I cover everything from the foundational aspects of Kamado cooking all the way through advanced concepts designed to transform you into a backyard barbecue pitmaster. View the entire series here.
So the decision has been made – you’re buying a Kamado grill! Awesome! Not only will your grilling gave never be the same, but you’ll have made a wise investment in a quality piece of equipment that could very easily outlive you if properly taken care of.
At this point, given the dozen or so brands of Kamado grills available on the market, you’re probably wondering which one you should buy. This short guide attempts to help you answer that question. Here are a few decision points that I used to help me make my Kamado grill buying decision.
If you’re anything like me, the very first consideration is going to be cost. Believe it or not, Kamado grills can range in cost from anywhere from about $300 for this budget-conscious Char-Griller Akorn to nearly $10,000 for the Kamado Joe Pro Joe! The sweet spot seems to be around $1,000 with most grills coming in slightly below or above that price point.
Cooking grid size is another major consideration that obviously dictates the amount of food you can cook at one time and also has the greatest impact on the overall cost. Buyers have a huge assortment of sizes to pick from when purchasing a Kamado grill – typically from about a 10″ cooking grid to as large as 29″. In other words, whether you want something portable that can be taken to tailgate parties, such as the Kamado Joe Junior Joe, or something as massive as the XXL Big Green Egg
For all intents and purposes, Kamado grills are largely the same from an overall cooking perspective, as I’ve detailed in this related post: What Exactly is a Kamado Grill?
That said however, some brands and models do feature options and accessories that you might find particularly appealing, so spend some time doing a bit of research among the various brands.
My original intent when sitting down to write this Kamado grill buying guide was to be as objective as possible, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about one of my absolute favorite Kamado features and that is the removable ash drawer on my Kamado Joe Classic. As often as I cook on my grill (easily twice or three times a week), the ability to simply slide the drawer out and dump it in a bucket is a huge time saver.
If aesthetics are important to you, consider looking at the Grill Dome line as their Kamado grills come in a range of colors.
Another manufacturer, Vision Grills, utilizes an electronic starter port on some of their grill models if you’re planning on using an electronic starter to light your lump charcoal.
Obviously if you’re going to be spending around money on a grill, you want something that will last. When checking for build quality, you’ll want to look for burrs and imperfections in the ceramic casting, a square hinge with a good seal, and check the seals. Although build quality will vary slightly from brand to brand, generally speaking the more money you spend on a grill, the more likely it will be to built better. A $300 grill isn’t going to be quite as carefully checked as one that you purchased for $1,000.
Remember that unlike with gas grills, the build quality of a ceramic grill is going to be even more important. If you don’t have a good seal or if you have loose hinges and vents, then you’re going to have more trouble getting the grill to heat, cool, and even stay the same temperature. Make sure you check it over carefully or read the return policies on grills you purchase online, just in case there’s a quality control issue.
As a note, I have heard more complaints about Big Green Eggs than most other grills, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily bad—sometimes you just get a bad egg. Make sure to talk to friends and see what their experiences have been with their grills.
What is everyone else saying about their Kamado grill of choice? Where is the grill manufactured? Does the brand of grill you’re considering have a devout fan base that would be willing to go to war to defend it?
These are all questions that might be worth asking if you decide that the grill manufacturer’s reputation is important to you.
In my research over the last year or so, it became apparent to me that there are a lot of folks out there who want to purchase a Kamado grill that’s made in the USA and if that’s the case in your situation, that excludes some of the more popular Kamado manufacturers such as Big Green Egg (made in Mexico) and Kamado Joe (made in China). Instead, you’ll probably want to check out Primo Grills which are American made.
Also, take a look around at some of the grilling and smoking forums to see what others are saying about their grills and cooking experiences.
There are lots of different pieces that go into a Kamado grill, including the metal hinges and parts, the thermometer and gaskets, the ceramic portion, etc and they all have to be in good working order for you to use the grill safely. That’s where the warranty is an important (and usually overlooked) part of the buying process.
Most companies, including Kamado Joe, Primo, and Vision, all feature different warranties for the different parts. Most have lifetime warranties for the ceramic (although there are sometimes exclusions so read carefully), 5 year for the metal bits, and even less for the rest. Depending on how you use your grill, a 90 day warranty on the pizza shelves may be more than enough to make sure that there are no defects. For others, that might not be enough. Make sure you read and consider it carefully.
With any major purchase, there are plenty of decision points to consider, but hopefully this buying guide has given you a little food for thought regarding some of the more important aspects of Kamado grills. At this point, I recommend you head over to my Resources page so you can check out each of the Kamado grill manufacturers and their respective grills available for purchase.
Lastly, if you’ve already purchased your Kamado grill, I’d love to hear exactly why you chose the make and model that you did. Please let me know in the comments below!