If you’ve ever fired up a kamado grill, it’s easy to see why these egg-shaped cooking vessels have cult-like followings. In terms of versatility, temperature control and heat retention, the best kamado grills are unmatched. Inspired by a traditional Japanese cooking method, the charcoal-powered grills (which are typically made of ceramic) can sear steaks over roaring fires and smoke ribs over low heat. They can even function as a convection oven to make bread and pizza. For most outdoor cooking enthusiasts, our top choice is the Kamado Joe Classic II, though that’s certainly not the only model we’d install in our backyard.
For its durability and versatility, the Kamado Joe Classic II is our top pick overall.
While kamado grills do come with a higher learning curve and price tag than your average gas or charcoal grill, these eye-catching models are worth the time and investment. “Because of a great damper system, you can really control the heat from a very low heat like 180 degrees Fahrenheit for slow cooking or open them up for grilling at high temperatures like 600 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Dan Kluger, the James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur behind New York City’s Loring Place. Their main weakness? Because most kamados are made of ceramic, they can break if knocked over. (Thankfully, these vessels have some weight to them.)
When choosing the right grill for you, it’s important to consider factors like how much cooking space you need, what types of foods you like to cook on the grill and how you plan to use your new kamado. With those in mind, here are the best models on the market, any one of which will make you feel like a longtime grillmaster. (While you’re at it, check out our list of the best gas grills.)
Cooking area: 250 square inches | Fuel: Charcoal | Weight: 250 pounds
Just like the Big Green Egg, which for long was the only widely available kamado on the U.S. market (and which appears elsewhere on this list), the Kamado Joe Classic II has a cult following, thanks to its impressive heat retention and quality construction. If you’re a big fan of tender brisket and pork butt, the grill allows you to smoke meats at 225 degrees using the Kontrol Tower top vent; if you prefer high-heat cooking, open it up to sear meats at up to 750 degrees. Adding to the grill’s versatility, if offers a two-tier system that lets you simultaneously cook foods at different temperatures.
The Kamado Joe Classic II also comes with a bunch of thoughtful features like a rolling cart stand, an air lift hinge (so you don’t need to try to lift the heavy top on your own) and side prep shelves to hold meat, buns and other grilling items. When the show’s over, a slide-out ash drawer makes clean-up quick and easy.
Cooking area: 314 square inches | Fuel: Charcoal | Weight: 100 pounds
Kamado grills are premium cooking vessels; therefore, they don’t often come cheap. But there are a few exceptions like the Char-Griller Akorn, a relatively affordable option that can keep up with the big guys. Despite its lower price tag, this triple-walled grill boasts a wide internal temperature range—it can cook between 200 and 700 degrees—while its 314 square–inch cooking space on durable cast-iron grates can hold 15 burgers at once. The grill also has eight-inch locking caster wheels in case you prefer to move it around, plus side shelves that fold down when not in use.
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Cooking area: 450 square inches | Fuel: Charcoal | Weight: 406 pounds
With a 450 square-inch cooking surface, the Kamado Joe Big Joe III has a lot in common with the Kamado Joe Classic II—it’s just a whole lot bigger. Weighing in at a whopping 406, this grill can handle up to 22 burgers at once, along with 12 pounds of charcoal to create a flame that will last for hours. It also features a three-tier “divide and conquer” cooking system that allows you to cook food in three different spots at various temperatures; the Kontrol Tower top vent to ensure the air inside the vessel stays consistent; two shelves for ample prep space; and an air-lift hinge for easy opening. Another cool feature it boasts is a SloRoller Hyperbolic Insert that makes it a cinch to convert the grill into a smoker.
Cooking area: 133 square inches | Fuel: Charcoal | Weight: 76 pounds
Not everyone needs a kamado grill that can feed an army. For those in the market for something on the smaller side, the Big Green Egg MiniMax is the perfect size. With 133 square inches of cooking space, this small ceramic kamado can accommodate a 12-pound turkey, four burgers or two steaks. It also has the range: It can hold temperatures between 150 and 750 degrees, and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. Also, does portability appeal to you? If so, the MiniMaxIt is easy to carry, thanks to its two side handles, making it relatively easy to tote to camping trips and tailgates. Just keep in mind that while this model is smaller than most, it still weighs 76 pounds, so you may need help moving it around.
Cooking area: 327 square inches | Fuel: Charcoal | Weight: 118 pounds
While most kamado grills are made from ceramic for superior heat retention, not all. One notable exception is the Char-Broil Kamander, which features an insulated double-wall steel construction that boasts the strengths of a ceramic model—but comes with a lower price tag. And if you’re new to this type of grilling, a lower cost is a nice perk. With a 327 inch grill surface, plus another 142 square-inch secondary surface, the Kamander provides ample space for all your grilling and smoking needs. Adding to its ease of use, a top-mounted damper makes for intuitive airflow adjustment while a fold-out table gives you plenty of prep space. And when the cooking is done, just remove the ash pan for quick clean-up.
Cooking area: 280 square inches | Fuel: Charcoal | Weight: 126 pounds
The Broil King Keg 5000 isn’t the smallest or lightest weight kamado out there, but its design makes it highly portable. One notable feature is its oversized wheels that allow you to roll it from spot to spot. Another—and this is definitely a unique feature—is a special hitch you can attach to the back of your car to hold your grill while you’re on the road. (Just note that the hitch needs to be purchased separately.) Similar to the Karmander, the Keg 5000 isn’t ceramic; instead, it has an insulated double-walled steel body, which doesn’t absorb moisture and odors. It also features thoughtful accessories like a swing-away secondary cooking rack, detachable side shelves and a mobility cart. A removable ash catcher makes clean-up a breeze.
Cooking area: 452 square inches | Fuel: Charcoal | Weight: 219 pounds
Big Green Egg’s XLarge Egg gives you a lot of options: You can grill, roast, smoke, sear and bake, all on this grill. The XLarge Egg fires up quickly and is ready to use within minutes, giving you a temperature range between 150 and 750 degrees. Over the roomy 452 square inch cooking space, you can smoke or grill 12 racks of ribs, 24 hamburgers and even several turkeys at once. The Egg also cooks foods to perfection, as it’s specially designed to help seal in heat and moisture, minimizing the risk of serving up hockey puck burgers. Sweetening the deal, the grill comes with a “nest” with wheels, a ceramic heat deflector and various cooking tools.
To determine the top kamados currently available, we first consulted James Beard Award-winning chef Dan Kluger to better understand the perks of owning one of these egg-shaped vessels. With his expert insight, we then did our own research into the category and scanned the market, noting top-rated and bestselling models. Next, we inspected each of those grills, analyzing their functionality, cooking space, durability, temperature range and value. Customer reviews were factored in as well to get a better sense of how these grills perform for a variety of cooking tasks across a range of homes.
It’s true that kamado grills tend to be more expensive than your average gas or charcoal model, but if you want the added versatility that kamados offers, the extra cost is definitely worth it. With a kamado, you can cook “really anything you want,” says Kluger. “I have cooked thin skirt steak over really high heat that has allowed me to get a crust and some char very quickly, and I have also cooked pork shoulder low and slow for eight hours,” he elaborates. If you’re in the market for a kamado grill but cost is a concern, consider a steel model. While ceramic is the more traditional material, steel kamados offer a lot of the same perks.
Now, that depends on your grilling goals. If you want something you can wheel out for the occasional burger night, a charcoal or flat-top grill may be more your speed. If you’re an aspiring pitmaster who wants a versatile, precise grill that can double as a smoker and convection oven, consider a kamado.
While many factors come into play, the lifespan of a kamado grill largely depends on its quality and how well it’s maintained. In general, kamado grills are built to last and many have impressive lifetime warranties. Whereas a gas grill may last a decade or so, a kamado grill can last a lifetime with the proper care and maintenance. (Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics on how to maintain your kamado grill.)