Best Kamado Grills From Consumer Reports’ Tests

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For more than 30 years, the Big Green Egg was the only widely available kamado-style charcoal grill. It developed a cultlike following, and it’s easy to see why. 

Its thick ceramic walls, airtight design, and highly adjustable dampers combine to create a cooker that can produce a rip-roaring fire for searing steaks or slow-burning coals to gently smoke pork butts or brisket—with no need to add extra charcoal or even fidget with the dampers.

The Egg, like most kamado grills, is positioned as a combination charcoal grill, smoker, and outdoor oven.

When Consumer Reports first tested it, we noted that the Big Green Egg delivered unparalleled control over flames and flexibility of cooking temperature when compared with a traditional charcoal grill.

But it seems that fans of the Egg—self-proclaimed Eggheads—haven’t been the only ones to take notice of the grill’s many virtues.

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of Egg-inspired kamado cookers showing up at wholesale clubs, home centers, and hardware stores.

“We’ve seen close to a dozen new kamado grills come on the market,” says Mark Allwood, a market analyst who oversees gas and charcoal grills for Consumer Reports. “Most of these models are shaped like the Egg, but each has unique features that manufacturers claim make it superior to the competition.”

Prices for kamado grills range from $300 to nearly $2,000, and we’ve seen models with metal exteriors, side shelves, extra dampers, and a whole host of options. The large Egg, Big Green Egg’s top seller, retails for about $1,200 when equipped with basics such as locking wheels.

But can these Egg-inspired alternatives really cook as well as the original? Consumer Reports tested eight kamado grills, including the Big Green Egg, as well as models from Char-Broil, Kamado Joe, Weber, and others. Chief among their similarities is that the eight kamados we tested can make great food. (We test high-heat cooking with pizza and low-heat cooking with pulled pork shoulder.)

But we also found some big differences in how easy each grill is to use and control. Some require constant adjustments to the temperature; with others, it can be set and left alone for hours, which is exactly what you want when you’re cooking a brisket.

Our grill buying guide is a great place to start if you want to understand the differences between kamado and traditional charcoal grills. CR members can also browse our comprehensive ratings of gas, charcoal, and kamado grills, and read on for ratings and reviews of three of the top kamado grills from our tests. But first, some of our expert tips to get great results from any kamado grill. 

5 Tips for Great Results With Any Kamado

A kamado grill can provide a greater temperature range than any other type of grill, but it also works differently from gas, pellet, or charcoal grills. You’ll need to practice using the dampers to control the heat. No matter which model you purchase, these five tips will help you get great results. 

Brisket and Ribs
Use a heat-deflecting plate (included with the Kamado Joe featured below, and sold as an extra for other models) to protect slow-smoked meats from drying out during cooking. The plate is usually an inch-thick ceramic disc that doubles as a pizza stone. 

Chicken
Thin pieces can be cooked with the lid open the entire time. For thicker pieces or a whole chicken, close the lid and control the temperature with the dampers. 

Veggies
Skewer smaller vegetables like button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and pieces of peppers to keep them from falling through the grates on your grill, because the gaps on kamado grills can be larger than those on gas. 

Pizza
Heat the pizza stone (included with most kamados) in the grill, then dust it with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Dust the underside of your pizza and pizza peel, too. 

Fish
Hearty fish like salmon, tuna, and swordfish stand up well to smoke imparted by cooking with a mix of charcoal and wood chips or wood chunks. For more delicate fish like sole, tilapia, and bass, try cooking only with charcoal, because the smoke flavor can become overpowering. 

But can these Egg-inspired alternatives really cook as well as the original? Consumer Reports recently finished testing eight of these kamado grills, including the Big Green Egg itself, and found some big differences—as well as surprising similarities. Chief among them is that any of the 8 kamados we tested can make great food (we test high heat cooking with pizza and low heat with pulled pork shoulder).

The big differences come in how easy each grill is to use and control. Some require constant adjustments to fine-tune temperature; others can be set and left alone for hours.

Our grill buying guide is a great place to start if you want to understand the differences between kamado and traditional charcoal grills. CR Members can also browse our comprehensive ratings of gas, charcoal, and kamado grills. Here, we pick three of the best kamado grills from our recent test, and explain what makes them standouts.

But can these Egg-inspired alternatives really cook as well as the original? Consumer Reports recently finished testing eight of these kamado grills, including the Big Green Egg itself, and found some big differences—as well as surprising similarities. Chief among them is that any of the 8 kamados we tested can make great food (we test high heat cooking with pizza and low heat with pulled pork shoulder).

The big differences come in how easy each grill is to use and control. Some require constant adjustments to fine-tune temperature; others can be set and left alone for hours.

Our grill buying guide is a great place to start if you want to understand the differences between kamado and traditional charcoal grills. CR Members can also browse our comprehensive ratings of gas, charcoal, and kamado grills. Here, we pick three of the best kamado grills from our recent test, and explain what makes them standouts.

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Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2020, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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