Kamado grills are the latest craze, even though they’ve been around for a few millennials. Then, like now, everyone loves the versatility of this all-in-one backyard grill. But you’re reading this because you want the best kamado-style grill for the money, right? We found the eight best. Let’s look at what makes them so special.
8 Best Kamado Grill Under $1,000:
1. Kamado Joe Classic I Charcoal GrillView at Amazon
People who wanted a high-quality kamado and didn’t mind paying the price love it. Many first-time users have expressed some surprise at the learning curve. This isn’t a beginner’s kamado, but beginners can cook very well with it if they put in the time and effort to learn how to cook with this unique type of grill.
We say that this is the best kamado ceramic grill for the money, and we think you’ll agree.
If you are looking for a Kamado Joe grill, but not sure which one to buy, check our full review and comparison of two of Kamado Joe’s most popular models: Classic II and Classic III
- Build Quality: The thick ceramic interior, light aluminum shell, and dependable fiberglass gasket combine to make a tough, top-of-the-line kamado.
- Price Factor: This high-end grill is still a good value, but you will need to wait till the sales to get this one for under $1000
- Cook Area: The 18” main cooking grate is fine for families and small parties.
- Heat Retention: The hefty ceramic capsule offers superior heat retention.
- Startup Time: Average. You’ll have to give it at least 90 minutes to reach the lowest optimum temps.
- Additional Accessories: You get the extra half-moon rack, an ash tool for cleaning, a built-in thermometer, and two useful side shelves.
- Ease of use: It’s just as easy to use as any other. The air hinges on the lid make it easy to open.
- Superior build quality
- Awesome heat retention
- Comes with all the accessories you need
- Be ready to pay around 100 bucks for this one, but you can get this kamado grill on sale for under $1000.
2. Pit Boss 71220 Kamado GrillView at Amazon
Since this is a smaller kamado, we paid extra attention to those who were looking for a portable kamado grill. We were happy to see that most people thought this one was small and light enough to take along on camping trips.
The general feeling is that this is a great option for anyone wanting a fully functional, yet portable, kamado.
- Build Quality: Its interior capsule is made of 1-½” of ceramic, and the nest is strong steel. All of the hardware, like hinges, dampers, and vents, are composed of iron or steel. There are no cut corners here. This kamado may very well last a lifetime, and then some.
- Price Factor: Here we have an excellent value. Considering the build quality, you’ll save about $100 over similar grills.
- Cook Area: The main grate is an impressive 22” across. Combined with the smaller secondary rack, you’ve got a total cooking area of 662 square inches. That’s about 38 burgers, to give you an idea of the actual size.
- Heat Retention: The best. Thick ceramic and a good gasket mean top-tier heat retention.
- Startup time: Generally speaking, better heat retention and thicker insulation translate into slower startup times. That holds true here. You’ll have to start the coals a couple of hours before you want to start cooking.
- Additional Accessories: None are included.
- Ease Of Use: Anyone can easily lift the lid, thanks to the lid springs. The bamboo shelves let you keep everything you need right there where you need it.
- Impressive quality
- Looks great with the wood handle and bamboo shelves
- Nice capacity
- It doesn’t come with any accessories
3. Char-Griller 6714 Acorn Jr Kamado KookerView at Amazon
With such a great price and simple design, this model shows up often in kamado barbeque reviews. Everyone likes simplicity. More experiences kamado users weren’t very impressed with the heat retention, though.
- Build Quality: The porcelain-coated steel insulation is more resistant to cracking than straight ceramic, but it can be chipped if you’re not careful with it. We like the black powder-coated steel frame nest. It’s solid.
- Price Factor: This is the best budget kamado grill. You can get it for just a couple hundred bucks.
- Cook Area: It’s rather small, considering the 14” main grate. There are only 153 square inches of actual cooking space.
- Heat Retention: This factor is lacking somewhat. You may need to add some extra coals at some point if you’re smoking bigger pieces of meat.
- Startup Time: You can be cooking in about an hour. That’s a lot quicker than the vast majority of other kamados of any size.
- Additional accessories: There aren’t any included.
- Ease Of Use: The learning curve for beginners is much more gentle because of the lower heat retention. A removable ash can make cleanup easier and quicker.
- Super affordable
- Easy to use
- Quick startup
- Small cooking area
- No accessories included
4. Primo Kamado Grills and SmokersView at Amazon
Those who have prior experience with kamado grills remark on the incredible build quality and supreme functionality of this grill. Many pros are fans. Is this the best ceramic kamado grill? We think so.
- Build Quality: The ceramic insulation is so tough that it carries a 20 warranty. 302 steel is strong and highly resistant to corrosion. That’s what makes the hinges and hardware on this grill so durable. This is a well-made grill that can last forever.
- Price Factor: High. It’s a high-quality grill at a high-end price.
- Cook Area: 18.5 in. 262 sq. in. offers enough room for cooking for large gatherings and barbeques.
- Heat Retention: This one offers outstanding heat retention for both competitors and serious backyard chefs.
- Startup Time: Better heat retention means a slower startup time. Two hours should be good enough to get up to temp for grilling.
- Additional accessories: Ash Tool and Grill Lifter.
- The slow startup time may be a little frustrating for beginners.
- Excellent quality
- Very easy to add coals
- Plenty of cooking space
- High price
5. Broil King 911470 Keg 5000 Kamado GrillView at Amazon
Some people are afraid of ceramics. That extends to ceramic kamado grills, as well. Who hasn’t had something made of ceramic break? It can be a shattering experience if you’ll pardon the pun. Ceramic-shy cooks like this grill because it can’t crack. We like that feature too.
- Build Quality: Here’s something a little unusual: There is no ceramic insulation. The shell is just double-walled steel. But ceramic kamado grill reviews sometimes mention cracking. It’s rare, but it does happen. This design does away with that worry. The hardware is steel, just like the top vent, and the lower damper is iron.
- Price Factor: Expect to pay around $900 for this one. Is it worth it? If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be reading about it here.
- Cooking Area: There’s an 18” main grate and a slightly smaller secondary. That’s pretty average. It’ll do for an average family-sized cookout.
- Heat Retention: Average. The two layers of steel do the trick nicely.
- Startup time: Quick. There is no ceramic to heat. Score another one for steel.
- Additional Accessories: It comes with detachable resin side shelves. We wish it came with more, but we do like the durability of the included shelves. The removable ashtray on this updated model is cool. It sure makes cleaning up easier.
- Ease Of Use: The secondary rack swings out. You won’t have to actually remove it if it you need better access to the main grate below. How cool is that? It really enhances the usability of this grill.
- Good heat retention
- Very durable
- 10-year warranty on the shell
- With such a quick startup, this one uses more charcoal than a ceramic kamado
6. Lonestar Chef SCS-K15B Kamado GrillView at Amazon
It’s not for competitions or pros, but the average backyard cook likes this mini kamado grill. Everyone likes the value and the extras you get.
- Build Quality: This grill has a decently thick ceramic capsule and a steel nest. It’s tough and durable but still weighs just around 80 pounds.
- Price Factor: It’s a cheap kamado grill, but it is built tough and can stand up to years of regular use without rusting.
- Cooking Area: At just 15”, there isn’t much room on the main grate. It’s enough for a family, but things can get kind of cramped if you go to do some serious grilling.
- Heat Retention: Very good. The thick ceramic does a great job of keeping the heat and moisture inside, where it belongs.
- Startup Time: The smallish size allows for quick heating, even though the ceramic is so thick. It shouldn’t take more than 90 minutes to get up to 450 degrees if you use enough quality charcoal.
- Additional Accessories: Look at everything you get: An electric starter for safe starting, a grill cover to protect your investment from the elements, and a deflector stone for indirect cooking. That is almost $100 in free accessories.
- Ease Of Use: It’s easy, especially with the included electric starter.
- Useful accessories included
- Small size makes it portable
- Fantastic heat retention
- A bit small for some
7. Tusy Kamado GrillView at Amazon
People are impressed with the value, just like we are. They’re happy to get such a well-made and functional kamado for such a great price.
- Build quality: Here we see the typical ceramic capsule and steel shell design that you’ll find in the higher quality kamados. The cooking grate is cast iron, which is durable and easy to clean if you season it properly.
- Price Factor: We like the value. Truly, this is the best kamado grill under $500.
- Cooking Space: The 18” cooking space on the main grate is plenty for the average family or a backyard gathering with your friends.
- Heat Retention: What you’d expect from a good ceramic kamado. You still might have to add some coals when cooking thick roasts.
- Startup time: Average. Figure on 90 minutes of warming time before you drop anything on the grate.
- Additional Accessories: It comes with an ash tool for quicker cleanup. You also get two wood shelves for keeping spices nearby.
- Ease Of Use: The lid dampers slide just as easily as the vents turn. Extra still lid springs really help when it comes time to check your food.
- Nice price
- Great value
- It’s a bit heavy for its size, although that really shouldn’t matter unless you plan on using it as a portable grill
8. Duluth Forge 18 Inch Kamado GrillView at Amazon
The excellent online reviews have made this one of the most popular big green egg style grills. The tall profile is familiar to many people, so they naturally gravitated to this one. All in all, everyone was happy with their purchase and would recommend this kamado to their friends.
- Build Quality: Here we have a nice, thick ceramic capsule supported by a strong steel nest and frame. All of the hardware is steel. The porcelain-coated steel cooking grate is non-stick and will stand up to many years of cooking.
- Price Factor: We’d expect to pay closer to $1,000 for this one, but you can get it for under $800.
- Cook Space: The medium 18” main grate contributes to a total cooking space of about 213 square inches. That’s good for small parties and families dinner.
- Heat Retention: This is some of the thickest ceramic we’ve seen. This makes for awesome heat retention that competitive grillers love. You’ll like it too if you do any smoking or slow cooking.
- Startup Time: It’s pretty slow to get going because of the thick ceramic insulation. Plan on a couple of hours of heating time before you start cooking.
- Additional Accessories: It comes with a built-in thermometer. That’s a convenient and useful feature that we wish was an option on all kamado grills.
- Ease Of Use: It’s pretty easy for everyone. The thermometer means you won’t have to lift the lid as often, which really simplifies things.
- Solid build
- Familiar design
- The startup time is pretty slow
What Is A Kamado Grill?
Sometimes called a Japanese egg grill because of its unique shape, a kamado is essentially a highly versatile, well-insulated outdoor charcoal-fired oven.
They go back at least 3,000 years, but the modern kamado was first introduced to America soon after World War II. They’re not a fad. Their popularity has been on a steady increase over the past several decades.
They can be used for grilling, smoking, slow cooking, and baking. This versatility is due to the wide range of temperatures that are achievable and the incredible insulation they offer.
Kamado grills were originally made of terra cotta, a material that is still used for high-quality grills today. Ceramic is another popular material that modern kamados are made from.
Larger ones are sometimes made of steel. Even smaller models are sometimes made from steel to keep the price down.
Either way, steel kamados must be insulated very well to retain the advantages of a true kamado grill.
One advantage of kamado grills that is largely absent from regular charcoal grills is the control over the cooking process that you can have once you gain a little experience.
You can slow cook or smoke a big, tender roast at a steady 250 degrees for hours. Or you can sear cook a London broil at a scorching 550 degrees.
Many kamados allow two-zone cooking. In other words, you can simultaneously cook something right over the hot coals and bake something else slowly away from the direct infrared energy of the coals.
Some kamados come with a divider of sorts to accomplish this. Others have an oval shape, so the coals can be concentrated on one side of the grill, while the food cooks on the other.
How Kamado Grills Work And How To Use Them
Kamado grills use charcoal, or sometimes wood, as a heat source.
They’re always made of highly insulating material. Sometimes the entire grill, body, and lid, are made of a single material.
The most common are ceramic and terra cotta. But many kamados have a steel exterior shell.
This allows a thinner layer of the more expensive insulating material to be used, which makes for a more affordable grill.
Larger grills are often made this way for enhanced durability.
The insulating material isn’t just there to contain heat. That’s only half of its purpose. It absorbs heat while the grill is at its peak temperature, then radiates that heat back into the interior when the coals begin to cool. That’s the kamado’s secret to steady, even heat.
The egg shape of the kamado allows the cooking grate or rack to be placed well above the coals. This prevents flare-ups and allows a much wider range of cooking techniques.
You can’t cook a pizza on a regular charcoal grill, can you? Well, you can in a kamado. In fact, pros can even bake peach cobbler and pies in one.
Many people like to use kamados as smokers, and they’re well suited to that purpose.
But multi-task grilling is where the awesomeness really shines through. Due to their size, the coals can be concentrated on one side, so food can be cooked indirectly on the other.
Direct grilling is also easy in a kamado. You can sear at up to 750 degrees. Using a Kamado isn’t nearly as intimidating as it may seem.
The best egg barbeque grills, which is what kamados are sometimes called, have a straightforward temperature control system. There are one or two vents on top of the lid and a damper near the bottom of the grill.
Generally, you open the vents and damper up for hotter temps. Colder temps require a more restricted airflow. It takes practice but getting there is half the fun.
You begin by making sure the cooking grate is clean. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
Then you load it up with charcoal. Again, this requires some experience.
Trial and error will tell you how much you need to use, but you’ll need less than you would with a regular charcoal grill.
Use paraffin cubes, a chimney, or an electric starter to get the coals going. No one likes the taste of Naptha lighter fluid.
Now, here’s the difference between kamados and other charcoal grills. Once the coals are going, you close the lid and allow the grill to preheat like an oven. You don’t want to just start cooking right away.
A Kamado is capable of holding temps from about 240 degrees to up to 700 degrees for hours, once you get the hang of it. A good thermometer is a must. Look up some good kamado-friendly recipes and get cooking!
Factors To Consider When Buying A Kamado Grill
Consider these seven key features when shopping for a kamado grill, and you’re sure to pick the right one.
Avoid uninsulated steel. There are several cheap knock-offs that are basically weirdly shaped conventional charcoal grills. All hardware should be securely attached to the grill’s body. Dampers and ash doors need to be easy to slide and firmly integrated into the grill.
Given the rising popularity of kamado grills, some unscrupulous manufacturers are making cheap, low-quality models.
They see how expensive the good ones are, and want to trick people into buying their inferior products at an incredible price.
Ask yourself if the price makes sense. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
On the other hand, carefully scrutinize any grill that costs over $1,200. Quality kamados are costly, but very expensive ones may be lacking in actual value.
Many sizes are available, from small personal models to big family-sized ones. The cooking area has no effect on the grill’s functionality other than the amount of food it can cook. Don’t let anyone tell you that smaller grills don’t get hot enough or bigger ones to get too hot.
Choose a size just big enough for your needs. That way, you get the best value.
Excellent heat retention is one of the main advantages of kamado grills. It’s what allows them to cook so evenly.
Ceramics, terra cotta, and similar materials offer the best heat retention, but they are also the most expensive. Insulated steel is the cheapest, but it does not retain heat very well.
We’ve seen all kinds of accessories, from trailer hitches to ash brushes. If you can find a grill that comes with everything you need, go for it. You’ll save money by bundling like that. Above all, make sure that you can at least buy everything you want separately.
Ease Of Use
Kamado grill reviews are full of regrets that people have over choosing an unrealistically complicated grill. Avoid grills that have complicated and unnecessary moving parts. We’ve seen some with ventilation fans. Don’t be fooled by silly bells and whistles.
Kamado Grill FAQs
How Long Do Kamado Grills Last?
The best ones can last a lifetime. The cheaper or larger steel ones will eventually rust, no matter how well you take care of them. Still, that could take many years.
But ceramics and the terra cotta ones will last forever, as long as they don’t get cracked from rough handling. Don’t worry. You can get an affordable Kamado Grill that will last for the rest of your life.
Can They Be Dangerous?
The most serious issue is flash. That’s when you open the grill, and the rush of oxygen over the hot coals causes a fireball. You can avoid this by opening the dampers a few minutes before opening the grill.
There’s also a danger of getting burned on the hot grate, but you should be wearing fireproof gloves when you use any grill anyway.
What’s The Best Way To Light A Kamado?
You shouldn’t use lighter fluid with any charcoal grill. It can impart a chemical flavor to the food. Instead, use an electric starter or a chimney. Parrafin cubes also work very well.
Keep in mind that you’ll probably use a lot less charcoal than you would with a regular grill. It won’t take long to get the coals going.
Are You Supposed To Use Briquettes Or Lump Charcoal?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Briquettes produce a lot of ash, which can block airflow through the dampers. But briquettes are easier for beginners to deal with.
Lump charcoal produces less ash, but it takes some practice to get the right-sized bed of coals with a lump. Competitive Kamado grillers use lump charcoal.
Do Well-Insulated Kamados Stay Cool To The Touch?
One manufacturer claims that their Kamado is so well insulated that you can hug the lid when it’s up to cooking temp. Don’t try this. The body and lid of any Kamado will get hot, just not as hot as an ordinary charcoal grill. You should always use insulated fireproof gloves.
Well, it looks like we’ve done a good job of showcasing the best kamado smoker grills. Hopefully, you’ve done a good job of paying attention. If you did, you likely have your favorite in mind by now.
Our favorite is Kamado Joe’s. It’s a good choice for anyone who doesn’t mind spending that much on a great grill. If you need to go cheap, go with the Char-Griller. For portability, consider the Pit Boss.
Now’s the time to get the best kamado grill under $1000. Can’t you just smell the charcoal burning now?