Everything You Need to Know About Kamado Grills

Considering a Kamado Grill for your backyard BBQ's this season? Grill and Outdoor Expert Travis Hill walks us through all the basics of these Japanese-style grills!

A Kamado Joe grill sitting in a backyard.

Photo courtesy of Kamado Joe Grills

In recent years, the kamado-style charcoal grill has gained increasing popularity for its versatility, durability, and capacity for high heat. This fantastic and convenient cooker has been reimagined and improved upon for many years in many different countries. However, the basic concept has remained unchanged for thousands of years…evidence of it being hard to improve on perfection! So let's dive into everything you need to know about and how to choose the perfect kamado grill.

Kamado in History

A traditional Kamado Grill.

A traditional kamado in a Japanese museum

The origins of the Kamado grill trace back to China. Approximately 3,000 years ago, the Chinese developed a ceramic cooking device. During the Qin dynasty, a device called the Yan steamer cooked rice efficiently, so the developers designed this device specifically to cook rice. China then imported the machine to Japan during the Kofun period, and the Japanese called it a "kamado."

Kamado Grills 101

Three Kamado Grills standing next to each other.

Photo by Didriks

The kamado we all know and love today is a large, oval sphere, just like an egg. As a result, consumers refer to it as the “big green egg.” There are many kamado-style cookers on the market, and a few of these other brands have gone so far as to have studies done by Ivy League universities to improve the modern kamado-style grill.

The modern kamado has ceramic walls that help retain heat and creates a super-hot oven. You still use coals, but rather than charcoal briquettes that you must arrange precisely, or gas burners you have to adjust, the kamado charcoal grill’s lower hemisphere is filled to the brim with lump charcoal.

With a typical charcoal grill, you arrange the briquettes to control the heat, and with a gas grill, you contain the amount of gas on the flame. With the kamado charcoal grill, you open and close dampers to control the temperature precisely as the cast iron heats up and acts like an oven.

While traditional and modern kamado grills reach for the intergraded refractory ceramics, there has been a disturbance in ceramic kamado “Force” in recent years. This shift comes in the form of cast aluminum. Cast aluminum has been a fairly good alternative for those that want the versatility of a kamado grill, but want something more durable with easier maintenance. The Blaze 20in Cast Aluminum Kamado grill fits this bill perfectly.

The Importance of the Ceramic Foundation

The ceramic base is the meat and potatoes of the kamado cooker. The integrated ceramic base and ring set the foundation for remarkable heat retention. The ceramic kamado grill can stand alone or rest in a stainless steel mobile cart. These ceramic grills have the same features as a charcoal grill, such as an interior firebox, top vents, bottom vents, and lids with handles.

The thick ceramic interworkings (including the firebox) turn this charcoal grill into an artist's canvas. This firebox sits in the center bottom of the ceramic cooker itself. In an expanded view, the stainless steel or cast iron charcoal basket or fire grate fits inside the ceramic body, followed by the ceramic heat retention ring. Visualizing this brings you to the top center of the cooker, where you will find the cooking grate and the spring or airlift hinge top closing ceramic dome.

With all of these features, cooking is limitless! The ability to manipulate two-zone cooking makes this ceramic wonder top-notch. Whether you want to cook burgers or steaks with a direct flame, smoke brisket and pork butts using an indirect cooking zone, or make pizzas on a pizza stone, the number of different foods and techniques used on the kamado grill is endless.

The Accessories Backed By Science

There are so many accessories that allow you to cook anything you want on this fantastic cooker. A lot of these accessories have been developed and manufactured by institutions all over the world. It is endearing to think about how so many people from different countries come and work together on outdoor grilling!

The article that sticks out to me every time is the study done by a group from Harvard. Their research and findings created the Indirect Marvel Slö Roller for the kamado grill brand, Kamado Joe. This article by B. Steele puts the collaboration of science and outdoor grill into a whole new perspective.

There are many different accessories that you can add to your kamado grill. Every one of these fun tools can help diversify your cooking. Half-moon ceramic stones and grates can give you two different cooking zones, and raised racks and deflector plates can isolate and direct heat and smoke to give you an incredible indirect cooking experience.

Cleaning the Kamado Grill

Because of the sturdy ceramics from which a kamado grill is made, it’s especially easy to clean and wipe down the main base, Kontrol Tower, and other outside components after use. There are various ways to clean the ash pan or compartment, in which an ash tool is used to get the entirety of the ash out and keep the ash drawer ready for subsequent use.

Ensure that you keep the Kontrol Tower/top vent closed after use to keep as much water and debris out as possible. Water has a tendency to hide out in porous ceramics. It’s normally not an issue, however, ceramics with moisture in them can crack in colder freezing weather. Water in the ceramic firebox does require a bit more attention to dry properly. I suggest drying with a towel and then starting your next cook at 215 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 mins to completely dry.

Things to Know About Kamado Grills

Typical barbecue grills dry food out, sucking all the moisture from them as they cook food from the bottom up. The kamado helps food retain moisture. Remember, the original design existed as a rice cooker, and rice cannot cook unless it has moisture that stays in it.

Barbecue masters can use the best kamado grill for anything they'd use a traditional grill for. They can cook flat-bread pizza using a flat ceramic or stone tray, as well as meat and vegetables without the harsh and dry texture of typical barbecue grills. Kamado grills are similar to wood-fired ovens because you can both roast and bake with both.

The best kamado grills can hold temperatures as low as 250°F and reach temperatures as high as 750°F. This high temperature is maintained with extensive vent systems, perfect for grilling in the winter when all you want to do is stay warm and cozy in the house.

One thing to note is that the kamado grill is not perfect for everyone. There are a few different types of charcoal grills that you should consider when you’re looking to buy a new grill. In addition to the kamado variety, you may also find a traditional metal sphere grill or a wood smoker. Kamado grills come at a higher price point than most of the other charcoal grills out there, so it's important to make sure you consider all the other options for your cooking style. Consider the amount of mobility you are looking for in your charcoal grill and the capabilities and features for your own cooking style as well.

Kamado grills differ in convenience and cleaning. Some kamado grills have convenient methods of cleaning with ash catchers or trays you can just pull out and empty. Others require a thorough disassembly to be cleaned thoroughly.

How to Choose Your Kamado Grill

A grill master moves some bacon on a Kamado Grill. There are also some eggs and tomatoes on the grill.

Photo courtesy of Kamado Joe Grills

With the increasing popularity of the modern kamado style grill, many brands are trying to make the best, most versatile kamado grills. There are many fantastic kamado-style grills from various brands with similar price points and features.

There are different models with larger cooking surfaces, or the ability to focus their accessories on specific cooking techniques and styles. There are kamado-style grills that give you more cooking space by adding more racks and side shelves. From the Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe to the Blaze Cast Aluminium kamado, there are so many accessories to choose from to be able to cook just the way you want to.

Another option is to build your own kamado-style cooker! That’s right, you can do it yourself with a few simple products. All you need are suitable ceramic clay pots, some crafting tools, and some time to build.

It takes some time and some trial and error to get the DIY novelty working correctly, but luckily for you, we have Grill Experts who can walk you through building step-by-step.

When choosing which grill you want, you just have to ask yourself: What do I like to cook? How much food do I usually want to cook at one time, and who am I cooking them for?

Once you have that down, come check us out on Curated, and chat with our Grill and Outdoor Kitchen Experts. We would love to help you find that perfect grill and ensure you get the one that works for you and your lifestyle.

Meet the author
Grill & Outdoor Kitchen Expert Travis Hill
Travis Hill
Grill & Outdoor Kitchen Expert
Travis here! How can I help?
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Written By
So happy to meet y'all! My name is Travis, and was raised on Central Texas BBQ. My father was the one who taught me how to cook over an open fire when I was just a young lad; Made sure I knew the two ingredients for authentic Texas-style BBQ; Oak and fire. Since then, I have always had that passion...

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