Kamado grilling is exploding in popularity. Based on traditional Japanese cookers, kamados use charcoal as a fuel to deliver impressive heat performance and natural convection.
If you’re interested in the kamado craze but aren’t quite sure what it all means, this is the guide for you.
The Design Philosophy of a Kamado Grill
By breaking a kamado grill down to the simplest elements, you’ll get a better understanding of why the design works so well.
Kamado grills are cylindrical, but not in the same way as a barrel grill. They are oriented vertically so they’re longer top to bottom than they are side to side. The body is rounded, with a slightly smaller bottom.
With the cooking fuel right at the bottom of the grill, heated air rises up the sides, hits the top where it cools, and then flows back down to recirculate as it is heated again. This natural convection thoroughly cooks food, even at lower temperatures.
This allows you to go from traditional grilling, right down to smoking, or low-and-slow barbecue cooking. The walls of kamado grills are traditionally thick.
On the most expensive grills, the body is made entirely from cast iron. This metal retains heat well and allows for the hottest interior temperatures.
More affordable grills achieve a similar result by using double-walled shells. These insulated grills are cheaper to manufacture and more suited to the average home cook.
Kamado grills are designed primarily for cooking with the top down, but it is possible to add more cooking fuel to cook food quickly with the top-up. How you use a kamado is entirely up to you.
What are Kamado Grills Used For?
By nature of design, kamado grills excel when convection is used. You can cook most of your traditional favorites using a kamado-style grill.
Kamados are ideal for:
- Smoking food at low or medium temperatures. You can add wood chips or pellets directly on top of the cooking fuel.
- Cooking large cuts of meat at medium or low temperatures.
- Cooking whole birds like chicken, duck, and turkey. The natural convection ensures thorough cooking.
- Baking and roasting your favorite ingredients. You can even use a kamado as a pizza oven. The enclosed design allows even the most affordable grills to achieve temperatures above 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cooking burgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages, and other family favorites. The combination of high heat and convection will create a delicious crust around meats, and ingredients will be cooked thoroughly.
If you want to grill with the top up, you can do it on a kamado. The biggest downside is that it’s impossible to create distinct heat zones on smaller grills, and you will need to use a lot of charcoal to get decent performance with direct heat.
Think of top-up cooking as a secondary feature. Kamados truly shine when the hood is closed and latched.
What are Some of the Most Popular Kamado-Style Grills?
The market for kamado grills is rapidly expanding. You’ll find several popular models, some from familiar brands, at varied price points.
- The Char-Griller Akorn Jr. is one of the most popular small kamados. It’s ideal for camping, picnics, or cooking at home for a small family.
- The Kamado Joe Classic II is a much larger model with a solid body and an 18” cooking surface. It’s a good all-around grill for smoking, family cooking, and entertaining groups.
- The Kamado Joe Big Joe II is an even larger premium option with a 24-inch cooking surface. It’s ideal for both smoking and cooking, and it offers excellent sealing and heat performance.
Whether you choose something compact or a larger grill, you could find a kamado to be perfect for your needs.
Consider the limitations of a kamado before you buy. If you primarily smoke and love cooking with the hood down, you’ll find a kamado to be one of the best grill styles.