The Best Kamado Grill for Smoking and Grilling, Tested and

When we fired it up for our first cook, it surpassed our target temperature very quickly, but because it’s not ceramic, it didn’t take too long to get the temp back to where we wanted it—and we were able to keep it within the desired range (250ºF–275ºF), even if we did burn through more charcoal than we intended in the process. It might take a little extra work to make the Akorn work for you but once you figure it out, it will do everything you need it to and you’ll be a better griller because of it.

What we didn’t love about the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado

In addition to its unusual body, the Akorn’s materials are prone to rust and corrosion, so it’s important to keep the grates oiled and protect the body from the elements with a cover. There’s no heat deflector included, so if you want to use this kamado for serious smoking, you need to purchase one separately.

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Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill


How we tested kamado grills

We assembled each grill (which was easier than assembling charcoal or gas grills, by the way!) and performed any high-heat burn-offs required by the manual before casually using the grills for a few weeknight dinners. Because it’s easier and faster to get the temperature of a kamado grill up than down, when it was time for official testing, we smoked first. We arranged Fogo Lump Charcoal (most kamado grill manufacturers recommend using lump over briquettes) on each grill’s fuel grate according to the manufacturer’s instructions for a smoking setup, and used grilling fire starters and a lighter to light each grill. When the coals were sufficiently hot, we added a few chunks of hickory wood to each and used the dampers to get the grills to a temperature between 250ºF and 275ºF. When we were confident the temperatures were locked in, we oiled the grates and smoked a 16-ounce bone-in pork chop and two pork sausages on each kamado. We monitored the internal temperature of the pork as well as the ambient temperature of each kamado grill using the Meater Block smart meat thermometer connected to an iPad and kept an eye on the built-in lid thermometers too. To get the kamados hot enough to grill, we opened the top and bottom vents enough to set each grill’s temperature between 450ºF and and 500F. We cooked a marinated boneless chicken breast and shrimp skewers directly over high heat, observing taste, texture, moisture, and grill marks. When we were done cooking we monitored the grills to see how long each stayed warm.


What we looked for

Materials 

Is the grill made of quality materials? Ceramic is the most common material for a kamado grill. In addition to retaining heat extremely well, it can last indefinitely if well maintained. But ceramic is heavy and it can crack if you drop it, so some people may prefer a lighter-weight (though less durable) material like double-walled stainless steel. We tested both ceramic and steel kamado grills for this review.

Temperature control

Was it easy to get the grill to the desired cooking temperature and keep it within a desired temperature range for grilling and smoking?

Ease of use

How easy or hard was it to use each kamado grill? Did the manual provide enough instruction for set up and and use each for grilling and smoking.

Accessories

What accessories are included? Which ones are missing? Some kamado grills come with nearly everything you need to start cooking while you need to buy accessories for others. I looked at what accessories were included with each grill, as well as what additional accessories are available to purchase.

Features

Does the kamado grill have any features that enhance the cooking experience? Conversely, are there features that feel gimmicky and unnecessary?

Cleaning and maintenance

How easy or hard is it to clean each grill? Does the manual include clear instructions for proper maintenance? Does the grill come with any tools to make cleaning easier or less messy?


What else to consider when buying a kamado grill

Warranty

A kamado grill is an investment, especially if you buy a high-end ceramic model. Trusted brands like Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe offer limited lifetime warranties on the ceramic parts but only for the original owner (something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of buying second hand). The Akorn comes with a limited five-year warranty and the Weber Summit has a 10-year limited warranty.

Size

Like kettle charcoal grills, a kamado grill’s listed size refers to the diameter of the grill grate. Size is a matter of need and personal preference, but the bigger the grill, the more it will weigh and cost. Even the lightest kamado grills are too heavy to take tailgating. (Some people have figured out clever ways to transport their kamado grills, but it’s risky business. We recommend checking out our review of the best portable grills instead.)

Price

Kamados are pricey, at least compared to standard charcoal grills, and more often than not, price is indicative of quality, materials, and size.


The takeaway

If you want a high-end ceramic kamado grill, you’ll be happy with either the Kamado Joe Classic II or the Big Green Egg, but if you want something that you can use right out of the box go with Kamado Joe. If you’re only going to have one grill, and you want the ability to easily switch between traditional charcoal grilling and low-and-slow smoking, consider the more versatile steel Weber Summit Kamado. For an entry-level kamado grill with a more accessible price tag, consider the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado, a compact steel kamado.

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