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Kamado vs Pellet Grill: Which Is Best? 5 Shocking Differences

By Daniel Cdebaca

June 3, 2024

Not sure what type of smoker is best for you?

If you’re after unrivaled versatility and a flavorsome, smoky flair… It’s likely down to two top contenders: Kamado vs pellet grill.

Kamados have been around for over 3,000 years… For good reason!

And though pellet grills may be a much newer invention… These innovative appliances are certainly intriguing.

But both can’t earn that number one spot… So which BBQ smoker stands out?

This article will get to the depths of all the differences… So you can choose between the two.

And by the end, you should know which type of smoker is better suited to your tastes.

Ready to dive in?

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Kamado and Pellet Smokers: An Overview

Before we embark on our kamado grill vs pellet grill comparison… A quick look at each type of grill is in order.

How do each of these smokers stack up?

What Is A Kamado Grill?

red kamado joe ceramic smoker with meat cooking

With just one look at a kamado grill… You already know that you’re seeing something different.

These oblong, egg-shaped grills have a huge domed hood… And many models are finished with a glossy, vibrant glaze. (The Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe come to mind!)

At the very least, they’re certainly eye-catching!

But, they haven’t always looked like that.

In the days of old (we’re talking thousands of years ago)… Mushikamado rice cookers were popular across Asia. These were the first recognizable ancestors of today’s kamado.

These featured a large clay cooking chamber with a domed lid… Not all that different from the modern day kamado.

In place of clay… Kamado grills are now constructed with ceramic cooking chambers.

They excel at retaining heat, from low to scorching hot…

And thanks to the addition of cooking grates, vents, and other functional features, they have expanded far beyond simply cooking rice.

Now, how do pellet grills perform?

What Is A Pellet Grill?

pellet grill rta outdoor kitchen

In comparison to kamado grills… Pellet grills have only been around for a blink of an eye.

To put it in perspective, the first wood pellet smoker was invented in the 1980s by Joe Traeger. (That’s three millennia after the first kamado came to be!)

Today, Traeger grills are still popular as ever… But they’re no longer the only name in the industry. (Coyote, Yoder, Pit Boss, Memphis, and Louisiana Grills are a few other options.)

At this point, it would seem that pellet grilling is much more than a just passing fad.

With superior heat retention… Wide temp temperature ranges… And vast versatility… There’s a lot to love about pellet grills!

At a glance, it’s clear to see that both kamado and pellet grills share some similarities… Despite a bit of an age discrepancy.

But don’t be fooled! For all their similarities, there are still plenty of differences left to divulge.

And that’s what you’re here for!

So, let’s see what separates these smokers.

Kamado vs Pellet Grill: Which Is Better For You?

It’s time to clear the air (or should we say “smoke?”) on kamado and pellet grills… And see what sets them apart.

So, let’s get to the bottom of the kamado vs pellet grill debate once and for all.

Pellet Grill vs Kamado: Fuel Source

You can’t fire up a grill without fuel… So what better way to kick off our discussion?

Let’s see what powers each type of grill. 

Kamado Grill Fuel Source

Unlike pellet grills… The name “kamado grill” doesn’t lend itself to any spoilers. So, what’s the fuel behind these cooking powerhouses?

It’s lump charcoal.

Unlike traditional briquettes used in charcoal grills, lump charcoal is a more natural alternative. It’s a wood that has burned and cleansed of any chemicals, saps, or other additives.

Lump charcoal ignites much more readily than briquettes, even without lighter fluid on hand… Plus, it’ll burn hotter and for longer, making it quite fuel efficient!

That said, lump charcoal does tend to be more expensive than typical briquettes, so keep this in mind!

What about pellet grills? 

Pellet Grill Fuel Source

While kamado grills only need lump charcoal and constant access to airflow (to keep the coals lit)Pellet grills are a bit more needy.

On top of wood pellets, they also require electricity. This powers up digital control panels, fans, and other moving parts.

Without electricity and wood pellets… A pellet smoker won’t run. So, it’s important to account for both in your total operating expenses!

That said, pellets are even more fuel efficient than lump charcoal… So unless you’re always searing at temps pushing 500 degrees, it’ll probably take you a while to get through a standard 20 pound bag. (You can usually expect 20 hours or more of cook-time.)

While there are no drastic differences in operating cost… Just know that you will likely spend a bit more to fuel a pellet grill.

Kamado Grill vs Pellet Smoker: Ease Of Use

Both kamado smoking and pellet grilling are a far cry from operating your trusty old gas grill.

While using a kamado grill is about as analogue as it gets… Pellet grills come packed with a plethora of digital doodads.

How does this impact your experience?

Kamado Grill Ease Of Use

tamara day cooking a pizza on a coyote asado smoker

Though they may seem straightforward enough… We wouldn’t say kamados are exactly beginner friendly.

They definitely require some getting used to, especially in regards to temperature control.

The first step in the kamado cooking process is preheating.

The concept is easy enough to grasp, but this can actually prove to be quite a drawn out task.

You’ll have to place lump charcoal in a cast iron firebox below the cooking grates… Ignite it… Close the lid… And wait for your cooker to come to temperature.

The amount of time it takes the cooking space to preheat depends on your target temperature, but generally… Expect to wait at least 15-45 minutes.

To reach the temp you want… You’ll have to fiddle around with both top and bottom vents to get the airflow just right. (The more air, the hotter the cooking area… The less airflow, the less heat output.)

As you can imagine… This skill takes some finetuning!

But getting up to temp is the biggest hurdle! Once your temperature’s set, cooking on a kamado isn’t a terribly involved process.

Though you should monitor your coal reserves every now and then… Kamados are largely self-sufficient, and should maintain that hard earned temperature for you.

Pellet Grill Ease Of Use

couple using their built in coyote pellet grill

On the other hand, pellet grills are loaded with digital components and technical features… Which at first, may seem intimidating.

But even with no prior experience… It couldn’t be easier to use a pellet grill.

Rather than toy around with air vents, all you’ll have to do to start grilling is set your desired temperature on a digital control panel.

In some cases, you can even start your grill from an app on your phone! (Many models support WiFi connectivity.)

When your temp’s set… The pellet grill will take the wheel. An auger will automatically dispense pellets into the firepot, where they’ll be ignited to maintain a consistent temperature.

Once your grill preheats in about 10-20 minutes, all you have to do is wait for your food to cook.

If you know your way around an indoor oven… You can use a pellet grill. It’s that easy!

But if you’re up for a learning curve… Kamado style cooking may be well worth it.

Cooking On A Kamado Grill vs Wood Pellet Grill

Whether you’re smoking ribs, steak, brisket, or just good old fashioned burgers and dogs… What can you expect from cooking on each type of grill?

Temperature Range

close up of temperature gauge on pellet grill

Both kamado and pellet grills alike can hit low degrees up to scorching high heats… But there’s a bit more nuance at play here!

Kamado grills can typically preheat from 200 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit… While the average wood pellet smoker works at temps between 200 and 500 degrees.

That said, high quality pellet grills can often reach much hotter temps, of 700 degrees or more. Usually, these models support direct flame searing right over the heat source.

Both of these grillers are used most commonly for low and slow smokes, thanks to their superior heat retention.

But they also work great in those higher temperature ranges!

Hence, why both are so often touted for their outstanding versatility.

Speaking of…

Versatility

With a wide range of cooking temperatures to work with… It’s safe to say that there’s not much you can’t cook on pellet and kamado grills.

Searing? Check.

Rotisserie? Check.

Roasting? Check.

Additionally… Both kamados and pellet grills have fantastic insulative properties, which allows them to maintain consistent, low temperatures for super long periods of time. We’re talking for 8 or more hours!

Because of this, both pellet and kamado grills can be used for smoking low and slow… And those steady temps also make baking possible!

Though both types of grill are just as versatile… We are inclined to give kamados the lead here.

Not only are they multifaceted on their own… But many can also be paired with accessories like pizza stones, heat deflectors, griddles, poultry roasters, and more, to really open up a realm of cooking options. (Many of these are easy to find on Amazon!)

While pellet grills can also be used with tools like griddles and rotisserie kits… There aren’t nearly as many pellet grill accessories as there are kamado grill add-ons.

Flavors

a chicken being cooked on a coyote asado
grilling on coyote built in pellet grill

Honestly, no one cares how much you can cook if the food you make doesn’t taste good.

Of course, this partially depends on your own status as grill master…

But the type of grill you have will also leave a major footprint on flavors.

In the case of kamado grill or pellet smokers… There are a couple factors that’ll impact flavor profile.

First, fuel type.

Since kamado grills cook with lump charcoal… You’ll get to enjoy super pure, rich, smoky flavors.

For pellet grills… Wood pellets will provide more of a distinctively wood-fired smoke taste. But note that this smoke taste will be more mild than that of charcoal. 

You’ll have a bit more discretion when cooking with pellets… As they’re often infused with different flavors. Hickory, apple, cherry, mesquite, and maple are a few common options.

But fuel type aside… Pellet and kamado grilled food alike will be exceptionally tender and juicy.

This is because both types of grill retain heat extremely well (we’ve mentioned this a few times by now!)… So that heat will circulate around the internal cooking chamber, without constantly drawing in new air.

So, this point of contention truly depends on whether you prefer the taste of charcoal… Or if you’re more into wood-fired flavors.

But in either case, expect melt-in-your-mouth, delicious smoked meats.

Pellet Grill vs Kamado Grill: Which Makes A Bigger Mess?

close up of built in pellet grill

Next, it’s time to mull over maintenance.

And as with any type of grill… Cleaning the grill grates is a must (absolutely nobody wants leftovers to show up in their future cooks).

Luckily, grill grates are usually quite easy to get clean.

By cranking your kamado or pellet grill up to a high temperature, any unwanted leftovers or drippings on your grill grates can be burnt off. (Just don’t leave the heat roaring for too long, as this can be a safety hazard.)

Once cool, you can then easily remove any carbonized bits with a brush or other cleaning utensil.

But on top of cleaning the cooking grates, we can’t forget to mention that both pellets and lump charcoal will churn out ash.

Luckily, lump charcoal doesn’t produce a load of ash buildup… and any ash that is produced will be contained within the firebox.

At most, you’ll only have to clear ash from your kamado every few uses.

Wood pellets, on the other hand, make more of a mess.

And since there’ll be more ash buildup, you’ll need to clean a pellet grill more frequently. Otherwise, you risk cutting off airflow.

The way you’ll remove ash buildup depends on the type of pellet grill you have. Some have ash canisters, which allows you to easily and neatly dispose of the mess.

But others require you to remove all the interior components to thoroughly vacuum out the inner workings of your grill.

Again, we’ll give kamados the leg up for easy maintenance… If only because lump charcoal is less of a pain in the “ash” to deal with (so to speak).

Pellet vs Kamado Grill: Pricing

Before you’re sold on either kamado or pellet grills… It’d help to know how much each type of smoker will set you back.

Though they’re less technical… Kamado grill pricing is actually comparable to that of pellet grills.

And neither are what we’d call “cheap!”

Even the lower end offerings tend to start above $500…

Higher quality kamados can get up to the $3,000 range…

And many pellet grills may even surpass $5,000!

It makes sense why most pellet grills have a bigger price tag… They’re built with lots of electric and digital components, which are more expensive to produce.

But, why are kamado grills so expensive?

Well, it’s because they’re made with ceramic… Which also isn’t cheap to produce.

So, no matter what type of grill you’re leaning towards… You will likely pay a pretty penny for a quality model.

This means you’ll want to be absolutely positive you’re choosing the right smoker!

Wood Pellet Grill vs Kamado Conclusion: Which Cooker Is Better?

Kamado Grill Pros

  • Kamado grills are fuel efficient… And don’t require electricity to operate.
  • Operating expenses may be a bit lower.
  • Kamado grills churn out delicious, juicy, charcoal-smoked foods.
  • Kamados have fantastic heat retention and a wide temperature range.
  • Lump charcoal produces little ash buildup… And is easy to clean.
  • Kamados are super versatile on their own… And have plenty of available add-ons to elevate their versatility.

Kamado Grill Cons

  • Ceramic is expensive to produce, so kamado grills are on the expensive side.
  • Preheating a kamado grill takes a while.
  • It can be tricky to achieve your desired temperature… And preheating requires a significant learning curve.
built in pellet grill in moks

Pellet Grill Pros

  • Wood pellets are fuel efficient and slow burning.
  • Pellet grilled food is juicy, tender, and smoky.
  • Pellet grills are beginner friendly and easy to use.
  • Preheating a pellet grill is quick, and it’s easy to reach precise temps.
  • Pellet grills are low maintenance, for a “set it and forget it” cooking process.
  • Pellet grills are versatile.

Pellet Grill Cons

  • Most pellet grills are expensive.
  • Operating cost of pellet grills is a bit higher.
  • Pellet grills require both wood pellets and electricity to operate.
  • Pellet grill maintenance is more involved.
  • There aren’t as many pellet grill accessories available.

Even with all the details, you may still be struggling to decide which smoker is better.

And if you’re looking for a clear cut answer… Well, you may be hard pressed to find one.

Both pellet grills and kamado grills bring a lot to the table!

Vast temperature ranges… Mouthwatering flavors… And exceptional versatility are just the beginning of everything there is to love about kamado and wood pellet grills.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which smoker is a better fit for your backyard.

If you prefer grilling in your pajamas… From the comfort of your couch… You have your answer. A pellet grill is the clear winner!

But if you don’t shy away from a challenge and enjoy the rich flavors of charcoal grilling… There’s a good chance you’d be perfectly content with a kamado grill.

Either way, your guests won’t be disappointed.

But we have to say… “Not disappointed” is a pretty low standard to strive for.

So whether you’re leaning towards a kamado or pellet grill (or both), here’s the best way to raise that bar… And spice up your summer cookouts.

Try A Smoker and Summer Kitchen Out For Size

coyote asado on asado stand
rta outdoor kitchen with weathered wood finish and pellet grill

Your new pellet or kamado smoker deserves a spotlight in your backyard.

And a summer kitchen is the best stage for any type of grill!

With our kitchens here at RTA, it’s easy to make your new smoker the focal point.

Our free online design tool will allow you to configure a custom kitchen island in a matter of minutes.

So whether you’d like a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or (our personal favorite) Coyote Asado ceramic grill

You can add a recessed stand or pedestal stand to make your kamado smoker a seamless part of your kitchen island. (These are also great options for certain freestanding Traeger pellet grills!)

If you’d prefer a built-in pellet grill… It’s the same deal! You’ll get to include Coyote’s high quality model in your design, for all of your smoking, baking, grilling, and roasting needs. (Note that the Coyote pellet grill doesn’t currently support WiFi control.)

In addition to a pellet or kamado smoker… A BBQ island will introduce an abundance of other features to your outdoor living space.

This includes countertops for food prep Storage for your accessories and tools Refrigeration Sinks… Pull out trash and recycling… And countless other built-in grills and cooking appliances from Coyote Outdoor Living.

Regardless of the components you choose to include, you can rest assured that they’re top notch. Coyote’s 304 stainless steel accessories and appliances are backed by a lifetime warranty!

As for the kitchen itself? It’s just as durable.

Our islands are made with high performance concrete panels, and covered under a limited lifetime structural warranty. Talk about reliability!

Have additional questions? Our Learning Hub is a great place to track down more details.

And if you want to get the best possible setup for your new smoker… We’ll be here for you!

Need Help With Your Plans?

Talk to one of our expert designers and they will guide you from planning to installation. Schedule a call today.

FAQ

There are quite a few differences between kamado grills and pellet grills.

An obvious difference lies in their shape… Kamado grills are oblong, egg-shaped appliances with a large domed hood, while most pellet smokers have a more traditional “grill-like” configuration.

Additionally, pellet grills are fueled by wood pellets and electricity… And kamados run off of lump charcoal.

Pellet grills are also much lower maintenance to use, as a rule. You simply need to set a desired temperature and hit a button… And a pellet grill will do the work for you!

On the other hand, kamado grills require some more fine-tuning. You’ll have to adjust the vents often to get the internal temp just right, and monitor your cooks more closely.

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