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What Is A Kamado Grill? 7 Must-Know Facts About These Superb Smokers

By Daniel Cdebaca

April 14, 2023

If you’ve done any research on outdoor cooking appliances… There’s a good chance you’ve stumbled across kamado grills.

These unique grills are certainly attention grabbing! They’re often quite large and shiny… And their distinct egg-shape is really unforgettable.

So, you may know what they look like. But… What is a kamado grill, exactly?

It’s a question that not many know the full answer to! 

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about these one-of-a-kind ceramic cookers, to answer just what is so great about a kamado grill.

To start, let’s go back a few thousand years to the earliest kamados.

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small outdoor kitchen with kamado smoker

The Impressive History of Kamado Grills

Kamado-style cooking is far from a new phenomenon. On the contrary, it’s actually been around for thousands of years!

The first kamado smokers were invented in China over 3,000 years ago… And these efficient clay cooking pots soon took hold across Asia.

Between 300 – 500 A.D., kamado-style cooking became particularly popular in Japan.

The Japanese mushikamado (which translates to ‘stove’ or ‘furnace’) is the earliest recognizable version of today’s kamado grills… These were primarily used as portable rice cookers, and featured a large clay chamber and removable, domed lid.

So, kamado-style cooking certainly has an impressive history in Asia… But it wasn’t until World War II, when the mushikamado caught the attention of Americans stationed in Japan, that kamado grills were introduced to America.

Then, In the 1970s… The Big Green Egg became the first major American kamado manufacturer, and they quickly earned themselves a dedicated customer base. 

Since then, many other companies have hopped on the bandwagon to take their own spin on the kamado grill… And because of this, kamados have only continued to grow in popularity. 

Even today, the popularity of kamado grills in America shows no signs of slowing down!

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What is a Modern Kamado Grill?

large sized big green egg smoker
kamado classic joe standalone grill series 3

Now that we’ve covered the history… Let’s turn our attention back to the here and now.

What is a kamado style grill like today?

For starters, modern kamados are generally egg-shaped, with a large, domed lid.

And many kamados are finished with a high-gloss, durable glaze… Which gives brands like Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe their memorable appearance!

Rather than the clay cooking chambers of old (which were prone to cracking)… Modern kamados are often made with durable ceramic cooking interiors, which are much better at withstanding extremely high temperatures.

And all modern kamados feature one or more tiers of cooking grates, which means they can be used for cooking so much more than rice!

All in all, today’s kamado grill is one of the most versatile, efficient, and low-maintenance outdoor cooking appliances.

But what makes this the case?

To better answer the question: What is a kamado grill... Let’s discuss how they work.

From Preheating to Maintenance: How Does a Kamado Grill Work?

Today’s kamado grills come with a lot of unique benefits, which is the driving factor behind their continued popularity.

Knowing how they work will help you fully understand what’s so special about a kamado grill… So let’s get into it!

Is a Kamado Grill Easy to Use?

tamara day cooking a pizza on a coyote asado smoker

Cooking on a kamado takes some getting used to, but once you get a feel for these unique appliances… They’re super straightforward and simple to use!

They’re fueled by lump charcoal… Which is a natural wood that has been burned to remove any chemicals, sap, or moisture.

With a fire starter… Lump charcoal ignites easily, with no need to add toxic lighter fluid (this also keeps your food tasting more pure!).

To fire up a kamado… Simply place lump charcoal on a fire grate (these are generally cast iron), light it up, make sure the lid is closed, and your ceramic cooker should preheat in 15 – 45 minutes. (Depending on your target temperature.)

For regulating cooking temperature… Modern kamados have both top vents and bottom vents with dampers, which you can easily adjust to increase or inhibit airflow. Increased airflow will raise internal temperature, and vice versa.

Adjusting the vents allows for surprisingly precise temperature control, once you get the hang of it.

And to turn a kamado “off,” it’s as simple as cutting off the airflow by closing the vents.

On average, modern kamados can sustain temperatures between 200 and 800 degrees Fahrenheit… And their ceramic interior can retain steady, high heats for up to 12 hours!

This means that once a kamado preheats… It’s quite low maintenance. You don’t have to hover over a kamado to monitor temperature. Like pellet grills… A kamado smoker will do much of the work on its own!

Kamado Charcoal Grills are Fuel Efficient

asado stand modern concrete

We mentioned that kamado grills use lump charcoal… And there’s another benefit to this!

Lump charcoal burns much hotter and longer than traditional charcoal briquettes… Which means it can be used more sparingly!

As well as this, most modern kamados have a ceramic cooking chamber, which positively contributes to their fuel efficiency.

Unlike a metal charcoal grill, which undergoes substantial heat loss when cooking… Ceramic is great at retaining concentrated heat!

This means a kamado grill requires little charcoal to maintain high temps… So you won’t have to worry about refueling in the middle of a long cook.

Speaking of which… What can you expect from cooking on a kamado?

How Do Kamado Grills Cook?

red kamado joe ceramic smoker with meat cooking

From searing delicious burgers, to slow-cooking juicy brisket, to baking delicious delicacies like pie or bread… Kamado grills can do it all!

Whether you’re cooking at scorching hot or low temperatures… The ceramic cooking space will maintain concentrated, steady heat.

As well as this, the constant internal airflow means that kamado grills work similarly to convection ovens.

The egg shape allows this airflow to occur both above and below the cooking surface… Which makes for better, even heating!

And since kamado grills are so great at preventing heat loss… There won’t be as much new air circulating through the grill to keep temperatures consistent. This means that the food you cook on a kamado will be much more tender and juicy!

The wide temperature range and steady heat retention makes kamado grills super versatile… But many modern kamado brands have taken additional steps to further boost this versatility.

Accessories like pizza stones (for a makeshift outdoor pizza oven), rotisserie attachments, heat deflectors, and more are available… So you can truly make the most of a ceramic grill!

But once you’re done cooking… Is a kamado grill easy to maintain?

How Do You Clean A Kamado Grill?

Nobody likes cleaning… But luckily, cleaning a kamado grill is super easy!

In fact, kamado smokers are almost entirely self-cleaning.

To clean the grill grates, just open the vents and let your kamado reach a high heat to burn off any leftover residue.

Then, when the grill is completely cool… It’s important to make sure any ash is removed from the firebox below the fire grate (too much ash buildup here can inhibit airflow).

The good news is that lump charcoal doesn’t produce a lot of excess ash… So there won’t be much to dispose of!

You’ll likely only have to clear it out once every few uses.

Alright. Hopefully we’ve answered the question: what is a kamado grill?

As you can see… There are many benefits to kamado grill cooking.

But before you embark on a quest to find the best kamado grill… It may help to have an idea of what to look for.

Buying Guide: What To Look For in a Kamado Grill

If you’re considering a kamado for your outdoor space… There are many popular brands to choose from (Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg, Primo, Weber, Coyote, Vision Grills, and Char-Griller Akorn, to name a few).

Though they may all look quite similar… Not all kamado grills are created equal!

Before you commit to a brand… It’s important to know how to distinguish a worthwhile kamado from one that doesn’t fit your wants and needs.

Kamado Grill Materials

Most kamado grills are made with similar materials… With a ceramic cooking chamber and glazed exterior.

Ceramic kamados are an all-around durable choice! They won’t rust or corrode when left outdoors… And as long as they’re properly maintained, they should hold up for decades!

To back up their durability… Most ceramic kamados will be covered by a lifetime warranty.

Though not as common… There are some kamados constructed entirely of metal.

Now, there are a few benefits to metal kamado grills.

They’ll be much lighter-weight… And if dropped, metal won’t run the risk of cracking.

That said, metal is not a great insulator… Which means it won’t retain heat as well as ceramic.

But if you are more inclined towards a lighter weight, metal kamado… You should be sure to confirm the grill is built with high quality metal.

Generally, 304 stainless steel and marine grade aluminum are what we recommend for metal outdoor appliances. These won’t rust or corrode when exposed to moisture!

And don’t forget to check the warranty (as well as grill reviews) when looking at metal kamados… These will be a good indication of how long you can expect the smoker to last!

But truthfully… If you’re looking for a super heavy-duty kamado with superior heat retention… You’d be better off going with a ceramic model!

Kamado Grill Size

image of all of the available big green egg sizes together

Most kamado grills are similarly shaped… But there’s a decent amount of size variation available.

Brands like Big Green Egg, for instance, offer up to seven different sizes!

Before you select a kamado… You’ll want to think about what you’re planning to cook on it.

Are you going to be preparing meals for large get-togethers? Or will you only be smoking foods for your family?

If you’re unsure… It’s always better to size up! Having too much cooking space is never a bad thing, but having too little would certainly get frustrating. 

While you’re pondering size… Don’t forget to consider how much room you have to work with in your backyard, as well!

Point is… You’ll want a kamado that will fit your cooking needs, as well as your outdoor space!

Kamado Grill Accessories

image of coyote asado accessory bundle available for purchase

If you’re looking to test out a variety of different cooking methods on your kamado… Accessories are another factor to take into account when browsing brands!

To give you an idea of what’s out there… Pizza stones, griddle inserts, rotisserie attachments, chicken roasters, and multi-level cooking grids are popular kamado accessories, for those looking to diversify their outdoor cooking! 

Some grills, like the Kamado Joe Classic or Big Joe, will come with tons of included accessories… Such as a stand with side shelves, rotisserie attachments, heat deflectors and more.

Big Green Egg, on the other hand, may offer tons of accessories… But they’re all sold separately!

So, just be aware that not all kamados will come with handy tools right out of the box.

And if you do want additional accessories… Be sure to budget accordingly!

Especially if they’re not included in the original price of the kamado, you may end up spending significantly more than you anticipated.

Alright… Now that you know what to look for when researching kamado brands, you may be eager to start shopping!

But before you go… There’s just one more question to consider.

Where will your new kamado grill go?

Take Your Kamado Cooking to the Next Level

linear outdoor kitchen with power burner and coyote asado smoker

No matter what kamado smoker you settle on… There’s a great solution to get the most out of it.

What’s that?

Making it a seamless part of an outdoor kitchen!

Here at RTA, we make it easy to pair a kamado grill with a BBQ island… With a dedicated kamado stand or kamado sleeve insert! 

This recessed stand is specially designed to hold Coyote’s 254 square inch Asado smoker… But would certainly work to accommodate other, similarly sized grills!

And with a kamado alongside a summer kitchen… You can enjoy the complete outdoor cooking experience.

What does this experience look like, you may ask?

Let us give you an idea…

Just steps away from your smoker… You can include a refrigerator, sink, or other cooking appliances from Coyote (with high-end quality) to pair with your new kamado. 

And an outdoor kitchen bar would further elevate your space… With a seating area to make your guests comfortable as you wait to enjoy delicious, kamado-cooked food!

Even if there’s no need to constantly hover over your smoker… An outdoor kitchen will give you a convenient excuse to stay outside while you wait for your food to cook.

So, are you feeling intrigued yet?

Why not check out our Learning Hub for more details on how to get started on an outside kitchen project?

Or, give our free online design tool a whirl to easily see how a kamado smoker will pair with your custom outdoor kitchen.

And when you’re ready to take the next step… We’ll be here!

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Kamado grills are one of the longest-lasting outdoor cooking appliances for a reason!

Ceramic kamados are fantastic at retaining steady temps… Which makes them highly versatile! You can easily grill, smoke, sear, and bake on a kamado.

As well as this, their incredible heat retention makes them exceptionally fuel efficient.

Plus, they’re super easy to clean!

You should try to avoid using regular charcoal in a kamado grill.

Most charcoal briquettes have nasty additives, which may be absorbed by the ceramic cooking chamber. If this happens, your kamado will continue to impart those unnatural flavors to your future cooks!

A kamado grill isn’t necessarily better than a gas grill… This really depends on your preferences!

That said, kamado grills are certainly more versatile. You can cook a lot more on a kamado than you can on a gas grill.

Kamado grills usually have ceramic cooking chambers, while charcoal grills tend to be made entirely with metal.

This means ceramic kamado grills will have superior heat retention!

As well as this, kamado grills require less external airflow than charcoal grills to reach and maintain high temps… Which means there’s less chance of your food drying out.

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