What is a Kamado grill? We explain the hype behind these cult charcoal BBQs

We explain all about this unique charcoal BBQ so you can figure out whether it’s the right choice for you

outdoor kitchen with Big Green Egg BBQ, shed, storage units, decking, plant, table and chairs, tiled wall area
(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderon)

A Kamado grill might not be a term you’re familiar with, but these outdoor cookers are amongst the best BBQs you can buy. They’re commonly known as egg-style BBQs - like those from the popular brand Big Green Egg. They're also often pricey and heavy, so you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Despite reviewing kitchen and garden appliances for a living, I hadn’t tried out a Kamado grill until this year when I reviewed the Big Green Egg Minimax. And I must admit, I was excited to have a go on one and find out why they have such a cult following.

It turns out, I loved cooking on a Kamado grill, but it is different from a normal charcoal BBQ. So before you make the investment, let me give you the lowdown on exactly what a Kamado grill is, as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages to this unique type of BBQ, as opposed to investing in one of the best gas BBQs.

What is a Kamado grill?

Modern Kamado-style BBQs are inspired by a traditional Japanese clay cooker. Their popularity spread to the West during World War II. US servicemen were so impressed by these cookers, they started shipping them home. And eventually, Big Green Egg’s founder set up a store selling them.

Outdoor kitchen with Big Green Egg, drinks fridge and festoon lights

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Later, the brand began designing and manufacturing their own Kamado-inspired egg BBQ and the design has evolved over the years into what we know today. These modern Kamado BBQs are now produced by lots of brands and offer a unique take on al fresco charcoal cooking.

Patio BBQ area with wooden dec and rustic brick wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Chris Snook)

There are several things that set a Kamado-style grill apart from your everyday charcoal BBQ. Firstly, they’re made from highly durable heat-resistant ceramic. And they’re very well insulated, so can reach temperatures in excess of 400C. Secondly, they’re primarily designed for closed-lid cooking, this locks in heat, smoke, and flavour. Combine this with clever airflow regulators and you can control the temperature inside depending on what you’re cooking - which makes them highly versatile.

What do Kamado grills do well? 

A good quality Kamado style grill, like the Kamado Joe Classic Joe Series II that we tested back in March, is so well insulated it can be used year round, come rain or shine, or even snow for that matter. This makes them ideal for the unpredictable British weather, plus it means you can extend BBQ season from a few short weeks in the summer, to a year-round outdoor cooking activity.

The insulation serves another purpose, it keeps the heat inside the BBQ. Thus, these cookers are capable of burning for hours on end, so you can cook food in them like an oven. Some recipes for slow-cooked meats call for up to 12 hours of low, slow cooking and if you get it right you can do this without the need to re-fuel. This means you can create succulent slow cooked, smoked meats that’ll wow your friends.

Kamado Joe Classic Joe BBQ Series II

(Image credit: Kamado Joe)

What’s more, add on some of the optional accessories and a Kamado grill can be used as a rotisserie, bread oven, and double as one of the best pizza ovens - they’re super versatile. I cooked a whole chicken in the Minimax Big Green Egg and not only did it cook and brown remarkably evenly, but the succulent texture and the depth of smoky flavour was outstanding. And given that I did this as a novice, I found it surprisingly easy.

A Kamado grill can be used with charcoal, but also works as a smoker when you use wood chips. They’re great for both fast and slow cooking, and with endless possibilities, you can become a top-notch BBQ chef using a Kamado-style grill. Plus, they're not just for meat lovers, vegetables, potatoes, breads, and even desserts can all be cooked in one of these BBQs with great success.

What are the drawbacks of using a Kamado grill?

I’d say there are three main disadvantages to these egg-style cookers. The first is that they’re super heavy. So they’re not ideal if you like to move your BBQ around the garden. Although some of them are available on wheels, which helps.

Testing of the Big Green Egg at home

(Image credit: Future/Helen McCue)

The second big disadvantage is often the price. Even the Big Green Egg Minimax - which is the smallest from the brand - is an £800 investment and that’s before you include any accessories that you might want. Of course there are cheaper copycat alternatives, but you have to be careful and do your research because some of these lack certain key features such as high quality ceramic, or good airflow regulation.

Lastly, because a Kamado grill is designed for closed lid cooking, they’re not the ideal choice if you like to watch and tend to your BBQ constantly. So if you prefer to cook pretty standard BBQ style foods, like burgers and sausages that you can flip regularly, you won’t be getting the most from a Kamado BBQ, hence it won’t be worth the investment.

Helen McCue
Freelance Reviewer

 After completing a Home Economics degree, Helen went on to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute and has been reviewing home appliances ever since. She lives in a small village in Buckinghamshire in the UK.