We're taking some of the most popular kamado grills, such as Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, and Vision and running them all through 20 tests to see which one is the best kamado grill for you.

With the right accessories, kamado grills can just about do any kind of outdoor cooking you're interested in. Low and slow smoking? Yes. Hot and fast cooking? Certainly. Direct heat grilling? You bet. Can it cook a pizza? Sure it can.

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So if they can do it all, why don't more people have kamado grills on their patios? Well, for a couple of reasons, probably.

First, charcoal grills can be more challenging to manage, leading many to prefer the ease of a gas grill or pellet grill.

The next obstacle for many would be the cost. Kamado-style grills are notoriously more expensive than other types of grills, particularly if you have to purchase your desired accessories separately.

On the flip side, the life span of ceramic kamado grills far exceeds any gas grill or pellet grill on the market.

kamado grills are great for outdoor cooking

How We Picked The Best Kamado Grills To Test

We're pretty firm believers that we can only honestly review the items that we've actually used in real life.

The 5 grills that we've tested here were the 5 kamado grills we were able to get on site to put through our list of tests.

We managed to purchase the Big Green Egg and the Kamado Joe grills used through Facebook Marketplace while the other three kamado grills were sent to us from the manufacturers for use in this video and article.

If you see specific brands missing that you think should have been here, we probably agree with you but were unable to acquire them at this time for this use. (Drop a comment down below and let us know what you were missing and we'll be on the hunt to add it in the future!)

Our Best Kamado Grill Testing Criteria

We compiled a list of 20 categories in which we would be comparing these kamado grills.

  1. 1
    Ease of assembly
  2. 2
    What's included with the purchase
  3. 3
  4. 4
    Ceramic thickness and quality
  5. 5
    Cooking capacity: How much primary cooking space is available?
  6. 6
    Vertical cooking space
  7. 7
    Cooking height
  8. 8
    Temperature range
  9. 9
    Hinge (ease of lifting the lid)
  10. 10
  11. 11
    Compatibility with fan controllers
  12. 12
  13. 13
    Ease of adding fuel during a cook
  14. 14
    Hood thermometer
  15. 15
    Smoking test: how does this kamado grill perform with indirect cooking at a low and slow temperature?
  16. 16

    Hot and fast test: how does this kamado grill perform cooking indirectly at a higher temperature?

  17. 17
    Grilling test: how does this kamado grill perform in high-heat direct grilling and searing?
  18. 18
    Ease of cleaning
  19. 19
  20. 20

Ready to see how it all shook out?

Best Kamado Grill Winners


Product Information

XL Kamado

Vision XD702 Maxis ceramic kamado grill

Vision XD702 Maxis

Cooking Diameter: 18.5 inches

Included Accessories: cart, side shelves, flexible LED grill light, electric starter and holster, lava stone, second shelf, grill cover

Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Winning Categories: Easiest Assembly, Most Accessories Included, Best Hinge, Best Warranty (tied), Best Low-and-Slow Cooking, Best For Grilling, Easiest Cleaning

XL Kamado

Kamado Joe big joe 1 ceramic kamado grill

Kamado Joe Classic I Big Joe

Cooking Diameter: 21.5 inches

Included Accessories: cart, side shelves, deflector plate, ash tool, grate lifting tool

Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Winning Categories: Largest Grill, Ceramic Thickness, Cooking Capacity, Temperature Range, Warranty (tie), Thermometer, Hot and Fast Cooking

Ok, now that you've seen the winners, let's take a look at how each of the kamado grills we tested performed against the competition.

Table of Contents

Best Kamado Grills: XL Size

5 XL kamado grills all lined up on paver patio

We took 5 different XL-sized kamado grills from 5 different manufacturers and ran them through 20 different tests to help you decide which ceramic kamado grill is right for you.

The grills we compared at this size included (pictured above L-R) the Pit Boss K24, Vision Grills XD702 Maxis, Kamado Joe Big Joe I, Big Green Egg XL, Lifesmart K24B.

Vision XD702 Maxis ceramic kamado grill

1. Vision Grills XD702 Maxis

Read our full review of the Vision Grills XD702 Maxis here.

The Vision Grills Maxis is ready to do it all right out of the box. From starting your charcoal with the included electric starter and holster, to grilling in the dark with the included flexible LED grill light, Vision Grills has thought of it all.

It's a true kamado smoker, including a lava stone and second level of cooking grates to maximize your kamado cooking options.

What we like:

  • Simple assembly with parts clearly labeled and grouped together
  • Pretty much any kamado accessory you would want comes with your base purchase of this grill.
  • "KamadoMatic" hinge makes the lid super easy to lift
  • The heavy-duty cast iron grate puts an excellent high heat sear on your proteins.
  • Removable ash drawer makes cleanout a breeze
  • Lifetime warranty

What we don't like:

  • While the ProZone™ has its advantages we don't feel that the tray secures tightly enough to keep extra oxygen from getting into the kamado when we're trying to shut it down.
Kamado Joe Big Joe 1 ceramic grill

2. Kamado Joe Big Joe I

While Kamado Joe has long since upgraded the classic Big Joe I, this original version still holds its own against the competition when it comes to kamado cooking, and that's really saying something.

We fully recognize that this is not latest and greatest that Kamado Joe has to offer, but it is the version we were able to get our hands on to test and it STILL out-performed many of the other kamado grills in a number of categories.

What we like:

  • With a total cooking surface area of 450 square inches, this Kamado Joe charcoal grill has space for a lot of food.
  • The two-tier divide and conquer flexible cooking system can be a great asset for those wishing to cook multiple foods at once utilizing indirect cooking and direct heat grilling at the same time.
  • The Kamado Joe Big Joe I can achieve a wide variety of cooking temperatures from as low as 180° to as high as 750°.
  • The removable ash drawer and included ash tool make cleanup much easier in the Kamado Joe than many other kamado charcoal grills
  • Lifetime warranty

What we don't like:

  • Lots of cooking space means a lot more charcoal grill to heat up, so this extra large kamado Joe does take a while to come up to your desired cooking temperature and uses more charcoal than others on this list.
Big Green Egg XL kamado grill

3. Big Green Egg XL

Read our full review of the Big Green Egg XL.

The Big Green Egg XL has been the standard in what you want in a kamado grill for years, but not much has changed with this model.

It's pretty much the same as it's been for the last decade, which is lovely and consistent.

The challenge is that other brands are innovating around Big Green Egg lately, and it's starting to show its age in the ceramic grill market.

What we like:

  • The Big Green Egg offers ample vertical cooking height for any taller foods you might like to cook, such as smoked turkey, tacos al pastor, or beer can chicken.
  • Though it does cost extra to even have it, we found the Big Green Egg cart to be very sturdy and stable and the wheels made for easy mobility of the charcoal grill on our paver patio.
  • Lifetime warranty

What we don't like:

  • All accessories require additional purchases, including even the stand to hold it. Nothing besides the cooking grates are included in the base price. Because of this, Big Green Egg kamado cooking is a much more significant financial investment than some of the alternative options.
  • While it's fairly easy to lift, we personally don't love the way the hinge swings back on the Big Green Egg. We had hoped to be able to house this kamado grill in our outdoor kitchen but with the rear wall behind the kamado drawer, there was not enough depth to accommodate the lid pivoting back in that way.
  • The stainless steel grates seem rather thin and lacks any innovation. It's a solid cooking grate all the way across, and I would love to see a hinge where I could get to the coals or thicker grates for better grill marks.
Pit Boss K24 ceramic kamado smoker

4. Pit Boss Kamado

Read our full review of the Pit Boss K24 kamado grill here.

The Pit Boss XL kamado is very budget friendly when compared to the competition. While smaller than the Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg versions, it still holds its own in size for value.

It comes with almost all of the accessories you could imagine, like a ceramic heat deflector, stainless steel grates, and even an electric starter.

What we like:

  • Tons of accessories are included in the box. Second tier cooking grate, electric starter, heat diverter panel and more are included. No continuous dipping into your wallet when you want an accessory.
  • There's a soft close piston to help the grill lid from slamming and potentially damaging the ceramic. This is a must for a ceramic kamado grill in our experience.
  • The price is right. It's under $1,000 and comes with everything you'd want. What's more to like?
  • Love the hinged upper grate. If you're wanting to maximize cooking space, having a hinged grate on top is a game changer.

What we don't like:

  • It's an XL kamado in size, but it's smaller than both the Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg versions.
  • This is not the easiest kamado to clean. There's no ash pan or ash tray in the bottom of the charcoal grill, so you'll need to use the included ash rake to sweep the coals out in between cooks.
Lifesmart 24" ceramic kamado style grill

5. Lifesmart 24" Ceramic Kamado Grill

The Lifesmart XL kamado grill is easily a cousin to the Pit Boss XL grill, as they're the same size and shape.

The major difference between the two is that the Lifesmart is less expensive for almost the exact same charcoal grill.

This Lifesmart kamado is the least expensive XL-sized kamado on the market that we're aware of.

What we like:

  • It's the ultimate budget kamado grill.
  • If you're curious about kamado cooking and want to learn more before spending well over $1,000 on other brands, it's the perfect entry-point cooker.
  • The blue color is the only color it comes in, but it's the one people ask about the most when they're here at The Barbecue Lab.

What we don't like:

  • The stand is a hollow square tube design, and our experience with these types of stands is that the wheels will get loose and fall out due to the metal widening over time. Not our favorite kamado stand design.
  • For an XL-sized grill, it feels closer to a Large size when compared to the Kamado Joe.
cooking shrimp skewers on the Big Green Egg kamado grill

How Do Kamado Grills Work?

Kamado grills are ceramic grills that use lump charcoal as fuel for the fire. Unlike other charcoal grills, a kamado grill uses significantly less charcoal than a standard kettle-style grill.

Kamado grills excel at both direct heat and indirect cooking, using a heat deflector for slow-cooking tough pieces of meat.

Heat retention is the name of the game with a kamado grill, and keeping the cooking chamber closed as much as possible really helps with temperature control.

Airflow is controlled by managing the top and bottom vents. Keep the top and bottom vents all the way open for high heat, and close them most of the way down for low and slow temperatures.

To start a kamado grill, just place a small lighter bundle or a lighter cube into the charcoal on the bottom of the grill, light it up and leave the lid open for about 5 minutes.

While the grill operates the best if the ash pan is cleaned before every use, we find that we can get away with 2-3 cooking sessions without limiting the oxygen supply to where it's noticeable.

Most kamado grills are purchased by people who want to move away from gas grills. The biggest complaint is that gas grills don't impart any additional flavor to food, and kamado grills bring copious amounts of flavor to the party.

charcoal grilling chicken thighs on a kamado charcoal grill

Is It Worth Getting A Kamado Grill?

Kamado grills can be a big investment but we believe they're worth it for a couple of reasons.

They are built to last. These grills will last decades while many other types of grills are lucky to last 5 years.

Sure you may have to replace a gasket or small part here and there over the lifespan, but barring a tornado tipping it over and causing the ceramic to crack, these grills are in it for the long haul.

Kamado grills can serve the function of multiple grills. Rather than having a charcoal grill, smoker, and pizza oven taking up space on your patio, one single kamado grill can serve all 3 functions.

Kamado grills provide excellent heat retention even in the coldest temperatures

What are the benefits of Kamado grills?

There are many benefits to owning a kamado-style grill over any other, but it can best be distilled into seven main benefits.

  • Long-lasting - Kamado grills can easily last for 20-30 years if you take care of them. This is a far cry from the big box store grills made of thin metal that you need to replace every few years.
  • Fuel-efficient - It takes a fraction of the charcoal to achieve the same temperature in a kamado that you'd get if you were cooking in a different charcoal grill. Kettle grills are much less efficient than a kettle since there's so much more ceramic mass inside the grill to retain heat.
  • Heat retention - As mentioned above, you're heating up hundreds of pounds of ceramic every time you light a kamado grill. With that much more thermal mass, the grill is naturally more fuel efficient since less heat escapes during a cook.
  • Versatile grill - You can cook everything from a low and slow brisket to an 800° pizza with a kamado grill. It's all in how you manage the amount of charcoal and the airflow to cook from super low and slow to crazy hot and fast.
  • Wide temperature range - I have 5 kamado grills on site here at The Barbecue Lab, and I've had them cold smoke cheese as low as 80-90 degrees. I've also fired them up so they reach the 800-900 degree range and cooked Neapolitan pizzas in them. They are really the all-in-one combo grill people crave.
  • Incredible flavor - If you like the flavor of a charcoal grill, then the kamado is what you're looking for in the taste department. The best kamado grills are known for their ability to impart flavor in addition to heat, and that's why they're so popular today.
  • Easy to clean - It doesn't take much to clean ceramic grills. The grill grate is potentially the most difficult thing to clean, and I like to use the Grill Rescue brush, which uses steam to handle the grease and grime left from the last cook. Cleaning the grate of a kamado joe is really no different than cleaning your traditional gas grill.
even the best kamado grills will require routine maintenance

Kamado Grill Maintenance

There's hardly anything to cleaning the exterior of a kamado grill. Just wipe it down with a damp cloth, and it will last for decades.

The interior is cleaned by sweeping out the ash pan the day after a cook, and is easily accomplished with a coal rake and a bucket.

The grill grates can be cleaned with a grill brush, but my favorite way is just to ball up a bit of aluminum foil and run it across the grates.

No brush bristles in your food with aluminum foil as your cleaner, and I love knowing that my guests are safe from ingesting metal.

pork butt smoking indirectly on the Vision Maxis kamado grill

How To Use A Kamado Grill

1. Clean out the ash and grill grates. Ash is the #1 cause of fire management problems on a ceramic grill, since ash will limit the airflow in through the bottom air intake if not cleaned out.

kamado charcoal grilling begins with lump charcoal

2. Fill with lump charcoal. Lump charcoal is the preferred coal of choice since it can be relit and used again after your previous cook. 

lighting the Pit Boss Kamado with a GrillGun

3. Light the charcoal. Pro Tip: don't light all of the charcoal in the grill. Use a fire starter and just light a small section of the charcoal. How far open you set your vents will determine how much charcoal the lighter will ignite. Light too much, and temps are hard to keep low. Here are our favorite ways to light a kamado grill.

using a heat deflector in a kamado grill allows you to cook meat indirectly

4. Decide if you're cooking direct or indirect. Direct cooking is cooking directly over hot coals. Indirect cooking is using a heat deflector to deflect the heat around the meat and up into the dome of the grill. If you're cooking indirectly, now is the time to position the deflector in place.

The top vent of this Kamado Joe Big Joe grill is fully open to allow maximum airflow

5. Adjust top and bottom vents. The most open your vents are, the hotter the fire will be. Lower temperatures call for smaller openings on the intake and output vents.

Using Thermoworks Billows to control the temperature in our Big Green Egg kamado grill

6. Optional: Utilize a pit controller fan. A pit control fan is like autopilot for your smoker. Just insert the fan in the intake port, set the controller to the temperature you want, and it will control the kamado for you. Thermoworks , Fireboard, and Flame Boss all make great pit controller fans that fit most kamado grills.

What To Look For When Buying A Kamado Grill?

When deciding which kamado grill to purchase, there are three main considerations that I like to help people think about. Whether you're looking at a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or an Akorn kamado charcoal grill, it all comes down to functionality, durability, and accessories.

The Vision kamado grill has a port for an electric starter

The first question I always ask is, "Will this grill fit the largest crowd that I expect to invite over?" If the answer is no, and this is the only cooker you plan on having available, you probably need to go a size up. A small kamado grill may be ideal for the family, but cooking for a crowd, you'll be disappointed with the lack of cooking space.

Secondly, I want to know what accessories are available with this grill. Does it come with the accessories I think I'll eventually want, or are they available from the manufacturer?

Often people who buy kamado grills will want to start cooking pizzas and brisket, each completely different kinds of cooks on the same unit. The pizza needs a pizza stone while the brisket needs a deflector plate for indirect cooking. Check what comes in the box so you know what you'll have and what you'll need in your kamado cooking journey.

Can you cook comfortably on this grill? How heavy is the lid and will you be able to lift it easily? How high is the cooking grate when you're using it on the stand? Height of the cooking surface can vary, so it's important to look into.

How is the warranty on this grill? Kamado grills will last for decades if you take care of them, but it's always good to know that you have a warranty to back you up in case of the unexpected.

The best kamado grill is the cooker that you'll use, not just another pretty backyard patio ornament. The best kamado grills in the world are the ones that are used multiple times per week.

Kamado cooking is one of the most versatile cooking methods on the planet, and I think everyone needs to try it for themselves. Robust temperature control and using heat zones for anything from hot and fast to low and slow cooking makes a strong case for a kamado in every backyard.