We’ve been using the Vision Grills S-Series kamado as the primary kamado cooker at The Barbecue Lab for about the last 6 months now, and it’s time for a deep dive review on the unit.
If you’re new to Vision Grills, there are currently 4 series of kamado grills offered. First is the C-series which is offered at True Value and Do-It Best centers. Second is the S-series, which is offered at Home Depot stores nationwide. The Pro and Pro Mega series can be purchased at Academy Sports stores.
Today we’re reviewing the Vision Grills S-Series that you’ve probably seen at Home Depot stores, and in the last 6 months of testing this product, we have plenty of great tips and information to share with you.
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Vision Grills S-Series Product Information
604 sq. in.
82°C/180°F - 375°C/700°F
D28.8” x W22.5” x H47”
Width with shelves extended
Our Vision Grills unit arrived via semi truck with a liftgate, and the driver was kind enough to wheel it right into the garage for us on the shipping pallet. We ordered a bag of lump charcoal with our unit, and it was strapped to the top of the grill box securely. The grill box was in perfect shape and everything survived transport no worse for wear. This is actually something of a feat when it happens, because we receive quite a few grills that come in damaged in shipping, but Vision Grills got the packaging right on the S-series.
The grill ships in a cardboard box that is reinforced with cardboard edge protectors all around. It gives the box incredible sturdiness, and I bet these grills would stack without any trouble at all with the strength of the packaging.
Once we snipped the plastic bands that tied the box to the pallet, we slid off the top of the box easily to get to the goodness underneath. I really appreciate grill manufacturers who understand that assembling kamado grills is a heavy task, and sliding the top of the box clear off makes things so much easier. If you haven’t lifted a 200lb+ kamado grill multiple times, you’ll appreciate this little perk all the more after you’ve done it 10+ times like we have.
Everything included was packaged securely and nothing rattled around during transit.
Assembling the Vision Grills S-series grill was probably my favorite grill assembly to date. Everything was packaged so well and the directions made sense. Everything came together like a breeze. The main ceramic body houses most of the other parts that are needed for the grill, so the first task was emptying the grill of all the parts to get things built.
Building the stand and attaching the casters comes first, and the directions are clear and to the point. Once you have the casters attached, make sure to lock the wheels so that things don’t continue to slide around while you’re building. There’s nothing like lifting up a 200lb grill and having the stand slide all over the place while you’re supporting all the weight.
Lifting the grill on to the stand is the hardest part, and you’ll definitely want two people (if not more) for this part. Once the grill is on the stand, it’s attaching the side shelves and putting the top vent and you’re ready to get cooking.
There’s no need to season a kamado grill before the first use. The ceramics are cast in heat well above 2,400°F temperatures, so you can grill low and slow or hot and fast right out of the gate. If you’re new to kamado cooking, we would suggest aiming for a temperature of 350 for your first few cooks. If you add too much charcoal and light too much of it up the first few times, you could easily have the grill temp get away from you and do damage to the grill. If you ever get to a point where you have a fire that’s out of control, shut the top and bottom vents to starve the fire of oxygen.
Like any grill, the outside can get quite hot during a cook, so you want to be careful how close you have the grill to anything that’s flammable. That being said, the ceramic exterior of the Vision Grills S-series does a great job mitigating the heat of a cook to the point that you can touch the outside of the grill without being burned. This isn’t to say that you should make a practice of touching the outside of the grill while cooking, but if a child comes in contact with the outside of the grill they shouldn’t need medical attention. That’s not something we can say about every grill on the market, so this is a definite safety feature on the Vision S-series.
Firing up a kamado grill is rather easy, and there are plenty of tutorials online to help you out if you’re new to kamado cooking. Here’s our favorite method:
- 1Brush the existing lump charcoal around the bottom of the grill to knock off any ash that might be left from a previous cook. (wear a good set of thick rubber gloves.)
- 2Add in some fresh lump charcoal that will light easily and create a mound.
- 3Create a small well between 2-3 pieces of larger charcoal and drop in a wax lighter cube or tumbleweed fire starter.
- 4Light the firestarter, and leave the lid open for about 5 minutes to allow enough oxygen for the firestarter to do its job.
- 5Close the lid and open the bottom and top vents to allow for enough airflow to reach your desired temperature. More air = hotter temperatures, so if you’re going for a low and slow smoke, you’ll want to limit the amount of air that can feed the fire from the moment you close the lid so too much charcoal won’t light and take you beyond where you want to go.
- 6As you’re getting close to your desired final temperature, begin closing down both the bottom and top vents so the temperature begins to settle in.
For every kamado grill on the market, we suggest the use of lump charcoal as the fuel source. Lump charcoal allows any charcoal that’s left over from the previous cook to be reused without turning into dust like charcoal briquettes. Lump charcoal also burns hotter, so less fuel is needed to reach higher temperatures when compared to briquettes. There are many manufacturers of lump charcoal, and our current favorites are Rockwood, FOGO and of course Vision's own.
Out of the box, grilling is where the Vision S-series shines. The grill is easy to operate after a few times managing the fire and temperature of the grill. We like to grill in the 500°F-600°F range, which gives us an amazing sear while not burning thicker meats to a crisp.
The dual grate system allows quite a bit of space for kamado cooking, and the tradeoff with any of the dual tier systems is that there’s limited space to work with the food on the bottom grate. If you need to turn over 5-6 steaks after 4 minutes per side, it’s going to be a hassle using the second tier on this type of cook. We find the second tier the most useful when we’re smoking things low and slow and won’t need direct access to a cut of meat for hours on end.
Two zone cooking is a method where you set the fire up on one side of the grill and place your food on the other. Two-zone cooking is possible on the Vision S-series, but like any other kamado this size, you’ll need to manage the size of the fire you’re building so it doesn’t fall out onto the side where the food is located.
A griddle does not come standard with the Vision Grills S-series, but you can purchase a half-moon cast iron griddle as an add-on accessory. The challenge when using a griddle is that kamado grills are designed to be used with the lid down throughout a cook, rather than having the lid opened at all times. When the lid is open, the fire has access to unlimited oxygen which can easily let the fire get out of control. The optional griddle accessories come in half moon shapes, and two of them added together can give you a circular griddle surface that covers most of the bottom cooking surface.
To smoke with this unit, there are two things that I would recommend. First would be that you purchase the lava stone and bracket that allows for indirect cooking on the Vision S-series. Having a lava stone that sits below your cooking grate and keeps the fire from directly heating your food is the first step to success when smoking. The second would be that you work to limit how much charcoal is lit while you’re cooking low and slow. While some people will light the charcoal on their kamado in multiple places when they cook, smoking is when we recommend to limit your lighting to a singular point. This will help you manage the fire over a longer cook. If you’ve just got to smoke something and don’t have the lava stone accessory, one way we can recommend to hack the indirect process is to put a fire resistant pan in the bottom of the grill and build your coals up around the outside to leave a gap in the middle where your meat will rest. Another method would be the two-zone cooking method we referenced above.
We kept the Vision Grills S-series in the garage for the first three months of its time with us, and the grill stayed immaculate. There was no rust evident, no change to any of the parts of the unit, and it looked and operated just as good as the day we first fired it up. For the next 3 months, we put the cover on the grill and moved it outside to withstand the elements. Although we left the cover on whenever the grill wasn’t in use, we still found that the cover trapped moisture from the air against the outside of the grill over time. This has led to some slight rusting on the top vent as well as some moisture being trapped on the inside of the thermometer. So, if you want your grill to say in tip top shape, storing it inside is going to be the best way to achieve that. Storing the unit outside won’t make the S-series cook any different, but you’ll want to keep an eye on the moisture trapped inside the cover that’s sitting against the grill. We haven’t tested keeping the unit outside without a cover, but since the S-series comes with a full-length, heavy-duty vinyl cover, you’re probably going to use it, right?
What We Loved
New side shelf material- The side shelves are now made of a thermoplastic material, and we’re big fans of the upgrade. The material makes me think of Trex decking if you’re familiar with that material. It doesn’t really feel like plastic, but it’s sturdy and has a good amount of weight to it. I don’t want my side shelves to be floppy and weak, so we’re really liking the material that the new side shelves are made of. The shelves are foldable and removable for maximum versatility.
Cart and wheels- The cart is really sturdy when compared to the kamado carts of other manufacturers. I don’t know if this is from using thicker metal or from a more rigid design, but this cart pulls the grill around with ease and isn’t phased by going over a bump or two in the road. Two of the wheels are locking to keep it from running around when you want it to stay put, and we haven’t had it get away from us yet, even on a slanted driveway.
Attachments available for pit controllers- When I first encountered the Vision kamado in my local Home Depot, I wondered right away if there was any way to hook up a pit controller like the Flame Boss to the unit. By no means do you have to use a pit controller on a kamado, but there are times when I’m feeling lazy and just want the pit to run itself. I like being able to throw a pork butt on the grill and go back into the office and get 5 hours of work done before needing to attend to things. Since the Vision S-series uses numbered dials for the air intake, there’s not a way that I knew of to attach a pit controller fan to the kamado until I spoke with Bob over at Flame Boss about it. They make an adapter that’s made for the Vision that utilizes the electric starter port as the air intake vent. Instead of using the dials for air intake, you just use the adapter and a pit controller fan in the lighter flap and you’re good to go. Once again, you never have to use a pit controller with any kamado, but I like to know that I can for those days when I don’t feel like dialing the temperature in myself.
Easy ash management- The quick change system found in this model of the Vision Grills allows you to simply pull out the front of the grill and the attached ash drawer and dump it into the garbage once the ash is cool. We’re a huge fan of the ease of this system compared to the more archaic models where you have to rake the ash and broken coals into a bucket. In older models of competitors grills, you’d have to be on your knees awkwardly holding a bucket with one hand and an ash rake in the other. I don’t miss that with the Vision. Cleanup is a breeze with the quick change system, and I know you’ll love it.
Dual Fuel System- The Vision Grills S-series truly is a dual fuel system in that it can be fueled by either propane gas or charcoal. The quick change gas insert is an optional accessory that allows you to power the kamado with propane or natural gas instead of charcoal if that’s your preference. You can still smoke, grill, sear and more with the ease of gas and the cooking experience of a kamado grill.
Multiple colors available- At the time of this writing, there are 5 colors available for the S-series from Vision Grills. The grill comes in Black, Chili Red, Orange, Taupe and White.
Opportunities for Improvement
Focus on electric lighting but no lighter included- I’m sure that this is a cost savings point to hit a target cost for a big box store, but it seems like a miss to be to so focused on using an electric lighting system and not include one in the box. Like I said, I’m sure it’s so that they can hit a cost target for a retail store, but I find myself using wax starter cubes and Tumbleweed lighters to get my kamado going and never using the electric lighter door. The only time I find myself using the electric lighter door is when I want to use a pit controller fan. I know that not everyone cooks like me or utilizes a kamado grill like I do, but I’d like to see an electric lighter in the box.
Quick change and electric lighter seal- One of the best features of the Vision Grills S-series kamados is the ease of quick change accessories. You can change the fuel type of the S-series by simply pulling out the charcoal drawer front and replacing it with the gas attachment. It’s super easy to dump your ash as well by just pulling out the drawer and dumping it into the trash can. The drawback that I find with this system is that when I’m fiddling with the controls, I can accidentally allow a little air gap around the quick change unit, which messes with the amount of air I think I’m allowing for my fire. There have been a couple of times where I’ve left a gap after emptying the ash, and now I have just made a part of my routine to push back in on the quick change insert every time I’m firing up the grill to make sure it’s secure. The same can be said of the electric lighter flap. The flap does lock down, but if you’re not looking close enough, the flap can stay open and not lock down, allowing extra air in to feed the fire. Neither of these are deal breakers with this unit, but they’re points to consider as you create your own pattern of how to use this unit.
Grate hinge handle & accessory usage, grill grates- Vision has made it easy to lift up the cooking grate so we can add in wood chips, chunks or extra charcoal without completely removing the grate. There’s even an handle on the grate so it can be lifted up with ease, but for me the handle gets in the way of the main accessory that I like to use with my kamado grills. I love using a set of Grill Grates when I’m cooking hot and fast. Getting the Vision S-series up to 600°F with a set of Grill Grates on top gives me the best grill marks that I’ve ever had on a piece of meat. The drawback to having this handle built into the cooking grate is that Grill Grates sit on top of your existing cooking surface. This just means that I can’t use my regular size grill grates and have them fit over the entire surface of the grill like I’m used to. I just end up leaving off the last grill grate and only use 3 of the 4 that I have on the Vision. Can you get good grill marks on the factory grates on this grill? Sure! But it’s really hard to beat the wide sear marks that a good set of Grill Grates can make once you’ve experienced them in your cooking arsenal.
Shipping vs. Store Pickup- When it comes to picking this unit up in the store versus having it shipped to your door, I would absolutely recommend letting the shipping company take care of it. This is a HEAVY unit, and letting a truck with a pallet jack deliver it right into your garage is absolutely the way to go.
Assembly- The only thing you’ll need a hand with is picking up the grill and placing it on the stand, so when it comes time for this part of the assembly, have a friend come over and promise to feed them after you have the grill assembled and burned in. We find that the promise of future BBQ is a great motivator to get help with assembly.
Startup- We usually plan about 20 minutes for the Vision S-series to come up to temperature when we’re grilling. For smoking, we plan 10-12 minutes to get it up to temperature. When we’re really in a bind and need to get things moving quickly, we turn to the Looftlighter to light our charcoal quickly. Using the Looftlighter, we can have our coals ready to go in just about 3-5 minutes.
The Vision Grills S-series kamado is a fantastic option for anyone who wants a quality kamado that can do everything from high heat grill to low and slow smoke. Vision has made all the right moves to make it easy for anyone from the professional competition bbq team all the way to the person cooking with charcoal for the first time to find success with the S-series grill.