How to Use Kamado Grills as Smoker? Here’s a Quick Guide

What is a kamado grill? Can you actually use it for smoking? These two questions are the same queries I had in mind when a friend suggested that I try the kamado grill. As a fan of smoked food, I have doubts at first. I already have a grill and I’m not apt to spend on another if it will just do the same thing. But after seeing one during a backyard party I attended, I was curious. I soon found myself scouring online shops for the best kamado smoker. And boy, it smokes, grills, and bakes like no other! Here are my top picks in a nutshell:

KAMADO SMOKERPRODUCT NAMEGRILL MASTER
RATING

PRICE

best kamado smokerKamado Joe Classic Check Price
best kamado smokerChar-Griller Akorn
Kamado Kooker
Check Price

Kamado is fueled by charcoal like most smokers and grills. But what makes it a must-have is its slow-cooking setting. This is a perfect match for briskets, turkey, and baked goodies like pizza and pecan pie. Thanks to its dome structure that it can hold as much heat and smoke to ensure that the food inside is smoked to the bones.

A short history of the kamado grill

Kamado grills originated from Asia and are said to be the descendant of the ancient clay pots. But instead of the fragile clay, modern kamados are made of ceramic and steel for better construction and durability.

Kamados are said to have originated from Japan but are also believed to have a touch of India and China. But based on its name, I can say that it’s heavily influenced and developed in the land of the rising sun. In fact, it’s being used to prepare various food items like rice cakes and other traditional cuisines for different ceremonies.

The Japanese word “kamado” means “place for a clay cauldron”.

That pretty much speaks of the entire history.

How does it work?

With its Easter egg-like form, it’s intriguing how kamado grills work. Basically, it’s utilized as an indirect heat cooker and a smoker. The cooking vessels are suspended on a stand while some use tiers of racks in order to stash multiple pork butts in just one cooking.

A combination of coal and wood will be used as fuel on a kamado style smoker. A fire ring will be placed on top and then the grill grates. Some people use various accessories here depending on the mode of cooking they want to use. Once this is set, the fire is at the bottom of the egg-shaped grill and there’s a damper on top and a vent at the bottom. You can tweak how large the opening is to achieve the amount of fire and temperature levels.

What I love the most about kamado is its tightly sealed lid. It can both be a friend and a foe, mind you.

The interior is then designed to reflect the heat evenly to cook chunks of meat equally. You’ll typically find kamados in ceramic material but there are also metal-made models.

Take note that kamado is mostly used for slow-cooking. Imagine smoking seven pork butts for 14 hours. That’s how long-lasting this is, not to mention the large room for fuel.

Grill vs. smoker vs. oven

Kamados are the most versatile grills I’ve ever seen. If you open the lid and place a grate right on top of the charcoal, you’ll have a grill. But if you want to smoke some meat cuts, you can cover the charcoal with a metal plate plus a layer of grates on top. This will support indirect heat cooking. As for the oven, it works just the same as the smoker but you can opt out of the charcoal and use flavored wood instead.

One thing you should know is that the best kamado smoker isn’t your typical fire pit. You can smoke and grill on it without the footprint of an offset smoker or the limitations of a combo model.

Best Deals – Kamado Style Smoker Picks

After having some good times with my kamado and flaunting it on backyard parties, I’ve arrived with two of the best options. Check this out:

—>Kamado Joe Classic<—

Specs

✔️18-inch ceramic grill                                     ✔️Patented slide-out ash drawer

✔️Pizza stone w/ 3-year warranty                  ✔️-5-year warranty on metal parts

✔️Thermometer & gaskets with a 1-year warranty

best kamado smokerIf you want to experience the kamado grill the classic way, I encourage you to invest in Kamado Joe. I fell in love with this right after seeing my perfectly smoked turkey. The 18-inch grill is large enough to hold a few large cuts, but the overall profile of the grill/smoker is small. It comes with a low-profile wheeled stand and side arms where you can place bottles of condiments.

What I love the most here is it comes with a flexible cooking system. If you want to smoke with tiers of food, you simply have to place the pizza stone on top, then the grates. Put layers of them if you want to. If you don’t want to smoke, you can literally cook a classic pizza here. During lazy days, I put some BBQ on it and the flavor is just as juicy as you can find it on your favorite BBQ joint.

One common complaint about kamado grills is the lack of temperature level controls.  But heck, offset smokers are also the same. I think with the built-in lid thermometer, vents, and dampers, getting past the learning curve would only take a few more practice.

What could be done better:

It’s comically heavy which is understandable due to the very solid build. But if it could be a little lighter, that would be a great relief during solo days. Still, I can live with the weight because boy, this kamado is second to none!

—>Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker<—

Specs

✔️314 sq. in. cooking space              ✔️133 sq.in. warming rack

✔️Folding metal shelves                   ✔️Easy-dump ash pan

✔️Triple wall insulation

best kamado smokerIf you’re for looking for something else, the second best choice for me is the Char-Griller Kamado Kooker. What I love about this the most is the wide range of temperature levels that can be as low as 200F and as high as 700. I can achieve this in the Kamado Joe but it’s worth mentioning that not all kamado models can reach such peak.

This kamado style smoker also has a porcelain ceramic construction as a nod to the original kamado style. And since the walls are triple-insulated, this means you’ll maximize the heating power of the charcoal and wood.

The Char-Griller Kooker isn’t far from the Kamado Joe. It also has a built-in lid thermometer, a damper, and a vent. But if you’re grilling, you’ll love the removable warming rack that comes in the package. There’s also a platform at the bottom where you can place bags of charcoal.

As for the smoking, this best kamado smoker can fit two large turkeys. Since the heat is evenly distributed inside the kamado, you won’t have to flip the bird now and then. You can also splurge on different food items like steaks, skewers, BBQs, and so on.

What could be done better:

I’m satisfied with this kamado grill, but I wish it also has a pizza stone like the one that comes in the Kamado Joe. I just don’t think that the removable warming rack is a fair trade for that piece of accessory.

Kamado grill/smoker buying guide

If you’re planning to get a kamado grill, I suggest that you keep the following points in mind. These are the guidelines I used:

🛍️Technology and fuel

Most of the kamados produced nowadays are made from the combination of metal and ceramic. You may also find materials like terra cotta and Portland cement. But I suggest that you stick to the traditional ceramic and metal. Ceramic domes rarely crack and it’s more tolerant to heat than other materials. Types made of cement or clay will crack in no time.

As for the fuel, remember that a kamado style smoker is only fired through charcoal or flavored wood. Never purchase a unit that says it can be operated through electricity or gas. Most likely, you’re just getting a propane or electric smoker in a shape of an egg.

🛍️Grill parts

Once you’re sure that the construction is at par with your taste, check what else is in the box. Of course, you should get grates. I prefer cast-iron ones as these are usually long lasting than other types. If possible, look for one with a pizza stone. You may not have a use for this right now, but you’ll never know when a request for some homemade pizza will come.

Always invest in a kamado with a reliable thermometer, damper, and vent. All these regulate the temperature and the amount of fire present inside.

🛍️Quality

This is a general thought, but I’d like to emphasize the value of investing in quality. Even if the Kamado Joe cost me one grand, I didn’t regret putting my money on it. It’s still on my backyard and cooking like it used to be the first time I get my hand on it. It’s understandable, though, that you may not have the budget to splurge on a grill/smoker. This is why I recommend the Char-Griller Akorn Kooker. It’s the best kamado smoker for the right price and quality.

🛍️Footprint

Always consider the storage space you can spare at home. Although kamado grills are fairly small in footprint, it can still become bulky for various models. I was actually bent on getting the Kamado Big Joe, but since my yard is already cramped, I settled for the classic unit. It’s just about making your needs and home space meet.

🛍️Size and construction

The size of the kamado should also be based on the amount of food you want to cook in one batch. In my opinion, medium-sized kamados are enough to feed a dozen with pulled pork. If you want more cooking space, get a larger one. Still, make sure that the quality of the construction can keep up with the size.

Strengths of kamado grill

Kamados are like fine wines. It suits almost all occasions and it never gets old on casual backyard parties. One of the biggest strengths that kamado has is its immunity against strong winds and rain. Since it has an airtight lid, you can light it up even during a windy day. Just close the lid and open the damper and vent.

Since kamado grills retain a lot of heat inside, you’ll use less charcoal in the same cooking time as an offset or combo smoker.

The ceramic material also has a very limited air flow. This retains the juice on the meat.

Contrary to others’ opinion, the 2-zone construction of a kamado style smoker offers excellent temperature control. Since the food and the fuel are on the opposite ends, you have the freedom to tweak the exposure of your food to the heat source.

Even if it can produce high levels of heat, a kamado grill can cook evenly. A lot of grill masters say that once you used a kamado, you’re never going back to your old grill. And it’s actually true unless you need a massive expanse of grilling surface.

A few caveats and warnings

When it comes to using a kamado grill, make sure that you only use lump charcoal. Briquettes are no-nos here due to its chemical components. Since the lid is tight, there’s only a little room for the harmful chemicals to dissipate.

Another thing I want to warn about is the flare-ups. Since the kamado is designed to have tight lids, opening it will allow a sudden gust of oxygen in. The result would be a spit of fire and burned eyebrows.

Also, kamados tend to be pricey. I guess this is due to the solid construction and the premium materials. So be careful about bare-bone models that are stripped off of wall insulation just to become affordable.

The best kamado smoker is unbeatable when it comes to grilling, smoking, and baking. Although it’s a bit on the steep side, these pieces are worthy investments.

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How to Use Kamado Grills as Smoker? Here’s a Quick Guide

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