Kamado grills may have been around for centuries, but charcoal grills have built up a stronger following in recent years. While you’ll find traditional charcoal-fired units in nearly half of all US households, kamado grills aren’t nearly as prevalent. That’s partly due to their comparatively high cost—a quality kamado grill can cost thousands of dollars, while a kettle-style charcoal grill can be had for under $100. However, both styles have their pros and cons. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
These sturdy, well-built grills have Japanese origins, hence the name, which means “cooking place” or “stove.” Actually, the name can be literally translated as “place for the cauldron.”
The grills themselves are typically egg-shaped, and most will feature a durable ceramic construction. That’s why they’re more expensive than traditional charcoal grills of comparable size. However, ceramic is notoriously difficult to care for, and prone to breakage, especially when exposed to cold temperatures.
— Their quality insulation allows for a broad temperature range. This gives you a great deal of versatility in terms of different cooking applications.
— Kamado grills are built to withstand years—even decades—of regular use. When you purchase one of these, you can expect it to be the last grill you ever buy.
— They make an excellent conversation starter.
— The heating system of a kamado grill is remarkably efficient, often allowing you to smoke a 10-15 pound pork butt using just one batch of charcoal.
— The lid is kept closed during cooking, helping meat to retain moisture.
— It’s possible to close the dampers after you’ve finished cooking. This allows you to extinguish the fire quickly and efficiently—even saving some of the fuel for the next batch.
— A kamado grill can be used year-round, thanks to its sturdy construction and superior insulation.
— You can expect to pay a great deal more for a kamado grill than you would for a kettle-style charcoal grill of the same size.
— The ceramic construction makes them heavy to transport from one end of the patio to the other.
— Ceramic may also break when dropped, or crack when exposed to rapid shifts in temperature.
— More skill is required to operate a kamado grill.
— The units take a great deal of time to cool off. If you’ve allowed your fire to get too hot, you may have a long wait before you can add your ingredients.
— The superb heat retention also makes it difficult to toggle from one cooking application to another within the same day.
Cooking over a charcoal fire is a supremely popular pastime, a fact that’s reflected in the wide array of available grill options. You can choose from all-purpose grills, charcoal smokers, or portable units that can be taken along on picnics or trips to the shore.
Because there are so many options available, it should be easy to find a charcoal grill that suits your budget. While they don’t provide the instant gratification of gas grills, they make up for lost time by imbuing the food with delightfully authentic flavor. Also, unlike kamado grills, they can be used for several different cooking applications within a short period of time.
— Charcoal grills are affordable and usually cost-effective when it comes to fuel.
— It’s possible to stoke a charcoal fire to 700 degrees—hot enough to make homemade grilled pizza or flatbread.
— They provide a decent amount of cooking space.
— You can leave the lid either on or off during cooking, allowing you to keep an eye on your progress.
— They’re lightweight and easy to transport—especially if you invest in a model that’s designed specifically for travel.
—Operating a charcoal grill requires very little skill and effort.
— You should also invest in a chimney starter. Otherwise, there’s a chance your recipes will end up tasting like lighter fluid.
— The lower-end models require frequent replacement.
— It’s more difficult to use a typical charcoal grill for low-and-slow cooking applications, such as smoking or braising. While charcoal smokers are also available, these aren’t suitable for regular grilling. That means you may have to invest in two different units to get the versatility that a single kamado-style grill offers.
— It can be tricky to add more charcoal during the cooking process, if this is needed.
— The units aren’t as well-insulated as kamado grills, which effectively restricts their use to the warmer months.
So, are kamado grills superior to regular charcoal grills, or vice versa? We would say that it’s a matter of personal preference, as well as circumstance.
If you can afford a kamado grill and are willing to spend a bit of extra time perfecting your technique, then you can’t go wrong with one of these durable models. On the other hand, if you’re an occasional griller just looking to throw on a few burgers and sausages once in a while, a charcoal grill will likely suit your needs just fine.