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The Big Green Egg is like the Cadillac of kamado grills—sleek, powerful, and this summer, oftentimes sold out. But between folks picking up patio grilling as a hobby in the past year and Green Eggs selling out like Yeezys during a rush for planning in-person backyard barbecue parties, you don’t have to spring for the top of the grill food chain to get those same high-quality smoking and roasting capabilities.
While the kamado grill has as history that spans thousands of years, this speciality grill as we know it today became immensely popular in the 1970s. The best kamado grills still have hinged lids and an egg-shaped body allowing for plenty of airflow above and below the grill grates. Many are made from ceramic, like a good kiln or pizza oven, though nowadays you can even find cast iron and stainless steel models. They provide superb heat retention, work as thorough smokers, and the insulation from the thick walls means you can go low and slow or get a ripping hot sear.
Normally considered for hardcore grilling gurus, it’s easier than ever to add a kamado grill to your outdoor cooking arsenal. From accessory-packed Green Egg alternatives to budget models, if you can’t get your hands on that elusive Green Egg, here are our top picks.
What Are the Best Kamado Grills?
Kamado grills can be a big investment, so there are a few things you should consider when looking for your next grill. We looked at the following criteria when compiling our list of the best kamado grills on the market.
Material: Ceramic is the gold standard of kamado grills for a reason, thanks to its durability and heat retention for both high-temp and low-temp cooking. One downside to having those thick walls can be weight, so you’ll have to find a place you really want to park it for the season (although they’re also pretty weather-resistant for this reason). Steel models tend to be lighter and less expensive, but are more prone to weather damage and corrosion.
Size: Most upright kamado grills make great cooking solutions for small backyard spaces and patios, but that also means less surface area to actually grill on. The size of the grill refers to the diameter of the cooking space, so if you want to be able to have enough space to whip up burgers for an entire pool party, or smoke a whole pork shoulder, you’re going to want an 18-24 inch grill (for references, the Green Egg is 24 inches).
Accessories: Some grill brands will provide add-on accessories like expanding side tables, a larger grill grate, electric thermometer, etc. Most of the time you can buy the basic grill body and then add on all the other perks to create your ultimate grill, but watch out for hidden costs.
Grill Features: While you can always add replaceable accessories and attachments later, we recommend that your kamado grill should start out with these standard features—a vent cover on top, hinged lid, grill grates, and a built-in thermometer on the lid.
What Are the Best Big Green Egg Alternatives?
Whether you’re looking for a starter kamado grill or searching for the best Big Green Egg alternative, we found four top-rated options that are in stock online and shipping now.
1. Kamado Joe Classic III Grill
The Kamado Joe Classic III is a splurge-worthy Green Egg contender, and is absolutely worth every penny. What’s most impressive is its serious temperature range—the top vent is designed to maintain consistent airflow, even when you’re opening and closing often, which allows the ceramic grill smoke from 225 degrees all the way to a searing at 750 degrees.
While other kamado grills can start blazing and get difficult to control, Kamado Joe’s patented SlōRoller insert distributes both the smoke and heat in rolling, recirculating waves, making it great for low and slow cooking without creating hot pockets that charr up the edges of say, your brisket, while undercooking the middle.
The 18-inch grill also offers an impressive three-tier cooking system, which lets you cook in layers on the half-moon grates depending on if you want your food closer or further away from the hot coals, making sure that your steak gets a hard sear without sacrificing the integrity of tender vegetables.
With a well-built, durable cart and a few key premium features, the Kamado Joe Classic III delivers on top-notch grilling and smoking for anyone looking to start barbecuing seriously.
2. Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill
If you appreciate the smoky flavors of barbecue, then you’re going to need to develop a good crust on your meat and have enough room for smoke to circulate—Char-Griller is the obvious choice here.
With 314 square inches of cooking space, combined with 133 inches gives your plenty of room to spread out all your meats on both racks so there’s enough smoke to go around. Cast iron cooking grates also easily sear meat with high heat or create the best low and slow roast. The body of the grill is also triple-walled steel (rather than ceramic) to retain heat and maintain temperatures from 200 to 700 degrees.
But what makes this grill the king of smoking is the adjustable dampers on the top and bottom—the bottom damper lets you control airflow to get a more precise temperature, and the top damper maintains that airflow, so you always have control over even the slowest smoke session.
Two folding side shelves also give you space to put your rubs, grilling gear, and anything else you’ll need. This heavy-duty grill may not be ceramic, but the heat controls make it your best smoking companion.
3. Vision Grills Elite Series Deluxe Kamado Grill
Vision Grills’ Elite Series Deluxe Kamado is extra in all the best ways, when you want to go hard on grilling with all the bells and whistles there is to offer.
While most kamado grills come on a rolling stand, very few offer quite the amount of storage options the Elite Series Deluxe does, include two tables with plenty of space for grilling tools, and more storage below the grill itself to hand the grates when you’re finished cooking. Not only does it also offer two grilling tiers, it has both cast iron and stainless steel cooking grates if you want to get a specific kind of cook. The grates are also hinged, which gives you easy access to add more wood and tend to the charcoal.
Another unique feature is the slide-out ash drawer, which also includes a slot for an electric starter where the bottom dampers are located for the easiest charcoal lighting start-up, and clean-up, possible. The hinge is also incredibly easy to lift, but also includes a locking hatch with a tighter seal for those searing high temperatures, which you can easily check on the LED grill light.
The grill is rounded out with a round Lava Stone (great for making crispy pizza pies) for indirect cooking and smoking. Vision Grills shows that sometimes, more truly is more.
4. Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Grill
Kamado grills aren’t exactly known for their portability, but for those of you who live somewhere without a backyard, or want to be able to take your kamado grill tailgating or camping, this tabletop grill from Char-Grill is a compact yet powerful model.
You won’t have to worry about just buying a grill body, since the Akorn Jr. features study, stable legs to keep it from wobbling even if you set it on the ground or dirt. At 37 pounds, the side handles and scaled-down weight make it easily maneuverable, whether you’re out on a picnic in the park, or just trying to hoist it into your truck.
That doesn’t mean it lacks for cooking space though—with the 20-inch grill, it’s still big enough to fit eight full-sized burgers for a full-sized crowd across the cast-iron grill grates. It also holds just as much heat as more expensive ceramic grills, meaning that even if you use less charcoal, the insulated design and locking lid will still let the heat crank from 200 up to 700 degrees.
There’s still top and bottom air-flow dampers too, so you can get precise temperature controls for smoking even smaller cuts of meat. Overall, the Akorn Jr. gives you all the power of a full-sized kamado grill in a portable package.
From Rolling Stone US