The legacy of kamado-style cooking goes back several thousand years and has evolved considerably since its inception to suit the culinary needs of BBQ aficionados. Kamado grills boast some of the most sought-after attributes in the realm of grilling and smoking, which, in combination with their quaint, rustic nature, commands great interest and admiration among BBQ amateurs and pitmasters, alike.
Once you have mastered cooking with a kamado grill, it can deliver exceptional results and a culinary experience quite unlike any other type of grill.
When it comes to the commercially available kamado grills, Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg are two of the most renowned names. Both of these manufacturers bring to the table premium quality feature-rich products that embody all the best qualities of kamado grills. Having to choose between them is a tough position to be in, as they both have a lot to offer in terms of quality and end results. With that said, each of these brands has some unique characteristics that distinguish them from the other.
In this article, we discuss all that there is to know about kamado grills and review and compare the two biggest names in the kamado grill market to settle the Big Green Egg vs. Kamado Joe debate once and for all.
Kamado Grills: A Basic Overview
Kamado grills are a growing niche in the barbecue community. Although this style of cooking has been around for ages, BBQ enthusiasts have only recently turned their attention to it. Featuring impeccable heat distribution and retention, these grills give a quick and even cook while imparting the delectable smokiness of charcoal. If you grill or smoke regularly and want to kick your outdoor cooking experience up a few notches, then these grills might be just the thing for you.
What Is A Kamado-Style Grill?
A kamado-style grill is a type of grill that is oval-shaped, much like an urn or an egg. It uses charcoal as its heat source as well as smoke source and its workings are akin to that of a convection oven—it surrounds the food with hot air in order to cook it evenly and quickly. Kamado grills are made out of a high-quality refractory ceramic material that ensures terrific build-quality and durability as well as maximum heat and smoke retention.
The modern iteration of kamado grills has been optimized and perfected by different manufacturers and comes in a variety of sizes so as to permit different configurations. Many of these types of grills come with porcelain glazes that add to their heat retention abilities. You can purchase a number of accessories and additional components to enhance the functionality of these grills and tweak how they operate to get the most out of them.
The History of the Kamado Grill
Kamado grills derive their name from a traditional Japanese cooking appliance that was used during the Kofun period (250-538 AD). Known as a mushikamado rice cooker, this appliance was made from a ceramic material such as clay and was shaped like a large egg, which allowed for unique cooking benefits. These kamado cookers were powered by wood or charcoal and had a draft door as well as a damper to control the heat flow and temperature.
The urn or egg-like shape of the cooker along with its ceramic walls was an excellent innovation as they provided great insulation which made it possible to hold a steady temperature even in very high heat. The exemplary heat retention not only facilitated a thorough and even cooking but was also highly fuel-efficient, consuming remarkably less wood or charcoal than one would anticipate. Myriad cooking methods, be it roasting, grilling, baking, or smoking, could be very easily carried out without breaking a sweat owing to the distinctive shape of the cooker.
The concept of the mushikamado rice cooker was brought to the United States by American soldiers who were stationed in Japan at the time of World War II. It is then that entrepreneurs like Ed Fisher, the mastermind behind Big Green Egg, gave it the shape and form of the modern kamado grill as we know it.
Kamado Joe History
Kamado Joe is easily one of the fastest-growing and most popular names in the charcoal ceramic grill industry. Founded in 2009 by Bobby Brennan and Kerry Coker, it was swift to surpass all competition and carve out a strong reputation for itself. The reason for that was the fantastic build quality that they brought to the table, along with myriad innovative features to enhance the grilling experience and make it more enjoyable.
Co-founders Brennan and Coker proved to the world that they take their passion for BBQ seriously when they left behind their corporate careers to bring to fruition their dream of building a better ceramic grill than any available on the market. From there on out, they have dedicated themselves to constantly coming up with improvements and distinctive and innovative features, with their focus on ease of use, convenience, and overall a much-improved cookout quality of life. The result? Top-of-the-line ceramic grills packed to the brim with original and extremely useful features.
Kamado Joe grills have a series of one-of-a-kind features that are unique to them. This includes their patented Divide and Conquer cooking system, slide-out ash drawer, Kontrol Tower top vent, and Air Lift hinge. All these features work together to make these grills a breeze to use and clean and are a testament to the brand’s attention to detail. There is also absolutely no compromise on the qualitative aspect of these feature-rich grills. They are durable owing to their sturdy build and feature amazing heat and moisture retention as well as fuel efficiency.
Big Green Egg History
The modern kamado grill as we know it is the brainchild of Ed Fisher, a Pachinko game importer who later went on to found Big Green Egg in the year 1974. One of the first people to see the immense potential of the Japanese mushikamado, he imported them to his storefront in Atlanta and eventually began to improve on the existing construction. Following this, he entered into private manufacturing in the 90s and made quite the ripple with his brand, Big Green Egg. The current form and popularity of kamado grills in the United States are, therefore, to a great extent, courtesy of Ed Fisher.
To this day, Big Green Egg remains the dominant supplier of ceramic grills in the US and the choice of Michelin star restaurants. Made out of NASA-inspired ceramics, these grills are vegan-friendly and organic. The patented features of these egg grills include a draft door and a temperature control rEGGulator that make them user-friendly and much more convenient. All these properties together deliver a fantastic cooking performance with each use.
The Big Green Egg, as the name suggests, has a bright green exterior that is glazed to prevent fading or discoloring. Owing to their solid, rugged construction, they perform well regardless of the weather conditions and are ideal for year-round use. The thick premium quality ceramic walls retain maximum heat and moisture, maintaining a consistent temperature within the cooking chamber and consuming minimum fuel.
Does Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg Manufacture in the USA?
Neither of these brands manufacture their grills locally. Kamado Joe grills are manufactured in Yixing, China which can raise concerns among new customers regarding quality and reliability. However, these grills are far from being cheap Chinese imports as testified by their uncompromising quality and functionality which have stood the test of time.
The manufacturing of Big Green Eggs, on the other hand, is handled entirely in Monterrey, Mexico and carried out by the renowned ceramics and porcelain company Daltile.
Best Foods to Cook in a Kamado Grill
The strongest suit of kamado grills is their versatility; there is little that you cannot cook with a kamado grill. Anything from mouthwateringly delicious ribs, brisket, or pulled pork to poultry such as chicken and turkey can be achieved with perfection in a kamado grill. In fact, you can even use your green egg grill to make pizza. Most things you can prepare in a grill or an oven can also be made with ease using your kamado.
Product Lines at a Glance
Big Joe Series
If you are looking to cook for a large gathering of people, then the Big Joe grills can be just the thing for you. The Big Joe series features kamado grills that have an assembled width of up to 58 inches and a firebox width of 24 inches, giving you ample room to cook all your favorite foods in one go.
There are three different models in the series—Big Joe I, II, and III. These models share the standard Kamado Joe features with a thick-walled, heat resistant shell with a cart and locking wheels, stainless steel cooking grates, a built-in thermometer, finished folding side shelves and handles, ash tool, the patented slide-out ash drawer, and a grill gripper. The Big Joe I and II have a 2-tier Divide and Conquer flexible cooking system, while Big Joe III has an extra tier for added flexibility. The wire-mesh fiberglass gasket present in Big Joe II and III ensures a tight seal and is much more durable.
The Kontrol tower top vent on the Big Joe I slides open when the lid is fully open. This issue has been dealt with nicely in the next two models with the patented Kontrol Tower Top Vent. While the first and second models have a simple yet sturdy cast iron cart and wheels, the cart for the Big Joe III has been upgraded to a heavy-duty galvanized steel build for enhanced support. The SloRoller hyperbolic chamber insert and stainless steel charcoal basket are also fine additions to the Big Joe III.
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Classic Joe Series
This is the gold standard of kamado sizes, offering an 18-inch firebox width and an assembled width of up to 47 inches. Once again, there are three models in this line, namely the Classic I, II, and III. These models have a lot in common, although there are noticeable upgrades in each iteration. Each of these versions has a split heat deflector accessory and the signature sturdy ceramic build.
Differences are palpable in the design of the smoking vents and the wire mesh fiberglass gasket has been added to the second and third iteration. The regular top vent in Classic I has been switched with the powder-coated cast aluminum Kontrol Tower top vent in Classic II and III. The first two models have a two-tier Divide and Conquer cooking system, while the last one has an added tier. The Air Lift Hinge system has been given a makeover and the firebox in Classic I has been redesigned into a six-piece firebox in Classic II and III. Just like the Big Joe III, the Classic III too boasts a SloRoller smoke chamber insert.
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This is the most portable among the Kamado Joe grills, with a compact 13.5 inches of cooking space on offer. Perfect for grilling burgers, steak, or chicken for a few people, this ceramic grill comes with the basic Kamado Joe features. It has the standard stainless steel cooking grate along with a ceramic heat deflector, built-in thermometer, cast-iron stand, grill gripper, and ash tool.
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Pellet Joe Grill
This is a brand new addition to the Kamado Joe line of products. Redefining cooking with ceramic grills, the Pellet Joe grill uses wood pellets instead of the standard charcoal as fuel. It can reach temperatures of up to 600F which is considerably higher than standard pellet grills. The cooking area on offer is 18 inches as in the Classic Joe series. The pellets are fed into a stainless steel hopper with pellet agitators and an included Pellet Joe scoop for easy loading.
The unit can be monitored using WiFi and includes myriad additional features including the Air Lift hinge, aluminum side shelves, wire mesh fiberglass gasket, the Kontrol Tower top vent, a drip bucket, two meat probes, and a pit probe.
|Kamado Joe Pellet Joe||CHECK PRICE|
Big Green Egg
While the Big Green Egg has more size categories than Kamado Joe, ranging from 2XL Big Green Egg to Mini Big Green Egg, we will be focusing on those sizes which are similar to Kamado Joe models for the sake of an even comparison.
XL Big Green Egg
The XL Big Green Egg corresponds in size with the Big Joe series, offering a 24-inch cooking space ideal for large cookouts. It has a cast-iron top vent and a stainless steel bottom vent with a glazed interior that is extremely easy to clean. The lid is spring-loaded so as to make lifting easier.
There is an extensive range of accessories that can be purchased to enhance the functionality of this unit. Some of the most popular ones include the convEGGtor (accessory to accommodate indirect cooking), the XL EGGspander (multi tier cooking racks), and the XL intEGGrated nest + handler (mobile base/stand).
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Large Big Green Egg
This brings to the table an 18.25-inch cooking space that can hold 8 steaks, 12 burgers, or 6 chickens. Slightly larger in size than the Classic Joe, it offers the standard features of a green egg grill. There is, once again, an abundance of accessories that can be purchased to improve its functionality and help you get the most out of it. Some of the popular choices of additional accessories include the Large EGGspander, and the Large intEGGrated nest + handler.
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Small Big Green Egg
With a 13-inch diameter, the Small Big Green Egg can cook up to four chicken breasts or four burgers at a time. Compact, lightweight, and portable, it is perfect for those patio or balcony BBQs with family or a handful of friends. It comes with all the basic green egg features such as the built-in thermometer, the cast-iron top vent and stainless steel bottom vent, the glazed interior, and the wooden handle that gives a rustic touch to its unique appearance.
The most commonly purchased accessories with the Small Big Green Egg are the ConvEGGtor and the EGG Nest for a Medium or Small Egg.
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Kamado Joe vs. Big Green Egg Shootout
Now it’s time to put these two brands head-to-head and determine which is superior.
Big Green Egg had already gained a strong foothold and dominated the kamado grill market for quite some time when Kamado Joe came forth with their grill in 2009.
Without the experience or the reputation, the sole factor that helped this new brand shoot to fame was the myriad unique and innovative features it brought to the table on top of sterling quality.
The Kontrol Tower Top Vent on Kamado Joe grills is made of cast aluminum which prevents it from rusting even if it is left out in the rain. It is marked with lines that make it really convenient to dial-in the desired temperature by controlling the airflow within the grill. Sturdy and intelligently designed, the Kontrol Tower top vent remains fixed and does not move an inch, even when the lid is opened.
The top air vent in the Big Green Egg is made of cast iron and is therefore prone to rust. It comes with a ceramic chimney cap that cuts off the airflow at the end of the cooking session and conserves fuel. The lid on the top vent, however, slides down when the grill lid is lifted and has to be readjusted. The bottom vent on both grills has a standard stainless steel door.
One of the standout features of the Kamado Joe is its Air Lift Hinge. Not only does this counterweight mechanism reduce the weight of the dome by 96%, but it also holds the lid in position when lifted to any given height, keeping it from slamming down. The Big Green Egg has a simple spring-loaded assisted hinge and does not do much when it comes to weight reduction of the dome. This is probably the key feature that set Kamado Joe apart from the BGE.
The Big Green Egg built-in thermometer is accurate and fairly easy to read. The thermometer on the Kamado Joe grill, though larger and much easier to read, is often off by almost 50 degrees and needs to be calibrated manually.
Removing ash from the Joe is a breeze as it comes with a stainless steel removable ash drawer. Cleaning out ash from the Big Green Egg needs to be done with an ash rake and can get somewhat messy.
Kamado Joe’s patented stainless steel Divide and Conquer cooking grates offer two to three half-moon tiers for maximum flexibility. This allows you to set different heights for different foods depending on how much or how fast you want them cooked. The Egg, on the other hand, has a standard single-level cooking surface that can be lowered in its entirety about two inches.
Stand and Wheels:
The Kamado Joe grill stand (comes standard) is fully custom welded and has a much wider wheelbase for maximum support and sturdiness. The complete containment ring adds to the support and really holds the unit in place. The Big Green Egg has an optional mobile stand (nest) available. Note this is optional and you need to pay extra for this. The wheels on the Big Green Egg are large and strong, but the wheel lock is somewhat flimsy and made of plastic. The Kamado Joe wheels are smaller but the wheel locks are made of sturdy metal, ensuring that your Joe remains steady.
Shelves and handles:
Big Green Egg grills have wooden shelves and handles that have a more rustic and earthy feel. The Kamado Joe shelves and handles are made out of a simple yet more durable molded plastic.
Construction and Quality
Both the Kamado Joe and the Big Green Egg have fantastic build quality. Though Big Green Egg prides itself of its use of NASA pioneered ceramics, there is not such noticeable difference between the shell of the Joe and the Egg. Kamado Joe is, in fact, a few steps ahead when it comes to the quality of the working parts.
Kamado Joe grills boast a wire mesh fiberglass gasket which is much more durable than the standard gasket used in the Big Green Egg. It also ensures a tight seal when the lid is closed. The lid alignment on the Egg is, in many units, off by approximately a quarter of an inch, whereas it is perfectly aligned in the Joe.
The stand, which comes included with the Kamado Joe, is of superior quality and the containment ring is thicker and fits the shell nicely. The ring on the Big Green Egg is thinner and leaves a small gap between itself and the shell. Since the Joe stand is welded and made of heavy-duty galvanized steel, it provides better support to the unit and has better durability.
Kamado Joe grills come bundled with a range of extremely useful accessories. These include the heavy-duty stand and wheels, the slide-out ash drawer, finished folding high-density polyethylene (HDPE) shelves, ash tool, and a grill gripper. Apart from the accessories which are included, there are also a number of others such as the JoeTisserie and the cast-iron Dutch oven.
The Big Green Egg too offers an extensive range of accessories. However, most of them do not come included with the grill. Even the grill stand needs to be bought separately. All in all, Kamado Joe accessories remain unmatched in their innovativeness.
Both these brands offer exemplary customer service that is dependable and based in the United States. Kamado Joe has an excellent reputation for providing prompt and efficient support to their customers. Big Green Egg, in addition to its reliable customer service, also has a dedicated forum of BGE users. Called the EGGhead Forum, this website is packed with resourceful, trustworthy information and advice such as assembling tips, cooking tips, maintenance walkthroughs, and so forth.
Both Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg offer similar comprehensive warranty periods with a limited lifetime warranty on ceramics and different warranty periods for other parts of the grill. If you are the original owner of the grill and purchased it from an authorized dealer, all ceramic components of the Big Green Egg grill remain under a lifelong guarantee. The thermometer and gaskets have a one-year warranty while ceramic add-ons have a three-year warranty period.
Metal components come with a five-year warranty and wooden ones have a two-year warranty. Kamado Joe grills have a similar warranty period.
Price and Overall Value
In this category, Kamado Joe wins without a shred of doubt. A similarly sized Joe and Egg have very similar prices but, for the Kamado Joe, you pay no extra price for a myriad of included accessories and a premium quality stand. Kamado Joe also has an overall superior build quality and a host of highly useful and innovative features in which aspect the Big Green Egg certainly falls behind. Kamado Joe is also innovating heavily with the new Pellet Joe and Kettle Joe (Weber Kettle competitor).
The Kamado Joe, therefore, provides much greater value for money as it is feature-rich and comes bundled with a number of unique features.
Both the Kamado Joe and the Big Green Egg incorporate the best features of kamado-style cookers and deliver fantastic results with every cook. While Big Green Egg has a fantastic reputation and a lot more experience, Kamado Joe has equally terrific quality and a range of features that improve on the functionality of a regular kamado grill.
With that said, we would recommend the Kamado Joe grill because of its unparalleled uniqueness, innovation as well as sterling build quality and construction. Everything about the KJ grills is testimony to the brand’s incredible attention to detail and they come for an extremely lucrative and competitive price. There is absolutely no going wrong with a Kamado Joe grill if you are looking to indulge in the real kamado-style cooking experience.
If you’re interested in charcoal based grills and smokers like these Kamado’s, check out our post on the best charcoal smokers.