Buying Guide to Ceramic Grills and Review of My Top Five for 2021
So, your neighbor just came home with one of those weird egg-shaped ceramic grills...
Sure, they do look odd, yet he says it is the next best thing since Betty White (yup, she's older than sliced bread). But, what is it that's making this type of grill so special and has led to a huge surge in the market? Let's take a look at the Kamado or ceramic grill along with what you need to know before you invest in one for your deck or patio.
Kamado or ceramic grills are traditionally egg-shaped and feature an outer shell crafted from high-fire ceramic. This design helps to lock in smoke and heat, cooking the foods inside more quickly and evenly than most other forms of grilling currently on the market. This type of cooking has been in use for hundreds, if not thousands of years in Japan and around the world.
The concept was brought from Japan by U.S. Servicemen after W.W. 2 who watched the Japanese using a device called a "mushikamado" to cook rice. This simple egg-shaped clay pot led the G.I.s to convert it into a grilling machine and in time caught on here in the U.S. By the 1960s the Big Green Egg Company began manufacturing their own version of the mushikamado and marketing under the "Kamado" name.
How Does a Ceramic Grille Work?
Today's ceramic grill is only slightly different in design to those used hundreds of years ago in Japan. The top and bottom shells are crafted from ceramic. In the bottom is a bowl or firebox designed to hold the hot coals. Metal grates are mounted in such a way that they are suspended above the source of heat. As you can see in this image, there is an intake vent at the bottom of the grill and a heat vent at the top. The ceramic top should have some form of gasket to help seal in smoke and heat.
The vent in the bottom allows fresh air to come in the bottom, keeping the fire burning. The top vent is used to help regulate the amount of heat, moisture, and smoke retained inside the dome. The more airflow you have coming into the bottom of the grill, the hotter the inside temperature will become. Conversely, the less airflow you allow, the lower the temperature will be, effectively turning your grill into a very effective slow smoker.
By regulating the temperature, you can quickly sear the perfectsteake while “roasting” a few vegetables. Or you can dial the temperature down and slow cook the most amazing roasts. The only limit to what you can cook on a ceramic grill is your own imagination.
What Are the Advantages of a Ceramic Grille?
As you might expect, there are a number of advantages to ceramic grills in comparison to standard charcoal or propane gas grills. Chief among these are durability, versatility, fast warm up times, and most of their ease of use. Let's take a little closer look at each of these.
Given the fact the best ceramic grills are cast from a thick layer of ceramic and are quite heavy, they tend to last a very long time. Ceramic is not prone to rust or virtually any other form of degradation. When constructed properly, a good ceramic grill can be heated up to 1800°F without sustaining any type of damage. They can also be used in virtually any weather as these grills hold in the heat so well.
A good quality ceramic grill should be able to reach temperatures ranging from 225°F to approximately 750°F. This makes this type of grill perfect for cooking an incredibly wide range of foods using a several different cooking formats such as roasting, baking, searing, and more. Some ceramic grills come with the accessories needed to cook with including a rotisserie, heat deflectors, and ceramic baking plates.
Faster Warm Up Times
One of the biggest complaints with charcoal grills is the amount of time it can take for them to reach cooking temperature. Often this ranges from 20 to 45 minutes or longer depending on the size of the grill, the type of charcoal, size of briquettes, and prevailing weather. The average warm up time for a ceramic grill is as short as 15 minutes. Making them a much better choice for those who want to get cooking in a hurry.
Easy to Use
No one wants a highly complicated grill that takes more time to figure out how to use than it does to cook the meal. With a Kamado or ceramic grill, once the fire is lit and the vents are set, you can virtually leave your foods to cook until they are done. When set to cook at the lowest temperatures, a ceramic grill can cook for up to 12 hours when the vents are set right, without the need to refuel. It just doesn't any easier.
Things You Should Be Looking for When Buying a Ceramic Grill
Now that you have an idea of how amazing and versatile Kamado or ceramic grills are, let's take a look at what it takes to make a good grill. While of course, overall quality should always play a large part in your final decision, there are three major factors most buyers agree you should pay particular attention to. These are design, thickness and overall size, and of course, what accessories come with it.
When it comes to design, the only real differences are color, decorations, the use of different styles of stand. Some come with side tables, some don't. Some have labeled vents to help make choosing the right settings possible, this makes them a lot easier to use. Only you get to choose what your ceramic grill looks like and how well it will fit into the rest of your patio or deck décor.
Thickness and Overall Size
Like any other grill you might buy, the amount of grilling space available converts directly to how much food you can cook at a time. One way to look at this is to say that a 12-inch diameter cooking surface should be good for a small family, but a 24-inch surface is big enough to smoke/roast a turkey. The best thing you can do is think about how many people you are likely to cook for on a regular basis and buy a ceramic grill that matches your needs.
Like most different types of grill, there is no shortage of accessories available for use with ceramic grills. Start out with a rolling cart designed not only to hold your grill but to make it more portable and give you a place to keep your accessories, perhaps even a side tray or two. A built-in thermometer isn't a bad idea either. There is also a range of accessories such as pizza stones, rib racks, and so forth. Choose the ones you need to suit your style of cooking and away you go.
Five of My Favorite Top-Rated Ceramic Grills
As with just about anything you buy there are good ceramic grills and there are bad ones, the hard part is as always trying to figure them all out. So, to help you get cooking just a little bit faster, I have combed the web to find five of the top-rated grills on the market, along with one non-ceramic grill that is still worth taking a look at.
1. Char-Griller E06614 Akorn Jr. Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill
This ceramic grill is perfect for the beginner with its lightweight iron and ceramic construction. While it doesn't come on wheels, it is light enough to move around quite easily. The 153 sq. in. of cooking space is ideal for a small family. Cooking temperatures of up to 700°F can easily be achieved and the built-in thermometer makes it easy for you to maintain the right cooking temperature.
Poor quality control
Lightweight and easy to move
Small cooking surface
Easy to assemble
Cast iron parts tend to rust
2. Kamado Joe KJ23RH Classic Joe Grill, 18″, Red
This medium-sized grill from industry leader Kamado Joe offers 254 sq. in. of cooking surface. Kamado Joe makes use of their patented “Divide and Conquer Flexible Cooking System” that lets you take advantage of varying cooking temperatures. The thicker ceramic shell offers more stable heat control, requiring lower temperatures to achieve spectacular results.
Packed fully assembled
Unresponsive customer service
Same quality as more expensive brands
Cooking area gets cramped quickly
Parts doesn't rust
3. Pit Boss 71220 Kamado BBQ Ceramic Grill Cooker, 22″
One of the more expensive ceramic grills, this beauty from Pitt Boss is a nice larger size grill sporting 380 sq. in. of cooking surface for you to work with. Everything from the cast iron top to the super thick ceramic and bamboo speaks of the quality the Pit Boss brand has long been known for. These handy shelves fold out of the way for easy storage. It features dual-tier cooking grates allow you to cook multiple types of food at the same time.
Large cooking area
The ceramic material is thick and insulates well
Screws for trays, strip easily
Folding bamboo shelves come in handy
4. Humos Ceramic Kamado Charcoal Grill, BBQ & Smoker
This super-large ceramic grill from Humos offers ceramic walls that are a massive 1.25 inches thick. This provides superior heat retention, allowing you to more accurately temperature control ranging from 225° to 750°F for more even cooking. On top of all this, Grill Dome offers a lifetime warranty on the ceramics. A simple push of the button gets things started and you will soon be off and cooking.
Large cooking area
New brands with few real buyer reviews
5. Vision Grills CF1F1 Pro Kamado BBQ Bundle
This handy ceramic grill features a low coal burning, echo friendly design. The design allows you to cook at temperatures of up to 700° without the fear of contact burns. Inside you will find 596 sq. in. of cooking space which is exceptionally large for this type of grill one of the largest on the market. Rapid heat buildup makes this a great choice as does the lifetime warranty on ceramic parts.
Extra-large cooking surface
Lifetime ceramic warranty
Five-year warranty on metal parts
All hardware is stainless steel
Must use hardwoods
While a ceramic grill or Kamado might be perfect for your needs, there are of course many alternatives. One of the most popular alternatives is of course gas, but there are literally thousands of models to choose from. But, since we are looking at grills, I found this one from Weber to be one of the most popular.
Weber Genesis II SE-410 Special Edition Freestanding Propane Gas Grill – Smoke
This amazing gas grill from leading manufacturer Weber offers 4 burners rated at 48,000 BTU. It features push-button Infinity ignition for easy lighting, twin stainless-steel shelves, and an open cart design.
Stainless steel construction
Low heat output
Large cooking area
Does not sear well
Design reduces grease flare-ups
Burners too far from grill surface
When used properly, a good ceramic grill can give your food a nice smoky flavor all based on a cooking technique that has been used for centuries. Be sure you consider size, quality, and accessories as you decide which one to buy. I hope the information I have put together here helps you find the perfect Kamado grill.
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