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What is the best Kamado Grill without spending a fortune?


Antonio
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I "started" with a discount, dented Akorn, as an inexpensive way to see if I would take to charcoal. 

I absolutely love it! 

I agree with John, get the best Kamado Joe you can afford or if you really aren't sure go with the Akorn. 

Either way this forum will maximize the experience! You won't regret it!

 

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18 hours ago, Family_cook said:

I am concerned that I lacked clarity in my response. To suggest that this video is a "specious test" should not go unchecked. ...

Subjecting products to 2.5X maximum operating temperature in order to reveal failure modes no customer will ever see is specious regardless the result. It's not something the OP needs to worry about.  

Frank 

Edited by fbov
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I started with the Akorn and I don't regret it at all. I have had it for 2.5 years, and I have done low 'n slow, hot and fast, and really hot for pizza.  I put a gasket around the bottom, where the ash pan clamps on. I have also replaced the cast iron grate with a stainless steel one from Amazon. The Akron does pretty well with temp stability. It is not the best, but it is great for deciding whether you want to get deeper into kamado land. :) And it is definitely the lowest price point.

 

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I started in the Kamado world with a Akorn and worked with it for a couple of years or so.  Saw the KJ Classic on Amazon Prime Day at a good price, bought it, and that is now my go-to when I cook outside.  There's a lot of information in the thread you started, start watching for a deal on something you like and jump on it.

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I bought an acorn several years back and take good care of mine so it is not showing much if any wear so far. I store mine in a small room in my garage and roll it back and forth when I cook on it. I thought about getting a ceramic kamado a few times but I do not want to have one sitting on my deck full time nor out in my yard full time and the sheer weight and maneuverability prohibits me from rolling one around like I can do with my Acorn. It cooks as well as an Kamado I think and holds temps great once I learned it. I can light mine, throw on the meat and walk away till it is done worry free. In fact I have done several overnight cooks without bothering to check it at all.

I saw a couple of remarks about the Acorn needing mods, etc when new and I say BS as I did nothing at all to mine and it is airtight today still.

Full disclosure: I do use a Tip Top Temp (TTT) when cooking on mine. Works well.

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  • 3 weeks later...

That's a hard question to answer My son in law asked the same question last winter when he visited ohio from Calif Talked him into an acorn to test it. He's a  gas griller and i wasn't sure if he would like using charcoal so the acorn was the least expensive way to get started with and to get used to charcoal. He was glad he bought it because he thinks after a year of using it he's decided he's not a charcoal person .so now it sits at his daughter's house and his son in law is now a charcoal person and is starting to look for a ceramic grill. So what ever you buy hope you enjoy it

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I agree with a lot of what has been said so far.  I'll throw my story out there.  I bought a Kamado Joe Classic II about a year ago and couldn't be happier.  But first a couple questions and thoughts-

 

Sorry if this post got too long...

 

-What's the budget?

 

Bang for the buck is something I can definitely relate to, but realistically how much do you want to spend vs how much can you spend?  Would you consider spending $300 every couple of years on throwaway grills to be a savings over spending $1-2k and getting decades out of it?  There's potential benefits to both.  Someone could come out with the perfect non-ceramic kamado in a few years that make current offerings look laughable.  I would be bummed if I had just dropped a grand only to be lapped by some new technology, whereas someone buying an Akorn might not think twice to put it on the curb and get the new one.  I personally don't think that will be the case anytime soon, but you never know.  I would rather buy it once and get a long life out of it.  My experience with higher end grills has convinced me that certain ones are worth the money. 

 

Quick side-story- Growing up, my parents and I went through several gas grills.  They were cheaper no-namers ($200-400) and the burners rusted out and the flame got wonky every time.  I figured they just didn't last that long.  Then one day, my dad mentioned something to one of the guys at work about getting a new grill and that guy said we should get a Weber.  Dad looked into it and Mom was horrified by the thought of spending $650 on a grill at the time.  It wasn't even the dollar amount specifically.  They simply had never spent that much on a grill and didn't understand why they should.  Fast forward 10-12 years later- it still looks the same it did after a couple cooks the first summer we had it.  I cook on it almost every time I go over to their house for dinner.  They have never had a problem.  They have not spent a dime on parts other than covers and brushes.  AND we can still get parts if we needed them.  My parents would not hesitate to buy another Weber at almost any reasonable price if they had to tomorrow.  That's one definition of bang for your buck.

 

I would put a $1k-2k kamado in the same place.  You will get what you paid for.  The same would apply to a $400 Walmart kamado.  That $400 cheapie may still be overpriced if it has air leaks or the gasket falls off in a month.  At that point, if cost is still the main concern, I would consider shopping used on facebook or craigslist.  Paying $500 for a used BGE or KJ would likely be a lot better than what $500 gets you in the new market.  No disrespect to anyone, but there's a reason why certain brands are substantially cheaper than others.  It's either build quality or cutting corners on features.  Less features for less money is an acceptable tradeoff in my book.  Poor quality is not.

 

-How often do you grill?

 

I will assume that taking the time to post here and ask about a kamado means that you grill often enough to be interested.  But will you get your money's worth out of a $1500 grill?  Will it be used regularly or treated as some museum piece because it was so expensive?  The only times I've had trouble with my Kamado Joe is when it has sat in the corner.  I stopped grilling on it in the fall and let it sit for a couple months while I used other grills for shorter cooks.  I ended up with both some mold and mildly rusty grates even with a cover on it.  It only took me an afternoon of burning off and reseasoning the cast iron to fix it, but that never happened when it was being used weekly.

 

-What do you cook most often?

 

Kamados take a while to heat up.  Even starting coal in a chimney, it's a good half hour minimum to be cooking.  In my experience, if you start a fire in the kamado itself, you'll either go through 3X the lighter cubes/tumbleweeds or wait 3X as long for it to heat up after lots of trial and error the first couple weeks of owning it.  Hardly worth it for someone doing a couple hot dogs once a month.  But if you do low and slows or steaks weekly/monthly, no big deal.

 

-Do you plan on moving anytime soon? 

 

Random thought, but ceramic grills weigh a ton, so it may be easier to buy later if you are moving soon.  A cheap grill might not even be worth the trouble of moving.

 

-What kind of fuel do you want to run?

 

Kamados perform best on lump charcoal.  It's simply of problem of managing the ash production.  Lump creates fractions of the ash, but lump is generally more expensive than briquettes.  Just for comparison, I decided to see what it was like to run it like a 800 degree pizza oven.  I went through almost half a bag of lump in 30-45? minutes.  At the same time, two chimneys worth of lump will get me through a 3-4 hour cook in warmer weather.  It probably burned 5-6X the amount of coal that it normally does.

 

I load up on lump when it's on sale, so no big deal.  But at $15-20 a bag normally, those would have been some expensive homemade pizzas.  On the other hand, I don't hesitate to run some cheap briquettes for quick stuff like burgers and hot dogs.  The ash doesn't affect performance on a 10-20 minute cook.  Home Depot clearances their briquette for $1.92/15 lbs a couple times a year in my area.

 

-My experience

 

After a couple of years cooking on a Weber kettle (after seeing the light and converting from gas), I too started with an Akorn Jr to see if I liked the concept of kamado cooking.  Nobody I knew had one.  I had never had a problem with my kettle, but I liked the idea of having a grill and a "true" smoker replacement in one (cue a whole side conversation about smoker vs kamado).  That little Akorn did a great job, but the factory cast iron grate was a pain to maintain when I mostly used it for high-temp sous vide steak sears.  The high temp cooks also took a toll on it.  My top vent plastic got sticky from the heat and has seized up several times where I can't shut the grill down.  Then I dropped the grate in the grass one day and still managed to crack one side of it, so now I have to be extra careful not to let too much weight torque the remaining side when I handle it or it will snap completely in half.  Lots of areas have started to pit, which I think will be the precursor to actual widespread rust.  The factory red has faded significantly from both heat and outdoor elements.  In the end, I got one decent year out of it followed by several of steadily declining condition.  At this point, it's pretty much just my chimney lighting platform.

 

My KJ has replaced several grills and a smoker in one.  The last real test was doing ribs last summer.  When I could get 4 racks on laying down with a little room to spare, the smoker was no longer necessary for big cooks.

 

-How I measure value based on all this

 

I started shopping with a BGE in mind, then I saw the real price to get what I wanted...  I looked at Vision, Primo, and Grilla Kong.  In terms of value, the KJ is my favorite for several reasons. 

 

A. it was still significantly less than a BGE when adding in all the accessories that come standard with KJ.  Sorry BGE, but their business model seems dated.  If I can't interact with their brand without going through a stealership, count me out.  I'm not convinced that their offerings warrant the price premium anymore.  To me, they seem like a mature company that made waves 40 years ago and hasn't had to innovate much until recently.  Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it's a solid product.  I just think the competition has caught up and passed them in some ways.  Things like stands and trays should not be add-ons.

 

B. Every other brand is available outside of a dealer network.  Every other brand can be ordered from the comfort of your home and delivered to your driveway without stepping foot in a showroom or having to deal with a salesman.  I think Kong still came with 12 or 24 month financing.  I got my KJ on ebay with 6 or 12 month free financing through paypal.  I almost did the Primo Oval 300 until I found a new KJ on ebay.  With paypal credit, I didn't care about the price anymore.

 

C. KJ's control tower is better than any daisy wheel I've used.  The ash collector is also very nice compared to others.

 

D. KJ's air hinge and latch system.  Nuff said.  If that doesn't sell you on the price tag once you try it, nothing will.

 

Alright, I think I'm done.  I hope this helped.

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Komodos are pricey. Just think about how much you will use it I've used charcoal all my life ,never had a gas grill. these grills will last about forever  with  some care. I avoided the sticker shock because my wife took pity on me and i needed a new grill , (the last one had 3 factory  metal legs  and one made up leg ). I tend to keep grills for a while also when i buy a new one i'm amazed at how  thin they can make sheet metal and not call it foil. So she bought me one for a delayed b day gift  it helped some that i sent her to hawaii with her grand daughter and her husband.  I went with Kamado joe due to price and complete package and the lift hinge  due to my wife being only 5 foot 

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You can't go wrong with Akorn Kamado, or you can go right with Kamado-Go, which I kinda made for myself haha. I cook at the beach or tailgating all the time and was using Weber Go-Anywhere with my temp controller most of the time. I liked its rectangular shape and wish it had a larger cooking area and an insulated lid. So I went back to the CAD and made a grill exactly I wanted it to be. Double walled top lid, folding side tables/lift handles, arched shape and 275 sq in of cooking area (in comparison akorn has 315 sq in of cooking) Here are a few pics. Works like a champ with my portable temperature controller. with a 12v battery pack it'll run 20+ hours. The best part is, as the grill got opened and closed frequently during the party, it will always return to preset temperature by the controller. So you just drink beer and talk stories :)

I'll be adding a rotisserie setup, a pellet burner, a cover and make it wifi enabled...it's 2020, right?

 

BBQ-KGO-1-9_amazon.jpg

KMDGo04.jpg

861153877.jpg

Kamado-Go_tailgating01.jpg

Kamado-Go20.jpg

Kamado-Go_cover01.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Personally if you’re going to make a purchase, why “start” with an Akorn and work your way up?? Just get it outta the way and buy something now that you’ll use for the rest of your life. 
 

i vote Primo, I’m VERY biased on this because I own the oval xl and so do my mother and my father and it’s the best thing I’ve ever cooked on. My buddy owns the new Kamado Joe and it’s nice too with some nice upgrades. You can’t go wrong with either but BGE in my opinion is overpriced. 
 

 

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If I were you, I would search Facebook marketplace or craigslist for a used ceramic grill. You’ll find tons. I got my Primo XL and table for $350. All I had to do was get new grates for it and replace some bolts cuz the guy let it sit for years outside. The ceramic was all perfect. That’s nearly a $2000 value
 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

You can’t go wrong with an acorn, but you will have to replace it. The KJ has everything the acorn does and a lot more. If you cannot afford the KJ get the acorn, and just know the amount of meat you put on it will add up to a KJ, but the KJ is an order of magnitude better. It has more features and the ability to have a rotisserie, and that is worth the price of admission in my opinion. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Hi all, I’m also looking to pick up my first Kamado. What are your thoughts on the monolith grill basic? It’s at around £600 in the UK - vs around £900 for a KJ classic. My logic is that it’s a quality base product, and if I enjoy kamado grilling I can then fit it out with accessories over time. The ceramic has a lifetime warranty (metal 5 years) so seems a pretty decent bet, better then a cheaper brand. 
 

Anyone have any experience with Monolith, or any advice over whether this is a good way to go?

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