I’ve been barbecuing for over twenty years and I’ve cooked on almost everything. If you are choosing between a woodfired oven and barbecue – read this. If you’ve set your heart on a ceramic kamado barbecue, read on for how to choose the right one for you.
There are many ceramic barbecues in the UK market now and competition is heating up. Ceramic barbecuing is a way of life in the US and it is now coming to the UK and, with our unpredictable weather and temperatures, ceramic barbecues means UK outdoor cooks can cook successfully all year round.
Which ceramic BBQ is the best ? I have personally cooked on a lot of ceramic barbecues: Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg, Primo Ceramic Kamado BBQ, Monolith, Grill Dome and a Chinese import that I can’t remember the name of! There are differences with all them and it is important that you you ask the right questions before you choose.
1. The magic ingredient with a ceramic is the Heat Deflector Plates/ Plate Setter /D Plates. This is what gives your ceramic its versatility and if you don’t have it – it’s like having your Ferrari and not being able to get into third gear. This piece of kit transforms your ceramic from an excellent BBQ into an outdoor oven and this is what gives its versatility. So if you are buying a ceramic you must invest in the heat deflector plates too…so always do a price comparison including it.
2. Capacity space. Don’t always go for the biggest if you don’t need it. XLs look impressive but do you really need a catering size? The smaller sizes can be very versatile, it all depends on what you are cooking – bigger is not necessarily better.
Take a look at the height of dome, there is the grill space capacity but also the height of the dome. A good question is how many beer can chickens could you fit in the ceramic? If the gradient of the lid is shallow then can you only use the middle and the sides become redundant.
3. Think about your Alfresco Kitchen design and where you are using your ceramic kamado barbecue. It needs to be functional otherwise you won’t enjoy your outdoor cooking so much. Do you need a stand, ceramic feet, table? Think carefully about your alfresco kitchen design first and then buy what you need. Not all ceramic barbecues come with these extras so compare prices and design.
There is also a range of colours out there – Grill Dome do a range of colours, Kamado Joe is red, Primo is just black and Big Green Egg will only be green. Think about the design you are creating and what fits best.
4. Check warranties and each ceramic barbecue suppliers’ customer service policy. Shit can happen with all ceramics barbecues and it’s important that you know what is covered and for how long. Also keep an eye on delivery costs – ceramic kamado barbecues are heavy and delivery prices vary a lot.
5. Don’t get drawn into marketing and branding! Some ceramic kamado companies have better marketing machines than others and demand a higher price because of it. A higher price and prettier website doesn’t always offer better quality and value for money.
6. Find out where the kamado is made and who makes it. There are a lot of companies who make their own and others who import from China (sometimes from the same factory!) Don’t be put off by some of the scare mongers about the Chinese imports, they’ll never be as well branded as some of the US products but they aren’t automatically second best.
5. Lump wood charcoal. Some ceramic companies push their own charcoal at a premium price. There is a lot of good restaurant grade charcoal out there, don’t pay for what you don’t need.
6. It is impossible to go to one retailer or dealer and see the full range of ceramic barbecues. Each retailer specialises in one kamado barbecue so will automatically tell you that theirs is the best. Go and see a kamado barbecue at a dealer, ideally when there is demo, learn how to use it, see what you think and then go shopping around.
7. There are also specialised forums that you can go to where people can give you impartial advice – my favourites are:
I love giving tips and techniques on ceramic cooking – feel free to contact me if you have any questions.