Barrel Kamado (BK)  vs  Kamado Joe (KJ)  vs  Big Green Egg (BGE)

We understand when something new comes along – it takes time to understand it. So we compare market leaders, side by side,  with the Barrel Kamado.

Even if you are only an occasional outdoor cook this is quick to get you started so that you can produce fantastic results.

For the more serious enthusiast, this compare will give you unparalleled control and options.

Together with:

  • 5 vent air control,
  • cast iron and ceramic internals,
  • super insulated walls,
  • greatly increased cook space,
  • flexible cooking configurations.

and all in a package that defies logic ~ fire in wood.

In this post we compare everything we can from these other manufactures. They are compared with  similar size kamados from the two leading brands.  We list their features and explain their benefits.  We hope to inform those wishing to get the best product for their outdoor cooking experience.

The Accessories

The cooking abilities of a kamado can vary considerably depending upon the internal components. The best kamados on the market ensure their design allows for a wide range of cooking options. Both BK and KJ offer substantial accessories as standard, whilst BGE allows you to pick and choose from a range of upgrades. BK is the only kamado[compared], which offers the premium cooking surfaces made from heavy duty cast iron as standard. This, combined with the unique five vent system gives unprecedented control over the cooking environment.

BK comes loaded with the best quality components, which is one of the reasons it is such good value for money.
Only cast iron with give you proper sear marks, heat retention, durability and have that authentic cooked on hot iron - taste.
The defector plates come in two pieces and are made from a ceramic, which allows for numerous configurations. There is also an extra large baking/pizza stone. BK additionally includes a grill expander level that means out-of-the-box you get 3 cooking levels - for those times when you would like to entertain. In essence, BK brings in the latest thinking bound with Oak, Iron and Smoke!!
Click on to see whats included as standard.

BGE have a decent approach to accessories - pay for what you need. However, those with a kamado quickly find that there are a set of accessories you simply can't do without. BGE has for a long time used a design and quality that has stood the test of time. KJ have consistently tried to improve on the BGE offering - and have succeeded at the individual component level. Where BGE scores points is on its -Tried-and-Tested product, with simplicity and quality that has enured. Kamado Joe has been changed and changed again, a great product but it seems to be loosing its soul. e.g. their new and improved top vent, is a point in case. BGE's top vent rusts, BGE's lets rain in, BGE can lose it setting on lifting the lid etc.. KJ re-invent the top vent. Sadly, on paper looks great, it should be better at being a top vent but using cast alloy with a matt black coating just screams CHEAP! BGE have stuck to their old school ways. - which we like.

Kamado Joe - new kids on the block. They took the BGE and replicated it. OK made it red. Then steadily, methodically set about each element and started to improve it. The big flower pot exterior remains - however, just about every other element has changed. Really gathering pace in the last 5 years. BGE are content their offer- this design has worked for 3000 years - why change? KJ reasoned we must be better how can we improve? KJ wanted a new cooking system they came up with 'Divide and Conquer' it was simple left-right cooking grate. They focused the fire pit next,. the old one cracked which presumably created a massive headache for their warranty dept, then they substituted their previous inferior felt gasket with a wire mesh replacement. Next, specialists in counterbalkanced hinges created a new hinge, which is better performing, if a bit joyless to use. Then the top vent -its got to be better was the cry.. was it? it should have been - on paper it looked great. Many say - they liked the old one better as the new version lacks the heritage. BGE may need improvements but its held on to it heritage.
BK steps into the gap old-world heritage - new world thinking.

The Rotisserie

The rotisserie creates food that is a step up from your normal roast, Does it taste different? In a blind taste test, the answer is an emphatic "Yes". Travel no further than your BBQ for a world of difference - cooking on a rotisserie. Spit roast your favorite for that crispy uber moist self-basted delight.

Woah! a nine! - really? We looked at the rotisserie and thought this is a must have feature. The mounts are integrated into the BK. It is also compatible with many third party rotisserie add-ons on the market. There are a number of points that separate this from other kamado rotisserie solutions out there.
1. Reduced materials - there is no need for the large-wedge-thingy, fewer materials, less to storeand best bit less cost.
2. The motor is waterproof and substantially larger at 15w. It seems the standard is 4w~6w or even less. The motor is strong enough to turn a 15~20kg spit.
3. The rotisserie can be used with grates, cooking a chicken whilst cooking off the sides on a cast iron grate is - great. (See popup window)
4. There is no cost - it is shipped as part of the BK (for the duration of the launch)

For many kamado owners the rotisserie is not an option. Kamadojoe has fixed this with their Joetisserie accessory. This has proven popular with, not only kamadojoe customers but other kamado owners too. Simply open the lid and place the joetisserie onto the base of the kamado. Easy to fit and easy to use. Many are delighted with their joetisserie.
However, there are some drawbacks. It is expensive for what it is. The motor as supplied is too low powered with many unhappy customers complaining its just too weak or it just stops but is fine if the spit is then removed. It does not seem possible it mix and match different grate options whilst using the jotisserie. The way the ring is constructed, you cannot leave the divide and conquer rack in place when using the Joetisserie. .The lid does close onto the wedge-thingy to keep the heat in - but just barely, and I'm concerned about resulting stress on the hinge as well as the weak seal toward the front of the grill.

BGE is a kamado manufacturer that does not offer a rotisserie option. Many of their BGE Large-egg owners have found that the joetisserie for the classic fits their egg. As this is a grading on the rotisserie and not the manufacturer we mark it the same as the kamado joe offering - because it the same thing.

A Grate Cooking surface

Space is important especially, if entertaining, however, access to a wide range of grates from different suppliers is also a bonus. BK has used the Weber specifications for grates, meaning all Weber 57cm grates can be used on the BK, There is a massive amount of third party innovation out there and we want you to make use of it. At its heart, a Kamado needs to be the very essence of usability and flexibility. Our experience over the years has shown that the more options there are the more you can control the cooking. e.g. multiple cooking surfaces, multiple levels with each being able to be divided vertically and horizontally. The BK is the only one of the 3 kamados that allows you to change the height of the fire itself - so you are able to achieve proper seared steaks.

Barrel Kamado has the largest cooking surface area of the three with 2332cm² ( nearly 20% bigger the the others) and it has used cast iron grate and plate options as standard - these are more expensive, but more desirable, durable and better at searing. Cooking surfaces and heat deflectors are halfmoon shaped, to allow maximum flexibility, as each level can have a mix of surfaces. e..g Two Zone half of the kamado is an oven while the other half is a open grill. It also has proper distinct levels. 1st level Heat deflectors, 2nd level Cast Iron grates, 3rd level (which is 20cm above) Cast Iron grates upon which a 4th Level can be created with an extender grate. This feature turns the BK into a party machine capable of vast amounts of cooking and smoking.

Kamado Joe have created 'Divide and Conquer' cooking grate. It gets shipped with wire grates, however, they do offer upgrades and a wide range of cooking surfaces, a ceramic heat deflector and a wire frame to support the grates. These are an improvement on many kamados. But, in our opinion they don't go far enough. Perhaps constrained by the internal space and costs. The distance between the levels is, in our opinion, just too small to make any real difference. At this level of BBQ we would expect better quality internals.

Big Green Egg has a standard grilling surface that is fixed to one height. The grates are wire with options to upgrade to cast iron. In the early days this design was fine and many people have lived with it. They have introduced an upgrade called Eggspander, which we have included in the table above. This is similar to the Kamado Joe wire divide and conquer and in our opinion has the same limitations. Again, at this level of cooking we expect better quality internals - the wire frame is too flimsy and is incongruous at this level and price point.

The Vents

Vents are important, they are used to control air to the fire and therefore the temperature. The most common arrangement is to have an adjustable draft door at the bottom and a TopVent. However, the Barrel Kamado is designed for more control. The essence of the design is to be able to control the air, heat and smoke within the kamado itself. Not only controlling temp but where the flows enter and leave the Kamado give unrivaled control over the cooking process.

Barrel Kamado TopVents are cut into the lid and arranged one on the left and one on the right. They have a Stainless Steel base mount upon which the Stainless steel TopVents sit. The mounts are recessed to allow a table top to be placed on the barrel The 'round' puk that comes from cutting the hole into the lid is used as vent handle . This prevents rain and also can be operated without the need for gloves. The vents are adjustable from 0% ~ 100%. Of course can be adjusted independently or set the same for an even distribution of smoke. There are three bottom vents, the main stainless steel draft door with spark guard and two micro vents left and right. These micro vents allow much more control over the all important airflow and can be aligned with the internal configuration. e.g. Two-Zone set the micro vent Right to open with the fire basket full on the right side right hand top vent adjusted - Left hand topvent closed.

Big Green Egg redesigned their topvent last year. After 40 years with the old design it is fair to say - not much has changed. Perhaps the best thing is now you can fit a rain cover (which you have to pay extra for) The new topvent like the old one is made from cast iron and that's a good thing - its durable. However, after the initial seasoning has gone (one or two cooks) if left in the rain it will rust and look not at its best. To be fair BGE supply a ceramic cap for their kamados - this is used to keep the rain out when the kamado is not in use. The bottom vent is a stainless steel draft door .

KamadoJoe have also redesigned their top vent. The new shape has some good features. We like the fact it has a rain cover built in, It does not lose its setting when the lid is used and the useful setting marks. What they got wrong is the material they used, Cast Aluminium. Ok it does not rust - but it does corrode - after several cooks the topcap coating starts to become pitted and is some places peels off. It also seems to leak more than the old design as the vapour from the meat cools against the metal vent. If kamadojoe made this out of stainless it would be an awesome vent. The bottom vent is a stainless steel draft door.

The Hinge

The Hinge is an important component of the kamado. Here there are three different designs. We look at each and describe the features and their benefits. We give each a score with the winner listed first and the score in Green. We feel the KJ is the overall winner as their hinge does provide the greatest control. We like the robustness of the BK and the fact it can be adjusted without tools. The hinge of the Big Green Egg works however, there are complaints of rust.

Kamado Joe Classic – they used a counterbalance hinge designed and manufactured by WeberKnapp something they call AirLift. Their specification says it allowed kamado Joe to reduce the lid’s weight by about 95%.. Like the BK the torque is adjustable to accommodate the lid weight variance. Maximum operating force to lift the lid is 10 lbs. Below 10° and above 60° the lid can move on its own. However, it is still in a controlled fashion. WeberKnapp says supported life is 50k operations. You will need tools to adjust the torque. This is the winner out of the three we review here. Something to note - there are reports of issues with the new hinge - see here for further details..Owners Hinge comments I think it is probably OK for most people - there will always be anomalies. KamadoJoe is good at resolving issues for customers.

The lid on the BK is heavy approx. 50~60kgs. Whilst the mass is welcome when we are cooking (residual thermal heat)- the user needs help by way of a spring assisted hinge. The hinge is embedded into the refractory and further secured to the barrel itself. Using two large stainless springs with two stainless turnbuckles provides stability and torque adjustment. The lid can be easily opened, however, the user must maintain control of the lid until it is fully open or fully closed. It is for this reason we marked it down. The hinge is very robust and few moving parts its a simple design with an estimated working life-span of something like 500k operations. Another plus is there are no bands holding the lid. Nothing to rust or work loose.

Big Green Egg has had little innovation since its inception. Then in 2007 it moved to a cantilever design which moves the lid back as it is opened providing better access to the grill surface. The two springs assist with the weight of the lid. BGE requires and uses the weight of its lid to keep a seal with the base. Whilst the KJ and the BK use stainless catch to ensure secure pull down. There are many reports of rusting and bands either snapping or working loose and the ceramic lid falling out of the metal bands. There are replacement hinges available from the BGE website - although these are expensive.

The Handle

One of the most used parts on a kamado is arguably the handle. Here is a brief description of each. Difficult to decide on the best one as it may be a matter of personal taste. But we will point out any notable features.

Barrel Kamado uses a solid alloy bar this keeps weight down whilst providing a strong weather resistant handle. Plenty of room to grab hold of even with BBQ gloves and it feels very secure. The bar is 19mm and always cool to the touch. The handle is secured with stainless steel bolts , these are embedded in the refractory and bolted through the barrel.

Big Green Egg gets second place because of their un-inspiring handle design and durability of materials. On the plus side their use of wood which is naturally recyclable and sustainable material is a nice touch. Although the design is basic it is a surprisingly comfortable handle to use. There are reports online of people saying that their handles work loose and starts to look tired quickly, however bolts are external so can be maintained. More recent designs are larger so they can be used with BBQ gloves.

A very similar design to the Big Green Egg. The issue here is Plastic... I guess where you stand with the use of plastic will influence you on this one. We believe we should be moving away from plastic. However, in their defence it is a good quality and will last a long time. Once again BBQ glove friendly. Comes in third because of plastic.

The Thermometer

All three have easy to read thermometers. The biggest is on the Kamado Joe. All three are simple bi-metal thermometers and are used as rough guide. These types of thermometer suffer from the several limitations. 1. Accuracy is within +/- 5°c , they measure a single point within the kamado , this can lead to significant inaccuracies. We recommend using at minimum 2 probe digital to supplement the thermometer shipped with your kamado. As a rough guide they are OK - you can get a reassuring feedback that all is well inside the kamado.

Kamado Joe has the largest thermometer and wins top spot. Great for the quick glance to make sure all is well - Generally.

The thermometer on the BK appears better made using stainless case and glass lens and has a robust feel to it. However, its not the largest here. It is sufficient - but alway use probes for accurate results.

Big Green Egg has various thermometers, to be fair their latest one is larger. Once again most users would opt for a digital probe thermometer.

The Gasket

A kamado has to be a sealed unit if we are to control the temperature and keep in the smoke. Where the lid meets the base is an air seal. Most kamdos on the market use an heat felt with adhesive approx. 22mm (1") wide. Both Barrel Kamado and KamadoJoe have moved on to different materials. All work well and all suppliers offer replacements, at wide prices differentials, with each having benefits and draw backs. See below for our analysis..

BK uses two materials - one for the bottom and one for the bottom. The combination works well allowing the differing density to meld and provide a perfect seal. Also the bottom seal in made from a very durable FDA compliant silicone. This can be wiped clean without leaving any residue. The shape of the seals are P-section they are inverted to each other e.g. Pd to form the best smoke free seal.
The gaskets are fitted with a bed of heat resistant silicone .

Both gaskets can be replaced - with instructions on the website. Replacement kits are available at approx £25.00.

KamadoJoe - have reworked their seal moving away from the felt gasket to a wide wire mesh. If you spill meat juice, sauce or anything else - it is difficult to remove from felt. Kamado Joe are hoping their new wire mesh will last longer than the old felt one they used. A significant draw back is the cost of replacement Typical street price for the new wire mesh gasket is £89.99. It gets marked down because it is expensive to replace.

Big Green Egg uses a felt seal. These work well initially but tend to need replacing more frequently than others here. BGE have used this material for many years and does have an advantage of being cheap to replace.

The felt gasket is quick to install. The only drawback is that this gasket does not have the longevity. If food / liquid spills on the gasket and is not wiped up thoroughly, it will get sticky and starts to pull off the gasket. It will also cook the gasket to the point that it will fall apart at high temperatures. Some people are complaining that they only get 6 months of use out of the felt gasket. Up side as we said is the cost £10~20 OEM are available.

The Construction

On the market there are numerous kamados and there are different materials from which they are made. Probably the most common is a fired clay (Porcelain Glazed Ceramic Construction) aka, ceramic. Both the Big Green Egg and the Kamado Joe use this material. The walls of these kamados are approx 22mm think with a smaller vessel on the inside to form a fire pit. A drawback with ceramic pots is they crack and they can get hot on the outside when in use. A big problem for ceramic kamados is that they are fragile. If they fall - they crack. The Big Green Egg is more like and egg than just looks.

Made in UK , Barrels made in France - Using the 24mm Oak barrel as the foundation then lining the whole barrel with ceramic fibre and refractories make for an incredible strong robust structure. Some winemakers are using 100-year-old barrels, the oldest barrel still in use is 547 years old. There are Oak doors in castles and old Churches hundreds of years old. Barrels are designed to be robust, they have been used in an industrial capacity for - again hundreds of years.
BK is heavy, there is a lot of Oak, Iron and Stone-like retractory. It will not blow over.. However, it is also not very mobile - it needs a home and that is where it stays. The mass is great for long low and slow cooks - keeping a very stable temp. The outside is like warm wood - you just want to put your hand on it and hug it.
- hugging a BK.

Made Yixing, China, a city famous for its Zisha (Yixing) Teapot. This city has a very long history with ceramics. These are factories that produce very large numbers of ceramics each year. The process is Clay Mixing, Plastic forming or shaping the form, Letting it dry, Base or first firing, Spray on the glaze, Fire the glaze, Fit the components, Box up. Its a standard Chinese production line. The upside - its well practiced , good quality and cheap to produce, the down side is, it makes a soulless object lacking character and individuality. Another problem that exists is that the Chinese factories are always looking to grow their business and as such can often produce very similar unbranded products.

Have a look at this popup you'll see a Kamado with stainless bands, wooded handles and shelves, stainless steel top vent - is this what KJ should be - or is it a Chinese offering ? Its the later!!

Big Green Egg made in Mexico - uses a fired clay ceramic approx 22mm. the same for its fire pit. However, BGE has an achilles heal. Its the one-piece fire box and one-piece fire ring. Many reports online of people complaining about cracked ceramics - BGE does have a warranty in place and will send out replacements if you have the original receipt. This is the same as their earliest design with BGE claiming they don't need to upgrade a good design. Fragility aside, in terms of functionality it works well and if the fire basket is added (which we included in the price comparison above) you have a perfectly acceptable solution. On the subject of base and lid construction and not components, there is nothing to separate the red kamados from green kamados . Both do a good job, both need care from impacts, both get hot after an hour or so. (though not as hot as a metal BBQ) - Just don't let them blow over.

The Fire Pit

At the very center of a Kamado is the pit! This part that takes the most punishment, it's the part that needs to perform, stand up to heat >1000°c. The stainless steel Fire basket makes kamado life a whole lot easier. Once you finish the cook and let the kamado go cold you have to deal with the reusable charcoal. Lifting out a basket and giving it a shake is massively easier than trying to pick out the charcoal pieces. For this reason all kamados are priced in the comparison table above with one included. All the fire pits here work well, however, some have a tendency to crack. Each of the fire pits are different and solve problems in their own ways. See below for further details.

Barrel Kamado uses a high alumina castable refractory (liquid fire brick). The outer layer of the fire pit is an insulating ceramic material. The next layer is an insulating refractory. Then there is another ceramic insulating layer. The fire pit itself is cast within these layers and is made from 1800°c dense high alumina refractory. At its thickest the fire pit is more than 150mm. of dense hard refractory. The shape of the cast supports the fire basket the floor contains a supported, vented iron base plate above the air chamber. The fire pit is designed with fluted vents allowing them to support the heat deflectors.
The fire pit is fixed and cast into position with no possibility of dropping and braking during maintenance - it does not move from the barrel. Essentially the whole barrel stays as one unit during shipping and operation. The mass of the unit also contributes to the even stable cooking temperature. It wins here because of durability and the cool-to-the touch walls during cooking.

KamadoJoe uses a fired clay ceramic approx 22mm for its fire pit (the same material as the rest of the unit). KJ for many years KJ had a one-piece fire box and fire ring. This was a pain for them as many claims were being made on their warranty. They redesigned , and applied for a patent, the fire box, the new design is for both the fire box and the fire ring. They have been replaced with a six segment / petal assembly held together with a steel top band. This allows for individual segments replacement if necessary and greatly reduces the potential for cracked ceramics. This is an improvement over the one-piece ceramic. The performance is the same, however Kamado Joe maintenance department has become less of a worry for the company.

Big Green Egg uses a fired clay ceramic approc 22mm for its fire pit. However, BGE has an achilles heal. Its the one-piece fire box and one-piece fire ring. Many reports online of people complaining about cracked ceramics - BGE does have a warranty in place and will send out replacements if you have the original receipt. This is the same as their earliest design with BGE claiming they don't need to upgrade a good design. Fragility aside, in terms of functionality it works well and if the fire basket is added you have a perfectly acceptable solution - providing the cracks don't appear.
Examples of cracked BGE fire pits.

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