Picture a couple of Sumo wrestlers in the ring, one called Big Green Egg and the other KamadoJoe. Deep bow and they bump into each other and the contest is on.
We’re talking about some seriously heavyweight contenders here in the ceramic cooking category, and it’s a fitting comparison because these two BBQ beast brands not only weigh about the same as your average Sumo, but also trace their heritage back to Japan.
The ancient clay cooking vessel that had originated in China 3,000 years ago developed there with a removable dome lid, and was known as a “mushikamado.” There was a draft door and a damper to control heat, with charcoal fuel instead of wood. It was introduced to Americans after World War II and the name was shortened to “kamado,” meaning “hearth” or “oven.”
This opened the door to a future of backyard bliss and colorful competition that makes everyone in this outdoor grill contest better. We’ll size up the heavyweights here so you can decide which one is right for you.
Just so you know, this isn’t an affiliate post. We just know that getting the right ceramic cooker matters, and wanted to make it a little easier with this review.
ALL ABOUT THE BIG GREEN EGG
Big Green Egg has one big advantage: its history. If you know the Nike story, then this is almost like reading founder Phil Knight’s bio and substituting grilling for running.
Just as Knight began his business by going to Japan and buying large quantities of their innovative Tiger shoes and then selling them to fellow runners back in Oregon, Ed Fisher began importing kamados from the Far East in 1974 as founder of Big Green Egg in Atlanta.
Knight had his “swoosh” and Fisher had his “whoosh” -- the sweet sound of smoky air released from the vacuum seal when you open the air lift hinge and inhale the dazzling aroma that heralds another perfect BBQ experience. The Big Green Egg has been an iconic fact of life for a half-century and the category grew up around that brand with a weighty oval instead of a rectangular gas grill, pellet grill, Hibachi grill or your basic Weber charcoal grills.
The egg shape still has an important purpose, for reaching the brand’s famously high heat. It relies on lump charcoal, ideally from the same kinds of hardwood you would use in hardwood pellets or in a smoker. Because charcoal can maintain higher heat than raw wood, and because of the unique shape and insulation of the Big Green Egg, it can reach internal temperatures as high as 1,200 degrees and can maintain that heat far longer than you actually need for any cooking.
This means a big advantage for anyone wanting to cook large quantities of meat, because you can sear and clear pretty fast. It can offer high-speed cooking at its finest. Then again, anyone who has been frying a Thanksgiving turkey may find even more satisfaction (and less mess) smoking that Butterball on a slow roll.
Big Green Egg owners who have gradually upgraded and/or added accessories know first-hand that the product is getting better all the time, with endless possibilities . . . thanks to big competition.
Want some incredible Big Green Egg recipes? We’ve got you covered.
ALL ABOUT THE KAMADO JOE
And in this corner, the ultimate Sumo heavyweight from KamadoJoe: 487-pound Big Joe Grill, with all the parts included. We’re talking massive. Probably way more than most people need, with 450 square inches of uninterrupted cooking space, but worth mentioning because the whole point here is that these grills are beasts with the high ceramic quality packing the pounds.
The brand’s Classic Joe Grill - Series III, by comparison, is a svelte 360, more like an All-Pro NFL lineman. That’s a more apt model to compare with the Large EGG.
While grillers were gradually raising their game from the smallest EGG up through its line to more powerful models, along came Kamado Joe, taking the name of the actual original product itself, and unleashing innovation and making it a competition.
Kamado Joe came along with the air lift hinge, a better gasket, the three-tier Divide & Conquer rack system, and a more sophisticated Kontrol Tower Top Vent.
Then boom, along came the brand’s Series III models including a “slow roller” plate that, according to the company, creates 20 times more smoke circulation for more even cooking. Low and slow grillers will appreciate that.
Other great features include the super-easy ash removal drawer, while you cook; a nice storage plate underneath, and an outstanding firebox.
Ready to fire up your KamadoJoe? Here are 26 great barbecue grill recipes to get started.
HEAD TO HEAD: BIG GREEN EGG VS KAMADO JOE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Now that we know a bit more about both of these grills, let's talk about strengths and weaknesses head to head.
Both cookers produce those classic high heats that are perfect for getting an ideal sear and can make managing larger cuts of meat slightly easier. But there are plenty of differences.
KamadoJoe prompted multiple improvements in the Big Green Egg, which again is good for the overall BBQ industry. And Big Green Egg has risen to the challenge, making KamadoJoe work even harder. Everyone’s after the same result and ultimately it’s a matter of taste.
It used to be that KamadoJoe was an all-in-one option that cost more, and you bought the Big Green Egg bare and then added accessories that ultimately made the total cost even. Now you can find EGG packages that just make it a dead heat, cost-wise.
KamadoJoe’s spring assisted hood has been widely acknowledged as superior, but the Big Green Egg raised its game, especially after seeing some lids fall and shatter. Their spring assist hood is good enough for some, proving that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery even for smokers. By the way, KamadoJoe’s lid raises higher, and that still is a plus.
KamadoJoe’s Kontrol Tower Top Vent comes with raised lines that make it easy to know how far to open the vent to reach a desired temperature based on previous usage. The EGG’s cap is cast iron with a hard-rubber finger protector, so it’s durable and useful, but some owners resorted to notching marks in the cap to show how far to open it. KamadoJoe’s cap also does a better job of rain protection . . . but its cast aluminum might not last as long as the cast iron version.
The 5-Piece EGGspander Kit helped match KamadoJoe’s Divide & Conquer racks. KamadoJoe has the DoJoe to make it a brick oven pizza, but the EGG can match that. The JoeTisserie makes everything cook slow and even when you want it to, like a roaster or chicken wings, maybe my favorite KamadoJoe accessory.
Both BBQ grills come with multiple stand and nesting options, and castor wheels mean it’s a portable grill, easily moved despite all that weight.
As far as aesthetics, it’s up to you on the color. Whatever matches your outdoor setting, perhaps. When you’re just looking at them side by side, you do notice that the Big Green Egg’s wood handle with the company logo is much more appealing than the blah black plastic handle on the KamadoJoe. A handle option would be good.
Whichever brand you choose, be sure to register the warranty info right away. Headsup: they take different approaches to handling part replacements: BGE has you go through your local dealer, and KamadoJoe sends you to their corporate site. Bottom line, both companies make phenomenal products and stand by them with outstanding lifetime guarantees for core ceramics.
WHO IS IT FOR?
This is for the power griller who respects that traditional clay oven and has that same reaction that U.S. servicemen had to these predecessors when stationed in Japan years ago. It’s for the purist who has a little higher skill level and, let’s be honest, wants to show off.
NASA helped develop the Big Green Egg ceramic, and its peerless insulating properties will withstand extreme temperatures and temperature changes. This is for people who appreciate that technology. Possible edge to BGE as the leader there.
Ceramic cooking is seen as more work to other people, but to you it’s a hobby and passion, no matter the weather, resulting in really superior BBQ results. Just check the worldwide Instagram user posts for both, from sausage in Germany to St. Louis style ribs.
FINAL THOUGHTS: BIG GREEN EGG VS KAMADO JOE
KamadoJoe has reinvigorated the kamado grill world, whereas the original showed its age a little and needed serious competition to add features. Some say the Big Green Egg is the all-time king, with a powerhouse community that will swear by its tradition.
Put these two outdoor smokers together and what do you have? Hello, Christmas. It’s Team Red vs. Team Green, so you might as well plan for the holidays.
If you want to push your grill skill and options to the next level, both of these cookers rise to the challenge. They are literally two Sumo wrestlers in opposite corners with unstoppable momentum, with only the smallest difference capable of pushing one out of the ceramic circle.