Kamado Joe or Primo Grills: Which Brand is Best?
Kamado grills are designed after ancient clay cooking pots found in the Far East. Modern versions combine the age-old cooking method with modern features, resulting in grills that are both versatile and economic.
Even though it’s not strictly a kamado, the design and features of the Primo Ceramic Charcoal Grill highly resemble those of other kamado grills. Both the Kamado Joe and the Primo are among the best grills in their price range.
Kamado Joe vs Primo
Quick Background on Kamado Joe
When you think of Kamado style grilling, Kamado Joe is one of the biggest names out there, if not the biggest. They are an American brand with manufacturing in China. With that said, it’s not a cheap Chinese imitation.
It’s important to remember that Kamado style ceramic cooking ovens originated in Japan, possibly dating even further back to India (tandoor). Most of the people manufacturing in China are in regions like Yixing, which is known for their ceramics. Not much more is said about Kamado Joe other than they manufacture in China.
Features of the Kamado Joe Classic
One of the first things to consider about any grill is the regulation of temperature. The grill itself is made of 1″ thick ceramic walls which hold the heat and radiate it through the grill effectively. This leads to a consistent temperature throughout your smoking process. The only air that can get out is through vents that you have full control of. There are no other gaps or leaks, and the seal is exceptional. Kamado Joe notes a rating of 225 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to reach these temperatures you only need a single pile of lump charcoal that will last up to 12 hours.
While the heat regulation is exceptional, these grills are beasts. As you can expect, the ceramic is quite heavy weighing in at 188 lbs. Taking this to a friends house for a BBQ or a tailgate just isn’t going to happen. Several people have these installed directly into their patio furniture for a reason! The only other downside is the amount of cooking space readily available. If you are looking for a competitive smoker, possibly consider their XL version for more cooking surface, or just buy two.
All things considered, if you take good care of this grill, it should last at least a decade. The grill has a patented, all-aluminum, rust and rainproof top vent. The built-in thermometer is also a bonus and is quite accurate at +/- 5 degrees. The all-new feathertouch air-lift hinge is an added bonus too. It prevents the dome from slamming down and potentially shattering the grill.
Pros and cons
- Optimal temperature control
- Easy to use
- Great quality for China!
- Uses almost no charcoal
- Super heavy
- Expensive, but not bad for a Kamado style grill
Quick Background on Primo
If you’re about American made products and supporting what that movement stands for, then Primo grills should be your go to. Primo notes they are the only ceramic grill brand that manufactures their products in America (Tucker, GA to be specific). Once you start going down the rabbit hole of Kamado grills you will soon discover the lack of transparency in manufacturing.
As you can expect, the pricing is going to reflect these manufacturing processes, but at least you’re supporting American workers and true American brands. There are four major players in the Kamado grilling industry, and Primo is the only one that is manufacturing in America.
Features of the Primo Oval Junior
Again, the most important feature of any smoker is temperature regulation and having a consistent temperature. While Primo doesn’t detail the thickness of their ceramic, they do note the grill uses a unique oval design for more flexible grilling. The temperature is controlled by a vent on the bottom and a circular vent on the top.
They also detail that the exterior is a premium-grade ceramic blend that prevents scratches. This is super important because most metal grills are prone to paint bubbling at high-heat. Due to the ceramic heat retention, the glaze isn’t affected by low-quality paint problems. Considering ceramic grills can reach 750+ degrees Fahrenheit, this is absolutely necessary.
The hardest part of any ceramic grill is the cleaning process. We weren’t joking when we said the Kamado Joe was heavy, luckily the Primo is a bit lighter at 95 lbs. You also have the added issue of being cumbersome due to the oval setup. Granted the oval design leads to more flexible cooking that we’ll look at in the comparison below. Once you have the lid off though it’s a relatively easy clean-up.
The Primo XL is a true ceramic grill. As with most ceramic grills, it can be difficult to learn how to regulate temperature but once you do it’s a breeze.
Pros and cons
- American made
- 20-year warranty on ceramic parts
- Easy to use
Comparing These Models
Both Primo and Kamado Joe are solid brands when it comes to ceramic grills. With that said, both of these grills approach their brands in different ways. The most obvious is the manufacturing process. Primo prefers to have all manufacturing and material sourcing done in the United States. This is admirable in a time when companies try to outsource to other countries to save on operational costs. They are also super transparent when it comes to this and the information is readily available online. In contrast, the other three major brands don’t readily have this information unless you look for it.
The next thing to consider is how you plan to use your ceramic grill. Something that Kamado Joe does is they “divide and conquer.” Primo grills uses an oval shape that allows for coals to be placed strategically. For instance, if you want direct heat for your meat and indirect heat for your vegetables you can set this up by positioning the coals on one side. You can also arrange the grill for searing as well as general grilling, baking, smoking, and roasting.
Kamado Joe offers a variety of features that primo does not.
The first is the feathertouch airlift hinge. This hinge reduces the weight of the dome by 96% making lifting and closing a breeze. One of the biggest problems with charcoal is the clean-up. Since these grills use lump-charcoal, they run into the same sort of problems. The Kamado Joe has a slide-out ash drawer making this process much easier. Kamado Joe also comes with accessories like integrated tables and casters. These accessories are also available for the Primo at an additional cost.
Primo and Kamado Joe are both great brands when it comes to ceramic grilling. If you are after something made in the USA with American craftsmanship, then the Primo is the best option. It is also the easiest to use and best for beginners and enthusiasts alike. If you’re after an all in one solution with additional accessories then Kamado Joe could be a great alternative.
Happy Grillin’ Folks!
Chef and Reviewer for Barbequesmoked.com