PelHeat is a website focused on discussing wood pellet grills/smokers. However, I know many people who still know very little about pellet grills and how they work. I also know that many people, when looking to purchase a premium wood grill, are also considering a Kamado ceramic/insulated charcoal grill. Two of the most popular brands of such grills/smokers include Kamado Joe and The Big Green Egg. So how does a pellet grill from say Traeger compare against one of the popular brands of Kamado grills from Kamado Joe? Well, each has its strengths and weakness, which I’ll discuss below.
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Introduction To Pellet vs Kamado Grills/Smokers
Both pellet grills and Kamado grills use real/natural wood as their source of fuel. BBQ wood pellets are simply a compressed form of real wood.
I have a separate article on how Traeger wood pellets are made if you’re interested. Kamado grills also use real wood as their source of fuel.
The difference is its in the form of charcoal. Charcoal is created by burning the wood in a low-oxygen environment to produce a concentrated form of wood fuel with virtually all of the moisture removed.
Please note, Kamado grills are designed to use natural lump charcoal and not briquette charcoal. Briquette charcoal is not a natural wood fuel, it can even contain additives such as borax.
I should note, you can now use charcoal in pellet grills in the form of charcoal pellets, which can help bridge the gap in grilling performance between a pellet grill and a kamado grill. Right, let’s meet the contenders…
Traeger Pro 575
- Total Cooking Area = 575 sq.in (418 sq.in at the main grate)
- Temperature Range = 180 to 500 degrees
- Direct-Flame Access? = No
- Insulated? = No
- Automated Temperature? = Yes
- WiFi/App Control? = Yes
- Typical Price = $899
- Availability = BBQGuys.com
Kamado Joe Classic II 18″
Total Cooking Area = 254 sq.in
Temperature Range = 225 to 750 degrees
Direct-Flame Access? = Yes
Insulated? = Yes
Automated Temperature? = No
WiFi/App Control? = No
Typical Price = $1,260
Availability = BBQGuys.com
Pellet Grill vs Kamado Grill – Temperature Range
Starting with temperature range, while the Traeger Pro 575 can go a little lower at 180 degrees, its maximum temperature is 500 degrees. Whereas the Kamado Joe 18″ has a temperature range of 225 to 750 degrees.
Hence, out of the box, the Kamado grill is more capable of high heat searing than the pellet grill. Part o the reason for this is the Kamado Grill is capable of direct-flame searing. However, I should note a couple of things.
First, using a set of GrillGrates and 100% charcoal pellets can improve a Traegers grilling/searing potential. Second, there are pellet grills with direct-flame grilling which are more capable at searing than currently Traeger pellet grills.
Pellet Grill vs Kamado Grill – Temperature Control
Temperature control on the Traeger Pro 575 and pellet grills, in general, is set it and forget it. As long as there are pellets in the hopper, the control panel will achieve and maintain the set temperature.
On the Kamado Joe Classic 18″, the temperature controller is the user. To regulate the temperature, the user has to adjust the lower air inlet and the upper chimney to try and acheive and regulate the desired temperature.
Hence, it does take a bit of skill to get the temperature of a Kamado charcoal grill exactly where you want it. As cooking with a Kamado does involve the skill to achieve and regulate a set temperature, you are more involved in the cook.
Now, whether that’s actually a good thing or not depends on your own personal perspective. But it also depends on how much time you have available to monitor the cook.
Changes In Ambient Temperature/Wind Speed
On a Kamado grill, over time, the user will become familiar with where to set the lower air vent and upper chimney vent to acheive certain internal cooking temperatures. However, it is dependent on the outside temperature/wind conditions being the same.
A potential problem with a Kamado grill, such as the Kamado Joe Classic 18″ is when the ambient temperature/wind conditions change. To achieve the same internal temperature it will likely require adjustments to the air/chimney vents.
How much adjustment will be required will vary depending on the specific conditions. The point is, with a Kamado charcoal grill, you always need to be watching the internal temperature inside the grill and be ready to make adjustments.
With a pellet grill such as the Traeger Pro 575 featuring a PID temperature controller, it will automatically adjust the pellet feed and air feed to maintain the set temperature even when the ambient temperature/wind conditions change. There is no input required from the user at all
Monitoring and Adjusting The Temperature Remotely
As you may be already aware, many Traeger grills are now WiFi pellet grills. Traeger has branded its WiFi/App integration WiFire. The user can monitor the internal temperature of the grill, adjust the temperature and set timers.
If the meat probe is used, the user can also check the internal temperature of the meat remotely, while at the shops/work etc. With the optional Traeger pellet sensor, the remaining percentage of pellets in the hopper can also also be checked from the WiFire app.
Furthermore, the WiFire app contains lots of recipes and even video instructions on how to cook various cuts of meat. There are also downloadable cook settings for the grill.
Essentially, a Traeger WiFi-enabled pellet grill with the WiFire app is one of the most convenient/easiest means to cook food remotely.
As standard/out of the box, the Kamado Joe does not come with any means to adjust/monitor the cook remotely.
However, every Kamado Joe can be upgraded with the iKamand. The iKamand is an electric fan with WiFi integration that fits over the lower air/draught inlet.
Several meat probes can also be connected to the iKamand and monitored from the app. This does add an additional level of convenience to the standard Kamado Joe.
However, it is also a $249 additional expense. Furthermore, it will not be able to control the combustion process as precisely as a PID-controlled pellet grill such as the Traeger Pro 575.
Cooking In Cold Climates
Above, I discussed how a PID-controlled pellet grill such as the Traeger Pro 575 will adjust the fuel/air mixture automatically in colder climates, whereas Kamado Joe will not (without an iKamand fitted). Well, grilling/smoking in colder climates is not just about controlling the combustion process.
How well can the grill actually hold on to that heat? In other words, how well insulated is the grill? Well, the Traeger Pro 575 is not an insulated pellet grill.
The Kamado Joe Classic 18″, on the other hand, with its thick ceramic shell surrounding the whole combustion/cooking chamber, is well suited to grilling in colder climates.
I don’t have any figures to back this up, but I don’t believe any pellet grill currently on the market will hold onto its heat as well as a Kamado Joe (other than the Pellet Joe).
The ability of a Kamado charcoal grill to hold on to heat is really its key standout feature. As its also what gives a kamado good high-temperature grilling performance as well.
Pellet Grill vs Kamado Grill – Smoke Flavour Profile
As a general rule, you will find that a Kamado charcoal grill such as the Kamado Joe is going to provide stronger/more intense smoke flavours into the food than a typical pellet grill (Camp Chef Woodwind Pro excluded).
Now, whether that’s a good thing or not obviously comes down to personal preference. Do you want food cooked with a light smokey flavour or a very strong smoke taste?
Therefore, in this specific comparison, if your looking for lightly smoked food the Traeger Pro 575 can meet that requirement. The Kamado Joe Classic 18″ on the other than will provide food with a stronger smoke taste profile.
Pellet Grill vs Kamado Grill – Durability/Weatherproof?
Therefore, with any pellet grill that’s not made from stainless steel, its better to store it in a shed/garage when not in use to keep it in the best condition possible or use a good quality cover.
When it comes to using a pellet grill in the rain, you want to avoid that for several reasons. First, a pellet grill features electrical components, so you don’t want them getting wet.
When it comes to a Kamado grill, such as the Kamado Joe Classic 18″ as there are no electrical components (provided an iKamand is not fitted), you don’t have to worry about weather/rain to the same extent. Furthermore, the ceramic body with the glazed exterior finish is very weather resistant.
However, you have to make sure water doesn’t sit inside a kamado as freezing water inside the kamado could potentially expand and crack the ceramic body, which would be irreparable.
There are steel components on the Kamado Joe, the stand/hinges etc, so they will rust over time. The top chimney vent is cast aluminium, so corrosion is not so much of a concern there.
Conclusions On Pellet vs Kamado Grills/Smokers
So hopefully after reading the above, its pretty clear that there is no outright ‘best’ option when it comes to pellet vs kamado grills/smokers. It really depends on what you’re looking for.
If you are looking to be heavily involved in the cooking process where you are controlling the fire to produce individual results so you can show you are a ‘master of the grill’, a Kamado grill such as the Kamado Joe Classic 18″ probably suits you better.
However, if you are looking for a more convenient solution that will pretty much do all the work for you, that’s where a pellet grill, especially one with WiFi such as the Traeger Pro 575 is the better option.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found the above interesting/useful on whether a pellet or kamado grill/smoker is going to suit your needs better.
If you would like to learn more about the wide range of pellet grills on the market today (and there’s a lot to learn), please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.