With the holidays fast approaching, I can't say I'm in the market for a new cooker today, but after tax time I'm looking to seriously indulge my jonze for a kamado cooker. I'm leaning towards Kamado Joe as a high-quality but mid-range price option. Opinions? Counter-points?
Initial brand impressions, from where I sit after a good bit of research:
BGE: The old standard, expensive but well established company. A safe bet for a proven cooker if you have the wallet.
Primo: American made (a rarity), high quality ceramics, attractive tables (for additional $$), bonus for Oval models given you can two-zone cook with horizontally divided chambers rather than rely on a deflector to provide indirect cooking vertically. But expensive for this feature if you have a couple of Weber kettles on hand such as I do.
Vision, Bubba / Steel Keg, Bayou Classic, Grill Dome, Komodo Kamado, Saffire, etc.: These seem to all be variations on essentially the same theme. Decent quality, minor variations of features from one to the next. From what I've read, these are all competent cookers, just pick the price point and specific features that appeal to you, but nothing hugely stand-out from the lot.
Char-Griller Akorn (or other OEM versions): Stands out because a $300 price point (including cart, side tables, and cast-iron grate) forgives many sins, especially if you're handy with a silicone caulk gun. JMSeltzer's vids and collaborating testimony make this a tempting entry-point kamado model.
Kamado Joe: Based on a week's worth of intensive reading, this seems to hit the sweet spot -- a very high quality cooker for a mid-range $800 price point (18" model) especially considering what's included. Selling points seem to be thick, high-quality ceramics, excellent gaskets, cart / side tables / tools included, good warranty and excellent customer service. Smart design choices including a lower vent screen (on 2012 and later models), high-quality metal components, gasket on upper vent and mid-body metal bands, easy assembly. They're built overseas but most cookers are. Universally high review ratings, often compared to or rated superior to even the BGE standard.
Anything glaringly obvious I'm missing?
~ Scott ~
Blue Weber Performer + Craycort CI • Brick Red Weber One-Touch Platinum • Weber 26.75 Kettle • Akorn Kamado • ET 732 • Record-crushing ORANGE Thermapen • UDS In Progress