Big Green Egg vs Kamado Joe,
Monolith & Primo 

The Big Green Egg ceramic kamado is a BBQ smoker, grill, pizza oven and even a tandoor all in one and brand aside I'm a big fan of ceramic grills. In fact the ceramic kamado has to be one of the most versatile pieces of outdoor cooking equipment that I’ve ever experienced.

Big Green Egg vs Kamado Joe

The Big Green Egg (BGE) is the original American kamado although it is now made in Mexico. Anyway, it might be the original, but sadly it's no longer the best.

To demonstrate the comparison I've produced a table that compares value for money Big Green Egg vs Kamado Joe vs Monolith.

Having cooked on pretty much every top brand ceramic grill over the last 10 years my review will highlight both good and not so good features and how the BGE features compare to Monolith, Kamado Joe and the Primo round kamado.

How A Ceramic Kamado Works

The basic operating principle of a kamado is as follows:;

Manufactured from high quality ceramics which act as an excellent thermal insulant, a kamado will hold temperature constant for a long period of time. Temperature regulation is done by controlling the air flow through the grill, it has adjustable dampers both top and bottom and the more air that is sucked in the bottom, the hotter the fire gets and the hotter the fire gets, the more air that's sucked in.

With top and bottom dampers fully open during ignition they say that your "Egg" will be up above 110°C (220°F) in 10 minutes. Having used one for a few years I'd say that it's more like 15 minutes but that's still streets ahead of either a traditional open charcoal grill and similar to a gas grill.

The maximum temperature achievable is in excess of 375°C (700°F) which is ideal for pizza or a nice piece of tandoori chicken.

Big Green Egg Promotional Image

I have a Big Green Egg at home, I also have 2 Monoliths and recently sold my (Primo) oval (because the oval shape means I can't use any of the increasingly abundant range of accessories for round ceramic grills). The BGE was first kamado I ever bought mainly because in the UK in 2008 it was the only kamado available and even then I had to buy it from a company in the Republic Of Ireland.

I have to say that it does more or less everything that the marketing blurb states, and let's face it, it really is marketed well, but then again so do most other top brands of kamado... and I believe that both Kamado Joe and Monolith have now surpassed it.

Big Green Egg Basics

The BGE comes in four different sizes differentiated by the diameter of grilling area for cooking:-

The versatility of cooking styles that can be done on the ceramic barbecue is one of it's key selling points. The critical piece of kit that every ceramic grill should include is the ceramic heat deflector stone (BGE call it the plate setter) that sits under the cooking grate so protecting your food from direct heat. In essence by inserting the "plate setter" that you can cook indirectly and use it as a smoker or oven.

Image Of The Range Of Big Green Eggs

Monolith and Kamado Joe both include the heat deflector stones in the basic package, the BGE & Primo kamado do not so you need to be aware of this when it comes to making price comparisons.

In addition both Monolith & Kamado Joe also feature a split heat deflector stone in their Classic and larger models so that you can grill and bake at the same time (or use for 2 zone cooking). Both Big Green Egg and Primo kamado have failed to make this innovation although it is available at extra cost in the Primo oval - see my comparision of the Big Green Egg versus Primo oval.

The ceramic snuffer cap on the Big Green Egg

A nice touch that is unique to the BGE is the ceramic snuffer cap that you can place over the top when your grill is not in use. This works not only to protect your top damper from seizing, it also acts as a great cork when you want to cut the fire at the end of the cookout.

The bottom damper also has a secondary perforated cover to protect you from hot ash during the cookout. A nice safety feature.

TIP - When you remove the top damper at the end of a cookout always leave it in the open position. After a few cookouts it will get tar in it that can "clog it up", it comes loose again when it warms up and it is so much easier to warm everything up when the dampers are open.

TIP - When placing the damper on the top it's tempting to place it so that the embossed Big Green Egg mark is neatly facing you but won't help when cooking. When you turn your food, if the damper is positioned as I've described then it will slide into the fully open position when you open the lid so when you close the lid your fire and temperature will race ahead and (unless you notice) present you with a burnt offering. Place the damper on top with the hinge immediately in front of you and it won't lose its aperture setting when the lid is opened.

Innovation

This is where the Big Green Egg comes unstuck and the aforementioned innovation by Monolith and Kamado Joe to split the heat deflector stones on their two larger grills is a case in point.

Kamado Joe (Joe II) have further innovated with a new hinge and "typically German" Monolith have innovated quality carts, buggies and their unique smoke chip feeder system that allows you to add wood pellets to your coals without getting a face full of smoke. 

The Big Green Egg Hinge

A new style hinge is the only significant innovation that I've seen on the current BGE over the one that I bought 10 years ago. This new hinge eases the weight of the lid by allowing the user share the lifting weight in both a vertical and lateral movement over the back of the base.

New hinge on the Big Green Egg

It's a move away from the traditional hinge (still used by Monolith, the original Kamado Joe and Primo) to try and make ease the lifting of the lid whilst still allowing the full weight of the lid to provide the all important mechanical seal between the gaskets on the lid and the base.

It achieved its purpose to some degree at the same time this new design feels somewhat less robust because the springs make a clunking noise as they expand and contract because of how they move as the lid is opened and closed.

Big Green Egg hinge with lid closed

I have also heard some folks feedback that alignment of the lid and base during assembly is more difficult with this style of hinge. To be fair I've no experience on this point and you can avoid the risk by buying one fully assembled by your retailer.

The other negative to this different hinge operation is that it eliminates your ability to guarantee being able to interchange different brand accessories on what effectively are common sizes of kamado. Here I'm thinking of the rotisseries offered by both Kamado Joe and Monolith and also the Monolith wok and stand.

Note: The Kamado Joe II features and new hinge which is really easy to lift and lower, moreover if completely reverses the mechanism for creating the mechanical seal. Different it certainly is but will people pay the extra £350 and is it going to stand the test of time?... well I'd like to give it a few years wear and tear first. 

What's The Downside To A BGE?

There are two issues for me:

  1. The hinge, banding and fixings are made from painted steel rather than rust free stainless steel
  2. Value for money

Rust

Ten years old and the banding on my Big Green Egg looks like this:-

Painted steel banding on the Big Green Egg rusts after a year or so

Worse still, this is a unit that I saw on display in a shop and the fixings are already starting to rust.

Rusty tension bolts on a showroom Big Green Egg

The Big Green Egg website states that the reason they persist with painted steel is because of the lower thermal expansion of mild steel versus stainless - their argument being that when you heat up a ceramic grill, stainless steel will expand more than mild steel and you risk the lid coming loose from the banding.

Yes it's true that the thermal expansion coefficients of regular steel and stainless steel are different but not so as to be significant:

  • Regular steel = 0.000012 m/m°C
  • Type 304 stainless steel = 0.00173 m/m°C

The length of steel banding in a large Big Green Egg is 1690mm

Running a Big Green Egg at a searing 400°C (750°F) internal temperature and I found that the temperature of the banding stabilised at 90°C (194°F)

If you then use this linear thermal expansion calculator to determine the change in length of both regular steel and mild steel through a temperature change from 15°C (59°F) to 90°C (194°F) here are the results:-

  • Mild steel expands from 1690mm to 1691.5mm
  • Type 304 stainless steel expands from 1690mm to 1692.2mm
  • Difference = 0.7mm (1/40 inch)

Note: Only Monolith offers rust free stainless steel hinge, banding and fixings as standard.

I can only conclude that thermal expansion probably isn't the only reason and that manufacturing cost possibly plays a part and that brings me neatly onto my second point...

Value For Money

This could get very complicated so to simplify I'm going to concentrate on the most popular size of kamado

  • Big Green Egg Large
  • Monolith Classic
  • Kamado Joe Classic
  • Primo kamado

It's fair to say that both Kamado Joe and Monolith offer significantly more equipment in their basic bundles so in an effort to level the playing field I'll build up a Big Green Egg until it reaches the basic bundle from Kamado Joe and Monolith. So the table below will allow you to make an easy comparison Big Green Egg vs Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg vs Monolith and Kamado Joe versus Monolith.

The Primo offering is different yet again but I've decided not to add a column for Primo because I think most folk buying a Primo will be want to buy the oval and this different shape deserves a more in depth feature comparison rather than just a straight forward cost comparison.

There are some features that are specific to one brand such as the charcoal basket which is only available on the Monolith and Kamado Joe or the integral ash pan which is exclusive to Kamado Joe so I can't put a cost against these items so I've highlighted additional features at the bottom.

One last point to make is that you won't see Big Green Egg or Monolith prices openly discounted on the web so the price I've used is the recommended retail price (RRP) but Kamado Joe publish a mythical RRP and the product is openly discounted. In order to draw a reasonable comparison I've used the discounted price that is most commonly used.

Feature

Big Green Egg (large)

Monolith Classic

Kamado Joe Classic

Basic Price

£950

£995

£899

Stand

£250

Included

Included

Side Shelves

£145 (composite)

Included (bamboo & stainless steel)

Included (HDPE plastic)

Heat Deflector Stone

£65 (one piece)

Included (two half moon)

Included (two half moon)

2nd tier cooking grate

£25

Included

£50

Pizza Stone

£40

Included

£25

Total Cost


£1,475


£995


£974


Grill Grate Gripper

Not Available

Included

Included

Charcoal Basket

Not Available

Included (with divider)

£75

Ash Pan

£30

Not Available

Included

Air Lift Hinge

Not Available

Not Available

£350

Smoke Chip Feeder

Not Available

Included

Not Available

Stainless Steel Hinge And Banding

Not Available

Included

Not Available

Colour

Green

Black or Red

Red

Verdict

I thoroughly enjoy cooking on ceramic grills, I’ve done my best ever tandoori chicken breast on the Green Egg, I’ve done a mean naan bread and wicked chicken tikka with the Monolith rotisserie and 7 skewer accessory. My point is that whichever ceramic you choose, you're going to get a fantastic piece of outdoor cooking equipment and you'll probably never want or need to buy another grill or smoker ever again.

Big Green Egg has a wonderful marketing machine which no doubt is funded by everyone who buys one but given that the cooking results are the same whichever of these three ceramics you buy then cost has to be a factor. The winners for me are:

Big Green Egg vs Kamado Joe = Kamado Joe

Big Green Egg vs Monolith = Monolith

Kamado Joe vs Monolith = There's nothing in the price, I have my favourite (I love rust free stainless steel in our mild & wet British climate) but for you it may be the options on accessories or it might just come down to the colour!

Where To Buy A Big Green Egg

If you still have your heart set on the green machine then you have to go through an official distributor and the best place to find this is on the Big Green Egg website but unfortunately this doesn’t always get a good search result.

A Big Green Egg consignment

There are plenty of retailers in the UK and the UK distributor is Alfresco Concepts and these are the only UK guys selling direct on the internet.

If you're in California you can buy a once used egg from the organizers of the SoCal Eggfest. Note that these units are sold as used, they therefore are discounted from the new price but it's collection only and no refunds.

Click here for the distributor in Canada

Click here for the distributor in Netherlands

Click here for the distributor in New Zealand

As a last resort you can e-mail Big Green Egg and they will come back to you.

When you do find a retailer near you, most recognise that the product is premium priced compared to the competition and they will be willing to offer a discount. It's just that they won't publish it so you have to ask.

A final word of warning, if you find a new Green Egg being sold on the internet, the warranty will have been invalidated so if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Related Pages:-

Primo vs BGE
The Green Egg Grill Versus The Grill Dome
Kamado Recipes
Changing A Kamado Felt Gasket
BBQ Accessories and Cooking Equipment

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