Monolith kamado barbecue smokers and grills are the new kids on the European block but how well do they compare to the well established brands such as Big Green Egg or Primo?
The Monolith kamado barbecue is a German brand of a Chinese manufactured product and whilst I'd like to see a product manufactured closer to home, it's not going to happen. There are no ceramic manufacturers in Western Europe prepared to invest in tooling so going forward, low cost country sourcing is the only way to get ceramic kamados to the masses at reasonable cost.
And Monolith aren't the only ones doing this:
Big Green Egg is manufactured in Mexico and is available for sale in North America, UK & Europe.
Grill Dome is manufactured in India and is marketed only in America
Kamado Joe is made in China and is sold in USA & UK
Out of all of the well established brands only Primo is still made in a "developed" country (USA).
There are small differences in the performance of ceramics but overall my conclusion is that whichever of the top brand kamado grills you buy, performance is similar.
You're still going to get everything that a kamado offers:-
Your choice of which kamado to buy revolves around the features, innovation, the bundle of extras and of course the price. Monolith scores well in most of these areas.
I've long been a fan of the Primo XL oval grill because of it's shape and split heat deflector that means you can cook both directly and indirectly at the same time - a handy feature when grilling steaks and grilled hamburgers.
The Primo advantage has now definitely been lost as Monolith (and Kamado Joe & Big Green Egg) are now offering a split heat deflector stone but Monolith are the only brand to take this one step further by including a charcoal basket with divider in the standard offering. At a lower price point too, that now makes Monolith the winner.
You have to have the heat deflector stone otherwise you're buying a bloomin' expensive grill so why the other manufacturers still insist on pricing everything separately I really don't know. Only Monolith offer the complete package in the standard price.
It would have been nice to include the pizza stone as well but I guess many of us already own one of these...or maybe this will be the evolution for 2017?
The Monolith kamado barbecue is fantastic at retaining heat and supremely economical on fuel. Add to that the ease with which you can control temperature makes these dudes the perfect home smoker.
In the past when doing a long smoking session with my kamado, the one pain in the bum has been when I've needed to replenish the wood chips to get more smoke.
Overall it's quite a performance and the Monolith kamado barbecue guys have come up with their smokEasy innovation.
It's a hinged peephole in the side of the kamado, below the heat deflector and above the firebox. All you do is slide a metal chute into the peephole and pour smoke pellets onto the fire. It's simple and effective and much improved for 2016 - the stopper is now hinged so it is a snug fit in the hole (and you can't lose it).
You're not tied into using Monolith smoke pellets but that said the price and variety of Monolith pellets available isn't bad anyway.
I had seen an orange coloured junior kamado in a local department store branded "Berghoff" (made by the Auplex company in China) which had the most flimsy hinge mechanism for the lid. It wasn't supported by springs and I could foresee a broken lid in no time and it had occurred to me that the "Junior" Monolith might share this same hinge.
I'm pleased to say that my fears were unfounded. The Monolith "Junior" sets the standard and shares a stainless steel hinge mechanism the same as "classic" & "Le Chef" units.
I was impressed with the cradle which was easy to assemble and provides a stable centre of gravity and good quality locking casters made for easy manoeuvrability around the garden.
The quality of the ceramic and coating appear no less than that of those at the expensive end of the market and happily the top vent is cast iron and not the cheaper stainless steel.
There's no ceramic snuffer cap. It's a "nice to have" so consider this a gripe I have with all manufacturers with the exception of Big Green Egg. The snuffer cap immediately kills the fire when you've finished cooking and because it sits where the daisy wheel top damper is, you're forced to take the daisy wheel off and that protects it from the elements (they can seize up). But would you pay Big Green Egg prices just for the snuffer cap? I think not.
I don't like the galvanised steel frame of the table for the Classic (stainless steel please!) and the two wheels at one end rather than a full set of casters fails to differentiate it from the standard "wheelbarrow style" of cheap barbecue grills too. Yes the cost is £250 lower than the equivalent Big Green Egg but when you're spending over £1,250 on a barbecue you want it to look the part so I'll be spending my money on a buggy.
The same applies to the full outdoor kitchen option. It may be excellent value for money but when I'm spending close to £2,500 I want a stainless steel frame.
I was pleased when my Monolith Junior arrived for testing. It was well packaged on a small pallet with good padding to minimise the risk of damage.
The driver of the vehicle used a pump truck to deposit it in my driveway but from there it was up to me.
Cut the banding and you're in. You can lift the sides of the box to reveal the Monolith kamado barbecue in situ and I was pleased to note that the lid was already attached so immediately I knew that this assembly was going to take significantly less time than the Big Green Egg.
Even the stand is well designed and easy to set up. The complete set up took me about 45 minutes and frankly that could have been significantly less if I could have got the protective film off the cradle above!
The legs simply screw into position, just remember to put these decorative caps onto the top ends of the leg before attaching the legs to the cradle.
Instructions? Well not much to go on really but then it was pretty intuitive.
There are a number of kamado brands on the market which is good for raising the profile of kamado cooking in the UK. Only the German Monolith kamado barbecue brand however has taken this traditional 3000 year old design to the highest level.
1. Value for money
So versatile is the kamado that it’s probably the only piece of outdoor cooking equipment that you will ever need to buy…and it will last a lifetime! But in order to grill, smoke & bake you need the complete set of components.
Other brands offer just the basic shell and then charge extra for the cart and internal components. Monolith however offer the complete bundle including the heat deflector stone, 2nd tier cooking grate, smoke chip feeder system, grill grate lifter and charcoal basket.
Monolith and you get maximum BBQ & smoker enjoyment from day one.
2. German quality design
It’s not just the ceramic, every aspect of the Monolith oozes quality:
3. Technical innovation
Pound for pound, the Monolith kamado delivers creative outdoor cooking for less money than the more established brands and that has to be good news. Now that the "essential extras" are included in the basic price it makes it easier to make that like for like comparison.
So long as the price remains competitive it would appear that the Monolith kamado barbecue grill is on the road to success.
Sorry guys, you're going to have to wait. The Monolith kamado barbecue is not yet available in North America but I think it's fair to say that the operative word is "yet".
Most dealers are in Germany, BeNeLux and Denmark at the moment but new distributors are coming on stream all the time (France & Spain). Use the dealer locator on the German website for more info.
Monolith kamado barbecue stockists include:-
Hot Smoked - Tiverton
Living Outside - Poole
Bentley Fire Shop - Colchester
Outdoor Kitchens and Decking - Cirencester
Kingsworthy Foundry - Winchester
BBQ Barn - Sidcup
Infusions4Chefs - Bury St Edmunds
AlfrescoPro - Woking
Bradley Stoves - Horsham
Keen Gardener - Alcester
BBQ Store - Alcester