Monolith Kamado Barbecue Smokers & Grills Review

Monolith kamado barbecue smokers and grills are well established on the European scene and recent Pro Series 2.0 innovations have seen them rise to best in class compared to Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg or Primo

Monolith Classic Pro Series 2.0Monolith Classic Pro Series 2.0
Monolith LeChef Pro Series 2.0Monolith LeChef Pro Series 2.0
Monolith IconMonolith Icon
Monolith Junior Pro Series 2.0Monolith Junior Pro Series 2.0

There are 4 different sizes of Monolith kamado barbecue. Classic is the standard family size, Junior for couples, Icon for portability (although it's still quite heavy)  and Le Chef is the party animal.

Star Rating

★★★★ - The Monolith kamado barbecue is a German brand of a Chinese manufactured product and well deserving of this five star rating from us.

The Pro Series 2.0 builds on the rock solid foundation of ceramic build quality and rust free stainless steel metalwork and now leads the industry with an unrivalled gasket system that means an end to the trouble and expense of gasket replacement. 

Stainless steel base plate on the Monolith Pro Series 2.0Stainless steel base plate on the Monolith Pro Series 2.0
Monolith Pro Series 2.0 with stapled glass fibre mesh gasketMonolith Pro Series 2.0 features a glass fibre mesh gasket stapled to the lid

Monolith Pro Series 2.0 Innovations

The Gasket

Those of us well versed in the kamado market will know the a glass fibre mesh gasket isn't new and despite offering greater longevity to what is the only part of a ceramic barbecue that needs care and attention, gaskets are only as good as the adhesive used to make them stick.

The Monolith kamado barbecue takes the gasket innovation to a completely new level by:

  1. Stapling the gasket to the lid
  2. Counter sealing the lid gasket with a stainless steel base plate

This first improvement is designed to eliminate adhesive failure and shrinkage by using a mechanical fixing system. The second achieves the same, provides a good mechanical seal between lid / base and eliminates potential damage when cleaning with a wire brush.

To describe this new system as a revolution is probably overly dramatic but it clearly takes the Monolith kamado barbecue from a "must also consider" option right up there to "game changing industry leader".

"Guru" Nozzle

Monolith have had a strategic partnership with BBQ Guru for a number of years evident in their BBQ Guru Edition Classic and Le Chef models which feature an integrated fan blower on the side of the firebox. A great solution to all the faff and fiddling of fitting a blower to the front lower air vent.

The Pro Series 2.0 takes a different approach with a fixed side nozzle which opens up the variety of temperature controllers that you can use in addition to BBQ Guru. For sure it's not such a neat solution as the BBQ Guru Edition but for people like me who already own a BBQ Guru or who want to future-proof for later investment then this latest development from Monolith removes the guesswork and opens up the possibilities.

Monolith Kamado BBQ Standard Features

Monolith Pro Series Smart Grid System

First released with the Pro Series 1.0 the smart grid system (SGS) is Monolith's answer to the Kamado Joe divide and conquer and provides a "half moon" system of cooking grates for two zone cooking.

The Monolith system is pretty good, the structure is solid, significantly less flimsy than the Kamado Joe system and the addition of drip trays to protect your heat deflector stones from being tarnished with the flavours of a previous cook is a neat idea. The design of their grid lifting spider however needs a re-think.

Monolith Pro Series Smart Grid System

The idea is great, the whole Smart Grid System, heat deflector stones, half moon drip trays and half moon grill grates can be easily and safely lifted in and out of the grill anytime during the cook using this detachable lifting tool. 

The wooden handle has four "legs" which hook under the top of the frame and then you lift. Locating all four legs at once takes practice and I've been told that the 2022 model will feature a much easier 2 handled system.

Note: The Smart Grid System comes as standard in the Classic and Le Chef Pro Series 2.0. It's available as an additional cost upgrade to the Monolith Classic BASIC but it is not available for either the Junior or the Icon.

Segmented Firebox

Two or three years ago I'd have been shouting about a segmented firebox - a simple but effective way of managing breakages to the most susceptible part of a ceramic barbecue.

Monolith Pro Series Srgmrnted Firebox & Ash Pan

Most top brand kamado manufacturers feature a segmented firebox, it's even now standard in the Monolith Classic BASIC but still elusive to the Junior.

Smoke Pellet Feeder System

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.

  • Lift the lid (and lose the heat)
  • Remove the cooking grate and food
  • Lift out the heat deflector and throw on the wood chips
  • Put everything back (with smoke in your eyes)
  • Reset the dampers to get the heat back and then adjust to stabilize

Overall it's quite a performance (admittedly made easier with the Pro Series smart grid system) and the Monolith kamado barbecue guys have their unique smoke chip feeder system to ease the pain.

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.

Build Quality

I was impressed with the steel cart which was easy to assemble and provides a stable centre of gravity. Good quality locking casters made for easy manoeuvrability around the garden.

The quality of the ceramic and coating are up to the standard that you'd expect. The test unit was a black one and it looked "at home" in the garden (sorry Monolith, I don't like the red option).

Monolith ceramic grill stainless steel hinge mechanism

Stainless Steel Banding And Hinge

The Monolith kamado barbecue is the only one of the top 4 brands to use a stainless steel hinge and banding. Not only does it look better when new, it also looks great year in year out because stainless steel (unlike the painted steel banding on the other brands) does not rust.

I saw on the Big Green Egg website a piece about the lower thermal expansion of mild steel versus stainless - their argument being that when you heat up the kamado, stainless steel will expand more than mild steel and you risk the lid coming loose from the banding. Well when someone makes that claim, you have to work it out don't you?

Yes it's true that the thermal expansion coefficients of regular steel and stainless steel are different:

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

I then calculated the circumference of the Classic (most popular size equivalent Big Green Egg large) to determine the length of banding used which is 1690mm

The next step was to measure the temperature of the banding, I cranked up both a Big Green Egg and a Monolith kamado barbecue to 400°C (750°F) internal temperature and found that the temperature of the banding stabilised at 90°C (194°F)

Finally I used a 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) and here's what I found:-

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

I fail to see how Big Green Egg can justify using this negligible difference to justify using cheaper components.

Note: Kamado Joe offer an option for stainless steel hinge and banding on the Pro Joe but with a starting price at £4,000 I guess that this is going to be a step too far for your average Joe (pun intended).

Overall Performance

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:-

  1. The quality of the cooking. Heat and moisture retention differentiate a kamado from any other type of barbecue. A kamado makes it difficult to cook anything other than a supremely succulent juicy food.
  2. Safety - The surface doesn’t get as hot as a traditional barbecue (but it does still get hot) and the fire contained in a small area.
  3. The exterior is treated with a baked on glaze and it looks good year in year out whatever the weather. Most kamados have long warranties on the ceramics.
  4. A 20 minute high temperature burn and your kamado is clear for food debris, no elbow grease required.
  5. When making pizza you get that “brick oven” flavour and crisp crust.

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 all 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 (Smart Grid System) and Kamado Joe (Divide and Conquer) both offer 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 Pro Series. A lower price point versus Primo makes both Kamado Joe and Monolith better options.

Ceramic kamado grills are 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.

All of the top brand ceramic grills are great pieces of kit but there are still a few reasons why the Monolith kamado barbecue is my favourite out of them all:

The table below compares pound for pound what you get when you buy one of the top 3 ceramic grill brands in the UK and Monolith packs in more value. 

Note: I've compared these three Classic models because I think that they broadly represent the flagship offering from each brand. There are less expensive models such as the Kamado Joe Classic II, more expensive such as the Monolith BBQ Guru Edition and there are also more value oriented models such as the Kamado Joe Classic (original) and the Monolith Classic BASIC.

Feature

Big Green Egg (large)

Monolith Classic    Pro Series 2.0

Kamado Joe    Classic III

Basic Price

£1175

£1,499

£1,999

Stand

£285

Included

Included

Side Shelves

£130 (Acacia)

Included (bamboo & stainless steel)

   Included    (aluminium)

Ash Pan

£30

Included

Included

Total Cost

BGE

£1,620

Monolith

£1,499

Kamado Joe

£1,999





Grill Grate Gripper

Not Available

Included

Included

Charcoal Basket

Not Available

Included (with divider)

Included (with divider)

Heat Deflector Stone

Included (1 piece)

Included (2 pieces)

Included (2 pieces)

Cooking Inserts

Single Steel Cooking Grate

Smart Grid System + Drip Trays

Divide & Conquer + SloRoller

Hinge

Painted steel side spring

Easy lift spring stainless steel

Air lift with lid catch

Stainless Steel Banding

Not Available

Included

Not Available

Gasket

Glued Felt

Stapled fibre mesh & base plate

Glued Fibre Mesh

Smoke Chip Feeder

Not Available

Included

Not Available

Warranty

Limited Lifetime

Limited Lifetime

Limited Lifetime


Junior & Icon

I first saw the Monolith Icon when I sneaked into a BBQ trade show.

Monolith Icon With BBQ Guru Party Q

Let's be clear, it's still relatively heavy to be portable but the stainless steel  "tabletop" designed stand makes it more stable in transit.

That said this is not just one for the holidays, my imagination was peaked when out came the fire plate plancha and wok stand. Products which now also fit the Junior.

Party Cooking On The Monolith Icon

All of a sudden I could see my next bbq party being a little different...my guests can cook their own food! What a great way to bring friends and family together.

When I first saw it, I thought that the Monolith Icon was just a clone of the Big Green Egg Minimax but the Icon takes things to a whole new level:

  1. It's got the Pro 2.0 stainless steel plate to the top lip of the base and fibre mesh gasket stapled (no adhesive) to the lid.
  2. The lid is easily removed by a wing nut so that you can add the fire plate and / or wok stand
  3. It features the Pro Series 2.0 built in BBQ Guru adapter

Add in the "Pro Series" segmented firebox & ash pan together with the "no rust" stainless steel cradle and you can see why this little gem blows the Big Green Egg MiniMax out of the water.

Monolith Icon With Fire Plate & Wok Stand Differentiates It From Big Green Egg MiniMax.

Note: the fire plate, wok stand and (my only gripe) the heat deflector stone are extra.

The other trade off is that because of the compact design, there's no smoke chip feeder.

The Junior however does have the smoke chip feeder and now features the same game changing Pro Series 2.0 gasket system and Guru nozzle which sets it streets apart from other Juniors on the market. 

In addition, the wing nut release for the lid means that the fire plate and wok crown, previously only available for the Icon are now available for the Junior too.

The Junior continues to be available in a full size cart. It's still compact in size yet still has a comfortable free standing cooking height. Sadly the base price no longer includes the 2 tier cooking rack (boo!).

Both Icon & Junior feature the Pro Series 2.0 gasket system and removable lidBoth Icon & Junior feature the Pro Series 2.0 gasket system and removable lid

Negatives To The Monolith Kamado Barbecue

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. (Their support for the UK & European market just isn't there).

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's no ceramic snuffer cap with any Monolith. To be fair it's a "nice to have" rather than an essential 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.

That said, it's cheaper to by the cover for the Monolith ceramic grill than spend hundreds more on a Big Green Egg just for the snuffer cap.

In addition, having done a number of cooks on the Monolith, once the dampers are closed at the end of the cookout, the fire extinguishes swiftly and leftover charcoal can be left for another day.

My other gripe has now been addressed! The teakwood table now has a stainless steel frame and a stainless steel plinth for the Monolith to sit in.

Monolith stainless steel framed teakwood table with stainless steel plinth

To be fair the price for the table has increased significantly but it now matches up to the quality of the rest of the components. 

The Monolith ceramic grill in the stainless steel framed buggy with folding side shelfThe Monolith kamado barbecue & stainless steel framed buggy with folding side shelf

Monolith BBQ Guru Edition

The BBQ Guru Editions of the Monolith kamado barbecue are available in Classic and Le Chef sizes only.

The BBQ Guru Edition Monolith Kamado Barbecue

The Monolith kamado BBQ Guru edition features an integrated fan housing in the base of the Monolith which can be controlled by one of three BBQ Guru control panels - The Digi Q DX3, DynaQ and UltraQ (the successor to the CyberQ shown in the picture above).

Also unique to Monolith:

Rotisserie (Classic & Le Chef)

Monolith rotisserie with large spit roast
Monolith rotisserie with 7 rotating kebab skewers
Monolith rotisserie skewers are available at extra cost

The Monolith rotisserie isn't unique per se but there are options for one single large spit (included with the kit) or seven (Classic) and nine (Le Chef) individual kebab skewers which all turn at the same time.

New for 2022 is a Junior / Icon rotisserie that features 3 individually rotating skewers. 

The niggle that I have with set up on the Classic is that you have to take the bamboo side shelf (and brackets) off to accomodate the motor housing. To be fair it's only loosening 4 nuts with a 10mm spanner but it's still an inconvenience.

Note: Kamado Joe is the only other kamado brand to offer a rotisserie but....

  1. Monolith is battery operated so you can use it anywhere and there are no cables to trip over.
  2. The single central skewer on the Monolith has a handle and counter-weight making it so much easier to set up and remove meat from the grill
  3. Monolith features a multi skewer kebab option and a Junior version
  4. The Monolith rotisserie is stainless steel

There is no rotisserie option offered either by Big Green Egg or Primo and it's also important to note that you can't use a Monolith rotisserie on a Kamado Joe or vice versa (or on a Big Green Egg) because the respective hinge mechanisms close the lids in a different profile. So if you think a rotisserie is something that you're going to buy some way down the line then it's important to factor it into your initial grill choice.

The Fire Plate

The Fire Plate creates what has to be one of the largest cooking areas possible with a Monolith kamado barbecue.

Monolith Fire Plate

The biggest "plancha" ever sits over the base of the Monolith to provide a natural variation of heat across the vast dimensions of the fire plate. The off centre siting of the cast iron daisy facilitates temperature regulation. To the front is fat drain hole with slide out drip pan beneath.

The Fire Plate is available across the range.

Thermolith SMART Wireless Thermometer and 2 Probes

Thermolith SMART wireless thermometer

With Bluetooth capability and an app for both IOS and Android you can connect up to six sensors. Two colour coded sensors (red and orange) are included in the initial bundle and more colour coded sensors can be purchased separately.

The Fish Plank

Designed for open fire cooking the fish plank allows cooking of a full side of fish in full view of your party guests.

Monolith kamado BBQ Fish Plank

Strap the side of fish to the underside of the plank and cook with the lid open.

Wok Stand (Classic & LeChef)

New Monolith stainless steel wok stand

Place the stainless steel wok stand directly on top of the fire ring. The design of the wok stand directs the concentrated heat to where it is needed, directly to the base of the wok.

The wok fits securely inside the stand, and the shield provides added
protection against flames and heat.

Accessories Rack (With Cart Only)

Monolith Accessories FrameThe Monolith accessories rack sits neatly under the Classic cart providing a neat storage solution for your utensils and more.
Demonstrating how the Monolith accessories rack is placed under the Classic cart

The new stainless steel accessories rack is simply attached to the Monolith cart giving you ample storage space for your grids, deflector & pizza stones, as well as cast iron grid or wok stand.

Your accessories can be stowed away quickly and easily yet there is still enough space to fold away the side tables.

This accessory is exclusive to Monolith and is now available for both the Classic and Le Chef models.

Monolighter

For a number of years Monolith have advocated using the Looftlighter to start their charcoal. They're fast, efficient and clean (free from any petrochemical residues that can find in some charcoal starter cubes.

Monolighter
Monolighter

In 2019 Monolith introduced their own model called Monolighter which immediately addresses 2 shortcomings of Looftlighter and the cheaper clones:-

  1. A more powerful 2KW power unit
  2. Improved alloy in the perforated protector shield which was prone to warping and I have heard of some melting!

Certainly the product that I tested showed no signs of following any of the above negative traits and my grill was fired up and ready to go in 5 minutes!

You can see in the picture that my test Monolighter had an EU plug on it but it's now available with the standard 3 pin plug.

Delivery & Unpacking

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.

Monolith deliver your ceramic grill on a pallet

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.

The Monolith kamado stand ready for unpackingThe stand for the Monolith kamado barbecue is easy to erect.

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.

Fixings for the Monolith kamado stand

Instructions? Well not much to go on really but then it was pretty intuitive.

Verdict

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, charcoal basket and pizza stone.

With the Classic Pro Series 2.0 RRP at £1,399  and the BASIC at £895 you can buy Monolith safe in the knowledge that you are going to get maximum BBQ & smoker enjoyment from day one. 

2.   German quality design

Hat's off to them and it’s not just the ceramic. All aspects of the Monolith kamado barbecue speak "quality":

  • All internal and external metalwork on the Monolith kamado Pro Series is stainless steel – it will look good year after year.
  • The wide range of accessories has been designed for longevity using stainless steel and teak wood.
  • The painted steel cart is robust and stable thanks to the three legged design. Locking casters to two of the three legs offers greater security over uneven terrain.

 3.   Technical innovation

  • Monolith’s unique smoke chip feeder system not only makes topping up on smoke flavour a breeze during a long cookout, it also makes for precise & consistent flavour control every time you repeat a recipe.
  • The new smart grid system and charcoal basket divider (Classic & LeChef) deliver true 2 zone cooking capability and supreme temperature control. Grill on one half and bake on the other.
  • The stainless steel framed buggy (Classic & LeChef) delivers ultimate all terrain capability so you really can move your barbecue wherever you like. 
  • The new wok stand and rotisserie units add even more versatility to kamado cooking. 

Pound for pound, the Monolith ceramic grill delivers greater creative outdoor cooking options for less money versus Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg or Primo. 

So long as the price remains competitive it would appear that the Monolith kamado barbecue grill will be the 2022 ceramic grill of choice.

Where Can You Buy A Monolith Kamado Barbecue?

There's a dealer directory on the Monolith website.

See Also:-

Primo Kamado UK
Big Green Egg
Kamado Joe
Grill Dome
Budget Kamado Grill Review

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