Monolith Kamado Barbecue Smokers & Grills 2019 Review

Monolith kamado barbecue smokers and grills are now well established on the European scene but how well do they compare versus Kamado Joe, Big Green Egg or Primo?

Monolith kamado barbecue range of three sizesThe Monolith kamado grill range consists of 3 sizes

Star Rating

★★★★ - 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. (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).

Monolith Features

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 standard offering (Pro Series 1.0). A lower price point versus Primo makes Monolith the winner.

Monolith Pro Series 1.0

Whilst there's no change to the three sizes in the range, both the Monolith Classic and Le Chef undergo major change to their internal organs for 2019 and clearly Monolith have decided that this warrants a whole new name...the Pro Series 1.0

It would appear that they've learned a lesson from the innovations to the Kamado Joe II and (as you'd expect from the Germans) they've improved on them too.

Monolith Pro Series Smart Grid System

If there's ever been a criticism of the ceramic grill it's that all the food is vertically stacked and you can only access a ceramic grill from the top. This means that should you wish to access the lower cooking grates you have to take all the food, grill grates etc. out of the grill...well not any more.

The Monolith Smart Grid System seats (and includes) heat deflector stones, half moon drip trays and half moon grill grates in a frame that can be easily and safely lifted in and out of the grill anytime during the cook using a detachable lifting tool. Given how many times I've struggled with lifting things in and out of my Monolith I think this is a major boon.

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 a little practice but once you've mastered the art, it's a really simple manoeuvre.

The stainless steel drip pans work well to keep fats from hitting soiling the deflector stones and they interlock which is handy. Sadly they're not deep enough to act as a water bath.

Pro Series 1.0 Firebox

Another valuable evolution for 2019 is the five piece segmented firebox which pretty much eliminates the possibility of a cracked firebox. To be fair the segmented firebox isn't new but stainless steel framed design with built in ash tray and shovel is a neat solution.

Monolith Junior

The Junior continues to offer the same internals as in previous years which I guess is in part down not being able to fit the new smart grid system into the shell but also that it would just add too much to the price.

The heat deflector stone and 2nd tier cooking rack are included with the Monolith JuniorThe heat deflector stone and 2nd tier cooking rack continue to be offered with Monolith Junior

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:

Innovation

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 new Pro Series smart grid system) and the Monolith kamado barbecue guys have come up with their smoke chip feeder system 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.

You're not tied into using Monolith smoke pellets but that said the price and variety of Monolith pellets available is pretty good.

The Charcoal Basket

Temperature stability in any charcoal grill or smoker (with a lid) is done by controlling the airflow. Older and cheaper kamados use either a cast iron fire grate or perforations in the ceramic firebox but the holes (inserted to allow airflow) are all too readily blocked up with ash and debris.

Monolith has overcome this problem by inserting a charcoal basket in the firebox that significantly improves airflow and therefore gives you complete thermal control.

Moreover, the basket comes with a divider giving you greater control over two zone cooking and supreme fuel economy if you are cooking for a small number and just want to use half the grill.

Note: The charcoal basket is not standard in the Junior but is available as an extra. Monolith tell me that this is to help maintain a competitive price point but having experienced how well the charcoal basket aids airflow I think I'd be prepared to pay extra and have it as standard.

Build Quality

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.

Monolith ceramic grill stainless steel hinge mechanism

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).

I happy to report also that the top vent is a good heavy cast iron.

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).

Negatives To The Monolith Kamado Barbecue

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.

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 new for 2019 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

Value For Money

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

Note: I've compared these three models because I think that they broadly speaking are in the same price category. There are more expensive models such as the Monolith BBQ Guru Edition and Kamado Joe Classic III, 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

Kamado Joe Classic II

Basic Price

£995

£1,245

£1,399

Stand

£250

Included

Included

Side Shelves

£150 (Mahogany)

  Included    (bamboo & stainless steel)

   Included    (HDPE plastic)

Heat Deflector Stone

£70 (one piece)

Included (2 pieces)

Included (2 pieces)

Total Cost



BGE

£1,530


Monolith

£1,245


Kamado Joe

£1,399


Grill Grate Gripper

Not Available

Included

Included

Charcoal Basket

Not Available

Included (with divider)

£75

Ash Pan

£30

Included

Included

Hinge

Traditional spring

Traditional spring stainless steel

Air lift with lid catch

Smoke Chip Feeder

Not Available

Included

Not Available

Stainless Steel Hinge And Banding

Not Available

Included

Not Available

Colour

Green

Black or Brick Red

Red

Warranty

Limited Lifetime

Limited Lifetime

Limited Lifetime

The New 2019 Monolith Kamado Barbecue

The main news is the Pro Series but let's not forget that you can also get the Pro Series 1.0 BBQ Guru Edition

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 two BBQ Guru control panels - The Digi Q DX3 and the Cyber Q CLOUD. The latter of which offers WiFi control, monitoring of three food temperatures in real time plus thermal regulation of your Monolith anywhere in the world!  

You can buy the Monolith Classic Pro Series 1.0 BBQ Guru edition coupled with the top of the range Cyber Q CLOUD control for less than a Kamado Joe Classic III. This makes for a very easy decision.

In addition the range of accessories has increased:

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 sits on the ceramic wall of the base and thanks to it's angled profile allows for the lid to snugly close on top of it. Furthermore 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.

The niggle that I have with set up 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 there's so much positive news with the Monolith rotisserie compared to the Kamado Joe "Joetisserie".

  1. Both have near silent motors but the 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 making it so much easier to set up and remove meat from the grill
  3. Monolith features a multi skewer kebab option
  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

A 2018 innovation was the Fire Plate which 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.

In 2019 the Fire Plate is also available for Le Chef too.

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.

When you consider the range of accessories that add versatility to your outdoor cooking experience I think this puts Monolith and Kamado Joe into a league of their own, but which is best?

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.

Cooking Grate Lift (Classic)

Monolith grill grate lift is only available for the Classic

With the stainless steel grid lift you can elevate your grill grid another
12 cm so that it will align with the top edge of the ceramic unit making handling the food more convenient.

This set up gives you more space between the hot charcoal and grilling grid and can be used for both direct and indirect grilling. Also giving you the option of using a larger dripping pan. The grid lift and the 2nd level grid cannot be used simultaneously.

I got this extra together with a pizza stone when test driving the new Monolith Classic Basic - it a cheap and easy way to position the grill grate flush with the body.

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.

For 2019 Monolith have 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 I can assure you that the UK and Irish versions now available come 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 1.0 RRP at £1,245  and the BASIC at £849 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 2019 ceramic grill of choice.

Where Can You Buy A Monolith Kamado Barbecue?

Type your post code into the dealer locator page on the Monolith website and the retailer nearest you will appear!

You can also get hold of the UK importer via the Facebook page.

North America

2018 saw the launch of Monolith in the USA and the standard bundle on offer comes complete with BBQ Guru automated temperature control. For more information go to the USA Monolith website.

See Also:-

Primo Kamado UK
Big Green Egg
Kamado Joe
Grill Dome

Return to Recipes Home from Monolith Kamado Barbecue Smokers & Grills

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