There aren’t too many in the world of smokers that are so different from each other than the Kamado and the offset smokers.
Each has some great features and some drawbacks.
The Kamado is an egg-shaped cooker made of ceramic and has a smaller cooking area; and can only be used with charcoal, but it has better insulation.
The choice of which is better for you will depend greatly on the type of foods and smoking you want to do.
It also depends on how much effort you want to expend when cooking and whether you enjoy less or more cleaning afterward!
So, let’s get these two fired up and see which will be better for you.
Kamado Vs. Offset Smoker – Material Construction & Design
One of the first differences between the Kamado and offset smoker is the material from which they are built.
The offset smoker is an American institution and owes its existence to the oil workers from Texas.
They are made from various types of steel, depending on which one you buy, and have a durable and hardy finish.
While they don’t have the insulation of the Kamado, they can reach very high temperatures when cooking.
The offset smoker has its firebox adjacent to the cooking chamber.
The heat and smoke are drawn into the chamber and over the meat, flowing to the chimney on the other side of the cooker.
The Kamado design has been around for thousands of years, dating back to India and China.
These are made of ceramics, and models like the Big Green Egg are among the most well-known Kamado smokers.
The ceramic construction gives the Kamado exceptional insulation.
The firebox is at the bottom of the cooker, with the heat and smoke rising and being distributed 360 degrees as it reflects off the ceramic interior and escapes slowly from tiny holes in the top.
Kamados are more compact and take up less space than an offset smoker, but carrying the bigger models can be a bulky and cumbersome affair.
Offset smokers are larger and even bulkier than the Kamado’s and will take up more space.
An offset smoker is an option if you have plenty of space, but the Kamado would be optimal for more compact cooking spaces.
Kamado Vs. Offset Smoker – Fuel Sources & Efficiency
The offset smoker is a versatile cooker that can use various fuel sources, including coal, wood, and gas.
The Kamado can only use charcoal, and while you can add wood chips to the Kamado for smoking, the primary fuel source is only charcoal.
For many smokers, the limitation on fuel is a drawback to buying a Kamado as they prefer to use a combination of wood and coal for the best results in terms of flavor and tenderness of the meat.
This is by far the most common fuel combination.
The offset smoker will use more fuel than the Kamado because the offset doesn’t hold temperature, especially in colder climates.
Plus, their fireboxes on the offset smoker are small and require topping up fuel periodically throughout the cooking process.
The Kamado’s insulation and highly efficient thermal coating provide incredible heat distribution within the cooking chamber.
It’s unlikely you would need to add fuel to a Kamado during the cooking process.
Kamado Vs. Offset Smoker – Cooking
Cooking with a Kamado and cooking with an offset smoker are very different experiences; let’s start with the offset smoker.
The offset smoker requires effort to achieve a delicious and tender result on your meats, and this is why it is the choice of competitive smokers around the USA and the world.
The offset gives you absolute control over every aspect of the cooking process, from temperature to smoke volumes and densities.
While that all sounds great, it takes effort
If you are more the ‘set-and-forget- type cook and prefer to have a few beers with friends instead of tending to your smoker, then rather don’t get an offset smoker.
This aspect of the offset makes them so enjoyable to work with.
It challenges you -usually through trial and error- to find the right combinations of wood and coal and to experiment with temperature and smoke control with your vents before you finally get it all just right.
The Kamado is a breeze to cook with as the superior insulation gives you effortless temperature control.
Essentially, you set the temperature you need and let it do what it’s designed to do.
There’s no fussing with vents and airflow controls, as this is all done for you within the chamber.
You should know that the Kamado generally delivers a milder smoke flavor than an offset smoker
You have less control over the smoke depth with a Kamado than with an offset.
Cooking Surface Areas
Kamados generally have less cooking area than an offset smoker.
So, you need to prepare your meals that much more carefully to ensure you don’t end up with meat stacked on the grill.
Comparing the differences between 18″ of the average Kamado to between 24″ and 60″ on an offset smoker, the differences in cooking areas are considerable.
While you can get XL size Kamado grills, these will be the same size cooking surface area as a large offset smoker.
So, if you plan to cook for a large group of people, the offset would probably be a better option for you.
Remember that Kamado smokers are hefty, and the larger cooker you have, the heavier it will be. So buying a big Kamado grill is best done if it’s used in mostly one place.
However, the Kamado can take a fair volume of food, too, and the shape does allow for more significant cuts of meat to be cooked without a struggle.
The offset smoker can handle larger volumes, and you can cook a wide variety of foods on an offset simultaneously.
As far as weight goes, their use of lighter steel makes them a little more portable and mobile than the Kamados.
Kamado Vs. Offset Smoker – Cleaning & Maintenance
Every smoker will need cleaning and maintenance throughout its lifetime.
If you aren’t a fan of spending an hour or two cleaning your smoker after using it, perhaps the Kamado would be the better choice.
Cleaning The Kamado Smoker
Because of its ceramic interior and some very smart nano-particles used in the coating, soot, ash, and grime don’t stick to the Kamado.
Also, cleaning is as simple as wiping it down with a damp cloth and letting it dry.
You will have to remove the coal ash from the firebox and wipe and clean the grill grates.
But other than that, the Kamado doesn’t require much cleaning or maintenance.
Speaking of lifetimes, your Kamado should last beyond yours and well into the next generation!
They are phenomenally durable cookers, and with a bit of cleaning and the occasional deep clean, they will outlive you!
Plus, Kamado smokers don’t need seasoning as offset smokers do.
This is where a layer of cooking oil or similar oil is applied to the steel surfaces of the smoker to form a layer against corrosion.
The ceramic coating is corrosion-proof, and unless you manage to damage or chip it in some way – like dropping it- you won’t need to add any additional protection.
Cleaning The Offset Smoker
As with cooking, the offset smoker requires more work to clean and maintain, and this is due to the simplicity of its design and function.
This is the everyman’s cooker, and it accumulates grime, grease, fat, and food debris throughout the cooking process.
And of course, there is the creosote issue too that doesn’t happen with the Kamado.
Creosote is a by-product of burning wood, and it can ruin meat to the point where it’s wholly inedible and unhealthy to ingest.
It happens when you get the wrong kind of smoke in your smoker.
Instead of the mystical blue smoke that shows a perfect combustion environment, you get thick white billowing smoke.
That is a clear sign that something is badly wrong with your fuel, temperature, or airflow and needs to be fixed NOW!
This is one of the reasons that your offset smoker needs cleaning after each cooking session or, at worst, after every second one.
The build-up of residue on the grills and interior of the smoker can lead to creosote accumulation, and the next time you cook, your meat will taste terrible and bitter.
To clean the smoker, you need to remove the grills, firebox, grease traps, and drip trays and soak them in warm water with some dish soap or use a food-safe degreaser to remove the residues.
Most people will disassemble the smoker entirely and wipe off and clean all the components before drying them out and reassembling the cooker for a deep clean.
Then you need to season the steel to prevent the risk of corrosion and rust.
Kamado Vs. Offset Smoker – Beware of The Flashback
This is one of the few risks that the Kamado has for users, and that is the flashback, and no, it has nothing to do with those wild parties you went to and the drugs you took!
A flashback is where the lid of the Kamado is opened, and the inrush of oxygen causes the oxygen-starved fire to ‘explode’ in flame as it receives a dose of oxygen.
This flashback can burn you badly if you are too close and is something you need to be aware of.
Like a baby, you need to ‘burp’ your Kamado, which means opening the lid slowly and letting the oxygen inflow stabilize before opening the lid fully.
There are some pretty amazing videos of Kamado flashbacks on YouTube, so check those out before buying one.
Flashbacks can occur where any cooker has a lid on it.
It’s suddenly lifted and exposed to the air, but the seal around the Kamado increases the risk of this, so it best is aware of that.
This doesn’t happen with the offset as the insulation, and the seal on the lid of the offset smoker is not as tight and allows oxygen through.
Plus, the vents in the smoker allow oxygen inside the cooking chamber throughout the cook, and while the level can vary, the fire is not starved of it.
Kamado Vs. Offset Smoker – Price
Here is where the Kamado loses some traction in this comparison.
Most Kamado smokers will start around the $350 mark and get well into the thousands of dollars, especially for premium cookers like the Big Green Egg.
The XL version of this can run to around $2000.
That’s a hefty price tag on a smoker of that size, considering that an offset smoker from a quality brand like Oaklahoma Joe’s starts from about $399 – $799.
It’s important to remember that these cookers are not throwaway grills and smokers but will last for decades.
These cookers are more protracted if adequately cared for, and as such, they are an investment and should be viewed as such.
As with any smoker, there are a variety of brands and models to choose from in both Kamado-style cookers and offset smokers.
So you will be able to find one that works with your budget without a problem.
All that aside, Kamado smokers will be more expensive than an offset smoker, but you can still opt for a smaller one if your heart is set on a Kamado-type grill.
In short, if you need a fast-cooking, slick-looking cooking egg that uses less fuel, requires less space, and is easy to use and clean, then the Kamado smoker would be the best choice for you.
But, if you want a slow-and-low smoker who will challenge your creativity and deliver the most delicious smoked meats that are tender inside and crisp outside, offset is where you need to be.
Either way, you will end up with beautifully smoked meats and meals for years to come.