How They Work
Kamados like the Big Green Egg and barrel cookers like the Barrel House both cook over charcoal in a sealed environment with a controlled airflow. Charcoal is used to infuse the meat with a mild, smoky flavor while wood chips or chunks can be added for a more robust smokiness. Additionally, the sealed design of the cookers traps moisture from the meat as it evaporates, creating a pit environment that keeps the meat juicy and tender.
The adjustable airflow on both platforms also gives users control over the internal temperature. By adjusting a slider, the airflow can be restricted to lower the temperature for smoking or increased to raise the temperature for grilling and searing.
Versatility & Ease of Use
Make no mistake, both platforms are great for producing tender, smoky barbecue. Regardless of which platform you chose, you will be king of the cookout, but each style of cooker offers unique features to consider before making a decision.
Juices from the meat drip onto the coals, vaporizing them and enhancing the tenderness of the meat.
The elevation-based intake, preset exhaust and premeasured coal basket make start-up on the Barrel House as easy as pushing the intake slider to the appropriate elevation setting. This only needs to be adjusted once and will ensure that the cooker always remains in the ideal temperature range. With consistent temperatures, there is no guesswork. Cooking is as easy as setting a timer and letting the Barrel House take care of the rest.
Kamados, on the other hand, do not come with premeasured settings. The intake and exhaust must both be adjusted until the desired temperature is achieved. Heat can also build up during cooks, meaning the cooker needs to be checked regularly and the airflow may have to be readjusted throughout the cook to maintain the “sweet spot.” This inconsistency in temperature means more guesswork, more time spent monitoring the cooker and a greater likelihood of inconsistent results.
The Barrel House Cooker is lightweight and portable.
The most notable feature that kamados possess is efficiency. The ceramic frame functions like a convection oven that evenly distributes heat throughout the cooker, making them great for smoking and baking in addition to grilling. The heat efficiency also makes kamados great for people who live in colder climates where extreme weather could affect the performance of other cookers.
The heat retention that the ceramic provides is also perfect for grilling. Because kamados are designed exclusively to burn lump (a form of charcoal that burns hotter because it has not been processed into briquettes), they can achieve temperatures as high as 1000 degrees – more than enough to sear steaks, chops, burgers and more. High temperatures combined with a large surface for grilling make kamados great for get-togethers and block parties.
Care & Capacity
The Barrel House makes start-up and clean-up a breeze. The Barrel House is equally capable of burning charcoal briquettes or lump, allowing for greater convenience and customization while premeasured coal basket takes all of the guesswork out of deciding how much charcoal to use. The detachable base also takes the hassle out of the cleanup process by giving users the ability to remove the firebox and dump the ashes with ease. To clean a kamado, the cooking grates must be removed so that the ashes can be scooped out of the bottom of the cooker.
The Barrel House Deluxe is $249 with free shipping.
Kamados are able to accommodate a larger grill grate, so they can cook a few extra burgers and steaks, but the Barrel House’s compact design is surprisingly spacious. The Barrel House’s hanging system maximizes the cooking volume, allowing it to accommodate six racks of ribs. While both platforms make great use of their internal space, personal preference is the deciding factor.
Size & Portability
While kamados use ceramic, the Barrel House is built with a steel body that is fully coated in a layer of porcelain enamel that protects and insulates the cooker. The advantage to building the cooker with steel rather than thick ceramic is that steel is an effective insulator and is only a fraction of the weight. While the large Big Green Egg weighs a whopping 162 pounds, the Barrel House comes in at only 33 pounds.
Affordability & Quality
The Barrel House is also the more affordable of the two. A deluxe Barrel House costs $249, comes with free shipping and takes just a few minutes to assemble. A kamado cooker of similar capacity will cost anywhere from $800 to $1000 and must be purchased from an official local vendor. It is also important to note that, while kamados can function as smokers, they generally require an aftermarket deflector plate (usually around $100) for cooking with indirect heat while the Barrel House is ready to smoke out of the box.