Saturday, April 20, 2019

Product Review: Char-Broil Kamander (after 2 years of use)

[FTC Disclosure]  I received my Kamander for free from Char-Broil when they first came out.  I do have a service contract with Oklahoma Joe's, a related company; however, that agreement does not require or request that I post about their products on this blog or social media.  Anything I post here is just because I feel like it.

Earlier this week, news outlets reported on Consumer Reports testing of kamado grills and Consumer Reports recommended the Char-Broil® Kamander™ for a low-cost kamado.  The Kamander currently lists at $379, but it is currently advertised as low as $299.

I thought that I would share my experience with this cooker after two years of use, for the people who are considering buying one.

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Initial Impressions

I have to admit that I had preconceived notions about this smoker before I got it.  I was expecting to dislike it because of bad experiences using another brand of cheap, metal kamado grills.

When I unboxed and assembled the Char-Broil Kamander, I thought it looked snazzy, I loved the price, and I liked how light it was compared to my heavy ceramic kamado grills.  But my past use of cheap metal kamados made me wary.  I didn't like the weird air intake vent, I assumed that holding temperatures would be an issue, and I thought it would rust out quickly.

It only took a few cooks to prove me wrong.   For the past 2 years, we have used our Kamander in frequent rotation with our other grills and smokers. This kamado became our "on the road grill" because it was so portable.  It even got pressed into severe use, cooking several hundred wings at the 2018 Big Kahuna Wing Festival when our big smoker went down. Our abuse of the Kamander has shown that this kamado can grill and smoke with the best of them.

Here is a breakdown of the Kamander, component by component.

Exterior Shell

The shell is made out of powder coated steel.  The dome lid is double-insulated to maintain steady temperatures, and the exterior stays relatively cool, showing the insulation is sufficient. The base is double insulated by utilizing the internal components and also stays relatively cool.

The advantage of the metal shell is that it is much lighter than the ceramic shell of my Eggs. The obvious concern with steel is rust but two years in and I have none anywhere on mine so far, inside or out. The metal does not have the temperature stabilizing thermal mass of ceramic, but I haven't seen this be an issue even on cold, windy days.  A strength of the metal shell is it doesn't break like ceramic.


The gasket is the piece that makes an airtight seal.  The stock gasket on my three Big Green Eggs was constructed of felt and two of those gaskets burned out within six months. A "high performance" gasket offered as an upgrade, I believe that is made of Nomex® or another type of meta-aramid.  I chose instead to replace the gasket on my Eggs with a woven fiber gasket, and I have never had to replace those.  Kamado Joe has switched to a woven fiber gasket on their new kamados.

The Kamander features a woven fiber gasket, as well.

Instead of adhesive, this gasket is held on by a series of spring clips.  I was worried that the spring clips would give out, but that hasn't been an issue, I've never had to touch them since installation.  My gasket has held up nicely, it is still fully intact and doesn't leak air.


Hinge systems for kamados can be pretty complex, loaded with springs to handle the heavy weight of a ceramic dome.  The complexity of the hinge can lead to the top not lining up with the bottom of the kamado for some brands. The Kamander's double-insulated dome is light, so the hinge is bloody simple and effective.  I've had zero problems from mine.

Dome Exhaust Vent

The exhaust vent is a large metal vent with 4 large holes.  The adjustment cap is center mounted, so it rotates instead of sliding.  That means it won't change its position every time that you open the dome lid like some kamados do.

Both vents are marked which makes it easy to be more consistent with your vent settings.

Air Intake System

This is the weird thing about the Kamander kamado - the air intake damper is located on the side shelf instead of just a slide at the bottom of the base like most kamado grills.

How does that work?  There is a vent shaft that connects from the damper to the bottom of the kamado.

So the vent system is similar to that of many drum smokers that use a vertical shaft for air intake.

The positive things about this design are that it keeps you from having to bend down to adjust the air intake and the vent is scaled like the exhaust vent.

There are a few downsides.

  • This design makes it near-impossible to use a computerized controller like Flameboss or BBQ Guru.  
  • The design also eats up a good bit of the shelf area.  
  • Because the tube enters at the bottom of the kamado, you can't place this grill in a stock kamado table without making modifications to the table.
  • My biggest issue is that the tube was originally made of some type of plastic.  I was able to take the kamado to 700°f briefly without problems, but one day we ran the grill at 450-500°f for several hours and our tube melted down.  Now the Kamander comes with a metal vent shaft.  If you have an older Kamander with the plastic tube, go ahead and order the metal tube, it will be worth it.  
So, as long as the tube is metal, it doesn't harm anything, and the vent is easy to use.  But if I had my choice between a Kamander with this vent system and a Kamander with the traditional slide vent (no such model, just hypothetically), I'd go with the one with the slide vent.  That's just my opinion.

Ash Pan

Since there is no bottom slide vent, to clean out the Kamander, you have to remove this porcelain coated metal ash pan.  It sets at the bottom of the kamado below the charcoal grate.  It is large, so you'll never have to empty it during a cook.


The fire bowl is a metal insert that creates the double wall insulation for the base.  It rests on top of the ash pan (see above), and this large fire bowl holds a LOT of lump charcoal.  I don't think I have ever run this smoker until it's empty.

Just like with every other kamado grill that I use, I run the Kamander with a Kick Ash Basket in it.  This makes clean-up easy and significantly improves airflow around the fuel in the firebox.  Because this firebox is so vast, you will need to get the KAB for a Vision Classic B, it fits perfectly.

Grill Stand

The price includes the integrated stand. The stand uses large tube legs which are very sturdy.  The back of the hinge is also a handle so you can lean the Kamander backward and roll it like a dolly.

Here's a tip - any time you are putting a grill together, put some Loctite on the threads of the bolts for attaching the grill's legs and handles.  That will help keep you from getting wobbly grills later.


The Kamander includes a side mounted shelf that collapses down to create a smaller storage footprint.  The shelf is made of stainless steel, so it's easy to clean. I find that the air intake vent located here takes away a large chunk of real estate.

The underside of the right end of the shelf is also equipped with a hanging rack for your grilling tools.

Heat Diffuser
The stock heat diffuser that comes with the Kamander is a metal pan which doubles as a water pan.  The Kamander keeps a humid cooking environment, just like other kamados, and I don't find that I need a water pan.  The diffuser does an adequate job setting the Kamander up for indirect heat.

When I use the stock heat diffuser, I wrap it in foil to help keep it clean from all of the drippings.

Most of the time though, I use a ceramic stone as a heat diffuser.  One of the ones that I have for my Eggs fits perfectly on the stock rack.

Oblong heat diffusers are ideal for protecting the ends of long foods, like brisket or ribs.  The one I got for my Adjustable Rig from the Ceramic Grill Store fit like a glove in my Kamander.


This is the stock Chair-Broil thermometer.  Bi-metal thermometers usually aren't wildly accurate, but I have found this particular one to be pretty much spot on.

Cooking Grates

The cooking grates are porcelain coated cast iron.  That means they do a good job searing.  Porcelain grill grates rock when they are new or when they have been maintained.  They are prone to cracking or chipping, and then they start rusting.  So use a nylon brush for cleaning porcelain grates, not a wire brush.

This frowny face cracks me up.  The holes are for where the second level grate mounts.

The main grate has an insert so you can add more fuel or smoking wood.

The Kamander comes with a second tier gate for raised-direct grilling or for extra capacity.

The Kamander has 460 square inches of grilling space, 327 on the main grate and 133 on the upper level.

I have cooked a lot on this kamado.  Burnt ends, ribs, wings, brisket, rib roasts, turkeys, chickens, pork butts, you name it.  It has held up well, and after all of that cooking, I think that it works just as good as the other kamados that I have used.  It matches my other kamados for the quantity of food, quality of food, temperature control, and temperature range.


The most significant selling point for the Kamander is its value - you get a fully functional kamado grill for $379 or less.  It is better than some cheap, ceramic knock-offs that I've seen and it has proven itself to be solid performing kamado over the past two years.  For me personally, the portability of this kamado is a huge plus.

The biggest downside is the 1-year warranty.  Frankly, now that the Kamander comes with a metal vent shaft, I think this grill is well-built and deserving of a better warranty than that.  An upper-end kamado costs more than twice as much as a Kamander but you get a limited lifetime warranty with most of those kamado grills.

Who is It Good For

  • First-time kamado buyers who want to try one out before going all in on a $1,000+ kamado.
  • People who want a single, does-it-all smoker and griller without breaking the bank.
  • People who want to have a second kamado without spending the full cost of another high-end ceramic kamado grill.