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What is the Best Two-Zone Kamado System?

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    What is the Best Two-Zone Kamado System?

    So I was reading over Max Good ‘s reviews, as I am wont to do regularly. I couldn't help but notice that the Primo and BGE reviews were originally published in 2013. While they have been updated since then, obviously, I think 2-zone cooking on kamados has gone from relatively uncommon in the early days of the reviews to at least most manufacturers trying to adopt it in some way or fashion.

    However, all of the designs seem a bit different. Which one do you think will actually yield the most consistent and best results for 2-zone? Or have we now reached the promised land where we can say multiple designs do this effectively enough? For now, I've left off the Kalamazoo and Komodo Kamado, as I don't think most here are willing to drop 5k-plus on a kamado.


    Summits come with Weber’s Char-Baskets that isolate fuel to either side to create an indirect zone in the center.


    We consider 2 zone cooking a crucial technique for outdoor chefs. Most round kamados are not well suited for 2 zone setups because their cooking surface is small and the charcoal is far from the food. Summit Kamados do it with the greatest of ease.


    In addition to creating 2-zone separation, Slow ‘N Sear allows you to keep the dampers open a little more and run the fire hot while still holding down temp on the indirect side. The hot, isolated fire produces cleaner smoke than a smoldering fire that can occur when air dampers have to be shut down to maintain a low and slow cooking temperature. While the fire in traditional kamados can be pushed to one side in an attempt to create 2-zones and/or avoid a large pile of smoldering charcoal, we are struck by the logic and elegance of this design. An added benefit is reduction of fly ash from the contained fire basket which is also super easy to access and replenish.


    In the above photo, the split stainless steel grate at the top is positioned up high with a half moon heat diffuser underneath to create a moderate indirect cooking zone, while the other half of the grate is set down low near the fire for a hot direct zone. With 2-zones you can start chicken parts over the indirect zone at a low temp. When they are almost done, move them over to the direct zone to crisp the skin and finish cooking. Or use the indirect zone as a safe haven to transfer burgers and sausages one by one as they finish cooking. No more burned BBQ chicken or exploded hot dogs.


    Primo’s claim to fame is the unique oval shape which enables true 2-zone cooking: something that round designs really can’t accomplish. With 2-zones operating simultaneously, you can slide foods from a cool to hot side for crisping chicken and reverse searing steaks. To further isolate the zones, Primo offers an optional cast iron firebox divider. We tried aftermarket devices like this for round ceramics, but they cut the already smallish 18.5”diameter in half and once the ceramic got hot, the 2-zones evened out and the difference between them became inconsequential. Not so with the Oval XL, the divider makes a good thing even better.

    Primo’s porcelain coated steel, reversible cooking grates have a clever design that augments the already effective zone separation. They are two sided. One side places the cooking surface up high and flush with the felt insulation, flip it over and the surface drops down 2” closer to the coal.

    Grilla's Kong has a split diffuser: https://www.grillagrills.com/product...-kamado-grills as well.

    Last edited by IFindZeroBadCooks; May 31, 2022, 04:50 PM.

    I did not carefully read all your links, but an alternative to two zone is two distances from the fire. The further you are from the fire the lower the heat intensity. The Ceramic Grill Store Woo and Rig accomplishes that pretty easily. The Rig is more versatile.
    Last edited by LA Pork Butt; May 31, 2022, 03:55 PM.


      I've leaned toward the Primo when thinking about Kamados, but never pulled the trigger, the oval shape seems like it would be a real boon.


        Of course the Primo was the first, to my knowledge, to have two zone cooking and is still very good at that. I have two Kamado Joes that do what I believe is an excellent job of two zone cooking. The split heat deflectors work fine.


          I've only used a Primo but I feel like an oval shape is going to create more distinct heat zones.

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          • Huskee
            Huskee commented
            Editing a comment
            If you use the far edges, yes. If you don't then the difference between it and a round kamado, relating to where your food actually sits, would be negligible. I suspect those 'in the know' with 2-zone cooking would take advantage of the edges, but a newbie might not get it.

          The oval kamados are going to be better suited to two zone cooking but as LA Pork Butt said you can use rack systems to change distance to the fire to do two zone as well. Using heat diffusers, half heat diffusers, and charcoal dividers also helps with this.

          The SnS Kamado basically combines a kettle and a kamado using the SnS insert. To me it is the best two zone set up in a kamado and it is very versatile: In SnS mode I can cook at three levels with it: below the level of the SnS insert, on the main grate, and on the elevated grate.
          Last edited by 58limited; May 31, 2022, 01:09 PM.


            I have a SNS Deluxe Kamado, and it certainly takes a different approach to 2-zone cooking in a kamado than anything else. If I were shopping for a "pure" kamado and wanted 2 zone, Primo would certainly be on my list. I feel like split deflectors on an oblong shape cooker will work out better than on a perfectly round cooker.

            The one thing I will point out with the use of split deflectors on kamados to setup 2 zone cooking is that deflectors inherently do NOT block the entire area under the cooking grate - there is a couple of inch gap between the deflector and the body of the kamado, meaning that the outer edge of the cooking grate is going to be much hotter than the area directly above the deflector. So if the fire is under the deflector, a split deflector does not mean you get 50% of the cooking grate for indirect cooking. Same with the whole deflector. I guess if you had a split deflector (the SNS Kamado does not), you could build the fire JUST on the side where you won't have the deflector, and avoid some of the heat coming up around the edge of the deflector on the indirect side.

            I ran a cook yesterday on the SNS Kamado with the deflector in place, and placed my ribs such that they were pretty much entirely over the deflector. I took advantage of the hotter outer edge areas that the deflector does not cover to cook my brats and rib tips faster, while the ribs went slower in the center of the grate.

            Much as LA Pork Butt said, I often find myself using my cooker in kamado mode, with the fire in the bottom, and with 3 levels of grates I can cook on. The main charcoal grate, which is right above the coals, the main cooking grate, and then the elevated half grate. I'll move stuff down to the bottom to sear, then to the main or upper level to cook farther from the heat. So the distances from the fire kinda of yield different heat zones, much like you can vary the heat on a Santa Maria by moving the grate higher or lower above the fire.
            Last edited by jfmorris; May 31, 2022, 01:16 PM.


              The Divide and Conquer rack system in the Kamado Joe III series makes them ideal for a 2-zone setup. Here's a nice video that shows the D&C system https://youtu.be/lNAgvr_zhTU


                In addition to the shape and a split deflector, the Primo also has reversible charcoal grates that allow you to choose a position that is either closer or farther from the coals or deflector. You can see that in my picture above. The left side has the grate in the lowest position while the right side has the grate in its default position. Another feature is the firebox divider which dramatically increases heat zone separation. The primo also has riser grates so it's easier to set up more than 2 zones,


                  If I were buying one today, SnS would be the way to go.


                    While I don’t know what system is best, I’ll still go on record as believing that a regular kamado’s difficulty with two-zone is overstated.

                    Yesterday I grilled country style ribs at the normal grate height, at 450°. I then pulled the grate, inserted the deflector (BGE), put the meat back on the grate in a foil pan, and adjusted the vents. Just putting the cold deflector in dropped the dome temp to 300°, and the vent adjustments had it at 250° in about 20 minutes. 20 minutes is irrelevant.

                    Going the other way is ridiculously easy. Pull the deflector and open both vents, or better yet remove the cap altogether. As long as you have charcoal, in about 10 minutes your thermometer won’t be able to read high enough.

                    Doing both hot-and-fast and low-and-slow at the same time on my LBGE is limited more by the 18” diameter than it is by anything else.

                    EVERY cooker comes with compromises. How easy yours is to use, for you, depends on what compromises are easy for you to make. (And yes, buying another cooker is an acceptable compromise, and the one I chose to be able to do two zones at once.)
                    Last edited by Mosca; May 31, 2022, 03:38 PM. Reason: Edited for clarity


                      I have had a round kamado, (An Akorn) and I now have two Primo ovals. I never really achieved two zone on the Akorn except for 2 level cooking. The Kamado Joe has the divide and conquer system, which is very good. I love my Primo Junior and my Primo XL. You can really get into 2 zone with the Primo. It has two piece heat deflectors, so you can use one or both, or none. I also have the cast iron firebox divider, which, while not absolutely necessary, is a great accessory to have. I have done salmon on one side of Primo, while searing a steak on the other side. There are many systems out there, but for me the Primo wins. Kamado Joe is a close second.
                      Last edited by Thunder77; May 31, 2022, 04:23 PM.


                      • IFindZeroBadCooks
                        IFindZeroBadCooks commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Why does the Primo win over the KJ? What are the differences that make it better?

                      • Thunder77
                        Thunder77 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        The Primo wins for me mostly because of the oval shape, and the grill grates that can be flipped over to be either closer to or further away from the fire. I am NOT saying that it is better than KJ. It is better for me.

                      I was planning on trying the low profile Slow and Sear in my XL BGE. I will report back.

                      Otherwise you can use the deflector to cook indirectly then remove it for high heat direct cooking.


                        I have had the SNS. I cannot speak to the others, but for two zone the SNS is hard to beat.


                          Interesting responses so far. Based on the responses, I'd agree with Mosca that we can do 2-zone cooking very effectively on a kamado, with the Primo having a slight edge over peers. However, clearly the SNS and KJ have effective systems as well. A tad surprised we have not see any Weber kamado fans like glitchy or fzxdoc chime in yet.

                          Votes to date:

                          Primo: 5
                          SNS: 4
                          Kamado Joe: 3
                          BGE: 1
                          Other (Rig/Woo): 1
                          Last edited by IFindZeroBadCooks; June 1, 2022, 09:00 AM.


                          • jfmorris
                            jfmorris commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I don't think the Weber kamado grills have a split deflector option, so 2 zone would be just banking the coals or using a SNS low profile...

                          • Mosca
                            Mosca commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I want to clarify, I don’t think BGE is the best, or even close. Just that it doesn’t trip over it’s untied shoelaces trying. It gets the job done, and quite adequately. But others do it better.

                          • Andrrr
                            Andrrr commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Mosca Perfectly stated. I have the WSCG and banking coals works just fine and honestly I LIKE having some grey area between direct and indirect, just added flexibility. If I need a divider I use the Sns because I already have one but bricks would work just as well


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