The Weber Original Kettle grill (left) and the Big Green Egg kamado grill (right)

The Weber Original Kettle dots the backyard of millions of American homes, making it practically synonymous with summer grilling.

The Big Green Egg, which debuted in the 1970s, is a kamado grill that also burns charcoal but with a more airtight design and a bigger basin. The Egg has inspired a cultlike following and many copycat cookers.

Consumer Reports’ testers put them head to head to see how the two grills cook when pushed to their limits, and whether the Big Green Egg, which costs six times more than the Weber Kettle, could offer the kind of performance that would justify the price. 

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"With charcoal grilling, the cooking performance is largely dictated by how a fire is built and how the airflow to the flames is controlled," says Larry Ciufo, CR's test engineer in charge of grills. "That means everything from the quantity and type of charcoal to the design of the grill can impact your final result."

Most charcoal grills have two dampers, one near the bottom and one at the top, which work in tandem to direct the flow of air. More air feeds a fire, allowing it to burn hotter. Kamado grills also have two dampers, they tend to have a more airtight design, and most hold more charcoal than a conventional charcoal grill. 

We tested each of these grills with its recommended type of charcoal: Weber-brand briquettes and Big Green Egg lump hardwood coal. We filled the Weber Kettle with 3 pounds of briquettes and allowed the coals to ash over. The weight is equivalent to the number of briquettes Weber recommends, and it fills a typical charcoal chimney starter.

For the Egg, we weighed out 3 pounds of lump hardwood and lit it. But because the Egg’s deep cylindrical shape is designed to hold more coal, we also ran our tests with the Egg loaded to capacity with 5 pounds of lump hardwood. 

But we didn't stop with these comparative tests. We also ran each grill through our battery of performance tests, as we do for all the charcoal and kamado grills we evaluate, including those for heating evenness, cooking performance, and ease of cleaning, and did a thorough examination of features and design, all to determine which grill makes it easy to cook fabulous food.

Now, for the grill-off.

Vitals

Weber (18-inch): At 23 pounds, the molded metal Weber is lightweight and readily maneuverable, with a domed lid that sits securely, if not snugly, in place. Two dampers, one at the bottom and one in the lid, control airflow and as a result, temperature.

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Weber 22" 14401001

Price: $165

Evenness performance
Indirect cooking
Convenience
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Big Green Egg (large): The Big Green Egg tips the scales at 165 pounds, thanks to cast ceramic walls an inch thick. Heatproof gaskets form a tight seal when the lid is closed, leaving the dampers as the only source of airflow and giving you superior control over cooking temperature.

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Big Green Egg Large 18.25

Price: $1,030

Cooking performance
Convenience
Cleaning
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Test-by-Test Results

High-Heat Cooking
To see how differences in cooking temperature would play out in the real world, we seared 1½-inch-thick sirloin steaks on both grills over 3 pounds of coal. As you would expect given the laws of physics, both fires burned at similar temperatures and produced similar steaks. When we filled the Egg to its capacity, however, things looked a little different.

The Weber produced lightly charred steaks with a few sear marks when we pulled them off at medium-rare. But the Weber isn’t built to withstand a blazing-hot fire. The manufacturer recommends a maximum cooking temperature of 575° F, similar to the temperature we recorded when cooking with 3 pounds of charcoal.


The Egg’s larger capacity and heatproof ceramic walls give it a clear edge. When we packed it to capacity and opened the dampers, we recorded an average surface temperature of 850° F, which resulted in a roaring-hot fire and beautifully seared steaks. While we don't score either type of grill explicitly for high-heat cooking (again, because it's really a function of the fire you build), the Weber earns a rating of Very Good for evenness performance and the Egg earns a rating of Excellent for cooking performance overall. 

Low-and-Slow Test
To grill foods such as ribs and brisket, it’s critical to maintain a low temperature over a long period, because a temperature spike can dry out the meat before it’s tender. You want it to inch toward doneness. We filled each grill with charcoal, wired the grates with thermocouples, and adjusted the dampers until we found the sweet spot to cook continuously at 330° F, the halfway point between low-heat smoking and medium-heat grilling. 

The Weber was able to hold a steady temperature for 4 hours, but we had to add charcoal throughout the process, readjusting the dampers each time. It earns a rating of Good for indirect cooking.

CR’s experts were able to dial in a specific temperature on the Egg twice as fast as they were on the Weber, and the Egg held its temperature for 6 hours without having to add charcoal or make adjustments. Like other Kamado grills, the Egg earns a rating of Excellent for cooking performance, which reflects both low- and high-heat grilling.

Convenience
Because so much of a charcoal grill's performance depends upon its design, we score convenience for both charcoal and kamado grills. This crucial rating includes assessments of things like dampers and the relative ease of adding and lighting charcoal. These factors can greatly improve the cooking experience and, in turn, the finished food. 

The Weber earns a rating of Very Good in this test, with a flip-up grate that lets you add coals while cooking, two dampers, and large wheels. 

The Egg earns a rating of Good in this test. There are wheels and two dampers but no way to add coals during the cooking process. There's also no way to remove ash from the grill without removing the inner parts and scooping it out. The Weber is designed to catch ash in a pan beneath the grill; you can simply twist it off and dump it in the trash once it's full.  

The Winner

By all objective measures, the Big Green Egg is the better grill. Does its performance justify the price? That's up for debate.

And this highlights a larger split: In our charcoal grill ratings, you'll see that the Weber Kettle tops its category. The Big Green Egg, on the other hand, isn't the best kamado grill on the market. And it's important to note that the Overall Scores you see above don't tell the whole story—we rate charcoal and kamado grills differently.

For the burgers and brats and chicken breasts many of us routinely grill, it’s hard to beat the Weber. It’s a classic for a reason: It heats with impressive evenness, so you can cook similarly sized foods like salmon fillets and have them finish at the same time, with uniform grill marks.

The Egg heats evenly, too, but it won’t do anything for your hot dogs that the Weber wouldn’t. What the Egg excels at is temperature extremes, thanks to a design that allows it to get significantly hotter than the Weber Kettle and hold heat for prolonged low-and-slow cooking without frequent fussing.

So if you’re a grilling fanatic with money to burn, splurge on the Big Green Egg. Or better still, consider one of the kamado grills we've tested that actually beat out the Big Green Egg. But if you’re a casual summer griller, save your money and opt for the Weber Kettle. The difference in price will buy you plenty of brisket and pork shoulder for the long summer ahead.