The cultural phenomenon that has formed around the Big Green Egg since its 1970s debut is iconic indeed.

Let’s just say that this ceramic beast of a charcoal grill and smoker has hatched numerous copycat cookers and die-hard devotees who call themselves Eggheads.

We can, however, evaluate its performance and help you answer the question: Does anyone really need a $1,000-plus kamado grill?

For that price, you might expect an actual fossilized dinosaur egg, not a grill that looks like one. After all, some of our top-rated gas models cost a quarter of that price. And you can snag one of the best kettle- or barrel-style charcoal grills from our tests for as little as $100.

But the Big Green Egg isn’t trying to be an alternative to traditional grills and, frankly, its design has little in common with them anyway.

Rather than adjusting gas burners or arranging charcoal briquettes as you would in a conventional charcoal grill to concentrate heat, you fill a kamado grill's lower hemisphere to capacity with lump hardwood charcoal. Once the coals are going, the design starts to make sense: Cast-ceramic walls an inch thick and a heavy lid with a heatproof gasket team up to trap heat. That allows you to use the dampers to precisely control the temperature.

"The Big Green Egg was the only widely known kamado grill for years," says Mark Allwood, a market analyst who oversees grills for Consumer Reports. "But in the past few years, we've seen lots of kamado models from other brands trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Egg." (The category gets its name from the ancient Japanese cooking urn.)

We were wowed by the Big Green Egg a few years back when we compared it with a conventional charcoal grill. But with so many newcomers to the kamado market, we wondered whether it was still a smart buy.

Kamado grills, including the Big Green Egg, are designed to maintain low temperatures for long, slow cooking and produce a roaring fire for searing steaks or grilling pizzas. When we tested the Big Green Egg for both capabilities, it did extremely well, like the other grills in its class.

For the low-and-slow test, our experts had no problem maintaining a temperature of around 330° F for 6 hours. The impressive part is that we didn’t need to add coal or adjust the dampers once we dialed in the sweet spot, exactly the kind of control you’d want for ribs or pulled pork.

That's consistent with what we've seen with other kamado grills, particularly ceramic models such as the Egg.

When we tested the Big Green Egg for high-heat cooking, we recorded an average temperature of 850° F at the grates. That's right on a par with other kamados. The temperature is really a function of how big a fire you can build; the larger the capacity of your kamado, the hotter it will get.

In short, the Egg rates Excellent at cooking.

Five Tips for Great Results—on Any Kamado Grill

A kamado grill can provide a greater temperature range than any other type of grill, but it also works differently from gas, pellet, or charcoal grills. You'll need to practice using the dampers to control the heat. Regardless of which model you purchase, these five tips will help you get great results when cooking on a kamado grill.

Brisket and Ribs

Use a heat-deflecting plate (included with the Kamado Joe featured above and sold as an extra for other models, including the Egg) to protect slow-smoked meats from drying out during cooking. The plate is usually an inch-thick ceramic disc that doubles as a pizza stone.

Chicken

Thin pieces can be cooked with the lid open the entire time. For thicker pieces, or a whole chicken, close the lid and control the temperature with the dampers.

Veggies

Skewer smaller vegetables like button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, or cut pieces of peppers to keep them from falling through the grates on your grill, because the gaps on kamado grills can be larger than those on gas.

Pizza

Heat the pizza stone (included with most kamados, but sold as an extra for the Big Green Egg) in the grill, then dust it with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Dust the underside of your pizza and pizza peel, too.

Fish

Hearty fish like salmon, tuna, and swordfish stand up well to smoke—imparted by cooking with a mix of charcoal and wood chips or wood chunks. For more delicate fish like sole, tilapia, or bass, try cooking with charcoal only because the smoke flavor can become overpowering.