The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Kamado Joe

In Grills, Resources, Reviews

Ultimate Guide to Buying a Kamado Joe

Ever since the Big Green Egg arrived in the early 70’s there’s been a slowly building trend of better and better Kamado Grills to hit the market. In 2017 Kamado Joe release their latest Kamado grill that just might be the best Kamado ever made. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Kamado Joe grills and the best one to buy. We’ll compare each of the different versions, review what we like and don’t like, take you through all the accessories for the Kamado Joe and look to see how the Kamado Joe compares to the other Kamado grills available.

Recently the Kamado Joe came out as one of the best Kamado grills for the money in our comparison.

What is a Kamado Grill?

Quick History Lesson

The first clay oven that we would class as a Kamado grill appeared in China around 1,000 BC. This knowledge found its way to Japan around 300 BC and that’s when the nameless clay ovens got the name of Kamado, or ‘stove’. At some point in time the design was developed in India and slowly became the Tandoor. The Japanese version of the oven was developed into a mushikamado that is used to steam rice. After WWII, some of the thousands of Americans stationed in Japan saw these unique cookers and brought them back home. Some even started importing and selling them and finally in 1974 the design was refined and the Big Green Egg was born.

 

What They Are

The design hasn’t changed much over the 3,000 or so years, they’re still an egg shape stove with either a grill or some form of hanger or plate to place the food. One of the best features of a Kamado is that they are hugely versatile. They can act as a standard grill, a smoker, a convection oven or even a make-shift pizza oven. There are very little limitations when it comes to cooking on a Kamado grill and if you add in an automatic temperature controller then they are one of the easiest outdoor ovens to cook on.

Most Kamado grills now-a-days are made from high quality ceramics, refractory materials or steel. The highly insulative properties of these materials allow them to absorb and store a lot of heat energy which makes them ideal for outdoor cooking at any ambient temperature. They usually look quite striking and unique and can make a great garden feature. The higher end models are generally ceramic and that is what the Kamado Joe is made from.

 

Breakdown of Different Versions

There are three different types of Kamado Joe. The Kamado Joe Classic, the Kamado Joe Jr. and the Big Joe. Here’s a quick look at the differences:

PhotoNameCooking AreaAccessory Availability Current Price on Amazon
Kamado Joe Classic IIClassic II18” diameter / 256 sq. in.EverythingCHECK PRICE
Kamado Joe Big JoeBig Joe24” diameter / 452 sq. in.Almost EverythingCHECK PRICE
Kamado Joe JrJoe Jr.13.5” diameter / 148.5 sq. in.Limited CHECK PRICE

What’s Included

Kamado Joe Classic II

  • Premium 18″ Ceramic Grill with Cast Iron Cart & Locking Wheels
  • Divide & Conquer Flexible Cooking System
  • Air Lift Hinge
  • Kontrol Tower Top Vent
  • AMP FireBox
  • Stainless Steel Latch
  • Wire Mesh Fiberglass Gasket
  • Patented Slide-Out Ash Drawer
  • Built-in Thermometer
  • Finished Folding HDPE Side Shelves/Handle
  • Grill Gripper
  • Ash Tool

Technical Specs:

  • Dimensions: 46.5″ W x 48″ H x 28″ D (118cm W x 122cm H x 71cm D)
  • Cooking Surface: 18” diameter / 256 sq. in.
    • With Grill Expander: 407 sq. in.
    • With Two Sets of Grates: 508 sq. in
    • With Both Grates & Grills Expander: 660 sq. in.
  • Weight: 188 lbs (85.3 kg)
  • Heat Range: 225°F – 750°F (107°C – 400°C)

 

Big Joe II

  • Premium 24″ Ceramic Grill with Cast Iron Cart & Locking Wheels
  • Divide & Conquer Flexible Cooking System
  • Air Lift Hinge
  • Kontrol Tower Top Vent
  • AMP FireBox
  • Stainless Steel Latch
  • Wire Mesh Fiberglass Gasket
  • Patented Slide-Out Ash Drawer
  • Built-in Thermometer
  • Finished Folding HDPE Side Shelves/Handle
  • Grill Gripper
  • Ash Tool
  • Firebox Divider

Technical Specs:

  • Dimensions: 50” W x 54” H x 31” D (127cm W x 137cm H x 78cm D)
  • Cooking Surface: 24” diameter / 452 sq. in.
    • With Grill Expander: 604 sq. in.
    • With Two Sets of Grates: 904 sq. in.
    • With Both Grates & Grills Expander: 1,056 sq. in.
  • Weight: 250 lbs (113 kg)
  • Heat Range: 225°F – 750°F (107°C – 400°C)

 

Joe Jr.

  • Premium 13.5” Ceramic Grill with Cast Iron Stand
  • Built-in Thermometer
  • 304 Stainless Steel Cooking Grate
  • Ceramic Heat Deflector
  • Grill Gripper
  • Ash Tool

Technical Specs:

  • Dimensions: 16” W x 22” H x 20.75” D (40.6 cm W x 55.9cm H x 52.7cm D)
    • With Stand: 19.75” W x 27” H x 20.75” D (50.2cm W x 68.6cm H x 52.7cm D)
  • Cooking Surface: 13.5” diameter / 148.5 sq. in.
  • Weight: 68 lbs (30.8 kg)
  • Heat Range: 225°F – 750°F (107°C – 400°C)

The differences between the three versions are mostly differences in size and the Joe Jr is still lacking a few features of the other two. There are also a lot fewer accessories for the Joe Jr but it does have the added bonus of being completely portable, which the other two are not.

The Big Joe comes with a firebox divider as standard which allows you to place your charcoal to one side of the grill when needed. This is very useful in any grill but having the option for such a large Kamado is almost a necessity. This is the only grill to come with it.

There is also a standalone version of the Big Joe and the Classic II. These both do not come with the stand or the shelves as they are designed to be installed in your outdoor kitchen. They are exactly the same as the versions that we are reviewing today, just without the stand and shelves.

 

Build Quality and Design

The built quality of the Kamado Joe is one of the best we’ve ever seen. It features a very thick walled, heat-resistant ceramic shell that manages to retain heat incredibly well for very even cooking. Ceramic is the best material for Kamados as it has such a high heat retention and the Kamado Joe features one of the best ceramic shells we’ve come across. Ceramic is also great for increasing charcoal efficiency. You don’t need as much charcoal to reach the same temperatures and it will burn longer in a ceramic grill. Also, there is usually a higher moisture retention when cooking on a ceramic Kamado. With a little practice you’ll generally be able to get juicer meat from a ceramic shell.

Read more: ‘Lump charcoal vs Briquettes’

 

Kamado Joe Divide and Conquer System
Kamado Joe Divide and Conquer System

The Divide and Conquer system that is featured, as standard, on the Classic II and the Big Joe is a brilliantly designed multi-layered grate system that allows you to pick and choose where you want to place semi-circle shaped grates. It allows you to place the grates on different levels which means you can cook with two different temperature zones at once. This is a brilliant design and creates a much more versatile grilling system incredibly simply. The build of the grates is fantastic, they’re made from commercial-grade 304 stainless steel which won’t rust and is very easy to clean down. The Divide and Conquer system also include ceramic heat deflectors to give you another layer of control over how to cook and help transform the Kamado Joe into an incredible smoker. These are well made and feel strong, working exactly as you’d expect. The Divide and Conquer system is the best Kamado Joe accessory, and it’s made even better as it comes as standard with the Classic II and the Big Joe. Unfortunately, there isn’t one for the Joe Jr.

Another very nice design feature is with the accessory rack. This is a stainless steel rack that allows you to place certain accessories in the Kamado Joe. It’s designed to give you just enough space around the edges to add more charcoal if needed. It’s these little things that make the Kamado Joe worth the price tag.

The Kamado Joe features a stainless steel ash tray and lower air vent system. Both of these are made from the same high quality 304 stainless steel that the grates are made from. These are some of the more standard features of the Kamado Joe. They both do their jobs well but are fairly common to most Kamados.

The cast iron cart and locking wheels that the Classic II and Big Joe come with are of the same high standard as you’d expect. They felt sturdy and the brakes on the wheels were ridged enough to keep it in place. The Joe Jr. doesn’t have wheels but the stand felt solid.

Kamado Joe Kontrol Tower Vent
Kamado Joe Kontrol Tower Vent

Some of the design features that are more unique to the Kamado Joes are the top air vent and the hinge system. The top air vent, called the Kontrol Tower, is one of the best vents we’ve seen. It’s made from aluminum to stop it from rusting and has a lovely black painted finish. The 2017 version is the first to include the Kontrol Tower and it’s a huge improvement over the old model’s top vent. It has an adjustable tab to allow a decent amount of control over air flow, but it also can be spun off completely to allow maximum air to enter the cooking chamber. The top lid can also be removed for cleaning. It feels sturdy, looks great and is very flexible.

Kamado Joe Hinge System
Kamado Joe Hinge System

Where the Kamado Joe really shows off is with its new lid hinge and latch. This hinge has been designed to reduce the lifting weight of the lid by a massive 96%! It means that even the lid of the Big Joe can be lifted with a single finger. Not only that but it is able to hold itself open so you’ll never have the scare of the lid slamming itself down. When you want to close it, the Kamado Joe features a new stainless steel self-closing latch, which increases safety and can be opened with ease. Unfortunately, both of these features are not available on the Joe Jr. at the moment as that is yet to be updated.

On the 2017 version of the Kamado Joe there is also a new gasket. This is a wire mesh fiberglass gasket that aims to improve heat and smoke retention. It does a very good job, there is basically no smoke leakage that is quite common on some cheaper Kamados and other smokers like offset smokers.

Here’s a quick rundown of the features of the Kamado Joe Classic II and the Big Joe from the team at BBQGuys:

 

 

Ease of Use

As you may be able to tell from the previous section the Kamado Joe has several features that make it very easy to use. All the recent upgrades on the 2017 model mean that even the more difficult parts of cooking can now be done by almost anyone. The new lid is the standout here and it really is impressive how much of a difference the hinge makes. In addition to that the cleaning has been improved and is now even easier. If you want the ability to truly set it and forget it when smoking on a Kamado Joe then we highly recommend checking out our rundown of the best automatic temperature controllers to allow you to even go to sleep whilst your Kamado Joe does all the hard work for you. Use our smoking times and temperature chart to make sure whatever you’re smoking is cooked  to perfection.

If you’ve never cooked on a Kamado grill before there is a bit of a learning curve, and the Kamado Joe is no different. After a couple of cooks, though, you should be good enough to produce some of the best food you’ve ever tasted.

Check out our tips and tricks at the end of the article to get the most out of your Kamado Joe.

 

What we like about the Kamado Joe

  • We love the versatility that the Kamado Joe offers. It’s amazing that one day we can smoke a whole pork butt and the next day we can use the pulled pork from the day before on homemade pizzas, all cooked to perfection in the same oven. Check out our list of the best pizza ovens if that interests you.
  • Even without an automatic temperature controller, the Kamado Joe is capable of maintaining very even temperatures. It’s very simple to set the temperature you want and then the Kamado Joe does the rest. We’d highly recommend using a digital meat thermometer to help you get an accurate reading of the internal temperature of the grill and the meat.
  • The overall design and the little designs, such as the lid, make the Kamado Joe one of the best Kamado grills available to use today. There are so many small features that make it well worth the money.

 

What we don’t like about the Kamado Joe

  • For any quality ceramic grill, you’re going to be looking at paying a premium. The Kamado Joe is expensive but you’re getting a lot for your money. Comparing it to the Big Green Egg the Kamado Joe is almost a bargain. You get a heap of nice little accessories that you have to pay extra for with a Big Green Egg.
  • As the grill is ceramic it is going to be very heavy and it has the possibility to crack if not looked after properly. We’ve personally not experienced a Kamado Joe cracking and we’re not sure if it would have a huge impact on the function of the grill, but be aware the possibility is there.
  • We definitely recommend using a good quality lump charcoal with the Kamado Joe. A cheap briquette will likely produce too much ash and clog up the air flow if you’re cooking for long periods of time. Lump charcoal is generally more expensive so the price of this has to be taken into account.

 

Kamado Joe Accessories

One of the best things about Kamado grills and in particular Kamado Joe grills is the massive range of accessories that are available. You can completely alter you Kamado grill into many other types of cooker with the simple addition of one accessory. Here’s our mini review of each Kamado Joe accessory that is available today.

 

JoeTisserie

Kamado Joe JoeTisserie Accessory
Kamado Joe JoeTisserie

The JoeTisserie is a unique rotisserie attachment that can turn your Kamado Joe into a fully-fledged rotisserie oven. It features a clever edge shaped design so the lid can be closed whilst its cooking. The ring itself is made from a durable cast aluminum with the rod and forks being made from the same high quality 304 stainless steel that the grate is made from. The motor is powerful enough to spin up to 50lbs of food.

What we love about the JoeTisserie is that the juices from your food will fall into the fire and the smoke produced will give it a wonderful taste that is not like anything else we’ve tried. This is our favorite, and probably the best, accessory for the Kamado Joe.

The JoeTisserie is only available for the Kamado Joe Classic II.

 

Starters

Kamado Joe off two different ways of starting fires in the grill. They are:

Kamado Joe Electric Starter

Kamado Joe Electric Starter Accessory
Kamado Joe Electric Starter

This is a 600 watt electric starter that is made from angled stainless steel and gives a fast, safe way to start the fire. When we used this it worked very well and we were surprised at how quickly it managed to get the charcoals going. It definitely isn’t necessary and we think a chimney starter and some quality charcoal will always be a fine way of starting your fires. But if you’re looking for something a little simpler then the Kamado Joe Electric Starter is a great option that’s we’d definitely recommend.

Joe Blow Electric Blow Lighter

Joe Blow Electric Blow Lighter Accessory
Joe Blow Electric Blow Lighter

The Joe Blow lighter is an interesting way of lighting your fire. It’s said to be the fastest way to get your fire going and can get it lit in less than 3 minutes. There have been a lot of reports of the lighter melting within a couple of uses. So, whilst this is potentially a great accessory be aware that there have been many reported problems.

 

Cooking Surfaces

Cast Iron Cooking Grate

Kamado Joe Cast Iron Cooking Grate Accessory
Kamado Joe Cast Iron Cooking Grate

The cast iron grate surface is an excellent way to get classic grill marks when you’re searing a steak. It’s a good quality, solid grate and does the job you’d expect.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

 

 

Cast Iron Reversible Griddle

Kamado Joe Cast Iron Reversible Griddle Accessory
Kamado Joe Cast Iron Reversible Griddle

This cast iron griddle offers a perfect ribbed surface for any type of griddling you can think of. It also has a smooth side which can act as a great way to cook burgers, vegeatables, bacon or anything else.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

 

 

Laser Cut Stainless Steel Cooking Surface

Kamado Joe Laser Cut Stainless Steel Cooking Surface
Kamado Joe Laser Cut Stainless Steel Cooking Surface

This double thick semi-circle of stainless steel has been laser cut to produce an ultra-smooth surface that is ideal for cooking delicate cuts of meat or vegetables. The grooves from the laser cuts create perfect grill marks.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

 

Soapstone Cooking Surface

Kamado Joe Soapstone Cooking Surface Accessory
Kamado Joe Soapstone Cooking Surface

This is made from solid Canadian soapstone and acts as a bacteria and stain resistant slab that provides an even cooking surface with fewer flare-ups and very even heat distribution. Perfect for cooking fish, burgers or even filet mignon.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

 

 

Grill Expander

Kamado Joe Grill Expander Accessory
Kamado Joe Grill Expander

The grill expander is a must have if you’re looking to do a lot of cooking on the Kamado Joe. It can increase your grill area by up to 60% and gives four inches of clearance over the other grates. It’s made from the same high quality stainless steel that the other grates are made from, it’s easy to install and is dishwasher safe. With the grill expander and the two grates you can get over 1,000 square inches of cooking area on the Big Joe!

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

Speciality Tools

Pizza Stone

Kamado Joe Pizza Stone Accessory
Kamado Joe Pizza Stone

Just behind the JoeTisserie in our favorites list is the pizza stone. The pizza stone allows you to turn the Kamado Joe into a brilliant pizza oven. The pizza stone sits atop the accessory grate and manages to produce almost wood fired oven like results. It’s a ceramic stone that gives a nicely even heating surface and produces good quality crusts and a nice crispy base.

If you’re not aware, we love pizzas here and have done a complete guide to pizza ovens and gone through the best pizza stones.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

Deep Dish Pizza Stone

Kamado Joe Deep Dish Pizza Stone Accessory
Kamado Joe Deep Dish Pizza Stone

We definitely prefer thin base pizzas but this deep dish pizza stone can be used for so much more than pizza. It’s deep enough for casseroles as well as paella. Even if you never use it for pizza, you’ll be getting a great value accessory.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

Chicken Stand

Kamado Joe Chicken Stand Accessory
Kamado Joe Chicken Stand

This ceramic Kamado Joe chicken stand can hold a 5-pound bird with ease. It works with any cooking method so is a great way to try out several ways of cooking a chicken. Not only this, but it’s capable of holding 16 oz of liquid. Perfect for beer chicken or just another way to add flavor through a marinade or juice.

Available for all Kamado Joe grills.

 

Rib Rack

Kamado Joe Rib Rack Accessory
Kamado Joe Rib Rack

The Kamado Joe rib rack is made from the same high quality stainless steel that the other grates are made from. It allows you to cook much larger quantities of ribs to perfection by placing them vertically in the rack. We’ve cooked the perfect Kamado Joe baby back ribs using this. It can also be used for chicken legs, pork chops and more.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Kamado Joe Cast Iron Dutch Oven Accessory
Kamado Joe Cast Iron Dutch Oven

We love cooking with a Dutch oven as it gives us that true campfire cooking feeling. With this accessory, you can feel like a true outdoor cook by cooking up soups, stews, chilli and more, all from the Kamado Joe.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

 

 

Cast Iron Wok

Kamado Joe Cast Iron Wok Accessory
Kamado Joe Cast Iron Wok

This Wok allows you to cook up your favorite oriental meals straight from your Kamado grill. It’s cast iron build is durable and gives a great flavor when cooking stir-fries.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

 

Grill Covers

Kamado Joe Grill Cover
Kamado Joe Grill Cover

If you don’t have a place to store your Kamado Joe, then we highly recommend picking up a grill cover to make sure that the weather doesn’t get into the grill. It also protects it from any scratches or bumps that it might face. Kamado Joe have their own custom fitted cover that works perfectly to protect your grill.

Available for Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe

 

 

 

Kamado Joe Replacement Parts

Sometimes something might happen to part of your grill and you’ll need to replace it. Kamado Joe are aware of this and have provided replacement parts for the most commonly broken sections of their grills.

 

Shelf and Handle Kit

Kamado Joe Shelf and Handle Replacement Kit
Kamado Joe Shelf and Handle Replacement Kit

If your shelves or handle suffer any damage then an easy to replace kit is available.

 

 

 

 

Felt Gasket Replacement Kit

Kamado Joe Gasket Replacement Kit
Kamado Joe Gasket Replacement Kit

The felt gasket replacement kit offers Kamado Joe’s brilliant gasket in an easy to install kit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kamado Grills like the Kamado Joe

There are many, many Kamado Grills like the Kamado Joe. We took a look at some of the best Kamado Grills you can buy here. The main competitor to the Kamado Joe is the Big Green Egg.

The Big Green Egg is basically the industry standard in Kamados. It’s been one of, if not the best Kamado money can buy for a long time. They’ve stuck with the formula, whilst slightly refining it here and there. There’s a big range of accessories for the Big Green Egg but they will all cost you extra. This is one huge advantage the Kamado Joe has over the Big Green Egg, it has a lot of extras included as standard. And they’re all as good a quality, if not better, that the Big Green Eggs.

The main shell of both Kamados are very similar, they both heavy duty ceramic. We think the Kamado has a few little extras that make it better than the Big Green Egg, though. The Divide and Conquer system is incredibly useful and we can’t see ourselves not being able to use it. Also, the lid and hinge on the Kamado Joe is better than anything we’ve ever used.

Overall, the Kamado Joe has too many small features that just outperform the Big Green Egg. If you buy a Big Green Egg you won’t be disappointed, they are very good, but you could get so much more for your money with a Kamado Joe.

 

Kamado Joe Quick Tips and Tricks

General Tips

  • You can reuse charcoal if it hasn’t been fully burned. If you’re using your Kamado Joe for searing then it’s best to use fresh charcoal.
  • Temperature control shouldn’t be too difficult. Take your time and remember that it’s easier to raise the temperature than it is to lower it.
  • Because of the way Kamados are designed they can act as almost self-cleaning grills. Just fire it up to roughly 700°F and leave it for 30 minutes or so. Open the vents and let it cool completely. Remove the ash and firebox, and brush everything down with a brush. Wipe the grate or put it in the dishwasher and then reassemble. It’ll be very simple to clean down after being heated because the high temperatures break down and sterilize the mess. You won’t need to do this every time, but we’d recommend doing a deep clean after around 10 cooks.
  • Whilst the Kamado Joe should be relatively unaffected by the rain or cold it is best to keep it covered when you aren’t using it.

Safety Tips

  • This is the most important tip on this entire list. Be very careful of something called a flashback. Here’s what a flashback looks like on a Big Green Egg:

A flashback happens when you suddenly open the fire up to a lot of oxygen. If the fire has been starved of oxygen, generally after cooking when you close all the vents, and then you open the lid the sudden influx of oxygen can create the huge burst of flame you see in the video. This can be quite scary if you’re not expecting it and has the potential to cause a lot of harm. To stop this happening, it’s best to hold open the lid very slightly for 10 seconds or more to let some oxygen in then slowly open the lid the rest of the way.

  • Do not try to move your Kamado Joe if it is still in use or has hot ash in it.
  • Do not use lighter fluid as the ceramic will absorb the chemicals released when it is burned.
  • Keep your Kamado outside, it is not suitable for indoor cooking.

 

Overall Thoughts

We think that the Kamado Joe is one of the best purchases you can make. Not just the best Kamado grill, but in general. You get so much versatility in such an easy and fun way to cook. So many problems that other Kamado grills suffer from have been fixed on the Kamado Joe that we can’t really fault it. The huge range of accessories is just the cherry on the cake, and if you wanted to you’d never have to cook inside again.

This is what we think about the Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe. The Kamado Joe Jr. is lacking too many of the great features and accessories that the Classic and Big Joe have for us to give it the same glowing review. It’s good in its own way, but there are just as good alternatives for less money.

If you’re thinking of getting a Kamado Joe and don’t know which one to buy, we’d recommend the Classic II. If you need more space then the grill expander accessory might be what you need. Or if you’re wanting a lot more cooking space, get yourself a Kamado Joe Big Joe.

 

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If you think we missed anything or have any questions, then please let us know in the comments below.

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