In this article, I’ll detail why I chose the Kamado Joe, specifically why I chose the Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg, what my personal experience has been with the Kamado Joe, and provide some helpful Kamado Joe tips for new cooks.
Updates for 2019 – since this article was published there are been new developments, including the release of the Kamado Joe III which may well have just ended the debate between the Big Green Egg vs the Kamado Joe — see below for more!
Kamado Joe Table of Contents
- Kamado Joe – What is it?
- What is a Kamado-style cooker?
- Why did I buy a Kamado?
- Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg – Is the Battle Over?
- Kamado Joe Size Options – including a video intro to the new Kamado Joe Classic III
- How is the Food on a Kamado Joe?
- Kamado Joe Quick Tips
- Do YOU Have a Kamado Joe
- Links to other KJ References
- Other Kamado Joe articles
Editor’s Note: In addition to this article, I have numerous other articles about the Kamado Joe including:
- Must Have Accessories for your Kamado Joe
- The Ultimate Guide to the Kamado Joe
- 10 Reasons Why the Big Green Egg vs Kamado Joe Debate is Done and WHO the Winner is.
- We’ve also launched an entirely new website devoted to all things kamado and BBQ – shop for Kamado Joe items and more at LordoftheGrills.com
I. Kamado Joe – What is it?
The Kamado Joe is the brand name of a line of ‘kamado-style’ ceramic grills. After dabbling in black, Kamado Joe’s are known by their now famous RED color and more importantly by the company’s trend-setting innovations for kamado cooking.
Here’s what a Kamado Joe Classic II looks like. Note that trademark red color – it’s a thing of beauty, ain’t it?
II. What is a Kamado?
For those who are new to kamado cooking, let’s take a step back and talk about what a kamado is. (For those that already know, skip ahead).
What is a Kamado?
There an excellent series of “Kamado 101” articles by a fellow named “Kamado Jim” and I’ll link to them in the references at the bottom of this page, but for now let’s refer to the simple definition on the Kamado Joe website…
A kamado is “an ancient, Asian-style grill…thick-walled cooker that imparts rich, smoky flavor to meats, fish, and vegetables.”
And “relatively unchanged for centuries, air flows through the kamado grill’s ceramic body and out its vented dome, chunk charcoal comes to life as smoke and heat.”
There are a LOT of kamado-style grill options on the market today. Check out this pic and see for yourself…
III. Why did I buy a Kamado?
I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my cooking. My friends in the neighborhood joke about this because they claim that I rely more on technology than cooking ‘heart’ – ouch! Whether that’s true or not I can’t say, but I will admit that if there is a cooking gadget that I think can up my game, I’ll give it a try.
For years I’d heard about the Big Green Egg but was averse to try because of the perceived learning curve and the expense of the product. But I did my research and finally took the plunge a couple years ago and I’m kicking myself that it took me so long!
There is a difference in the flavor of the food when you cook over lump charcoal/wood. Can’t deny it, no disputing it, when you cook on a kamado you’ll taste it and it’s awesome.
That said, there IS a learning curve to kamado cooking (and I’m still learning!) and it IS expensive to buy a kamado grill ($600-1000 will get you started depending on what brand you buy and how big you go). Also keep in mind you’re gonna want some accessories pretty early on as well – so do yourself a favor and remember this little piece of wisdom…
Kamado Cooking is a LIFESTYLE – once you commit to it, you’ll never go back.
IV. Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg
I’m not gonna lie – when I was first shopping for a kamado it was a pretty tough decision to choose the Kamado Joe vs the Big Green Egg.
I did a lot of research (read: spreadsheets, shopping, forums, etc). I talked to a lot of people. I watched a lot of videos.
Honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong with either the Big Green Egg or the Kamado Joe and since the time this article was first written I have since purchased a Big Green Egg as well (because you can never have too many grills, right?).
As I mentioned above, in addition to the Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg there are certainly other options in the kamado world too – there are a lot of lower-end options and some higher one too but for me I narrowed it down to the Big Green Egg and the Kamado Joe pretty quickly based on my individual needs.
To be honest, most of my friends have Big Green Eggs and they love them. As I said I too own a BGE and therefore I am not here to knock the Big Green Egg because it has a long history of success and tons of rabid fans who tout its awesomeness. Let’s face it, The Big Green Egg is the ‘It Girl’ of kamado’s, and it probably outsells all other kamados combined. Buy the Big Green Egg and you will probably be very happy.
But for me, the Kamado Joe is still the best between the two and here’s why…
Regarding the research, I’ll link to some threads in the reference area in the interest of time let me just summarize by saying that I chose the Kamado Joe over the Big Green Egg or other options because of the following THREE Reasons:
- Kamado Joe reputation – everything I read had it on par with the Big Green Egg in terms of capabilities and quality.
- Kamado Joe had more useful accessories that came standard with the purchase. Whereas with the Big Green Egg you had to buy a lot of these accessories at an added cost.
- During my shopping experiences the Kamado Joe just ‘felt right‘ when I got my hands on it.
Additionally my Kamado Joe is more functional than the Big Green Egg “out of the box” and it’s hard to dispute that. This is because the Kamado Joe can do more ‘out of the box’ because of its design – the Kamado Joe comes with an internal cooking rack system called “The Divide and Conquer” system.
Kamado Joe’s Divide and Conquer system allows you to cook BOTH direct and indirect at the same time, on varying levels. Here’s what that looks like…
As you can see from the pic, with the Kamado Joe you can have different cooking zones elevations AND you can also use BOTH indirect and direct cooking at the same time.
With the Big Green Egg (unless you modify the place-setter system by purchasing the Eggspander) your option is either direct OR indirect but not both – that’s HUGE!
The additional flexibility of the Kamado Joe appealed to me and I can tell you that the Divide and Conquer system is not just a gimmick – it works and I DO use it quite frequently. Furthermore, there are tons of forum articles from Big Green Egg users who end up wanting to modify their eggs to retrofit them with the Kamado Joe Divide and Conquer system (see references below). Why retrofit when you can just by a kamado made for this? That kamado is the Kamado Joe.
In addition, the Kamado Joe has numerous other useful accessories specifically designed for it. This is because the company specifically focuses on innovation. Accessories include their multiple grilling surface options (stainless steel, cast-iron grates, cast-iron griddle, soapstone, etc), the “Joe-tisserie” (a revolutionary rotisserie for the kamado), and more.
Additionally, when I purchased my grill (2017) Kamado Joe was coming out with an updated line that featured an ‘easy-close’ lid – one of the things that’s important to know about kamados is they are heavy – I read numerous reports about the lid ‘slamming down’ on some kamado’s and causing cracks. Kamado Joe’s ‘air-lift’ hinge was designed to prevent that and this was another selling point for me.
STOP THE PRESSES – THE DEBATE IS OVER!
Kamado Joe has now introduced the Kamado Joe Classic III, the Big Joe III, and the Pro Joe and all of them feature another new innovation called the SlōRoller – an insert that works by distributing smoke and heat in rolling, recirculating waves.
The SlōRoller helps to surround food in clouds of ‘delicious smoke’ while at the same time evenly distributing heat. Kamado Joe says this results in enhanced flavor and significantly reduced hot spots.
Fewer Hot Spot? Enhanced Flavor? Sign me up!
You can read our full review of the new Kamado Joe III here…
With the release of the Kamado Joe III I personally believe the long-standing debate between the Big Green Egg vs Kamado Joe is finally over. In fact I wrote a new article about it and you can read it here…
V. Kamado Joe Size Options & Kamado Joe III Walkaround Video
The Kamado Joe comes in multiple size options:
- the portable Joe Jr
- the 18-inch Classic II or the new 18″ Classic III
- the 24-inch Big Joe II or the new 24-inch Big Joe III
Check out this video from Kamado Joe’s John Setlzer with a great intro to the Kamado Joe III…
Check latest prices for Kamado Joe III
Kamado Joe Classic III
Kamado Joe Big Joe III
Kamado Joe Joe Junior
IMPORTANT TIP: Although the Big Joe gives you the most cooking space and it is truly awesome, just understand that not only is it the most upfront cost, but the accessories also cost more too. For most people, the standard size “Classic II” or the new Classic III will be the way to go – you’ll get the most accessory options to choose from as well.
That being said, if you often cook for groups over 10 people, then you will want the Big Joe or even the new Pro Joe. Enjoy!
VI. How is the Food on the Kamado Joe?
Pizza – awesome. Chicken Wings – best ever. Beer Can Chicken – yummy. Fish – moist and tender. Steaks – out of this world flavor!
Check it out.
HD Pro Tip: Try a Ribeye Cap Steak on the Kamado Joe and you’ll thank me when you’re family says ‘best steak ever!”). BTW, Costco’s Meat Dept has USDA Prime Cap Steak – it’s expensive but it’s worth it.
Cooking on kamados (and the Kamado Joe specifically) offers a variety (from cold smokes to 800-degree heat) that just can’t be beaten with any other cooking appliance I know. In addition, you can do really long cooks on them (think low and slow) to include even overnight cooking because the kamado holds a temperature so well and for so long.
Sadly I also have an expensive, built-in Cal-Flame gas grill (when I put in a patio bar a few years ago) — unfortunately, because of the addition of the Kamado Joe I rarely use my beautiful grill for anything but making bacon (yes I turned a $4k grill into a giant griddle, and no that ROI on that wasn’t so great!) or for ‘must-be-quick’ cooks because kamados take a while to heat up. I also got rid of my Masterbuilt Smoker since the Kamado Joe replaced that too.
I’ve got some great recipes books that have really helped me and I’ll link to them in the “Tips” section below.
VII. Kamado Joe Quick Tips
A. Buy a Kamado “Manual.”
You can’t run before you walk. There IS a learning curve to kamado cooking and you would be wise to buy one of the following two books because either of these will speed up your progress and have you mastering the KJ in no time. You just spent a grand on the KJ, chip in another $20-30 and get these books – you’ll learn a bunch AND pick up some great recipes too!
- Hot Coals – a User’s Guide to Mastering your Kamado Grill
- Smoke it Like a Pro
- The Kamado Smoker Cookbook – Recipes and Techniques
B. Use Good Lump Charcoal.
I’ve quickly learned that not every brand of lump charcoal is created equal. Don’t cook on JUNK charcoal when you can cook on quality LUMP charcoal – your food will thank you for it. Some of them are made with woods like hickory or mesquite that are so strong they don’t go with a wide variety of foods. I’ve tried a few brands I’ve found that you get what you pay for – quality brands of lump charcoal offer pieces that are are bigger, burn a long time, and have a flavor on the mild side because of the combo of woods used.
Lump Charcoal brands I like:
Smoking Wood Chunks to consider include:
- Cameron’s Wood Chunks
- Weber’s Wood Chunks
- Oklahoma Joe’s Wood Chunks
- Western Premium Wood Chunks
- Smoak also offers wood chunks in a larger supply (25-30 lbs boxes)
TIP: Personally I don’t mess around with charcoal chimneys or parafin fire starters. Instead I like electric fire starters. I’d recommend you one too and be done with it. Kamado Joe makes a good electric fire starter for a reasonable price.
C. Give Yourself Time…literally!
One downside of the Kamado Joe, like all kamado’s, is that it takes time to get it ready to cook – figure an hour to get heated, etc. and I’ve learned to give myself an extra 15 minutes if I’m trying to ‘time up’ with other foods just to be safe.
D. Cleaning is Easy.
Kamado Joe (like most kamado’s) is pretty much self-cleaning (oh yeah!).
That said, a once-year full clean is helpful as well. Here’s a youtube video from Kamado Joe on the topic.
E. You will want a Cover.
If you’re installing the KJ in an island, be sure to check out my full accessory list for tips on custom tables or island covers, but if you’re keeping the Kamado Joe in it’s nest, then here’s an excellent cover (this is for the Classic II size). It’s “Kamado Joe Official” so you can ride in style…
- Kamado Joe Cover (in nest)
- Classic Accessories Ceramic Grill AND Kamado Table Cover
- for even more kamado covers visit this page of the LordoftheGrills.com site.
F. Have Fun with a Few Accessories.
This is by no means all you’ll want or need in the way of Kamado Joe Accessories, so be sure to read my articles Best Accessories for the Kamado Joe, but to get you started for now, add these to your cart – you’ll thank me.
Then check out the Kamado Joe accessories on our new LordoftheGrills.com website.
- Hands-Free Monitor: Wireless thermometer with dual probes monitors your food or oven/grill/smoker temperatures from up to 300 feet away, enabling you to enjoy the company of your guests without continuously excuse yourself
- Hassle-Free Setup: With no synchronization required, say goodbye to the tedious setup steps; Large LCD clearly displays both food and oven temps; Backlit display allows use in low-light condition
- Kitchen Timer: Food cooking smoker thermometer features count up and countdown setting that is perfect for long-time cooking or vegetable side dishes; Receiver will beep and flash once reaches preset temperature
- USDA-Recommended Temperature Settings: BBQ thermometer comes with preset temperatures for 10 types of meat and their respective doneness levels as recommended by the USDA; All of the preset temps can be reset to your desired tastes
- Durable & Accurate Probes: Wireless meat thermometer for grilling and smoking features food-grade stainless steel probes with step-down tip design allow users to get readings more precisely and quickly, acurrate to 1.8°F; Probe wires can withstand up to 716°F
- Non-porous surface makes it easier to grill tender meats, delicate fish, and fresh vegetables without worrying about sticking to the grilling surface and breaking apart
- Soapstone surface also inhibits flare-ups, meaning less burnt meat and added safety
- Mix and match different surfaces to suit any need and style
- Compatible with Kamado Joe Classic I, II, III
- The thick Canadian soapstone slab distributes heat evenly and keeps juices inside the meat for a flavor-packed meal
- App Controlled - Simply attach the breakthrough smart device to the bottom vent of your charcoal grill, and total control over heat, smoke, and target temperature is in your hands.
- Smart Technology - The iKamand uses smart temperature control and responsive smart fans to make cooking more relaxing and more enjoyable over the entire process, from easy start-up to effortlessly-delicious finish.
- BBQ Feed - Enjoy access to curated, always-updated videos, tutorials, and posts, created to inspire you to try fresh things on the grill and learn new techniques.
- Compatible with Kamado Joe 18-inch Classic I, II, III grills. Use Setup mode to connect to your iKamand device and set it up with your local WiFi credentials. Press the iKamand button for about 1 second to start and stop Stoke mode. Press iKamand button for 4 - 8 seconds to enter/leave WiFi mode.
Again, if you want to see ALL my recommendations on Kamado Joe Accessories, be sure to visit my “Best Accessories for the Kamado Joe” article – you’ll get over 200 tips and ideas to consider.
VIII. Do you have The Kamado Joe?
What’s been your experience so far?
What tips or accessories recommendations do you have to share?
I’d love to hear your thoughts – meanwhile it’s time for some more wings and beer with my Kamado Joe!
IX. Kamado Joe References:
- Kamado 101 by Kamado Jim
- Kamado Joe website – Kamado Cooking
- Kamado Joe Divide and Conquer system
- BBQ Guys – Comparing the Kamado Joe vs the Big Green Egg.
- Fire Craft – Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg
- Big Green Egg Forum – How to retrofit a Big Green Egg with the Divide and Conquer system.
- Wikipedia – History of Kamado Grills
- Shop Kamado Joe on LordoftheGrills.com
- Beginner’s Guide to the Kamado Grill – Medium.com
- Recipes for your Kamado Joe – Kamado Joe
X. Kamado Joe Other Great Articles
There’s More to Life than Cooking?
Did you know we write about more than just Kamado Cooking on this site? It’s hard to belive, I know, but it’s true! 🙂
Check out these articles or visit our home page to learn more.