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Kamado Joe Big Joe II and III Review – A Closer Look At One Of The Top Kamado Grills On The Market

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Kamado Joe has quickly become one of the go to brand names when it comes to the kamado grill.

Simply put, they place a tremendous amount of thought, care, and expertise into each one of their grill designs – and the quality of their products show it.

The Kamado Joe Big Joe is one of their flagship grills, and is a cooker suited to get some serious grilling and smoking done.  As you’re about to see, the Big Joe can handle just about anything when it comes to cooking outdoors.

In this article, we’ve compiled our thoughts for a complete Kamado Joe Big Joe review.  We’ll be covering two separate generations of Big Joe – the II and the III.  By the end, you should have a great idea of the capabilities of this grill, and whether or not it’s the right fit for you.  Stick around for some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Kamado Joe!

Kamado Joe Big Joe II Review

Kamado Joe, Big Joe II Charcoal GrillThe most notable feature of the Kamado Joe Big Joe II is undoubtedly the bright red, egg shaped ceramic cooking chamber.  You won’t find a better insulator than the ceramics used to construct the shell of this grill.

The secret sauce for high performance in any charcoal grill is a quality ventilation system.  A proper ventilation system allows for you to precisely and predictably control your temperature.  No matter whether you’re grilling a ribeye steak or smoking a BBQ brisket, temperature control and precision is crucial to achieve tasty results.

The Big Joe II features a top mounted vent where you can easily control your airflow, smoke levels, and temperature.  It’s easy and intuitive to use, and has some great visual indicators to let you know exactly where to place the vents to achieve certain temperature levels.

On the topic of temperature levels – the Big Joe II is designed to be able to steadily maintain temperatures of 225°F to 750°F.  That’s an incredibly wide temperature range, and affords you the ability to smoke meats low and slow, sear, grill, roast, and even bake Neapolitan style pizza all on the same cooker.

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One of the most unique features you’ll find on all full sized Kamado Joe grills (including the Kamado Joe Classic) is their Divide and Conquer cooking system.  Essentially, they’ve designed a double layered circular cooking grate, which is where your food sits as it cooks inside of the egg shaped chamber.  The cool part is that each of these circular cooking areas are divided into removable half-moon shaped grates.

There are a couple of implications if this two tiered, removable grate system.  First, it allows for you to set up multiple heat zones in your grill – so you can cook some food with direct heat and some with indirect heat simultaneously on the different layers.

Second, the removable nature of the half moon grates allows for you to interchange different cooking surfaces to best compliment the food you’re cooking and the style you’re cooking it with.  Kamado Joe offers interchangeable half moon cooking surfaces in each of the following styles:

  • Traditional stainless steel cooking grate
  • Soapstone
  • Cast iron cooking grate
  • Cast iron reverse-able griddle
  • Fish and vegetable grate
  • Ceramic pizza stone

The grill also comes with a quality deflector plate to help set up multiple heat zones.  All of this means that you’re actually to cook different foods, at different temperatures, on different surfaces, with different styles at the exact same time on the Kamado Joe Big Joe.  Even if that sounds too ambitious for you to do all at once, the versatility and ability to easily change between different styles of cooking is an undeniable luxury.

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On top of all of that, there are a few more design features of the Big Joe that make it stand out from the competition.  Ceramic grills by nature are heavy – the Big Joe II in fact is about 375 pounds!  With many ceramic grills, opening and closing the lid takes effort.  Usually about 20 to 25 pounds of force is required to open the lid, and on the way down you have to be extremely careful to let it down slowly to not allow all of that inertia to damage your grill.

Kamado Joe designed an air lift hinge system to solve this problem.  The air lift hinge reduces the force required to open the lid by 96% – you can actually open it with a single finger!  On the way down, the lid also naturally closes slowly and safely so you don’t have to worry about it slamming shut.

The Big Joe also goes above and beyond with their gasket, one of the most important components of a kamado grill.  Many other competitors utilize felt gaskets or other inferior materials.  Kamado Joe on the other hand has a fiberglass gasket in place that is of the utmost quality and ensures an airtight seal and extended shelf life.

One more thing that I really appreciate about Kamado Joe is that they include a generous amount of “extra” features with their grills.  I put extra in quotes because some of the features, like a rolling cart and side tables, feel like they shouldn’t be so extra – but lots of other competitors (like Big Green Egg) charge extra.

With Kamado Joe, features like a rolling cart, folding side tables, and heat deflector plates are all included in the base price.

The Big Joe II also features a multi panel fire box, wire mesh fiberglass gasket, folding side tables, and stainless steel latches.  Each of these features contribute to an overall ease of use and great user experience with the Big Joe II.

Things We Like:

  • Design quality is spectacular and so were the materials used for construction.  Zero corners were cut, and seemingly every single square inch of this cooker is well thought out.
  • Extremely versatile cooker – everything from low and slow smoking to searing steaks to baking pizza on scorching heat is possible on the Big Joe.
  • Easy of use factor is there, especially for a kamado grill.  You’re not going to find an easier kamado grill to operate and maintain.
  • Top tower vent is highly adjustable and straightforward.  It allows for you to precisely control your airflow and therefore manage your temperature.
  • Cast iron cart and side tables come included with your grill.  As mentioned above, these features cost extra with other brands, so the base pricing for Kamado Joe Big Joe II’s is a turnkey price.  Everything you need to get going comes standard.
  • Lifetime warranty on ceramics and 3-5 year warranty on most other parts.
  • Fiberglass gasket lasts for decades and ensures an airtight seal.

Things We Don’t:

  • The Kamado Joe Big Joe II is expensive, there’s no way around it.  Relative to other ceramic grills on the market we think the price is justified, but it’s definitely a premium price.

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Kamado Joe Big Joe III Review

Kamado Joe BJ24RHCI-A Big Joe III Charcoal GrillSo, the Kamado Joe Big Joe III is the brand new version of the Big Joe.  All of the features we listed out above apply to the Big Joe III – but there are a few extra features and improvements worth noting for the newer iteration.

Most notably, the third generation of the Big Joe introduces Kamado Joe’s SloRoller Technology.  In short, this technology utilizes a hyperbolic chamber which distributes heat and smoke throughout your cooker in rolling, recirculating waves.

Practically, this means that while your food cooks it’s surrounded by even amounts of heat and smoke.  This perfect evenness contributes to enhanced smokey flavors for you food – and it also eliminates the small possibility of hot spots appearing in your cooker.

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The Big Joe III also features 3 tiers of their Divide and Conquer cooking system, so you’re afforded even more space to get to work and make delicious food.

As far as other major upgrades go, the other one of note is the rolling cart.  The Big Joe II features a cast iron rolling cart.  There’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s a quality cart – but the Big Joe III features a heavy duty galvanized steel rolling cart with locking wheel casters.

Those are the big highlights of the Kamado Joe Big Joe II vs III – the third generation still has the wide temperature range of 225°F to 750°F and comes with all of the great features that the II does.

Things We Like:

  • Design quality is spectacular and so were the materials used for construction.  Zero corners were cut, and seemingly every single square inch of this cooker is well thought out.
  • SloRoller technology contributes to even better tasting food with more consistent results.
  • Extremely versatile cooker – everything from low and slow smoking to searing steaks to baking pizza on scorching heat is possible on the Big Joe.
  • 3 tiers of cooking grates means the most cooking surface area of any kamado grill on the market.
  • Easy of use factor is there, especially for a kamado grill.  You’re not going to find an easier kamado grill to operate and maintain.
  • Top tower vent is highly adjustable and straightforward.  It allows for you to precisely control your airflow and therefore manage your temperature.
  • Galvanized steel cart and side tables come included with your grill.  As mentioned above, these features cost extra with other brands, so the base pricing for Kamado Joe Big Joe III’s is a turnkey price.  Everything you need to get going comes standard.
  • Lifetime warranty on ceramics and 3-5 year warranty on most other parts.
  • Fiberglass gasket lasts for decades and ensures an airtight seal.

Things We Don’t:

  • The Kamado Joe Big Joe III is also expensive, with a higher price tag than the Big Joe II.

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About Kamado Joe

Kamado Joe opened for business in 2009 after Bobby Brennan and Kerry Coker founded the company.  As far as the life of a business goes, that’s not that long ago!  But in a short time, Kamado Joe has made a huge splash in the grilling industry.

Brennan and Coker were dissatisfied with the lack of premium options in the outdoor cooking market and vowed to create a premium brand and experience around the concept of a kamado grill.  They opened up shop with the goal of creating a world class kamado that would be built to make delicious food and last a lifetime.

And they’ve done exactly that.  Kamado Joe has led the industry in innovative features and quality from pretty much day 1 of their existence.  Today, many of the features they first came out with are being copied by other brands who are trying to play catch up.

All of that to say, Kamado Joe is one of the most respected brands in the space and have a reputation for quality and innovation.  If you want to see how we think they stack up to other brands, check out our Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg comparison next.

Getting the Most Out of Your Kamado Joe Big Joe

If you’re going to dive in to the world of kamado grills, here are a few of our favorite tips for how you can get the most out of your Kamado Joe.

First, you should definitely plan to use lump charcoal to fuel your kamado grill.  Kamado Joe sells their own brand of lump charcoal but you can use any kind you want!  Lump charcoal is a type of organic, all natural fuel that burns extremely clean and has zero additives in it like many charcoal briquettes do.  Most importantly, lump charcoal produces minimal ash when it’s burned, which is key for all kamado grills – by design their ventilation systems will get clogged up with too much ash.  You can read more about the difference between lump charcoal vs briquettes here.

The second piece of advice we like to give is to make sure you utilize Kamado Joe’s extensive line of accessories.  Their base units are more than enough to make delicious food, but their attachments and accessories can really take your set up to the next level.  Here are a few examples of the sort of enhancements you can make to your grill:

  • Rotisserie kit
  • Pizza stone
  • Grill expander (more cooking surface area)
  • Cast iron dutch oven
  • Cast iron wok
  • Rib rack
  • Accessory rack

Final Thoughts

I hope this extensive look at the Kamado Joe Big Joe II and III has helped you determine whether or not this grill is a good fit for you!  Although expensive, the Big Joe delivers on a premium grilling and smoking experience, and can literally provide a lifetime of value to you, your family and friends.

Have any more questions about the Kamado Joe Big Joe?  Let us know about them in the comments section below.