The Kamado Joe Ceramic Charcoal Grill Lineup can be confusing to understand. Knowing which grill is right for you is no easy feat. In this guide, the professional experts at Just Grillin Outdoor Living will make it easy to know which is the best model and size to get. We have much of this information in an easy to view video linked above if you prefer to watch.
This article will be able to detail certain thoughts and ideas a little bit more than the video so feel free to watch the video and then read the article if you still have questions unanswered.
Brand Name Matters
There are plenty of kamado grills available on the market. While this thought might seem straight forward to some, we still have clients that confuse a Kamado Joe branded grill with other kamado grills, most notably the Vision Kamado and Char-Griller Akorn. The reason being people solely look at the red color of the grills and assume they are the same brand.
This is absolutely not the case. When shopping for a Kamado Joe, you want to make sure you’re looking at an actual Kamado Joe branded grill. These lesser quality competing brands choose a similar red color for their grills because of how popular Kamado Joe is. All this does is create confusion for consumers. These are kamado grills so the actual brand name Kamado Joe sometimes gets lost in translation.
The best way to know you’re looking at a Kamado Joe is to use their dealer locator and search for the nearest authorized dealer to you. Then you can go and see one in person and speak with a professional grill expert. If you’re in the Tampa – St. Petersburg – Sarasota area, make sure you come visit Just Grillin Outdoor Living to learn more and get exceptional customer service.
Where To Buy
From one local specialty shop to another, we encourage you to use the dealer locator and shop with an authorized Kamado Joe local retailer near you. We encourage this because you should get better service overall from initial purchase to after support throughout the years you own the grill.
We do not recommend purchasing these grills online because of how fragile they are. Kamado Joe’s purchased online are shipped through an LTL freight system that tends to be very careless and rough. This doesn’t mean every grill shows up damaged. But we see it enough that it’s not a good experience. You can see a small sample of pictures we’ve see from clients opting to purchase online and how their grill arrived.
A local retailer, like Just Grillin Outdoor Living, should have protocols in place to ensure what they receive arrives in mint condition. And your local retailer should have delivery and assembly options. These grills are very heavy and awkward to lift. It’s very much worth it to shop local and let the local store handle all the logistics to make your new grill arrival day an exciting day.
Ceramic Grill Lineup
The Kamado Joe grill lineup is broken into three different lines: First Generation, Second Generation and Third Generation. This model differentiator is going to be the roman numeral at the end of the name. For example, Classic I = First Generation. The same applies if the model size said Big Joe (which we’ll cover that shortly.)
We will break down the different features of the generations further down this article. Knowing which generation model you are looking at will be crucial to compare the features between models to better understand the benefits each model brings.
Different Sizes Offered
Kamado Joe makes three grill sizes: Big Joe, Classic Joe and Joe Jr. For the majority of those reading this article, the Big Joe and Classic Joe are going to be the two sizes to focus on. We will touch on the Joe Jr. later but it is the smallest model and only offered in one generation model version.
The only difference between the Big Joe and Classic Joe is the diameter across the cooking surface. The Classic Joe is the main model with an 18″ diameter. The Big Joe is the largest model with a 24″ diameter. The features on each size will be consistent in relation to the respective generation.
We’ll break down the feature differences next. If this is confusing to you up to this point, we really encourage visiting your nearest authorized Kamado Joe retailer to let them break this down easier. When visiting Just Grillin Outdoor Living, our experts will take the time to help you find the right grill to fit your lifestyle.
What Is The Difference Between Generations?
An easy cheat to remember about each generation grill is that the higher the generation model is, the more features the grill comes with. That’s because the first generation model is the first grill Kamado Joe released. Over the years, Kamado Joe has built upon each model to add new features making the experience better.
The First Generation line from Kamado Joe is the first grill they released when they started in 2009. This model was built as a competitor to the model Big Green Egg offers. However, Kamado Joe decided to package and include many of the add-on grill components that Big Green Egg made you purchase separately. This was a new idea to the market at the time.
The first generation grills come with the two-tier cooking system, AMP firebox (multi-piece firebox), wo half moon ceramic deflector plates, slide-out ash drawer, HDPE side shelves, cast iron top vent, cart and standard lid hinge. You also get an ash tool and grill grate gripper tool.
The first generation grill line is available in Big Joe and Classic sizes. This is also the most economical grill series in the lineup. Typically, this grill is only offered in big box stores like Costco, Home Depot, Lowe’s and a few others because of the price point. Those stores goals is not to offer the best but have certain items at certain low price points.
The Second Generation grill models from Kamado Joe is what really propelled their brand as one of the best to own for kamado-style grills. Up until this generation of grills was introduced, there really was not a whole lot of innovation with kamado grills in general. That changed with this generation model series.
These grills introduced the two-tier cooking system and AMP firebox. While those features now come with the First Generation, originally this model introduced those two features. The Second Generation grills also introduced the Air-Lift Hinge. This feature made it easy to open and close the lid effortlessly and hold the lid in place.
This model also upgraded the top vent to a powder-coated aluminum that provides protection from rain and snow when cooking. The gasket is a fiberglass mesh which helps lock tighter and holds in more heat/smoke for better, tastier results. Other features of this model include a two half moon ceramic deflector plates, front-facing lid safety latch, HDPE side shelves, cart with locking casters, ash tool, grate gripper and wok/dutch oven ring.
The Second Generation grill series is available in Big Joe and Classic Joe sizes. Kamado Joe also manufacturers built-in versions of this generation known as Stand Alone models. The features for these would be the exact same minus the cart and side shelves.
The front-facing lid latch on this series model is an underrated feature because it doubles as a built-in safety feature. If you’re familiar with the concept of burping your grill, you’ll quickly understand why. If you don’t know what that is, we’ll quickly detail.
Burping is the act of opening the lid just a smidge to allow your grill to stabilize the fire when opening the lid. When cooking at high heats, if you fling your lid open, flames will rush out. When you release the latch, the lid raises a smidge allowing oxygen in and helping stabilize the fire. Once you wait a few seconds, you can lift the lid and all is well. It’s something that any grill owner can forget to do so the latch release helps you remember to do this at high temperatures.
The Third Generation grill series from Kamado Joe brought more new advancements and features to propel Kamado Joe to the top in ceramic grill options. With the introduction of this series came the SloRoller. The SloRoller is an improved way to slow smoke foods with better flavor and results.
We have a great video that visually illustrates what the SloRoller is that you can watch here. Rather than using ceramic half moon deflector plates, this new insert forces smoke through the center of foods while the insert piece evenly heats up across the cooking surface. The result is tastier food because you get more smoke flavor and the insert helps eliminate hot and cold spots.
This grill series also comes with the half moon deflector plates so you can cook direct and indirectly at the same time if you wanted to. Kamado Joe also added the charcoal basket to this grill series versus the metal firebox grate. This allows for more airflow through the grill and makes it easier to clean out older charcoal and ash.
The Third Generation series grills upgraded the side shelves and cart to an powder-coated aluminum for strength and durability. The metal shelves allow you to rest a hot item without it melting the shelf (compared to the First and Second generation models.) The cart features a lower storage shelf which is not available on First and Second generation carts.
The Third Generation grill series is available in Big Joe and Classic Joe sizes. Kamado Joe also manufacturers built-in versions of the Third Generation too.
The Joe Jr.
The last model in the Kamado Joe ceramic grill lineup is the Joe Jr. This grill mostly resembles a First Generation model. It is much smaller than the Classic size grills. The Joe Jr. has a 13.5″ diameter.
This grills is more so designed as a complement to a Big Joe or Classic Joe. It is designed to be portable to take camping, tailgating, to the beach, etc… The grill does not have a s many features due to the size of the unit.
The Joe Jr. features a daisy wheel top vent, full ceramic heat deflector plate for smoking, hinged cooking grate, portable stand with handles and it comes with an ash tool and grate gripper.
Which Model and Size Is The Best?
This answer is going to vary based on every person. There are a few things we discuss with clients to help them figure out which is the right model for them.
The first thing is to think of this purchase as a 10-year commitment. Kamado Joe’s are built and warrantied to last a long time. 10 years is usually what we see as a lifespan of these grills when clients decide its time for a refresh/update. So with that 10 year plan in mind, look at the price tag broken into 10 years.
We haven’t mentioned pricing because it changes and typically goes up every year. For the latest up-to-date pricing, you can always check that here.
When you put the price of the grill in that perspective, you’re figuratively spending anywhere from $80 to $300 a year during that lifespan of the grill which is economical and feasible for most people.
Keeping the 10-year plan in mind, you need to think of your family size longer term too. How many people will you be cooking for in 10 years? Will you be hosting more gatherings? What type of meals do you want to cook?
It can seem challenging to know this type of information ahead of time but we encourage our clients to consider this so they purchase the model and size that fits their plan.
Quality of Life
Think about how you interact with other items you’ve purchased in years past that fit into your everyday life and how you interact with those items today. Take a coffee maker for example. Did you purchase a lesser model of a particular unit and wish you had purchased the upgraded version? Does ease of use and convenience matter most?
You should also be honest about what you hope to achieve with the grill. Is there something new you really want to learn to cook? Looking to master a particular recipe? Conversations like this do help guide you and professionals to pinpoint the model that will be best for you.
Be honest about what your budget is and you are confident moving forward with. At Just Grillin Outdoor Living, our team is here to help you find the right grill based on many of the answers to questions above. Kamado Joe grills are quality grills so it’s not a light decision whether you purchase a First Generation or Third Generation.
What Model and Size Do Our Experts Recommend?
The Just Grillin Outdoor Living team likes the Third Generation models the best. While these models are the highest priced in the line, our team understands the value the Third Generation models provide as a benefit to you.
Kamado Joe designed the Third Generation series to include many of the accessories and features that current First and Second Generation grill owners ask for. The charcoal basket is one of the most popular add-on accessories for First and Second Generation grill owners. It comes included on the Third Generation. This accessory really helps with airflow in the grill and makes your cooking experience much more enjoyable.
The SloRoller really does help yield a better, tastier result when slow smoking. It’s a larger accessory so the Third Generation grills were designed to deeper to help accommodate the accessory. This allows you to do two-tier cooking with it in place. You can add the SloRoller to a Second Generation grill but you will only get one tier of cooking. Cooking space is a premium with these grills so there is much value in the ability to add more food for slow smokes.
The next reason our team likes these models best is the side shelf and cart upgrades. The metal side shelves are a game changer if you don’t have this grill built into an outdoor kitchen. Being able to put hot items on the shelf to rest for a minute or two is a highly underrated benefit.
These models are the newest in the Kamado Joe lineup so they will be around the longest. That means new accessories and inventions will be made to fit these models as Kamado Joe has shown history of doing this with accessories for the Second Generation grills.
This model series also has every luxury feature to make your cooking experience as enjoyable as possible.
Our team understands that this model series may not be for everyone’s budget but we recommend at least getting a Second Generation grill. The reason being Kamado Joe is known for the innovations in kamado-style grills. The Second and Third Generation series is what really makes a Kamado Joe a Kamado Joe.
As for size, our team feels the Big Joe is best for someone that either will need to cook a lot of food, values extra cooking space or plans to use the grill for slow smoking foods most of the time. Our team feels the Classic Joe size is best for those that will do occasional slow smoking but mainly will be grilling and aren’t cooking for a large amount of people frequently.
Still Have Questions?
We do our best to be as thorough and comprehensive as possible with articles like this. If you are still undecided on which Kamado Joe is best for you, feel free to email us or give the professionals at Just Grillin Outdoor Living a call at 813.962.1700 to discuss. Please visit us Tuesday to Saturday in our Tampa, Florida showroom is you are in the area or local to us.