Take Your Backyard Barbecuing to the Next Level With the Kamado Joe Series II
Smoke, grill, and even bake pizza with this versatile ceramic grill.
The Kamado Joe may be one of the best ways to elevate your backyard barbecuing to the next level, but is it worth its price? After using the Kamado Joe regularly for a year, I found through my testing that it largely lives up to its cost. For one, the ceramic grill excels at handling such standard backyard barbecue fare as steaks and burgers. In addition, it allows home cooks to expand their grilling horizons with the ability to cook in ways they simply can’t with a traditional charcoal grill, such as smoking a brisket or baking a pizza. The Kamado Joe is a great option for those who are serious about upping their grilling game and who don’t mind springing for the premium price that comes with it.
Kamado Joe Classic Joe Grill – Series II: At a Glance
- Functions as a traditional charcoal grill, smoker, and even a pizza oven
- Durable enamel-coated ceramic cook box lasts for a lifetime
- Features such as an Air Lift hinge on the lid and larger lockable casters add to ease of use
- Difficult to assemble due to the high weight of the cook box
- Requires more practice and skill to use effectively than most grills
- Comes with a steep price tag
Get the Kamado Joe Series II at:
What is the Kamado Joe Series II?
Like most kamado grills, the Kamado Joe consists of a thick (and very heavy) oblong ceramic cook box that features a clamshell-style lid. The cook box sits in a wrought-iron stand with large casters that make it possible to roll the grill around a deck or patio. It uses hardwood charcoal for fuel.
While the Kamado Joe might resemble a classic kettle charcoal grill, its construction is quite different. The acorn-shaped cook box is made from 1.25-inch-thick ceramic as opposed to thin porcelain-coated steel sheet metal. In addition to making the grill quite heavy, this design allows it to retain heat much better than traditional charcoal kettle grills.
As a result, the Kamado Joe is tremendously versatile. Open the lid and the lower vent and it functions as a standard grill for searing steaks and burgers at temperatures that approach 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a pizza stone accessory to it and you can use the Joe to make wood-fired pizza.
Smoke meat at low temperatures with a few adjustments. Place the included ceramic plates over the hot coals to create indirect heat and close the lid and you can smoke brisket, pork butt, or ribs for hours on a single load of charcoal. When slow-cooking on the single charcoal load, temperatures hover around 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
How easy is it to set up the Kamado Joe?
Putting this kamado grill together isn’t complicated, but you will need an extra set of hands to get the job done as the ceramic cook box alone tips the scales at more than 150 pounds. Since the setup process involves lifting the ceramic grill body and setting it into its wrought-iron metal base, there’s really no way to assemble this thing by yourself. You’ll either need to get help from a brawny friend with a strong back or pay extra for expert assembly.
After the ceramic cook box is securely in the base, which sits on top of four stout casters, it’s fairly easy to roll over a smooth surface such as a patio or deck. The rest of the assembly, which includes installing the ceramic plates that line the inside and adding the cooking grates, is fairly simple.
How easy is it to cook with the Kamado Joe?
As with any other grill, it takes time to learn how to cook with the Kamado Joe Series II. Figuring out what type of charcoal to use, how much to add to the cook box, how to arrange the cooking grates, and how to adjust the vents to control the temperature is key to achieving good results.
Kamado Joe also offers a broad range of accessories to use for smoking meat, grilling steaks, and baking pizza. While this gives the Joe tremendous versatility and allows you to be more creative with outdoor cooking than with a standard charcoal grill, learning how to be successful with these different cooking types takes practice and some trial and error. Be prepared to suffer a few kamado-grill failures along the way while figuring out how to cook with it. For example, you can make a wood-fired, brick-oven-style pizza on the Joe, but it’s very easy to burn the crust before the top cooks if you don’t know how to maintain the right internal temperature.
I loved the fact that the Kamado Joe is capable of reaching blazing-hot temperatures. Searing a nice crust and grill marks on steaks and burgers is very easy with the Kamado Joe. Getting the Joe to cook at lower temperatures takes more practice and skill, but once I figured out how to use the ceramic plates to create indirect heat and the vents to control temperature, I was able to use the Joe to create juicy smoked ribs and pork butt without too much difficulty.
The Kamado Joe is limited when it comes to cooking space. The Joe’s grate is 18 inches in diameter, which amounts to just 250 square inches of total cooking surface; this is tight for a standard grill and very limited for a smoker. While you can double the smoking surface area by purchasing a second tier for the existing grate, you’re still limited by the grill’s diameter.
Is the Kamado Joe Series II well designed?
There are several design features I like about the Joe and a few I thought could be improved upon. Controlling the vents and clamshell lid are key with a kamado grill, and the Joe does well with both. The lid uses its Air Lift hinge, which serves as a power assist to easily open and close the heavy lid. There are large vents on both the cook box and the lid, which offer plenty of adjustability for controlling airflow. I also love the large thermometer on the lid that makes it easy to monitor the internal temperature.
Fold-out side tables add useful prep and landing space for food going on and coming off the grill. Additionally, the Kamado Joe does some cool things with the cooking grates: You can set the cooking grate to different heights, which gives you more control over how close your food is to the hot coals.
You can also set the two halves of the circular grate to different heights, which is a great option for creating two heat zones when cooking different types of food at the same time.
Cleaning a charcoal grill is a pain, and it’s no different with the Kamado Joe. The removable ash box at the lower vent helps with cleanup; however, there’s still a fair amount of mess left inside the grill. Some of the ash falls around the edge of the box and some stays in the ceramic kettle itself, forcing one to sweep it out or use a shop vac to really get it clean.
At just over 230 pounds, the Joe is heavy, which could make rolling it around a scary experience. Luckily, the Kamado Joe base is quite sturdy, thanks to its wrought-iron construction and large casters, two of which are lockable. I didn’t find it difficult to roll the Joe into and out of position on my patio, nor did I feel like it was in danger of toppling over while in transit.
Is the Kamado Joe worth the money?
Kamado grills are the most expensive type out there, and the Kamado Joe Series II is no exception. At around $1,300, it’s quite an investment. That said, there is quite a lot of value built into the price. Traditional charcoal grills simply won’t give you the ability to cook in as many ways as a kamado grill does.
The Joe’s ability to cook for many hours at temperatures as low as 225 degrees Fahrenheit and reach searing-hot temperatures of 750 degrees Fahrenheit supply unparalleled versatility in a single outdoor grill. It can function as a smoker, pizza oven, and standard barbecue grill all in one.
The Joe will also long outlast standard charcoal grills. With its ceramic construction, it’s essentially rustproof. As such, owners of a Kamado Joe can truly expect it to last for a lifetime if they maintain it properly, making it a little easier to swallow the high price tag.
Should you buy a Kamado Joe?
Whether it makes sense to spring for the Kamado Joe really depends on one’s grilling and outdoor cooking habits. Those who grill regularly, like to experiment with grilling a variety of different foods, and prefer the flavor of charcoal over the convenience of gas likely will find the Kamado Joe is worthy of its high price tag. The Joe is essentially a charcoal grill, smoker, and wood-fired ceramic oven all in one. And since the Kamado Joe will still be standing long after a steel grill has rusted away, buyers can expect to get their money’s worth.
That said, the Joe doesn’t make sense for everyone. Those whose grill sits idle most of the year, or those who use their grill only to cook standard grill fare such as steaks, hot dogs, and burgers, probably won’t want to splurge for the Kamado Joe. There are plenty of other good- quality grills out there that will fulfill these basic grilling needs at a much more affordable price.
Where to Buy the Kamado Joe Series II
Get the Kamado Joe Series II at:
Meet the Tester
Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, technology, home security, and design. His articles have been featured on such sites as Popular Mechanics, Futurism, Field & Stream, 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report, Domino, and more. Carrick has conducted rigorous product testing on everything from power tools to home security systems to backyard grills. With each review, his goal is to help readers determine whether a product meets their needs and if it is or isn’t worth its price tag.