Kamado Joe Jr. Review: Big Things in Small Packages

Kamado grills have been used for centuries, but their popularity has increased dramatically in the last decade or so. As a result, more companies have added these impressive and versatile units to their lineup.

As you can tell by the company name, Kamado Joe has a vested interest in this cooking style. The company’s founders were frustrated by a perceived lack of quality in their grilling equipment, and decided to do something about it. Hence, the Kamado Joe brand was born.

The Kamado Joe Jr. represents their foray into the portable kamado grill race. Although these grills are heavy by definition, this smaller unit can be transported for tailgating, camping, or any other outdoor adventure. In this Kamado Joe Jr review, we’ll help you decide whether it’s a worthy investment.

Pros:

  • Relatively lightweight for a kamado grill
  • Durable construction
  • Excellent customer service
  • Good heat retention

Cons:

  • On the pricey side
  • Grilling surface may not offer enough space for some users

Things To Consider Before Buying a Kamado Grill

Before you decide to plunk down the cash for a kamado grill, there are a few things you should know.

First of all, these grills aren’t the most affordable units on the market. They’re designed for serious barbecue aficionados who want to step up their grilling game. First-timers might want to start with a regular charcoal grill and work their way up.

Kamado grills also work better for smoking and braising than for traditional grilling. That’s not to say that you can’t use them for steaks and burgers, but their cooking surfaces tend to be smaller than some people might expect. By way of comparison, they’re meant to be used as ovens rather than stove tops.

That said, the design offers excellent heat retention. These units are ideal for making pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, and other large cuts of meat. If it’s a closed-lid cooking experience you’re after, it’s hard to go wrong with a kamado grill.

What else should you consider when shopping for a kamado grill? Let’s take a look.

  • Affordability: Kamado grills aren’t cheap, but it’s important to choose one that fits your budget
  • Build Quality: Most units are made of either heavy-duty stainless steel or ceramics, with cooking grates made of cast iron or stainless steel
  • Size: Make sure the grill is large enough to suit your purposes
  • Ease of Assembly: It shouldn’t take longer than an hour or two to put the unit together
  • Air Flow: The air vents should be easy to adjust and made of top-notch materials
  • Cleanup and Maintenance: Be on the lookout for an effective ash management system, as well as cooking grates that are easy to care for
  • Warranty: Reputable companies should stand behind their products by offering free replacement parts for a designated period (typically 1-5 years)

Kamado Joe Jr Review: Features & Benefits

Let’s take a look at what the Kamado Joe Jr. has to offer.

Design and Construction

Like the rest of the grills in Kamado Joe’s main lineup, the Joe Jr. has a thick-walled ceramic construction. This model comes with a cast iron stand with convenient handles for lifting. However, the grill also has a flat bottom, so it can be set on the ground if necessary.

The body of the grill features a heat-resistant glaze designed to seal in flavor and moisture, no matter what temperature you’re using. The hinged lid forms a tight seal and has a broad handle, but no lock. Fortunately, the gasket is made of premium felt, which helps the unit retain its heat.

There’s also a built-in lid thermometer so you can keep an eye on the temperature during cooking. The numbers are large enough to be seen from a distance, and the display is generally accurate.

Size

The Joe Jr measures 13.5 inches in diameter. This gives it 148 square inches of grilling space. This is a modest number, but since kamado grills are designed for efficiency rather than volume, it shouldn’t be an issue.

This grill weighs just 68 pounds, which is impressive for a kamado grill. Its portability makes it a great partner for camping and tailgating. The cast iron stand is a nice touch, but if you’re working with limited space in your vehicle, there’s no real need to bring it along.

While this unit is marketed as a travel unit, it can also be used as a home grill. Because it’s so small and lightweight, it could be a good option for smaller patios.

It’s usually not a good idea to grill with charcoal on a deck or balcony. However, the superb insulation of kamado grills makes it safer to do so, as long as you’re careful. This means that the Joe Jr. could be a good fit for apartment-dwellers as well.

Grilling Grates

Kamado Joe offers a set of stainless steel cooking grates with this unit. The 304 stainless steel is restaurant quality and retains its heat well.

However, steel grates can be difficult to clean, especially if you wait too long after grilling. Porcelain-enameled cast iron is usually a better choice. Kamado Joe does offer cast iron grilling grates and sear plates, but these are sold separately.

Temperature Range

The advertised range for the Joe Jr. is 225 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s more than adequate for a grill of this size. With a range like this, you can make anything from slow-cooked pork butt to grilled flatbread pizzas.

The top air vent is made of aluminum and features three different settings. This allows you to adjust the temperature as needed, though it lacks the finesse of a sliding vent.

It can be tricky to attain the correct temperature on a kamado grill. The Kamado Joe’s ceramic construction and clever design make it that much easier on the chef.

Be aware that the Joe Jr. makes it easy to attain high temperatures without realizing it. If it’s a low-and-slow cooking application you’re after, you should pay close attention to the temperature gauge in the early stages of the cook.

Heat Deflector

A ceramic heat deflector is included with purchase of the Joe Jr. This device turns the grill’s interior into a true wood-fired oven, instead of a traditional grill. It comes in especially handy if you’re roasting a whole chicken. Note that the deflector is covered by a different warranty than the other ceramic parts (see below).

Warranty

There’s a limited lifetime warranty on the major ceramic components of the Joe Jr. The metal parts are covered for a 5-year period, while the thermometer and gaskets come with a 1-year warranty.

The ceramic heat deflector is covered by a 3-year warranty, as does the pizza stone (though the latter is sold separately). This generous guarantee helps to ensure that your investment will be well worth the cost.

Kamado Joe Jr. Review: Social Proof

Were other consumers satisfied with their Kamado Joe purchase? We were curious about that too. That’s why we scoured the Web for their responses.

The first thing we look for in a kamado grill is heat retention, and customers had great things to say about Joe Jr.’s performance. The grill was said to be efficient and user-friendly, turning out delectable results with little effort.

A few people did mention that the temperature probe was a bit too long. Others said that it was important to keep an eye on the temp, as the grill could reach 700 degrees in no time. That’s not necessarily a drawback, but it’s something to keep in mind nonetheless.

Possible Alternatives

Would you prefer to keep searching? Here are a couple of other small kamado grills that are worthy of a second look.

#1 Char-Griller AKORN Jr.

Char-Griller uses a steel construction for the majority of its kamado grill lineup. This makes the units more lightweight while also cutting down on costs.

How They Compare:

  • Affordability-Char-Griller
  • Build Quality-Kamado Joe
  • Size-Char-Griller
  • Ease of Assembly-Kamado Joe
  • Cleanup and Maintenance-Char-Griller
  • Warranty-Kamado Joe

For an affordable alternative, check out the Char-Griller AKORN Jr.

#2 Broil King Keg 2000

This is a steel-walled charcoal-burning grill with a distinctive keg shape. It offers 280 square inches of cooking space, making it a good choice if you’re looking for a slightly larger unit. It might be a bit difficult to transport it in a vehicle, but it’s light enough to move from place to place.

How They Compare:

  • Affordability-Kamado Joe
  • Build Quality-Kamado Joe
  • Size-Broil King
  • Ease of Assembly-Kamado Joe
  • Cleanup and Maintenance-Broil King
  • Warranty-Tie

Check out the Broil King Keg 2000 if the Kamado Joe Jr. just doesn’t have enough grilling space to suit your needs.

#3 Aoxun 13″ Kamado Grill

Similar to the Kamado Joe Jr. in size and design, the Aoxun offers a ceramic construction at a far lower price. It’s so easy to assemble, you could be firing up the grill 30 minutes after bringing it home.

How They Compare:

  • Affordability-Aoxun
  • Build Quality-Kamado Joe
  • Size-Kamado Joe
  • Ease of Assembly-Aoxun
  • Cleanup and Maintenance-Aoxun
  • Warranty-Kamado Joe 

If you’d like a ceramic kamado grill but can’t afford the Kamado Joe, check out Aoxun’s offering.

Final Thoughts

What’s the takeaway from this Kamado Joe Jr review?

We find the grill to be high-quality and easy to care for. It’s surprisingly lightweight for a ceramic kamado grill, and the heat retention is second to none. While we’re a bit disappointed with the stainless steel cooking grates, the company offers cast iron replacements at an affordable price.

Click here to get a better look at the Kamado Joe Jr.

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