Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg: Best Kamado Grills Comparison

Welcome to the versatile and flavorful world of kamado grilling!

If you’re thinking of investing in one of these dome-shaped beauties, you might be wondering which one will provide you with the most bang for your buck—not to mention the best performance.

That’s where this Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg matchup comes in.

In a rush? Here are the winners:

Things To Consider Before Buying A Kamado Grill

Before you can decide which grill to buy, you should familiarize yourself with the basics. Here are a few pertinent facts regarding kamado grills in general.

Value

This is an important factor in any purchase, but it’s essential when shopping for a major appliance. You want your kamado grill to provide you with years of use, at a price you can afford.

Before you begin your search, you should know that kamado grills tend to be pricier than typical charcoal-fired units. On the upside, they imbue the food with wonderful flavor. In most cases, they also last long enough to give you a good return on your investment.

Size

As a rule, kamado grills are quite large and heavy. This makes them difficult to transport. If you’re looking for a grill that you can take along on camping trips, you might want to consider a traditional charcoal grill instead.

As far as grilling space is concerned, these units typically offer between 200 and 400 square inches on the main surface. However, many come equipped with extra racks and extenders to increase the cooking area.

Construction

You’ll find that most kamado grills are ceramic, with cast iron or stainless steel cooking grates. That’s why they’re so heavy, although some heavy-gauge steel versions are available. The ceramic construction also tends to last longer, since it isn’t prone to rusting. However, take extra care when moving the unit to ensure that you don’t crack the surface.

Lid

When you use a kamado grill, the lid is usually closed. This helps the cooking chamber retain as much heat and moisture as possible. However, it also means that the lid is one of the most important components of the unit. Look for a lid with a tight seal, and a locking latch if possible.

Ease of Maintenance

Since kamado grills use charcoal as fuel, the process can be messy. That’s why it’s important to clean the grill after every use. An ash removal system and easy-to-clean cooking grates can go a long way toward making this process easier.

Sometimes it helps if you can see the process in action. Here is a demonstration on how to properly clean a Kamado grill:

Heat Retention and Efficiency

The lid is closed throughout much of the cooking process, so kamado grills tend to be excellent at holding in the heat. As a result, they’re also more fuel-efficient than their traditional steel counterparts. If you find that the grill is having a hard time maintaining its temperature, or if it’s burning through charcoal too quickly, there’s likely an issue with the airflow or the overall construction.

Kamado Joe Product Specifications

This section will give you a basic description of what you’ll find in the box when you invest in one of the Kamado Joe models on our list.

#1 The Classic Series

Classic Joe

Kamado Joe KJ23RH Classic I Charcoal Grill, 18 inch, Blaze Red

  • 18″ ceramic grill
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Cast iron legs with four locking wheels
  • Heavy lid with stainless steel lock and adjustable vent
  • Ash management system
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Two folding side shelves
  • Gripping tool for easy grill removal
  • Ash tool

If you’re shopping on a budget, the original Classic Joe could be the grill you’re looking for.

Pros:

  • Relatively low price point
  • Lifetime warranty on ceramic parts
  • Good temperature control
  • Several accessories included

Cons:

  • Ash grip tool has a sharp handle
  • Construction isn’t as durable as some upgraded versions
  • Spotty customer service

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Classic II Grill

Kamado Joe KJ23RHC Classic II Charcoal Grill, 18 inch, Blaze Red

  • 18″ ceramic grill
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Cast iron legs with four locking wheels
  • Heavy lid with stainless steel lock and adjustable top vent
  • Wire mesh fiberglass gasket
  • Ash management system
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Two folding side shelves
  • Gripping tool for easy grill removal
  • Ash tool

The four wheels on the Classic II give this cart-style model more maneuverability than most kamado grills.

Pros:

  • Extremely durable and long-lasting
  • No issues with rust
  • Arrives fully assembled
  • Versatile unit with a broad temperature range
  • Capable of multi-level cooking

Cons:

  • Minimal amount of direct-heat availability
  • Grates may need replacing every few years
  • Ceramic finish chips easily

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Classic II Stand-Alone Grill

Kamado Joe KJ23NRHC Classic II Stand-Alone Grill, Blaze Red

  • 18″ ceramic grill
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Heavy lid with stainless steel lock and adjustable top vent
  • Three grill feet
  • Wire mesh fiberglass gasket
  • Built-in thermometer

The Stand-Alone can be easily installed in an existing outdoor kitchen area.

Pros:

  • Small footprint
  • Versatile unit with a broad temperature range
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Stable design

Cons:

  • No storage space
  • No ash management system
  • Grates might need to be replaced every few years

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Classic Joe III

Kamado Joe KJ23RHCI-A, Classic Joe III Charcoal Grill

  • 18″ ceramic grill
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Cast iron legs with four locking wheels and low built-in shelf
  • Heavy lid with stainless steel lock, air lift hinge, and adjustable top vent
  • “SloRoller” smoke chamber
  • Wire mesh fiberglass gasket
  • Ash management system
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Two folding side shelves
  • Gripping tool for easy grill removal
  • Ash tool

The patented hyperbolic smoke chamber is the Classic III’s most significant upgrade. For high-heat cooking applications, this component can be swapped out for a ceramic plate.

Pros:

  • Does a superb job on smoked meats
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Quality construction
  • Great heat retention

Cons:

  • High price point
  • Assembly can be confusing

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#2 The Big Joe Series

Big Joe II Grill

Kamado Joe BJ24RHC Big Joe II Charcoal Grill, 24 inch, Blaze Red

  • 24″ ceramic grill
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Cast iron legs with four locking wheels
  • Heavy lid with stainless steel lock, air lift hinge, and adjustable top vent
  • Wire mesh fiberglass gasket
  • Ash management system
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Two folding side shelves
  • Two ceramic heat deflector units

The Big Joe II is a solid option if you like the look and feel of the Classic series, but need additional cooking space.

Pros:

  • Generous amount of cooking space
  • Innovative design
  • Heat deflectors included for low-and-slow cooking applications
  • User-friendly

Cons:

  • High price point
  • Hinged lid freezes up in cold weather
  • Difficult to find replacement parts if needed

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Big Joe II Stand-Alone Grill

Kamado Joe BJ24NRHC Big Joe II Stand Alone Charcoal Grill, Blaze Red

  • 24″ ceramic grill
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Heavy lid with stainless steel lock and adjustable top vent
  • Three grill feet
  • Wire mesh fiberglass gasket
  • Built-in thermometer

Be forewarned that this unit can be quite difficult to operate unless it’s installed at a reasonable height.

Pros:

  • Generous cooking surface
  • Extremely durable
  • Multi-layered cooking chamber adds versatility
  • Retains its heat well

Cons:

  • No storage space
  • Ash removal can be difficult
  • Confusing assembly instructions
  • Needs to be installed on an existing high surface (like a shelf or a table)

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Big Joe III Grill

Kamado Joe BJ24RHCI-A Big Joe III Charcoal Grill

  • 24″ ceramic grill
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Cast iron legs with four locking wheels and built-in shelf
  • Heavy lid with stainless steel lock, air lift hinge, and adjustable top vent
  • “SloRoller” smoke chamber
  • Wire mesh fiberglass gasket
  • Ash management system
  • Built-in thermometer
  • Two folding side shelves

This model is a larger version of the Classic III, complete with the patented “SloRoller” smoking technology.

Pros:

  • Turns out excellent smoked meats
  • Ample storage space
  • Impressive design
  • Large cooking surface

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy components make for a long assembly
  • Lower shelf is too close to fire box

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#3 Joe Jr.

Kamado Joe Jr. KJ13RH Charcoal Grill 13.5 inch Blaze Red

  • 13.5″ ceramic grill
  • Cast iron stand equipped with two sturdy handles
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Heavy lid with handle and built-in thermometer and adjustable top grate
  • Ceramic heat deflector
  • Ash management system
  • Gripping tool for easy grid removal
  • Ash tool

The Joe Jr. is Kamado Joe’s answer to the “kamado grills are too heavy and bulky to be used as travel grills” argument.

Pros:

  • Relatively easy to transport
  • Low price point for ceramic kamado grill
  • Incredibly fuel-efficient
  • Versatile unit

Cons:

  • Small cooking surface
  • Insufficient ash management system
  • Erratic packaging design

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Big Green Egg Product Specifications

Big Green Egg grills are available in a wide variety of sizes. Since they’re basically identical in every other way, we’ll review them collectively.

  • Ceramic grills in 10″, 13″, 15″, 18.25″, 24″, and 29″ sizes
  • Stainless steel cooking grates
  • Secure lid with wooden handle and adjustable top vent
  • Built-in thermometer

Note that all of Big Green Egg’s offerings are stand-alone units, although the MiniMax Big Green Egg does come equipped with a low cast-iron stand. There are many impressive accessories available, but all of them are sold separately.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally durable and long-lasting construction
  • Easy-grip handle on lid
  • Good airflow makes for easier heat control
  • Longstanding reputation for quality service

Cons:

  • Minimalist design
  • Most components sold separately
  • Replacement parts can be difficult to come by

Features & Benefits: Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg

While it’s always convenient to know the specifications in advance, they don’t always tell you what you need to know about how well the grill performs. In this section, we’ll see how well the Kamado Joe and Big Green Egg grills stack up against the criteria we introduced earlier. This should give you the information you need to make the choice that’s right for you.

Kamado Joe

Classic Series

Value

Although all kamado grills are fairly expensive for their size, the Classic Joe represents one of the best bargains you’re likely to find. All of the other grills in the series carry higher price tags. Given their durable construction and state-of-the-art technology, however, they offer good value for the cost. For what it’s worth, the Classic II is the most popular model in Kamado Joe’s lineup.

Size

All of the grills in the Classic series measure 18 inches in diameter, which gives you 256 square inches of direct space. However, this number is somewhat misleading. The cooking chamber of a Kamado Joe grill is designed to allow for grilling on multiple levels—even different heat zones. In order to achieve this, you’ll need a grill expander or an additional grilling grate (or both, to further maximize your space). If you use the grill expander, the 18″ cooking surface expands to 407 square inches. Use the second set of grilling grates, and you’ll get 508 square inches. Put all of these components together, and your total cooking area measures 660 square inches in all.

Construction

All Kamado Joe grills offer a heavy-duty ceramic construction, with stainless steel cooking grates. Since all metal is prone to rusting if it’s not treated properly, it’s essential to clean your grilling grates after each use (see “Ease of Maintenance” for more information). The grates will probably have to be replaced more often than any of the other components, even with regular care. The cooking chamber and fire box, however, should be able to withstand decades of regular use.

Lid

The lids on the Kamado Joe Classic series are all outfitted with stainless steel latches. This helps trap the heat and moisture inside, giving you incredibly moist and flavorful results. Even if you don’t engage the latches, the lids are very well sealed. If you notice any steam escaping from around the edges, you probably received a defective model, in which case you should notify the manufacturer at once. The lid on the Classic III offers an air lift hinge to keep it from dropping too quickly.

Ease of Maintenance

The ceramic exteriors require little maintenance—just the occasional wipe-down with a damp rag. Keep an eye out for any cracks or chips, as these can lead to larger problems with heat retention down the road.

As for the interior, the fire box should be emptied of ashes and scrubbed thoroughly with a wire brush after each use. The ash removal systems on the cart-style Classic grills makes this an easy task. The Stand-Alone model requires a bit more finesse, since the base of the grill is usually resting on a surface.

Stainless steel cooking grates are fairly easy to take care of. Unlike cast iron cookware, they don’t require any seasoning or special treatment. Just scrape off any residue with a wire brush or wooden scraper, wait for the grates to cool, and give them a good dousing in hot, soapy water. If they’re thoroughly dry when you put them away, they’ll be less likely to rust.

Heat Retention and Efficiency

Ceramic is an excellent insulator, which is one of the reasons why kamado grills are so popular. The Classic series offers superb heat retention across a broad range of temperatures—as low as 225 degrees, with a maximum temp of 750. That makes them suitable for everything from slow-cooked pork butt to Neapolitan-style pizza.

You can expect to burn through less fuel with a Kamado Joe Classic grill than with a traditional steel charcoal model. That’s partly because the lid is usually closed during cooking, but the thick-walled construction is another factor. The long-term savings on fuel costs help to offset the higher price tag, especially for the more sophisticated models in the series.

Finally, note that all of Kamado Joe Classic grills are outfitted with built-in thermometers, so you can perform regular checks on the fire’s progress.

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Big Joe Series

Value

These models are priced slightly higher than the grills in the Classic series, but that’s because they offer more grilling space (see below). You can expect to spend about as much on a Kamado Big Joe grill as you would on a comparably sized unit from a competitor.

Size

The “Big Joe” designation refers mainly to the size of the cooking chamber. While the Classic grills measure just 18 inches in diameter, the Big Joe models offer 452 square inches of space on the main grate. If you use the grill expander, you’ll get 604 square inches; with the second grate added, you wind up with 904 square inches. Add both the expander and the second grate, and your cooking space covers a whopping 1056 square inches—as much as some of the larger gas- or pellet-fired units on the market.

Construction

These units also offer a ceramic construction, with cast iron legs and locking casters on the Big Joe II and III. The Stand-Alone units are meant to be used in conjunction with a customized grilling table (sold at an additional price), or installed in an existing outdoor kitchen.

Lid

The lids in the Big Joe series are virtually identical to the ones in the Classic series, with stainless steel locks and built-in thermometers. The Big Joe III also has an air lift hinge that keeps the grill from snapping shut.

Ease of Maintenance

The stainless steel cooking grates and the ceramic fire box should receive the same regular maintenance as the Classic grills. Since these units are larger, they might require a little more time, but the difference will be negligible.

Heat Retention and Efficiency

Again, you might have to wait a bit longer for these bigger grills to reach the desired temperature. Once they have, however, maintaining the temp should be a snap. You can also expect to burn through more fuel, especially if you’re using all of the available cooking space. Like the Classics, these grills have a temperature range of 225 to 750 degrees.

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Joe Jr.

Value

As kamado grills go, the Joe Jr. is reasonably priced. The trade-off? It isn’t as roomy as most of the other models listed here. It’s suitable for two to three people, but you’d have a harder time accommodating large parties.

Size

As mentioned above, this is a travel-sized unit best suited for picnicking or tailgating. The main cooking surface offers 148.5 inches of grilling space, which is small even by portable grill standards. If it’s a large cooking surface you’re after, you should consider another unit.

Construction

Like all Kamado Joe grills, the Joe Jr. features a ceramic construction, so it’s heavier than grills of comparable size–just under 70 pounds. You should take extra care during transport to ensure that you don’t crack the body of the grill. As long as it remains in good condition, it should last for many years.

Lid

The lid on the Joe Jr. doesn’t lock, but it’s still effective at holding in its heat. It does offer a generously-sized handle, and handles on the sides of the included cast iron stand for transport.

Ease of Maintenance

You’ll spend about the same amount of time on maintenance for the Joe Jr. as you would on any of the Classic or Big Joe grills–perhaps slightly less, because the unit is a bit smaller. Nonetheless, it should receive the same care and attention as the larger models.

Heat Retention & Efficiency

Despite its small size, this unit features thick walls that allow it to maintain a steady temperature, whether you’re cooking at 200 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit. It usually goes through roughly 30 percent as much charcoal as a traditional grill of comparable size, which makes it a great bargain in the long run.

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Big Green Egg

Value

Since you have plenty of choices with regards to size, it should be easy to find a Big Green Egg that fits your budget. They’re not quite as expensive as similarly-sized Kamado Joe models, but the difference is slight.

Size

The smallest Big Green Egg offers 79 square inches of main cooking space, while the largest tops out at 672 square inches. According to the company, the 2XL should be able to accommodate an entire suckling pig. If you’re looking for the biggest kamado grill you can find, the Big Green Egg 2XL might be your best bet.

Construction

Big Green Eggs are built to last, with a hardy ceramic exterior and stainless steel cooking grates. If you prefer cast iron grates, they’re available for an additional price.

With the exception of the MiniMax, which is outfitted with a sturdy cast-iron stand and two handles for portability, these grills are stand-alone units, with no side shelving. Shoppers who are looking for additional storage space with their kamado grill would have better luck with another company.

Lid

While the lids on the Big Green Eggs are all equipped with sturdy heatproof wooden handles, they don’t offer locks or latches. However, they’re very well sealed, with reliable air vents and built-in thermometers.

Ease of Maintenance

Ash removal is somewhat difficult on these grills since they’re stand-alone units with no space for catch bins. The exterior and the main cooking chamber are relatively easy to maintain, however, as are the stainless steel grilling grates.

Heat Retention and Efficiency

Big Green Eggs have a long reputation for turning out admirable results, even for beginners who have never attempted this style of grilling. That speaks volumes for their effectiveness and ability to hold the proper temperature. If the air vent is adjusted properly, the fuel efficiency is equally impressive.

Social Proof: Unpacking the Kamado Joe

What do consumers have to say about the Kamado Joe grills? While there were a few complaints in the customer service department, we were able to find a slew of positive reviews. By most accounts, they’re easy to assemble, user-friendly, and versatile. First-time users in particular were satisfied with how simple it was to achieve perfect results when cooking with a Kamado Joe grill.

Social Proof: Unpacking the Big Green Egg

The internet is chock-full of reviews from happy Big Green Egg owners. Many of them have owned their grill for more than a decade, with minimal upkeep required. In fact, we had difficulty finding any reviews that awarded fewer than 5 out of 5 stars, even for the Mini unit. That indicates a commitment to quality and efficiency that’s difficult to match.

The Final Word

If you’re in the market for a kamado grill, you can’t go wrong with the Kamado Classic Joe Series or Big Green Egg. They come in a variety of sizes and price points, and there’s even a portable unit available. Their sturdy construction gives them the ability to maintain a precise temperature throughout the cooking process, and they make an eye-catching addition to your outdoor living space.

If you don’t want a stand-alone grill, or if you’re having difficulty locating a Big Green Egg retailer near you, consider the Kamado Joe Classic II. This grill is relatively affordable, with an impressive design and multi-layered cooking chamber. Best of all, the unit arrives with most of the components already in place, so all you have to do is find the perfect place to put it.

Whichever unit you choose, we hope our roundup has provided you with some valuable information. Best of luck, and happy grilling!

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