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Does anyone own a Kamado Joe Jr or similar kamado grill?


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I've been thinking about a smaller bbq/grill for just 2 people and I've been reading many reviews and the best quality seems to be the Kamado Joe Jr. 

 

Does anyone own such a device? I needed ask: 

 

(1) is it easy to setup and clean? 

(2) does it use very little charcoal and fuel? 

(3) what is your overall experience or do you recommend a better device? 

 

 

I own larger smokers and grills but the setup, cleaning, and use of fuel doesn't make sense when I'm just bbq for 2 people (my wife and I). 

 

So very easy setup and cleaning would be really important besides being able to smoke/bbq well. 

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I don't have the Kamado Joe,  but own a Bubba Keg , later called the Big Steel Keg, later called the Broilking Keg.  Similar to the KJ in shape, and uses lump charcoal, not regular charcoal.  Mine is steel with insulation between the two layers, the KJ and BGE are ceramic, and so is the Primo.  Yes, it uses very little hardwood lump  for 2 people - I usually fill a charcoal chimney around 1/3 to 1/2 full to use it like a grill.   It is very easy to light the charcoal that way.   There is far less ash than  regular charcoal.  My rough guess is that it would be about a 1/2 cup or less of ash, so on mine, you only need to clean out the ash after many uses. 

 

On mine, it is a little difficult to get the temp right for smoking -  you can't use the charcoal chimney,  otherwise it would get way too hot too quickly,  so I pile the lump charcoal in, and light it so that the fire spreads slowly.  I much prefer using an electric smoker with an Amazen tube and pellets,  even for very short smokes like chicken thighs.  On my BK, it takes time  to get the temp dialed in, and I think the same would be true of most Kamado style cookers -  yes the mass will help it keep at that temp once you reached it,  but each cook I need to dial in the top and bottom vents and how fast the fire is spreading to get the temp where I want it.   Once the temp has stabilized, it will stay that way for a while.

 

To me,  I don't see the benefit if you have a gas grill to cook at higher temps, and a smoker.  Amazing Ribs suggests that you get better flavor from a burning fuel source than you can get with pellets and an electric smoker, I haven't found that to be the case.  I use my BK rarely, and usually once I use it,  I swear off it for a while because the electric smoker is so much quicker and easier to use.  True, there is more cleaning of an electric smoker, but I foil the trays in mine, and clean up is not that bad.  I just did a turkey in the BK, and it was a total pain fighting to get the temp just right -  when you overshoot, there is no easy way to get the temp to come down, so i end up closing the vents so that i mostly kill the fire, then it still takes time for the temp to drop, then I have to open them to get the fire going, and so the temps are swinging back and forth .   Some use a dedicated fan with temp sensors to control temps, and I did that for a while, but was not all that impressed - my electric smoker is much more accurate.  

 

I think kamadoguru.com has many posts on these style cookers, you might want to search around there and see what you think.    

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8 hours ago, eugenep said:

I own larger smokers and grills but the setup, cleaning, and use of fuel doesn't make sense when I'm just bbq for 2 people (my wife and I). 

 

 

I think it would give some useful perspective if you could share more info on what sizes/types of smokers and grills you already have.

 

I have a standard 18" Vision (similar to the classic Kamado Joe and BGE) and although I've often thought it might be nice to add a smaller kamado, I haven't done it because I just don't see the point.  If I am going to do a long smoke, I want plenty of room.  If I am just grilling, if anything I tend to wish I had more room - especially with veggies.  Most of my grilling is l for just two of us.  I start a half chimney of charcoal while I am prepping the food and my only concern is getting back out to it before it gets too hot.  As soon as I am done I close the vents and the fire goes out - little to no wasted charcoal. 

 

I used to think my gas grill was convenient for quick grills, but I gave it up long ago and I don't miss it.

 

I think it is very easy to clean out the ash even though I don't have an ash drawer.  It isn't necessary to get out every last bit of ash.  Unless there is a lot of ash built up, I usually don't clean it out for a short grilling session.   I have stainless steel grates that are easy enough to clean, but I always use GrillGrates when I grill - flat side up.

 

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12 hours ago, rustwood said:

 

I think it would give some useful perspective if you could share more info on what sizes/types of smokers and grills you already have.

 

I have a standard 18" Vision (similar to the classic Kamado Joe and BGE) and although I've often thought it might be nice to add a smaller kamado, I haven't done it because I just don't see the point.  If I am going to do a long smoke, I want plenty of room.  If I am just grilling, if anything I tend to wish I had more room - especially with veggies.  Most of my grilling is l for just two of us.  I start a half chimney of charcoal while I am prepping the food and my only concern is getting back out to it before it gets too hot.  As soon as I am done I close the vents and the fire goes out - little to no wasted charcoal. 

 

I used to think my gas grill was convenient for quick grills, but I gave it up long ago and I don't miss it.

 

I think it is very easy to clean out the ash even though I don't have an ash drawer.  It isn't necessary to get out every last bit of ash.  Unless there is a lot of ash built up, I usually don't clean it out for a short grilling session.   I have stainless steel grates that are easy enough to clean, but I always use GrillGrates when I grill - flat side up.

 

I currently have a 22 inch Weber kettle grill and a 18 inch Weber water smoker (Smokey Mountain model). 

 

The kettle is very easy to clean but is still large and I have to roll it out to the patio, uncover it, prep a bag of charcoal, and I think everything is bigger than it needs to be for 2 people cooking 16 oz (or 1 lb) of meat only. 

 

- I thought a smaller model would make my life easier. 

 

The Weber smoker is large like a barrel and I have to mount a pot of water on top of the charcoal. It burns a lot of fuel and it not as easy to clean up. You have to take it a part in 3 pieces and its a lot of work overall and not worth using unless you plan to smoke like 10lbs of meat - an entire brisket, etc. - and this happens rarely for me. 

 

This smoker is recommended by so many but there are air gaps in it that never completely seals and you can't shut out the fire completely so it's going to burn that remaining charcoal all night. 

 

It's not worth burning a 1/3 bag of charcoal for a 1 lb steak or 3 lbs ribs

 

But I thought a kamado would save on fuel and would be easy to clean owing to its small size. I read that you can hold a torch directly over the charcoal and light it that way (which is easier than a chimney and saves on fuel). 

 

I might check out the electric models Barrytm mentioned and might end up getting the Kamado Joe Jr. Thanks for the info. 

Edited by eugenep (log)
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On 12/23/2020 at 11:24 AM, eugenep said:

(1) is it easy to setup and clean? 

(2) does it use very little charcoal and fuel? 

(3) what is your overall experience or do you recommend a better device? 

 

I'm primarily a Weber Kettle user, and have quite a few accessories both OEM Weber and other manufacturers. I've most of the sizes, but alas not the Ranch Kettle.

Also an owner of multiple Weber Smokey Mountains.

I've also a Large Big Green Egg and a Kamado Joe Junior. 

Other grills too, oddball stuff. And a recent acquisition of a 2001 Weber Gas unit, my only gas grill in over 35 years.

 

To your questions:

 

If you find cleaning the Weber kettles easy to light, temperature maintain, and cleanup you'll find the kamado types just as easy, and after much practice much better at cooking over a live charcoal. The learning curve is a bit steeper, getting the temp to behave where you need it, planning the time and "arrangement" of the cooking routine.

 

The ceramic grills create a better oven environment, once the thick walls soak in the heat it will radiate it nicely back to the interior of the grill. 

The ceramic grills are great for high heat cooking. Pizzas are a treat coming off a ceramic grill. Extreme heat searing is easy to do.

Long slow low temp cooking is better on a ceramic than on a kettle, but I still prefer my WSMs for the 18 hour cooks of pulled pork, brisket. Your comment that the WSM uses quite a bit of fuel I find odd, I can attain 15+ hour cooks on a single load of briquets. The ceramics are better though on lump consumption than a WSM.

 

All that said, I use my kettles far more than I do the ceramics. The rotisserie for the kettle gets a lot of use year round. Pulling a chicken off the spit after an hour and a half, getting the meat off and having a the remains go into a pot for soup is great in the winter. 

 

Big drawback on any live fire grill is the inability to safely have it on an attached deck, balcony, etc. 

 

SO, if you have the $$$ to spend and enjoy cooking over charcoal by all means get the Joe Junior. If you enjoy it, you'll outgrow it and soon have a larger ceramic next to it.

 

 

 

 

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Eugene,  there are several makers of inexpensive electric smokers  -  Masterbuilt makes a number of models which are available for under $300 -  paired with an Amazen tube and some pellets, it is pretty easy to get started -  1 minute to light the Amazen tube, then let it go for 5 to 10 minutes before you put it in the smoker, and the smoker is just a heating element with a control, so turn it on, and turn if off when you are done.  Just did a smoked ham today, and since I kept it in a pan, there was no cleanup, and it came out pretty good.  

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@Barrytm — thanks for your perspective on this. We are finally moving someplace with a yard in a few months, and I think you are confirming my basic outdoor cooking acquisition strategy. My thought is to start with a nice gas grill (which is what I have the most experience with) and an inexpensive electric smoker, and maybe add a pellet grill a few years down the line if I really feel like I'll use it.

It helps that it sounds like most of the issues with the Masterbuilt and other similar smokers are with the electronics, which are the part I feel most comfortable tinkering with.

 

Do you have strong feelings about the two sizes of Masterbuilt?

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On 12/25/2020 at 8:37 PM, CentralMA said:

 

I'm primarily a Weber Kettle user, and have quite a few accessories both OEM Weber and other manufacturers. I've most of the sizes, but alas not the Ranch Kettle.

Also an owner of multiple Weber Smokey Mountains.

I've also a Large Big Green Egg and a Kamado Joe Junior. 

Other grills too, oddball stuff. And a recent acquisition of a 2001 Weber Gas unit, my only gas grill in over 35 years.

 

To your questions:

 

If you find cleaning the Weber kettles easy to light, temperature maintain, and cleanup you'll find the kamado types just as easy, and after much practice much better at cooking over a live charcoal. The learning curve is a bit steeper, getting the temp to behave where you need it, planning the time and "arrangement" of the cooking routine.

 

The ceramic grills create a better oven environment, once the thick walls soak in the heat it will radiate it nicely back to the interior of the grill. 

The ceramic grills are great for high heat cooking. Pizzas are a treat coming off a ceramic grill. Extreme heat searing is easy to do.

Long slow low temp cooking is better on a ceramic than on a kettle, but I still prefer my WSMs for the 18 hour cooks of pulled pork, brisket. Your comment that the WSM uses quite a bit of fuel I find odd, I can attain 15+ hour cooks on a single load of briquets. The ceramics are better though on lump consumption than a WSM.

 

All that said, I use my kettles far more than I do the ceramics. The rotisserie for the kettle gets a lot of use year round. Pulling a chicken off the spit after an hour and a half, getting the meat off and having a the remains go into a pot for soup is great in the winter. 

 

Big drawback on any live fire grill is the inability to safely have it on an attached deck, balcony, etc. 

 

SO, if you have the $$$ to spend and enjoy cooking over charcoal by all means get the Joe Junior. If you enjoy it, you'll outgrow it and soon have a larger ceramic next to it.

 

 

 

 

thanks for the info. 

 

This sounds strange but many of the Joe Juniors and Kamado Joes are out of stock at many places. The google search said many parts made in China and there's some sourcing issues which began in April 2020 and I'm guessing it's still ongoing. 

 

I have an 18 inch WSM. I fill it up only half full with charcoal - not a full load. 

 

I use the lighting method where I dump a chimney of lit charcoals in the middle and the outside ring is unlit. I know there is the snake method and other methods. 

 

This 1/2 load only lasts 3.5 hours at 212 F before I have to refill it. Just to save fuel, I wrap a brisket or shoulder in foil (Texas crutch) and put it in the oven for the remaining time to reach the 203 F or so in the meat. 

 

But you are using an 18 inch WSM with a full load and it lasts much longer? Like..does your technique differ from mine? My vents are open very little to control the 212F temp and there is my water basin (filled half way only). 

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1 hour ago, eugenep said:

 

 

I use the lighting method where I dump a chimney of lit charcoals in the middle and the outside ring is unlit. I know there is the snake method and other methods. 

 

Take a look at the "Minion Method":

 

https://www.virtualweberbullet.com/firing-up-weber-bullet-2/

 

I'll use a full load in the ring, with a small can opened up both ends in the center. Fill the can with 3 - 6 lit briquets, pull the can out leaving the lit briquets in the center of all the other charcoal. Assemble the WSM and watch the temps for a spell, adjusting the air flow as needed. Never let it get too hot. Once it's stable walk away.

 

Many times I will not utilize water in the pan either, but will use a pizza stone wrapped in foil over the empty pan. No difference with or without water in the quality of the cooking, but it does use less fuel.

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Dtremit,  the main difference, IMO,  is that the 40 inch lets you lay out ribs full size side to side. The 30 inch is not only shorter, it is narrower, so you have have to cut the ribs to fit onto the shelf.  I have the 40, but either one is plenty big for all the smoking I do.  Another option, if you want to go up in price and quality is a Smokin it.   The digital versions can get pretty pricey,  but the analogs versions, like the #2 ,  are around $550.  I don't have one , but from what I have read, they are built like a  tank.   Cost is quite a bit higher than the Masterbuilt, and it uses a different system to produce smoke, but all the reviews are pretty positive.  While pellet grills sound good in theory, and I actually considered one recently,  much of what I read says they don't produce much smoke flavor, and I like a lot of smoke.    While I understand the natural desire for a manufacturer to say its product will serve two different functions, IME, it is rare it does either as well as a stand alone.  An inexpensive gas grill will get hotter than most pellet grills, and an electric smoker will give you more smoke flavor than a pellet grill, so I would only go with a pellet grill if I did not have the space. Fortunately, I have an understanding wife, and room for a gas grill, Kamado style, and pizza oven on one deck, and my electric smoker on a covered deck

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I have vision cadet which is joe jr sized kamado. Uses very little fuel. I use it mainly for smoking and searing steaks after sous vide.

Very easy to set up and clean. Im lazy so I use a shop vac 90% of the time takes 10 seconds.

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