Kamado Joe, Classic Joe II 18"
Post Assembly Pose
In the aftermath of the XXL Big Green Egg (BGE) cracked ceramics horror show I ranted on about in one of my earlier blogs on the BGE shortcomings, she who must be obeyed was averted from purchasing yet another BGE horror story and "She who must be obeyed" ordered the Kamado Joe Classic II 18" with the allegedly "free" installation for $999 all in on Amazon instead.
The nice chap who arrived to assemble it on 9/16 was paid by Amazon to the tune of exactly $99, so this was in fact not exactly "free".
It did make me understand the various "other" Kamado Joe offers available for them all you see online though.
One comes with a "free" cover for $899 and there are more expensive options with the SloRoller Hyberbolic chamber and other bits like the Series II charcoal basket for various price points upwards from my $999 to $1599 et al, all based on what you are getting in your package.
KJ Egg in the pallet
Had I known that this thing was so simple to setup and install, she who must be obeyed and I could have lifted it off the pallet and assembled it all pretty easily ourselves.
Now one thing to consider with paying for installation is if the hinge system needs complete removal for adjusting you will need someone like the one I got in my package this to set it up right and the ceramic petals in the AMP firebox thang is a delicate job do try yourself without a live demo as an example the first time around by the way.
I know people who wrecked their amp petals in frustration they could not get them to go into the metal ring at the top.
Overall, this thing is not the BGE drama show when it comes to assembly, due to the sanity in Engineering of the Hinge system Kamado Joe now use.
I have noted the newer BGE devices do actually also have a new hinge setup that stops the lid dropping on the lower half FYI, but due to the fact BGE support sucks and they did NOT honor their lifetime warranty on my XXL, I will never be a BGE customer for any of their big items ever again.
KJ Support in comparison is freaking awesome!
I do buy a lot of BGE accessories for my KJ goodies though but I have to make sure they fit before I buy, so a lot of research gets done in my Data Center and Braai Dev area downstairs before I go out and spend my dollar.
I also buy Weber Charcoal Grill goodies for the Kettle Joe by the way as they are both 22" devices so there is a lot of great Weber stuff available for the Kettle Joe that are totally awesome add ons.
With Kamado Joe stuff there is no hinge or rings to assemble on the dome part a la BGE, it comes assembled! Tres sane!!
The install guy put mine together while I yakked at him about the Kettle Joe and I even showed him the fine job I had done sealing the Kettle Joe and it's few peculiar quirks plus the most awesome price I had paid for it!
He then took the Classic Joe's dome off and placed it on a plastic table he had brought with him before he single-handedly lifted the Joe base into the nest and proceeded to put the dome back on.
I offered to help him lift it but he ignored me and just did his own thang.
He later explained it was because when he had done this in the past, one customer had dropped the base and he is on the hook for breakages that result from assembling them.
Once bitten forever shy being his new mantra with regard to making a living assembling the darn thangs.
With one person grabbing a grip in the ash vent hole and another on the underside of the hinge it's not actually that heavy or difficult.
Next, you place the red ceramic egg carefully on the cardboard that you already removed from the pallet and laid on the ground and build the metal two piece nest and trolley wheel gig and tighten the 4 screws in that thang and then you lift the KJ Egg off the cardboard it is resting on into the nest making sure the ash vent has open space with zero nest leg obstructions and away you go.
On the Pallet sans cardboard box surround
Sometimes the hinge spring needs to be adjusted and that be a bitch on a Kamado Joe Series II and III, per my install guy.
For some reason he did not adjust mine properly and the dome lid was falling a good 9 inches in the open position, so I used the tool it came with to adjust it on 10/1/22 and it was actually pretty easy to do.
I think he was referring to that hinge mechanism tool it comes with for when you remove it completely.
The dome latch was also no longer aligned after a few cooks so I got me some spanners from my garage and fixed that up as well while I was at it.
Next was cleaning out the inside of Styrofoam and assorted gubbins that collected in the base of the KJ, before placing the stainless steel insert the ash draw will live in at the bottom of the Kamado, aligning it so the tray can slide in and then you put the AMP firebox base so it is over the steel ash collector plates and tray.
The tray gets stuck after a few cooks by the way, rendering it's base it is supposed to slot into totally useless.
IMHO, this slider tray is a stupid thing because you need to dismantle the whole AMP firebox to get it out again and ash and bigger bits of charcoal do find their way under there PDQ so you will be doing that often if you insist on suffering with it.
In the Kettle Joe it just lifts out so I dismantled my AMP firebox and that sleeve thing the tray slides into went bye, bye forever.
I will still use the ash tray itself to catch most ash and burn wood blocks from though, just sans the tray sleeve thingamabob.
I also got rid of the stock charcoal nest in the Classic Joe II and got a charcoal basket that has a divider in it for a Series 3 Classic Joe Kamado.
I have a routine after every cook where I remove the charcoal basket add on I bought for it, clean the ash in the tray and use a brush and pan I bought to sweep ash out from in-between the AMP box petals and the bottom piece, re-arm the charcoal basket and then properly wash the grilling grids by first soaking them with a hot water spray in my kitchen after first wire brushing off the big bits of cook debris.
After that I brush them with a small wire brush, rinse them again, then pop them into a $11 plastic container with a lid I bought at ACE hardware, pop in a dishwasher Tablet and fill the container with hot water, pop the lid on again and let it stew on my Summit Gas Grill shelf for a day or two before power washing them with my PowRyte Electric pressure washer.
I am pals with a Dr who specializes in stomach disorders and various cancers and he tells me a lot of BBQ folks get cancers from not cleaning their cooking grates so I am fastidious about having sparkling cooking grids for every single grill.
It is an eye opener to see the dirt coming off of them when you do that post wire brushing rinse actually but a gas or electric oven has the same problem which is why we clean ours a lot as well with high temp burns to white!
For ceramics I am not fond of taking any Kamado over 550 degrees BTW so I am OK with my process to clean the grill grates.
I also watched a smoking Dad BBQ video where James shows using toilet paper bunched up behind the AMP petals as the easy way for the AMP petal ring to get set up for the ring they clip into and this is a real swell idea I am keen to try out for myself as well!
The toilet paper will burn up at Fahrenheit 451, per Ray Bradbury at any rate...
I also did a cook with the bottom AMP iron grid in place with the Series III charcoal basket resting on that but quickly found that this causes clogging and impacts airflow so its just the Charcoal basket solo now sans the iron grate at the bottom of my rig.
The tray guide and that grate bottom ring sit on my metal table I have next to my BBQ devices catching a Sun Tan bleaching.
After I first assembled My Classic Joe Series II rig it was time for a run in burn and another rebuild of the petals after that and a first cook five hours later on that same evening.
The results of the first cook were pretty stunning actually.
Some of my pals from Danville, CA have long claimed Kamado Joe BBQ yelds better than BGE BBQ and they are amazingly quite right, it really does!
I did a huge Rib eye, three Lamb chops and three chikken drums with Asian veggies and a baked potato for my first cook.
It shoulda been 2 baked potatties but one rolled off onto the floor revealing another KJ flaw and a change in how I cook them pesky thangs from Idaho.
I now Microwave them for 1 minute 25 to 2 minutes 45 depending on their size as I grew tired of waiting hours for them to cook.
After that brief microwave starter session I throw them on the KJ grids and they are roughly ready about the same time that the meat is.
You get better at the timing the more you cook if you pay attention.
I no longer wrap Baked Potatoes in Aluminum foil either by the way.
I recall that I started doing that while in the SADF in Namibia as I threw them directly on the charcoal we built for a Braai and then we put the fresh Kudu liver and kidneys in the fire coals and finished with Kudu steaks sizzling on our makeshift steel wire grid we took with us everywhere in our Samil 100 truck.
After they transferred me to Helicopters I still had a similar grid stashed away in the old Alouette hold and we shot our game much faster from that thang as well.
For some reason since then I always wrapped potatoes in aluminum foil and this slows down how they cook but I think I did it because the hydraulic fluids from the Samil and the Alouette were not great on the potatoes and wrapping them in aluminum stopped them getting completely charred when we grilled them in the coals.
We always had mountains of charcoal with us back then for some reason I just cannot fathom....National service sure was a big party for me looking back on it all....
In future I will have the Baked Potato lower down and closer to the heat and the meat on the other half of the stepped grid equation to stave off the potatoes rolling to oblivion problem.
Kamado Joe Grill corner
There are also two half circle deflector plates, which I did cook with by the way and these did not fit perfectly until I discovered what the accessory ring was for.
I watched another YouTube video from Smoking Dad BBQ and saw the accessory ring is supposed to hold the deflector plates (Duh)!
I also found the notches are where each half circle of the grilling grid are supposed to go so it does not slide off everywhere...(double duh!).
I have since fiddled with it and have managed to get it all right using the charcoal basket notches.
KJ Dome latch
These series II onwards KJ's also have another very nice feature the BGE is lacking, which is a dome latch that you can operate with a single finger while cooking.
Lid closed and latched
After a day or so operating the latch was like second nature and real easy to accommodate.
On 9/18/22 the weather was warning of incoming rain cells so I hurriedly put both the KJ eggs in their all weather Pajamas and I am glad I did because it was still raining 12 days later!
Kamado Joe and Kettle Joe in Pajamas
The Kettle Joe is good but the Kamado Joe Classic Joe Series II was in a different league with steaks and chops and especially veggies, much to my utter amazement.
After two weeks of cooks on both my KJ devices I reported a massive increase in the taste of my food and concured with James at Smoking dad BBQ on that score.
He actually has a taste test between BGE and KJ video and guess who won?
I have also been barbecuing beef ribs of different types and OMG, what an awesome thing those thangs are on the Kettle Joe!
I did a fast cook with baby pork back ribs the other day following James advice from smoking Joe BBQ but mine were on for 5 hours and were still not completely done but they were still in another dimension taste wise.
My temps were at a constant 250 though, he managed just over 300 on that particular cook. I since upped my base temp to 325 and this is the ideal Pork Ribs cooking temp IMHO.
I like my pork ribs to be done to 205 degrees Fahrenheit and it seems this does take a long while on the Kettle Joe but I had to keep adding Blue Hog charcoal and have since switched to FOGO Supreme charcoal which burns much longer and tastes better too!!
The Kettle Joe will be for long and slow cooks as well as beef, pork and Lamb ribs and beef chuck roasts and I will use the Classic Joe for steaks, chops, chikkens and such quick stuff.
If I am in a hurry the Kettle Joe will be the Go to BBQ tool as it is much quicker to get going than it's ceramic cousin without the SloRoller device, but it is harder to clean as well.
The Kettle Joe was also easier to control temperature wise for some reason but it has changed in a big way to the Classic Joe's advantage and it burns charcoal very very efficiently does the Classic Joe!
So on 9/21/22 I needed to cook my beef short ribs while we took to the Bell helicopter to take care of rapid family health transport issue with one of our kids and I set the Kettle Joe up for a rapid flash smoke of these Beef BBQ ribs I had paid $20 odd for.
2 Days prior I had dry brined them with Kosher salt and added 4 tablespoons of crushed pepper (I like pepper) with some thyme into the equation.
I set the temp for 278 and climbed into the Bell and we flew off to do our business at Stanford hospital.
3 hours later we get back and the charcoal was near spent (only armed it to 2/3). So I lifted the SloRoller and tipped another dustpan full of charcoals in it and it climbed back to 275 and sat there for another hour before it started to dip again.
The Beef rib temps were at 191 and I needed 205, so in went another dustpan full of charcoals..
The total cook was some 5 hours and I let it rest for a full 45 minutes.
Then came the taste test.
That shit was mega delishus! I never cooked anything finer in my entire life!
I since learnt to cook Baby Backs right as well but I do prefer Korean BBQ cut beef short ribs over Pork as my Korean and Japanese buds have shown me a few tricks with cooking them tings fast.
I also cooked 2 cheaper and smaller chuck steaks and that too was ridiculously yum but these were not pre-brined.
I will try them pre-brined as I suspect this is THE secret to smoking any meats on the Kettle Joe or Ceramic Classic Joe.
My Soapstone arrived 10/3/22 for steaks and fish and I am eyeing out the BGE 12" Pizza stone for the Ceramic Classic Joe as it is just $39.....
I actually use the soap stone a lot on all my grills including my huge Summit Gas Grill (670 model).
I am also eyeing out the DoJo Pizza making accessory for even cheaper and more rapid yum cooks on the Classic Joe.
I decided after much observation of others with the DoJo to not do it and get an Ooni Pizza Oven for that sort of Jolly Jape.
The reason why is the DoJo needs 700 degrees plus and that screws the Gasket seals on the top and bottom of the dome and base.
As these Gaskets are $199 per set I do not believe it is worth the pain that replacing them every 6 months will bring.
You can silicon them back on if this happens but you have to do it immediately it falls off, if you do even one cook with them pushed back in place they will shrink and be rendered useless.
I have also concluded that if I was pushed for cash and wanted great tasting food the Kettle Joe would be the one device I would invest in if I had to just have one on a tight budget but not for $499.
I got my Kettle Joe for $159 though (with Lowes coupons) but I have convinced a few folks to get them on special from Walmart for $324 and do the same mods that I did to mine.
Kettle Joe's are back at $499.00 most places except Walmart online which for what it is, would make me lean to the Weber Kettle Master Touch Edition for $275.00 or the Weber Platinum Kettle with the trolley for $499.00 instead.
I am very happy with both of my KJ BBQ devices though!
By October of 2022 and I had standardized on the Kettle Joe for work week based fast cooks because the KJ Classic Joe and soapstone, while awesome need a good 30 minutes for the charcoals to burn right and that soapstone needs to soak heat energy for about 30 minutes before that is really ready to start cooking.
I have done a few reverse sear cooks for big fat Rib eyes, pork chops and lamb as well as beef and pork ribs on both KJ gizmo's though.
For fast no shit Sherlock rapid cooks and eats the Weber Summit Gas Grill or the Kettle Joe are supposed to be used but I drifted to the Classic Joe if I had the time as it was much easier and cheaper to run after a few adjustments with the series III charcoal basket add on.
I use both KJ devices at weekends for Pork and Beef ribs to see which tastes the best but the Kettle Joe was fast becoming the standard go to for quick results if it is cleaned and ready to roll until I counted the cost of charcoal it was going through.
I also wanted to add a 14" BGE pizza stone to use in both to see how pizza cooks would go sans the DoJo for the Classic Joe as I am not fond of the over 500 degree temps thang as you have to remove the dome thermometers and I have bust a good few Thermoworks pit probes by mistake when temps run over 500 degrees.
There are a few gotchas at high temps you need to think about that involves a rigamarole to prep for.
After watching my pals and baking Pizzas on their rigs I decided the Ooni way is the only path to follow there for consistency at al.
I may just go get one in a wee bit when she who must be obeyed looks the other way....
My final BBQ backyard scheme is Kettle Joe, Kamado Joe Classic Joe Series II, Pellet Joe and Ooni 16" Pizza Oven.
Stay tuned for discoveries and tips with some real swell future cooks!!
I am going to branch into the cooking side of things now that I taught myself to produce awesome Pork Ribs, Chicken cuts, steaks, lamb,Beef cuts, Pork Butt, Beef and Lamb flank steaks and the like.
I also buy a lot of gadgets and try them all the time so you may find them useful as I go.
Whatever you do, light up them Charcoals and enjoy baby!