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Kamado Joe Classic I Review: Good Entry-Level Option?

Kamado Joe Classic I Review

Kamado’s are hands-down a great barbecue. They’re versatile, durable and make some darn good food. But, they’re pretty pricey…

Overall, Kamado Joe is one of the best value for money options out there. Their innovation just isn’t seen in any other kamado on the market and their packages mean you’re good to go without buying a whole heap of accessories too.

And, the Classic I is the most affordable option in the Kamado Joe range. Yes, it doesn’t have quite as many features as the mid and upper-tiered Classic II and III. So, is it worth it?

In this Kamado Joe Classic I review, we’ll go over everything you might want to know when deciding if you’re going to buy one or not.

We share what they’re really like to grill and smoke on plus point out any not so good aspects to be aware of.

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Table of Contents

The Quick Version: Our Kamado Joe Classic I Review

The Classic I is the entry-level model of the popular Kamado Joe’s range of high-fired ceramic kamados.

Coming complete with the highly demanded Divide and Conquer Cooking System, slide out ash drawer, and, ingenious Advanced-Multi Panel firebox, the Kamado Joe Classic I doesn’t have all the fancy features of the Classic II and Classic III.

But, everything that’s a must have for grilling, smoking, baking and roasting is included in the base price. And, because it’s the same shell just without a few nice to have features, the food you’ll turn out will be just as good as it would be if cooked on a more expensive Kamado Joe.

Tomahawk Steaks on the Kamado Joe Classic I

By doing the basics well, the Kamado Joe Classic I provides great value for money without sacrificing on the quality needed for durability and superior performance.

It’s still covered by the same Kamado Joe warranty as their upgraded kamados, is built just as solidly, and, doesn’t feel like you’re using a cheaper alternative.

For anyone on a budget, or, who’s looking for a value for money kamado, the Classic I couldn’t be a better solution!

But, if you’re interested in seeing what the next level up gets you, check out our Kamado Joe I vs II comparison.

About the Kamado Joe Classic I

Kamado Joe is a well-established player in the kamado market. Competing with the industry favorite, The Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe have relied on using innovation to help them stand out from the crowd.

And, that they have done!

Not only are Kamado Joe’s attractively-priced, they’ve taken one of the most traditional forms of outdoor cooking and made it easier and more versatile by letting you add advanced features like WiFi and electronically-controlled rotisseries.

They’re 110% our favorite kamado out there. And, their fans agree. Durable, high-quality and just overall better, Kamado Joe still manages to be one of the best value for money kamados on the market.

The Classic I is Kamado Joe’s entry-level model.

It doesn’t have a lot of the extra features that the more expensive Classic II and Classic III offer. But, the Kamado Joe Classic I still gives you the top quality basics you need for easy cooking. It’s also a long lasting investment at a very competitive price.

Let’s get into the details…

Features of the Kamado Joe Classic I

Construction:

  • Thick-walled, heat-resistant ceramic shell
  • Stainless steel grates
  • Felt gasket for airtight seal
  • 6 piece firebox minimizes breakages
  • Cast iron stand with locking wheels

Ease of use:

  • Two tier 18″ multi-level grate design gives you the versatility to modify your setup
  • Cast iron Top Vent lets you adjust the temperature
  • Slide out ash tray
  • Two folding side tables with tool hooks

Included extras:

  • Grill gripper
  • Ash tool

Unboxing and Setting Up The Kamado Joe Classic I

If you can, get your Kamado Joe delivered!

This thing is HEAVY!

It’s also exceptionally well packed to protect all the fragile components while it’s in transit.

This KJ Classic I was packed pretty much on a timber pallet with the stand flipped upside down with a box wrapped around it.

The firebox was spaced out inside the kamado and all of the accessories were boxed up inside of the cooker as well.

There’s not that many components so getting your Kamado Joe Classic I setup is really simple. But, you’ll need at least two people to safely lift the really heavy cooking chamber out of the stand and the packing and then into the stand once you’ve got it in position.

It’ll also be helpful to have an extra set of hands when it comes to setting up the AMP firebox. Arrange the pieces of the firebox inside the cooking chamber then carefully lift up and slot all the pieces into the metal ring.

There’s 5 in total so that’s where an extra couple of hands takes the job from a bit fiddly to really easy.

Once you’ve got all your components in, you’re ready to follow the instructions to do your initial burn in!

Construction and Build Quality

The build of any kamado is absolutely key to it’s performance. And, the Kamado Joe Classic I is made from what you want – thick-walled ceramic with a heat-resistant, porcelain-glazed exterior. It’s high-quality. It holds the heat in well for a 360° cook, and, it’s performance is hardly affected by a bit of bad weather.

At the bottom, you’ve got one of Kamado Joe’s best features, their AMP (Advanced Multi-Panel) firebox.

Kamado firebox’s are generally one-piece and are prone to breaking because it holds such a hot fire. So, Kamado Joe decided to split their firebox into 5 removable pieces, giving it room to expand and contract without cracking. It’s simple but will probably save you money and a headache in the long-run.

Above that, you’ve got rust-resistant stainless steel grates to cook on. They’re easy to clean and ultra-durable.

But, the Kamado Joe Classic I also comes with the two-tiered Divide and Conquer Cooking System which is a total game-changer when it comes to maximizing the space and versatility of your kamado.

Basically, Divide and Conquer lets you set up half plates at different heights with different surfaces so you’ve got more space and more flexibility with what you cook.

For example, you can sear a steak close to the fire and bake some sides over indirect heat by using the heat deflector half moon. You’ve got a lot of options!

Giving the Classic I a tight seal, it’s got a felt gasket. It’s not as good as the mesh fiberglass one of the II and III ranges (it’ll need replacing before one of those would). But, it still does a decent job of holding in the heat and smoke and is similar to what you’d find on other kamados anyway.

In terms of the all-important hinge on such a heavy lid, the Kamado Joe Classic I has a standard spring-loaded hinge.

It just can’t compare to the Air Lift Hinge that reduces the dome weight by 96% on the Classic II and Classic III. But, the quality is there and we can’t complain. The standard hinge does the job even if it’s nothing fancy.

The side shelves are a true metal too which isn’t a normal thing to see in other kamados at this price point.

The metal will give you that extra bit of durability that you want when you’re cooking hot things.

And lastly, the stand that comes with the Kamado Joe Classic I is the same as you get with the Classic II as well.

The base is welded together well and powder-coated for great rust-resistance and durability.

But, the top ring that warps around the body of the Kamado Joe is screwed in place.

It doesn’t look like the best design. But, once the kamado is all together, it’s held in place pretty well and doesn’t look having screws instead of full welding will cause any problems at all.

Capacity

The Kamado Joe Classic I holds an 18″ cooking grate. Using just that, you’ll have 254 square inches of cooking space. It’s not huge. But, more than enough to fit a few steaks, burgers, or a whole heap of sausages or wings.

Because the Kamado Joe Classic I comes with the Divide and Conquer Cooking System, you’ve got more options than just a straight 18 inches across.

You can actually set up 2 full grates (you’ll need to buy 2 more half plates) inside the Classic I to give you around about 508 square inches of space.

And, if that’s still not enough, there’s an optional grill expander you can get that’ll take the maximum capacity of the Kamado Joe Classic I up to a total of 660 square inches.

Use different cooking surfaces, set up heat deflectors on half the whole barbecue, or, set your grates at different heights. You’ve got so much flexibility with the Divide and Conquer on the Kamado Joe Classic I in terms of capacity and setup.

You can even grill a steak for lunch while you smoke some ribs for dinner.

And, if that’s still still not big enough, there’s always the Big Joe I.

The Big Joe I is easily the best value you’ll get for a very large ceramic kamado.

The wider 24 inch grate ups your basic capacity from 254 square inches to 452. Then, you can also add grates with the 2 Tier Divide and Conquer as well.

While you can definitely entertain for quite a few on the Kamdo Joe Classic I, the Big Joe I gives you that extra width you’ll need if you want to smoke larger cuts like whole briskets.

A rack of ribs will fit easily on the 18 inch Kamado Joe Classic I. They’re what’s wrapped up in the picture below.

Grilling Performance

Grilling on the Kamado Joe Classic I is really straight forward.

It’s as easy as getting some charcoal going (KJ Big Block is ideal because it’s low ash), throwing it in, adding the grates and putting your meat on when it’s had a bit of time to warm up.

Controlling the temperature is relatively easy. Simply adjust the top and bottom vents to add or restrict airflow until the grill reaches your desired temperature.

On any kamado, this one included, you do need to be careful not to overshoot your target temperature. The high-fired ceramic sides just hold the heat so well that it takes a long time to cool down if you do get the grill too hot.

But, once the temperature’s right for what you’re cooking, throw your meat on there and let it sizzle away.

The grill marks are on point. And, the results are phenomenally delicious!

The tomahawk steaks in the picture above were seared and then slow cooked on the Kamado Joe Classic I.

I started by grilling over direct and high heat. Then, once the outside looked perfectly done, I added the heat deflector, a MEATER Plus probe to monitor the internal temperature, and, partially closed the vents to lower the temperature, cooking until the MEATER said it was done to my liking.

But, grilling a steak isn’t the only thing you can do. Because the lid is ceramic too, it’ll radiate heat back onto the food for all-round cooking.

This means it’s perfect for baking and roasting too.

Whole chickens are one of my favorite things to cook on the Kamado Joe.

It’ll also turn out pretty decent pizza, even without the DoJoe accessory.

Smoking Performance

Smoking on the Kamado Joe Classic I is simply beautiful! It’s easy and doesn’t need much in the way of babysitting.

The heat deflector plate you’ll need to create the indirect heat needed for smoking is included with the Kamdo Joe Classic I so you don’t need to buy anything extra to be able to smoke on it.

Just like when you’re grilling, you want to make sure you don’t overshoot your target temperature so you don’t have to wait for the ceramic to cool down.

But, getting it to that ideal 225°F doesn’t take too much practice.

Initially you’ll leave the top vent closed, open the bottom vent to about 2 inches and then adjust the daisy wheel part of the top vent until you reach your smoking temperature.

You can add wood if you want to.

A little goes a long way inside a kamado. And, I actually prefer the fully charcoal smoked flavor in the Kamado Joe Classic I instead of adding wood. So, don’t assume you have to have wood to smoke on a KJ.

You can also use a pellet smoking tube if you want to use hardwood pellets instead of wood chunks.

The only real complaint we have about the Kamado Joe Classic I is that when you open the kamado lid, the top vent doesn’t stay in place.

Instead it swings open and when you close it, you’ll have to reset the position to keep the barbecue at the right temperature.

It’s a little annoying when you’re grilling. But, more of a problem when you’ve spent time finding that sweet spot for smoking, opened the lid to add your meat and lost your settings.

I always try to look at where it’s set before I open it but there are times when I just forget and need to reset the position to maintain my target smoking temperature.

If that’s a deal-breaker for you, the upgraded Kontrol Tower that’s on the Classic II does stay in place when you open the lid! It also blocks the rain and wind unlike the vent on the Classic I which just lets the rain drop straight through it.

Most of the time, I grill undercover anyway so the weather isn’t an issue. Yes, the Classic II’s Kontrol Tower is better. But, the quality and functioning of the top vent on the Kamado Joe Classic I is perfectly adequate and is what you’d get on most other brands of kamados anyway.

Included Extras

One great thing about the whole Kamado Joe range is that you don’t need to buy any extras (except charcoal and meat of course) to grill, smoke, bake, roast, or cook anything on them.

The Kamado Joe Classic I comes with the Divide and Conquer grates, the heat deflectors, side tables, grate gripper and ash tool.

If you’re not storing it undercover, definitely grab a cover to keep it protected from the weather. You might even be able to grab it as a package like this one with the Classic I plus cover here.

Warranty and Customer Service

We told you the Kamado Joe quality was good. And, incase you didn’t believe us, here’s the warranty to prove it.

The Classic I’s ceramic body is covered by a limited lifetime warranty (like for as long as you own the grill), there’s 5 years on the metals, 3 years on heat deflectors and 1 year on the thermometer and gasket.

Plus, Kamado Joe’s customer service is next to none. They’re great and have built the reputation to prove it.

Optional Extras

No, you don’t NEED any extras to cook just about anything on the Kamado Joe Classic I.

But, if you’re an extra kind of person or like being able to add extra pieces to your kit over time, KJ have an awesome range of add-ons.

So, for the Classic I you can get:

  • A whole range of different cooking surfaces that can be used with the Divide and Conquer
  • Pizza stones
  • Grill cover
  • JoeTisserie – To turn the Kamdo Joe Classic I into a rotisserie
  • DoJoe – An open pizza oven that’s the real deal!
  • iKamand – Uses WiFi to turn the traditional kamado into a smart device where you can set, monitor and adjust the cooking temperature from your phone
  • SloRoller – An included extra with the Classic III. It creates an Hyperbolic Smoke Chamber for even better results smoking.

They’re all good add-ons and aren’t too expensive.

The DoJoe is definitely our favorite because we love pizza. It just makes it that bit easier to get the pizzas in, out and watch them cook.

Guests have a lot of fun with it when they’re around too.

Cleaning the Kamado Joe Classic I

Any ceramic kamado is one of the easiest types of barbecues to clean.

Just as you’d except, scrape down the grates after using them. And, empty the ash which thanks to KJ’s slide out ash tray, can’t be easier.

Once or twice a year, depending on how often you use it, you’re going to need to do a more rigorous clean. The video below shows you how.

Pros and Cons of the Kamado Joe Classic I

What We Like About the Kamado Joe Classic I

  • Affordable price for a very high quality kamado
  • Includes everything you need to smoke, grill, bake and roast
  • Expandable capacity
  • Divide and Conquer Cooking System gives you flexibility with how you cook
  • Fairly easy to set and maintain your target temperature
  • Stainless steel cooking grates are durable and rust-resistant
  • AMP firebox reduces likelihood of your firebox needing replacing due to cracking from high heat
  • Slide out ash tray makes cleaning very easy
  • Incredible warranty

What We Don't Like About the Kamado Joe Classic I

  • The top vent does swing open when you open the kamado lid, undoing your temperature settings. The Classic II has an upgraded top vent if you want one that stays in place.
  • Lid is very heavy – this model doesn’t have KJ’s famous Air Lift Hinge (you’d need to upgrade to the Classic II)
  • Felt gasket does the job but will need replacing after probably a few years (again, Classic II has a longer lasting one)

Should I Buy the Kamado Joe Classic I?

Kamado Joe really does lead the market when it comes to high-quality, functional kamados.

And, their most basic Kamado Joe Classic I brings a more affordable, yet still great quality option to anyone who’s looking for unbeatable value for money.

With features like stainless steel cooking grates, the versatile Divide and Conquer Cooking System, a slide out ash drawer and KJ’s ingenious AMP firebox, the Classic I doesn’t have a lot in the way of extras. But, it does more than just the basics really really well.

Because of that, cooking on the Classic I is effective, simple and the results really speak for themselves.

Perfect for anyone looking for an affordable yet quality kamado that’s got everything you need and will last, the Kamado Joe Classic I is the go-to option.

But, if you’re looking for something with a little more, take a look at our Kamado Joe I vs II comparison to see what next-level upgrades you can get.

Like What You See, But Want More Space or Extra Features?

Up-Size to the Kamado Joe Big Joe I

  • Larger 24″ grate size
  • 452 square inches on a single grate with option to add to it using accessories
  • Large enough to fit a whole brisket (may have to drape it over a bowl depending on the size)
  • Plus the same must-have features of the Kamado Joe Classic I

Get More Features With the Kamado Joe Classic II

  • Weather and rust-proof Kontrol Tower top vent
  • Air Lift Hinge reduces dome weight by 96%
  • Fiberglass mesh gasket lasts longer than anything else on the market
  • Stainless steel latch for tightest seal
  • Plus the same must-have Classic I features

FAQs About the Kamado Joe Classic I

How long does one load of charcoal last in the Kamado Joe Classic I?

Of course it depends on how much you load up. But full, you should be getting about 18 hours of smoke time from one load of quality charcoal.

Can I add more fuel while cooking on the Classic I?

Not without removing the meat and grates. Kamados are designed to be stocked once and left to do their thing and you should be able to do that, even for longer cooks.

How many people can you cook for on a Kamado Joe Classic?

The 18 inch Kamado Joe Classic I with the 2 tier Divide and Conquer and optional grill expander can have a huge capacity, easily catering for up to about 15 people.

What is the difference between kamado Classic 1 and 2?

The Kamado Joe Classic 1 and Classic 2 are the same size and are both made out of the same materials, 18 inch ceramic kamados. But, the KJ Classic 2 has a few upgraded features like the Kontrol Tower Top Vent for weather-proof cooking, improved gasket, Air Lift Hinge and stainless steel latch.

Is Kamado Joe as good as Green Egg?

Given the choice, we would go Kamado Joe over the Big Green Egg. The quality is similar but the extra innovation Kamado Joe put into their products really does improve how well they work and how easy they are to use.

For more information on Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg, click the link for our full comparison.

Is the Kamado Joe Classic big enough for ribs?

Yes, the 18 inch wide rack on the Kamado Joe Classic I, II or III is large enough to fit a rack of ribs easily. You could cook 2-3 racks laid flat at one time. Or, use a rib rack to increase your capacity.

Will the Kamado Joe Classic fit a brisket?

You’re pushing it to get a whole brisket on the Kamado Joe Classic’s 18 inch rack. If it was a smaller brisket say around 10 pounds, with a maximum length of 18 inches, it’ll definitely fit. But, to smoke your normal, large briskets on a Kamado Joe you’ll need the 24 inch wide Big Joe.

Can I use regular charcoal in Kamado Joe?

It’s recommended that you use lump charcoal in a Kamado Joe. This is because it produces less ash than your standard charcoal briquettes. But, you don’t need to use Kamado Joe’s Big Block. Any high quality lump charcoal will work. Click here to see our favorites.

Is the Kamado Big Joe I worth it?

If you want to cook whole briskets or a larger capacity of food, yes, upgrading from the Kamado Joe Classic I to the Big Joe I is absolutely worth it.

Remember that if you go for the smaller 18 inch width, you can up the capacity vertically using the Divide and Conquer and/or grill expander. But there’s no way to go wider without buying a whole new barbecue.

So, if you think you need it, you’ll probably use it and it’s best to pay the little bit extra for the 24 inch Big Joe I than have to get a whole new kamado later.

Can Kamado Joe stay outside in winter?

Definitely. Kamado Joe is a suitable barbecue not only to store outside in winter, but, to grill and smoke during the colder months too. The thick ceramic sides hold the heat exceptionally well so you’ll be able to reach and maintain cooking temperatures with no problems.

Is a Kamado Joe a smoker or grill?

You can grill and smoke on the Kamado Joe simply by changing your setup, using a cooking grate directly over the fire for high-heat cooking, or, adding the included heat deflector underneath the cooking grate for low and slow smoking.

The Kamado Joe is also ideal for baking and roasting. It’s pretty much a 360° outdoor oven.

How long can a Kamado Joe smoke for?

You should get up to about 18 hours of low and slow smoking time out of one load of charcoal inside the Kamado Joe Classic models. The Kamado Joe Big Joe has been known to smoke for up to 56 hours at 225°F.

Can you cook pizza in the Kamado Joe Classic I?

The Kamado Joe Classic I is great for cooking pizza.

It’s got the same thick ceramic sides as the more expensive Classic II model. These hold the heat extremely well and radiate it back onto your pizza so it gets cooked from literally every angle.

We do recommend using the Kamado Joe pizza stone to bake pizza inside the Classic I.

The Classic DoJoe attachment also works with the Classic I if you want an even better setup. This gives you an open slot for you to launch and take your pizzas out through while maintaining that all-round pizza baking experience. It also comes with the pizza stone included.

How easy is it to clean the ash out?

KJ makes this really easy with their pull out ash drawer. You literally slide it out, use the included racking tool to clear the ash out and put it back in. Every 6-12 months you’d do a more thorough clean where you remove the firebox and sweep out the inside.

Do I get the lifetime warranty if I buy the Kamado Joe Classic I on Amazon?

As far as we know, yes. After purchasing on Amazon people have registered their warranty with KJ without any issues.

Specs for the Kamado Joe Classic I

Barbecue material: Glazed ceramic

Grate material: 304 stainless steel

Cooking capacity: 256 sq. in. but expandable with extra grates and/or grill expander

Fuel type: Charcoal

Temperature Range: 225°F – 750°F

Price guide: $$$

Model: Classic I

Dimensions: 46.5″ W x 48.5″ H x 30.12″ D

Weight: 188lbs

Warranty: Lifetime on ceramics, 5 years on metals, 3 years on heat deflector, 1 year on thermometer and gasket