Skip to content

Kamado Joe Classic II Review: Does This Fan-Fav Perform?

KAMADO JOE CLASSIC II

Kamado Joe Classic II

Our absolute favorite ceramic kamado, this thing is durable, full of useful features, and grills and smokes incredible food.

4.8/5

When it comes to ceramic cookers, Kamado Joe have truly brought quality and innovation to this ancient style of barbecue.

With a well thought out range of eggs, there’s pretty much nothing that you can’t cook on one of these beauties. From traditional-style pizza to seared steak, ribs, smoked brisket, bread, and even dessert, a kamado cooker offers the ultimate in flexibility when it comes to barbecuing.

But, it makes sense to want to check what you’re getting before you hit the buy now button.

In this Kamado Joe Classic II review, we share everything you need to know about this barbecue to decide if it’s right for you, including our hands-on experience.

Burning Brisket is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read our affiliate policy to learn more.

Table of Contents

The Quick Version: Our Kamado Joe Classic II Review

When it comes to a kamado cooker, or any barbecue that’s good for both smoking and grilling, the Kamado Joe Classic II is our absolute favorite each and every time.

This thing peforms at low and slow and high heat grilling so well, it’s easy to use, is really well built, and is full of innovative features that actually make the kamado better.

From the ingenous multi-piece firebox design, to the arm-saving Air Lift hinge, rain-resistant Kontrol Tower, and the oh-so flexible Divide and Conquer Cooking System, there’s simply no other kamado on the market quite like it.

Perfect for individuals, couples, and most families, the 18″ cooking capacity is large enough without to cook a reasonable amount of food without the cost of fuel blowing out. And, great food this thing can really, truly make!

Fish and sides on the Kamado Joe Classic II

It’s not hard to learn how to use it and you don’t need to sit there babysitting the smoker either.

With everything included that you need to grill and smoke, the value in this package is unbelievable.

About Kamado Joe

The mention of kamado often brings to mind the Big Green Egg, but Kamado Joe is actually the company that has revolutionized this traditional barbecue style with numerous innovative enhancements that really are worth the money.

Focusing exclusively on this single type of barbecue, Kamado Joe offers an impressive selection of both built-in and stand-alone models.

There’s cheaper options for those on a tighter budget or more expensive models with all the latest gear and gadgets. But, everything you buy from Kamado Joe is guaranteed to be great quality.

Overview of the Kamado Joe Classic II

The Kamado Joe Classic II is hands down one of THE most popular kamado grills on the market.

It’s won mentions in our top rated smokers, best value smokers, and best kamado grills just to name a few… And, it’s easy to see why.

Packed full of innovative features, there’s enough to talk about for days. But, one thing’s for sure, this is one heck of a barbecue that can grill, smoke, bake, and roast just about anything, and do it really darn well.

Features of the Kamado Joe Classic II

The ceramic sides act as a heat sink, radiating the good stuff back at your food from the whole 360° around.

Stainless steel is one of the best materials for durability. They’re rust-resistant and don’t have any coating to flake off onto your food.

The gasket is usually one of the first things to go on a kamado. But, not this one. The Classic II has Kamado Joe’s awesome wire mesh fibreglass gasket that should last 10 years plus before it needs changing.

Because kamado lids are darn right heavy, Kamado Joe have revolutionised their design by adding what they call an Air Lift Hinge.

This mechanism takes 95% of the weight off so that you can lift the lid with just one finger if you so please.

Easier for the Mrs and safer for any kiddos helping out, we love the Air Lift and would rather save our strength for the gym.

One of the most commonly replaced parts on a kamado is the firebox itself.

While most kamados on the market feature a one-piece firebox that’s naturally susceptible to cracking as the ceramic expands and contracts with changing heat, the Kamado Joe Classic II features a patented AMP (advanced multi-panel) firebox.

This clever design is made up of five pieces of ceramic that have room to expand and contract without cracking so you can crank the heat up to grill that steak or pizza without worrying about having to fork out money on replacement parts.

Kamado Joe’s ingenious, patented Divide and Conquer cooking system allows you to split racks in half and utilize them at different temperatures. Want your steak cooked high and fast whilst your chicken smokes low and slow? You’ve got it on a Kamado Joe.

No more leaky vents wasting your precious heat and smoke.

The rust-proof, Kontrol Tower aluminium vent sits on top of your kamado and can be dialled in to perfect the airflow for precise temperature control.

It’s also designed to keep any rain out and will stay in place even when the grill lid is lifted.

With easy access, cleaning the Classic II is as easy as sliding out the ash tray to dump the cold ashes.

No need for a full outdoor kitchen setup, you’ve got sturdy, foldable side tables right by you for no extra cost.

How Does the Kamado Joe Classic II Work?

The Kamado Joe Classic II is like any other kamado cooker.

Load charcoal into the bottom, light it and adjust the top and bottom vents to smoke low and slow, grill at searing hot temperatures, or bake somewhere in between.

The Classic II comes with a double tiered grate system and an included heat deflector. Use the heat deflector to block the direct heat when you’re cooking at low temperatures, and whip it out when you want an open flame to sear over.

But, the Divide and Conquer Cooking System also lets you split those grates in half to set up different heat zones in different halves of the smoker. There’s a lot of options.

Specs for the Kamado Joe Classic II

BBQ type: Kamado

Material: Glazed ceramic

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 256 sq in +

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: 28″D x 46.5″W x 48″H

Price guide: $$$

Model: Classic II

Warranty: Lifetime ceramics, 3yr heat def, 1yr other

Comparison With Other Kamado Joe Models

The Classic II is the medium specced kamado in Kamado Joe’s regular, 18″ grate size.

The table below shows how the Classic II compares with the cheaper Classic I and the more expensive Classic III.

In addition to this, you can also get the Kamado Joe Big Joe II which is the larger version of the Classic II reviewed here.

All the features are the same, you’re just getting a 24″ grate instead of an 18″ one.

And, if you have an outdoor kitchen you want to fit a KJ into, there’s the Standalone Classic II that’s exactly the same, just without the stand and the side tables.

Our Experience Using the Kamado Joe Classic II

Here you can read about what we thought of using the Kamado Joe Classic II.

As professional barbecue reviewers, we have a wide range of experience using all different types of smokers, including other kamados outside of the Kamado Joe brand. We have used this experience to draw conclusions and compare what the Classic II is like to use compared to other barbecues on the market.

However, in an effort to keep our reviews fair, we do try to maintain consistent cooking methods. This includes testing the same cuts of meat, using the same meat thermometers to verify the temperature, and even using the same dry rubs so we can more easily tell whether it’s the barbecue or what we’ve done this time that’s impacted how good the food turns out.

Unboxing and Setting Up The Kamado Joe Classic II

Ceramic kamados are ridiculously heavy!

If you can, get yours delivered. It’s 100% worth it not to have to move it and the shipping company will take the liability for any damage done while getting the barbecue to your door.

But, the Classic II is exceptionally well packaged to protect it’s fragile components while it’s in transit. It even arrives on a pallet for better protection and easy lifting (by a forklift, not you though).

We were a bit surprised how many parts there were to what looks like quite a simple kamado. Putting it together isn’t complicated but it still took us a couple of hours, doing things carefully to make sure we didn’t damage any of the heavy and fragile componets.

The video below shows the full process.

We do recommend getting at least one other person to help you lift the egg itself and hold the AMP firebox parts in place while you slide the metal ring over.

What Does the Kamado Joe Classic II Come With?

The Kamado Joe Classic II comes with everything you need to smoke, grill, bake, or barbecue. You don’t need anything else.

With the Classic II you get, the ceramic dome itself, the 2-teir Divide and Conquer cooking grates, one heat deflector, the side tables, AMP firebox components, the side tables, stand, wheels for the stand, grate gripper, and an ash tool.

The only thing that’s not included as standard is the Classic II cover which I would recommend getting if you’re storing your KJ outside.

Construction and Build Quality

With a good quality build, a kamado really isn’t a kamado. And, the Kamado Joe Classic II is made from exactly what you want, a nice thick-walled, porcelain-glazed ceramic that’s heat-retaining, hard-wearing, and cool to touch.

Because of this, the Classic II does a great job of holding the heat well for an all-round cook. And, it performs equally as well in cold weather.

Inside, you’ve got the cleverly designed AMP (Advanced Multi-Panel) firebox that’s made from the same, thick ceramic.

Kamado Joe AMP Firebox

After the gasket (which we’ll get to later), the firebox is the most often replaced component of a kamado because it’s susceptible to cracking as the ceramic expands and contracts with the heat.

So, Kamado Joe cracked it for us and designed a firebox that’s got room to move with the heat and is less likely to crack. It’s ingenious and will potentially save you a fair chunk of money down the line.

Above that, you’ve got high-quality, stainless steel cooking grates.

Ours have been washing up beautifully for years. They’re durable, rust-resistant, and very easy to clean.

do-Joe-Classic-III-3-Tier-Divide-and-Conquer

Sealing the base against the lid, you’ll find the KJ Classic II’s oven-grade, mesh fibreglass gasket and stainless steel latch.

Together these provide an air-tight seal for absolutely no smoke leakage, and protection from the elements.

It’s a small part of the barbecue as a whole. But, while your standard gaskets need replacing every year or two with regular use, this one should last you 10 years plus. Ours is still going strong so we can’t share the life of ours at this point.

Kamado Joe Wire Mesh Fiberglass Gasket

And, the high-quality features of the KJ Classic II don’t just end there.

There’s also the Air Lift Hinge which reduces the lid’s weight by a huge 96%. This makes opening your kamado up so easy that you’ll never actually notice how heavy the whole thing is until you go to move house.

Kids can do it, your wife will have no problem, and it just all-round makes the cooking process easier as well. We love it.

Kamado Joe Air Lift Hinge

To top things off, the Kamado Joe Classic II comes with their awesome Kontrol Tower top vent.

This is unique to this model of Kamado Joe and up. It’s essentially a powder-coated, cast-aluminum vent that gives you two levers for fine temperature adjustment anywhere from 225°F to 750°F.

While it doesn’t stop all the weather from getting in, the Kontrol Tower is rain-resistant. We’ve used it during moderately heavy rain without the weather impacting our cook too much.

Kamado Joe Kontrol Tower

While I do personally prefer the heavier-duty, KJ Classic III’s upgraded cart, the Classic II’s welded cast iron design is more than strong enough to hold the kamados heavy weight. The side tables are good quality too and very handy to have if you don’t have a full outdoor kitchen setup.

Capacity

The Classic II holds a cooking grate that’s a decent 18 inches wide.

It’s not huge. As is, you’ll have 254 square inches of cooking space which is more than enough to sear a few steaks, cook a respectable number of sausages, or even smoke a couple of pork shoulders. But, if you do need more, there are ways you can expand the cooking capacity of this model.

Grilling on the Kamado Joe Classic II at Christmas time

Firstly, you can set up two separate grate levels with the 2-tier Divide and Conquer cooking system. Utilize them both or set them up for different heat zones.

And, secondly, you can get a grill expander which gives you an extra layer of space above the 2-tier design.

Example of a 2-tier setup on the Kamado Joe Classic II

We regularly manage to cook for a family of 6 on our Classic II and can entertain on it as well as long as we carefully plan what to cook.

The Big Joe with a 24 inch grate does use a lot more charcoal so it’s always a trade-off between having enough space and minimizing fuel usage. But, for individuals, couples, and most families, the Classic’s 18″ size will be enough.

Grilling Performance

Kamados are one of our favorite types of smokers to grill on.

Nothing compares to having that open flame and we do enjoy a good charcoal-flavored steak.

To grill on one, it’s as simple as getting some charcoal going (we prefer to light a quality lump in our kamado with an electric lighter over using a charcoal chimney). But, once the charcoal’s going, you’ll pop the lid down and adjust the vents until the, what’s very accurate in our testing, built-in temperature gauge shows at least 550°F for high-heat grilling.

Having the lid closed helps the grill heat up faster and also gives the lid a change to warm up to. You don’t have to grill with the lid closed on your Kamado Joe. But, doing so gives you a 360° heat environment which you might prefer for some foods.

Kamado Joe Classic II set up with indirect and direct heat cooking on 2-tier Divide and Conquer

Adjusting the temperature using the Kontrol Tower is really easy. And, because the top vent stays right where you left it, even when you open the lid, there’s no having to readjust things if you do want to grill those sausages with the lid shut.

Grilling a steak on the Kamado Joe Classic II

If you’re looking for a meat thermometer that can handle the high heat of open-flame kamado cooking, I’d recommend the MEATER 2 Plus.

It’s the only thing that’s got a wide enough temperature range to handle this kind of heat and is the best investment in cooking great meat.

Smoking Performance

The Kamado Joe Classic II isn’t a dedicated smoker, nor is it a set and forget smoker. But, it can smoke some very impressive meat and you don’t need to sit there babysitting it.

Smoking on the Kamado Joe Classic II

To set up for smoking, you set yourself up with a full load of quality lump charcoal. Then, pop the included heat deflector in and add the cooking grates above. Using the Kontrol Tower, you slowly adjust the temperature until it reaches your desired target.

The only thing I’d advise you to do on the Classic II and any other kamado, is be careful not to overshoot your temperature target.

The thick ceramic walls take a long time to cool down and you won’t want to wait for it. So, instead, we tend to take a little longer, adjusting our vents up instead of having to wait for the kamado to cool down.

If you want a woodier flavor, you can add wood chunks to your charcoal. Throwing in 3 – 4 medium sized pieces will give you a good, strong flavor but you absolutely don’t need to either.

Smoking chicken on the Kamado Joe Classic II

A full load of charcoal in the 18″ Classic II should burn for about 18 hours in good weather.

That’s long enough for pretty much anything you’d want to cook without you having to add charcoal mid-cook. You shouldn’t have to make a lot of adjustments, if any, to the vents either. I just use the MEATER 2 Plus to with an alert set to monitor the ambient temperature and go out there if it’s getting too high or too low.

Cleaning the Kamado Joe Classic II

The regular cleaning of the Kamado Joe Classic II is made pretty easy with the slide out ash drawer.

We literally scrape down the cooking grates with our favorite Easy Function Grate Scraper then empty the ash the next morning once it’s 100% cool.

Once or twice a year, you’ll want to do a more thorough clean as is detailed in the video below.

Optional Extras

You don’t have to buy anything extra to smoke, bake, barbecue, or grill on the Kamado Joe Classic II. It comes with everything you need. But, if you’re an accessories person, you can have some fun with one of these…

Half moons are what you need to create split level cooking setups in the KJ Classic II. Check out what extra surfaces you can buy.

Now pizza on a kamado is pretty darn good. But, pizza on a kamado with the DōJoe is made that much easier and faster.

It’s a wedge-shaped insert that you slot in under the lid creating a slot for sliding pizzas in and out easily. The DōJoe has dedicated supports that hold the heat deflectors and pizza stone at exactly the right heights to create the optimal temperature required for perfect crust and crispy toppings.

But, what we like most about the DōJoe is that when you’re cooking pizzas you don’t need to open and close to add and remove them. Not only is it easier but you avoid letting out some of the heat for a faster cook.

It’s definitely a winner in our books.

If you tend to cook whole chickens on the barbecue quite often then the JoeTisserie is an awesome invention that transforms the Kamado Joe into a spit.

It’s shaped to fit the Classic II perfectly so it still seals while turning the meat constantly for that naturally basted, roasted to perfection results that look like they’re straight from the pages of a magazine.

Made from cast aluminum, we’re impressed at how strong and durable the build of the JoeTisserie is and the motor is quieter than expected. Easy to install, the adjustable forks mean you can balance any cut of meat up to 50lbs.

It’s good for more than just chicken too. Try a prime rib, whole turkey, or add a basket for never burnt again wings.

Included with the KJ Classic III, the SloRoller insert can be bought separately and added to your Classic II for the claimed, better smoking.

What is does is create a Hyperbolic Smoke Chamber that circulates the air and smoke inside your kamado for better results. We find the smoke rings are a little stronger than without it. But, while there’s nothing wrong with how the meat turns out, it isn’t noticeably better than when it’s smoked on the Classic II without it.

Still, it’s an option that you can add if you’re interested.

Read more about Kamado Joe’s accessory line up by clicking the link to our review below.

Warranty and Customer Service

Kamado Joe’s are made to last and their warranty backs up that statement.

The Classic II’s ceramic body has a limited lifetime warranty for as long as the original purchaser owns the grill (it’s not transferrable). Any metal parts are covered for 5 years. The heat deflector is covered for 3 years. And, anything else is covered for 2 years from the date of purchase. 

We haven’t personally had to make any warranty claims on a Kamado Joe product yet so we can’t comment on that. But, Kamado Joe have a great reputation when it comes to customer service.

What We Like & Don't Like About the Kamado Joe Classic II

Pros
Cons

Should I Buy the Kamado Joe Classic I?

There’s no doubt that Kamado Joe rules the market when it comes to sturdy, reliable grills that you’ll be able to use for years to come.

This thing is packed full of features and value everywhere you look and it does an excellent job of cooking absolutely anything from a low and slow rack of ribs, to steaks, pizza, and everything in between.

The Kamado Joe Classic II is perfect for you if you’re looking for:

If that sounds like you, the Kamado Joe Classic II combines such unbeatable quality and value in an innovative upgrade of this original style cooker.

What will you be cooking up first on your new, red egg?

What Other Kamados Should I Consider?

A lot of people ask, what about the Big Green Egg. And, our answer’s always the same, we prefer Kamado Joe every single time.

Quality-wise, they’re very similar products but, Kamado Joe have packed so many useful and innovative features into their grills while managing to deliver them at a red hot price.

So, if you’re not quite sold on the Classic II, check out these options.

Size Up

Kamado Joe Big Joe II

More Features

Kamado Joe Classic III

FAQs for the Kamado Joe Classic II

There’s a number of differences between the Kamado Joe Classic and Classic II models. These include the Air Lift Hinge, Kontrol Tower top vent, and wire mesh fibreglass gasket.

For more details, read our Kamado Joe Classic vs Classic II comparison.

The Kamado Joe Classic III has all the same Series II features plus a heavier duty cart, taller cooking chamber profile, 3-tierred grate system, and included SloRoller insert for better smoking.

Read our Classic II vs III comparsion for a thorough run-down.

Yes! The Kamado Joe Classic 2 is great for low and slow smoking as well as high-heat searing. It even comes with the heat deflector you need to block the ultra-high heat.

Simply insert that below your cooking grates and adjust the Kontrol Tower so that you’ve got your kamado running at a cooler temperature.

You can even add wood chunks for a woodier flavor if you’d like.

You should be able to get about 18 hours of smoke time without having to refuel in normal weather conditions.

You don’t have to use Kamado Joe’s branded charcoal in their kamados although it is really good.

But, lump charcoal is a better choice than briquettes because the ceramic kamado sides are porous and will abosrb any nasty additives that are often included in briquettes.

Grab any one of our favorite lump charcoals for a guaranteed winner.

The ash from the Kamado Joe Classic II collects in a drawer at the bottom so just pull it out and empty it. Be sure to wait until the ash is 100% cool though. This may take longer than you think because the ceramic kamado sides are so good at retaining the heat.

Without a doubt!

The Big Green Egg might be the original. But, Kamado Joe have brought innovation to the market, adding numerous actually useful upgrades to the Classic II.

For more details on why we prefer Kamado Joe over the BGE, check out our full Kamado Joe vs Big Green Egg comparison.

Kate Brown, the founder and voice behind Burning Brisket, is not your typical pitmaster or restaurateur. Her expertise in barbecue grew from a humble desire to cook exceptional meals for her family. From overcoming burnt brisket mishaps to establishing her boutique cattle ranch, Kate shares her passion to help 'ordinary' individuals cook extraordinary barbecue, believing that simplicity often yields the best flavors. Kate is commited to making great barbecue accessible to all with the right resources and some tasty practice.

About Burning Brisket

Burning Brisket is one of the leading, independent authorities on all things barbecue. Family-owned and run, it's our mission uncomplicate the art of smoking to help you enjoy making incredible food at home for your family and friends to create memories over.

Browse BBQ Reviews
Cook Better Barbecue

Get our latest reviews, guides, and recipes to help you move from burnt to simply brilliant!