So, you’re sold on Kamado Joe as a brand. Freaking awesome! They’re truly the best in terms of innovation, ease of use, and, customer service. But now, on to the next decision, which size to get?
Kamado Joe’s do last a really long time. Making sure you buy one that’s the right size not just for now, but for the future, is important. After all, you don’t really want to be forking out in a few years for a larger, or smaller one (yes, we do know a lot of fans who have multiple KJ’s sitting in their backyard right now. But also, they’re not hating on it).
In this guide, we’ll go over the questions you should be asking yourself to decide between the Kamado Joe Classic vs Big Joe. We’ll talk about fuel usage, useable area and price to help you make the best decision.
Before we get started, we just want to point out that the only major difference between the Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe is the size. The features of the I, II, or III, are different. But, if you’re looking at the, say, Classic II vs Big Joe II, you’re just making a decision on which size suits you better, not whether to upgrade the version you’re getting.
Whatever you choose, you’re going to be happy once that new Kamado Joe’s heating up in your backyard. So, lets get to it!
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Table of Contents
The Quick Version: Kamado Joe Classic vs Big Joe
All of the grills in the Classic series (I, II, and III) have an 18 inch diameter, giving you 256 square inches of grilling space. The Big Joe has a 24 inch grate with 452 square inches of cooking space, about 85% extra.
Either way you go, both the Classic and Big Joe’s come with KJ’s awesome Divide and Conquer cooking system. This increases the capacity and lets you set up 2 full grates if you want to. The Classic III and Big Joe III have larger Divide and Conquer systems because they’re 3-tier, not 2. There’s also an add-on Grill Expander available for all models.
As with all larger grills, the Big Joe will use more charcoal to heat. It also takes longer to warm up because there’s more ceramic to bring up to temperature. That being said, Kamado Joe’s are so efficient that the charcoal usage between the two models isn’t hugely different. More, yes. But, the Big Joe isn’t a huge coal guzzler.
But, any Kamado Joe is extremely good value when you consider the quality, innovation and how long these will last you.
If you think you need the bigger size (or will in the future), buy it now instead of realizing you want to upgrade a bit down the track. You’ll save a heap of money overall, and, the grill won’t cost that much extra to run. But, if you think the Classic will do the trick, it’s a good moderate size that will feed a decent number of people, even from a single burn.
A Bit About Kamado Joe's
If you already know everything there is to know about Kamado Joe’s, feel free to skip on to the next section.
But, as a super quick intro, Kamado Joe are one of the largest manufacturers of high-quality, ceramic kamados. They rival the industry leader, The Big Green Egg, with their bright red design and have added innovative features that well outshine that of the competition. There’s also a huge range of add-on options you can get including pizza inserts, rotisseries, and, automatic temperature controllers.
Kamados are one of the most versatile barbecues you can get. They’re excellent at grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, searing, and, can turn out some of the best pizza we’ve ever eaten. Because of their design, they’re also really fuel efficient charcoal burners, and, are such good quality they should well outlast their generally very long warranties.
Inside their thick, ceramic shell, there’s a firebox at the base. Above that you’ll find a mix of heat deflectors and grates so you can set it up for direct, high-heat grilling, or, indirect, low and slow smoking. The temperature is adjusted through the top vent, and, they can burn unassisted for many hours when set up right.
What's The Difference Between the Kamado Joe Models?
Kamado Joe Classic I & Big Joe I
Kamado Joe Classic II & Big Joe II
Kamado Joe Classic III & Big Joe III
For more information, read our review of the Kamado Joe I.
For more information, read our review of the Kamado Joe II.
For more information, read our review of the Kamado Joe III.
What Sizes Do Kamado Joe's Come In?
But, here’s where it gets a bit more complicated…
2-Tier Divide and Conquer - On the Series I and II
The I and II series come with the 2-Tier Divide and Conquer® Cooking System. This means you get 2 levels on which you can set up different half moon plates for the same total capacity but different cooking conditions e.g. one direct and one indirect heat.
But, you can also set the half moon grates down the bottom and the full grate up the top so you’ve essentially doubled your cooking space, taking the 18″ Classic I and II’s capacity to 508 square inches. The Big Joe I and Big Joe II upped to 904 square inches by using the double full grate option.
3-Tier Divide and Conquer - On the Series III
The premium Classic III comes with a 3-Tier Divide and Conquer cooking system. Using that boosts your total cooking area to 510 square inches on the Classic III and 864 square inches on the Big Joe III.
On the 3-Tiered Divide and Conquer, you can fit a maximum of 6 half moons plus 2 heat deflectors. Or, 4 half moons and the SloRoller insert. Just note, only 2 half moons, 2 heat deflectors and the SloRoller are included with the base Kamado Joe III models. You’ll have to buy extra grates if you want to use the larger capacity.
Grill Expander - Fits the Series I, II and III, Available for the Classic and Big Joe
And, just when you think that’s more than enough options to think over, there’s a grill expander available as an optional extra too. You buy it either for the 18″ Classic size or 24″ Big Joe size. But, this fits all models, I, II and III.
Basically, there’s a lot of options on a Kamado Joe! Here’s some of the choices set out in a table below.
Classic I & II
Big Joe I & II
Big Joe III
Single grate (square inches)
Divide and Conquer (square inches)
2 full grates (square inches)
Divide and Conquer + Grill Expander
2 full grates + Grill Expander (square inches)
Full capacity of 6 half-moon grates (square inches)
Not specified but approximately 764
Not specified but approximately 1356
What Are The Differences Between the Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe?
So, What Size Kamado Joe Should I Get?
So far we’ve given you a whole lot of numbers for how big the different models of Kamado Joe’s are.
But, what does that look like in reality?
Because there are so many ways you can set up the Kamado Joe thanks to the Divide and Conquer Cooking System, it’s hard to 100% say.
But as a general guide…
Kamado Joe 18" Classic's
The 18″ Classic models can fit 1 reasonable sized whole brisket per rack. With the 2 rack setup, you could fit 2. You could also cook 2 large pork butts, chickens, or even 1 decently large turkey.
In terms of smaller cuts, you should get about 10 burger patties or steaks per whole rack. So, 10 if you want direct high heat. Or, you could stack 2 grates and rotate the burgers so start over high-heat and finish cooking further away.
Basically, the Classic is plenty of space to cook for a family of 5 and entertain sometimes. But, if you’re planning on inviting a lot of people over, you’ll definitely need to get creative with your space usage. Or, just cook in batches.
Kamado Joe 24" Big Joe
The extra width of the Big Joe means that you can fit 2 whole briskets laid flat across a single grate. You should also get on 3-4 pork butts, 3-4 chickens, or 1 very large turkey.
Big Joe’s have been known to fit up to 8 pork butts. But, it’s a lot of grease for the kamado to handle! And, if you’re using the grill expander, it’s probably not going to be enough height to clear the larger cuts. At the end of the day, it’s a big barbecue and even if you’re not using it to max capacity, it’s quite nice to have the extra breathing room.
When it comes to grilling burgers or steak, the Big Joe fits up to about 21 patties or medium-sized steaks on a single rack. Again, if you’re happy with indirect cooking to finish off, you could layer racks to fit even more.
So, the larger size is better value for money. And, at the end of the day, buying big now means you shouldn’t have to upgrade if you find yourself hosting bigger parties or your family size changes down the track.
But, if you don’t need to spend the extra, saving money on the grill is going to pay for a lot of meat and charcoal!
You can find a full list of our favorite accessories for the Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe models by following the link.
And, for the latest prices, click the links below to take you to Amazon.
Our Verdict on the Kamado Joe Classic vs Big Joe
Kamado Joe give you a lot of choice when it comes to capacity with all of the flexible cooking options available on the Classic and Big Joe I, II and III models. The Divide and Conquer system and optional grate expander let you pretty much double your useable space inside any of these innovative ceramic cookers.
Basically, the Classic should feed a family of 5 comfortably and can accommodate larger quantities when entertaining by being a bit creative. And, the Big Joe can easily feed a tribe of 10, catering to many more by using the extra grate options.
With charcoal usage not being significantly greater on the Big Joe, the decision really comes down to how much you want to cook and your budget.
If you think you need the extra space, or are a bigger is better person, forking out for the Big Joe now is going to save you over being a bit unsatisfied with the Classic. That being said, the Classic will do most people and is such good value!
At the end of the day, you’re choosing between two top barbecues! Either’s going to be great. And, we’ve seen people make the capacity work time and time again. So, what’s your gut telling you?
Jared Brown, an avid lover of all things meat has a fearless enthusiasm for experimenting with anything that's grilling, smoking or outdoor cooking. With a wealth of experience across a range different barbecue types, Jared's got a real knack for helping others make a decision they're happy with, ensuring they find the perfect fit regardless of conventional notions of the 'right' choice. This unique approach has made Jared a trusted guide in the world of barbecue.