Home Reviews Kamado Joe I vs II: What Does The Upgrade Get You?

Kamado Joe I vs II: What Does The Upgrade Get You?

by Burning Brisket
Kamado Joe I vs II

Yes, yes, yes!!! You’re buying a Kamado Joe. They’re a freaking awesome barbecue and you’re going to love it. But, you’re not sure whether it’s worth paying the decent amount extra to upgrade from the basic version to the Classic II?

In this comparison of the Kamado Joe I vs II, we’ll go over everything that’s the same and different about both of these models to clearly show you what you’re getting for your money.

But, before we get started we’ve got two things to point out.

Firstly, all the features discussed in this article apply to both the 18″ Classic and the 24″ Big Joe of whichever range you’re looking at. The Big Joe is just a larger version of the Classic. Read this article for more details on that.

And secondly, whether you go for the Kamado Joe I or Kamado Joe II, they’re both going to cook the same. Yes, there’s extra features you’re getting with the upgraded model. But, the basics are the same and both will smoke and grill foods amazingly well. So, there’s no bad choice here. Let’s help you choose…

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A Quick Comparison of the Kamado Joe I vs II

What’s Different?

What’s The Same?

Air Lift Hinge

Thick ceramic body

Upgraded rain-proof Kontrol Tower top vent

Stainless steel grates

Fibreglass gasket

2-Tier Divide and Conquer cooking system

Stainless steel latch

Advanced-multi-panel firebox

Slide out ash tray

Optional accessories

Warranty

What's New With the Kamado Joe II?

Kamado Joe are a brand that really pride themselves on innovation. And, while the Classic I brings affordability to the ceramic kamado market, the Classic II adds extra, nice to have features to the mix, stepping up the durability and ease of use of this mega-popular grill and smoker.

So, here’s a bit about the extra features you’re getting with the Kamado Joe II.

Air Lift Hinge

The high-fired ceramic shell of a kamado is heavy. It’s how they do such a good 360 degree job of cooking. But, the weight does make them a bit of a pain to open and close. Enter, the Classic II’s Air Lift Hinge.

Reducing the dome weight by 96%, you can literally open it with your pinky. But, it’s not just there to save your arms. Having a better hinge also reduces the risk of the lid cracking if you accidentally slam it down. It’s also really easy when the kids want to help out.

Weather-Resistant Kontrol Tower

For those of you who haven’t used a kamado before, the top vent is a lot of what controls the temperature and smoke flow.

The Classic I has a pretty standard but, good quality, cast iron air vent. It’s great for letting you make precise changes to the temperature. But, it doesn’t always stay in position when you open the lid, does let rain in, and, is more susceptible to rusting.

The Classic II features an upgraded weather-resistant Kontrol Tower. It’s made from powder-coated cast aluminum so it can’t rust. There’s a cap over the top that keeps the weather out. And, it stays in place through opening and closing the lid.

It might not sound like much, but, the upgraded Kontrol Tower does make smoking on your kamado a heap easier. And, it’s always good to have that extra bit of durability, especially when you’re planning on your ‘cue lasting as long as a KJ will.

Fiberglass Gasket and Stainless Steel Latch

The Classic II also takes you from a standard, felt gasket, to an industry-leading wire mesh fiberglass option.

Over time, the Classic I’s gasket will need replacing (maybe after a couple of years depending on use). But, the Classic II’s is designed to last at least 10 years longer than average.

Coupled with the neat stainless steel latch, it also gives a tighter seal, locking in heat, moisture and smoke for slightly better fuel efficiency.

What's the Same On the Kamado Joe I vs II?

Ceramic Body with Stainless Steel Grates

Both the Kamado Joe I and Kamado Joe II have the same, thick-sided, high-fired ceramic shell to cook inside of. Essentially, this is what makes them so good to use. The heat retention is excellent, they’re reasonably cool to touch, and, the durability is next to none.

So, both options will give you excellent results and you’re not compromising on the actual quality of the shell by choosing the cheaper option.

Either way you go, you’re also still getting quality stainless steel grates. Rust-resistant and easy to clean, they’re long lasting and are the premium choice for any barbecue grate.

2-Tier Divide and Conquer Cooking System

One thing that really sets Kamado Joe apart from the competition is the Divide and Conquer cooking system. With both the Classic I and Classic II, you get this awesome, split-level, half-moon grate design that gives you the ultimate flexibility in setting up how you want to cook.

Want to grill a steak over the open flame while your vegetable sides cook more slowly? Simply place a heat deflector half moon under one side while positioning the cooking grate lower on the other.

Set it up with the full heat deflector for baking pizzas. Add an extra couple of half-grates for extra smoking space. Or, use the whole thing for grilling.

You can really cook anything on a kamado and the Divide and Conquer gives you the extra flexibility that other kamados simply don’t.

AMP Firebox

Cracked fireboxes are one of the most common problems ceramic kamados develop over time. But, Kamado Joe have tackled it with their Advanced Multi-Panel (AMP) firebox.

Instead of being made out of a single piece of ceramic, the AMP firebox is divided into 6 separate pieces. This lets the pieces expand and contract without cracking, minimizing breakages and reducing the maintenance costs over time.

The AMP firebox design comes with both the Series I and Series II models, giving you peace of mind.

Slide-Out Ash Drawer

Another thing that can be a huge hassle when it comes to kamados is cleaning them out. But, Kamado Joe make it easy with their patented slide-out ash drawer.

After cooking, there’s no need to get down and dirty in the firebox. The ash will have already fallen into the drawer so you can simply slide it out, empty it and you’re done. You can even empty it mid-cook if you’re doing long smokes. And, it comes standard on both the Kamado Joe I and II models.

Optional Extras

Because they’re both the same 18″ ceramic shell, whether you go for the Kamado Joe I or Kamado Joe II, you get access to the same optional accessories.

There’s the JoeTisserie that turns the KJ into an automatic turning spit, the DoJoe pizza oven, and, the iKamand that lets you control the temperature and smoke levels via WiFi and your smartphone.

But, there’s also some simple extras like a grill expander to add a third rack, the ceramic pizza stone, deep dish pizza stone, cast iron wok and soapstone non-stick surface.

If your budget is tight but you’ve got your eye on some of the accessories, it’s a perfectly good option to go for the cheaper Classic I but add-on say the JoeTisserie or iKamand to get that added functionality on what’s still a great base product.

Specs for the Kamado Joe I vs II

Kamado Joe Classic I

Model: Classic I

Barbecue material: Glazed ceramic

Grate material: 304 stainless steel

Fuel type: Charcoal

Cooking capacity: 256 sq. in. in basic setup, 407 sq. in. with grill expander, 508 sq. in. with 2 sets of grates or 660 sq. in. with 2 sets of grates and expander

Heat Range: 225°F – 750°F

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

Weight: 188 lbs

Warranty: Lifetime on ceramics, 5 years on metal parts, 3 years on heat deflector and pizza stone, 1 year on thermometer and gasket

Kamado Joe Classic II

Model: Classic II

Barbecue material: Glazed ceramic

Grate material: 304 stainless steel

Fuel type: Charcoal

Cooking capacity: 256 sq. in. in basic setup, 407 sq. in. with grill expander, 508 sq. in. with 2 sets of grates or 660 sq. in. with 2 sets of grates and expander

Heat Range: 225°F – 750°F

Dimensions: 46.5″ W x 48″ H x 28″ D

Weight: 188 lbs

Warranty: Lifetime on ceramics, 5 years on metal parts, 3 years on heat deflector and pizza stone, 1 year on thermometer and gasket

Kamado Joe Big Joe I

Model: Big Joe I

Barbecue material: Glazed ceramic

Grate material: 304 stainless steel

Fuel type: Charcoal

Cooking capacity: 452 sq. in. in basic setup, 604 sq. in. with grill expander, 904 sq. in. with 2 sets of grates or 1,056 sq. in. with 2 sets of grates and expander

Heat Range: 225°F – 750°F

Dimensions: 54″ W x 50″ H x 31″ D

Weight: 250 lbs

Warranty: Lifetime on ceramics, 5 years on metal parts, 3 years on heat deflector and pizza stone, 1 year on thermometer and gasket

Kamado Joe Big Joe II

Model: Big Joe II

Barbecue material: Glazed ceramic

Grate material: 304 stainless steel

Fuel type: Charcoal

Cooking capacity: 452 sq. in. in basic setup, 604 sq. in. with grill expander, 904 sq. in. with 2 sets of grates or 1,056 sq. in. with 2 sets of grates and expander

Heat Range: 225°F – 750°F

Dimensions: 50″ W x 54″ H x 35.7″ D

Weight: 250 lbs

Warranty: Lifetime on ceramics, 5 years on metal parts, 3 years on heat deflector and pizza stone, 1 year on thermometer and gasket

Our Verdict On The Kamado Joe I vs II

The Classic II is Kamado Joe’s most popular model, and, it’s easy to see why. What starts out as a great basic kamado with the Classic I gets some really useful extras that improve the ease of use and durability of the whole barbecue.

For the price difference, we definitely think that paying for the upgrades you get with the Kamado Joe II are well worth it! The cast aluminum Kontrol Tower is top notch and having the fiberglass gasket means less hassle and lower costs long term.

But, in saying that, if budget is tight, there’s no denying that the Kamado Joe I is a great smoker and grill. Because the shell and grates are exactly the same as you get on the Kamado Joe II, the performance isn’t any different and you’ll get just as good a results on either model. The Series I also fits exactly the same add-ons, so, if you want to put money towards smart capabilities instead, you’ve got that option.

At the end of the day, both the Kamado Joe I and II are great value for money kamados that can last a lifetime and will make some darn good chow. You can’t go wrong with either. But, we’d choose the Classic II or Big Joe II if budget allowed for it!

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