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Kamado Joe I vs II: Save Cash or Invest in a Better BBQ?

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. 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 II vs III

Table of Contents

What is the Kamado Joe Series I?

The Series I is Kamado Joe’s most basic set of kamados. Available in both the Classic 18″ and Big Joe 24″ sizes, this version was actually added to Kamado Joe’s lineup after their original Series II as a more affordable option.

And, while it doesn’t have the features that the Series II or top of the line, Series III have, the Series I gives you all the basics you need to cook really great food.

You still get the same high-fired glazed ceramic body for excellent heat retention, an innovative AMP firebox, and Kamado Joe’s 2-tier Divide and Conquer for improved capacity.

Kamado Joe Classic I Lid Closed

With a wide temperature range, you can smoke, grill, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue pretty much anything on one of these.

We’ve had one for many years and can attest to it being a great barbecue. Read our full Kamado Joe Classic I review for all the details. Or, watch KJ’s walk-around video below.

Specs for the Kamado Joe Classic I

BBQ type: Kamado

Material: Glazed ceramic

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 256 sq in +

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: 18″D x 18.11″W x 48″H

Price guide: $$$

Model: Classic I

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

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Kamado Joe Series I

Pros
Cons

What is the Kamado Joe Series II?

The Series II is as the intermediat and most poular model in Kamado Joe’s lineup.

Positioned between the more economical and basic option Series II, and the pricier, feature-laden Series III, it strikes a perfect balance between delivering features and a great price.

Fish and sides on the Kamado Joe Classic II

Offered in two sizes, the 18″ Classic II, and the 24″ Big Joe II, the kamados within this series have identical features, the only difference is their size.

Whether you want to grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, or barbecue, everything you need to do just that is included with a Kamado Joe Series II kamado. There’s an excellent range of accessories available. But, you don’t need to buy anything else.

Here’s a brief overview of this awesome barbecue. You can also read our full Kamado Joe Classic II review.

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

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Kamado Joe Series II

Pros
Cons

How Are the Kamado Joe I & II the Same?

To look at, there’s hardly any difference between the KJ Series I and Series II kamados. And, that’s because there’s quite a bit that’s the same about these two models.

Here’s what you’ll get with both the Kamado Joe I and Kamado Joe II.

Ceramic Body and 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.

Kamado Joe Classic I Smoking

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, backed by their lifetime guarantee on the ceramics.

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 & Conquer

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.

2-tier cook setup on Kamado Joe Classic I

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’ve got options and can set your barbecue up exactly how you like it on both the Series I and Series II KJ’s.

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 and it’s included as an essential in both their Series II and II ranges.

AMP Firebox Inside Kamado Joe Classic I

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.

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.

Kamado Joe 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. Just store hot ashes responsibly.

The slide out ash draw is a feature of both the Kamado Joe I and II models.

How Are the Kamado Joe I & II Different?

While both the Kamado Joe I and Kamado Joe II models deliver the basic quality and function you need to make really great food, the Series II kamados do have a number of innovative upgrades that do make using it easier.

These upgrades are available on the Classic II and Big Joe II models only.

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 Air Lift Hinge.

Kamado Joe Air Lift Hinge

Reducing the dome weight by a very significant 96%, you can literally open it with your pinky finger.

But, it’s not just there to save your arms. The better hinge also reduces the risk of it cracking if the lid is accidentally slammed shut. It’s also really easy when the kids want to help out.

Kontrol Tower Top Vent

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 stay in position when you open the lid, it does let rain in, and, is more susceptible to rusting.

Kamado Joe Classic I Review

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 most of the weather out. And, it stays in place through opening and closing the lid.

Kamado Joe Kontrol Tower

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.

Fibreglass Gasket and Stainless Steel Latch

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

Kamado Joe Wire Mesh Fiberglass Gasket

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

Coupled with the neat stainless steel latch, you can also lock the whole lid shut which we do when the kids are hanging around, or we’re not using it.

Cost Comparison

The Series II Kamado Joe’s are more expensive than the more basic Series I.

Here’s how the latest prices compare for both the Classic and Big Joe models.

Photo Title Price Buy
Kamado Joe® Classic...image Kamado Joe® Classic Joe™ I Premium 18-inch Ceramic Charcoal Grill and Smoker in Red with Cart, Side Shelves, Grill Gripper, and Ash Tool. 250 Cooking Square Inches, 2 Tier Cooking System, Model KJ23RH $714.00 buy3
Kamado Joe Classic...image Kamado Joe Classic Joe Series II 18-inch Ceramic Charcoal Grill and Smoker with Cart, Side Shelves, Stainless Steel Grates and 250 Cooking Square Inches in Red, Model KJ-23RHC buy3
Kamado Joe Big...image Kamado Joe Big Joe Series I 24-inch Ceramic Charcoal Grill and Smoker with Cart, Side Shelves, Stainless Steel Grates and 450 Cooking Square Inches in Red, Model BJ24Rh buy3
Kamado Joe Big...image Kamado Joe Big Joe Series II 24-inch Ceramic Charcoal Grill and Smoker with Cart, Side Shelves, Stainless Steel Grates and 450 Cooking Square Inches in Red, Model BJ24RHC $1,999.00 buy3

So, What’s Better? The KJ Series 1 or 2?

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 accessories like the JoeTisserie or DoJoe 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 really can’t go wrong with either. But, we’d choose the Classic II or Big Joe II if the budget allowed for it!

The next question for you is, are you getting the Classic or Big Joe?

FAQs About the Kamado Joe I vs II

The Kamado Joe 2 has an updated top vent called the Kontrol Tower. This cast-aluminum vent is weather-resistant, has two sliders for air adjustment, and stays in place when you open and close the lid.

The Series 2 KJ’s also have a longer-lasting fibreglass gasket and the Air Lift Hinge which reduces the dome weight significantly.

If you’re looking for one of the cheapest but best quality kamados, the Classic and Big Joe I’s are hands down, the best options.

These Series I barbecues have everything you need for really great cooking.

No, they don’t have all the features that the Series II and III have. But, with the same quality shell, the same flexible 2-tier cooking system, the same safer AMP firebox, and a good quality cart, they’re totally worth it.

Read about our experience using it in our Kamado Joe Classic I review.

There’s a good reason the Kamado Joe Classic II takes the cake in our best kamado smokers line-up. This proven and very popular kamado is packed with innovative features that really do make smoking and grilling on it easier, more flexible, and more fun.

We think it’s 100% worth the price on the tag. And, the limited lifetime warranty is reassuring that this barbecue is good enough to last the longhaul.

Read about our experience using the Kamado Joe II in our review.

Yes, Kamado Joe give the same limited lifetime warranty to all of their barbecues.

So, whether you go for the Series 1 or the Series 2, you’re getting lifetime cover on the ceramics, 5 years on any metal parts, 3 years on the heat deflectors, and 2 years on everything else.

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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 committed 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.

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