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Kamado Joe II vs III: Are the Upgrades Worth the Money?

So, you’re buying a Kamado Joe and you’re not sure if you should fork out the extra for the top of the line Series III? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Here at, we love all things KJ!

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean the premium model in their line up is the best for you (…we have budgets too!).

In this comparison of the Kamado Joe II vs III, we give you the low-down on the upgrades, what’s the same and what’s different between these two ever-so-popular, top-rated kamados. In other words, we’ll help you choose the one that best matches your needs, wants and budget instead of just trying to sell you the top dollar.

Everything in this article applies to both the Kamado Joe Classic and Big Joe models. The Big Joe is simply a larger version with a 24″ diameter grate compared to the Classic at 18″.

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A Quick Comparison of the Kamado Joe II vs III

Table of Contents

What is the Kamado Joe Series II?

The Series II is the mid-range kamado is Kamado Joe’s uber-popular line-up.

It’s not the cheapest and most basic and it’s not the most expensive and feature filled. And, because of this it’s the happy middle ground that most buyers go for.

Available in two sizes; the 18″ Classic II, and 24″ Big Joe II, the kamados in the same series share all the same features, the only difference is the size.

Fish and sides on the Kamado Joe Classic II

Smoke, grill, bake, roast, braise, barbecue, you can cook really anything on this kamado. And, when you buy the Classic II or Big Joe II, it’s got everything you need to do just that. You don’t need to buy anything extra.

Here’s a quick look at this best-seller if you’re not already familiar with it. We’ve also written a full review of the Kamado Joe Classic II.

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


What is the Kamado Joe Series III?

Kamado Joe’s Series III is a newer, more premium addition to the KJ range.

With a few extra advanced features, the body is slightly taller than the Series II’s to house a extra layer of cooking grates as well as a promising but not very popular, SloRoller hyperbolic smoking insert.

Like the Series II, you can get the KJ III’s in the 18″ Classic size or the 24″ Big Joe. Either way, the features are the same, it’s only the size of the kamado that’s different.

With the extra features above and beyond the Series I and Series II, the Classic III and Big Joe III are the most expensive smokers in Kamado Joe’s traditional kamado line up.

Grilling set up on Kamado Joe Classic III

With the same wide temperature range as the Classic II, you can still smoke, grill, bake, roast, braise, and barbecue anything you want in this kamado.

Everything you need for smoking and grilling is included in the barbecue’s price. There’s nothing else you have to buy although we’ll touch on optional accessories later.

Here’s a quick peek at the Classic III.

Specs for the Kamado Joe Classic III

BBQ type: Kamado

Material: Enameled ceramic

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 256 sq in +

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: 30″D x 46.5″W x 50.5″H

Price guide: $$$$

Model: Classic III

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

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Kamado Joe Series III


How Are the Kamado Joe II & III the Same?

The Kamado Joe Series II and Series III actually have a lot in common. Regardless of which model you go for, you’ll get these great features.

Kontrol Tower Top Vent

Kamado Joe Kontrol Tower

Made from rust-resistant aluminum, the Kontrol Tower is our favorite temperature controller on any kamado grill.

Not only is it an easy and effective way to control the heat, the Kontrol Tower is also cleverly designed to reduce the amount of rain and wind that can get in through the top vent, meaning that bad weather doesn’t have such an effect on your barbecue.

Possibly even better than that, the Kontrol Tower also stays exactly where you left it after opening and closing the lid again.

It seems like only something small but, if you’ve ever used a regular kamado topper that shifts every time you open the dome meaning you have to reset the temperature, you’ll be happy to have this feature.

Air Lift Hinge

Kamado Joe Air Lift Hinge

Ceramic kamados are heavy! But, the Kamado Joe Series II and III lids don’t feel heavy thanks to the Air Lift Hinge.

This ever-so-handy innovation reduces the dome weight by a huge 96%.

It’s not just to save your arms, it also helps to reduce the risk of cracked lids from accidentally being slammed down.

AMP Firebox

Kamado Joe AMP Firebox

One of the most common problems people have with kamados is the firebox cracking from high heat. But, Kamado Joe have combated this with their Advanced Multi-Panel firebox (AMP).

Instead of having nowhere to expand to when heated up, the AMP is already broken into 5 ceramic sections so they can expand and contract without cracking. It’s such an essential that even the Kamado Joe Series I kamados have this feature too.

Wire Mesh Fibreglass Gasket

Kamado Joe Wire Mesh Fiberglass Gasket

Another feature that didn’t need updating on the Kamado Joe II vs III is the industry-leading wire mesh fiberglass gasket.

Coupled with a high-quality stainless steel latch, this gasket provides an air tight seal to lock in heat, moisture and smoke for better results and increased fuel efficiency.

But, what’s so great about Kamado Joe’s gasket vs the competitors is that it’s designed to last at least 10 years longer than the average felt gasket. That means less maintenance and lower cost over time too.

How Are the Kamado Joe II & III Different?

In a brand that prides itself on continuous innovation, their top of the line models, the Series III, do deliver some notable changes and superior features that improve it’s performance and ease of use over the cheaper Series II.

Here’s what Kamado Joe have upgraded on their Series III Classic and Big Joe.

SlōRoller Hyperbolic Smoke Chamber Insert

Kamado grills have always been good for smoking. But, the Classic III’s most innovative new feature, the SlōRoller, uses patented Harvard science to transform the kamado from primarily being a grill first to being equally as capable as a smoker as well.

Kamado Joe Classic III with SloRoller insert

By changing the air pressure, this hyperbolic smoke chamber circulates heat and smoke in a cyclonic ring to give you up to 20 times more smoke for stronger flavor and more even heat distribution than you’d get in the Classic II.

These days, you can buy the SloRoller separately to add to your Series I or II ranges. And, if you’re thinking about getting the Series III primarily for this feature, it’s cheaper to just buy the Series II and add on the SloRoller insert.

After having used the SloRoller, we’re not huge fans.

I mean, we were quite happy with how the Kamado Joe’s performed for smoking anyway. And, while we did notice a little bit of a stronger smoke ring, the flavor, tenderness, and moisture wasn’t noticeably better for us than it is smoked without the SloRoller insert. Some people do love it though.

Just be aware, you do need to keep the temperature below 500°F when using the SlōRoller. This is to keep the Teflon coating on the cast aluminum insert from degrading. Your kamado shouldn’t be this hot for smoking anyway but just be mindful of it’s limit.

3-Tier Divide and Conquer

While the Series II has the 2-tiered Divide and Conquer Cooking System, the Classic III updates that to a 3-tiered design to give you even more space and options inside it’s taller shape.

This means that on the Classic III you’ll have up to 510 square inches of cooking space when using the full Divide and Conquer while the Big Joe III gives you a whopping 864!

3-tier divide and conquer in KJ Classic III

While the Classic II has a 2-Of course you might not use all the space, setting some up with heat deflectors or leaving them empty. But, you’ve got even more flexibility to set your cooks up exactly how you like them.

This is probably our favorite thing about the Series III kamados because space is always tight in this type of smoker.

Out of the box, with the Series III you get the 3-tiered cooking rack, 1 accessory rack, 2 half-moon grates, 2 half-moon heat deflectors, and the SlōRoller. You can add another 4 half-moon plates if you want to.

Stainless Steel Charcoal Basket

Also included with the Classic III is the stainless steel dividable charcoal basket.

Lighting half a dome of charcoal in divided Series III basket

This handy feature improves fuel efficiency by holding the coals closer together. But, it also allows you to split your charcoal to place more or less on each side when using the Divide and Conquer Cooking System.

It also naturally filters the ash through the bars into the ash drawer for easy clean up.

We rate it and like it for an upgrade to the Series I and II models as well. The Classic charcoal basket or Big Joe versions will fit all of the series.

Heavy-Duty Cart

Along with all these added features, the Classic II’s simple yet sturdy cart also got a major design upgrade.

Made from heavy-duty galvanized steel, we love the look of the thicker, sturdier legs that still have the same great castors to make moving this heavy kamado grill around possible.

Heavy duty cart on Kamado Joe Classic III

There’s also an added shelf for extra storage.

And, the side shelves on the Classic III are powder-coated aluminum, a stronger and more heat-tolerant upgrade to the HDPE shelves on the Classic II.

Cost Comparison

The higher-specced Series III is obviously going to be more expensive than the slightly more basic Series II.

Here’s how the cost of the Classic and Big Joe models in these series compare.

Photo Title Price Buy
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® Classic...image Kamado Joe® Classic Joe™ Series III 18-inch Charcoal Grill & Smoker, Red, with Cart, Side Shelves, Grill Gripper, and Ash Tool, 3 Tier Cooking System, Stainless Steel Cooking Grates, Model KJ15040921 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
Kamado Joe Big...image Kamado Joe Big Joe Series III 24-inch Ceramic Charcoal Grill and Smoker with Premium Cart, SloRoller Insert and 450 Cooking Square Inches in Red, Model KJ15041021 $2,999.00 buy3

So, What’s Better? The KJ Series II or III?

If you’re on a tighter budget, the Kamado Joe Classic II is a seriously great kamado.

It’s strong, it’s durable, it grills like a boss, and smokes like it’s nobody’s business. There’s a good reason why so many loyal fans stand behind this tried and true model. And, essentially, there’s nothing wrong with it. You will be able to make really great meals on the Classic II and the Big Joe II kamados.

On the other hand, the Series III gives you that much more usable space inside the same grate width. The heavy-duty cart is really nice to have. And, the charcoal basket does make setting up dual zone cooking that much easier.

Personally, I wouldn’t buy the Series III for the SloRoller alone. I just don’t like it that much and think that the normal way of smoking on a kamado with the included heat deflector works just fine. Why change it if it wasn’t broke to start with?!?

Ultimately, we say you really can’t go wrong with their of these kamados.

If all of the upgraded features on the Series III KJ’s look great to you, go fot it. But, if it’s only say, the charcoal basket or the SloRoller insert, remember you can grab one or both of these and pair it with the Series II for a cheaper price.

Any way you go, Kamado Joe’s are our absolute favorite kamado out there. They’re incredibly good value for money, and an investment that will last a really long time.

FAQs About the Kamado Joe II vs III

The Kamado Joe Series 3 has a 3-tier vs 2-tier Divide and Conquer cooking system, a divided charcoal basket, SloRoller smoking insert, and the heavier-duty cart.

For for details, scroll up and we’ll go into the nitty gritty.

Yes, you can absolutely smoke on the Kamado Joe Classic 2 even though it doesn’t come with the SloRoller insert that’s included with the KJ Classic 3.

The Series 2 KJ’s come with a heat deflector which you place on the lower level of the Divide and Conquer cooking system. This acts as a heat sink and blocks any flare-ups from ruining the taste of your food while you cook low and slow.

The SloRoller insert just acts to boost the smoke levels and keep the good stuff rolling over your meat. If you’re keen the SloRoller but already have the Series 2 or don’t want to spend as much as the Series 3 is, you can add the SloRoller insert to the lower series.

We love the Kamado Joe II and have been cooking on it for years.

Kamados offer the best of both worlds with really great grilling and really great smoking. And, there’s no company that offers more innovative and useful features as Kamado Joe does.

The Classic II and Big Joe II were Kamado Joe’s original barbecue and they’ve stood the test of time because they’re without a doubt, that good.

The 3-tier Divide and Conquer cooking system, charcoal basket, and heavy-duty cart are all worthwhile features that the Kamado Joe Series III offers.

Personally, I wouldn’t buy the Series III kamados for the SloRoller feature alone. It might make things slightly smokier but, smoking without it is great too and I do prefer to just use the included heat deflectors that come with both the Series II and III to smoke anyway.

The Kamado Joe 2 and Kamado Joe 3 do have the same limited lifetime warranty.

This gives you a lifetime guarantee on the ceramics, 5 years on anything metal including the grates and latches, 3 years on the heat deflectors, and 2 years on any other parts.

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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