Kamado Joe Classic Ceramic Charcoal Cooker

Photo Tour of the Kamado Joe
Now let's take a closeup look at some of the features and components that make up the Kamado Joe cooker, starting with the upper vent. It's made from powder-coated cast iron. You'll notice that there is no handle and that's because it isn't intended to be removed during cooking. As you can see below, the top of the cooker has gasket material to hold the upper vent in place. You don't need to take it off for high-temperature cooking because the opening of the top of the cooker is the same size as the opening of the upper vent. Opening the slider gives you just about the maximum vent opening possible. We were able to get the Kamado Joe to 750°F with this arrangement without even trying. You may find that after some cooking, the cast iron top loosens as the gasket material shrinks a bit. You may wish, in that case, to add another layer of gasket material to tighten it up.

A few more words about the upper vent: The vent will close tightly enough to snuff out the fire when you are done cooking. It takes a little bit longer than it took our large Big Green Egg that has a ceramic rain cap, but nothing to worry about. Also, the upper vent is not watertight. After a hard rain, a significant amount of water got into our cooker. It is highly recommended that you buy a cover and use it on your cooker when you aren't cooking. Also, if you really want to, a ceramic rain cap from a large Big Green Egg cooker will just fit over the gasket material and provide an air- and water-proof seal for the top of your cooker.

Now for a look at the materials used to construct the cooker itself. Kamado Joe describes the material they use for the body of the cookeras a high fire heat-resistant ceramic material. The surface is a heat-resistant ceramic coating. As you can see from the photo below, the outer surface exhibits crazing, a perfectly normal attribute of ceramic glazes. (One manufacturer who happens to use something other than a ceramic glaze for their cookers likes to point out the crazing on competitors' cookers as if it is a defect. Again, it is normal.)

Next, on to the thermometer. It has a large 3-1/8" dial and a generous range of 150-900°F. It is easily visible from some distance. The thermometer is not adjustable. It has a threaded mounting and a 14mm nut and washer to hold it in place in the cooker. The stem is 2-3/8" long, so not likely to penetrate the food you are cooking and give false readings.

The inside of the cooker contains no real surprises. There is a fire box, a fire ring and a 10-inch cast iron powder coated fire grate. Notice the three notches in the top of the fire ring. Well, notice the two that show in the photograph below. There are three notches located equally spaced around the fire ring. Later on we'll show you the heat deflector accessory and you'll see that the three legs of the heat deflector sit in those notches. You will want to make sure that you place the fire ring in the cooker with one of the notches at the rear, so that the heat deflector stand will be properly positioned to accept the cooking grate in the right orientation (with the hinged section to the front.)

Next let us look at the cooking grid. It is made from 304 grade stainless steel and has a hinged front section so you can add smoking wood chunks or chips to the fire if you like. It is quite a substantial grid.

The gasket is a felt-like material. Not much to say about it other than so far after about 6 cooks (including 2 high heat cooks), it appears to be in very good shape. Something which we believe to be unique to the Kamado Joe cooker is that there is a layer of gasket material between the bands and the cooker, in addition to the gasket which is attached to the edge of the base and the dome. That layer of gasket between the band and the shell makes for a better fit. Also, when the dome and base come out of the kiln, if one is a bit larger than the other, the larger one is ground down so that the dome and base are the same diameter where the bands go. Here's a closeup look at the material.

Now let's move on to the metal bits. Here is the composition of all the various metal parts:

Here are some closeups of some of the metal components on the cooker:

The cart is another great feature of this cooker. It comes in only two parts. Assembling it is as simple as fitting the four vertical pieces of the top bit into the four sockets on the lower bit. It is made from powder-coated cast iron and has two locking casters, which implies of course that it also has two non-locking casters. The wheels on the casters appear to be 2-7/8 inches in diameter and the cart rolls smoothly across our deck. It should also be noted that the cart has the widest footprint of any carts we have seen and the result is a more stable cart-cooker combination. Just for fun, we compared the force required to tip the Kamado Joe cart and cooker with the force required to tip a large Big Green Egg in its Eggnest. The Kamado Joe required 20% more force to tip the cart.

Next, let's take a look at the non-metallic components. We almost said "wooden", but of course the side tables, handle and ash tool handle are made from bamboo. We are big fans of bamboo and we really like its use on this cooker. As you can see, the components are made from laminated pieces of bamboo. (If you purchase the black cooker, the bamboo is finished in a teak finish.) We really like having a nice big handle that can be grabbed from the side as well as the center.

While we are on the subject of side tables, we have to mention that the hinge mechanism for the side tables is really the only thing about this cooker we did not like. If you attempt to raise a side table by lifting it from the front corner (which is where we instinctively reached), it will come out of its brackets. You need to lift it by the center of the outside edge or use two hands, one on each corner. We much prefer the mechanism used by another maker where the side tables are fastened to the brackets with screws and nuts. That said, the mechanism used is very simple to assemble; just insert the pins into the slots and you are done.

And finally, here is a photo of the humble grill gripper, as previously noted, made from 304 stainless steel:

Editor's Note: The following text and photos relating to the lower vent are an addition to our original review, posted 2 days later. We just forgot!

And finally (finally), here are some photos of the lower stainless steel vent. It is made from 304 stainless steel. It slides easily and precisely and as you can see when the cooker is in the cart, ash removal is easy. You can hold any type of pan beneath the vent and scrape ashes into it. We would like to see a spark arresting screen for safety reasons. You do need to keep watch for sparks and embers coming out the lower vent. We have had said sparks and embers exit the lower vent on our large Big Green Egg and see no reason why it might not happen with this cooker also.

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