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 Big Joe, 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 the upper vent 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 cooker as 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 3¼" 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 13mm nut and washer to hold it in place in the cooker. The stem is 2⅜" 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 12-inch cast iron powder coated fire grate. The firebox and the fire ring both have slits cut in them to help ward off cracking and breaking. Notice the small pocket in the top edge of the firebox at the back. We'll get to that curious feature next.
That little pocket in the rim of the firebox that we mentioned is there to hold the ceramic firebox divider. Below you can see a photo of the divider, and how it fits into the firebox. This allows you to build a smaller fire in one side of the firebox to create a cooler zone on the other side of the cooker. The tabs on the ends of the divider fit into the pockets in the rim of the firebox while the button on the bottom of the divider fits into a hole in the center of the fire grate.
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. For those of you who are counting, the grid is actually 23¾ inches in diameter. It weighs about 8 pounds, 11¾ ounces.
The gasket is a felt-like material. Not much to say about it other than the fact that after 2 years of regular use, the gasket on our Classic Kamado Joe cooker looked almost new. The material appears to be able to stand up to very high heat without any problems of melting or peeling off. 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:
So, a bit more on comparing the Big Joe hinge to the BGE XL hinge. As you can see in the photos below, the Big Joe hinge is one big sturdy assembly with the advantage that there is really no opportunity for the hinge to get out of adjustment. The price you pay is that the lid is somewhat "heavy" to open. The BGE XL hinge is actually four assemblies; two hinges and two springs that all bolt on the bands that hold the base and lid. The advantage is that the opening action is a sort of compound "slide and raise" motion that gives you a "lighter" lid. The downside is that you have four components that have to be tight and in adjustment for the lid to operate properly. If things aren't kept tight and in adjustment, the lid's movement is somewhat sloppy and wobbly.
Here are a few photos of the bolts holding the bands and the mechanism used for the side tables:
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 3¼ 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 Classic 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. We don't have an XL BGE in a cart to compare, but we assume that the Big Joe cart is equally harder to tip, if not more so.
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.)
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.
Here is a photo of the humble grill gripper, as previously noted, made from 304 stainless steel:
And 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. Since we did our review of the Classic Kamado Joe cooker, Kamado Joe has added a spark screen, as you can see here. You do need to keep watch for sparks and embers coming out the lower vent. We have had seen 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. So the spark screen is a welcome improvement!
One note about size before we move on. If you have a temperature controller such as a BBQ Guru, and have the older adapter for the large Big Green Egg (which also fits the Classic Joe), you won't be able to use it on the Big Joe. The height of the vent is greater and you need a larger adapter. BBQ Guru now has a rectangular adapter that on its side fits the Classic Joe, or on its end fits the Big Joe.
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