Akorn Jr vs Kamado Joe Jr – Clash of the Mini Red Kamados

A red Akorn Jr and a red Kamado Joe Jr on a pink background

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Chargriller is well-known for their economical barbecues. Along with its bigger brother, the Akorn Jr is one of the company’s popular kamado grills. The things that make it stand out are the insulated steel construction, the performance, and of course the price.

Kamado Joe is a rising star in the grilling industry. This company makes some beautiful and gorgeous grills. The Kamado Joe Jr is one of them. It’s the smallest, yet still produces amazing food similar to larger Kamado Joes.

These two grills have many similarities as well as differences. In this Akorn Jr vs Kamado Joe Jr comparison, we’ll go into more details about them.

Kamado Joe Jr vs Akorn Jr – The Key Similarities & Differences

These are the links to a detailed review of each grill in case you want to learn more:

Similarities

Versatility

Kamado grill is considered a smoker grill combo. It means you can both grill and barbecue on the Akorn Jr and the Kamado Joe Jr. Everything from regular hot dogs and steaks to pork butt and beef ribs. Just have to adjust the temperatures accordingly using each cooker’s respective vents system.

Given their cooking space, you can also fit a 10.25” cast iron skillet to do bacon or smash burgers. If you need head room for beer can chicken, simply drop the grate to the lower level on both grills. In addition to that, you can even turn them into a temporary fire pit by removing the grate. You can then make some S’more with it.

Anything is possible with these two cookers.

Shape & Profile

The KJ Jr and the Akorn Jr share a similar shape and profile.

They both look like a red egg, with a big handle in the front and two thinner carrying handles on the sides. The front handles are thick and grippy. They don’t get hot during cooking and generally easy to clean with a wet towel.

Both grills have a tripod stand, with the Kamado Joe Jr having an additional circular base for extra support and stability (it’s heavier). The stand also elevates the two cookers so their bottom sits quite far from the ground. This is great because you don’t have to worry about the heat from the bottom destroying your table.

The built-in thermometer is located at the lid on both grills. Front and center.

At the very top, you’ll find the top vent. The bottom vent is where you scoop out the ash. Keep in mind that the Akorn Jr has a removable ash pan whereas the KJ Jr doesn’t.

Cooking Size

Both of them have roughly the same cooking space as the Weber Smokey Joe although the Akorn Junior is just a little larger (153 vs 148 square inches).

That being said, you can fit a pork shoulder inside both grills. You can also do pork ribs, but you have to cut the slab in half or get a ribs rack if you cook more than one. Sadly, a brisket or a turkey won’t be able to fit in there.

For smaller food items, they can handle 6 burger patties, 6 chicken breasts, or 2 ribeye steaks.

Overall, the cooking size of these two grills is perfect for 2 people. If you cook for more than that, you’d want to do it in batches.

Fuel Miser

Thanks to their material and construction, both cookers allow you to save on fuel. A single load of lump charcoal can last many cooks.

Lack Of Accessories

Due to their smaller size, there aren’t many accessories for them. 

You can find a sear plate for the Kamado Joe Jr and a heat deflector for the Akorn Jr. There are also a few gadgets available from third-party companies, such as BBQ Guru or Kick Ash Basket. But that’s it.

You can try to fit larger grills’ accessories into these two grills, but some modifications are required here.

Differences

Assembly

Both grills come in a branded box. Everything is packed neatly and carefully inside.

The KJ Jr is actually pre-assembled. You just have to remove some packing material and you’re ready to grill.

However, you have to put everything together from scratch for the Akorn Jr. The part that will frustrate many people is assembling the three handles. They’re a little too difficult to screw in all the way.

Material & Construction

The KJ Jr is made from a porous 1.25” thick ceramic. This material holds heat extremely well, which is great for the wintertime. On the outside, the grill also has a heat-resistant coating that protects and keeps it looking good for a long time.

That said, ceramic is fragile. If you happen to drop it, say goodbye to your KJ Jr. It’s also heavy, which makes moving it by yourself a pain in the rear.

The Akorn Jr is constructed from two sheets of 22-gauge steel. This double layer creates a heat insulator that is as efficient as ceramic. It’s also lighter and less expensive than ceramic, which brings the total cost down significantly. Better yet, it’s not fragile at all. If you happen to drop your Akorn Jr, it’s going to be fine.

However, one weakness of this material is rusting. Char-griller puts a powder coating to protect the steel, but it will strip off over time. Therefore, you might have to buy a cover or store the Akorn Jr inside to protect it from the elements.

Gasket

The KJ Jr features a set of felt gaskets, on the lid and the body. They’re soft and flexible. And because of the heavy lid pushing down when you close it, the felt does a great job of sealing the grill tightly. You won’t find any air leaks with the KJ Jr.

The Akorn Jr has fiberglass gaskets. You’ll find them in between the three parts of the grill — the lid, the body, and the ash pan. Keep in mind that the gaskets are only on one edge.

These fiberglass gaskets do an OK job of sealing the Akorn Jr. For the one in between the lid and the body, you have to use the latch in front of the lid to shut it tighter. The reason is due to the lightweight steel, the lid isn’t that heavy. Thus it doesn’t create enough pressure to push the gasket all the way down.

As a result, air leaks do happen on the Akorn Jr.

Cooking Grate

The Kamado Joe Junior has a 304 stainless steel cooking grate. This stuff is high quality and doesn’t rust. It has a hinged opening that allows you to add more charcoal and/or smoking woods. There is no warming rack available for the KJ Jr unfortunately.

The Akorn Jr, on the other hand, has a cast iron cooking grate. It’s better than stainless steel in the searing department, creating these amazing grill marks on your steak. But it’s easy to rust if you don’t take care of it properly and regularly.

That said, the Akorn Jr’s grate does have a round center where you can remove it to add more fuel. It also features two holes that allow you to insert a small warming rack. A little extra cooking space just in case.

Temperature Control

One thing that Char Grillers does a little better than Kamado Joe is to have numbers on the vents. That way, you have good reference points for future cooks.

Both grills use the same vents system that you can find in any kamado — one at the top and one at the bottom. Both can hold heat and maintain consistent temperature extremely well.

However, ceramic is more responsive when it comes to temperature changes. Opening up or closing down the vents and the temperatures will adjust accordingly in a few minutes.

That’s not the case with double-walled steel. Once it gets hot, it stays there and takes a long time to come down. Because of that, you might want to start slowly if you’re planning to smoke foods on the Akorn Jr.

Cleaning & Maintenance

The Kamado Joe Jr includes a handy ash tool that is for scraping off the ash at the bottom vent. Other than that, you don’t have to do much to maintain the grill. There is no need to season the stainless steel cooking grate. Maybe clean off the food bits after cooking. But that’s all.

The Akorn Jr doesn’t have any ash tool. It’s because the grill has a removable ash pan. It takes a little while to know how to remove and put it back. But once you know it, it’s fairly simple since you don’t have to shove any tool through the bottom draft door to clean out the ash.

Still, you have to season the cast iron grate. Otherwise, it’ll rust away quickly.

Portability

Both cookers have a small and compact profile, which is perfect for a small backyard or cooking on the go.

However, the KJ Jr is way heavier than the Akorn Jr (68lbs). It’s also more fragile. Even though one person can handle the weight, it’s better if two people carry it, especially long distance or down to the boat. You don’t want to risk damaging the grill.

The Akorn Jr is lighter (40lbs). You can even reduce the overall weight by removing the cooking grate and the fire box. Steel isn’t fragile either. Therefore, it’s easier to move around by yourself.

Warranty

The Kamado Joe Jr has:

  • A 1-year warranty on thermometer and gasket.
  • A 3-year warranty on the heat deflector.
  • A 5-year warranty on metal and cast iron parts.
  • A lifetime warranty on ceramic parts.

The Char Griller Akorn Jr has:

  • A 1-year warranty for any manufacturer defects.
  • A 5-year warranty for the hood and the exterior of the body (only if it’s a rust-through).

Resale Value

Due to its high quality parts and material, the Kamado Joe Jr commands a higher price. Thus higher resale value if you’re planning to sell it later on.

On the other hand, the Akorn Jr is less expensive and easier to deteriorate if not cared for. As a result, its resale value is quite low.

A Handy Comparison Table

 Kamado Joe JrAkorn Jr
Dimensions16"W x 27"H x 20.75"D20"W x 25"H x 20"D
Material1.25" thick ceramic22-gauge steel, 2 layers
Gasket MaterialFeltFiberglass
Cooking Grate Material304 stainless steelCast iron
Cooking Grate Dimension13.5" diameter14" diameter
Cooking Grate TypeHingedRemovable center
Warming RackNot availableAvailable through third-party companies
Total Cooking Space148 square inches153 square inches
Weight68lbs40lbs
Fire BoxOne-piece ceramicOne-piece steel (third layer of insulation)
Fire RingOne-piece ceramicNot included
Fire GrateCast ironSteel
Spring Assisted LidYesNo
Built-in ThermometerYesYes
Smoking Stone/Heat DeflectorIncludedNot included
Grill GripperIncludedIncluded
Ash ToolIncludedNot included
Top VentCast iron daisy wheelHas numbers, with adjustable protruding tab
Bottom VentAsh doorRemovable ash pan
Temperature Range225F - 750F225F - 750F
PriceHighLow
Resale ValueHighLow

Kamado Joe Jr

YouTube video

What’s Included

  • Grill body and lid
  • Cast iron stand
  • Cast iron fire grate
  • Cast iron daisy wheels temp controller
  • Ceramic fire ring
  • Ceramic fire box
  • Ceramic heat deflector (with holding rack)
  • 304 stainless steel cooking grate
  • Grill gripper
  • Ash tool

What We Like

  • Quality material and parts
  • Better warranty
  • Beautiful grill
  • More responsive to temperature control
  • Doesn’t require a lot to maintain
  • Higher resale value

What We Don’t Like

  • Heavier and more fragile
  • Higher price tag
  • Lack of accessories

>> BUY KAMADO JOE JR <<

Chargriller Akorn Jr

YouTube video

What’s Included

  • Owner’s manual
  • Grill lid
  • Grill body
  • Removable ash pan
  • Steel firebox
  • 14” cast iron cooking grate (with removable center)
  • Top vent (with numbers, 0 to 5)
  • Three legs
  • Grill gripper
  • A box with all the hardwares to assemble the grill 

What We Like

  • Lightweight and easier to carry around
  • Not easy to break
  • Affordable
  • Easier to clean out the ash with a removable ash pan
  • Insulate steel construction holds heat just as well as ceramic

What We Don’t Like

  • Easier to rust
  • Lower resale value
  • Lack of accessories

>> BUY AKORN JR <<

Which Model To Buy Then?

Both of these kamados can be a mini everyday grill for quick cooks after work, a backup or a searing station for other bigger grills, and a great choice for camping and tailgating. Just have to be more careful with the Kamado Joe Jr when you take it somewhere.

That said, depending on what you’re looking for, each grill has its own uses.

On one hand, the Akorn Jr is certainly less expensive. But that means it’s not going to last forever. If you’re new to kamado cooking and want to test the water, consider the Akorn Jr. Even better if you’re buying on a budget. Your initial investment is rather low here.

In addition to that, if portability is one of your priorities, definitely pick the Akorn Jr. That’s because it’s lighter and doesn’t break easily. If you happen to drop the grill, it might have a dent or two, but it still works regardless.

On the other hand, the Kamado Joe Jr features high quality material and parts, not to mention better warranty. Those are equal to a higher price tag. So think of it as a long term investment.

You already know how to cook on a kamado and are willing to spend some money. You don’t want to travel much with the grill either. Then, without a doubt, give the KJ Jr a shot. Even if you don’t like the grill after all, you can always resell it for a good price.

I hope you find this article helpful. Which kamado do you end up buying? Let me know down below.

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Author

Thinh Phan

Thinh Phan

Thinh Phan is a barbecue enthusiast who fires up his grill regularly, at least 3 times a week. Combining the experience and his passion for outdoor cooking, he put together BBQInProgress.com where he shares recipe ideas along with his knowledge of grilling and barbecuing techniques.

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