Kamado Joe Jr Review: A Close Look at This Fun Little Grill

A red Kamado Joe Junior on a pink background

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Kamado Joe is a great company. If there is a list of innovative brands out there, they should be on it. 

The company has some excellent and beautiful ceramic cookers. The Kamado Joe Junior is one of them. It’s a fun little grill.

So, let’s cut to the chase. This is an in-depth Kamado Joe Jr review. We’ll start with the unboxing then go into the details of why we highly recommend this grill.

Ready?

Unboxing

A Word About Kamado Joe

Big Green Egg (BGE) was always a dominant force in the kamado grilling sphere. However, things changed after 2009 when Kamado Joe (KJ) entered the market. 

At first, KJ was aiming to make high-quality ceramic kamados, loaded with bells and whistles, at prices slightly below BGE. But KJ soon realized that they could further establish themselves as a premium brand by focusing on constant innovations and improvements. Fast forward to the present day, KJ grills have gained plenty of public attention. And they’ve truly become a leader and an innovator in the industry.

KJ’s main product line consists of the Classic, the Big Joe, and the Joe Jr (our focus of this article). They also have the Pro Joe which is for restaurants or large families. Recently, KJ has entered the pellet grilling market with their Pellet Joe.

Besides those, the company also sells accessories and lump charcoal for their grills. The KJ Big Block charcoal actually made it to our best lump charcoal list.

First Impression Of The KJ Junior

Wow. Just wow.

The packaging on this thing is amazing. It comes in a branded box with its own pallet. The grill inside is carefully secured with proper packing material. Don’t forget that the ceramic parts are fragile. So this is to ensure they’re protected from any impact during transportation.

The unboxing of the grill is also simple and straightforward. You just have to cut the packing tape, remove the top of the box then the four sides, and that is IT. The grill is already pre-assembled. What you need to do now is remove the accessories and some plastic wrap. Put the accessories back to the grill and start grilling.

Then comes the grill.

The Kamado Joe Jr looks beautiful in all of its glory. A gorgeous glossy red ceramic body sitting on a black cast iron stand. Really nice contrast there, KJ! 

Keep in mind that at one point, the KJ Jr did come in an all-black version. Some of us wish we could have that, don’t we?

At 68 lbs, the Junior does feel a bit heavy for a single person, but it’s still manageable. The thermometer is front and center, showing temperatures in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. The lid and body are tightly sealed together by a solid felt gasket. The fire box, fire ring and fire grate fit snugly without any gap.

The other components of the grill feel substantial and well-made. Everything from the handle to the daisy wheel to the ash tool and the grill gripper. 

Overall, nothing to complain about the build quality of this grill.

What’s Included?

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

Specs

Exterior Dimensions16″ W x 27″ H x 20.75″ D
Materialceramic
Ceramic Thickness1.25″
Gasket Materialfelt
Colorred
Cooking Grate Materialstainless steel
Cooking Grate Dimensions13.5″ diameter
Cooking Grate Typehinged
Total Grilling Space148 sq in (no extra warming rack)
Weight68 lbs
Fuel Sourcecharcoal
Spring Assisted Lidyes
Built-in Thermometeryes
Temperature Range225F – 750F

Who Is It For?

If you want a portable kamado grill for camping or tailgating, then the Kamado Joe Junior is a great choice. 

It can also be a mini-sized everyday BBQ if you’re a couple or a small family. Seriously, it can perform as well as other KJ larger grills but at a fraction of the cost. 

If you plan to entertain a large crowd, the KJ Jr obviously isn’t the one. But what it can do is to act as a backup grill or a searing station for other bigger grills that you have.

Also, don’t worry about the quality of the Junior just because it’s the smallest. That’s not the case at all. This grill is indeed a mighty little beast.

If any of the scenarios above sounds like yours, head over to Amazon or BBQGuys for more customer reviews and the current price. Links down below.

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Kamado Joe Jr Grill Review

Construction

Ceramic Body & Lid

Similar to other kamados, the main material that is used to make the KJ Jr is ceramic. It’s porous and about 1.25” thick.

The thickness and porosity allow the grill to hold heat and maintain a consistent temperature for a long time. As a result, you burn less charcoal and end up saving money.

On the exterior of the ceramic, KJ applies a heat-resistant coating that keeps the grill looking good for many years to come. That also explains the attractive glossy sheen that the Junior has.

Ceramic Fire Box & Fire Ring

Inside the grill, you’ll also find a ceramic fire box and fire ring (except for the fire grate being cast iron). One complaint about the fire box is that it comes in one piece. Therefore, it tends to crack over time because ceramic changes its shape as it heats up and cools down.

The newer versions of the KJ Classic and Big Joe actually have a fire box that comes in several pieces. This leaves room for the ceramic to expand and contract. As a result, it’s less likely to crack.

Keep in mind that KJ hasn’t updated the Joe Jr ever since its inception. So we’re really looking forward to a brand new Joe Jr in the near future.

Now, one drawback of ceramic is its fragility. If you happen to drop the grill, that’s game over. Ceramic is also heavy. But thankfully, to make sure that the Junior is easy to carry around, KJ put the grill on a stand with two side handles.

Cast Iron Stand

The stand is made from sturdy cast iron. It’s also powder-coated to protect the cast iron.

The stand is indeed stable. It has a strong base with three legs. When the ceramic grill sits on it, it doesn’t move at all.

Another great thing about the stand is the place where the grill sits on is quite far from the ground. This is important because the bottom of the grill tends to get hot after cooking for a while (think pizza). If you put the Joe Jr on an expensive table, you don’t have to worry about the heat destroying it or anything. That said, we’d still advise you to put something there to catch the falling ash and hot embers.

Handle, Hinge & Gasket

The handle on the Joe Junior is made from black HDPE plastic. It’s comfortable and grippy. It doesn’t get hot during cooking. It doesn’t change the color either if your BBQ gloves happen to be dirty. It’s also easy to clean. Wipe it with a wet towel and it’ll look as good as new.

The lid is supported by a spring-assisted hinge. It’s made of powder-coated galvanized iron and allows you to open the lid with ease. Mind you, this is a small kamado. Its lid isn’t that heavy compared to other larger grills. So the spring-assisted hinge just makes sense. This keeps cost down yet still provides a secure and simple opening mechanism.

The gasket is the same felt as in the older versions of the Classic and Big Joe. It isn’t the new fiberglass gasket but still is capable of sealing the grill tightly, preventing any air leaks.

Size

Many folks might wonder if the Kamado Joe Jr might be too small given its size. Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s not THAT small.

To put things into perspective, the Junior is about the same size as the Weber Smokey Joe in terms of cooking space. That’s roughly about 148 square inches. You can fit a whole pork shoulder in there. Not to mention beef ribs or “brisket on a stick”. You cannot fit a whole brisket unfortunately, but you can always separate the point and the flat and cook them one by one.

As we mentioned earlier, we do think that the Joe Jr is a perfect fit for a two-person household. Even better if you’re a single. If you have a small kid, the Junior does work if the kid isn’t a growing teenager.

We also want to mention that the Joe Jr has a compact profile. It’s designed with portability in mind. So if you have a limited backyard area or live in an apartment, it might be able to fit in there compared to other larger grills.

Performance

Temperature Control

This grill can get really HOT. C’mon, we’re talking ceramic grilling here. If you let it go, it can get up to 750F with no problem. It can also dial down to low n slow temperatures. And thanks to the thermal mass of ceramic, this grill is excellent at holding heat during the wintertime.

And believe it or not, temperature is more responsive and easier to control on the Joe Jr than bigger kamado grills. It’s due to its smaller size. There is less space to heat up. You only have to wait a short while until the temperature changes.

You also save on charcoal for the same reason. In fact, a $14 bag of lump charcoal will last you a month or even more. And that’s if you cook three times a week.

Keep in mind that the Joe Jr still uses the traditional cast iron daisy wheel as the top vent. There is nothing wrong with it. It always gets the job done. 

However, be careful if you use it under the rain. Water can easily get inside since there is no cap to cover the daisy wheel. It’s also prone to rust since it’s cast iron after all.

The bottom vent is the stainless steel draft door on the body. Same design as seen on other kamados.

Versatility

Kamado grill is generally a smoker grill combo. The Joe Jr is no exception.

You can grill hot and fast and barbecue low and slow on this grill. Just have to adjust the top vent together with the bottom vent accordingly to achieve whichever temperature that you want. Don’t forget to place the ceramic heat deflector below the grate if you want indirect heat.

You can also cook a wide variety of food. The cooking grate of the Joe Jr allows you to fit a 10.25” cast iron pan. You can make burgers or whatever you want on that. If you lower the grate to the fire ring level, you can fit a beer can chicken vertically. The Junior can also act as a makeshift fire pit if you remove the cooking grate. Doing it that way, you can make S’more if you like.

The sky’s the limit here.

Quality Of The Cook

There is nothing to complain about the flavor of the food cooked on a Joe Jr. The thick ceramic wall not only keeps the heat inside the grill, but it also holds the moisture. As a result, your food will be incredibly tender and moist.

And if you throw a few smoking woods in there, the smoke will also infuse that authentic wood-fired flavor. Now, thanks to its smaller size, more smoke will penetrate the food versus cooking on a larger grill. What you end up with is one hell of a meal — deliciously tender yet tasty and flavorful.

Below is a Youtube video from KamadoMax BBQ cooking a tri tip on a KJ Jr. Reverse sear style!

User Experience

Setting Up

As we mentioned earlier, the Joe Jr already comes pre-assembled in the package. The only thing that will slow you down is the plastic wrap on the cast iron stand. It’s really the pain in the rear to remove. But once it’s done, you’re ready to rock n roll.

Ease Of Use

It’s really easy to use the Joe Jr. Pour some coals in the fire box. Get them lit. Adjust the vents. And you’re cooking. There’s really no battery to install or password to put in.

With that said, there is a learning curve if this is your first time cooking on a kamado. But it’s really forgiving and your mistakes are still “tasty”. One thing to remember is that you have to burp the Jr before you open the lid fully. Flashback does happen in smaller kamados from time to time.

The Joe Jr does come with an ash tool and grill gripper. The ash tool allows you to scrape the ash out of the bottom draft door. The grill gripper comes in handy when you need to lift the cooking grate. 

Speaking of, the grate is made from high quality 304 stainless steel. This stuff doesn’t rust at all. It also has a hinged opening where you can add more charcoal and wood if needed. You can also insert the ash tool through that opening to rearrange your coals.

There is also a built-in thermometer on the top of the lid. You can monitor the temperature of the grill from here.

Portability

As you probably know by now, you can move this grill around with ease thanks to the two side handles attached to the stand. At 68 lbs, one person can handle the weight. But we’d recommend two people if you’re moving it long distance (like down to the boat or something). Besides, ceramic is fragile so you always want to be cautious here.

It would be nice if KJ sells a stand with wheels for the Joe Jr. It’d certainly make the moving job easier.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Cleaning and maintenance are fairly simple on the Joe Jr. You don’t have to season the cooking grate since it’s stainless steel. Just make sure to scrape off any leftover food bits after cooking.

Don’t forget to remove the bottom ash with the ash tool. It will interfere with your temperature control if you forget to do so.

Once in a while, remember to wipe the exterior of the grill along with the handle with a wet towel. That will keep the grill looking nice and clean.

Available Accessories

One of the complaints of the KJ Junior is the lack of accessories. There is a sear plate available from Kamado Joe and a few gadgets from third-party companies. But compared to larger KJ grills, the Joe Jr doesn’t get a lot of love. At all.

You can still fit other accessories for larger grills in the Joe Jr (hint: Flame Boss 500), but some tinkering and creativity are required. 

Therefore, we wish to see KJ upgrading the Joe Jr so other companies can come out with more accessories for it. The Junior is really a great grill.

Warranty & Support

A word of warning. You must register your Kamado Joe Jr if you want the warranty to be applied.

Speaking of the warranty, KJ offers…

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

In terms of support, KJ is phenomenal. You can reach the company via many platforms. The owner, Bobby Brenan, is very active on social media. If you post a comment on KJ Facebook group, he will actually reply to you. There are also many communities dedicated to KJ so you always have people to talk to.

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Conclusion

What We like

  • Small and compact design, perfect for travelling or small homes
  • The versatility in cooking, from low n slow to hot n fast and anything in between
  • Gorgeous-looking grill
  • Comes with all the necessary tools
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to control temperature
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Excellent build quality, even for a small kamado

What Could Be Improved

  • Might need a complete overhaul similar to other KJ models
  • Split fire box to prevent cracking over time
  • Replace the old cast iron daisy wheel with a KJ Kontrol Tower
  • Add a charcoal basket
  • Add a slide-out ash drawer. A mesh screen for the draft door while we’re at it
  • Add a smaller version of the KJ Divide & Conquer Tiered Cooking System

Some Alternatives

Big Green Egg Minimax

The BGE Minimax has almost similar cooking space, yet it’s heavier than the KJ Junior (76 lbs vs 68 lbs). They look nearly identical, except for the height and the color. 

The Minimax is shorter than the Joe Jr. Therefore, the bottom of the grill is very close to the ground. And being a BGE, the Minimax, of course, sports a dark green color.

The two grills function the same. You adjust the temperature using the top and bottom vents. The food also comes out the same. Price-wise, the Minimax is more expensive than the Kamado Joe Jr.

We have an in-depth comparison between the two grills here if you’re interested. For more information on the BGE Minimax, please visit the BGE official website.

Char Griller Akorn Jr

One of the main advantages of the Akorn Jr is that it isn’t made from ceramic. Therefore, it won’t break if you happen to drop it. But that doesn’t mean it won’t perform as well as the KJ Jr. In fact, it has an insulated triple wall, which can hold heat extremely well during the colder months.

Another advantage is the price. It’s very affordable. That’s why we think it’s a better entry-level kamado cooker than the KJ Jr. With the Akorn Jr, you can try out kamado grilling without breaking the bank.

We have a more detailed review of the Akorn Jr here. If you already know what this grill is capable of, please follow this link here for the current pricing.

Should You Buy The Kamado Joe Junior?

Red KJ Jr kamado barbecue on white backdrop

It depends on what you’re after. But we highly recommend it regardless.

It can act as a secondary grill if you already have other bigger grills. It’s also perfect for a small family as an everyday BBQ. And best of all, it’s small and portable, allowing you to travel with it with ease.

Even though it’s the smallest among all the KJ models, don’t let the size fool you. It can turn out amazing foods as its bigger brothers, but at one third of the price. You won’t be disappointed if you decide to buy this bee’s knees little beast.

Already make up your mind? The links for purchase are right here.

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This is also the end of our Kamado Joe Junior review. If you have any questions, please let us know.

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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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