Welcome to the battle between two popular portable ceramic kamados — Big Green Egg Minimax vs Kamado Joe Junior.
Big Green Egg (BGE) has always been the industry standard in the kamado world. Founded in 1974, the company has garnered a large following ever since. The Mini Max is the second smallest in the BGE family.
Kamado Joe (KJ) is the fastest-growing kamado brand. The company is constantly striving for new innovations and better workmanship. The Kamado Joe Jr. is the smallest grill in the KJ product line.
That’s a quick introduction of our two contenders. Now, let’s find out which one comes out on top?
In case you want to know the answer now, we actually prefer Joe Jr. over Minimax. This is strictly our personal opinion. That’s why we present all the facts in this comparison so you can make the right purchase decision for you.
Anyhow, read on, please!
BGE MiniMax vs Kamado Joe Jr – Key Similarities & Differences
We have a more in-depth review of the Kamado Joe Jr here if you’re interested.
The primary material used to make the two grills is ceramic. Though fragile, ceramic holds heat extremely well thanks to its superior ability to store thermal energy (vs steel).
As a result, both grills can maintain consistent temperatures for many hours while consuming little charcoal. You end up saving money on fuel this way.
You’ll find a glaze bonded to the exterior of both Joe Jr and Minimax. This not only gives the two grills an appealing glossy shine, but also makes it easy for you to clean.
That being said, many folks on some dedicated kamado forums say that the BGE’s ceramic is better and thicker than KJ’s. In fact, BGE does say that their ceramic is developed by NASA for their space program.
But we couldn’t find any reliable data to prove that. In our own experience and research, both grills perform the same in terms of holding temperatures. And there isn’t much of a difference in how the food turns out.
On the inside, the two grills feature the same components: ceramic fire box, ceramic fire ring, cast iron fire grate (or charcoal grate), and stainless steel cooking grid.
Keep in mind that the fire box on both grills is one solid piece of ceramic. This is actually a disadvantage because it tends to crack over time as the ceramic expands and contracts during and after cooking. The recent version of the bigger KJ grills has a multiple-piece fire box, which is a better design to prevent the cracking.
Fortunately, a cracked firebox due to regular use is covered under both BGE and KJ’s lifetime warranty. A peace of mind there!
Minimax and Joe Junior both have a set of felt gaskets — one on the lid and one on the body. This material is soft and flexible. Therefore, when the heavy lid presses down on it, the felt does a great job of sealing the grills tightly. There will be no air leaks in these two grills.
However, smoke leaks do happen after a while. This is because of the lid misalignment. Simply loosen and retighten the metal band around the lid. And the problem is solved.
Both grills use a traditional cast iron daisy wheel for their top vent and a bottom ash door as the bottom vent. They function similar to any kamado. You regulate the internal temperature by adjusting the top and bottom vent.
Keep in mind that there is no cap to protect the daisy wheel from the rain. Because of that, water can easily get inside the grill. It’s also easy to rust away since it’s cast iron after all.
As we mentioned above, these two grills use little fuel due to the ceramic. There is also less space to heat up because of their smaller size. Consequently, you will be saving on a lot of charcoal and moolah.
A regular bag of 20lbs charcoal can last you for more than a month (if you don’t have other grills to fire up). And that’s if you cook three times a week.
Portability & Size
Speaking of their smaller size, both of these kamados have a compact profile. Therefore, you can fit them into a small backyard or patio. You can also load them up in the back of your truck for camping or tailgating.
But they aren’t lightweight, with the Minimax being 7lbs heavier than the Joe Jr (75lbs vs 68lbs). One person can handle the weight of either grill, but we don’t recommend that. You’re dealing with fragile ceramic after all. One drop and game over.
We’d recommend two people carrying the grills. They both feature two side handles so that shouldn’t be any problem.
With that said, if you insist on carrying them by yourself, one handy tip is to remove everything inside the grills before moving. That would reduce the overall weight tremendously.
Cleaning & Maintenance
The Joe Junior comes with an ash tool that allows you to scrape off the ash easily. Depending on what package your dealer has, the Mini Max might or might not have one. You can always purchase it separately if you wish.
However, one thing that we like about the Minimax is the mesh screen at the ash door. This prevents any hot ember from flying out of the grill. No fire hazard and a peace of mind.
The Joe Jr, on the other hand, doesn’t have any mesh screen. Thus you might want to put something below it just in case.
In terms of cleaning the cooking grate, both grills have a stainless steel one. So only minimal upkeep is needed here. You don’t have to constantly season the grate like a cast iron one.
In order to validate the warranty, you have to register your Junior or Minimax with KJ or BGE. Both companies offer similar warranty, but it is worded differently. Here it is:
- Lifetime warranty on all ceramic parts (lid, body, firebox and fire ring).
- 5-year warranty on cast iron and stainless steel parts.
- 3-year warranty on the ceramic heat deflector.
- 1-year warranty on the thermometer and gaskets.
And for BGE only, an extra 1-year warranty on the wood and composite components.
Even though the Minimax is more expensive than the Joe Jr, both grills are of high quality and great workmanship. Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe are also well-known companies in the grilling industry. Therefore, their resale value is quite high compared to other low-priced kamados.
Both kamados come in a well-packed branded box.
However, the Joe Junior is already pre-assembled inside. You just have to remove some plastic wrap on the stand. And you’re ready to cook.
The Minimax, on the other hand, doesn’t come pre-assembled. Instead, you have to remove every component from the box and put them together. The assembly isn’t complicated, but will take some time. BGE does provide a helpful instructional video in case you need it.
This is one of the biggest differences between these two grills.
The Joe Jr’s nest is taller than the BGE Minimax’s. So is the base of the nest where the grill’s body sits on. This has its own advantages.
For starters, it raises the bottom of the Joe Jr higher above the ground. If you cook on a kamado, you know that the bottom of the grill tends to get hot during cooking. It can potentially char the surface that you put the grill on. The elevated bottom of the Joe Jr prevents that from happening.
Another advantage is more airflow through the bottom vent, which in turn means faster coal startup. This is many people’s observation throughout forums that we saw during our research. James from Smoking Dad BBQ did an interesting experiment to test this theory. If you’re curious, here is his video.
The height difference does have its drawback, however. If you use the Joe Jr for tailgating, the grill will sit high above your tailgate. This is somewhat awkward to cook with if you’re a short person. The MiniMax, on the other hand, sits at the right height for a more comfortable cooking experience.
In addition to the height difference, the Joe Jr’s nest also features better carrying handles.
On the Joe Jr, they’re welded in with the nest. That means there is no possibility of them coming loose.
On the MinMax, they’re screwed in instead. As a result, there is a chance that they might come undone after a while, which is not safe for the grill at all.
However, BGE fixes this problem in the new batches of the MiniMax. Just something to pay attention to if you happen to buy a secondhand one.
Besides the nest, the Joe Jr’s entire body (base + lid) is also longer than the Minimax’s. This in turn affects the versatility on both grills.
Because of its shorter body, the Minimax’s heat deflector ends up sitting close to the fire and the cooking grate. In other words, the internal setup of the Minimax is really compact or “shrinked”.
Therefore, it isn’t ideal if you want to smoke food since the radiant heat from the deflector can overcook the bottom of the food or else you have to rotate it constantly. Furthermore, you can’t fit a shallow drip pan on top of the deflector either due to the compactness.
However, the Minimax won’t have any problem searing food at all if you remove the deflector.
With its longer body, the Joe Jr provides more clearance between the fire and the food. Its heat deflector has a holding rack (similar to the Ceramic Grill Store’s Woo Ring). And that gives an additional clearance, allowing enough space for a drip pan.
As a result, the Joe Jr is better at smoking. It does an OK job at searing, but the longer distance between the food and the fire prevents the grill from delivering that ultimate searing experience (relatively to the MiniMax of course).
The Joe Jr has a larger cooking space than the Minimax (148 vs 133 square inches). To put things into perspective, the Joe Jr’s cooking size is similar to a Weber Smokey Joe’s.
You can fit a small pork butt or beef ribs inside the Joe Jr. It’s doable for the Minimax, but will be a tight fit. No brisket or turkey will be able to fit into these two small kamados.
For smaller food items, you can cook 6 burger patties or 2 ribeye steaks on the Joe Jr. A little less for the MiniMax.
One thing we want to mention is that the Joe Jr’s cooking grate has a hinged opening. This lets you add coal or smoking wood if needed. But if you do longer cooks, the heat deflector will be in the way so the opening is useless in that situation.
With the Minimax, you have to remove everything if you want to add more fuel. Pain in the rear, we’d say!
There are many branded accessories available for the BGE MiniMax. Depending on your dealers, some will include certain accessories in the final package while some don’t.
For the Kamado Joe Jr, there aren’t many branded accessories available for it. But the grill includes the necessary ones that provide you a complete cooking experience.
Where It’s Made
BGE Minimax is made in Mexico while Kamado Joe Junior is made in China.
You can purchase your Kamado Joe Jr online or through any authorized dealers near you.
The BGE Minimax, on the other hand, isn’t sold online or at any big box store. You can only buy your BGE Minimax through BGE’s authorized dealers from coast to coast.
Keep in mind that BGE only sells you the grill. As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, different dealers will have different packages where they add certain accessories or leave them out. Therefore, please contact your nearest BGE dealers for more information.
BGE has been in the business for over 40 years. That’s why they have a solid fan base across the United States as well as all over the world. You’ll find many forums and Facebook groups dedicated to the Eggs. In there, you can always connect with other BGE owners, or eggheads, to share tips or even trade.
There is also the annual Eggtoberfest held in Atlanta, GA where all the raving fans meet for a few days of delicious food and great company. If you can’t make it, local eggheads do organize their own Eggfests. Overall, the community around the BGE is great.
This is where Kamado Joe is lacking. Although they do have their own dedicated fans, forums, and Facebook groups, there aren’t many events similar to what BGE does. In fact, we’re still waiting for the Gathering of the Joes or the Joe Jam to happen in the near future.
Kamado Joe is known for their constant innovations. They have updated their larger grills three times already. And with each update, they’ve brought better things to the game.
That’s not the case with the Kamado Joe Jr. Kj hasn’t done anything with this grill since its inception. So hopefully, we’ll see a new and updated version soon.
Some of Minimax’s designs are a little outdated. And BGE is slow with innovations. We don’t know when BGE will update the Minimax. Maybe the grill just works. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right? But who knows?
A Handy Comparison Table
|Kamado Joe Jr||BGE MiniMax|
|Dimensions||16"W x 27"H x 20.75"D||18.5"W x 20"H x 19.75"D|
|Cooking Grate Material||Stainless steel||Stainless steel|
|Cooking Grate Dimension||13.5"||13"|
|Cooking Grate Type||Hinged||Nothing|
|Total Cooking Grate||148 square inches||133 square inches|
|Fire Box||One-piece ceramic||One-piece ceramic|
|Fire Ring||One-piece ceramic||One-piece ceramic|
|Fire Grate||Cast iron||Cast iron|
|Spring Assisted Lid||Yes||Yes|
|Top Vent||Cast iron daisy wheel||Cast iron daisy wheel|
|Bottom Vent||Ash door, no mesh screen||Ash door, with mesh screen|
|Temperature Range||225F - 750F||225F - 750F|
|Availability||Online & local authorized dealers||Only authorized dealers|
|Price||Less expensive||More expensive|
Kamado Joe Junior
- Kamado Joe Jr body (base + lid)
- Cast iron nest, with welded carrying handles
- Ceramic firebox (one piece)
- Ceramic fire ring
- Cast iron fire grate
- Cast iron daisy wheels top vent
- 304 stainless steel cooking grid
- Ceramic heat deflector (with holding rack)
- Grill gripper
- Ash tool
What We Like
- Bigger cooking space
- Bottom clearance prevents burning the surface the grill’s on
- Includes all the necessary accessories for a complete cooking experience
- Less expensive
- Comes pre-assembled
- Better at smoking food
- Easy to purchase online
What We Don’t Like
- Ok at searing, but not great compared the Minimax
- No events similar to the BGE
- Hinged opening on cooking grate is useless in certain situations
- No mesh screen at bottom draft door
Big Green Egg Mini Max
Depending on the dealers, they might have different packages. But here is the original kit according to the BGE.
- BGE Mini Max body (base + lid)
- Nest with screwed-in carrying handles
- Ceramic firebox (one piece)
- Ceramic fire ring
- Cast iron fire grate
- Cast iron daisy wheels top vent
- Stainless steel cooking grid
- Ceramic heat deflector (no holding rack)
- Grill gripper
- Ash tool
What We Like
- The community surrounding the BGE brand is great
- Better at searing
- Short and stocky profile makes it easier to travel with
- Mesh screen at the bottom ash door prevents hot embers from flying out
- Many branded accessories available for the MiniMax
- Different dealers have different packages
- Get support at the dealer level
What We Don’t Like
- Not great at smoking compared to the Kamado Joe Jr
- Lack of innovations in recent years
- Can’t purchase online
- Sitting close to the ground might damage the surface the grill is on
Which Kamado To Buy Then?
They’re both excellent small kamados.
You can use them as a travel smoker/grill for camping or tailgating. If you’re a single or an empty nester, these two grills can serve as a great everyday BBQ. Also, they can be a backup grill or a searing station for other bigger grills, which is handy when you’re feeding a large crowd.
Now, if you care more about a strong history of quality and a solid community, definitely consider the BGE MiniMax.
If you instead care about future innovations, smart designs, and a lower price tag, then give the Kamado Joe Jr a shot.
All in all, getting either one of them won’t get you disappointed.
If you’re still not satisfied with the two grills above, don’t worry. We have two alternatives you might want to check out.
Primo Grill Junior
The one thing that makes this grill stand out is its oval shape. Unlike the round kamados, this allows you to set up the two zone cooking with ease. The Primo Junior also has a larger cooking space compared to the Joe Jr and the Minimax.
The Primo Junior weighs around 100lbs, which is heavier than the other two grills. Since it has an oval shape, there aren’t many accessories available from third-party companies either.
If this is important to you, the Primo Junior is actually made in the USA. For more information about this mini kamado, please click here.
Chargriller Akorn Jr
Ceramic kamados are fragile. We said it throughout this article — one drop and game over. But the Akorn Jr isn’t made of ceramic.
In fact, this kamado is made of insulated steel. It won’t break when dropped. And because of the insulation, the grill holds heat just as well as any ceramic kamado. In addition to that, the Akorn Jr is lighter and comes at an affordable price.
Phew, this is the end of the comparison between the MiniMax and the Kamado Joe Jr. We hope you find it helpful.
Do we miss anything important? If yes, please let us know so we can update the article accordingly. And with that, have a good one.