Ever since being introduced to America by returning servicemen after World War II, kamado-style cookers have quickly grown in popularity thanks to their ability to efficiently grill, steam, smoke, roast, and bake. Big Green Egg (you can read our review of Big Green Egg kamados here) has led this popular movement, but Kamado Joe also offers a series of different sized kamados, including their basic grill/cooker, the ClassicJoe.
Kamado Joe got its start in Duluth, GA (outside Atlanta) in 2008 when two Big Green Egg aficionados, Bobby Brennan and Kerry Coker, set out to improve the grill’s design. Without drastically deviating from the kamado’s proven architecture (a heavy ceramic cooking chamber with a firebox on the bottom, a cooking grill on top, and an adjustable vent to control the airflow), they focused on durability and material quality.
The ClassicJoe features high-quality ceramics made in Yixing, China, an area long renowned for its ceramics expertise from its famous and highly desired Yixing clay stoneware (called Zi Ni/ZhuNi). The base and the lid are glazed with a heat-resistant coating for weather durability. Additionally, the grill grate and draft door are made of solid 304 stainless steel. The wide-base rolling cart is made of powder-coated cast iron (compared to the Big Green Egg’s powder-coated bent sheet metal). And the handle and shelves are made of naturally mildew-resistant bamboo.
American Alternative Review:
Kamado Joe corporate headquarters is located in Duluth, GA. It’s also where they do all of their engineering and product design.
But the ClassicJoe is not manufactured, assembled, or packaged there. The factory that makes the ClassicJoe is in Yixing, China because of the area’s previously mentioned expertise in and infrastructure for ceramics manufacturing. All of the other components are either made in that same factory, or made in other Chinese factories and shipped to the Yixing facility for final assembly and packaging. And while this particular situation challenges the stereotype of poorer quality products coming out of China, it doesn’t help too much for the ClassicJoe’s American Alternative score.
Even though you can find ClassicJoes through various online resellers such as Amazon.com, Kamado Joe does not authorize any online retail sales. If you purchase one online, the warranty will be invalid. Instead, you can use Kamado Joe’s store locator to find an authorized retailer near you. You should be able to find one for around 800-900$ depending on the retailer (July 2012).
For a more American-made kamado, we recommend Primo whose Oval Jr. and Oval XL both scored 5-star ratings. We also recommend the Weber One-Touch Kettles if you’re looking for something less expensive but less versatile. You can also check out how the ClassicJoe stacked up against all the other kamados and grills that we reviewed in our Charcoal Grill Category Recap.
*Note that the Kamado Joe BigJoe is also manufactured and assembled in the same Yixing facility.