Best value for Kamado Grills with larger food surface
What it comes with: Divide and Conquer rack, which holds grates at two levels and diffuser at a lower level than the bottom grate. Two half-moon diffuser stones are included. Two half-moon 304 stainless cooking grates are shipped with it. The X-Rack which can hold the diffuser, or a pizza stone at a higher level than the Divide and Conquer rack places it at. Firebox divider, which splits the firebox into two separate zones for differing amounts of coals. Grate lifting tool works well at lifting hot grates. An ash scraper tool is included, but the innovative slide-out ash tray makes the scraper less critical than on most other kamado grills, which requires the scraper for removing ashes.
Optional items purchased were the cast iron grate (for searing), reversible cast iron griddle and the grill extender, which provides a third level for cooking. Total grill space with all the optional grates in place exceeds 1100 square inches, which is important for people who smoke food.
Overall impression, this grill is huge; the pictures do not do it justice. The 304 stainless grills are very solid with thick bars. The lid, which has an adjustable amount of lift assist, closes solidly and provides an excellent seal, with felt gasket on the top and bottom of the mating surface. Current models ship with High Density Poly Ethylene (HDPE) tables and handles, instead of the teak handles and tables shown. The integral removable ash tray has spark arresting plate built into it, instead of a sliding panel on the lower damper, as may be seen in some older videos. The thermometer is a highly accurate Tel-True model with a custom bezel which bears the Kamado Joe logo.
The cradle appears to be cold-rolled steel which has been powder coated for corrosion resistance and arrives at a two-part assembly. There were some alignment issues mating the two parts together.
One of my few gripes was the limited use of packing materials for shipping, but Shoppers Choice was excellent at shipping parts as needed within one week.
Temperature control and setting is similar to most of the major brands of kamado style grills. Coal consumption is in line with other ceramic Kamado cookers as well.
What makes the Big Joe such a value, is all the included items, which are typically optional on other brands, such as Primo and Big Green Egg. If you price one of these other brands with cradle, side tables, split level cooking system, diffusers, scrapers and grate lifter,; you will realize their price rockets well beyond the cost of the Big Joe.
But how does it cook? In a word, great! The Divide and Conquer system provides the user the ability to adjust the "type" of heat they wish. Keep in mind with a closed lid, the temperature variation between the left and right side will be quite small, even with the firebox divider and a diffuser plate on one side. The big difference relies on one side which will have direct radiant heat from the coals, where the diffused side will only have convective heat. The diffused side will cook evenly, top and bottom from the convective heat, where as the direct radiant side will cook faster from the bottom, which is better for browning meat and getting grill lines cooked into the meat. The lifetime warranty on the ceramic parts ensures the grill will be enjoyed for years to come. I am a huge fan of the value and function this grill offers!