So we have a new player in the Premium/Luxury end of the pellet grill/smoker market, and its Kamado Joe. At this point you may be thinking ‘Chris what are you on about, Kamado Joe make charcoal cookers!?‘ and you would be right. Kamado Joe built their reputation on their natural lump charcoal cookers. However, they now want to play the pellet game with the Pellet Joe. I’ve previously done an article on pellet vs kamado grills, however, the Pellet Joe breaks all of those conclusions. With the Pellet Joe, we now have the worlds first ceramic pellet grill/smoker. I’m now going to explain why I’m very, very impressed with it.
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.
As I’m writing this article the Pellet Joe has only just been released. Therefore, there are currently very limited customer reviews floating around. If you have read any of my previous pellet grill/smoker summary articles, you will know I like to add in real-world owner reviews into my articles. Once they are available, I will be adding reviews into my article.
Introduction To The Kamado Joe Pellet Joe
Phrases such as ‘game-changer’ get thrown around a lot these days. However, I really do think the Pellet Joe is a game-changer for all intents and purposes for pellet grills and smokers, as its created its own product category. There has previously never been a ceramic pellet grill/smoker before, well, anything commercially available at least, there may have been DIY builds out there. I’m going to briefly explain below what’s the ‘big deal’ about ceramic cookers, but you can also learn more in this previous article.
Now, while as I say I’m very impressed with the Pellet Joe and I’ll explain why below, I’m not implying this pellet cooker is for everyone. As you will learn, it does have certain limitations, especially with the relatively small cooking area it provides. There is also the price, its not cheap, you’ll be looking at just under $2,000 to order a Pellet Joe. Hence, its why at the start of this article, I stated its a new player in the ‘Premium/Luxury’ end of the market. However, if you are able to spend that much on a pellet cooker, you’re going to learn why the Pellet Joe is worth considering.
A Look Around the Pellet Joe
Now, while the Pellet Joe is a Kamado Joe product, its was actually engineered by a third party, Atlas Product Manufacturing Group. They are obviously very proud of their efforts (and they should be) and have produced the video below giving a summary of the features of the Pellet Joe.
What’s The Big Deal With Ceramic Cookers?
Ok, so that large shiny red body of the Pellet Joe you can see in the image above is a ceramic shell and its a thick one too. Now, that does come with the downside that the Pellet Joe is heavy for its size, it weighs 197lbs! However, what that thick ceramic body provides is insulation, both to the combustion zone and the cooking zone, that’s the important part.
I’ve previously written about how some pellet grills can struggle to get up to and maintain high temperatures, such as my article on which pellet grills get the hottest. Now, that’s sometimes down to the type of pellet grill controller used, or perhaps if direct-flame access is not provided. However, another important factor is insulation as I discuss in my articles on insulated twin-wall pellet grills and pellet grill insulated jackets.
Well, a ceramic cooker holds the heat in exceptionally well. Importantly, it also keeps the cold out, so you can also cook in winter with good performance. Therefore, the foundation of the Pellet Joe with its ceramic body provides a series of benefits of better cooking performance, and therefore, better food. But how well have the pellet hopper, augers, control panel and combustion zone been integrated into that ceramic body?
Small Pellet Hopper…But That’s Ok
The pellet hopper on the Pellet Joe only holds 10lbs of BBQ wood pellets. Now, if you have browsed any of my previous articles summarising pellet grill/smoker features, you will know that 10lb is pretty small. That size of pellet hopper is usually found on a portable pellet grill, and the Pellet Joe due to its weight etc is definitely not easily portable. Therefore, do I think the 10lb pellet hopper is a negative against the Pellet Joe? Nope, and I’ll explain why.
Some pellet grill/smoker brands definitely like to compete on hopper sizes. Obviously, with a larger pellet hopper, the pellet grill/smoker can run for longer without the need to be topped up with pellets. However, at the same time as I discuss in my article on should you leave pellets in the hopper, several brands recommend against leaving pellets in the hopper. Why? Well, pellets absorb moisture. Therefore, really you don’t want to be leaving pellets in the hopper over an extended period of time. Especially in high humidity environments. So in reality, the best size of pellet hopper is one just large enough to be fit for purpose.
Pellet Joe Pellet Usage/Consumption
The big question therefore in reference to my comments above then is can a 10lb pellet hopper really be fit for purpose? Well, Kamado Joe state that the 10lb hopper will provide ‘up to 14 hours of burn time at smoking temperatures‘. Therefore, that would be mean at smoking temperatures (going low & slow) the Pellet Joe would be using just 0.71 lbs of pellets an hour on average. Now, if you have read my article on pellet usage/consumption you would know my own general rule is to expect around 1-2 lbs of pellet consumption while smoking. Therefore, is 0.71 lbs really possible, with the Pellet Joe? Yes, I believe it is.
You need to be aware that most pellet grills/smoker are made from pretty thin single sheet steel. Hence, they actually lose a lot of heat to the outside environment. However, the ceramic body of the Pellet Joe as discussed above will do an excellent job of keeping that heat in and the cold out. Therefore, Pellet Joe owners should experience lower than average pellet consumption, which also means lower running costs. What it also means is the Pellet Joe can get away with including a small 10lb hopper and still provide plenty of running time for overnight cooking.
The Pellet Joe Hopper Design/Attention To Detail
When I first started to review the features of the Pellet Joe, something stood out to me and really impressed me with the attention to detail. You see within the hopper of the Pellet Joe there are two agitators which rotate. Now, some people may be thinking what are they for and are they really needed? Well, with pellets there is a general saying that they ‘flow like water’ through hoppers etc. While that is generally true, every now and again in certain designs of hoppers the pellets can ‘bridge’ which is exactly as it sounds. Hence there can be void in the hopper with no pellets reaching the feed auger. You open the hopper lid and everything seems fine, as you cannot see the bridge which has formed underneath.
Hence, that’s what these two rotating agitators stop, they stop the pellets within the hopper forming a bridge and stopping the flow of pellets into the auger and onto the firepot. Now, pellet bridging in most pellet hoppers is not that common, as they have steep sides which stop a bridge from forming. However, when Weber entered the pellet grill/smoker game with the SmokeFire they went with a very shallow sided hopper. The results as I discuss in my article on the SmokeFire was customers experiencing hopper blockages due to pellet bridging.
To my knowledge, the Pellet Joe is the first pellet grill/smoker to feature hopper agitators. Hence, its this attention to detail in the design/engineering of the Pellet Joe which has really impressed me. After all, if you are doing an overnight slow cook you don’t want the whole cook to be ruined due to a pellet hopper blockage do you?
Simple But Smart Temperature Controls
From this point forward, on any pellet grill which is beyond say $500, you should expect a PID temperature controller. You can read my attached post to learn what a PID controller is and how it works, but put simply a PID controller is a smart controller. PID temperature control panels do a much better job than earlier generation pellet grill control panels at moderating temperature. As you would/should expect, therefore, the Pellet Joe does feature a PID temperature controller. However, it doesn’t actually look like any PID controller you will find on any other pellet grill/smoker.
I actually really like the simple design of the temperature dial with its three zones of Smoke, BBQ-Roasting and Searing. Smoking will provide temperatures between 200-300 degrees, BBQ-Roasting will be 300-450 degrees and finally, the Searing function is from 450 to 600 degrees. Therefore, yes, the Pellet Joe can achieve that 450+ temperatures to acheive good searing performance on steaks and burgers etc. However, the Pellet Joe does indeed have another setting on the temperature dial, WiFi.
WiFi pellet grills/smokers are growing in popularity as owners benefit from the convenience of being able to monitor the cook while being somewhere else. Therefore, as the Atlas engineers state in their videos above, while the Pellet Joe doesn’t have a screen, in reality, you can use your phone as the screen for precise adjustments/settings etc. Therefore you have the option of quickly getting the Pellet Joe up to the desired temperature with a turn of the dial, or more precise control using your phone. I personally think that provides the best of both worlds.
Easy Access Stainless Steel Burn Chamber
So the last key feature of the Pellet Joe I would like to discuss which has impressed me is the burn pot/chamber. So first of, as you can see in the image below the pellet burn chamber on the Pellet Joe is not only made from stainless steel, its made from some pretty heavy-duty stainless steel to boot. Hence, that means it will last for a really, really long time. However, what I also like about this burn pot design is its location and ease of access for cleaning.
With every pellet grill/smoker you need to get in around the burn chamber with an ash vac (once cold) to clean out the ash from the previous burns. I’ve previously written two articles on how to clean and when to clean a pellet grill/smoker. Well, on the Pellet Joe it probably has the quickest and easiest pellet burn pot I’ve come across for cleaning. As the burn chamber is just below the grates you are not having to bend over into the bowls of the pellet cooker to clean out the burn chamber. Using thumbscrews is also a nice touch so you can easily remove the burn pot without tools.
Conclusions On The Kamado Joe Pellet Joe
So as you should be able to tell from my comments above on the Pellet Joe for the first effort from Kamado Joe into the world of pellets, I think its excellent. As yet there aren’t customer review videos out there to reference, but I’ll add them into this post once available. However, from the features/materials I’ve seen, the Pellet Joe is a very compelling option for anyone looking to purchase a Premium/Luxury pellet grill/smoker.
I suppose the 18″ cooking grate could be considered a drawback of the Pellet Joe when compared to the cooking areas provided on competing Premium/Luxury pellet grills/smokers. However, I often think most people/families could quite happily use a grill of this size. Personally, if it comes to choosing features/build-quality over a larger cooking area, I pick the former. I’ll take smaller quantities of better-cooked food personally.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found my thoughts on the Kamado Joe Pellet Joe interesting/useful. You can pick up a Pellet Joe if you’re interested over at BBQGuys.com. If you would like to learn more about your various pellet grill/smoker options for any budget please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.