This Smart Kamado Cooker Is the First of Its Kind—and It Works Exceptionally Well

We tested the smart kamado over a period of four months, evaluating its performance and usability.

A kamado cooker billowing steam out of the top of its lid
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

I love grilling. For me, grilling is more than using a simple way to prepare a meal—it’s a form of meditation based on repeatable and proven techniques you can easily get lost in. The act of grilling is about connecting with what you’re doing, responding to variables on the fly, and, to a certain extent, developing a sense of intuition. For some, grilling is a weekend or seasonal venture. For me, I’ll take any excuse to stand in my backyard and stoke a bed of glowing coals. 

While I’m a fan of all grills, one type of grill holds a special place in my heart: the kamado. The early kamado was developed over 3,000 years ago and has been thoughtfully and carefully redesigned throughout centuries of use to become the egg-shaped cooker we know it to be today. As the popularity of the kamado grill grew over the years, so too did the number of brands offering their versions of the cooker. There are now so many kamado grills on the market we found it necessary to review and create a guide to them. But while changes to the kamado’s design have remained relatively tame since the advent of the Big Green Egg, there is one grill shaking (smoking?) things up.

This past June, Kamado Joe released their newest version of their kamado grill, the Konnected Joe, which is the first of its kind. Kamado grills typically require the use of manually controlled dampers to regulate temperature and rely on extensive user experience to perform at their best. The Konnected Joe plays by a different set of rules. Featuring an automatic fire starter, a digital control board, app connectivity, and an automated internal fan, this grill boasts a plethora of digital features that make it quite tech-savvy. However, revolution often spurs skepticism, so I put the Konnected Joe to the test over the past four months to see if it can handle the heat of the outdoor kitchen.

The Tests

a person standing in front of the Konnected Joe and using the kamado's app
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore
  • Assembly Test: The grill arrived neatly packed in a sizable box, so the first test involved unboxing and assembling the grill while following the steps outlined in the manufacturer’s detailed instruction manual.
  • Grill-Roasted Vegetable Test: I grilled ears of corn, zucchini planks, and red onion rounds to get a feel for how this grill performed using medium-high, direct heat. I also wanted to see how much food could comfortably fit across its entire cooking area.
  • Reverse-Seared Tomahawk Steak Test: I set the grill up for indirect heat using the included accessory rack and ceramic deflector plates to slow roast a tomahawk steak. Then I removed the plates, cranked the heat, and seared the steak over extremely high heat to test the responsiveness of the grill’s temperature control features.
  • Low-And-Slow Burnt Ends Test: I smoked a brisket point at 225°F using hickory chunks, tracking the internal temperature of the smoker and brisket using the temperature graph on the control panel. Then, I diced the brisket and further cooked it until it became mahogany-hued burnt ends; this examined the grill's performance and consistency over a longer cooking session.
  • Usability Tests: Throughout testing, I evaluated how intuitive and effective the kamado’s features were (including its app and automatic starter). I looked at other factors, too, like how easy it was to set up, use, and roll around.
  • Cleanup Tests: I cleaned the grates and firebox three times according to the manufacturer’s instructions. At the end of testing, I gave the grill a serious deep cleaning, too.
  • Long-Term Testing: I’ve used this grill multiple times a week over the past four months, preparing a variety of recipes (requiring a variety of smoking techniques) to put it through its paces.

What We Learned

How the Konnected Joe Worked

a person adding lump charcoal to the Konnected Joe
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Assembling the Konnected Joe was rather easy thanks to its detailed instruction manual. (It was plug-in ready just 37 minutes after opening the box.) Arguably the most difficult part of assembling the grill was removing it from the box and setting it on its rolling stand due to its weight (assembled, the Konnected Joe weighs 216 pounds). If you don’t have the option of purchasing your grill pre-assembled, I’d recommend recruiting a friend for this task. Once set up, I gave the grill a preliminary inspection to get a feel for its overall design and digital features and performed an initial burn per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Typically when I start a charcoal grill, I pile lump charcoal into a charcoal chimney starter, pack the base with crumpled pages of old newspaper, light the chimney with a butane torch, and then monitor the fire for a few minutes to ensure the coals are lit before walking away to finish my prep work. This old-fashioned exercise is arguably slow, messy, and not always foolproof. The Konnected Joe features a built-in automatic fire starter that ignites the coals using an electric heating element. The internal fan works as a bellows to supply the glowing coals with air, which helps the ignition process and regulates the temperature. When powered on and filled with unlit charcoal, you can use either the control panel or the Kamado Joe App (which connects the grill to your mobile device) to start the grill using the automatic fire starter as well as set, adjust, and monitor the grill’s temperature.

A closeup look at the Konnected Joe's control panel
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Once lit, the grill preheated from an ambient temperature of 61°F to a steady and precise 400°F in as little as 12 minutes. During each test, I compared the temperature displayed on the control board to the temperature registered by a separate wired probe thermometer and determined this grill was rather effective at maintaining a preset temperature. The temperature displayed on the control panel was accurate to within 3°F to 27°F when compared to the external thermometer, although any extreme fluctuations were attributed to either opening and closing the grill or the automatic fan powering on when the temperature needed to be regulated.

The Konnected Joe Was Incredibly Easy to Use

a person setting an aluminum tray of food onto the Konnected Joe's grate
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

After following the prompts and steps to light the grill, it performed much like any other kamado grill I’ve used, but with an emphasis on usability. The app connectivity allowed for responsive temperature adjustments on the fly while displaying the grill’s preset temperature, actual temperature, and cook time. The control panel also features a helpful temperature graph that was useful for tracking the actual temperature of the grill during each session in addition to the temperature registered by a wired-probe thermometer connected via the control panel.

Typically the temperature readings displayed by a grill's built-in thermometers aren’t as accurate as separate task-built thermometers. I found that although the Konnected Joe's automatically controlled temperature varied slightly at times, the preset temperatures were generally fairly accurate and consistent when compared to a separate thermometer.

The Konnected Joe Worked Well for a Variety of Cooking Methods

a person setting a steak onto the Konnected Joe's grates
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Impressively, the Konnected Joe navigated its expansive temperature range with great accuracy and precision. The foods cooked on the grill were tender, juicy, and beautifully seared. Opening and closing the grill when in use didn’t impact the performance much either. The thick, insulated ceramic walls paired with the automated temperature regulation system ensured the grill returned to within about 5°F to 25°F of its target temperature within seconds after opening and closing the spring-assisted lid. The generous cooking space was roomy enough to easily fit 12 half-pound burger patties, a sizable brisket, or a 12-inch cast iron skillet overflowing with peach cobbler.

a cooked steak resting on a wire rack set of a sheet pan
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

I liked the two-tiered cooking system and the included ceramic heat deflectors, which worked well to temper the heat from the coals for indirect applications, like when using the grill as a smoker or oven. Removing a single plate allowed for a combination of direct and indirect heat to offer even greater versatility; I could sear a steak on one side of the grill while slow-roasting vegetables on the other.

Now, kamado grills are generally great for slow and low techniques thanks to their thick, ceramic walls and heat retention. The Konnected Joe didn’t disappoint in this area either. The burnt ends I made emerged with a delicate smoke ring permeating about 1/4-inch into the mahogany-hued bark after nine hours (and only required four pounds of lump charcoal). This kamado was also a powerhouse when it came to quickly searing thinner cuts like flank or hanger steaks over extremely high heat—these cuts came off the grill with a slightly charred and caramelized crust with a juicy pink interior. The automated fan provided a considerable amount of oxygen to the firebox, which sent the temperature of this grill soaring quickly from 250°F to 550°F with the turn of a dial.

The App Experience

a close up look at the temperature dial of the Konnected Joe
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

The Kamado Joe App allowed me to easily monitor and control the Konnected Joe from just about anywhere using my phone. I used the app to set and adjust the grill’s temperature and to monitor meat temperatures (registered by up to three wired-probe thermometers). The app provided me with real-time updates and alerted me when timers elapsed, when target temperatures were reached, and when the grill dropped below or rose above a preset temperature. Unlike apps that require a Bluetooth connection, the WiFi-enabled app allowed me to monitor the grill through walls and even while running errands. The app also provided me with access to hundreds of recipes that can also be found on Kamado Joe’s website, so inspiration was never more than a few taps away.

The Verdict

Pros

The Konnected Joe is a powerhouse, and its design, usability, and performance make it unlike any grill I’ve used in the 20-plus years I’ve spent standing in front of hot coals. The automatic start, powerful fan, and intuitive digital controls and app are features both beginners and experienced grilling aficionados can appreciate and utilize with confidence. The expansive temperature range (225°F to 700°F) is perfect for low-and-slow smoking sessions or quickly searing foods over intense heat. If you’re looking for a kamado-style grill that’s easy to use, l highly recommend the Konnected Joe.

the kamado joe cooker with its lid open
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Cons

The firebox is prone to accumulating ash due to its flat-bottomed shape and small holes. The smaller ashtray also requires frequent emptying.

Although you probably won’t need to very often, the process for adding additional charcoal to the firebox can be tedious and cumbersome due to the design and numerous components of the 2-Tier Divide & Conquer Cooking System and accessories. While the two-tiered cooking system is great for preparing foods at varying heights, installing and removing the rack and two semi-circular cooking grates can be tricky (especially when using the included accessory rack and ceramic heat deflector plates). When working over a hot grill, removing all of these components to rearrange the coals or add additional charcoal requires a lot of time and careful movements—all of which can be potentially dangerous in the heat of the moment.

a person removing the ash catcher from the Konnected Joe
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore

Of course, I also have to mention the price. At nearly $1,700, it’s very expensive. However, priced almost $300 less than the comparably-sized Classic Joe Series III, I think the added digital features make up for its considerable price tag. 

Key Specs

  • Weight: 216 pounds
  • Dimensions: 47 x 48 inches; 18 inches in diameter (for the cooking surface)
  • Max cooking space: 250 square inches
  • Temperature range: 225°F to 700°F
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty on ceramic parts; 5-year warranty on metal parts and the grill; 3-year warranty on electric parts, heat deflectors, and pizza stones; 2-year warranty on miscellaneous things (see here for more details)
  • Compatible with: Kamado Joe Heavy Duty Grill Cover; JoeTisserie; DōJoe; Kamado Joe SlōRoller with Rack
  • Price at time of publish: $1,699

FAQs

What is a kamado grill?

The kamado-style grill as we know it originated as an early clay oven in China around 3,000 years ago. These ovens were eventually exported from China to Japan around 300 BC where they became known as kamados, or “stoves.” The kamado made its way to the US after World War II when Westerners stationed in Japan brought these cookers home with them after experiencing their capabilities firsthand. Kamados continued to grow in popularity and became considered an exciting “new” alternative to the commonly used steel and aluminum grills found in backyards across America. As their popularity grew, various entrepreneurs began importing and selling these ceramic cookers to consumers while continuing to tweak the grill's design. Today, you can find kamado grills that are constructed using a variety of materials including high-fire ceramics (think Kamado Joe or Big Green Egg), double-walled insulated steel (such as the Weber Summit Kamado E6), and even cast iron (check out Goldens’ Cast Iron Cooker).

Why buy a kamado grill?

Kamado grills offer a unique and versatile approach to outdoor cooking—they’re much more than just a grill. Their thick, insulated walls are perfect for regulating heat for smoking low and slow, roasting, and even baking. They can also withstand extremely high temperatures ideal for searing proteins thanks to their furnace-like design. Ceramic is a poor conductor of heat which allows temperatures to remain relatively consistent while burning fuel at an exceptionally efficient rate. Simply put, kamado grills are better suited for maintaining a wide range of temperatures for longer periods of time while using less charcoal compared to other types of grills. In regards to durability, ceramic kamado grills are considerably more fragile compared to steel or aluminum grills, however, they are still capable of lasting for decades with proper care and maintenance.

Will the Konnected Joe’s electronic components become damaged if left exposed to the elements?

Rest assured, if you store your Konnected Joe according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, you shouldn’t need to worry about the kamado becoming damaged. To protect your grill and ensure it lasts as long as possible, we recommend covering it with the Kamado Joe Heavy-Duty Grill Cover when not in use (make sure you let your grill cool down before covering it) or storing it uncovered in a cool, dry place. In the event that something does happen to your cooker that’s not due to user error, Kamado Joe warrants that electronic components are free of defects in material and workmanship for a period of three years.

How does the Konnected Joe compare to a pellet grill?

While the Konnected Joe and a pellet grill both feature a control panel and an automated fan to regulate a preset temperature for a wide range of cooking methods, the primary differences between these two types of grills really come down to their performance and required fuel source. Pellet grills rely on pellets that are made from various types of wood that are milled and dried before being compacted into uniformly sized and shaped pellets that burn at a consistent rate and temperature. The pellets are fed from a hopper through an auger and into a firebox where they are ignited to provide a precise temperature, all of which is regulated by a digital controller. Pellet grills are great at providing indirect heat for smoking, but the Konnected Joe has a leg up when it comes to direct heat and searing. The Konnected Joe burns lump charcoal which is ignited by an electric heating element instead of using a combustible firestarter or charcoal chimney (we recommend against using charcoal briquettes with kamado grills as briquettes produce more ash compared to lump which can block airflow as it accumulates over longer cooking sessions). The Konnected Joe also uses an automated fan operated by a digital controller which acts as a bellows to provide the coals with oxygen in order to maintain temperatures ranging from 225°F to 700°F at the turn of a dial. The design of the Konnected Joe allows for on-demand intense direct heat for fast-searing or restrained indirect heat for those slow-and-low smoking sessions. Unlike a pellet grill, the Konnected Joe can also serve as a traditional kamado grill without requiring any of its digital features to operate. If you’re interested in learning more about pellet grills and smokers, check out our roundups for the best pellet grills and Traeger Grills.

What’s the best Kamado Joe kamado grill for me?

The answer to this question really depends on your personal needs and how you plan to use your kamado grill. Kamado grills come in all shapes and sizes. The Kamado Joe Joe Jr, which offers a maximum cooking space of 150 square inches, could be good for tailgating events, front-country camping, and casual weeknight grilling for you and a few guests. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Kamado Joe Big Joe Grill Series III, boasting a roomy 450 square inches of cooking space, is for when you decide to invite the entire neighborhood over for a backyard barbeque to show off your skills as a pitmaster. The Konnected Joe is nestled right in the middle in terms of size, and features app connectivity, and other automatic features.

Editor’s note: We received an early press sample of the Kamado Joe Konnected Joe, but all of our opinions are our own.