Last night, I got the opportunity to fire up the Kamado Joe “Big Joe” for its inaugural run. I have never cooked on a grill this large, especially a ceramic grill of this size. My Weber 22.5″ kettle and my Ugly Drum Smoker are both large capacity grills but the Big Joe was a totally new experience.
I loaded up the fire box with a rather full load of the Kamado Joe lump charcoal and fired it up. The charcoal fired up easily with one of the Kamado Joe Fire Starters and I let the temperature come up slowly to around 250° since my target cooking temperature was going to be 275° for this cook.
I had read in various places that controlling the temperature on the XL sized ceramic kamados was more difficult. Fortunately, I found the exact opposite to be true during this first cook on my Big Joe. Based on my past experience with the various grills and smokers I have, the norm has been that the larger cookers like my Ugly Drum Smoker are easier to control the temps rather than more difficult, and that proved to be true here as well.
Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by Sam's Club to see if they had any decent sized briskets to use as a break-in cook for the Big Joe. I think I found the mother of all briskets in this 19.69 pounder in their meat case! I couldn't imagine a better cut of meat to use for testing out the long cook capability of the Big Joe.
So while the Big Joe was warming up, I prepped this brisket by trimming most of the fat from the fat cap and then rubbing it down with a wet rub. I let the brisket sit uncovered with the wet rub on for about 30 more minutes while I slowly brought the Big Joe up to temperature.
When I got the grill stabilized at 250° I put the brisket on, inserted my meat thermometer probe, closed the lid and slowly brought the temp up to 275°. Once the temp got to 275° it took me about 45 minutes to one hour of occasional vent tweaking to park the temperture where I wanted it. Once the temp stabilized between 270-275° I never touched a vent again. I got to t
his point about 2 hours after I put the brisket on the grill. I used my Maverick ET-732 wireless thermometer system to monitor the meat and oven temps throughout the night. I set the meat temperature alarm for 194° and the oven high/low temps at 240° and 290°. I put the brisket on at 8:35pm and went on about my business. As I watched the temperature in the oven, it never moved outside the 270-275° range during this entire cook. I went to bed about 1:00am and slept until the Maverick alarm went off at about 7:10am alerting me that the meat temp was at 194°. At that time, the oven temp was sitting nicely at 273°.
I let the brisket stay on the grill until it was probe tender, which ended up being about 196-197° with my Maverick PT-100 quick read thermometer. The total cook time was 11 hours and 10 minutes. I pulled it off, foiled it and rested it for several hours… The video of this cook will be available on YouTube later tonight and I will post it here as well.
Satisfaction? 100%. I am very happy with a grill that can hold its temperature steady for that length of time with no help. I have a BBQ Guru DigiQ II DX temperature control system, but I have not used it on a kamado grill yet. While I was watching this cook get started last night, I did order the fan adapter plate so I can connect the temperature controller to the Big Joe and Kamado Joe Classic in the future. Based on this experience, it's not really needed but it does offer some advantages. If a certain level of 'peace of mind' is needed for long overnight cooks or cooks when you are away from home, the temp control systems will give you that. These systems also stabilize your grill temp wherever you want it for you without you having to do hardly any vent tweaking. The bottom vent is completely controlled by the Guru system. The top vent can usually be set at a specific level of 'open' for the entire cook without making adjustments. This give you the ability to get the grill up to temp and just walk away from it until the meat is done.
I'm totally impressed! There will be a LOT of cooking done on this fantastic 'machine' in the future!