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7 Tips For Your First Kamado Joe Jr Cook 

Kamado Joe Jr First Cook

Your first cook on a Kamado Joe Jr. can feel a little bit like the adult version of a little kid running downstairs to open your Christmas presents.

Though a lot of people wonder what they should cook for the first time. Like all high-quality kamado grills, the Joe Jr. is versatile enough to sear the meat over direct flame or it can be set up with a heat deflector.

For the first cook, getting to know your Kamado Joe Jr. It’s probably a good idea to stick to something simple like hot dogs, brats, or hamburger patties over a direct flame.

This will help you get a good understanding of how to adjust the lower damper and top vent as well as get familiar with the heating process.

As you start to develop a relationship with your Kamado Joe Jr. you can start to cook foods slow and low with the heat deflectors installed.

Meats like boneless chicken thighs and small pork loin roasts are a cheap, forgiving jumping-off point before you turn your attention to things like pork picnic shoulders.

The most important thing about your first few cooks though isn’t necessarily the food you grill, as it is the charcoal and lighting method you use.

While you don’t need to season the metal components like you would a griddle top, you do need to be mindful of the patina of the firebox and the internal ceramic grill body.

Even a small amount of lighter fluid or charcoal briquettes that have been impregnated with a chemical accelerant can imbue the porous ceramic walls of your Kamado Joe Jr. with an off-putting “Butane Odor.”

This odor can then linger transferring to smoking sessions and potentially affecting the flavor of fatty cuts of meat that you smoke several sessions later.

Ideally, you want to use premium jumbo lump charcoal for your first few cooking sessions.

You should light this charcoal with a chimney starter and some newspaper to prevent any chemical or petroleum-based odors from impregnating the porous ceramic interior of your new Kamado Joe Jr.


Kamado Joe Jr Tips

Getting to know your new Kamado Joe Jr. starts with getting a feel for how to build the right size and type of fire.

It’s best to use premium jumbo lump charcoal, and start the fire without any use of lighter fluid or chemical accelerant. The last thing you want is for the fumes to impregnate the porous ceramic sidewalls of the fire chamber.

It’s best to ignite the jumbo lump charcoal using a charcoal chimney with two sheets of roughly ripped newspaper underneath.

If you find that the newspaper is burning up too fast, you can drizzle a teaspoon or two of cooking oil on it, this will create a wicking effect to make the newspaper burn longer.

The result is charcoal that smells and imparts a true wood-fired flavor to your food.

For your first few cooks, it’s best to stick to classic things you already know, like hot dogs and hamburger patties.

With the lower damper set at roughly half to three-quarters open, two liberal handfuls of charcoal should get to around 350 to 400 degrees in 10 minutes or so.

Then you can lay the burger patties and grill them for around 4 minutes per side.  

As time goes on, you can move up to cheap cuts of chicken and pork that do better being grilled over medium-low heat.

This will call for setting the lower damper to half or one-quarter open while setting the top vent half open.


Using A Kamado Joe Jr. For Indirect Heating

When you feel ready to make the leap to indirect grilling and smoking, with the heat deflector installed.  It helps to start with somewhat fattier, forgiving pieces of meat.

Boneless chicken thighs and pork loin roasts are relatively cheap and they are a good place to get your feet wet before moving up to bone-in cuts of meat like a pork picnic shoulder, or lean cuts like pork tenderloin.

Setting up a Kamado Joe Jr. for indirect heating calls for starting a modest fire of jumbo lump charcoal in the bottom of the firebox with the lower damper set to roughly one-quarter of the way open.

If you want to add an extra smoky flavor, a chunk of applewood, oak or hickory can be placed in the middle of the fire. Avoid using wood chips, as they can flare up making heat control challenging.

Once the coal bed is confidently burning, install the heat deflector. It has three little notches that will correspond with the contours of the firebox.

Setting it gently in place blocks the flame from directly reaching the grill grates, while still allowing heat and smoke to fill the chamber.

Close the lid, set the top vent to be slightly open, and wait for the temperature gauge on the domed lid to get to 225 to 250 degrees before placing the meat in the middle of the grill grates.

If the Kamado Joe Jr. takes more than 10 minutes to reach 225-degrees, you might want to try opening the lower damper to increase the airflow.

If it rockets up to 250-degrees or above in less than 5 to 7 minutes, close the damper a little more to restrict the airflow.


What Should I Cook First on My Kamado Joe?

Hamburger patties, hot dogs, bratwursts, and other simple grill classics are a good idea for your first few cooks on your new Kamado Joe.

Once you get a feel for how to build a fire with premium jumbo lump charcoal and master heat control, you can step up to things like bone-in cuts of pork and steaks.


How Do You Use Kamado Joe Jr for the First Time?

You should use premium jumbo lump charcoal the first time you use your Kamado Joe Jr, and make sure to start it with a charcoal chimney or an electric element.

You don’t want to use any sort of lighter fluid or charcoal that has been impregnated with an accelerant.

This can imbue chemical “Butane” aromas into the porous ceramic interior of a Kamado Joe Jr.

The firebox in the bottom of a Kamado Joe Jr. is relatively small. It shouldn’t take more than two liberal handfuls to give you enough charcoal to grill up some hamburger patties or some bratwursts.

It should take roughly 10 minutes to get the flame up to 350 to 400-degrees.


Do You Need to Season a Kamado Joe?

You don’t need to season the metal grill grates on a Kamado Joe Jr. though you should only use jumbo lump charcoal for the first few cooks without any sort of chemical accelerant.

Lighter fluid and charcoal that has been impregnated with a chemical accelerant can imbue the porous ceramic interior of the Kamado Joe Jr. with a chemical “Butane” aroma, that can linger for several cooks afterward.


Final Thoughts

Your first cook on a Kamado Joe Jr. should be done using jumbo lump charcoal that is ignited without any sort of accelerant or lighter fluid.

Two large handfuls of charcoal should be enough to give you a hot fire of 350 to 400 degrees in about 10 minutes, with the lower damper half to three-quarters open.

For your first few cooks, you should stick to cooking over a direct flame making simple things like hot dogs, brats, or hamburger patties.

This will help you understand how to control the heat and how adjusting the lower damper and top vent affect the heating process.

As you start to get a better understanding of how to control the heat on your Kamado Joe Jr. you can start to cook foods slow and low with the heat deflectors installed.

Meats like boneless chicken thighs and small pork loin roasts are cheap.

They are a great way to introduce yourself to indirect grilling and smoking before stepping up to the rewarding challenge of things like pork roasts.