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Aug 22, 2012 08:17 AM

Opinions on the Char-Griller Akorn steel kamado-style grill?

Just spotted one of these in a local big box hardware store. A metal-wall Steel Keg/Kamado-style grill almost as big as an x-large Big Green Egg that retails for $299?! And I can get it in a normal retail store and not even have it shipped? Seems too good to be true...

It seems to get strong reviews, but I figured I would ask here...what's the catch?

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  1. Well....obviously no one responded, but based on positive reviews I read elsewhere and the price I figured I would give it a shot. I have never used a real big green egg, bubba keg/big steel keg or any other kamado grill, so I don't really have a basis for comparison. In fact I have never even used a charcoal grill.

    The main reason I always stuck to gas was because I grill most days, and always believed in the outdated notion that you have to let charcoal burn off for an hour before you can cook. Gas - I can light it and be ready to go within 20 minutes. That's not really the case anymore with chimney starters. However, with this Akorn grill (and, I am assuming Kamados in general), you don't even need that since the entire grill is designed much like a chimney (but you can certainly use one in lieu of electric starters or paraffin cubes if you want). I am able to just pile the lump charcoal in, light it up, and it really is ready to go within 20 minutes for direct cooking, so I am still able to use it even after work (and have already done so several times). I was also worried about constantly running out of charcoal, but because you can close the dampers and stop the fire, you can keep using the un-burned charcoal. I should be able to last quite awhile on a single 20lb bag of charcoal...I started with an 8lb bag and that one got me through a good 4 cumulative hours of direct high-heat full-blast cooking, so I can figure a 20lb bag to run 10 hours cumulatively - about on par with what I could expect to get from a single 20lb tank on my gas grill.

    The food came out great.

    I also used it to smoke some took me some time to figure out how to get it dialed in (mainly, I was trying to micromanage it too much, you really do have to wait a good 10 minutes before adjusting the dampers), but once I did I was able to get it to hold temperature for several hours without ever adjusting the dampers.

    So, anyone who is considering this as a way to get a decent Kamado-style grill but doesn't want to spend $700 or $1000 on a Big Steel Keg or a Big Green Egg, this is a great, less-expensive alternative. If anyone has any specific questions I'm happy to answer.

    1. If it's metal then it's no different than any other metal grill other than shape. What makes a kamado a kamado is the ceramic. Without the ceramic what's the point? Might as well use a Weber at that point.

      5 Replies
      1. re: rasputina

        Actually, if you look it up you will find that, unlike most metal grills, it is double-walled, insulated, and porcelain lined. So it is an attempt to duplicate some of the characteristics of a ceramic kamado without the weight and fragility.

        1. re: Richard L

          The Akorn claims to be triple-walled even. Not that I'm going to saw it open to find out.

          I'm sure a real ceramic kamado can hold warmth far longer, but to break-in/season I ran it for an hour at 400F and 24 hours later the dome temp. was around 150F.

          1. re: jzerocsk

            I have used a BGE for years, and have recently noticed the Akorn in the stores. I studied it and the manual for almost half an hour, and it looks like the Akorn will effectively do the job at a bargin price.

            However, I can fire my BGE up to 700+ degrees. Can the Akorn get this hot? (gas grills certainly cant, as their aluminum shells are too quick to shed heat).

            I believe that meat moisture retention is the main benefit of a domed kamado style grill.

            1. re: jbermo

              It does get to 700+ degrees. However, the manual recommends not exceeding 700, and the OEM dome thermometer maxes out at 700, presumably to drive that point home.

              People routinely stoke BGEs up to 1000+ without any real issues. So that could be a major consideration for someone interested in doing searing or pizzas at really high temps.

        2. re: rasputina

          Thermos are made of metal and insulate much better than ceramic.

        3. I just got my akorn grill, it's touted as ceramic and I have no reason to doubt that. In the past, I was not in favor of charcoal mostly due to convenience, but it does not take long to get the akorn cranking. I use a chimney, an electric charcoal starter, and lump charcoal. The biggest thing to remember, regarding heat, is more air equals more heat. Last night, my second night (in a row) using the grill, I opened up both the damper and the flue and the grill rapidly shot to 650, I needed it at 600 so I opened the lid and allowed some heat to get out. Sure enough, it was at 600. Grilling wise, it is by far the best grill I have ever used. It is very easy to control the temperatures, and I look forward to smoking my first set of ribs and perhaps attempting the dreaded brisket later this summer.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Round_One

            I'm considering this Akorn grill. Are you happy with it?

          2. I’m very pleased with my new Kamado grill the Akorn Kamado Kooker model# 16620 made by King- Griller. This is a Chinese knockoff of the Big Green Egg albeit without the ceramic lining. I’ve always been intrigued by the BGE but its price tag (near $1,000.00) put me off. Seeing I already had a new Weber Genesis and two smokers a propane cabinet and an original electric Bradley I never pulled the trigger. My propane smoker stopped working mid-summer and I was reluctant to buy a $40.00+ dollar regulator for a smoker that cost $160.00, so I procrastinated using my Weber to smoke indirectly. When I saw this Kamado online for $250.00 Shipping & tax incl. from Target I did a little research and pulled the trigger when I saw that “Meathead” Goldwyn from Amazing Ribs, a website I refer to frequently, gave it a good review. I’ve never cooked on a BGE so I can’t offer a definitive comparison but I’ve done four cooks in the last week or so and all came out great. I first did a rack of St Louis Ribs at around 250. They were falling off the bone tender, which I don’t generally like, but still very moist with an amazing thick bark. Next I grilled some beef kabobs at 700 degrees. Monday I did a pork butt low and slow and it got rave reviews from the Monday Night Football crew. Tuesday I did a smoke roasted whole chicken @ 350-400 which also turned out great. After I pulled the chicken off, I roasted corn on the cob and broccoli in some leftover chicken fat. Now there is a learning curb regarding temperature control. If you get it too hot it is slow to cool and I bounced around between 200-275 during my first rib cook until it stabilized. The temperature is controlled by opening and closing upper & lower vents.
            I highly recommend this grill especially @ this price point. It is sturdy and heavy and seemingly well constructed. I like the idea and taste of cooking over charcoal vs propane and it really is a good smoker. The volume of smoke generated with just a few wood chunks defies logic. So if you’re like me and are intrigued by Kamado cooking but don’t want to spend a grand you might want to consider this one.

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