Summer has arrived and that means so has grilling season, so you might want to check out the new Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill. As most people today enjoy the outdoor life there is no better compliment to a day outdoors then firing up the grill and cooking some delicious food. The designers at Char-Griller couldn’t agree more, so recently they released their new char griller the AKORN Kamado Kooker and they have assured everyone that they would not be disappointed.
Kamado cooking is a traditional Japanese wood or charcoal fueled cook stove. The style has been around for over 3,000 years and has evolved but has seen an uptick in popularity in recent years as more modern versions such as the AKORN and the Green Egg have become more mainstream. These grills are versatile due to the fact that they allow you to charcoal grill or use them as a smoker. So lets have a closer look and see how they went.
Video – Char-Griller AKORN Kamado
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill Features
– 314 square inches of primary cooking space, warming rack 133 square inches for a total of 447 square inches.
– Insulated design means more heat uses less charcoal and less airflow means insulated heat for juicy meat and folding side shelves.
– Cooking surface is cast iron, Body is constructed of 22-gauge steel, Exterior finish is powder coated steel, Interior finish is porcelain coated steel.
– Cart is constructed of tubular steel w/rubber wheels, locking caster on front.
– Indexed damper is numbered so you can note the position of the damper.
– Features Locking Lid, 2 folding black metal shelves, Easy dump ash pan, Double wall insulation, Heat gauge.
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill Colors
|Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill Blue|
|Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill Black|
Our Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill Review
The Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill, like its predecessor the King-Griller Kamado Kooker, is a double wall, insulated steel egg that is much lighter, in some ways more durable, and a lot less expensive than ceramic Kamados. Char-Griller is well known for grills that are cheap to make and cheap to buy. Until now, they gave us what we paid for. But this insulated steel egg design and Char-Griller’s manufacturing process may be a match made in heaven. By replacing the heavy ceramic used for thousands of years with modern lightweight materials, Char-Griller appears to have created a cooker that performs pretty close to traditional Kamados at a fraction of the cost.
A kamado grill is based on an ancient Japanese charcoal-powered cooker. Modified by GIs after the war, this design has become the pinnacle of charcoal grills and a very lucrative market. The Char-Griller Akorn can be had, depending on location, for less than $350 and while that might seem like a lot for a charcoal grill, it is an absolute steal for this kind of charcoal grill.
The Char-Grill gets to this price point first by swapping the traditional high-temperature ceramic for an insulated metal shell. Originally developed by a company called Bubba Keg (now owned by Broil-King and branded as the Broil King Keg) this metal body solution is lighter weight, less fragile, and cheaper to manufacture. The other way that Char-Griller manages to produce these for so little money is that they used their Chinese factories to build the grill, cutting the labor and material costs.
The Akorn is not in the same quality category as other kamado-style grills, but then it isn’t in the same price category either, and this is the crux of the decision. Do you swap long-term durability and quality for price? The advantages of any kamado grill, including this one, is that the insulated body holds in heat, making the grill far more efficient than a standard charcoal grill.
This means less charcoal while giving it amazingly high temperatures. The Akorn can reach internal cooking temperatures up to 700 degrees F/370 degrees C. At the same time, because of the tight seals (older models of this grill didn’t seal well and made it hard to control temperatures), it can cook at low and slow temperatures down to 200 F/95 C, making this a great smoker as well.
What’s In The Box
– Main Kamado body including dampers, hood, ash pan and a built-in thermometer.
– Legs and folding side shelves.
– Removable warming rack.
– Two large, 8-inch wheels with locking feature and bottom tray.
– Cast iron cooking grates.
– Grate hook.
Akorn Kamado Kooker Assembly
The good part about the assembly of the AKORN Kamado Kooker is that the longest part of the assembly is just getting everything out of the box. Once you have everything laid out, the grill is easy to put together. The instructions could be a bit more detailed as there was some guessing going on but once you get the concept you really do not need the instructions. If you don’t like manuals there is a great YouTube video by Ken Fisher that does an excellent job of walking you through everything. The pieces are light enough that one person can do the entire assembly on their own. From un-boxing to completion, the entire process should take around an hour.
Video- Char-Griller Assembly Instructions
Akorn Kamado Kooker Design
This steel design is not new. The Broil King Keg, (formerly Big Steel Keg and Bubba Keg), are basically higher quality versions of the Akorn. And Akorn is basically a lower priced version of their previous King-Griller. What makes Akorn remarkable is people are buying it for the low price, then discovering the thing actually performs very well. Some did side by side comparisons to top of the line ceramic cookers and felt the results were virtually identical.
Once assembled the shape of the grill will resemble the very popular Green Egg, but don’t think that it’s a knock off. Most Kamado style grills are built very similarly because these grill styles are the more modern version of the Japanese kamado, an earthernware cooking urn whose original design is said to be at least 3,000 years old. The Char-Griller version features a triple wall, insulated steel egg that is much lighter than ceramic Kamados. While typical Kamado grills are ceramic, don’t think for a second that reduces the quality of Char-Griller version or makes it less durable.
By not using the extremely heavy ceramic it allows for a more cost-efficient product and with a high-quality manufacturing process you are still getting an extremely well-built Kamado grill. Char-Griller appears to have created a cooker that performs pretty close to traditional Kamados at a fraction of the cost. The body features 22-Gauge Steel which is high quality and should keep the grill around for a long time.
Inside the grill features a cast iron grate with a removable center that allows you to add coal. The grate also has holes that allow a small chrome plated rack on a swivel post that can be popped into the holes that is used for warming or slow cooking. On the side of the grill it offers a couple of small tables and below those tables are hooks to hang your utensils on. While the grill is compact it did a good job of storing food and necessary supplies.
Akorn Kamado Kooker Temperature Control
As with any charcoal grill temperature control is essential to grilling that perfect piece of meat. I saw where somebodys first few runs on the AKORN Kamado found them struggling to get past 350 degrees and they started to get concerned. Then they realized that we were using extremely old charcoal that was not burning well. Once they switched out for some fresh charcoal they get a lot better result. The manual states that the AKORN can get up to 700 degrees, the highest we achieved was 650 but that wasn’t an issue for us because you don’t need to hit 700 degrees.
If purchasing a Kamado grill for the first time it is important to note that these grills are designed to retain heat. With this in mind you will find yourself extremely frustrated if you over shoot your desired temp and try to get it back down. It is best to take a conservative approach as you can always open the air vents to get more in and increase your heat. It took us a few sessions to dial in the temperature, but we were happy to try and get it right. Remember this style of cooking is a process, so if you are looking for quick jumps in temperature and for a fast process, then charcoal and Kamado style cooking might not be for you.
Like most kamados, it cannot be set up for true 2-zone cooking, an essential technique easily done on other charcoal grills by piling coal to one side to create a direct and indirect zone simultaneously. A few exceptions exist, such as Primo’s Oval Kamados. One useful device that is a match made in heaven for any kamado is the BBQ Dragon, a well-made, battery operated, clip on, variable speed fan that can convert a charcoal bed from quiet gray to rip roaring red hot in a matter of minutes. Very good for switching gears from low and slow to searing hot.
Video – Lighting & Damper Control on Akorn Kamado Chargriller
Akorn Kamado Kooker Lid & Body
The lid and body consist of approximately one-inch thick insulation wrapped in steel. Outside is powder coated and inside is porcelain coated. Calibrated dampers are located at the top and bottom of the egg. The bottom damper is part of a removable ash pan. Both the lid and the ash pan are secured to the body with metal latches. Both have a single strip of flexible gasket on only one edge. Some complained these gaskets and dampers are poor quality and leak. It’s easy to believe the gaskets are cheap just by looking at them. They aren’t attached well either. Surprisingly, there are few reports of air leaks. If you do have this problem, the gaskets can easily be replaced.
The dampers appeared adequate upon cursory inspection. A below average lid heat indicator is included so do yourself a favor and get a digital thermometer and reduce your stress.
Akorn Kamado Kooker Cart
The three-legged cart is sturdy enough with a bottom shelf, two large 8 inch wheels and one locking caster. It has two light weight side shelves with tool hooks. Inside is a 302 square inch cast iron grate with a round, removable center to add coal. Just like the Broil King Keg, it has a small chrome plated rack on a swivel post that can be popped into holes in the cast iron grates and used for warming or cooking. It swivels a few inches above the primary cooking surface.
Video – Curing the Char-Griller AKORN Ceramic Kamado
Akorn Kamado Kooker Accessories
The best thing about Kamados is how versatile they are. With a few very simple accessories you can turn your Akorn from a standard grill into a smoker, a pizza oven and more. A useful accessory is the “Smokin’ Stone”, which fits between the coal and grate to diffuse heat for slow cooks. Availability of this seems limited. One clever fellow claims a 16-inch pizza pan makes a pretty good diffuser if you can’t get the Smokin’ Stone. Also available are pizza stones, woks, drip pans, poultry and roaster racks, cover and a wireless remote thermometer that appears to be the Maverick ET 732.
Here’s a list of a few of our favorite accessories:
Char-Griller Smokin’ Stone
Char-Griller Akorn Cover
|We recommend picking up a cover for any grill or smoker you own. Not only does it keep the weather out, but it reduces the buildup of moisture, dust and dirt which will help prolong the lifetime of your Kamado.|
PartyQ BBQ Temperature Controller for Char-Griller Akorn
BBQ Dragon Charcoal Starter
Char-Griller Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter
Akorn Kamado Kooker Durability
Given the price of the AKORN Kamado Kooker durability was an obvious concern but when you dive in to the materials they used to produce the grill, you can quickly put those fears to bed. The triple-walled insulated steel and the 22-gauge steel exterior body equate to a very rugged and durable grill. I did see where somebody had an issue with a seal coming loose around the chimney that allowed some water in and did some damage to their grate.
They said they contacted customer support and they replaced everything and even some parts that were not affected just to make sure. While they could have avoided this by having a cover on it, Char-Griller stood by their product and rectified the situation quickly. They said that they have not had a problem since. With the quality materials and a responsive manufacturer to address any concerns, you will have this grill for a long time.
– Make sure you properly season your new Akorn. Char-Griller apply a coating of natural vegetable oil to the inside of your grill to protect it during shipping and it needs to be burned off. Read through the manual and our seasoning guide to make sure this is done correctly.
– Use a digital meat thermometer to get accurate readings of the internal meat temperature and ambient pit temperature. This will ensure that all your meat is correctly cooked. Use our smoking times and temperatures charts to make sure you cook your meat to the correct temperature.
– You can reuse charcoal if it hasn’t been fully burned, but if you’re using your Akorn for searing then it’s best to use fresh charcoal.
– Because of the way Kamados are designed they can act as almost self-cleaning grills. Just fire it up to roughly 600°F and leave it for 30 minutes or so. Open the vents and let it cool completely. Remove the ash and firebox, and brush everything down with a brush. Wipe the grate or put it in the dishwasher and then reassemble. It’ll be very simple to clean down after being heated because the high temperatures break down and sterilizes the mess. You won’t need to do this every time, but we’d recommend doing a deep clean after around 10 cooks.
– Char-Grill also provide a list of recipes and further tips to get the most out of your new Kamado grill.
Video – How To Quickly Reduce Temperature In An Overheated Kamado
Overall, the Akorn Kamado Kooker is a very good product at a very attractive price point. For less than $350 you can get a well-designed, steel kamado that is capable of cooking food as well as some of the $1,000 alternatives. It has a few small quality issues that are expected from a kamado at this price point, but that isn’t enough for us to not recommend it. If you’re looking for a cheap entry into the joys of cooking on a kamado then the Char Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill is a great choice.
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill Customer Reviews
“Love this grill. Having said that, I have by no means mastered it. This ain’t your daddy’s grill (throw-back to the Oldsmobile commercial if you’re old enough to appreciate it). I’m thinking I may do a video to help people transition from a conventional grill to the Acorn. In a nutshell (pun intended) here is the primary difference between this and the grill you used before:
1) This grill is extremely well insulated. As a matter of DEMONSTRATION ONLY – when it’s 425 degrees inside, I can put my hand on top of the grill without injury. Oh, it gets warm, but I can leave my old callous hands on it for some time before they feel like I’m going to get burned. (NOTE: the very top, the seam where the top half of the grill and the bottom meet and the bottom in general all get hot like a conventional grill and will burn you quickly.)
2) As a result of this great insulation there are two bi-products: a) you have to sneak up on the temperature that you want. After lighting the grill, if you blow through 225 degrees it will not be quick or easy to get the temperature back down to 225. Period. It can be done, but patience is required. b) This means the grill will carry its heat a long time. You can achieve very long cooks at 225 degrees if that is what you want.
In summary: you can use this grill like a conventional, get it hot and cook it fast, type grill or you can use it to slow cook your meal. For slow cooks, patience is the first ingredient, followed by lump charcoal and a Rutland fire starter square. Be patient as you wait for the desired temp to be achieved. When you need to make adjustments, do so in small increments and then patiently wait (10 minutes) to note the effect on your temp. Did I mention that you need to exercise patience?
Thank you for patiently reading this and hopefully it helps you in some small way appreciate your new grill.
Edit 10/13/2016 – I continue to really enjoy the grill and thought I’d pass along a couple of other tips that have worked well for me. 1) When you want to cook “fast” like burgers perhaps, conventional, small charcoal seems to work well. Examples: For a quick burger or two, just use small charcoal chunks instead of large, LUMP charcoal. I just use the dregs from my lump charcoal bag, but I’m pretty sure conventional briquettes would work just as well. For lots of burgers, use a combination of small and lump charcoal to keep your heat going strong for a longer amount of time. 2) Don’t forget to clean the bottom trap out. It’s easy to overlook this chore and it really has an effect on how well the air can move through the unit.” …. Read More
“This is my first experience with a kamado style grill. Actually, my first investment in a decent charcoal setup, as I’ve always been a propane user.
I thought I’d get my feet wet with the Akorn rather than dive in head first with a 4-figure ceramic kamado.
For a relatively inexpensive grill, the quality of the parts is higher than I expected. The manufacturing tolerances weren’t perfect, a couple bolts and holes didn’t line up as well as I would’ve liked, but overall it was satisfactory. Assembly (unboxing through cleanup) was roughly 2 hours, and I was in no particular hurry and enjoying some adult beverages during the process. Pretty straightforward. I did have to adjust one of the clips on the ash pan afterwards, which seems a common fix – it was not sealing properly and the key to kamado cooking is airflow control.
I’ve been watching plenty of videos on kamado cooking (John Setzler of Kamado Joe is great), so the learning curve hasn’t been too steep. So far everything has turned out impressively – slow cooked baby backs, wings, coal fired pizza, hasselback potatoes, steaks, even lowly burgers and dogs. These cooks have all run the gamut of temperatures, intentionally, as I Iearn the nuances of temperature control – a blazing 600F plus for pizza, holding 275 on the ribs all afternoon, etc. Sure, it’s more effort than a gas grill, pellet grill, or electric smoker – but those are borrrrrring. This is an art form! And a bit more rewarding, in my opinion.
Accessories – you need to monitor the temperature with something other than the dial on the dome. You ain’t cooking on the dome, it’s 50 degrees hotter at the grill grate than what that dial says. A $6 oven thermometer works fine for me.
For indirect cooking, the “Smoking Stone” is a must. To keep your Akorn dry, Check out my other reviews for the cover I picked up on the cheap here on AMZN. And get yourself some super high heat resistant BBQ gloves. You WILL need them.
I think with proper care (ie, actually remembering to cover it), I should easily get 5 to 7 years out of the Akorn with year-round use.
If you know that a kamado is for you, and you have the funds, by all means, go big with a traditional ceramic. But if you’re on more of a budget or just experimenting, this is the perfect gateway drug to your new addiction.” …. Read More
Video – Char Griller Kamado Review
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill Review Verdict
Traditionally, kamado-style cookers have been among the most expensive charcoal grills/smokers on the market. Originally made with a heavy ceramic shell, these grills seemed fragile (though they are not with proper care) and priced much higher than the typical metal kettle grills. The Char-Griller Akorn is a kamado-style grill. It has all the fuel efficiency, high-temperature cooking abilities, and low and slow capacity that the much more expensive units do, but at a half (or even less) the price.
The real bottom line here is that at this price point, the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill is a great way to get a kamado-style grill for a discount price. Many people who have had the earlier versions of this grill have moved on to ceramic models. Kamado grillers love their grills and this style of cooking and seldom switch to anything else.
One thing to note, as with any kamado grill, there is a learning curve to its usage. Don’t plan on buying one in the morning to use that afternoon. It is always a good idea to have a trial run or two of your new Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill first to get used to the temperature control. Another thing to keep in mind is if you like this Griller but it is a little large for what you need then you can get it in a smaller size namely the Char-Griller Akorn Jr Kamado Kooker Charcoal Grill. This Griller comes with a big plus from me.
Video – How To Low & Slow (& make great pulled pork)
Video – Thanksgiving Turkey – Kamado Style
Video – Texas Brisket on the Char-griller Akorn Kamado Kooker