Kamado grills and smokers have enjoyed a dramatic rise in popularity over the last few years. Backyard BBQ chefs that have been using traditional grills and smokers for years have kept a skeptical eye on this fad, some keeping it at arm’s length while others have embraced it. I recently decided to give the kamado cooker craze a try by purchasing a Chargriller Akorn.
Amount of Fuel
The Akorn needs very little fuel. If you’re smoking low and slow, 12-15 charcoal briquettes are all you need to bring the cooker to 275-300 degrees. For grilling, a third of a chimney of charcoal will bring it to a temperature ready to sear your favorite steak. You must be aware, however, that the cooker does take a little while to heat up, so give it a good half an hour after adding charcoal to let the temperature stabilize.
Temperature gauges on grills and smokers should never be trusted. BBQ chefs should always have a temperature probe at the grade level where the food actually sits. My experiments showed the temperature gauge on the Akorn differs as much as 100 degrees from grade level.
A handful of charcoal will easily bring the Akorn to smoking temperature and will last several hours. The thick insulated shell along with the tight seal of the lid traps the heat in the smoker.
Adding fuel while cooking is a challenge as you have to remove the food grate, along with what you’re cooking to pour more charcoal into the cooker. It would be wise to learn popular charcoal use methods that allow for very long cooks such as the minion and snake methods.
The Akorn design allows you to detach the ash basket from the bottom of the cooker for easy cleaning of your Akorn.
The size of the Akorn may be the biggest drawback. When used for grilling, it can accommodate enough burgers or steaks for a family, and for smoking, it will fit one pork shoulder or a single rack of ribs (multiple racks may fit using a rib rack). But if you’re looking to cook for a large group, or cook a whole brisket, the Akorn just isn’t big enough.
How well your food turns out on the Akorn, or any smoker or grill for that matter, has more to do with how you use the cooker than the cooker itself. Using a kamado cooker is very different from a traditional grill or smoker. Once you figure out how much fuel to add to the cooker and how to set the vents to get the temperature you want, you’re on your way to making great food.
At $299 the Akorn is on the expensive side for a charcoal grill, but much less expensive than other kamado cookers which can cost over $1000.
Every outdoor cooker has strengths and weaknesses, and the Chargriller Akorn is no different. The size and inaccuracy of the temperature gauge may be weaknesses, but the efficiency, easy cleaning and lower price compared to other kamado cookers more than make up for them.
Do you own a kamado cooker? How do you like it?