Hello. I have been lurking on this site for some time, while I have been trying to make a decision to switch from a gas grill to a Kamado style charcoal grill. I have been interested in making the switch for some time now, since trying some smoked chicken and smoked ribs at a friend's trailer last summer. The versatility of these grills amazed me, and my gas grill was ready for the graveyard. As a father of 4 kids, a $1000 investment in a Big Green Egg, or a Kamado Joe was a tough sell, for me, but the Akorn was available at Wal-Mart for < $400.
My initial misgivings about the Akorn were based on quality and durability. After searching the internet, I landed on this site, and I was amazed at the amount and quality of information available from the members and it made my decision much easier.
I purchased the Akorn last week, and have been grilling on it daily. Just a few notes about my experience thus far:
* I read many posts about build quality issues and assembly. I guess I got lucky. The unit I purchased was in pristine shape - no dents, missing pieces or any other issues. The only issues I noted were that the latch for the closure clip on the cover seems to be off-center. This is not an issue, as it is not far enough off to cause closure issues. The only other issue I have is that the latch does not seem to close tight enough (although I have noted no air issues (i.e. closing the vents down snuffs the coals, and temperature control seems pretty easy). I also had to insert some of the clips for the lid gasket as they were not seated properly. I assembled the grill by myself, and it took about 90 minutes.
* After cleaning and seasoning the grate, I performed a couple of test burns to see if I could control and stabilize the heat, as I was planning to try and smoke some ribs for my son's Birthday party the next day. Following the instructions I found in these forums, I was easily able to bring the grill slowly up to 225 and hold it for an hour with no vent adjustment. I then opened the unit up and brought the grill up to 350 and held it there for an hour, and finally opened it up and was able to get the grill up to a steak searing 600+ degrees. This was all done on a calm sunny day with little wind (I have since found that windy conditions make it a little harder to control the heat on my grill).
* The first cook was a 4 hour rib smoke. I was able to fit 3 large racks of ribs on the main grate, using a 15.25 inch pizza stone for a diffuser. I cooked the ribs at 250 - 260 (or at least I thought so) and the results were amazing. The ribs cooked quicker than I expected, so I used a good oven thermometer to check the temp at the grate and found it to be about 50 degrees hotter at the grate than the reading on the grill thermometer. I am purchasing a maverick from amazon.ca (as well as a weber replacement grill to use as a diffuser grate) to help get the correct temps.
I have grilled chicken, burgers and a steak since with incredible results this week. So far so good. Thanks to everyone here. It has made the learning curve a lot less steep.