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New member. New Akorn


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TLDR; I am thrilled with my Akorn after 10 uses in a month. I have not modded it and it has smoked, grilled and made pizza and naan better than I dared to hope given the $300 price.  Construction good-ish; adequate for the task.

 

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I picked up an Akorn a month ago and wanted to post my experience for others weighing their options.  I was in the market for a dedicated smoker, had mostly settled on a Weber Smokey Mountain (I already had a kettle grill and think highly of the Weber brand), then a friend talked me into holding out for a BGE. 

 

But I'm impatient and cheap so (thanks mostly to this forum) I took a flyer on the Akorn.

 
I bought it at Lowes.  They had it in stock.  It came in a big box, had a little trouble hefting into the trunk.  Assembly took about 90 minutes.  I also picked up a Weber 17" replacement grate (the lower grate on a standard kettle grill) to hold a heat diffuser.  You'll want one of these if you are going to smoke and aren't going to buy the $40 heat diffuser.

 

It has no clay insulation like the BGE or Kamado Joe has, just an inch of air between 2 layers of enameled steel.  As it turns out, air is a very good insulator.  There are actually 3 layers of steel in the lower portion.  The innermost is basically a heat shield  so the 2 outer walls aren't anywhere near fire.  Think of it like a fire in a coffee can set inside a vacuum thermos.  The result is that you can touch almost anything on the outer body of the cooker no matter how hot the fire is,  The exception is the top vent.  It got quite hot.

 

Controlling temp took practice.  I get better at it each time and have managed to hold it at 225 for hours, but I've had a few spikes along the way.

 

As others have noted, the construction isn't exactly laser-beam precision, but it's sturdy.  My main complaint is the ash pan seems like it should hold tighter to the body - it feels like it is not tight enough to form a good seal.  That said, when I batten down the hatches, the fire goes out, so it must be sealed pretty well.

 

 First thing I made was brisket (salt and pepper rub, lump charcoal and hickory chunks, that is all).  I used the base of my stone cloche baker for a heat diffuser (it's like a pizza stone with a lip).  I had trouble with the temp.  It shot up to 350 before I could stop it and it took most of an hour to get it back down to 225 after I closed both vents completely.  Temp came down so slowly that I didn't realize that the fire was actually out so I had to relight, so I'd say the insulation is pretty good.  The temp problem aside, OMG it was amazing.  Maybe the best thing I've ever eaten.  I guess brisket is pretty forgiving.

 

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Also smoked a pork shoulder, also quite good.  Got decent smoke penetration.

 

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I smoked a chicken too.  By my third time I was getting better at controlling the temp, but it still got briefly up to 300, which did affect the outcome.  Still very good.  Breast meat dried out a bit, but everything else was perfect.  I'll get that temp control figured out, so help me.... 
 

It's also a very competent grill.  Vs. the Weber it's got some advantages.  The coals are a little farther from the meat so flare-ups aren't so problematic.  My grilled chicken had fewer charred spots than I usually get.  Also the insulation means I can touch just about any exterior surface no matter how hot the fire is.  AND you can shut it off when you're done and save the remaining charcoal.

 

I made pizza by putting a pizza stone near the front of the grate, propping open the lid about 3 inches and closing the top vent.  I figure that creates air flow over the back of the stone and across the top of the pizza on it's way out the front.  I rotated the pizza 90 degrees every minute or so.  It came out great - better pizza than my kitchen oven makes.

 

So my original thinking was I'd buy this cheap thing to get by on until I can afford the BGE, but honestly, I find no significant shortcomings in the Akorn and if mine ever gets carried off by a twister and my wife authorizes $1000 to buy a new kamado, I'd probably skip the BGE again, buy another Akorn and use the remaining $700 to buy meat (you know you can buy whole prime briskets at Costco, right?) .

 

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The difference between the Akorn and BGE is like the difference between a Accord and an Acura.

 

You sure would love to have the Acura, it's clearly a much much nicer car than the Accord, but the Accord is a fine car, good transportation, gets the job done well and comfortably.

 

Is the BGE a nicer kamado?  absolutely.  Is it $600 nicer?  Only you can answer that question.

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Saint Ghurka welcome! I couldn't agree more about the worth of the Akorn. I have two (divide and conquer!) and can't personally see a reason to get a more expensive machine. If the food cooks as well, that's all I need. Have over a thousand cooks on my older one, and it is still just fine. When one dies, I will simply get another. Again, welcome.

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My main complaint is the ash pan seems like it should hold tighter to the body - it feels like it is not tight enough to form a good seal. 

 

Did you slide the pin on the ash pan into the slot?

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My main complaint is the ash pan seems like it should hold tighter to the body - it feels like it is not tight enough to form a good seal. 

 

Did you slide the pin on the ash pan into the slot?

 

Yes, and pulled the two clips closed - it is making contact all around, but it doesn't compress the seal much.  I'm not sure that it's actually a problem, maybe just my perception.

 

What I noticed is if I get it smoking pretty good, then close it up completely, I can give the lid a good quick push down and create some pressure inside - then I can see where smoke gets forced out.  I'll experiment and see if anything escapes from that seal.

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My main complaint is the ash pan seems like it should hold tighter to the body - it feels like it is not tight enough to form a good seal. 

 

Did you slide the pin on the ash pan into the slot?

 

Yes, and pulled the two clips closed - it is making contact all around, but it doesn't compress the seal much.  I'm not sure that it's actually a problem, maybe just my perception.

 

What I noticed is if I get it smoking pretty good, then close it up completely, I can give the lid a good quick push down and create some pressure inside - then I can see where smoke gets forced out.  I'll experiment and see if anything escapes from that seal.

 

as long as it snuffs out the fire (which you stated it did) then the seal is good

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