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Before I bought my Akorn I read as much as I could about this grill.  I found quite a bit of information here on this forum, and it convinced me to buy the Akorn (and a spare!), and start experimenting away.  Here is my take on the Akorn after owning it for a year as of this weekend.  I'll stick to three basic areas: efficiency, versatility, and durability.

 

 

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First some details.  I picked up this Akorn for $250 at Walmart last Spring.  (It still had a clearance price tag on it from the previous fall/winter.) In the last year I have lit the grill 120 times and burned through about six bags of 18lb (17.63lb actually) Royal Oak  lump charcoal. I haven't done any low and slow yet, but I have tried lots of different cooks at varying temps.  If I had to describe an average cook, it would be at about 400F for around 1 hour.

 

I live in Massachusetts and keep my Akorn stored on a covered porch. I don't have a cover for the Akorn, but it rarely gets wet where it is located. I store it with all vents closed and keep whatever charcoal is left form the last burn sitting in the fire bowl.  The ash bin only gets emptied out after each complete bag of lump is burned. (More on that  below.)

 

 

 

Efficiency:  One of the great aspects of this grill is its efficiency!  I am averaging about 20-22 cooks per bag of charcoal.  The grill comes to 400F in about 15 minutes, and the fire is out almost immediately after shutting down the vents.  Even after it has been in operation for an hour, you can still touch the outside of the dome without melting the flesh off your hand! 

 

There are two warnings to consider, both based on this high efficiency.  First, it is difficult to lower temps if you overshoot your target.  Second, it takes about 15 minutes with vents wide open to reach 400. If you leave them open for another 5-10, you will have pinned your dome thermometer at beyond 700F!  Id doesn't take long for this thing to go "nuclear"!

 

 

Versatility: I have been amazed at the variety of foods I am able to cook on this thing!  Here's a few pics to illustrate:

 

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Of course you have to try pizza when you have a kamado!  I tried scorching hot in the beginning, but found that around 550 gives a nice balance of crispy crust and cooked toppings.

 

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Paella is one of my favorite things to cook when I have friends over.  This 15" pan fits in the Akorn and allows the lid to be lowered while cooking.

 

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This cast iron wok sits on the lower grate, and hits temps of 650-700F quite easily.  At those temps, veggies sear rather than steam and you get that smoky taste on food similar to what you'll get in a Chinese restaurant.  For lower temp cooks like fried rice, I place the wok on the top grate.

 

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Cast iron pans offer a lot of options when grilling.  I love apple pie or blueberry cobbler on the Akorn, and people are always shocked to see me pull one off the grill!

 

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I picked up a Kettle-Q to do some outdoor griddle cooking with.  So far I've just been experimenting, but I can say I love the fact that the house doesn't smell all breakfasty for a week!

 

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And then there is just some great comfort food!  Throw some chili in a cast iron skillet, toast up some buns and cook some hot dogs, assemble and cook up on the upper rack, and enjoy some awesome chili dogs!

 

 

 

Durability:  It seems like every review of the Akorn questions its durability. Here are some pics showing what mine looks like after the year and 6 bags of charcoal:

 

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As mentioned above, I leave the entire bag's worth of ash in the ash bin.  As shown in this pic, even that amount of ash does not interfere with the air flow from the bottom vent.

 

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After emptying the ash in the picture above, I gave the bin a decent cleaning, and found that after a year it is still shining!  It's pretty amazing that the original enamel is all still intact, and there are no areas showing a break in the finish.  For the record, I removed 2 quarts of ashes from the bin.

 

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Here's the fire bowl removed for inspection.  The exterior still retains its original finish.

 

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Fire bowl installed in Akorn.  There is discoloration where the fire burns hottest, but no evidence of rust.

 

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The charcoal grate has deformed approximately 3/4" in the center from the heat.  I hand't even noticed until I took the grill apart to clean it. 

 

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Akorn interior with fire bowl removed. There is a shallow lip on the flat surface that the ash bin sits against. (This is not visible with the fire bowl installed.)  If water gets into an Akorn I can imagine it could sit on this rim, causing some of the rust issues others have encountered. 

 

 

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I love the cast iron grate!  With minimal care it has served me well. Just watch out for high temp cooks such as pizza, because they can cook away the seasoning on the grate.

 

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The only obvious area of finish wear appears on the lower shelf.  There are several dime-sized areas of corrosion on one side.

 

In terms of durability, this Akorn is going strong!  If I decide to eventually replace the charcoal grate and lower shelf, the parts only cost $10 and $25 respectively through Char Griller.  For $250 I am very happy with the purchase.  I was even happier to find a spare for $125 during last fall's clearance sale!

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Great review.  I bought mine last Sept, and only got to use it til mid-November when I left the country for a while (it's sitting in my garage), and can't wait to get back and fire it up.  Used it several times a week.  Did a couple pork butts, a couple briskets, 2 pizzas, seared some steaks and burgers a few times.  Thus far, I am extremely pleased with its performance.

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Looks grate :) if you are close to Needham I'd love to see the wok I've discounted the idea before but I'm guessing that is ma pau tofu and it looks yummy!

 

I'm out in Western MA, so we're distant neighbors.  The wok was only $20 on Amazon (Mr. Bar-B-Q 06106X Cast-Iron Wok), but I'd recommend buying some long-handled tools to work it as well.  The first time I hit 700 and tried rocking the wok with standard length tools, I think I singed the hair off both arms! 

 

Good eye on the ma po tofu!  We were cooking something similar the night I took that pic.  My favorite dish from the wok is Lo mein - it comes out tasting like it's from a restaurant!

 

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Looks grate :) if you are close to Needham I'd love to see the wok I've discounted the idea before but I'm guessing that is ma pau tofu and it looks yummy!

 

I'm out in Western MA, so we're distant neighbors.  The wok was only $20 on Amazon (Mr. Bar-B-Q 06106X Cast-Iron Wok), but I'd recommend buying some long-handled tools to work it as well.  The first time I hit 700 and tried rocking the wok with standard length tools, I think I singed the hair off both arms! 

 

Good eye on the ma po tofu!  We were cooking something similar the night I took that pic.  My favorite dish from the wok is Lo mein - it comes out tasting like it's from a restaurant!

 

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Interested in your recipe! Looks good

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Anything I need to worry about if I use a wok on the grill like that? Do I need to worry about having the fire to too hot and having to be careful when shutting it down?

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Anything I need to worry about if I use a wok on the grill like that? Do I need to worry about having the fire to too hot and having to be careful when shutting it down?

 

I've cooked with the wok on the lower grate like this 9 times on my own grill, and I have a buddy who's done at least that on his with no issues.  I start the grill and place the wok on the lower grate with the lid closed to build up heat.  On the lower grate the bottom of the wok is pretty close to the coals, so it heats up fast.  By the time dome temp if 500F, the wok is hot!

 

When the wok hits 650F, it's time to start cooking. The fire does pick up with the lid open, so I shut down the bottom vent to try and limit the air coming in from below.  The cooks go quick so it's important to have everything ready.  When I'm done I take the wok out, shut the lid, and close the upper vent.  The dome temp does get up there, maybe around 600F, but it doesn't go nuclear. 

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Awesome, I will have to give it a try this week. My wok doesn't get as hot as I like on my gas range .

 

I've got a fancy stainless electric wok that I used to make this same Lo mein in a month ago when it was 0F around here. It came out totally different because the electric wok could only hit around 400F and the contents steamed rather than searing.  I was surprised at how much better the results are based simply on really high cook temp! 

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Paul, what a well written review. My Akorn is only a few weeks older and my usage only slightly less than yours, and I completely agree with everything you reported. I've made no mods (other than my beloved TTT) and am 100% pleased with this cooker. My learned advice to Akorn users is just don't drive yourself bat sh#t crazy chasing temps.

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christmas was a year on mine and i still cant see where i need to change to a ceramic. Ive done several low and slows and its been a great cooker every time. Turkey, pork butt, fresh ham, and most recent brisket. Mine seems to settle at around 230-250 and sits there running ive gotten 12+ hours over night with nary a hiccup. I actually bought  ckreef's mini akorn and his big one back last summer and love having all 3 for less than the price of a green egg or vision. My cast iron pot collection has gone up considerably since i started this journey with smoke wood fire and meat...lol

Im gonna start looking into a wok now you guys are getting me wondering how it'd do with me at the steering wheel hmm??

I have some pork tenderloins for later in the week. 

Great review and hope we all have some new recipes and fun to share with the time and weather changes that are here.

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