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As the title suggests, I am looking for help getting my Akorn to act the way I want it to for smoking purposes. 

I have the smoking stone, use a water pan, and lower my dampers until it basically snuffs out my fire, but I cannot seem to keep my Akorn at 225. 

Now, I will admit that I am new to smoking and that there is a lot to be learned, but I have read tons of guides and watched videos and replicated them to my best ability, but still cannot get it to work for me. 

 

Currently, my process is this:

 

  1. Open dampers all the way
  2. Fill bottom of grill full of hardwood lump
  3. Light with cotton balls soaked in alcohol
  4. Toss in a couple chunks of hickory
  5. Place my smoking stone
  6. Place my water pan
  7. Close lid and let set until 150
  8. Close dampers halfway until 180
  9. Close dampers again halfway until 210
  10. Close dampers halfway one last time to about .5 on top and bottom.

 

1 of 2 things happens here. Either the temp keeps building to nearly 300 or the fire dies. 

 

I play with the dampers making very small .5 adjustments to try and finagle it, but I cannot seem to get it right. 

 

When I do seem to get the temps in a semi stable range around 230-260 (after LOTS of adjustments), after about an hour I go to spritz my meat with some apple juice and the temps take off again (Obviously because I just fed it a lot of oxygen) and never seem to come back down. 

 

I have read about this "volcano" method of lighting the coals, but I literally have not found any videos or pictures on how to set that up. 

 

Basically, I have no idea what I am doing wrong and I could use someone being critical of my process to give me some advice and direction. 

 

Thanks for any feedback!

 

 

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When you say dampers, are you adjusting both the bottom and top?

 

Once you get to around 180, I'd set the bottom to around 2-2.5 and then from there just adjust the top. You should be able to get control of your Akorn from there. 

 

As far as the temp fluctuation from opening the lid, it may be because you don't have a tight seal with the Akorn. I found the ash tray wouldn't always be snug for me when I owned one and had similar problems but after owning it for a while I was able to find the comfort zones.

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33 minutes ago, buckleybj said:

When you say dampers, are you adjusting both the bottom and top?

 

Once you get to around 180, I'd set the bottom to around 2-2.5 and then from there just adjust the top. You should be able to get control of your Akorn from there. 

 

As far as the temp fluctuation from opening the lid, it may be because you don't have a tight seal with the Akorn. I found the ash tray wouldn't always be snug for me when I owned one and had similar problems but after owning it for a while I was able to find the comfort zones.

Yea, I am adjusting both by 50% at each temp increment. I will give this strat a shot. 

About how long does it take for it to stabilize?  I have heard up to 1 hr. 

 

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Welcome to kamado guru.

 

If you haven't then please read here

 

There are some variations to what you have listed above.  Also, the temp spiking after opening the lids is most likely from leaving it open too long.  Open, spritz and close all in one kinda motion.  In the post I mention cotton and veggie oil but cotton and 90% alcohol is just fine.  I describe my volcano method in the post well, I believe you can also find pics in that thread.  Read as much of the thread as you care to, good info buried in there.

 

Good luck, it can be done!

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2 hours ago, Fudpucker said:

Yea, I am adjusting both by 50% at each temp increment. I will give this strat a shot. 

About how long does it take for it to stabilize?  I have heard up to 1 hr. 

 

An hour is about right. Once it's been stable for 20 minutes or so, you shouldn't have to adjust it much after that.

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Check out the video in my signature.  I'm using a Tip Top Temp but the process is the same, you're controlling the top vent instead of the TTT.  When you are at or near your target temp the top vent will be open .25 inches to a sliver.  Pay attention to how I do the reverse volcanoe by digging a hole through the charcoal until I see the grate, this ensures the fire gets enough air.  If you're snuffing your fire, you're not getting enough air through the cooker.

 

One thing you can do that will make a huge difference is aim for a temperature of 250-275.  This will give you superior results over 225, reason being the Akorn is so efficient holding temps at 225 will not produce enough smoke and combustion gases that gives your food a smokey flavor.  If you find you need more airflow,  a temperature of 250-275 will do it (ideally 275 is best, but I aim low and sometimes end up at 250 which is better than overshooting the temp).

 

Finally, depending what you are cooking, a temperature in the range of 225-290 is fine.  It's not an exact science, your food doesn't really care if it's a little hotter cook than you were going for.

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I had similar problems. Some quick pointers which got me over the hump:

 

Temperature. Akorns are generally a bit finicky about staying at 225, but mine has been quite happy at 250 and I think I get a better product out of it. Akorns are steel and thus reflective instead of a giant heat sink like a ceramic, which makes them crazy efficient but also makes them harder to maintain at super low temps. Don't worry so much about 225.  I've done 225 for a long time but tbh it wasn't worth the trouble. Nowadays I look for clear smoke and aim for 230-250 and I don't care if it fluctuates up to 280.

 

Fire building: Lay out the bottom of the firepit with large chunks first. I use a mix of big chunks of charcoal and wood, since I subscribe to the "wood on the bottom" school. This helps you maintain clear air channels throughout the cook, which prevents the fire going out. Mine went out for almost a week before I started doing this. Put your little pieces on top of your large chunk bed without choking it off.

 

Alcohol starters: Use 91% alcohol minimum, as 70% tends to put itself out. Use ONE for starting a low/slow, right down in the middle of the pile with access to that air channel you built before. Akorns are too efficient, so you want to have a very small surface area fire or else it'll run out of control and you'll never calm it down. 

 

Pans: Don't use a water pan for humidity as you won't need it. I will often put in an empty pan on top of my deflector just to prevent burning fat screwing up my smoke profile, but a water pan just messed up my chamber temperatures and could actually make the product soggy. Kamados maintain high humidity by themselves.

 

Spritzing: Minimize any time the lid is open, so only do this if you absolutely must and don't keep the lid open. Since Akorns are over-efficient, every time you open the lid the extra oxygen has a disproportionate effect on your fire. This is what I dislike most about the Akorn, which I like a lot otherwise. If you insist on spritzing and such, then you probably want to shoot for 220 instead of 250 as your control temperature or baby your vents before and after opening, although babying your vents leads to neuroses.

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20 hours ago, Fudpucker said:

I cannot seem to keep my Akorn at 225. ...

... 1 of 2 things happens here. Either the temp keeps building to nearly 300 or the fire dies. 

My experience exactly, 300 or dead if I don't constantly intervene, and sometimes even if I do.  

 

20 hours ago, buckleybj said:

Once you get to around 180, I'd set the bottom to around 2-2.5 and then from there just adjust the top. You should be able to get control of your Akorn from there. 

and

17 hours ago, buckleybj said:

Once it's been stable for 20 minutes or so, you shouldn't have to adjust it much after that.

Never happened with mine. It always drifted up or went out. 

 

3 hours ago, moloch16 said:

I'm using a Tip Top Temp but the process is the same,

But a TTT makes continuous adjustments based on exit temp... same process but with a real-time controller.

 

I came to the Akorn from a 2-barrel smoker; I wanted a fast charcoal grill and I got it. I got drawn into the hype that it could do low-n-slow, which mine could not. I concluded that the bottom vent doesn't seal when fully closed, and that's confirmed now; my fix was a KJ. The fire in a well made Kamado can be snuffed out using only the bottom vent.

 

The other challenge to low-n-slow is mass vs. insulation. It's well insulated and has little mass, so it takes a very small fire to maintain temperatures, which can drift very quickly. 

 

After looking at a lot of Kamados, I realized the Akorn design is different in one important way - air flow. Most have a fire bowl deep in the shell. The Akorn fire bowl is almost level with the dome opening at the top, and it forms a Venturi nozzle at the bottom. The Venturi creates negative pressure at the bottom of the shell, drawing fresh air in at the top whenever the dome is open. Opening the lid always messes with air flow, but with the Akorn, it's borderline dangerous. 

 

I gave up on low-n-slow; it's great for ribs at 280-300 F. It's also not the pizza oven the ceramics can be. 

 

The one thing I never tired was super-premium charcoal. KJ XL Big Block might be effective due to large block size. Once lit, they burn a long time, but there's not enough surface area to emit a lot of heat. You might give it a try, along with the suggestions and techniques above. 

 

Have fun,

Frank

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When I got my Akorn at first I had a little trouble staying 225/clean smoke/lit.

 

I bought some nomex gasketing and put it on the main gap and the ash tray on the opposite side of the fiberglass gasket. This solved all of my problems. 

 

Later, I added a Tip Top Temp, which just made things more convenient. That combo would run clean 225 cooks for as long as I ever needed them. Routinely 16 hour overnight cooks. 

 

Give it a chance, keep data, figure out your cooker, it will perform for you. I gave my full size Akorns to friends that are using them now with zero low and slow complaints. 

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16 hours ago, gotzero said:

When I got my Akorn at first I had a little trouble staying 225/clean smoke/lit.

I blame manufacturing variation for the seeming love-hate relationships the Akorn engenders. 

 

My Akorn's gaskets sealed well enough to snuff the fire if I closed both vents. But I had to close the top vent, too... any top opening kept the fire going because my bottom vent leaked. I suspect that your bottom vent closes more effectively than mine did. See if you can snuff the fire leaving the top vent open... you can when the bottom vent seals. 

 

Have fun,

Frank

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Invest in a temperature probe setup (link below).  I have a bluetooth temp probe at grate level during the entire cook.  The thermometer on the dome is okay, but it isn't great for low temps.  I have done 225 and it never reads much over 200, I suspect its mainly because it is up so high, but could be bad calibration.  Some people suggesting adding gaskets could be right (I did add some gasket to the ash pan and the opposing surface from the lid to get a better seal), but if you keep snuffing out your fire I doubt you have too many air leaks.

 

I think I might agree with some of the people on here talking about 250, I think you might just get better results out of a slightly warmer cook chamber. 

 

As far as building your fire, there are differing opinions on wood placement, but here is what I do.  I have a 3/4 inch pipe that I put in the center when adding coals and stack around it to hold it up before lighting, I place wood chips and chunks around that as well. I remove the pipe and then put one firestarter cube (don't remember the brand, but I bought a big ol' bag of em for pretty cheap at Winn Dixie) down the hole, light it, and cover it with a couple pieces of charcoal.  I give that until the grill thermometer starts tickling 200 before putting my deflector, grate, and temp probe on.  

 

I've told you all of that to tell you this. My big secret to maintaining temperature the easy way, buy a controller.  I've done cooks without one and I'm out there every 1 or 2 hours (maybe less) fiddling with vents.  I would monitor the bluetooth temp probe from my phone and let the temp build to about 240 then I would choke the grill down until it dropped to 220 rinse and repeat for hours.  Then I bought a BBQube TempMaster Pro, set it up after starting the grill, went to sleep and woke up to a perfectly done Boston Butt.  You don't have to get that one, but they are basically an electric bellows, not quite pellet grill easy, but worth it.  I got the BBQube, because I found a used on ebay, but I would definitely recommend the bluetooth/wifi features so you can monitor it from your phone.

 

https://bbqube.us/

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07PYVLBSM/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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