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JamesonC

First time smoker

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Good evening!

 

I bought a Char Griller Akorn two weeks ago from a guy selling it on facebook with the smoking stone and some other odds and ends for half of what he paid. He's a retired military guy and said he only used it three times and it seems to be in very good condition. Before that I had been lurking on here for about a month.

 

I am a military guy stationed in the panhandle of Florida and I've been wanting to get into smoking meat for a long time since I love all things cooking. So far I've smoked a whole chicken, a few chicken thighs, and last night I did my first pork shoulder and it came out pretty tasty with decent bark.

 

I've been struggling to regulate temps, but I got it to settle for about four hours last night at 251 and then 278 and from everything I've been reading I am 90 percent sure it is a mixture if the common sealing issues and poor lighting of coals/not using the volcano method. I'll be sealing my Akorn up tonight using a gasket I bought from home depot. I am looking forward to this new hobby!

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Welcome to kamado guru.   I'd wait on modifications and just work on control.  The Akron actually has one of the better gaskets you can get IMHO.  You just want to take it before it gets too hot.

 

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I have an Akorn that began leaking smoke soon after I got it.  

A gasket tip I got here is to pinch both gaskets every inch or so all the way around.  This seems to puff them up and the leaking stopped.

Other than that, temp control is largely a matter of sneaking up on it.   If you shoot past your target temp it is a bitch to bring it down.

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The actual Akorn gaskets are great, probably the best thing on them from a design standpoint. Pinch them around to puff them up a bit and look for spots where the metal pins might have come out of the housing, causing a leak. I never had to do any actual mods on my Akorn for leaking until I burnt out the top O-ring a couple of times and just sealed it up with RTV. Mostly the Akorn is just a bitch to control compared to ceramics. You'll definitely learn a lot about laying a proper fire and fine vent setting.

 

Meantime for initial sealing, my favorite mod is to cook a whole lot of greasy burgers. :)

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I agree with the others-- I've had my Akorn almost 7 years and maybe twice it got away from me and ruined the food. One time it was an overnighter, but I managed to save the pork butt and it got rave reviews in spite of me at a football tailgate.

 

I'd read all the stories about mods and whatnot and in the end decided not to do them-- from my experience most of the problems I've encountered with temperature control are the result of operator error and lack of patience. What I came to realize is if you start out slow building your fire and cut back your airflow well before you reach your desired temp you can manage it without too much trouble. Just check it once in a while, and if you adjust your damper, only adjust it maybe 1/16" or 1/8" at most, a little goes a long way. After a while I found I could leave it alone for 2-3 hours without checking and it would hold the temperature pretty steady within a few degrees under or over. It is a good idea to resist chasing temperatures, be patient and let it settle in before you do anything. Finally, don't obsess about temperatures, if you're shooting for 225*, the people you're cooking for won't know that you cooked between 200* and maybe 275*, nor will the meat. A remote thermometer like a Maverick is indispensible. As you can see from the pictures below, the unmodded Akorn I bought in 2013 does not have smoke billowing out through the gasket.

 

All that said, your best teacher is experience, but I have to say that the great members in this forum have been invaluable in guiding me along my journey. The Akorn is a great cooker and I look forward to seeing the results of your efforts, welcome to the forum.

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Thank you for all of the advice! I should clarify that I am a bit of a tinkerer and I also have read about how great the gaskets are on the Akorn. I added extra gasket material because the  dome and ash pan did not have a great positive seal even though the factory gasket is in great shape. The factory gasket is still attached and if it ever wears out it'll get replaced with a new factory gasket. 

 

I definitely saw the need to make sure the temp doesn't overshoot on my first cook and I have been watching it closely and shutting the vents earlier and earlier. Someone recently said they would cut the vents 100 degrees below their target so I'll be trying to do that this weekend if there is anything in the stores to smoke with all of this panic buying. 

 

 I would like to do briskets eventually so I am keeping logs of my cooks and trying to get the temp closer to 225 each cook. Laying a fire is something I am paying a lot of attention to on my next cook to see how much easier it is to keep temp and for how long. I also have an IGrill 2 coming in this Friday so I guess you could say I am jumping in with both feet. 

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1 hour ago, JamesonC said:

Thank you for all of the advice! I should clarify that I am a bit of a tinkerer and I also have read about how great the gaskets are on the Akorn. I added extra gasket material because the  dome and ash pan did not have a great positive seal even though the factory gasket is in great shape. The factory gasket is still attached and if it ever wears out it'll get replaced with a new factory gasket. 

 

I definitely saw the need to make sure the temp doesn't overshoot on my first cook and I have been watching it closely and shutting the vents earlier and earlier. Someone recently said they would cut the vents 100 degrees below their target so I'll be trying to do that this weekend if there is anything in the stores to smoke with all of this panic buying. 

 

 I would like to do briskets eventually so I am keeping logs of my cooks and trying to get the temp closer to 225 each cook. Laying a fire is something I am paying a lot of attention to on my next cook to see how much easier it is to keep temp and for how long. I also have an IGrill 2 coming in this Friday so I guess you could say I am jumping in with both feet. 

Consider chuck roast before brisket to save money and get some experience with beef. 

Just sayin. 

They're tasty, too, 

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Welcome to the forum and congrats on your new-to-you Akorn.  I don't have any advice on that brand of grill but as you can see, plenty of folks here use them with outstanding results.  Glad to have you on board!

 

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7 hours ago, JamesonC said:

 I would like to do briskets eventually so I am keeping logs of my cooks and trying to get the temp closer to 225 each cook. Laying a fire is something I am paying a lot of attention to on my next cook to see how much easier it is to keep temp and for how long. I also have an IGrill 2 coming in this Friday so I guess you could say I am jumping in with both feet. 

 

FWIW it's not necessary to do briskets at 225; actually, lots of posters on here prefer 275, which is just before you get into hot & fast. I like to shoot for 250, with the idea that I don't care about temp changes from 225-275.

 

On the Akorn in particular, it's harder to hold 225 without some modification just because it's much more efficient than most kamados and so the tiny fire required for 225 has a tendency to die out. The counterbalance to this is that you'll use way less charcoal. My last brisket took about 16 hours to finish, started with a full box of Kamado Joe XL Big Block, and I guesstimate I used maybe 15-20% of it.

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On 3/24/2020 at 4:20 PM, lnarngr said:

Consider chuck roast before brisket to save money and get some experience with beef. 

Just sayin. 

They're tasty, too, 

Way ahead of you! I bought two from Sams with the intention of smoking beef for the first time and will do one tomorrow evening (as long as my IGrill2 gets here) and probably one on Sunday to prep some food for the week. 

 

 

On 3/24/2020 at 10:54 PM, Ogopogo said:

 

FWIW it's not necessary to do briskets at 225; actually, lots of posters on here prefer 275, which is just before you get into hot & fast. I like to shoot for 250, with the idea that I don't care about temp changes from 225-275.

 

On the Akorn in particular, it's harder to hold 225 without some modification just because it's much more efficient than most kamados and so the tiny fire required for 225 has a tendency to die out. The counterbalance to this is that you'll use way less charcoal. My last brisket took about 16 hours to finish, started with a full box of Kamado Joe XL Big Block, and I guesstimate I used maybe 15-20% of it.

That is good to know, more than anything the goal is just to become an efficient cook on a Kamado since it is a new art in comparison to cooking in the kitchen before I sink the money into a brisket. 

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On 3/24/2020 at 6:43 PM, BobE said:

Welcome to the forum and congrats on your new-to-you Akorn.  I don't have any advice on that brand of grill but as you can see, plenty of folks here use them with outstanding results.  Glad to have you on board!

 

Much appreciated!

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Welcome aboard from another Akorn nut from North of the Border.  Look out - you might get reassigned to help keep your fellow Americans from escaping North away from Covid! LOL

 

Remember also that the more you use the Akorn thin layers of fat and soot will build up around gaskets, cracks, vents, etc and help you get some tighter control of temps.  I work hard to start with the smallest possible fire, and struggle to keep from wanting to peek part way through the cook which is a huge no-no as well.

 

Keep going, you've got this!

 

 

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3 hours ago, JeffieBoy said:

Welcome aboard from another Akorn nut from North of the Border.  Look out - you might get reassigned to help keep your fellow Americans from escaping North away from Covid! LOL

 

Remember also that the more you use the Akorn thin layers of fat and soot will build up around gaskets, cracks, vents, etc and help you get some tighter control of temps.  I work hard to start with the smallest possible fire, and struggle to keep from wanting to peek part way through the cook which is a huge no-no as well.

 

Keep going, you've got this!

 

 

Ha! Luckily we welcome people to leave this country, its the entering that our government has such a big issue. Besides, most Americans don't realize there are requirements to immigrate to Canada. 

 

That is good to know. I'll be doing some chicken, chuck roast, and maybe another pork shoulder this weekend!

 

What part of Canada are you from? I might need to ask for some advice when I head up north for a couple of trips!

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