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mr-future

accidentally went "nuclear"

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I was doing smash burgers on a griddle on my new Akorn. To get the fire going (firebox completely full of lump), I left bottom and top vents all the way open. When it reached 400, I noticed that one of the ash bin latches was undone, so extra air was getting into the firebox. I closed the latch, moved the top vent to almost closed, opened the lid, then proceeded to do smash burgers... with the bottom vent all the way open.I actually thought that the fire wouldn't get bigger if the lid was open - I am pretty new to this, as you can see. Well, as I was finishing the burgers, I started to notice that the grill area was too hot for me to work the burgers. Then I noticed flames coming up from the firebox, which was completely lit. I could smell burning plastic. When I closed the lid, the thermometer shot up to 600. After shutting both vents, the temp eventually dropped. The first time I attempted to burp the grill, there was a backdraft that stopped just short of my face (which hopefully demonstrates the grill is well sealed). I think the burning smell was from the plastic handles of the ash bin, which had started to turn white.
 

This unfortunate event helped me learn some of the basic mechanics of controlling the fire. I hope that my gaskets weren't compromised... I am thinking of doing smash burgers on the gas grill, instead - although I want at least one successful run on the Akorn. For next time, I am thinking that I need to nearly close the bottom vent once the lid opens. If anyone has any suggestions for quickly getting top grill to 450, opening the lid, and keeping the fire under control, I'm all ears...

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Did you use accelerant? If not it sounds like you had way too much coal lit at once, in the future if you want to do high heat grilling do not use that much coal. Opening both to full alone wasn't the issue, it was that you had too much fuel all get max temp.

 

I invested in a metal basket that can sit on the lower rack(18 inch weber grate) to do high temp seats. Other than that you need to wait for the grill to come up to temp normally. You can get to high heat in about 20 minutes either way. Just never do it with a full fuel load.

 

Btw, I have done exactly what you did, my original akorn lost its firebox handles.

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@ProVaporizer, thanks for your reply - knowing that someone else entirely lost their firebox handles gives me lots of assurance. I guess my Akorn is not broke, but just broken in. I just used a single alcohol-soaked cotton ball to start the coal. I had done a quick google search about how much coal to put in the firebox, and somewhere I read to "always fill the firebox." I am guessing this is actually for low and slow applications... now I know! Thanks for the tip re: the metal basket. I did get the weber grate. Could you post a link to the metal basket, if that is something you bought online?

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4 hours ago, mr-future said:

@ProVaporizer, thanks for your reply - knowing that someone else entirely lost their firebox handles gives me lots of assurance. I guess my Akorn is not broke, but just broken in. I just used a single alcohol-soaked cotton ball to start the coal. I had done a quick google search about how much coal to put in the firebox, and somewhere I read to "always fill the firebox." I am guessing this is actually for low and slow applications... now I know! Thanks for the tip re: the metal basket. I did get the weber grate. Could you post a link to the metal basket, if that is something you bought online?

@mr-future

I went nuclear once early on, didn't have any damage then, but over time the heat of the firebox cracked one handle on the ashpan.

 

I went to a local metal shop and custom ordered one, iirc it was around $30, I just told them I wanted a open topped cylinder made of expanded non-galvanized(important) steel that could sit on top of the weber grate. Its pretty optional really, you can get a fire hot in the normal area, and wait for the cast iron grate to come up to temp before putting steaks/burgers on, but a sear basket definitely helps.

I am actually ordering my second Akorn after I had my first for several years and I couldn't take it with me to a new apartment, Now I have the luxury of a backyard again.

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On 5/13/2020 at 8:10 PM, mr-future said:

...I actually thought that the fire wouldn't get bigger if the lid was open....

The opposite occurs. 

 

The Akorn is a great unit for the price, but it has peculiarities not found in ceramic Kamados. One is that air flow is different. Akorn has a tall fire box, that's almost level with the grill. The opening around the perimeter lets air directly into the fire, causing a run-away fire when the lid is up. Lower vent setting no longer matters. 

 

You can simply build a smaller fire, or build it higher (Weber grate), if you'll cook with the lid up. It's a learning process!

 

Stay well,

Frank

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4 hours ago, fbov said:

 

The Akorn is a great unit for the price, but it has peculiarities not found in ceramic Kamados. One is that air flow is different.

 

Stay well,

Frank

Yah! 

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Definitely, "the trick is restraint."  :)  Now you know.

 

After the chimney-starter has done its thing and you've closed the lid, open the top vent slightly and the bottom vent about an inch.  Now, wait for the fire to "coast" up to about 300ºF and it should then stay there on its own.  Now, you should be able to put on your meat and in my experience the grill should require no further adjustments.

 

If you happen to be cooking fatty meat – like the 70% lean ground beef that produces those oh-so delicious hamburgers, then this fat of course will drip into the fire and act as an accelerant.  But you can maintain control of this by slightly adjusting the two vents.

 

(This does mean that tomorrow morning fat will be left on the inside of the grill and that you should now scrub the whole thing down.)

 

For cooking big things, a probe-based electronic food thermometer is a big plus:  you run the wire outside and now you don't have to open the grill nearly as often.

 

A fundamental fact of Kamado grills, I think, is that "once you let them get too hot, it's rather hard to get them to cool back down."  (But the metal Akorn is much easier than the ceramic big-green-things. :P )

 

Quote

If you want "sear," here's what I do:  heat up your trusty cast-iron skillet hot on the kitchen stove, add a small amount of flame-resistant oil such as coconut oil or grapeseed oil ... no, your steaks won't taste like coconuts ... and very quickly sear them there.  You won't be able to tell the difference, and you now have complete control over the sear while your grill remains at operating temperature.  Be sure to be wearing your oven-mitts.

 

(When you are done, leave the skillet in the oven overnight to cool down naturally.  Wipe out any leftover residue tomorrow morning.)

 

:idea:  When cooking, remember to take the food off when its internal temperature is about 10-15º shy of your target.  ("140ºF = medium rare, 150ºF = medium, etc.)  Put them on a plate and "tent" them with aluminum foil, putting them somewhere that your cats can't reach them.  In the next few minutes they will "coast" to the target.  Otherwise, they will "over-shoot the runway" and become too-done.

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Since I first posted this, I've gone through this forum and found numerous posts about newbies like me going nuclear. I discovered that the plastic smell was from paint melting on the main body of the grill, inside the ash tray, where there is a lip painted with exterior paint that happens to be inside the grill. Seems like "just a flesh wound." I would do it over again, if I could. Glad I learned this lesson without totaling the grill or burning the neighborhood down. Char-Griller should have a giant red page in the manual warning about leaving the hood open with a full firebox.

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Posted (edited)
24 minutes ago, mr-future said:

. Char-Griller should have a giant red page in the manual warning about leaving the hood open with a full firebox.

In the US Army they teach you that you can write a book about what you should do or a book about what you shouldn't do.  The "Should Do" book is shorter, the "Shouldn't Do" book is long and full of experiences.  So I'm glad you learned a lesson and took it to heart.  I think you are well on your way to not burning your neighborhood down and attracting people with pleasant smoke.

Edited by daninpd
Clarity

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Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. Had to re-paint my lower ash catcher with high temp engine paint. My Akorn is now 'two tone', but it is kind of like a badge of honor that I wear proudly. Kind of like the kid with the broken arm and everyone wants to see his cast. Ooooooh!

;o)

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11 hours ago, NVRider said:

 Kind of like the kid with the broken arm and everyone wants to see his cast.

See it?  They want to sign it!  I broke my thumb at a Frat party in college playing "King of the Mountain" (well, I didn't break it, someone stomped on my hand).  By the time the doctor cut the cast off it had become a colorful fashion accoutrement. 

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