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Andrew


ConilKing
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For whatever it may be worth, I use an Akorn Jr. which I bought at ... Wal-Mart.  My dad now owns a "Senior" – at my recommendation – which he bought at Lowe's.  These are non-ceramic grills: the firepots are made of insulated steel.  And they weigh in at a $200-300 price point, significantly less cost and also much less heavy.

 

It's only my opinion, but to me the key to "kamado" is that it acts as a convection oven because hot air circulates around the inner lining.    Most of the actual cooking takes place, not from radiant heat from the fire itself, but from this recirculating air.  I think that's the secret.  I use a chimney fire-starter: no chemicals.

 

This cooking process produces consistent, easily-controlled results, and it is positively miserly with fuel. Shut off both vents to starve the fire and most of the charcoal will be available tomorrow morning for re-use.  Go figure.

 

(Although like any grill a kamado is capable of achieving even extremely-high temperatures, I never use it that way.  For "searing," I do that on my kitchen stove in a cast iron skillet using coconut oil, which is very heat-tolerant and neutral taste. Put the skillet in the oven to cool.)

 

Buy a remote-reading food thermometer – I bought a wireless unit for about $40 at Home Depot – which will tell you the temperature within the firepot and the temperature of the food while the lid remains closed and locked.  With just a little practice, you'll find that you can basically "set it and forget it."  The firebox temperatures will generally "park" at a certain point and then stay there rock-solid for hours as the food temperature very slowly rises.  Take the food off the fire about 10ºF below target and wrap it in foil to "rest."  The temperature will continue to coast up to the target, as your thermometer will confirm.  Start to finish, your thermometer is your guide.

 

Unlike your "Smokey Joe," you will get absolutely repeatable results from a kamado.  Because now you are in control, with just as much accuracy as you expect from your kitchen oven.  (Especially if it also has the "convection" feature.)

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Andrew Welcome I can only speak of the Kamado Joe classic II as I have one it has worked like a charm since I had it. My  Grandson has an Akorn and has no problems after getting past the learning curve and getting used to charcoal. Good luck with which ever one you choose. You may want to read this it applies to all kamados

 

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I own a Series 2 Big Joe

I have cooked on a Summit multiple times

If the Summit was available when i originally went Kamado shopping, I would've bought the Summit 

We plan to move across the country in a year or two, I'll likely sell my KJ (easier than trying to move with it) and then pick up a Summit when we settle into our new house 

Edited by Polar Bear
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  • 2 weeks later...

I recommend metallic. I cut my teeth on an Akorn and I have a KJ Classic II now. The Akorn hardly used any lump and quickly came to temp compared to my ceramic. 

Don't get me wrong, I love my KJ but I would go iron, steel or aluminum if'n I had it to do again. 

An Akorn is an excellent way to test the waters. You can get them used for $100. 

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As noted above, I have the Akorn Junior which comes in very handy for camping trips.  Just set it on top of any convenient picnic table.  Around $200 or a little less at Wal-Mart when I bought mine.  The beauty of it is that the grill is both indestructible and lightweight.  Plus, the Akorns have cast iron grates, which I seasoned and otherwise treat exactly like I do my many cast iron skillets.  ("Nothing sticks to well-seasoned cast iron ...")

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I think the grill type can best be summed up by a story. I was approached once while flying at our rc flying field and asked what kind of radio to recommend my reply was if you asked the 6 of us pilots you would get about 6 different answers The recommendation was usually the brand radio they were using. Each of these grills have pluses and minuses. I'm not trying to discourage you from asking questions that's why we are here. Hope we answer them all for you. What it's going to boil down to is make a list of what you want in a grill, the pluses for each, and possible accessories. The hard question is how much you want to spend. Good luck in you search. Keep us posted.

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My [unsolicited ...] personal opinion is that the real difference is convection.  (I saw this first-hand when I bought a toaster oven which had a "turbo" mode that simply turned on a small fan.)  Within the body of any Kamado grill there is always an inner liner.  And this creates air currents.  The circulating hot air ... rising up to the top, then passing around behind the liner, then flowing up again ... becomes the primary thing that actually cooks the food – not direct radiant heat from the charcoal fire.

 

As a very simple result of this, you now have a cooking process that is both far more fuel-efficient but also much more controllable.  You can literally set it at a temperature, with both the inlet and the outlet openings set almost-closed, and watch your external-reading thermometer as it shows you that the firebox temperature stays right there, literally for hours, with no intervention required from you.  It is really quite the sight to see . . .

 

And, after the cook, even a very long one, you close both vents to smother the fire and what you wind up with is ... reusable charcoal!  (You do not use "briquettes.")

 

"Searing," by the way, is now something that I do in my cast-iron skillet on my kitchen stove.  I use my Kamado literally as a "charcoal-fired, smoky, convection oven."  And I can obtain cooking results with 100%-reliable consistency.

 

"An external reading thermometer which shows both firebox and food temperatures" is your essential friend – about $40 more-or-less (wireless, even!) at Home Depot.  Now, you always know what's happening in there.

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I will disagree with the acorn (my opinion based on personal experience)  I had an Acorn for several years and it worked "ok" , that's it, just ok. after about a year and a half or so, the main piece of the bottom rusted out, I'll give kudos to the Acorn people as they replaced it no problem. About a year later it rusted out again (almost always under roof), so I set it out on the curb for the next guy to try. 

A year and a half or so later bought a KJ Classic... Night and Day difference! Absolutely love my KJ and the way it cooks, just like a Kamado should!! 

Again, this is my opinion based on my experience, the only opinion I have, take it for what its worth. Not looking to get into a squabble with any Acorn lovers and will not do so. If you love them that is great, I did not.

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Over the last dozen years or so, I have had a Visions Kamado (their smallest one which got me into the Kamado world), a large BGE, and a Broil King Keg.  I really liked them all TBH and all great cookers.

 

Last year, I purchased a Weber Summit Kamado as I really found myself wanting a 24" grill (and here, the Big Joe is astronomically priced) - ZERO regrets with the Summit and I love it.  Even though there is only two of us, I still found an 18" kamado restricting at time when trying to cook numerous side dishes with a main.  I only have ONE grill, so if you have a second gasser or option, that may be a factor too.  I wanted ONE grill to do it ALL!  End result - I would not go back to another kamado cooker (ceramic or steel).

 

Numerous reasons in the end....rock solid temperature stability, great cost to size value vs a ceramic, unbreakable, light and movable (relatively speaking), legendary Weber warranty/service department, and hybrid "kettle" and Kamado cooking....so much usable grill space for searing.  By this, I mean you can use the top charcoal grate, spread a ton of coals out horizontally, and sear like a traditional kettle grill....almost out the edges.  I could do 20 steaks pretty easily if ever needed.  I actually cook in "kettle" mode probably 75% of my cooks now....searing steaks, burgers, chops, fish etc....sear DIRECTLY over coals directly under the food grate, then move over to finish cook on the cool side.  It is different than than the more "vertical" cooking of the Kamado....(but of course, you can do this very easily as well).

 

For larger roasts, briskets, ribs, pulled pork etc, I just drop charcoal to the lower basket, light up and add deflectors plate and/or drip pans, and still cook easily for 12-16 hours on a load of charcoal.

 

Oh yeah...it happily uses briquettes as well.

 

Put it this way...if someone offered me a straight trade - a Big Joe for my Summit...I would not trade.  And the Summit is about $1000 less expensive.

 

Another consideration for me when asked to lay out $3000 for a grill...is that 10 years from now, I will most likely not have this grill...maybe even in 5 years...who knows.  All industries are changing so much and so quickly, that in all likelihood, there WILL be a better, cooler, more interesting grill of some sort that I will probably want more by then...so I found the overall value just better.

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