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bhall7

Can't control temps on Akorn

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Hey folks! Recently purchased the Char-Griller Akorn 6520 (grey, with cart) at Home Depot for $329. I have really been struggling to control the temperatures with this guy. I've read the entire definitive guide thread for starting a fire in the Akorn/Char-Griller kamados, but my temperature is either heading north of 300 or dying completely.

I'm using 100% oak lump charcoal with the firebox filled up about 3/4. I'm using 1/2-1/4 of a Weber starter cube. I light it up, and wait about 10-15 minutes until the charcoal is lit, then put the top grate on with my Maverick ET73 wireless thermometer setup. I have tried different strategies for manipulating the vents. After speaking with Char-Griller support, they told me to open both the top and the bottom to a 1 setting. Whenever I do that, it just takes off well into the 300's. I tried starting off with the top completely closed, and the bottom just barely open. It creeps up nicely, but then dies after about 30-45 minutes. So I tried opening the top just barely so that the little half-circle shape is open, and the bottom is just barely open, but it either dies or takes off again up into the 300's.

I'm seriously considering returning this unit and buying an electric box smoker (Masterbuilt, or something similar) so that I don't have to keep tending this thing. Any last minute tips before I give up?

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First off one initial failed attempt at properly starting the fire is no reason to give up. You mentioned 10-15 mins before you closed it up. By then you probably got too much lump lit and that is most likely the cause of your problems.

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In my experience under 300 would be less than 1 on top and 1 on bottom. and if you can snuff out your fire, you should be able to control the temp. you just might have a longer learning curve. If 1 and 1 is too hot. try 1/2 1/2 and leave it there and see what your temp is. doesn't matter what it is. just get a base. Then adjust only the top or bottom slightly. wait 20 min. check temp. adjust again. you should be able to dial in a temp and not snuff out your coals.

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The good news is if the fire is dying that easy your cooker is fairly well sealed. Ckreef is likely right, too many coals are getting lit and the temp is taking off quick. I usually only have the lid open for just a couple of minutes when the starter flames start to subside(using half a starter like you). Good luck with whatever you decide but I had a electric cabinet smoker previously and was never satisfied with results and it's ability to maintain temp when cold weather hits.

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Thanks everyone for the replies and helpful info. I have attempted multiple cooks on my Akorn all with inconsistent results. My first cook was a whole brined chicken, that I ended up burning because it got too hot. The next was a pork shoulder which got way too crispy on the outside, but then the fire died. After these two failures, I have attempted about 6-7 times to simply get the temperature right before wasting any more meat.

I have tried adjusting in very small increments and waiting 10-15 minutes for results. I've tried a combination of both top and bottom, top only, bottom only adjustments (usually between 0-1), but can't ever find that sweet spot. The only other thing I can think of would be to throw down another couple hundred dollars for a temp controller/fan, but I really shouldn't have to do that. I've spent days working on this and many hours trying to troubleshoot. At first it was fun, but now it's just frustrating. I miss my ECB.

Do the WSMs have as much trouble holding a steady low-and-slow temp?

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Thanks everyone for the replies and helpful info. I have attempted multiple cooks on my Akorn all with inconsistent results. My first cook was a whole brined chicken, that I ended up burning because it got too hot. The next was a pork shoulder which got way too crispy on the outside, but then the fire died. After these two failures, I have attempted about 6-7 times to simply get the temperature right before wasting any more meat.

I have tried adjusting in very small increments and waiting 10-15 minutes for results. I've tried a combination of both top and bottom, top only, bottom only adjustments (usually between 0-1), but can't ever find that sweet spot. The only other thing I can think of would be to throw down another couple hundred dollars for a temp controller/fan, but I really shouldn't have to do that. I've spent days working on this and many hours trying to troubleshoot. At first it was fun, but now it's just frustrating. I miss my ECB.

Do the WSMs have as much trouble holding a steady low-and-slow temp?

Never had a wsm so I can't answer you there.

Like you, I had issues with holding a temp with my Akorn. For me the solution was 1. Quit messing with the thing all the time 2. Leave the lower vent to 1 and adjust down the top vent. 3. Catch temps on the way up and bring it up slow.

Most of these are very sensitive and my top vent adjustment sometimes consists of literally just bumping it to open or close it. It is amazing how such a little adjustment can have a large impact. I have had great luck since then and have done numerous overnight cooks without being awoken by my Maverick.

Best of luck to you. Don't give up on it. These things are great once you figure them out.

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After speaking with Char-Griller support, they told me to open both the top and the bottom to a 1 setting. Whenever I do that, it just takes off well into the 300's.

Yeah, mine reaches the low 300s with both vents at 1, so that sounds about right. I find that setting the top vent to anything below 1 will tend to snuff out the fire. I usually set the top to 1 and the bottom to about .5 (warm day) to .75 (cool day).

I suggest you follow the normal method where you start at 5/5 (all open), then 2/2 when it hits 160F, then when it hits 200F make it 1 top and .75 bot, and then just leave it. Remember: if you never stop adjusting, you'll never, ever get a stable temperature. On a summer day, it'll probably settle on a temperature somewhere in the high 200s, which is still fine for BBQ (pretty much anything in the 200 range works). But more importantly, you'll be able to see what temperature it actually stabilizes at after a couple hours, and can use that as a frame of reference for future cooks. If 1 top/.75 bot is still a little too hot, next time try 1 top/.5 bot, and again, just leave it and see what happens. I would keep the top a 1 for every cook and just make the occasional small tweak to the bottom vent.

Also, are you using a diffuser? That's practically a must for low & slow.

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I have modified all my prior smokers to get them to work the way I like them to, as Ron Popiel would say "set it and forget it". I still had to learn each and every smoker. Somewhat like you bhall7, I've found the stock slider very difficult to know where my temp will end up or if I'll kill the coals since .5 on my lower you can barely see if there is any opening if at all and the Acorn running in the 200 degree range can be shut down with a fraction of an adjustment or if you have it set and it's been windy and the wind dies you loose flow since the opening is so small. That is why I made a new lower vent opening and slider so I have a much better visual of where I'm set at and can actually move my slider 1/2 to get a few degrees and not have it take off to high temps. For around $7 you can make one for yours to play with. And still have enough material to make a dozen more versions till you find what works best for you. If you look at the Mods and Fixes you can see some of the things I tried and what I settled with. I believe my first post about this was on page 19, then skip to near the end. If you have any questions, just ask. I hope that helps.

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Bhall7 - welcome aboard! Your problems are very common for new kamado owners and can serve as the basis for some instructive comments. Please understand that what follows is said with the best of intentions.

Bhall7 it seems to me you've never let your Akorn be a kamado. Kamados are MUCH different than anything you've used before. Let the kamado be a kamado and forget trying to cook on it like you've cooked on everything else! You have to adjust to the equipment you have, not the other way around!

Any frigging idiot with a heartbeat can get an electric smoker to work. You'll have flat, manufactured BBQ. If that's what you want, read no further. If you want great tasting BBQ that people rave about, that has real depth of flavor, that will be the best food you've eaten, read on.

This is the simple fact: you don't know what you're doing. So stop flailing around and take systematic control of your kamado by working within its parameters. Take the time and learn what your kamado can and cannot do. You need to invest an afternoon and get to know your cooker. so go buy a 12er of your favorite malt-based adult beverage and a big bag of lump. Your task is to learn how to control your kamado's temp between 225°-450° in 25° increments and do it consistently. You'll need to take notes, so you'll also need paper and pencil. Also remember that you've got to stay ahead of your kamado and anticipate what is going to happen.

Go fill up your kamado, fill it completely with lump. Light the charcoal in one single spot, and pop the top on your first tall cool one. Once the fire is established, not roaring, close the lid and make certain your vents are wide open. When your kamado's temp hits about 150°, shut your vents, both top and bottom, by about half. At 175°, shut them by half again. At 200° shut them by half again. You don't want to overshoot your target temp. You'll slowly come up to 225°. If you overshoot your temp, shut the vents by half again and let the temp stabilize. Take notes of vent settings and temps. You have to learn the response curve of your kamado. Take a sip of your favorite beverage. This is hot, hard work and you don't want to get dehydrated!

After about 20-30 mins at 225° you'll want to move on to 250° open both vents just a small bit and see what happens. Take notes. Creep up on 250° and use small incremental steps. Take a sip and sit down and notice how your kamado responds to more air. Be patient, take time and let your kamado stabilize each time you change a vent setting. Take notes, heck take pics if that helps! Repeat this procedure for every 25° all the way up to 450°. You'll be tempted to putz around the yard, organize the workbench, do a quick project your wife has been on your ### for weeks to do ... YOU KEEP YOUR BUTT RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR KAMADO and don't do another dadgummed thing but pay attention to your kamado!

Kamado cooking can be the single most rewarding culinary experience you and your family and friends have, but you have to be willing to learn how to do it properly and get to know your kamado. Like I said earlier, any frigging idiot on the planet can get an electric smoker to work. Also notice that I never referred to the numbers on your vents in the above discussion ... That's because you don't need numbers to dial in temps! If that we're necessary don't you think the manufacturer would have told you that top and bottom vent settings of 1/1 is going to get you 250° and 2/2 will get you 350°, etc? Vent numbers do you no good whatsoever! Invest the time in getting to know your kamado and the rewards will be great.

Finally, the Akorn has some very well documented deficiencies! You may have air leaks that in your innocent state you know nothing about. Read the 17+ page thread in the Forum about all the Akorn's problems and solutions to overcome the manufacturer's lack of concern for quality control.

I wish you well and nothing but great cooks and even better memories with family and friends!

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May I suggest an Auber PID?

Your first problem is 15 minutes is too long to leave the top open. That let's in about 100 times the air the widest setting on the top vent will. You charcoal will soon be out of control.

Your second problem is you shut down the vent to starve the charcoal for air. Goodbye fire. You have got to find a happy medium. If you have a fire that is too hot close the top vent and open the bottom just slightly. There is enough of a air leak at the bottom to keep the fire going. Every 10 minutes burp the top lid by raising it just a few inches to let the hot air escape then close the lid for another 10 minutes. Don't open the lid all the way because you let out the hot air in the dome. When the temp drops below 300 open your top vent to about 0.75.

When you start your fire in the future do as your doing now with the bottom slightly open and the top vent wide open. Start your weber cube put on the grate and whatever else you have (weber grate, water pan, drip pan, diffuser, etc.) and close that dome. When the temp rises 25 degrees cose down that top vent to 1 and work from there.

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Irvin - with all due respect, if you can't get the basics down, getting more complicated just means a bigger wreck and more wasted money! In my opinion, a PID should only be used after someone can control a fire manually!

Here's to great cooks!

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CeramicChef, sorry I thought he tried to control his temps and could not so i made some suggestions. I am not necessarily advocating he gets a PID. I can control my temps very well but I don't want to baby sit my cooks for 10+ hours (sometimes overnight) so I use the Auber because i choose to use it.

EDIT: With all due respect - http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.p ... %20respect

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I had the same problem bhall7. My temp jumped to 400 and I ended up snuffing my fire trying to get it under control. I determined my problems were a/ too much lit charcoal b/ not closing the lid soon enough.

IMHO, Just get a couple of pieces of charcoal lit and close the lid 1&1 to start. Easier to control rising temps than to try and make high temps go down. I think having 5 settings top and bottom can be confusing for low and slow cooks. Once my target temp (225-250 for butts) is established my typical settings are less than 1 on bottom and almost closed on the top. I have done many No Look, low and slow, 9 hour cooks with these settings.

If I could offer just one suggestion, get that lid closed quickly.

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I couldn't agree more. The top vent wide open allows only a few square inches of airflow but the lid open allows about 300 si and it is much closer to the fuel source. Because e you should always have more fuel than you need the key to controlling the heat is airflow.

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Everyone has given you good advice.. That 10-15 minutes of open lid would be very tough for even an experienced Akorner to overcome..

To me when folks say bringing it up slow to me that means up to 40-45 minutes.. Once you get more experienced you can do it a little faster..

I really do not pay attention to the numbers on the vents or specific temps to start closing down.. I watch my Maverick and make adjustments by how fast it is skipping up 2 degrees..

Do not give up you have a great cooker and the coolest version of it. (cart) You will get it..

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