Kamado grills have been around for a long time, but are becoming increasingly popular thanks to their well insulated ceramic design and the ability to be used for grilling and smoking.
You’ve probably heard of Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe which are the two most popular brands out there but they come at a premium price.
In this review, I’ll share my experience cooking on the Akorn, and let you know how it compares with the more expensive options.
Char-Griller sent me this grill for free in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Char-Griller Akorn overview & first impressions
I’ve been cooking on my Big Green Egg for several years and I can attest to how great it performs and have recommended it to many people. So when I had the chance to review the Char-Griller Akorn I was a little skeptical and curious to see how it would perform at a more budget friendly price point.
The Akorn has 447 sq inches of cooking surface (if you count the main grill grate and the warming rack) and can cook up to 27 burgers at a time.
It has triple-insulated walls and can maintain temperatures up to 700° F. It is heavy-duty but still light enough to be moved around with ease.
The Akorn boasts an easy dump ash pan which the company claims is the only Kamado cooker with that feature. It also has dual heat dampers that help with precision temperature control and airflow.
Char-Griller Akorn specifications:
|Product Dimensions||45″W x 47″H x 31″D|
|Primary Cooking Area||314 square inches|
|Total Cooking Area||447 square inches|
|Warranty||5-year – grill (hood and bottom)|
1-year – ash pan and defective parts
|Price||Check Latest Price|
There is a lot to like about the Akorn grill. The first thing is the price tag. Expect to pay 3-4x more for a comparable
When I first saw the price of this grill, I was skeptical as other grills I have used and experienced were double and triple in price.
Another feature I really liked was the cast iron grill grates. They are heavy-duty and very easy to clean. In the center of the grill is a removable insert where you can easily add more charcoal or wood as needed.
I also like the easy dump ash pan. Once the ash pan is full, simply detach it from the Akorn, dump out and place it right back in. No more taking a shop vac to suck out the ash, this system makes the most sense, and I was pleasantly surprised to see this feature.
The folding side shelves are a nice touch and even though they feel cheap, offer extra space and come in handy. The shelves also have hooks to hang utensils on. Other similar types of grills do not come with side shelves but rather they can be purchased additionally.
What I liked:
- Value for money – Get most of the benefits of a Kamado style grill without the high price tag
- Lightweight – While the lighter construction hurts in a few areas, it also makes the grill a lot easier to move around
- Easy to clean – The detachable ash pan makes it easy to keep the Akorn nice and clean
- Cast-iron grill grates – Feel heavy duty, get great sear marks and are easy to clean
What I didn’t like:
- Heat control – Dialing in the temperatures for low and slow smoking requires some practice
- Side shelves feel cheap – Nice they are included at all, so the shelves being a bit flimsy is to be expected at this price
At this price point, you wouldn’t expect too many accessories. You get a stainless steel cooking attachment and a tool to remove the grill grate. A ceramic plate deflector, a grate cleaner, or even a grill cover would have been a nice touch, but those are all optional accessories you can purchase.
One other thing that I will discuss further in detail in the next section is the heat control.
The Akorn does take some practice in dialing in the heat, especially for low and slow smoking. Additionally, if the grill gets too hot which it can very quickly, it is hard to recover from.
Setting up the Akorn
Setting up the Akorn is not too difficult. All the pieces of the Akorn are individually wrapped and come well packaged in the box. The only tool needed is a Phillips screwdriver and a nut driver.
I laid out all the pieces together and started getting to work. The initial first few steps took me a few moments to figure out as the instructions lacked some detail, but overall it was not too hard, and I was set up in about an hour and a half.
Sometimes assembling a grill can feel overwhelming with all the parts and hardware included, but assembling the Akorn did not feel that way.
Even people that have a hard time assembling things or following directions would probably be ok.
Cooking on the Akorn
To see how well the Akorn performs I tested setting it up for low and slow to smoke a whole chicken and then for searing with and without the warming rack.
While it was a little fiddly getting the Akorn dialed in for smoking once I had hit my desired temperatures it performed well. The chicken I smoked developed a nice smokey flavor, while the skin was nice and crispy.
The warming attachment came in handy when grilling some chicken thighs to keep finished pieces warm while you grill the rest.
Char-Griller vs The Big Green Egg
The Big Green Egg is one of the most popular kamado grills on the market. Considered a must-have for serious BBQers, I picked one up a few years ago.
While it’s not really a fair comparison because of the price difference, I thought it would be interesting to see how the Akorn stacked up against it and if there were any major differences in build, quality, and overall performance.
Since the BGE is four times the price, it must perform four times better, right?
Not so fast.
My Big Green Egg is a tank. It is heavy and built very well. Every part seems to be made of high-quality material and it has held up well over the years.
The Akorn is not made from ceramic like the BGE. It is made of steel with a ceramic coating which does make it lighter not as insulated.
The Akorn feels cheaply made compared to the Egg, but I do enjoy how light everything is on the Akorn.
Forget transporting the Egg to a friend’s house for a BBQ or taking it with you on vacation. It’s way too heavy for moving and the ceramic can easily break if not handled correctly.
The Akorn could take a beating and still be ready for your next cook. When moving the Egg around on my deck you really have to put some work into it to wheel it around.
The Akorn is lightweight and is very easy to transport and the materials used still feel durable and should last a long time with proper care.
Controlling the heat is my biggest concern for the Akorn. Sometimes I like to smoke something low and slow and then increase the temperature to finish. Reverse searing a steak is one of my favorite things to do on my Egg and locking in the right temperature is easy, working with the top and bottom vent to dial everything in.
The Akorn does maintain temps pretty well, but I found myself messing with the vents more than usual. Perhaps the lack of insulation on the Akorn makes it fluctuate more on temperature.
Also, the Akorn will get hot really fast if you aren’t careful. That may be a good thing if you are short on time, but if you aren’t paying attention you may get in trouble with vent control, whereas on the Egg it is a little more forgiving.
One feature I love about the Akorn is the cast iron grates with the removable middle insert. I’m not sure why all charcoal grills don’t have this feature as it is a pain to add more charcoal or wood by lifting up the entire grill grate.
Even some Weber Kettles offer the hinging grate which is super convenient; however, the Big Green Egg does not, and it’s a pain every time you need access.
Should you buy the Char-Griller Akorn?
The Char-Griller’s Akorn is well priced and is a very suitable grill for beginners and more experienced grillers alike.
It is built well and offers some nice features such as the cast iron grill grate with removable insert and the easy dump ash pan.
On one hand, you can produce some great food at low temperatures while smoking, and on the other, you can sear food like steak and chicken with no problems. The Akorn got runner-up honors in our list of the best grill smoker combos.
Assembling the grill was not too difficult and with just a few cooks, the grill was easy to get the hang of.
Some may have concerns about the build quality as the materials used are made out of plastic or feel cheap. However, with proper care and cleaning, I can see this grill lasting a long time and being very enjoyable for years to come without having to break the bank.
The Akorn is available in grey, red and blue.