The Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Grill, like its predecessor the King-Griller Kamado Kooker, is a double wall, insulated steel egg that is much lighter, in some ways more durable, and way less expensive than ceramic Kamados. Char-Griller is well known for grills that are cheap to make and cheap to buy. But this insulated steel egg design and Char-Griller's manufacturing process may be a match made in heaven. By replacing the heavy ceramic used for thousands of years with modern lightweight materials, Char-Griller appears to have created a cooker that performs pretty close to traditional Kamados at a fraction of the cost.
This steel design is not new. The Broil King Keg, (formerly Big Steel Keg and Bubba Keg), are basically higher quality versions of the Akorn. And Akorn is basically a lower priced version of their previous King-Griller. What makes Akorn remarkable is people are buying it for the low price, then discovering the thing actually performs very well. Some did side by side comparisons to top of the line ceramic cookers and felt the results were virtually identical. I was recently at a state BBQ competition and a couple teams had Akorns. Everyone made the same comments: they're lightweight, easy to move, you don't have to worry about dropping them, they're inexpensive and they work great.
Like most kamados, it cannot be set up for true 2-zone cooking, an essential technique easily done on other charcoal grills by piling coal to one side to create a direct and indirect zone simultaneously. A few exceptions exist, such as Primo's Oval Kamados. One useful device that is a match made in heaven for any kamado is the BBQ Dragon, a well-made, battery operated, clip on, variable speed fan that can convert a charcoal bed from quiet gray to rip roaring red hot in a matter of minutes. Very good for switching gears from low and slow to searing hot. Click here to read more about Kamado and Ceramic Grills and Smokers.
The lid and body consist of approximately one inch thick insulation wrapped in steel. Outside is powder coated and inside is porcelain coated. Calibrated dampers are located at the top and bottom of the egg. The bottom damper is part of a removable ash pan. Both the lid and the ash pan are secured to the body with metal latches. Both have a single strip of flexible gasket on only one edge. Some complained these gaskets and dampers are poor quality and leak. It's easy to believe the gaskets are cheap just by looking at them. They aren't attached well either. I opened one model and found half the gasket dangling from the lid. Cooking at high temps of 700F and up can reportedly melt or degrade them. This is an example of how Char-Griller cuts costs. Surprisingly, there are few reports of air leaks. If you do have this problem, the gaskets can easily be replaced. The dampers appeared adequate upon cursory inspection.
An extra-crumby lid heat indicator is included. Get a digital thermometer and reduce your stress. Click here to find one using our Searchable Thermometer Reviews.
The three legged cart is sturdy enough with a bottom shelf, two large 8 inch wheels and one locking caster. It has two light weight side shelves with tool hooks. Inside is a 302 square inch cast iron grate with a round, removable center to add coal. Just like the Broil King Keg, it has a small chrome plated rack on a swivel post that can be popped into holes in the cast iron grates and used for warming or cooking. It swivels a few inches above the primary cooking surface.
A useful accessory is the "Smokin' Stone", which fits between the coal and grate to diffuse heat for slow cooks. Also available are pizza stones, woks, drip pans, poultry and roaster racks, cover and a wireless remote thermometer that appears to be the Maverick ET 732.
Kamados are built to retain heat. The Kamado design works well for Char-Griller because they can effectively employ inexpensive steel and insulation to replace the dramatically more expensive ceramic. But remember: once they get hot, they stay hot and take some time to cool. This is great if you nailed the desired temp, but frustrating if you overshoot. So err on the cool side.
Char-Griller's quality is notorious. Don't expect the Akorn to last forever. But if you're curious about Kamados and have been waiting for the right time and price, this could be it.
The Black version with metal side tables is available at Lowe's.
The Red version with wood side tables is available at Menards.
Looked Closely At It
We have seen this product up close and we have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners, and other reliable sources.
Char-Griller makes some of the cheapest cookers on the planet. Almost all of their models are round, horizontal charcoal grills and smokers. They also offer charcoal and gas combo cookers. Char-Griller epitomizes the old saying that you get what you pay for. Budget conscious buyers often can't pass up the Char-Griller price tag and many models are very popular. Hence they have wide distribution coast to coast in all the big box stores and online. Unfortunately, many novice cooks aspiring to slow smoke are drawn to Char-Griller's super cheap offset smokers. Offsets are already difficult to work with and Char-Griller's tin can, drafty construction has been a source of consternation for generations of first time smokers. That said, their Grillin' Pro gas grill and Akorn kamados, offer a lot of bang for very low bucks.