If you’re a grilling enthusiast like I am, you’re always looking for new ways to achieve that smoky, savory flavor combination that you crave. Can a kamado grill help you hit the sweet spot? To help you find out the answer, I’ve put together this list of Char Griller Akorn reviews. When you’ve finished reading, you’ll know whether one of these impressive units will be a good fit for your outdoor kitchen.
Shopping for a Kamado Grill: What You Need To Know
Since all of the Char Griller Akorn grills fall under the kamado category, let’s take a look at what these grills have to offer. In this section, we’ll provide you with a thorough introduction to the world of kamado grilling. Even if you already have some idea of what these units are capable of, you might pick up a useful hint or two.
What is a kamado grill?
The word “kamado” is Japanese for “cooking range” or “stove.” While the term isn’t widely known in the United States, kamado grills have been used in Asia for more than 4,000 years. Originally, these egg-shaped cooking vessels were made of rudimentary clay deposits, but many of the modern ones feature a ceramic construction. These units can be used for smoking, roasting, and baking, in addition to grilling.
What’s the difference between a kamado grill and a regular charcoal grill?
If a grill is advertised as a kamado grill, there’s a good chance that it features a ceramic construction. That’s because ceramics retain their heat better than the stainless steel that’s traditionally used to make charcoal grills. As an added bonus, the ceramic bodies won’t rust the way steel does. That means the grill will probably last longer, as long as the body doesn’t become cracked or otherwise damaged. If the unit is made of stainless steel, it’s usually constructed with extra layers to help hold the heat inside. In these cases, the words “double-walled” will probably come up in the product descriptions.
Also, when cooking on a kamado grill, you’re supposed to keep the lid closed. That keeps the smoke and heat from escaping during the cooking process, so your ingredients will be cooked thoroughly and evenly. Proponents of kamado grilling will tell you that this gives the food a deeper flavor than food that’s cooked over a regular charcoal grill.
Since the heat retention is so much better in a kamado grill, they’re usually ready for cooking in 15 minutes or so. With a traditional charcoal grill, you’ll have to wait twice that long. Finally, it’s worth noting that the ceramic body and lid will be cooler to the touch throughout the cooking process.
What are some of the features and benefits I should look for in a kamado grill?
In addition to a solid construction, you should consider the following criteria when shopping for a kamado grill.
Be forewarned that you can expect to spend a great deal more on a kamado grill than you would on a traditional charcoal-fired unit. On the plus side, they’re also more durable than their steel counterparts, so there’s a good chance you’ll get a better return on your investment.
Think about how much cooking space you’ll need. Because kamado grills are usually quite heavy to begin with, most of them offer about 300 to 500 square inches of grilling space. If you’re looking for a unit that can accommodate large parties, you might want to consider a gas or pellet grill instead.
Speaking of grilling space, take a look at the quality of the grates themselves. Cast iron retains its heat well and provides excellent grill marks, but it requires seasoning before its first use. If the grates are made of stainless steel, look for restaurant-grade steel (304 is a good choice, and one that’s frequently used by grill manufacturers).
Diffuser or Deflector Plate
This implement will sometimes be included in the purchase price, but it may be sold separately. In essence, the deflector plate helps to distribute the heat throughout the cooking chamber. This comes in handy if you plan to use your kamado grill for indirect cooking methods, like smoking or roasting. Since kamado grills work better when they’re used for these cooking applications (as opposed to grilling, where the heat comes from below), I would recommend investing in a deflector plate if the unit doesn’t already come equipped with one.
Since the lid remains closed throughout much of the cooking process, these grills tend to burn through charcoal at a lower rate than traditional models. Look for a unit that’s able to retain its heat without using up a ton of fuel every time you fire it up.
Do you find yourself constantly looking for someplace to set your plates and utensils when you’re grilling? If so, you might want to seek out a unit that offers shelving on at least one side. All-terrain wheels come in handy if you’re planning on moving the unit around a lot. Other add-ons might include a built-in thermometer, tool hooks, a locking lid, or an ash removal system.
Are kamado grills better than pellet smokers?
The answer to this question is less complex than you might expect. As usual, it comes down to a matter of personal preference, but the criteria are fairly simple.
Kamado grills offer superb heat retention, better than most pellet smokers. This is especially useful if you live in a cool climate and plan on using your grill throughout the winter. As we mentioned above, these units are also heavy and durable when they’re treated properly, so they offer good value for the price.
Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. If you enjoy cooking for large parties, a pellet grill is more likely to suit your needs. These units come in a variety of sizes, and some offer as much as 1000 square inches of grilling space. By contrast, kamado grills typically measure about 18 inches in diameter, which gives you just 254 square inches of cooking space on the main grate.
Finally, note that since kamado grills are quite heavy, they’re not suitable for tailgating or camping. If you’re looking for a travel grill, you’d be better off looking at pellet-fired models.
How do you clean a kamado grill?
As with any charcoal or pellet grill, you should empty the fire box after each use. Most units will offer brand-specific instructions on how to do this. Usually, it’s as simple as sifting the ash into the waiting receptacle, then emptying and replacing the container. If you’d like, you can save the ashes to sprinkle on your icy driveway during the winter months.
If you don’t use your kamado grill that often, you should check the interior frequently for signs of mold. If you notice any chalky or green-tinged buildup, start a small fire to burn the mold off the cooking grates. When the interior has cooled, scrub the grates using hot water (and soap, unless they’re made of cast iron). Then, carefully scrub out the inside of the fire box with a wire brush. You can also follow these same steps after each use, so that the grill will be ready to roll the next time around.
For more tips on cleaning a kamado grill, take a look at this YouTube tutorial:
Char Griller Akorn Reviews: Product Guide
Now that we’ve given you some background information on kamado grills in general, it’s time to see how the Char Griller Akorn units hold up to the criteria. In this section, we’ll take a detailed look at four of the most popular Akorn offerings.
#1 Char Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker
The E16620 is arguably the Char Griller’s flagship entry into the kamado grilling race. Offering 314 square inches of primary cooking space with an additional 133-quare inch warming rack, it’s sizable enough to fit a whole chicken or a full rack of ribs. The warming rack comes in especially handy if you need to finish cooking your food at a lower temperature, but don’t have time to wait for the entire unit to cool. The insulated fire box is well sealed, which means minimal airflow and more even cooking.
Cast iron cooking grates offer excellent heat retention, in addition to giving you a good sear on grilled meats. The body of the grill features a 22-gauge steel construct, with a powder-coated steel finish. The interior is coated with porcelain, which gives it added protection but requires diligent maintenance. Two folding side shelves provide you with ample space for tools and side dishes.
Two rubber wheels and a locking caster make this grill more maneuverable than most kamado grills. Since it’s made of steel rather than ceramic, it’s also much lighter. Other features include a locking lid, a handy ash management system, a built-in thermometer, and an index component that allows you to note the position of the damper without ducking beneath the fire box.
- Superb temperature control
- Large enough to accommodate an entire rack of ribs
- Long-lasting, with durable construction
- Provides excellent smoke flavor
- Some of the hardware needs to be replaced frequently
- Finish is prone to scratching and chipping
- Takes a long time to assemble
#2 Char Griller E6520 Kamado Cart Charcoal Grill
If it’s storage space you’re looking for, you’ll find plenty to love about the E6520, This cart-style grill features a long shelf and a lower wire rack, giving you room to prep side dishes and store condiments and tools, as well as additional charcoal. It’s as well-insulated as the E16620, with a sealed lid and adjustable dampers to help maintain the proper temperature.
This model also offers a total of 447 square inches of cooking space, with 314 square inches on the main grate and a 133-square inch warming rack. Like the E16620, it comes equipped with cast iron cooking grates for even heat distribution. The fire box and lid are also constructed of heavy 22-gauge steel. While this material doesn’t hold its heat quite as well as the ceramic alternative, the double-walled construction helps to offset this problem. Be forewarned, however, that the exterior gets hotter than you might be expecting from a kamado grill.
- Heats quickly and efficiently
- Very heavy double-walled construction
- Versatile across a wide range of cooking applications
- Plenty of prep and storage space
- Some shipping issues reported
- Cart is relatively flimsy for the grill’s weight
- Exterior gets hotter than most kamado grills
#3 Char Griller E06614 Akorn Jr.
As the name suggests, the Akorn Jr. is a miniature kamado grill, offering just 153 square inches of cooking space. Its diminutive size, coupled with its steel construction, makes it suitable for camping and tailgating expeditions. It’s also the most affordable unit on our list. Like its larger counterparts, it features durable cast iron cooking grates that do an admirable job at retaining and distributing heat.
Dampers are located at the top and bottom of the fire box, which gives you superb control over the temperature during the cooking process. It’s also remarkably efficient—you won’t go through nearly as much fuel as you would with a comparably sized traditional charcoal grill. Other features include a built-in heat gauge, a hinged locking lid, and handles to make the unit more portable.
- Convenient design
- Relatively low price point
- Lightweight enough to be easily moved around the deck or patio
- Very fuel-efficient
- May not offer enough cooking space to suit your needs
- Takes a while to reach the desired temperature
- Needs a preliminary “cook-off” to remove off-gassing (factory smells)
#4 Char Griller 96619 Akorn Kamado Kooker with Cooking Stone and Grill Cover
This unit has a great deal in common with the E16620, with 314 square inches of cooking space and a fire box constructed of heavy 22-gauge steel. The interior offers the same porcelain coating, while the exterior has a powder finish. The cooking grates are composed of sturdy cast iron as well. The main difference between the two? The 96619 Akorn Kamado Kooker comes equipped with a “Smoking Stone,” which is the company’s name for their stone diffuser plate. There’s also a grill cover included in the purchase price—which, for the record, is by far the highest on our list.
Two rubber wheels make the unit easier to move from one place to another, and a locking caster ensures that it stays in place once it gets there. The locking lid features a heat gauge as well, and there are two foldable shelves for storage and prep space. The ash pan on this unit is easy to install and remove, making cleanup that much easier.
- Deflector stone and grill cover included with purchase
- Capable of reaching high temperatures in a short period of time
- Good fuel efficiency
- Easy to add charcoal during cooking
- Doesn’t do well at maintaining low temperatures
- Instructions can be difficult to follow
While most kamado grills feature a ceramic construction, the Char Griller Akorn models represent a more affordable alternative. Fortunately, they’re also durable and long-lasting, especially with the proper care. But which one of the grills on our list stands out above the rest?
Despite the high price tag, the 96619 model is arguably the best option here. Since it comes with a deflector plate and grill cover, you won’t have to shell out any additional cash for those accessories. The deflector plate also gives the grill more versatility, so you can use the unit for baked goods as well as smoked meats. As for the grill cover, it will protect your investment over the years, making the upfront cost more reasonable. In terms of efficiency and heat retention, you would be hard-pressed to find a more effective unit.
If it’s value and portability you’re looking for, you might want to consider the Akorn Jr. It’s smaller than the others, but it gets the job done, and the price is right. First-timers and families who want to take their kamado grill on the road should appreciate all that this cozy unit has to offer.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our Char Griller Akorn reviews, and that you’ve learned a little something along the way. May your purchase bring you many years of char-grilled satisfaction!