Usually, we use this little space to tell you that the manufacturer of the cooker sent the cooker to us at no charge, in the interest of full disclosure. Well, also in the interest of full disclosure, we'll tell you that we bought this cooker with our own money for $200.00 at our local Wal*Mart store.
Update (08/28/16): It's been a little over 6 months since we reviewed this cooker, so we thought we'd show you how it has held up under very friendly conditions. Click here for our update.
So, have we lost our mind? Are we really going to review a metal cooker? Well, no we haven't and yes, we are. A friend of ours who helped us with our review of the Vision Grills cooker told us that we should review the Char-Griller Akorn Kamado cooker since he reckoned that a very large percentage of the posts on the Kamado Guru forum were about this inexpensive, but apparently very popular metal version of the "ceramic" cookers we all know and love like the Big Green Egg. Frankly, we had never considered spending the time or money on such a review because we have seen our share of photos on social media of these cookers sitting out on the street waiting for the trash man to come haul them away. But then we had seen one for $329 at Lowe's, and our friend alerted us to Wal*Mart which had a model for $288. When we drug it up to the cashier, it rang up for $200, so why not? So here we go with our first ever review of a metal kamado cooker, if that's not an oxymoron. Let's see how it performs, costing one-fifth (at least in our case) of what a similar-sized ceramic cooker would cost. The model we tested is Model #16620, with a two folding side tables.
Features and Points of Interest
The Char-Griller Akorn is obviously not like most kamado-style cookers due to its metal construction. Here are some features and specifications from the Akorn website, owner's manual, product brochure and our measurements:
Unpacking the Cooker
Here is a series of photos showing how the cooker was packaged and how we unpacked the box:
Parts, Parts, and More Parts
Rather than make a movie of the assembly, we are going to just show you all the pieces and parts. The captions contain details about each piece including dimensions, insightful comments, etc. Here is a close up look at all those parts that were in the box:
Let's start at the bottom. Here are the parts that make up the cart:
The Ash Pan
Next, let's look at the ash pan. The ash pan fits beneath the base and clips on with two clips on the sides. The ash pan has a two handles to help you carry it when you detach it from the cooker. It also contains the lower vent.
Now, we can move up to the base. The base has a gasket along the bottom edge to mate up with the ash pan. Also, there is a three legged bracket with a slot in the middle that spans the lower opening. The ash pan has a disk that is inserted into that slot to hold it in place until you lock it with the two clamps on the side of the base. There are six small brackets around the inside of the base to hold the cooking grate. The base is constructed of double walled steel and is about 1-inch thick. There is a clamp on the front top outside edge of the base to latch the lid shut.
The Fire Bowl
While we are looking at the base, let's look at the fire bowl next. It is a simple steel conical cylinder that sits inside the base. It has three springy "legs" around the outside at the bottom which fit the bowl into the base. Inside the bowl, there is a lip at the bottom to hold the charcoal grate. Also, there are three brackets for holding the heat deflector in place.
Next we look at the lid. It is approximately 1¼ inches thick. The hinge comes attached to the lid and there is a gasket around the edge of the lid to seal the lid to the base when the lid is closed.
The Top Vent
The top vent is permanently bolted to the lid. It has an O-ring to form an airtight seal between the vent and the lid. The top vent allegedly has a numbered index to help you set the vent, but we don't see one. As you can see, the vent has four openings. Since the manufacturer says not to let the cooker get over 700°F, it is probably for the best that the vent doesn't come off and doesn't completely open.
The handle is a piece of wood painted black. There are two brackets that bolt on to the lid to hold the handle in place.
The thermometer has a 2" dial that is marked 100°−700°F and 40°−370°C. The stem extends approximately ⅞ inch into the cooker. The thermometer sits in a bezel and is affixed to the lid by a wing nut. There is a thin rubber gasket that goes between the thermometer bezel and the surface of the lid.
The main grate is cast iron and is two pieces. There is the big outer ring, and then there is the smaller center insert. The outside diameter of the main grate is 19¾ inches while the center insert is 7½ inches in diameter. Both pieces together weigh 8 pounds, 3 ounces. There is also a chrome warming rack that mounts into either of the two holes at the back of the main grate. It is 13¼ inches in diameter and is elevated about 5 inches above the main grate.
The Side Tables
The two side tables are made from metal and form an arc around each side of the cooker. On the inside edge, the side table is 14 inches across. On the outside edge, it is 20 inches across. The side tables are about 10 inches wide from the inside edge to the outside edge.
If you are going to have all these parts, it is inevitable that you are going to have some miscellaneous parts, isn't it? Well, here we have the last of the parts, a cast iron grate lifter, and the hardware pack. We rather liked the hardware pack as every part is laid out and labeled for you, rather than all dumped into one plastic bag.
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