The Akorn Jr. is a much smaller version of the popular Kooker charcoal grill by Char-Griller, so you’ll get many of the same advantages its larger counterpart has to offer, but for half the price. It offers the same rugged, tough design that full-sized ceramic grills have to offer, but its compact design will be a huge advantage to potential buyers who don’t have much space to work with.
Our Verdict: The Akorn Jr. is a compact version of Char-Grillers full-sized ceramic grill, the Akorn. But despite its smaller size, it’s still packing some serious power. Just like a larger kamado grill, this model offers precise temperature control, thanks to its thick steel and ceramic construction and large domed lid. It offers a decent cooking size that will work to feed three to four people, depending on what type of food you’re grilling. The compact design also makes it a great choice if you’re short on patio space. Overall, this model is a great buy if you’re searching for a versatile, compact grill that can grill your steaks to perfection.
As you can see, this grill is one of Char-Griller’s best-selling models for a reason. Continue reading to learn how this grill performs when put to the test and get an in-depth look at its design, top-features, and more.
Overview and Features
The biggest thing this grill has in common with traditional sized ceramic grills is its design. Just like a larger grill, this model was designed to mimic the internal cooking environment of expensive clay ovens, so not only can you grill up a steak, you can also cook foods like veggies, ribs, pizza, and bread.
On the outside, the grill is made out of thick steel and features the traditional ceramic grill egg-shaped design. Inside the grill is covered with a patented ceramic material created by Char-Griller. Unfortunately, there are no wheels, which would make moving the grill from place to place much easier. But at thirty-seven pounds, moving the grill from point A to point B isn’t too difficult. However, if you’re looking for a highly portable grill to take hiking, then the lack of wheels can be a deal breaker. Also included is a ceramic grill stand, complete with built-in handles.
Aside from the lid, the grill comes fully assembled. The stand and handles also need to be screwed in. It should take approximately ten to fifteen minutes to assemble this grill.
The surface space measures in at one hundred and fifty-three square inches, which is half the size of the full-sized original model by Char-Griller.
The cast-iron grates do an excellent job of distributing heat throughout the entire cooking surface which will promote a faster cooking time. In terms of maintaining heat, cast-iron is a much better choice than stainless steel.
The dampers are designed to regulate the airflow in order to enable precise temperature control, especially if you’re using the grill as a smoker. Learning how far to open or close the dampers can be tricky the first few times. As an example, if you want to achieve a temperature around two hundred degrees, the top and bottom dampers should be closed ¾ of the way. With each type of meat or dish, you’ll need to play with the dampers a little and keep an eye on the thermometer. Over time you’ll be able to easily work out what does and doesn’t work. Keep track of this by writing it down and using your notes as a guide each time you grill.
While it’s a compact model, this grill follows the same classic design that has made kamado grills famous all over the world. It’s easy to use, made from high-quality materials, and the type of cooking results you’ll get are as good as any that you’ll get from a full-sized model. If you’ve been eager to try a kamado grill but you’ve hesitated to buy one due to the higher price, then the Jr. may be the answer. Since the interior is made out of ceramic, and ceramic is known as an efficient insulator, you can be sure the cooking energy will remain inside the grill. This means you won’t need to use as much fuel, plus the grill is able to produce a higher temperature that will result in better cooking results, especially when it comes to steak. The shape of the grill also creates a natural heat convection, which is why it’s considered a combination of an oven, smoker, and grill.
Basically, the grill’s construction is excellent. The egg shape design pulls heat from the bottom of the grill, where it’s then forced through the cooking food and down to the bottom of the grill where the air is heated. This type of convection heat is what makes this model so efficient. The enclosed shell design means this grill is perfect for smoking. Its ability to reach seven hundred degrees doesn’t mean you always have to cook at such a high temperature. The vents can be used to reduce the oxygen level in the grill, which will result in a less intense and much slower burn from the charcoal. Cooking on this model is very much like cooking on a kettle grill. However, the most important difference here is the way the heat is retained and the large insulated shell. It’s important to keep in mind that cooking times will be much different on a ceramic grill compared to a traditional grill. You may need to experiment with cooking times until you get the hang of how to use the dampers to your advantage in terms of how hot you want to get the grates and how quickly you want to cook your food. The grill is easy to operate, but it will require more work on your part to get the charcoal lit. But if you’ve used a charcoal grill before then you’ll be familiar with this process.
The grill’s built-in temperature gauge will allow you to keep a close eye on your cooking food so you’ll know the cooking conditions inside the grill, without having to remove the lid. Leaving the lid in place while your food is cooking is crucial when you’re smoking.
Advantages and Disadvantages
- Can be used as a smoker
- Easy to assemble
- Low maintenance
- Compact design
- Flimsy handles
How Does this Grill Handle Steak?
Cooking steak on charcoal grill can be intimidating, but the Akorn Jr. makes it much easier than you’d expect. Since it offers better than average temperature control, you can easily cook thicker cuts of steak to perfection. However, just like most charcoal grills, cooking a thin cut of steak is not recommended since steaks under an inch thick tend to cook too quickly on the grill. Once you’ve mastered controlling the grill’s temperature, you should have no problem cooking steak. We recommend choosing steak that’s at least one and a half inches thick for the best results.
How Many Steaks Can This Model Grill at One Time?
That will depend on the cut of the steak and its size. As an example, this grill should be able to handle three good-sized ribeyes. If you need a grill that can handle large family gatherings, then we recommend the Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill. The Akorn’s smaller grilling surface is definitely a drawback for some, however, if you don’t often host family gatherings and simply need a grill that can handle casual barbeques, then this model is more than up to the task.
What Makes a Ceramic Grill Better than a Kettle Grill?
Two words: temperature regulation. Kettle grills work great for most meats, but they tend to struggle when it comes to maintaining grilling temperature. If you’re serious about your barbeque, then you’ll want to stick with a ceramic grill. These grills offer the best temperature regulation and even cooking compared to other styles of grills. If you’d like to learn more about the different types of grills available and what makes ceramic grills the go-to choice for most grilling enthusiasts, click here to read our charcoal grill buyer’s guide.
Conclusion and Rating
Grilling doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re tired of having to keep a constant eye on your steak as it cooks or you’re constantly over or undercooking your meat, then a ceramic grill is the answer.
The Akorn Jr. features most of the same features as the full-sized original Akorn and some of the same drawbacks. However, the grill is able to produce great tasting food thanks to the cast-iron grates, damper system, and the thick walls combined with the ceramic interior. Overall, if you’re looking for a smaller grill that can feed three to four people, this model is a great investment. Just keep in mind that using a ceramic grill isn’t quite as intuitive as using a gas or electric grill. We gave this model a rating of four and a half stars out of five.