I wanted to update my June, 2013 frustration with getting my Char Griller Akorn to cook low and slow. Some readers have offered modifications to the Akorn, but I decided to not make any until I had exhausted every attempt to learn how to control my temps.
Items Added to Grill:
I got a dual probe, electronic remote thermometer and dispersing stone from Char Griller. I started using a water pan on top of the stone.
Persistence Pays Off or Practice Make Better:
The first 6 cooks were very challenging and I could not get under the 375° range (Yes, I know I am a slow learner, LOL). I wanted to see if I could maintain 220° range. But I stayed with it an got great results using the volcano method, using a mixture of all wood char and mesquite all wood briquettes. I also used the Char Griller dispersing stone and a water pan. So finally the 6th attempt I was able to maintain 220° to 230° consistently.
Volcano Method and Vent Control:
I switched from the minion method to the volcano method of fire building. I also found I was adjusting the vents too radically and too often. I learned from this forum to get ahead of the temperature by setting vents to 2/2 at 160° and then gradually adjust the top vent to control temp. It will either settle down around 200° or it will keep dropping so all I have to do is open back up a little. I usually leave bottom vent about 1.25 - 1.75 and control more consistent temps by adjusting the top vent only. I also found the tip in this thread to make half increments when making adjustments and only moving the top vent if possible. Now instead of getting up every couple minutes, I find myself only checking the remote receiver every 30 mins or so. After getting to the low 200° I don't make any changes for hours on end or only if there is a 10° degree swing.
Thought I would post a few pictures of the "volcano" so folks could have a visual. You can see the mix of sizes used and the hole in the middle. The bottom of the hole doesn't need to be cleard down to the grate but it should have a clear air path to the grate.
Here you see the small flame from the fire cube. Once it is lit I just set a few pieces over the hole but I don't fill it. Filling the hole would only smother the starter. You also see the randomly placed smoke wood.
When trying this remember that you are preparing for a slow and low cook and that it will take some time to get to temp. Maybe 30 min but if you try to rush it you will end up overshooting your target and lighting too much lump at once. This will make it hard to keep the temp down.
Volcano Pictures courtesy from philpom, Texas
I use the vent numbers as a reference to make notations of the adjustments I make (and other pertinent information) in my BBQ Journal and for easy reference to other smokers looking on in this thread. The journal (and this thread) taught me to make fewer adjustments and to discover I had better control with the bottom vent usually between 1.5 and 1.75 and tweaking the top vent in half increments only when necessary.
I started mixing all wood Mesquite briquettes with all wood char because I read I could better control temp with briquettes due to size and material uniformity. Yes I know there are a lot of opinions out there, but I chose what made the most sense to me and what was available at the time. I also tried to make fewer changes to this fuel source until I had better success at controlling the temp. I also need to say that I can't believe how economical this Akorn is on fuel. There is always enough left over the next smoke with adding only a few pieces char. I have not tried adding wood to the fire yet as I have not really found an economical source yet Grocery store only has apple and it is expensive. I want to try Pecan and Hickory. I will say now that I am more confident, I am planning on moving towards all wood char and wood chips as I use up the rest of the briquettes I already had on hand.
Still A Lot to Learn:
I am still a beginner, but I want to give my personal feed back because I see some are a little skeptical of conquering the Char Griller Akorn. I'm getting it down. AND I am having fun and really enjoying smoking. Last smoke I cooked 3 different meat items and veggies by staggering cooking times and consistently maintaining low temperatures over 12 hours. Longest smoke so far. Sorry no pics. There is always net time.
Edited by dmclalin - 9/9/13 at 2:08pm