Char-Griller/Akorn Temperature Woes

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by bhall7, Jul 26, 2013.

  1. bhall7

    bhall7 Newbie

    Hey folks! Recently purchased the Char-Griller Akorn 6520 (grey, with cart) at Home Depot for $329. I have really been struggling to control the temperatures with this guy. I've read numerous articles and threads that suggest the best way to start and maintain a low and slow fire (~225F) in the Akorn/Char-Griller kamados, but my temperature is either heading north of 300 or dying completely after an hour or so--I'm getting desperate.

    I'm using 100% oak lump charcoal with the firebox filled up about 3/4. I'm using between 1/2-1/4 of a Weber starter cube. I light it up, and wait about 10-15 minutes until the charcoal is lit, then put the top grate on with my Maverick ET73 wireless thermometer setup. I have tried different strategies for manipulating the vents. After speaking with Char-Griller support, they told me to open both the top and the bottom to a 1 setting. Whenever I do that, it just takes off well into the 300's. I tried starting off with the top completely closed, and the bottom just barely open. It creeps up nicely, but then dies after about 30-45 minutes. So I tried opening the top just barely so that the little half-circle shape is open, and the bottom is just barely open, but it either dies or takes off again up into the 300's.

    I'm seriously considering returning this unit and buying an electric box smoker (Masterbuilt, or something similar) so that I don't have to keep tending this thing. Any last minute tips before I give up?
  2. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Be patient...some of these machines turn like the Titanic....keep the top open and barely crack the bottom.....I mean barely, then wait 20 minutes.
  3. bhall7

    bhall7 Newbie

    Thanks! I have tried adjusting in very small increments and waiting 10-15 minutes for temperature changes. I've tried a combination of both top and bottom, top only, bottom only adjustments (usually between 0-1), but can't ever find that sweet spot--either too hot, or the fire dies. It's frustrating.
  4. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Always keep the top open...ONLY adjust the bottom but barely crack it
  5. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    If the heat continues to rise then you have an air leak. Read threads on Acorn'll have fixes on common air leaks easily fixed.

    If you don't have a Maverick ET732 I'd get one....accurate therm.
  6. bhall7

    bhall7 Newbie

    Yes, I do have a Maverick ET732.

    Interesting approach to leave the top wide open and close down the bottom vent. Does the smoke still penetrate the meat well doing this?
  7. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Absolutely, it just kisses the meat which is what you want.
  8. Man, I'm so happy I saw this thread. I used a friends BGE before and it had me determined to find something similar for cheaper. I pretty much narrowed it down to the WSM, but I went to home depot and saw the Akorn. I had to look at it and reminisce about the ease of the BGE, but always wondered about temp control. On the BGE you can set the temp and leave it for hours and it'll either stay the same or move a couple degrees depending on wind. Do you find it to be easy like that at all, or would you recommend the WSM?

    I agree with FWI, I've always learned to leave the exhaust fully open, you want that smoke moving. Though with the BGE the top was a big part of temp control.
  9. riblet

    riblet Newbie

    My vote is for an air leak, around the bottom vent. I had similar issues with mine. Mine would run 250 or so with the bottom vent completely closed. I bought some flat stick on gasket, placed behind the vent body, and put little strip on both ends of the slider. Now, if I can catch the temp well as it rises, nearly the same settings of (approx 1-1)  will maintain steady temps of 225 up to about 300. As far as the comment on the upper vent being wide open, that doesn't work well for consistent low temps on mine.  The fire is so small in these komado's to maintain temp, I haven't had any issues with oversmoking, and actually wish I would get a little more.

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  10. bhall7

    bhall7 Newbie

    My Akorn didn't have any leaks that I saw (tested by closing all vents when there was lots of smoke). I had Home Depot set it up free of charge, and it had some sealant around the edges of the vent. In fact, one problem is that I would frequently kill the fire while trying to control the overly hot temps, which suggests that it was pretty tight. The Akorn was either too hot, or the fire was dying. Who knows, maybe it was just user error. I returned it to Home Depot this morning after a few weeks of unsuccessful runs. Home Depot was cool about taking the Akorn back for a 100% full refund.

    Last night, after struggling for several hours to maintain a consistent temp on my Akorn, we took the pork butt next door and threw it in my neighbor's BGE with a DigiQ DX2, and MAN, it smells good! I think that's really the way to go. The trouble is, I don't have $1,000+ for that kind of setup. [​IMG]  I'm sure I could've purchased a DigiQ DX2 for my Akorn, but it wasn't in my budget.

    Now, I'm trying to figure out if I want an easy-to-use, set-it-and-forget-it electric smoker (Bradley, Masterbuild, Brinkmann, etc.), or if I should get a WSM.
  11. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Sorry it didn't work out for you.    WSM's and UDS's are very easy to control and both you can hook up an ATC up to.   DigiQ's are great but you know you don't need one that fancy to control temps very good.    I use a simple pitmasteriq with my UDS and it works like a champ. 
    bhall7 likes this.
  12. I have the Acorn. I also have an auber temperature control on it . Before having the control I overshot temp and because of a knee jerk reaction on my part I damped it way down and put out the fire . Had same kind of episode happen after installing Auber. I have found that trick is to start fire ,(I use the weber starter cubes about 1/2 cube) leave top up until it looks like cube has burned out . Close top and damp down bottom vent to about a .5 .top vent will be somewhere about a .75 . As temp rises using the maverick damp top back to where all you have are the 1/2 moons open . This should all be done well before you hit your target temp . Remember It is easy to bring up temp in a Kamado but sucks to bring it down . It is also important to use lump charcoal as opposed to briquettes  because Lump is way more control able in a Kamado . Even when using the Auber the key is not to overshoot your temp,and again that is achieved by creeping up to target temp instead of trying to get there fast . Sorry you packed it in with the Char-Griller because it is one kick ass cooker . I also have an MES 30 ,new generation and the cooks I get from the Char-Griller beat the MES all the time . And that is using the AMNPS or the MES cold smoker attachment in the MES ,which I have both of . DO NOT try to start with a big fire in your Char-griller if you are trying for low and slow . There is another trick for lighting which is using an oil soaked or alcohol soaked cotton ball ,that works good too .Just try to get very few coals lit initially . Good luck with your next cooker .
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
  13. bhall7

    bhall7 Newbie

    Thanks for the reply, and for the helpful information. I actually re-purchased an Akorn kamado again, after deciding that it was the best alternative for me. (Here's another post on Kamado Guru that explains my reasoning).

    I purchased a PartyQ for unattended, all-night, low-and-slow cooks, and I absolutely love it! I'm so happy. We did a brisket and pork shoulder last weekend, which turned out amazing.

  14. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    I have the Partyq as well.. Good little device. Just remember since it doesn't have the technology to know when you open the lid it's best to shut it off before opening and pull the probe wire.. Reconnect after you closet lid. By doing that it won't over shoot your temp if you have to check your food.
  15. bhall7

    bhall7 Newbie

    Yes! I learned the hard way that you need to turn off the PartyQ before opening the lid. LOL!

    I even found that when I set the PartyQ to 225 initially, temps would take off and sit at around 270 for a couple of hours before stabilizing back down at 225. Next time, I need to remember to set the PartyQ initially at like 170, then let it sit there for a while, then slowly creep up the setting to 225. I'm still learning, but having fun doing it! :)
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2013
  16. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Nothing against the Acorns, but I absolutely love my 22.5" WSM, having two 22.5" racks is really nice when you are doing a big party or something. It is super easy to use, I call mine "smoking-for-idiots easy". In my mind the only real advantage the Acorn & BGE's have are that they do better in really cold weather due to the thickness of the clay walls, but I over come that with a $45 dollar welding blanket that I wrap around my WSM - I can run at 250° in windy 27° weather.

    But every person has different needs, so go with what you think will work best for you.
    bhall7 likes this.
  17. I went with the 22.5" WSM and I have some learning to do so I can work it flawlessly, but I'm satisfied with it. I don't like how once that bottom rack of food goes on its pretty much there for the long haul. Can't make any adjustments without taking the WSM apart and starting a fire whilst doing so.
  18. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You don't have to completely dissasemble the WSM to get to the bottom rack.... or make a new fire.

    Using the minion method you are going to fill the charcoal ring either half way or all the way up, then dump a half chimney of lit charcoal on it. Use half a ring if you are doing short smokes (6 hrs. or so) and a full ring for long smokes. You shouldn't have to add or reload charcoal unless it's really cold and windy, or you misjudged the length of your smoke.

    To get to your lower rack mid smoke just use a pair of pot holders and lift the top rack off and place it to the side, then do what ever you need to do to the meat on the bottom rack and then place your top rack and the lid back on.

    If you do have to add charcoal get a full chimney about half lit then use the door as a shute and dump the charcoal in. You will get a slight temp spike, but it will settle down fast.
  19. So do you put the half chimney of lit coals spread out across the unlit coals? Or just in the middle of the unlits? I used the can method and it was incredible for 225-250. Also, is it normal for drippings to fall out of your bottom vents? Two of my vents had puddles underneath them.
  20. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The coals stay in a pile in the middle - or stick with the can method that works well to. Not sure how you would end up with liquid dripping out of your vents, I have never had that happen. Did you accidentely slosh the water in the water pan? What were you cooking and did anything happen during the cook? (rain, smoker bumped, ect.)

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