Smoked meats bring your tailgate to the next level. But dragging a full size ceramic kamado-style charcoal grill to the parking lot is problematic. The size and weight alone eliminates the full size dual-damper smokers from being welcome at your tailgate spot.
We had a chance to review the Char-Griller AKORN Jr; a dual-damper kamado-style charcoal grill that despite it’s smaller size, packs a big punch.
For those long time readers of Tailgating Ideas, you probably remember our love affair with the Bubba Keg Grill. We baked cookies and did some high temperature searing on the Bubba Keg and even smoked a turkey. We loved the Bubba Keg grill. We didn’t love the size and weight of it which relegated it to a backyard grill.
When the folks at Char-Griller reached out to us and suggested we test and review the Char-Griller AKORN Jr, we were more than excited. Was is possible to have a kamado-style charcoal grill that can smoke, braise and sear just like the full size ones? I guess we were going to find out.
(Disclaimer: We received a sample of the Char-Griller AKORN Jr free of charge. The fact this sample was provided to us for free in no way influenced our opinion of the product nor did it impact our ability to test and review the product fairly and objectively.)
First, when the Char-Griller AKORN Jr arrived, it was professionally packaged and well protected. There was some small and simple assembly required that was accomplished in less than 10 minutes.
Once assembled, we were ready to grill. We chose to go with stuffed burgers using the Burger Pocket Press we reviewed years ago. (Pesto, parmesan & pepperoni stuffed burgers for those curious)
We placed our lump charcoal in the bottom of the Char-Griller AKORN Jr first and then detached the ash pan. We placed a starter stick underneath, lit it and then placed the ash pan back underneath the charcoal. We opened the top and bottom vents to wide open and poured ourselves a beer. The charcoal was up to temperature within 15 minutes and we were ready to grill. We clamped the dampers to maintain the perfect temperature and placed our stuffed burgers on the cast iron cooking grates.
As you may have guessed, the burgers turned out perfectly and once pulled off, we clamped the dampers down to zero; shutting off the oxygen to the charcoal. By using lump charcoal, we could use the remaining charcoal for another cook once it cooled off. (Here at Tailgating Ideas, we suggest using lump charcoal to save money if you do not use all of the charcoal on a single cook.)
Once the Char-Griller AKORN Jr cooled down, we removed the ash pan from the bottom, dumped the ashes and replaced it. We were ready for the next time in just a few simple steps.
The only knock I have is that even though you could roast a full chicken on the AKORN, you don’t have enough room to stand it up and do a beer can chicken. The 14″ cooking diameter is big enough to hold the whole chicken but the 153 square inch primary cooking area is not tall enough to close the lid with a chicken standing over a beer can. Then again, with portability and a smaller size does come some compromises.
The cooking area is plenty big to smoke two tri-tips or a good sized brisket. The dual dampers, heat gauge, and triple wall steel with insulation delivers an outstanding grilling experience in a compact and portable size.
After just one cook, the Char-Griller AKORN Jr is definitely “Tailgate Approved”. It offers easy mobility and is great for tailgating, camping, the beach and going to the park. For those tailgaters that may live in an apartment or condo, the Char-Griller AKORN Jr would fit on a balcony and still offer the versatility of smoking or high temperature cooking.
Currently priced at $149.00 directly from the Char-Griller website, it is also available via Amazon. Amazon has the Char-Griller AKORN Jr priced at $146.00 and if you are an Amazon prime member, you get free shipping.