Char-Griller Akorn kamado review: kamado grilling has gone digital

The Char-Griller Akorn kamado lets you control how you grill, smoke, roast, and bake from the convenience of your phone. Here's our verdict on whether it's up to the job...

plate of grilled food in front of the AKORN Auto-Kamado grill
(Image credit: Alex Temblador)
Gardeningetc Verdict

The Char-Griller Akorn kamado takes all the wonderful aspects of kamado grilling and packages them in an affordable grill with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. Cook for your large family or big groups on a spacious cast-iron grate, with or without an indirect cooking shield. The built-in meat probe ensures that everything is fully cooked, while the integrated fan stokes the flame, bringing the temperatures to where you need them, quickly. With an app on your phone, you can track the temperature and timer during each grilling session. Overall, it’s a solid buy that simplifies the grilling process.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Affordable

  • +

    Cast-iron cooking grates

  • +

    Easy-to-empty ash tray

  • +

    Indirect cooking shield

  • +

    Built-in meat probe and fan

  • +

    Includes a cast-iron grate lifter

  • +

    Two side shelves with hooks and a rolling stand

  • +

    Super large cook surface and warming rack

  • +

    Digital LCD Controller with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

  • +

    App lets you track temperature and timer

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Meat probe is wonky

  • -

    Burns charcoal at a faster rate

  • -

    Steel construction doesn’t retain heat as well as ceramic

If you're in the market for a new grill, we can confirm that the Char-Griller Akorn kamado grill is worth every dollar. There is nothing like grilling, smoking, roasting, and baking on a kamado grill. The egg-shaped design traps in the heat, moisture, and smoke from burning charcoal and infuses it back into your food. That’s genius, no?

Last year, I had a chance to try my first kamado grill and since then, they’ve been my favorite. When I found out I was going to test the Char-Griller Akorn kamado, I knew what to expect – or at least I thought I did. 

Charcoal kamado grills have gone digital with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities and I had the chance to experience this firsthand with the Akorn. And I must say... I really like this upgrade!

Read on to learn more about my experience with the Akorn kamado. You can find more brilliant suggestions in our guide on the best grills.

Char-Griller Akorn kamado grill: key product specifications

Akorn Auto-Kamado

(Image credit: Akorn)
  • Type: Kamado grill and smoker
  • Fuel type: Lump charcoal
  • Weight: 91lbs. 
  • Cooking area: 445 sq. in. (314 sq. in. primary + 133 sq. in. warming rack)
  • Size: L45" x W31.3" x H48.5"
  • Housing material: porcelain coated steel and cast-iron cooking grates
  • Size: Options include XL, Large, Medium, Small, Mini, and MiniMax (I tested a Large for this review)

Who will the Char-Griller Akorn kamado suit?

meat and vegetables cooking on a kamado grill

(Image credit: Alex Temblador)
  • Diverse grillers: Designed to do more than just grill. It can smoke, roast, and bake all your favorite recipes.
  • Those who struggle with lighting charcoal grills: Lighting a charcoal grill is a lot easier thanks to an integrated fan that stokes the flames to perfection.
  • Grillers who are tech-savvy: With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, you can better control temperatures and cook time from the convenience of your phone.  
  • Large families: The cooking area is super large and it’s outfitted with a removable warming rack.  

Setting up the Char-Griller Akorn kamado

The Akorn kamado arrived on my doorstep in a large square box, and I had to assemble it. I’m not a big fan of putting any kind of product together, much less a large kamado grill like this one that has a lot of parts to it. 

This became especially apparent when I started to assemble the grill and found that I couldn’t connect the bottom shelf to the legs. Apparently, I had to loosen the leg screws, attach the bottom shelf, then tighten them one at a time. The instructions did not communicate this.

assembling a kamado grill

(Image credit: Alex Temblador)

So – I had some help. My parents were staying with me for a few days before a family reunion and me and my dad put the grill together. There were a few mishaps such as running out of lock washers. 

Char-Griller provided a selection of hardware, like the lock washers, but by the end of the assembly process, we ran out of them. We followed the instructions to a "T" so I'm not sure why enough washers were not provided. 

We also found the instructions a bit confusing by the end, especially as it related to the fan box and connecting the LCD digital display. We figured it out eventually.

assembled kamado grill in a yard

(Image credit: Alex Temblador)

Getting started

Before I could use the grill for the first time, I had to season it. I’ve seasoned other grills in the past, but the Akorn kamado has a more extensive process than most because it has cast-iron cooking grates.

I had to coat both sides of the cooking grate with a food grade oil and heat the grill to 350 degrees. I then let the grill surface season for 20 minutes. After that, I had to pause the fan on the grill and allow the grates to cool, before recoating both sides of the cooking grates with oil again and seasoning it for another 20 minutes.

Char-Griller suggests doing the process up to three times to improve the non-stick surface of the cast-iron grates. I only did it twice, but now looking back, I would say that three times is best. The first time I cooked on the grill, the chicken got stuck. If I had seasoned it three times, perhaps I could have prevented that.

Lastly, I needed to download the Char-Griller app before using the grill. It was simple to do, and the grill had no trouble connecting to my phone. You can tell it’s connected by a little phone symbol on the LCD digital display. The connection does drop if I’m about 50 feet away, but it connects immediately when I move closer to the grill.

What is the Char-Griller Akorn kamado like to use?

Akorn Auto-Kamado grill controls

(Image credit: Akorn)

I had never used a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth-enabled grill prior to testing the Char-Griller Akorn, so I was very excited to see how it would benefit the grilling process. It did not disappoint.

I have cooked various meals on it for this review, including a pork loin, chicken, fish, steak, Brussel sprouts, squash, potatoes, and corn on the cob. The first thing that I noticed about the grill is how large the grilling surface area is. It’s one thing to say that the primary grilling surface is 314 square inches, but it’s another thing to see it covered with four chicken tenderloins, two pieces of fish, and two cast irons filled with Brussel sprouts and potatoes. 

food cooking on a kamado grill with meat on a warming rack

(Image credit: Alex Temblador)

This grill is perfect for cooking for large families and groups, especially if you want to smoke large meats. The additional warming rack, which is removable and can pivot in and out of the grill, was especially helpful in keeping food warm. If you use the warming rack, keep in mind that the food will continue to cook slightly due to the way the egg-style grill moves heat around.

Cooking on the Akorn kamado grill

close up of the grill on a kamado grill

(Image credit: Alex Temblador)

When I grilled, I started by adding lump charcoal below the cast-iron cooking grate. I then added a fire starter before lighting it. Per the grilling tips, I left the lid open for three to five minutes before opening the fan cover on the side of the grill and closing the lid.

Now this is where things got interesting. The biggest drawback of cooking on a charcoal grill in my opinion is how difficult it is to light the charcoal, especially since most of the grills that I’ve tested don’t allow you to use lighter fluid – including this one (which surprised me since it’s a steel kamado and not ceramic.). Fire starters make things easier, but I still have trouble getting a fire started. However, the Akorn kamado is different.

To get the fire going after I closed the lid, I used the knob on the digital display to set my desired temperature. It’s quite easy to do and once I chose the right temperature, I pushed the button. It flashes with a suggestion that’s between “d-1” and “d-5.” This indicates to what extent I need to adjust the air vent at the top of the grill. The vent is labeled between 1-5 and I slide it to whatever the monitor tells me to do. So, if it says, “d-3,” I slide the vent to “3.”

At the same time, the fan on the side of the grill began to run. It effectively fans the fire at the exact rate needed to reach the temperature you want. With this process, the grill heated up quickly – much faster than I’ve ever experienced with any charcoal grill prior. 

I watched the temperatures rise on the app and when it reached my desired temperature, it notified me with an alert. Rather than lighting the BBQ, then sitting by it and watching the fire, I was able to go inside the house and prepare my meats and vegetables. 

food grilling on a kamado grill

(Image credit: Alex Temblador)

When the temperature was just right, I would bring my meats and vegetables outside and set them on the side shelf before lifting the lid and placing them on the grill surface as I saw fit. Then I used the digital display to set a timer. The timer is designed for hours and minutes, and as soon as it was set, it appeared on the app.

Again, I returned inside and cleaned dishes or set the table while the grill managed the temperature and timer I had set. When the timer was up, it sent me a notification on my phone. If I had been outside at the time, I would have also heard the grill start beeping to notify me that the timer was up.

The Akorn auto-kamado is outfitted with two temperature probe sockets and comes with one temperature probe. I used it to measure the internal temperatures of the different meats I cooked. I’m by no means a pro at using these, but I did find the probe to be a bit wonky at times. It would say that the meat’s internal temperature wasn’t at a safe-to-eat temperature, and yet, if I cut open the meat, it would be completely cooked through.

The first time it happened, I was cooking chicken and didn’t want to take the chicken off the grill too early, but I ended up cooking it too long (and it was dry) because the probe wasn’t accurate. But then I used it to test the temperature of my steak another time, and the probe worked well. I’ve seen other reviews of people who said the temperature probe has been wonky for them too, so just something to keep in mind.

In terms of flavoring and taste, I was super impressed with how the grill did. I liked how the cast-iron surface created charred lines on my corn on the cob and that my pork loin was incredibly delicious and juicy from the smoking process.

Akorn Auto-Kamado grill with food on

(Image credit: Akorn)

Cleaning and maintaining the Akorn kamado grill

cleaning out the ash from a kamado grill

(Image credit: Alex Temblador)

After each use, I’d close the top, the vent, and turn off the fan, so that the fire would die, before rolling it back into my garage. Because it’s made of steel, the Akorn has a higher chance of rusting through because of the elements so if you leave it outside, make sure you have a cover.

Removing the ash is quite simple and should be done before you use the grill each time. All I had to do was unclip the ash tray from the bottom of the grill, throw out the ash, and then replace it.

One thing I should note is that I found that it burns through lump charcoal much faster than the Big Green Egg, which is the other kamado style grill I’ve reviewed. I can fill up the Big Green Egg and use that same pile of charcoal two to four times. But with the Char-Griller Akorn, I had to refill it every time with more lump charcoal. 

While I love how the fan lights the fire quickly and maintains the temperature you want, I think it burns charcoal more quickly. A steel construction doesn’t help to maintain the heat as well as a ceramic kamado so I’m not surprised the charcoal burns faster. This is something to keep in mind because you will have to buy more charcoal for this type of grill than you might have to do with ceramic kamados.

Ordering, delivery and warranty

Order the Akorn kamado from the Char-Griller website, Home Depot, or Lowe’s. Delivery times vary depending on where you buy it from, but generally don’t take more than 5 business days. It arrives in a single large box, and you’ll have to put it together.

In terms of returns, Char-Griller does offer a full refund to customers who can ship it back in its original packaging. Unfortunately, shipping prices are not reimbursed. If you purchase the Akorn from a store, you’ll need to return it directly to the store as Char-Griller will not accept those third party purchases.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Char-Griller is that they have a five-year ‘burn and rust-through warranty’ which goes well beyond the grilling industry’s usual one-year warranty. Five years from the date of purchase, any rust or burn through of the hood and bottom of the Akorn kamado will be covered by the warranty. The ash pan and any defective parts fall under a one-year warranty.

Keep in mind that the warranty does not include scratches, dents, corrosion, abrasive and chemical cleaners, discovering by heat, or surface rust of the discoloration of steel surfaces.  

How does the Akorn kamado rate online?

The Char-Griller Akorn kamado rates favorably online. From the 14 reviews on the Char-Griller website, the grill has a 4.9 rating out of 5 stars. On the Lowe’s website, it has a 4.8 rating among 33 reviews, and on the Home Depot website, it is rated a 4.6 among 19 reviews.

Overall, most people had positive experiences with the grill. A few customers mentioned defective parts like the temperature probe and fan, but things like that will happen on occasion. What is most important to point out is that many reviewers were not happy that the warranty did not cover dents that occurred during shipping or in the factory. 

Is it worth it?

Kamado-style grills are a fantastic cooking tool for any home, but the reality is that many of them are expensive. This is why I love the Char-Griller Akorn kamado. Because of the steel construction, it’s an incredibly affordable grill. Yes, the steel construction may not retain heat as well, but it doesn't seem to affect the actual flavoring of the meal itself. 

In my opinion, this grill has everything you could need – a large cast-iron cooking surface, warming rack, three shelves, and a rolling stand. Not to mention, the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities makes grilling, smoking, roasting, and baking on this grill incredibly easy. Anything that improves the grilling process is a good investment in my book.

About this review, and the reviewer

fully assembled kamado grill in a yard

(Image credit: Alex Temblador)

Alex Temblador is a Dallas-based freelance writer who has covered home, design, architecture, and art in publications like Real Homes, Dwell, Architectural Digest, Artsy, Neighborhoods.com, Culture Trip, among many others. 

Her Sears & Roebuck house sits on half an acre of land and features a stunning wraparound porch. When she's not sitting on her porch with a cup of tea and her laptop, you'll find the Mixed Latine writer scrounging through estate sales and vintage shops looking for unique objects to bring 'The Starlight House' to life. 

As with all our reviews, the Char-Griller Akorn kamado has been tested first-hand in her home, using it just as you would so you know exactly what you are buying. We are not paid to review this product (nor any products we test). The products are given to us free of charge and we test them for as long as possible before sending them back to the brand unless we are able to keep it as we are with this grill. This means that we can continue to use the product which gives us the opportunity to return to our reviews for updating, so you can keep up-to-date with how it's fared over a period of time.