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First Cook on the Akorn Retrospective

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    First Cook on the Akorn Retrospective

    willxfmr

    So after a few dry runs, I was ready to do my first pork butt on the Akorn. Ultimately, the butt turned out excellent. You can see pics here:

    https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...all-2021/page2

    A couple of comments:

    1) Bark: I felt the bark was among the best I've managed to do on a pork butt, as it was crispy and flavorful. Very pleased.

    2) Efficiency: It ran for 12 hours with the lump previously used for the dry runs, and wasn't particularly full at the start. I will post a pic later when I bring it in, but I'm pretty sure I have more to use for next time. For comparison, the MB560 burns through 8-10 pounds of lump per 8 hours.

    3) Temp control: Still more to learn here, but once I get this dialed in, I can see how it will be set & forget. It was leaking smoke quite a bit when I originally picked it up, but I went around and pinched all of the gasket on the lid and ash bucket, which fixed it up marvelously. This thing is air tight and can stay on temp for hours.

    4) Lighting: I actually spent a lot of time over at Kamado Guru and reading this guide ( https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...-savage-kamado ), and Meathead's advice is actually the best: the bottom vent is for temp control, and generally leave the top vent alone. Adjusting both vents at once is a recipe for failure, and each smoker is unique. Once I stopped trying to guess at the bottom/top vent combinations, it became a lot easier to get where I wanted to go.


    I actually made the same mistake as Jim when cooking with the cold food. My dry runs put me at .75 on the bottom vent for 260 using half of a firestarter, but following the same process led to the temps dropping to 190 once I put the diffuser and cold food on. I opened up wider and got back to 240.

    The temp held at 240 from 9:30-12pm before it dropped to 205 and wasn't moving. I opened it back up and dropped a firestarter in where the coals were unlit, and then it held at 230-240 until 6:30pm. At that point, I wanted to get it to 275, but moving from around 1 to 2 did nothing, so I just moved the bottom vent to wide open and eventually it got up to 280. The butt was done around 9pm.

    Questions:

    1) I assume the too small lighting process (half a firestarter) and mix of old and new lump led to the dropping temps around noon. I think using a full one next time and getting it to 300 before putting the diffuser and meat on should get me to around 225-250 or so. What is the most effective way to mix up the old and lump here to create the best conditions for the next cook? My Weber and PBC always burned everything up so I had nothing left to use. Should I pick out all of the whited-over chunks and leave the unburned ones or is there a better process?

    2) Does anyone else wrap the diffuser with tin foil for easier clean-up? Good idea?

    3) For most of the day, I was actually hoping to get to 275, so I moved the bottom vent to 2 and 3 eventually, but the temp never really moved off 230-240. Only when I moved it to wide open, did it finally rise to 280. I was pretty puzzled here, as I was under the impression that very small .25 increments were enough to move the temp say 10-20 degrees. Is this a function of the maybe not having a full basket of new charcoal, so it's less responsive, or a function of time (10 hours of smoking) so it's less responsive? What else should I be considering?










    #2
    And for those paying attention, I did do the chicken parmesan and pork butt at the same time, so I had both smokers fired up and working. So that was fun.

    Comment


      #3
      Maybe ash disrupting airflow later in the cook?

      Comment


        #4
        After quite a bit of experimentation i now go out the next day and shake the ash out of my kick ash basket and dump the leftover lump in a metal bucket. When I build a new fire I put new larger pieces on the bottom and layer used lump on top of that. I’ve found I don’t get the air flow I want with smaller used pieces on the bottom. I don’t know if the Akron comes with a charcoal basket, if not get one.
        Last edited by Oak Smoke; September 23, 2021, 08:40 AM.

        Comment


          #5
          zero_credit Good recap of your first cook. On your questions:

          1. I only light one Weber starter cube and put it nestled into the lump for low and slow. I use 3 placed around the bed of charcoal if going for high temperatures. Also, I leave the bottom wide open, and lid open, for about 10 minutes, then go ahead and place the diffuser and cooking grate, and close the lid, and leave the top vent wide open as well. Once it is about 50 degrees below where I want it to be, I start tweaking the vents.

          2. Yes - I didn't wrap my ceramic diffuser on its maiden voyage, but now do wrap the top side in heavy duty foil, as pork butts and brisket can put a lot of crap on top of it, and at low and slow temps (below 300) it doesn't burn off. For high temp cooks (think pizza at 600-700F) I do not wrap it, as anything that hits it will burn off.

          3. How open was your top vent? It's almost a combination of the two, and if your top vent is open too far at low and slow temps, it lets too much of the heat out. For kamado mode on low and slow below 300F, I run my vent on the SNSK around 1 to 1.5, and then adjust the bottom vent as needed. For 350ish I run the top vent at 2, and wide open for 500+. On a tightly sealed cooker, the bottom vent can only do so much if the top vent is restricting the air flow.

          Comment


          • tbob4
            tbob4 commented
            Editing a comment
            On my Vision Kamado I always use a metal pan on the diffuser or lower grate when doing pork butts. It prevents so much mess.

          #6
          Here is what I have left.
          Attached Files

          Comment


            #7
            Oak Smoke I think that is a good idea. I will try that next time. I do not have a basket yet, as I had to buy a new cover already because the seller's cover was the wrong size. But the concept you've outlined sounds pretty good. I plan to load up much more charcoal next time...maybe 3-4 inches worth or so.

            jfmorris Thanks for the thoughts. On the initial lighting, I can get the temp to where I want it within about 30 minutes, so I believe that initial adjustment period feels pretty good. But I will tweak it a bit more to avoid the temps dying out in a few hours.

            I also just cleaned everything up. To be honest, the mess on the diffuser just scraped right off and is perfectly clean again, so tin foil seems like overkill now. It was nice to not have the grease everywhere like with the MB560, so the simpler cleaning process (wipe down ash bucket with damp paper towel, dump ashes, scrape off juices from grates/diffuser) was nice.

            For the vents, I had the top vent at 0.5 the entire time, and I didn't touch it. I agree on opening it up more for hotter cooks. Maybe I just didn't have enough fresh lump to really get the Akorn more responsive? Or maybe I should try 1 on the top and see what that does to response time with a solid load of lump? I went off Akorn recommendations per our last chat.

            Any thoughts on how to layer the charcoal for the next cook? Do you do something similar to Oak Smoke?
            Last edited by IFindZeroBadCooks; September 23, 2021, 12:22 PM.

            Comment


              #8
              Originally posted by zero_credit View Post
              For the vents, I had the top vent at 0.5 the entire time, and I didn't touch it. I agree on opening it up more for hotter cooks. Maybe I just didn't have enough fresh lump to really get the Akorn more responsive? Or maybe I should try 1 on the top and see what that does to response time with a solid load of lump? I went off Akorn recommendations per our last chat.

              Any thoughts on how to layer the charcoal for the next cook? Do you do something similar to Oak Smoke?
              Akorn has a picture of the vents on their webpage:

              https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/19...g?v=1620050790

              As well as some info in their manual on charcoal setups. It appears to me that if you wanted 275 during the cook, you may need that top vent opened 1/4 of the way, and the bottom vent choked down some, but having no experience with the cooker, that is just a guess based on what I see on their page.

              In the manual, they say to mound up the charcoal and to light the top in one place for low and slow, or light the bottom in several places for high temp cooking. For me, I just fill the entire bottom of my kamado with lump, and light it with 1 or more starter cubes. If using wood, I've kind of been nesting it down in the charcoal before lighting.

              Comment


              • IFindZeroBadCooks
                IFindZeroBadCooks commented
                Editing a comment
                I think this makes a lot of sense and gives me some good ideas for the next one.

              • jfmorris
                jfmorris commented
                Editing a comment
                zero_credit I basically fill the entire bottom of the grill each time. I rake the charcoal around to make any ash drop down below the lower charcoal grate, then add new charcoal on top, mostly filling the bowl.

              #9
              zero_credit this is the start of a kamado mode cook for low and slow, for me. There are probably 8-10 pounds of charcoal in there.

              Click image for larger version

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              Comment


              • IFindZeroBadCooks
                IFindZeroBadCooks commented
                Editing a comment
                Excellent. I knew I didn’t have a lot of charcoal in there but didn’t anticipate that it might affect temp control instead of just burn times.

              • jfmorris
                jfmorris commented
                Editing a comment
                zero_credit I think the amount of charcoal is more likely to affect ability to reach high temperature than it is to reach smoking temps. That said, the way these things shutdown, and the ability they have to reuse charcoal, no reason not to load it up. I've cooked several times without adding charcoal before, depending on what I was doing.

              • IFindZeroBadCooks
                IFindZeroBadCooks commented
                Editing a comment
                Definitely gonna load it up. I am liking this Masterbuilt lump by the way which I think is the same as Kamado Joe lump.

              #10
              I cook on a Big Green Egg. Here are a couple things that might help. First, on low and slow cooks stacking your charcoal with a layer of large followed by a layer of medium and topped with a layer of small helps keep the air flow free from clogging ash. I usually top the stack with the used charcoal. Second, kamados burn from front to back, so I no longer light in the middle. I use two starter squares and bury them on edge with one to the right of the right of the vent and the other to the left. That way I don’t have to worry about the charcoal burning to one side only. You will need to make sure you don’t get two big of fire going. I like to have my temperature stabilized for at least 15 minutes before adding the diffuser and again before adding the meat. I figure on an hour to stabilize the cooker before putting the meat on. The temperature will drop temporarily, so don’t adjust your vents or you will begin chasing adjustments. I like a drip pan covered with foil rather than covering the diffuser.
              Last edited by LA Pork Butt; September 23, 2021, 03:31 PM.

              Comment


              • jfmorris
                jfmorris commented
                Editing a comment
                Hmmm. You have me thinking I need to get a low profile round drip pan at the Ceramic Grill Store. Or a cheap steel pizza pan. I tried my Drip 'N Griddle on top of my diffuser one time, but its an odd shape, and the handles came close to touching the cooking grate.
                Last edited by jfmorris; September 23, 2021, 03:11 PM.

              • LA Pork Butt
                LA Pork Butt commented
                Editing a comment
                jfmorris Smokware has one deeper than Ceramic Grill Store, but I believe it is smaller in diameter. I use the Ceramic Grill Store one or a paella pan with the handles removed.

              #11
              I'm on my second Akorn now, and still love it as a cooking tool. As far as I can tell, all have certain vagaries unique to each cooker, but once overcome, usually an easy fix, are superb in their parameters. As far as cleaning or covering the diffuser, I just burn it off, as diffusers are a consumable, just like your knife, etc. I serve the food, and so does my gear. I'm glad you're having fun with your Akorn. It's a great bang for the buck and cooks excellent food.

              From a rainy and cold, Houston, Alaska

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