The weather is heating up and to us that means BBQ time. There is something really amazing, relaxing and enjoyable about firing up a BBQ with some drinks and enjoying the outdoors. Generally we’re cooking with gas and standing in front of a six burner. This time however we’ve wound it back a little and decided to test cooking differently, with the Char-Griller Akorn Junior Kamado Charcoal BBQ.

The box arrived and it wasn’t huge, easily able to transport home in the car however it was noticeably heavy. The weight in this product comes from the fact it is made of steel and triple insulated. There is some assembly required but nothing difficult or terribly time consuming. Once assembled you’re quickly ready to prepare that fire and season that grill.

Cooking with coal is a whole new learning curve for those new to it. Char-Griller recommends lump charcoal for the job and this is to avoid the extra impurities and chemicals added to briquettes. We bought some coal, fire starters, long matches and some hickory wood chips for our first cook up.

The quality of the materials used in this BBQ is really impressive. The weight behind it, the thickness of the components and the finishes are all really nice. There is a vent beneath the grill that the coals sit on and there is a vent at the top in the lid. Both are used to help you regulate heat in the BBQ to provide the desired cooking method for your meal. There is a little bit of learning required here because what temperature is required for your choice of meat and how long do you need to cook it for and have you added enough coal to ensure it lasts that long etc. These are a lot of things we rarely think about when cooking a typical BBQ. We also loved the provided grill handle provided to lift and place the grill when preparing your coals but also that the grill is in two pieces so you can access the coals without lifting the whole grill out.

Once we got some coals doing and had the grill ready to cook on we’ve cooked a few things. The grill is large enough to fit a single rack of ribs with corn and something else on either side or six sausages and a few pieces of chicken. We’ll be cooking more on it to provide other examples but that should give you a gist. This is a small BBQ suitable for couples or a larger group if you’re happy to cook, serve, eat, cook, serve eat like a teppanyaki night. Alternatively, there is a larger model out there better suited for families.

The results we had using the BBQ were mixed, due to our limited experience cooking with coal, but it did improve the more we used it. There is definitely a different flavour when cooking with coals and we loved it. The added cooking time needs to be factored in and planned ahead, this includes a bottle of wine or a few extra beers being required.

There is a handy temperature gauge on the Akorn and we couldn’t help but stare at it when cooking. There is a handy lock clip for the lid too and there is zero leakage. This means that the top and bottom vent is really the only areas where heat or smoke can escape the BBQ and minor changes to either vent can have an impact on temperatures.

At $219, this BBQ is a so much fun to experience and experiment with. It’s a BBQ that makes you want to be a better cook and forces you to learn more about cooking techniques and new recipes. A gas BBQ has it’s application, no doubt in the world, but if you have a hankering to cook with charcoal you wont be dissapointed with the Char-Griller Akorn Junior Kamado.