Excellent heat retention and control
Portable for tailgating
Built-in side table
Lid does not securely attach
Whether you prefer grilling or smoking your food, there’s nothing like a backyard BBQ. One popular product promises to perform both functions well—and it’s portable to boot. I put the Original PK Grill & Smoker to the test to see how it handled meats and more. Not only did I judge its versatility, but I also rated its setup process and heat retention.
Setup Process: Simple
The assembly process for this grill took under 10 minutes. I just had to build the cart (read: screw a few pieces together), place the base of the grill onto the carriage, and set the steel fuel grate and the nickel-steel cooking grid inside. I then attached the handle to the lid of the capsule and fitted the grill lid on top. There were no surprises or challenges.
Design: Retro cool
This grill has a stylish retro design, with a capsule shape inspired by 1950s grills. It’s made with .25-inch thick (yet lightweight) cast aluminum, which is not only durable and rust-proof but is also said to conduct heat four times more efficiently than grills constructed with steel. The 4.5 x 26.3 x 19.5-inch grill capsule offers 310 square inches of cooking surface—plenty for my large family of seven.
The lid attaches to the base of the grill via a hinge on the left side—so users can open and close with the heat-proof handle. This is so much easier than having to find somewhere to set a hot lid. It seals tightly, allowing for temperature control between 180 and 750 degrees.
This grill offers 310 square inches of cooking surface—plenty for my large family of seven.
One drawback is that the lid’s hinge is not securely attached, which means if you are not careful you can accidentally detach the lid from the base and end up awkwardly holding a hot, heavy lid by one end. This happened to my son twice and it almost happened to me, which was a bit disconcerting for a few seconds while we got it back in place.
The fuel grate flips up, so adjusting charcoal is a snap. The four-point venting system (two on top of the capsule and two on the bottom) makes it easy to adjust between settings and modify the heat before and after lighting the coals. This, along with the grill’s shape, means you can grill with either direct heat (high-temperature and fast) or indirect heat (low and slow). I do wish this grill came with a built-in thermometer; my family had to use our own to check the heat. However, it’s worth noting that a Tel-True thermometer, as well as a cover and a charcoal basket, are among the list of optional add-ons for this grill.
Performance: Smokin’ hot
This grill blew me away. It’s super easy to use, and it delivers such consistently good results, it has basically become my second kitchen in the summer.
Thanks to the excellent heat conductivity, it didn’t take as long as I expected for the coals to be ready for grilling. Adjusting the air vents to add more or less air is an easy, intuitive process: More air ventilation builds heat or items you want to cook hot and fast, while less air produces a lower temperature for low and slow cooking.
This grill delivers such consistently good results, it has basically become my second kitchen in the summer.
I found that placing food to the side of the coals and opening one vent on top and the opposite one on the bottom (and leaving the other two closed) was the most effective for smoking meats. I used an oven thermometer to keep tabs on the temperature and found it kept a consistent temperature.
I love the oval shape of the grill, as I found it was easier to cook multiple types of food at once than it is on traditional round charcoal grills. My family and I grilled burgers, hot dogs, veggie skewers, fish, and more to perfection. We roasted corn, potatoes, and asparagus, and I used the smoker feature to cook a chicken, and it all came out beautifully.
Portability and Storage: BBQ to go
The PK Grill’s portability is one of its best features. The capsule easily lifts off the cart, so it’s ideal for a camping trip or a tailgate. The cart is compact and sturdy, with two rubber wheels on one side. It is just about effortless to move around, both on its stand and off. We were able to quickly wheel it in and out of our storage shed, and it didn’t take up too much space.
The stand has two built-in storage features: a small aluminum side table, which can hold some grilling tools and a plate or bowl of food prepped for the grill, and a large aluminum shelf underneath the grill capsule. I found that grilling was much more convenient thanks to these surfaces, though I did wish the side table was a bit larger. While I fit tongs, a spatula, and a plate of burgers on it, the items were a bit crowded and somewhat precariously positioned.
Cleaning: A breeze
The grill and fuel grates lift right out of the grill capsule and are a snap to clean. I have a grill brush but had no trouble cleaning the racks in my sink with my normal sponge and dish soap. The oblong oval shape fits inside my large kitchen sink; in fact, I found it more manageable to clean than most cookie sheets.
Price: Worth it
The Original PK Grill & Smoker retails for around $370, which is about mid-range. Most charcoal grills start at around $100 and go up to $500 or more. I think the price on this model is justified by its versatility as a grill and a smoker—not to mention its superior quality, both in durability and heat conductivity and retention.
PK Grills has won numerous awards from organizations such as Consumers Digest, but if the brand’s rock-solid reputation isn’t enough to convince you, the capsule comes with a 10-year warranty on burn-out, rust, or breakage.
Original PK Grill & Smoker vs. Weber Original Kettle Premium 22-Inch Charcoal Grill
Both of these models are excellent grills that are easy to use to cook great meals. The Weber grill boasts the classic charcoal grill dome shape and is much more economical than the PK Grill—$165 compared with around $370.
However, the PK Grill doubles as a smoker, has more grilling space, and offers more consistent temperature control. It’s also easier to move around, as its wheels are larger and more maneuverable. For these reasons, I prefer the PK Grills product.
- Product Name Original PK Grill & Smoker
- Product Brand PK Grills
- MPN PK 99740
- Price $369.99
- Weight 48.4 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 34.75 x 36.375 x 19.5 in.
- Color Silver or graphite
- Product Dimensions (Grill Only) 14.5 x 26.3 x 19.5 in.
- Cooking Surface Area 310 sq. in.
- Capsule Volume 4,080 cu. in.
- Working Height 27.25 in.
- Shelf Surface Area 544.5 sq. in.
- Material Aluminium
- Warranty 10 years
- What’s Included Carriage, capsule