This is about smoke in the nostrils, a sizzling sound in your ears and devastatingly-good umami flavors in your mouth. The variety that only comes from grilled, slightly-charred protein cooked to the chef’s version of perfection. PK Grills is standing by, Charcoal Champions, to get it all done. Or some parts slightly rare, if you prefer.
At Active Junky, we normally favor products that are pre-conformed to an outdoor lover’s patterns, behaviors and environment. Serious grilling results, the sort only possible with a proven appliance like this one, are worth modifying your current practices. Consider how this Arkansas-born product justifies its learning curve, turning cast aluminum into cookout kudos.
Image via Peter Reese
Testers assembled PK in the fervent pursuit of smoked meats – without pulling a Texas-style trailer toting black metal drums (and half a cord of hardwood) into their driveway. The brand’s online Barbecue Chicken recipe was the first test where we elected to employ the indirect cooking method in pursuit of succulent results.
Getting the marinated bird to 160 degrees internal temperature took well over an hour in cooler temperatures. No extra natural charcoal was required after ignition, nor did vents need adjustment. The results demolished those of traditional grills with a moist, tender bird comparable to hardcore smokehouses peppering America’s south and west.
Grilling was a slam dunk with a generous cooking area suspended a favorable distance from our double-deep coal bed. Opening and closing the lid yielded different results across ground chuck burgers, Kobe beef hot dogs and Asian chicken skewers to reward the curious – and committed -- chef.
Image via Peter Reese
At first opening, the shipping box offered up a bolt-and-wheel cart of questionable durability. How in the world could this aluminum tubing contraption suspend the cast cooker body, much less the added weight of burning charcoal and the gravity-induced burden of prodigious beef? Or be able to wheel smoothly across patio, lawn, parking lot and driveway?
“Easy” and “by design, of course” are the correct answers from our now-humbled tester. As with the cooker’s ¼” aluminum casting (not too thick, not overly thin or fragile), nickel-plated steel hinges and pre-installed vents, nothing is extraneous on the cart. Pop-on bottom and side metal trays add enough rigidity and surface area to stage ingredients while storing extra charcoal.
Once a session is over, the cooking chamber cools quickly and evenly. Disconnect upper and lower chambers and mobile grilling mastery is within reach. Active Junky found new freedom in PK’s built-in portability. As a result, our campground cooking got a makeover. A massive upgrade, really.
Image via Peter Reese
Here, flames don’t escalate into an inferno. Chamber temperature and cooking speed come into cosmic alignment (and stay steady). Charcoal burn rate is consistent, requiring less total fuel and constant manipulation of coals during cooking. Adding more fuel for extended smoking is easy with a hinged grill surface.
For cooks who want a big show with plenty of drama, move on. That’s not the PK way, nor is it how the pros turn hog or heifer into carvable candy. This is where a frosty beverage, outrageous fishing stories, a big NCAA game on television or combat corn hole (for the Champion of the Universe title) have their day. All from a kettle that’s more like a stripped-down Airstream than a sphere of pounded sheet metal.
Given these three reasons to purchase the PK Grill and Smoker (a solid, long-term value at well under $400), the changes needed to adapt to the product are insignificant but worth noting. Each points out the differences that await, all directly connected to the superior outcomes ahead.
Change Advisory A: The four slider vents on the horizontal cooking chamber are smaller than most, with two each on bottom and top. Pushing enough air through (creating a draw-inducing vacuum, actually) is different than with round or stacked designs such as The Big Green Egg. This takes some coaxing at the start of the cooking session, knowing airflow rapidly evens out to deliver sublime slow-cooking results. Done.
Change Advisory B: The top cooking grill is fairly thin gauge, making it easy to maneuver while cooking and cleaning up. As a consequence, it quickly becomes coated with grease and charcoal dust. Active Junky testers made a point of more-frequent scrubbing, including easily placing the grill into a sink to get better pressure for thorough cleaning. Done and done.
Change Advisory C: As the G&S (Grill and Smoker) doesn’t come equipped with a contained bottom debris tray, unburned charcoal fragments and ash surround the dual bottom slider vents once the cooking session is over. Testers grabbed a floor dustpan (metal is better) and soft nylon brush to shepherd it all out of the grill. Done, done and done.
Few outdoor cooking choices are worth donating your previous system. Or turning it into a makeshift beverage cooler or enamel-painted yard art. With the PK Grill and Smoker, a new world of possibilities awaits.