This has been a long time coming. I was on the hunt for a charcoal grill for a solid year before I had to pause the search when winter hit. So, obviously, when our Home editor asked if anyone would be interested in testing the new Original PK Grill & Smoker, I raised my hand.
After weeks of testing this grill, I've gone from a rookie charcoal griller who's only ever flipped burgers to someone who's as confident grilling bell peppers and onions in tin foil as I am using two-zone cooking, indirect, and direct heat to make smoky, juicy pork ribs. Read on for my thoughts.
What's Good About the Original PK Grill & Smoker
It's compact, effective, and stands up to the elements
The fully assembled grill stands at just over 37” high, with the cooking surface standing 30” off the ground. The cooking surface itself is is 22.35" and 16.21” deep. That isn’t as much surface area as some grilling pros may be used to, but the small size has a benefit — the grill heats up quicker, and cooks quicker, than larger grills do. While I wasn't able to get all my steak onto the grilling surface at once as intended, each batch cooked quickly enough to make up for it. The grill is also sleek and compact, making it perfect for a smaller backyard or balcony.
It's also easily transportable, which I put to the test when multiple rainstorms weeks in a row forced a venue change. The grill sat uncovered for a few weeks before I transported it to Brooklyn, then Long Island, for a cookout. PK Grills claims that the capsule is rustproof and backs the grill with a 20-year warranty; while I only left it for two or three weeks, the grill looked as good as new afterwards, save for a little bit of mud. (For good measure, though, I purchased a cover on Amazon to keep water and debris from getting into the cooking chamber.)
It has handy features and upgrades that make cooking a breeze
The grill has many design features that make cooking easier, especially for someone like me, who's new to the game. One of these features: the hinged lid. Many charcoal grills require you to fully remove the lid while cooking, and either hold it in your non-dominant hand or set it down while flipping meat with your dominant hand. This grill has a hinged cover and a hinged cooking surface, both of which allow for easy grilling, refueling, and more efficient use of two-zone cooking.
Beyond the design of the chamber itself, the griller-smoker combo also has four adjustable vents — two on the top chamber, and two on the bottom — to allow for better control of heat levels and cooking speeds. These were integral when switching between different cooking styles, such as s from grilling steak skewers and veggies to pork ribs. They also made heating the grill quick and efficient.
What's Less Ideal About the Original PK Grill & Smoker
Budget plenty of time for assembly
Unboxing the grill was, admittedly, a fun experience. It started with the interior of the box, which said, "This is going to be good." The fun continued; there was a piece of styrofoam embossed with "Welcome to the club" next to the owner's handbook. (The handbook came in handy for tips on starting the fire and using the smoker.)
But it wasn't all fun and games. I'd read in some reviews that this grill took just 10 minutes to assemble — but that was not my experience. Unboxing, unwrapping and assembling each component, and cart setup took about three-quarters of an hour.
This was, in part, due to confusing instructions. Even my husband — an engineer-turned-architect — scratched his head at times. We ultimately discovered that some steps and diagrams were either incorrect or missing. I caught a few pieces of tape within the smoking capsule that were difficult to detach — they would have melted while cooking and added a strange smell to the meat — and a few screws that weren't completely finished by the factory that took some time and whittling to fix.
Make sure you have the right tools — and fuel
If you don’t already have grilling tools on-hand, especially gloves and tongs, you’ll want them. I borrowed my dad’s tools — he is what you’d call a grill power user — but not charcoal, smoking chips, or a firestarter.
I purchased all of that from my local Home Depot: Kingsford 100% Natural Hardwood BBQ Charcoal Grilling Briquettes, BBQ Hickory Wood Chips, and a product I’ve never used before, Royal Oak Tumbleweeds Fire Starter. If you’re not a fan of synthetic or liquid firestarters, these are a great option. They were quick and effective, and gave off no suspicious smells.
The All New Original PK Grill & Smoker: The Verdict
The All New Original PK Grill & Smoker is a great entry-level grill and smoker combo. It helped grilling rookie me create dishes that you'd expect from a pro — and I bet a grilling pro would be able to make even more use out of it than I have.
It's compact, easy to use, heats up quickly, and has plenty of vents to offer control over cooking temperature and time. Even if it does take a little more time than expected to set up, that time is well-worth the grilled and smoked meats and veggies the grill can create.