After assembling the PK grill your first thought is probably going to be why it’s so short. From the grate down to the ground, its 28 inch measurement is actually the same as a standard Weber kettle.
Since the grill box in a PK resembles those in the grills of modern propane units, it’d be hard not to compare it mentally to those due to how much higher they stand. The height of most charcoal grills, in fact, is going to be similar to the PK.
- The grate takes up 306 square inches and is hinged for coals to be added halfway through, and you can lift the oven from the cart for tailgating, camping, or cleaning. It comes with a side shelf and bottom shelf.
- The flat bottom makes it much easier to use one side to move the coals over to.
- The aluminum in the cook box is thick cast, coming with a pair of sliding dampers on both the bottom and top.
Many use their PK to simultaneously grill directly and indirectly.
You can attribute this versatility to the thick, rectangular shape of the aluminum construction that radiates and retains heat, the hinged, tightly fitted lid and both the bottom and top twin dampers.
The majority of grills today are finished in stainless steel or thin coated steel, but when the ’50s revealed the Portable kitchen, grills in aluminum were not unheard of.
➡ A PK isn’t going to rust on you; it doesn’t come with any electronics and the moving parts it does have are kept to a minimum. You’ll find plenty of shops still servicing these ancient grills today.
Actually, a high number of PK grills were inherited by their owners, or bought at a garage sale for $20 used.
You might even find yourself using your old Weber Kettle less than the PK you got your hands on mostly because it’s a breeze setting it up in zones of two or even three.
Just pick a side for the coals to be pushed to, and you’ve just transformed it as a smoker and a grill.
The grate coined “Littlemore” is optional (with the rear half sitting below it), but it adds much more space to cook with.
What’s missing? An ash catcher
My only nitpick is that embers, ash, or any fat runoff can make their way through the vents on the lower shelf making a great deal of mess. You could simply place an aluminum disposable pan underneath and be done with it.
If you’re still scratching your head by its primitive design, or by its otherwise retro takeaway, you’ll nonetheless be banking on this grill for its superior longevity. The current production of PK 99740 grills is the same version to their 1952 counterpart when they were first invented by Milton Meigs. Its simplicity is not quite overshadowed by its small 301 square inch size some might take as a limitation (an 18.5 inch Weber Kettle is only a little smaller).
PK Grill vs Weber Kettle
The Portable Kitchen PK 99740 grill was liked by Cook’s Illustrated, BBQ Sauce Reviews, and AmazingRibs. Reviewers at Amazon are digging it, too, thus far awarding it a rating of 4.7 stars. Like the grills from the Weber kettle line, the design is the basis of the PK, which has been relevant for years if not decades.
Roughly, the Original Kettle Premium is 20 pounds lighter than the PK, so, its retention of heat most likely will be worse than the PK. But the amount of surface on the Portable Kitchen for cooking is smaller than the 363 square inches on the Original Kettle Premium (the PK has 306 square inches). And, as noted by Cooks Illustrated, the rim in the PK sits level with the cooking grate, so whatever’s on your grill could slip and go off. Also in their report it mentioned that soot was released by the bottom vents of the grill onto the grill’s shelf for storage.
Putting the Portable Kitchen’s Price in Perspective
While the market has cheaper charcoal grills than the $350 or so for a Portable Kitchen grill (I like the price here), it still (despite being almost 2.5x the price with a smaller cooking space) knocks out a 22.5 inch Weber kettle on several fronts: superior control of airflow, heat is held better, and more grilling seasons will be had than with the Weber.
Although, there’s probably some “hipster” bias built into its retail price of $370.