The Bottom Line
The best feature of the Portable Kitchen Cooker is its amazing longevity. Stories of people using these grills for more than four decades are common and the current version of this grill is identical to the one that Milton Meigs first invented in 1952. The design is primitive, some would say retro, and simple. It is this simplicity that makes it a great grill capable of high-temperature grilling and low and slow smoking.
The only limitation is its small size. At 301 square inches, it is only a little larger than an 18.5 inch Weber Kettle.
- Lasts for decades
- Excellent temperature control
- Cast aluminum vents won't break
- Small cooking space
- 301 inches of primary cooking space (additional grate sold separately
- Complete aluminum construction with a cast aluminum cooking body and lid
- Hinged lightweight nickel plated steel cooking grate
- Four adjustable vents, two top, and two bottom, built into the aluminum casting
- Grill body lifts out of cart for cleaning
- One small side table and one large cart mounted shelf
- Made in the United States by Portable Kitchen (all parts made in the USA)
Guide Review - Portable Kitchen Cast Aluminum Charcoal Grill
I could recount the whole history of the Portable Kitchen Grill in detail but it wouldn't leave me any room to talk about the actual grill. The quick version is that this charcoal grill was invented in Texas in 1952 by Milton Meigs.
In 1960 the company was bought by Lewis Hamlin and manufacturing moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. Here they remained until a fire and business problems stopped production in the mid-1970's, but the amazing durability of this grill meant that thousands of them still existed in perfect working order by the end of the 1990's when the company was reborn.
In 1998 Little Rock lawyer Paul James bought the Portable Kitchen name from Char-Broil and started making new PK grills from castings of the original product. These grills today are identical to the one made all those years ago.
So what gives these grills the kind of loyal following that would entice someone to resurrect the company after all this time? Durability is certainly a major factor. The complete cast aluminum construction of the body and lid, including the very clever vents, means no rust and a lifespan easily in the decades. But there is much more here to like. The vents, two in the bottom and two in the top, do more than just allow for excellent temperature control, they allow for control of how air flows through the grill. This adds a layer of versatility that makes this a great charcoal grill for high-temperature cooking, even indirectly, or low and slow smoking.
Yes, it does look like a throwback to the 50's, that's because it is. Also, it isn't a big grill. At 300 square inches, you are a little limited if you intend to grill for large groups. And at around $350USD it isn't the least expensive charcoal grill on the market. A 22 1/2-inch Weber kettle will run around a third the price and has a larger cooking space, but the Portable Kitchen holds heat better, has better airflow control, and will outlast the Weber.
This grill is an investment in the future, one you might just pass on to your kids.
Introduced in 2015, is the first innovation from PKGrills. The PK360 offers a larger cooking area and removable lid so the grill can be approached from any direction. This new model promises to do everything that Kamado style grills can and has a retail price around $800USD. With the same construction quality, it is worth taking a look if you are considering one of these charcoal grills.