Cuisinart CCG-290 18″Kettle Charcoal Grill Review

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Cuisinart CCG-290 18″Kettle Charcoal Grill Review
8.5 Total Score
  • 3-year warranty protection
  • Hinged grate
  • Stable four-legged cart base
  • Thermometer built into the lid

Some people feel that the classic charcoal kettle grill has been done to death by just about every grill manufacturer worth their salt. Yet this type of grill remains a tried and true feature for many a backyard chef.

Cuisinart is also a relative newcomer to the grill niche, yet they don’t let that stop them from producing high-quality units like their CCG-290 18-Inch Kettle Charcoal Grill.

It has pretty much everything you come to expect in a kettle grill like a porcelain coated fire bowl and lid. Yet it also has some additional tweaks on classic features that help set it apart from what is arguably a crowded niche.

For instance the 18-inch diameter, chrome-plated grill grates have a hinge which allows you to add more coals during a long grilling session. The bottom of the fire bowl has a large ash collector with an easy to adjust damper. The lid also has a damper, which allows you to precisely dial in the airflow and heat retention. There is also an accurate thermometer built into the lid.

The base of the CCG-290 18-Inch Kettle Charcoal Grill also departs from many of the competitors in this niche. Instead of three legs, which can be admittedly wobbly, and a small triangle shelf tying them together, there are four legs. This makes the CCG-290 feel planted and stable. There are even two large wheels and a comfortable handle mounted on the fire bowl to make it easier to move from place to place.

Construction & Ease of Assembly

Cheaper kettle grills that steal from the original design sometimes feel a little flimsy. This isn’t the case with the CCG-290 18-Inch Kettle Charcoal Grill, which feels firm and thoughtfully engineered. The hinged grill grates are also a nice touch that you don’t always see coming as standard.

Assembly is relatively straight forward. Though if you are mechanically inept, there are some online manufacturers who do offer an affordable “Expert Assembly” for a relatively reasonable price. Even still, you should be able to put this grill together with some basic hand tools in around half an hour.

Grilling Performance

As a direct heat charcoal grill, the CCG-290 18-Inch Kettle Charcoal Grill does pretty much everything you’d expect it to do. At first glance, it might seem a little small compared to some kettle grills that measure in at 22 to 26-inch diameter grates.

While you don’t have exactly the same real estate to work with as a larger unit, you can still use this grill for things like hybrid grilling. You just have to be a little clever with how you build the coal bed. Just bear in mind that it lends itself to starting charcoal with a cylindrical chimney starter.

Let’s say you wanted to grill some chicken thighs. You would start by building a single high layer of spread out coals to grill then slow and low. When they are tender and nearly cooked through to the bone, you open the hinged side of the grill and add more burning coals. In a matter of a few minutes, the hot flame on that side of the grill will be perfect for marking off and crisping the skin before serving.

It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a lot of height under the lid. Though there might be enough room to make a beer can chicken if you use a small bird.

Grilling Areas

The 18-inch diameter grill grate is a little on the small side. Though the 254 square inches is enough room to grill hamburger patties for a family of four to six.

Special Features

At first glance, the lid thermometer might not seem like it’s all that “Special.” Still, if you look around at other kettle grills in this size and price range, you’ll find lid thermometers are rather rare. As long as you keep the internal thermal probe clean, it should give you an accurate internal temperature reading, without having to lift the lid.

The lower ash can collector is pretty large for a grill this size. The easy to control sliding dampers allow you to dial in the airflow just right for the type of fire you want to feed.

The four-legged base is another one of those “not-so-special” special features that’s worth a nod. Not only does it make the CCG-290 feel more stable, but it also gives you a truly functional lower shelf. If you’ve ever had a hot charcoal chimney fall off a triangle-shaped shelf, you will appreciate a square one!

Ease to Clean

Like a lot of similar grills, the chrome-plated grates are a little bit sticky when laying down lean cuts of meat. You also need to make sure to clean around hinges on grates. If you let things like grease and caramelized marinade buildup in the hinges it could lock them up or take an uncomfortable level of force to open them the next time.

The ash in the lower collector is relatively easy to cleanout. Just give the grill enough time to fully burn out first or close all the dampers to let it suffocate for at least an hour.

It’s also a good habit to wipe off the thermometer probe under the lid. Removing grease, soot, and the residue is key for keeping it accurate.

Warranty

The Cuisinart CCG-290 18-Inch Kettle Charcoal Grill comes with a three-year warranty. In truth, this is the standard warranty that Cuisinart blindly slaps on pretty much all their grills. When you take a look at the competitors in this size and niche, it’s near the top of the pack.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a well-built and thoughtfully designed kettle grill, that still manages to break away from the traditional mold, then the CCG-290 18-Inch Kettle Charcoal Grill deserves strong consideration. Just bear in mind that it is a little bit on the small side, and you will need to take your time keeping the hinged grates clean.

8.5 Total Score
Great Value Charcoal Kettle Grill

PROS
  • 3-year warranty protection
  • Hinged grate
  • Stable four-legged cart base
  • Thermometer built into the lid
CONS
  • 18-inch diameter is a little small
  • Grill grates are sticky
  • Hinges on the grate need extra scraping
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