PK Grills PK360 Outdoor Charcoal Grill and Smoker Combination Review
Traditional charcoal grills made from steel, tend to rust or corrode over time. This is just an inherent quality in steel. It’s reactive to acid, and water, as well as corrosion that can occur when even a miniscule amount of ash mixes with water. This diminishing lifespan can make some grill shoppers hesitant to invest a lot of money in even a “High End” charcoal grill.
PK Grills takes a new approach to the idea of what a charcoal grill, or charcoal smoker, can be made from. Instead of the rust and corrosion risk of even thick gauge steel, they turn to incredibly durable cast aluminum.
The PK Grills PK360 was designed to work as a traditional direct heat grill when you want to grill up steaks, burgers, or hot dogs. Yet it’s also long enough and comes with four adjustable dampers to also be versatile enough to use as a smoker or a hybrid grill.
The pedestal base is surprisingly secure and firm. This is likely due to the compression fittings that hold the main components of the pedestal to the firebox which PK Grills calls a “Capsule.”
The two side tables are made from a special type of heat resistant polyester that has been reinforced with glass fiber.
Construction & Ease of Assembly
Cast aluminum is different from plated, coated, or aluminum alloys. Milled aluminum like you find with aircraft engines is essentially bored out from a giant block of aluminum, which makes it far too expensive for manufacturing a grill. Cast aluminum, on the other hand, is made from molten aluminum that is carefully poured into a prepared mold. When it cools, the end result is nearly as hard as steel, without any of the rust concerns.
One problem you run into with a lot of damper systems on charcoal grills is the tendency for ash and spent coals to clog up the lower dampers. When this happens the airflow is altered, and it can make it very hard to control the temperature of the flame with just the dampers on the lid. PK Grills addresses this with what they call the “Ash Roofs.” They are essentially two cast aluminum plates that are installed over the lower dampers to help prevent ash from clogging it up. This is especially helpful if you want to improvise the PK360 as a smoker.
When it comes to assembly, the PK360 could have been very complicated. Thankfully, PK Grills spared no expense in making sure the instructions were easy to read and understand. They also host videos online and through some of their online retailers.
As a direct heat grill, the PK360 does a great job of searing meat, while also minimizing any mess. The two dampers in the fire bowl “Capsule” and the two dampers in the lid allow you to closely control the temperature.
PK Grills also designed the PK360 to be used as a smoker. This sort of gives it some two in one versatility that you don’t always get with some other traditional charcoal grills. Their marketing department pitches this as a strong competitor for popular Kamado-style grills. In all honesty, this is a bit of a stretch. Kamado grills and smokers use some different design and thermal exchange features that you can’t replicate with the PK360.
At the same time, this isn’t a bid deal. You can indeed improvise the PK360 as a smoker, and with a little practice, you can get some pretty good results. Just don’t expect to fully replicate everything a Kamado grill can do.
To set it up as a smoker you build a charcoal fire on one side. Then close off the dampers in the lid above it, and on the other side of the capsule. The capsule damper under the ash roof should start out wide open and once the coal bed is fully lit and established, you dial it down to just a narrow crack.
The charcoal grid and ash roofs will limit the ash that falls, to provide you with superior airflow control. You can then adjust the remaining lid damper however you would like it, to maximize heat retention.
One thing the PK360 needs and doesn’t have in this configuration is a divider to prevent excess heat from the fire to affect the bottom of the meat being smoked. There are some aftermarket fire bowl dividers that might fit. In a pinch you can just hand two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, to reduce the heat migration.
The thermometer in the lid is remarkably accurate. This isn’t something that can be said of many competitors in this niche, who add a thermometer as more of a decoration.
As the model name implies the PK360 has 360 square inches of grilling space on their stainless steel grates.
The ash roofs in the “Capsule” fire bowl really are a nice touch. Unless you have to have a really long smoking session, they keep the air flow consistent to help you dial in the temperature you want.
Ease to Clean
The ash management system is another thing that is perhaps over-billed by the PKGrills marketing team. Still, the PK360 isn’t that hard to clean. Some of the nooks and crannies in the bottom of the capsule can be a bit tricky to clear ash away from. Especially, if they’ve combined with greasy dripping or excess marinade that caramelized.
The grill grates are made from stainless steel, which can be a little sticky at times with a lean cut of meat. Lightly greasing the grates with a little cooking oil on a paper towel will help prevent this problem, and reduce the amount of scraping you need to do later.
The PK360 comes with an impressive 10-year warranty. This is much better than most of the competitor grills in this class offer.
If you are looking for a charcoal grill that was designed to be durable and stand the test of time, then the PKGrills PK360 should be near the top of your list. Just take your time cleaning it right, and it will take care of you time and time again.
- Backed by a superior warranty
- Can be used as a smoker
- Durable cast aluminum construction
- Innovative ash tents for clear airflow control
- Very accurate thermometer
- Shelves are a little small
- No fire bowl divider
- Tricky to clean sometimes