PK Grills came back from a long hiatus at the turn of the century, making cast aluminum charcoal grills. The original PK Grills shut down in the 1970s due to a fire and business-related problems. Then Paul James found an original PK grill at a yard sale in the late 1990s and fell in love with it. He bought the name and set about bringing back the original PK grill.
A few years ago, PK Grills decided to take their original grill and make it more portable in the form of the PKTX.
In this review, I’m going to take a look at the PKTX after a year and a half of use, discussing the pros and cons, what I loved, and any drawbacks.
Overview of the PKTX Grill
The PKTX Grill is a versatile cast aluminum charcoal grill with a vintage style, largely unchanged from its 1950s roots. It delivers an excellent sear for steaks or provides steady indirect heat for smoking ribs or a pork butt. My PKTX is the graphite model, but it does come in aluminum and red colors.
PK set out to redefine portable charcoal grills with PKTX. It doesn’t sacrifice cooking space for portability. The cast-aluminum body means it can be a good size while still movable by one person. It has 305 square inches of cooking space while putting it on a folding cart with better wheels than most on the market. More on that later.
It also comes with a side table, also made from aluminum, that has enough room for your platter of burgers or steaks. It also has a built-in cupholder, perfect for whatever your beverage of choice is.
Here’s a full rundown of the specs of the PKTX:
|Cooking area||305 sq in|
|Shelves and storage||One aluminum side table|
|Warranty||20 years for aluminum bowl and lid|
3 years for cooking and charcoal grates
|Dimensions||37.3” H x 37.3” W x 19.2” D|
|Price||Check Latest Price|
What I like:
- Four-vent system – While most charcoal grills feature a two-vent system to control airflow, the PKTX has four vents, two on the bottom and two on the top. The four vents give you greater temperature control for cooking low and slow. This sets the PKTX apart from other portable grills that are largely designed for direct, high-heat cooking.
- The cart – The folding cart and rubber wheels make moving the PKTX a breeze whether you are tailgating or competing on the SCA circuit.
What I don’t like:
- No included lid thermometer – One of the biggest keys to low and slow cooking is temperature management. The PKTK doesn’t have an included thermometer, meaning you have to either find a solution yourself or purchase a kit. More details on the kit option later.
- The lid hinges – The hinges for the lid do not latch on, rather they fit in. If you aren’t careful when lifting the lid, it may slip a bit. It requires only a bit of adjustment, but it is an annoyance.
Build quality of the PKTX
The cast aluminum cooking capsule is fantastic. My graphite model has barely any stains from a year and a half of use. The aluminum construction helps distribute heat throughout the cooking chamber. The seal where the lid meets the capsule is hand-ground, ensuring a quality seal when closed. No smoke or heat is going to escape there.
One of the unique features of the PKTX that we will go into later are the vents. Rather than the standard two you may be used to, the PKTX has four vents to help control airflow.
The aluminum capsule is rust-proof, helping prolong the life of your grill. It is also lighter than same-size grills which add to the portability along with the next feature of the build, the cart.
The cart is awesome, perfect for throwing in the back of the car. Whether you are competing on the SCA circuit or tailgating, you can take this grill anywhere. The cart breaks down to turn into a dolly configuration that you can strap the grill onto with bungee cords.
The cart’s rubber wheels are a game-changer. Rather than cheap, plastic wheels you might find elsewhere, the rubber won’t break easily when you hit a particularly hard rock. The portability of this grill is top-notch.
However, there are some issues with the way the grill is built. The hinges for the lid are a bit hit or miss. Sometimes when I open it up, it sometimes lifts up to one side and I’ve got to adjust it. It’s not a particularly big issue and doesn’t affect usage. It’s just something to be aware of. Also, the handle has come loose recently, but after a year and a half, that’s not so bad.
Using the PKTX Grill
I love this grill. It’s helped me win a few trophies on the SCA circuit, and it works well for making food at home. You can set the grill up for direct heat for searing steaks or indirect for smoking.
This is where the vent design comes into play. By using the four vents, we can actually change the airflow to suit what style of cooking we want to do. If you are looking to cook steaks, burgers, or hot dogs, having both bottom vents open is going to be a great setup. That means more oxygen to the fire, helping it burn hotter.
If you want to do a long cook, low and slow, you can do that by changing what vents are open and closed. You can close the bottom vent opposite the charcoal, leaving the one under the charcoal open. Then on top, you can close the one directly above the charcoal and open the one on the other side where the meat will be. That will create a draw across the meat.
Now if you are going to cook low and slow on the PKTX, you need to be aware that it does not come with a built-in thermometer. You can work around this by using a temperature probe to monitor the heat.
How the PKTX compares to other PK Grills
The PK original is the same aluminum capsule as the PKTX. The big difference is the cart. It still has a side table, but the cart does not fold down. You can roll the Original around, but it doesn’t work well for taking in the car. It does have a solid shelf underneath the grill that catches the ash, while the PKTX’s folding cart has ash catchers that sit under the bottom vents.
The PK360 has a larger cooking surface at 360 inches while also adding a second side table. It also takes the sliding vent system of the PKTX and the PK Original and replaces them with radial vents for even more control. However, the PK360 is not designed for portability at all.
So often if you are in the market for a portable grill, you know you are trading off cooking space for portability. The PKTX manages to avoid that problem, keeping the same 305 square inches of the original PK grill while swapping out the original cart for a folding cart. This makes taking the quality of a PK grill easier to an SCA competition or tailgating. You can also use this grill for cooking enough food at home for the family.
It also packs in versatility which a lot of portable grills struggle to do. The four-vent system makes cooking low and slow or searing on the same grill easy to do. You also know you are getting a durable, rustproof grill due to the aluminum body. You can see why we rated it the upgrade pick for our best portable charcoal grills.