Q. Is there an easy way to get coals started?
A. There are a couple of ways to get your coals started. First, start with good, dry charcoal made of premium hardwoods, because they light easily, maintain a steady cooking temperature, and burn longer. We recommend either a chimney-type starter or a starter stick. A chimney starter arranges the coals in a column allowing the coals to heat to a very high temperature in a short period of time. Place the chimney on the charcoal grate over crumpled newspaper and ignite the paper. With the PK lid open, let the coals burn until they have a coating of light grey ash which typically takes 20-25 minutes. Pour the hot coals onto the charcoal grate and arrange for Direct or Indirect cooking with long-handled tongs. To use a starter stick, simply arrange unlit charcoal in a pyramid and place a starter stick into the middle and light – or if you want to go old school, pour some lighter fluid on the pyramid and light. With the PK lid open, let the coals burn until they have a coating of light grey ash and arrange for Direct or Indirect cooking with long-handled tongs.
Q. What is the proper setting for the air vents on my PK?
A. The answer to this question depends upon the temperature you wish to operate your PK. For indirect (slow) cooking, it is best to arrange your coals and your food on opposite sides of the PK. On the bottom of the PK, leave the vent directly below the coals open and the vent directly below the food closed. Up top, close the vent above the coals and open the vent above the food. This configuration will draw air up through the hot coals and over the food. Closing the vents slightly will lower the internal temperature of the PK while opening the vents will raise the internal temperature.
For direct cooking, leave all vents open. Closing the vents slightly will lower the internal temperature of the grill while opening the vents will raise the internal temperature of the grill. Closing all of the vents completely will put out the fire. If you have leftover charcoal, you can save it for next time. If you have leftover beer, you did something wrong.
Q. What is the difference between direct and indirect cooking?
A. The primary difference between direct and indirect cooking is the position of your food relative to the fire. Food which is placed away from the fire will cook indirectly, convecting within the efficient and highly reflective PK interior. Food which is placed directly over the fire will cook primarily via the heat from the fire below, however unique to the PK, direct cooking takes place with the lid closed which also provides valuable convection heat to all sides of the food producing a more flavorful result.
Q. How do you control the temperature?
A. The 4-way adjustable vents (two on top and two on bottom) control the temperature by allowing oxygen to reach the fire. Open vents increase the amount of oxygen inside the grill allowing the fire to burn hotter. Closed vents decrease the amount of oxygen inside the grill which starves the fire and lowers the temperature. For new PK owners, take the time to experiment with different vent placements. When judging how much to open or close a vent remember that a little (vent movement) goes a long way (temperature change). Closing all four vents will put the fire out completely.
Q. The paint on my new grill is slightly dusty right out of the box. Is that normal?
A. Yes. We use a high-temperature paint on the PK which we pre-cure at our warehouse, however it will not fully cure until you use it for the first time. The curing process does not represent any harm to your or your food – it is perfectly safe to use right out of the box!
Q. Can I put charcoal directly on the bottom of the PK?
A. No. Charcoal should always be placed on the charcoal grate and never directly on the cast aluminum surface of the PK. Replacement grates can be purchased on our webstore.
Q. My charcoal won’t stay lit. What is wrong?
A. Your vents are closed, silly. Open the vents and the lid. Crack open another Perrier. Relight the coals.
Q. Is this the same cast aluminum grill that my father owned 20 years ago?
A. The Portable Kitchen® is made using the original 1950s design.
Q. How do I refuel while slow cooking?
A. Your PK shipped with a hinged grid to allow for easy refueling without removing food. When slow cooking remember to place your food on the fixed portion of the hinged grid. When you need more fuel, just raise the hinged portion of the grid and place 3 to 5 pieces of charcoal into the fire using long tongs. You might want to wear a heat proof glove as well just to be safe.
Q. Can I cook a turkey on my PK?
A. Yes. At approximately 7” tall (from the cooking grid to the top of casting) the PK can hold a 15-lb turkey.
Q. Will the current cooking grid/charcoal grate fit my 30-year-old PK?
A. Several different models of the Portable Kitchen® were previously made. Customers should measure the unit they own. If the cooking grid that holds the food measures (14 3/16 inches x 21 1/2 inches) or (14 1/4 × 18 inches) and has rounded corners then it is replaceable.
Q. My friends won’t stop coming over to my house for dinner since I got my new PK. What do I do?
A. PK’s make nice gifts for friends. However, having lots of friends at your house is a common side effect of owning a PK. We say embrace it.
If you have other questions, please do not hesitate to call us at (501) 374-7575 or email [email protected] We will be happy to help you out!