A few years ago my grandma gave me her old spaceship-like charcoal grill. It’s official brand name is the Portable Kitchen, and the cooking vessel is cast aluminum. People in-the-know call it the PK. Does it look familiar? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like a lot of people had these back in the day.
Recently I felt inspired to start using it. The grates inside had rusted quite a bit. I went online to find out how to get replacements. To my surprise, I discovered the PK continues to be a cult favorite. The old PK is back in production. Yes, you really can buy one of these new.
Apparently it’s popular because it’s easy to control the inside temperature using the grill’s four sliding air vents. It produces consistent low heat, low enough to smoke meat.
I’ve fired it up a few times recently. I highly recommend smoked beer can chicken.
For the truly curious, here is some history from the official PK site:
In the early 1950’s, the man known as the “Barbeque King” of Texas acted on his dream of making the perfect barbeque pit. Mr. Hilton Meigs, a Beaumont businessman, contractor and inventor, designed and manufactured the first Portable Kitchen® cast aluminum grill in 1952.
The immediate popularity of the grill inspired the Meigs family to move to larger operations in Tyler, Texas a year later. Using Tyler as their base of operations, Mr. Meigs and his son, Douglas, loaded as many grills as possible in their 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air (removing the back seat to accommodate more grills) and traveled all across the Lone Star State to pitch their cooker. Sales soon spread to retailers across the country and to several countries overseas. Operations were eventually moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.
Unfortunately, the advent of stamped metal charcoal grills and trendy gas grills in the 1980’s led to the early retirement of the Mr. Meigs’ heavy-duty cast aluminum cooker. Tired of rusted out, cheap charcoal grills and convinced that a propane flame could never produce the flavor of charcoal-fed hickory smoke, Paul and Sarah James retrieved one of Mr. Meigs’ Portable Kitchen® cookers at a garage sale.
The rest is history. Wholeheartedly believing that the Portable Kitchen® cast aluminum cooker is still the perfect charcoal grill and smoker, the James family has set out to reintroduce it to the market. Rekindle an old flame!