Exceptional for slow cooking
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the PKGO Camp and Tailgate Grilling System made easy work of cooking every single thing I threw at it. From steaks to burgers to chicken to veggies, everything had a grilled-to-perfection taste. But the PKGO grill really shined with its low and slow cooking.
Because I could create a two-zone heating area and control the heat by leaving one top vent and one bottom damper closed, I was able to slowly bring my steak up to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit and then finish it off by moving it to direct heat. The end result was a juicy steak that was perfectly charred on the outside and had just the right amount of pink inside. It handled hamburgers, chicken, and veggies well too, but the end result was similar to most other grills I’ve used, so it didn’t blow me away as much.
Cleaning: Needs a little elbow grease
With its cast aluminum top and bottom and coated cast iron cooking surfaces, the PKGO grill isn’t as easy to clean as some of the other grills I’ve tested. Food sticks a little bit more, and I needed some elbow grease to scrub off bits of stuck-on food. However, if you time it right and clean it when the grill is cooled down but still a little warm, it’s easier to get it totally clean.
Of course, there’s also the matter of disposing of the charcoal. Once the ash cooled (I sped the process up by pouring some cool water on top of it), I was able to dump it onto a piece of aluminum foil, wrap it up, and throw it away. While it sounds like an extra step, the process is easy enough, and it’s actually less messy than trying to wipe grease up from the bottom of the portable propane grills.
I was able to strategically open and close the vents to control the amount of heat I got while cooking—perhaps my favorite feature.
After the first use, the inside of the grill stayed a charred color and didn’t wipe clean, but that’s part of its magic—similar to a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan.
Price: On the higher end
At an MSRP of $269.99, the PKGO Grill is on the higher end of the price spectrum. Granted, unlike other grills of its size, you have the option to double the grilling surface by using it as two hibachi-style grills, so technically you’re getting two grills in one. If you regularly serve larger crowds or you can’t imagine using propane over charcoal, the price is fair enough. But as far as convenience goes, I’d much rather shell out the cash for the NomadiQ Portable Grill.
PKGO Camp and Tailgate Grilling System vs. nomadiQ Portable Propane Gas Grill
It’s difficult to pit (barbecue pun intended) the PKGO Camp and Tailgate Grilling System against other compact grills because it’s so different, but I think there are two important points to address: portability and convenience.
Although the PKGO grill is marketed as an excellent companion for camping and tailgating, I can’t imagine having to lug it—plus charcoal—around with everything else that I bring on a camping trip. It may make more sense for tailgating, but I would much rather take the nomadiQ Portable Propane Gas Grill (view at Amazon), which only weighs 12 pounds—about a quarter of the weight of the PKGO. And not only is the nomadiQ lighter, but it also folds up flat so you can easily fit it into your car without taking up a lot of extra space.
Yes, the nomadiQ uses propane, so that might be a dealbreaker for diehard charcoal grillers, but it does have 226 square inches of cooking space and the ability to operate each burner independently, so the features (and the price) are similar otherwise.