If you’re looking for an honest review of the Aaron Franklin PK Grills here are my thoughts on this grill collab by PK (aka Portable Kitchen) and the uncontested Brisket King, Aaron Franklin.
As I have two other PK Grills, and a large assortment of all types of other grills in my backyard, I feel I can give a good overview on how PKs are different from other charcoal grills, and specifically what is different about the Aaron Franklin PK Grills.
If you are new to PK Grills, I recommend you read my review of the PK 360 Grill as I give a good history of this grill company and how they have come back on the scene in recent years. I like to think of them as a “Heritage Brand” as they started in the 50s, eventually went out of business, and were resurrected back to life and have developed a cult following in the SCA (Steak Cook Offs Association) circuit. In fact, it may just be through the SCA that you heard about the PK Grill. PK is the official grill of the SCA so if you have ever thought about competing in this circuit, you will no doubt consider getting one.
Why the PK Grill?
If you are thinking of getting an Aaron Franklin PK Grill, then I’m assuming at this point you either already own a charcoal grill or are considering getting a charcoal grill. And if this is the case, well then there are a lot of charcoal grills to choose from on the market.
And if you are confused on the kind of grill that is best for your lifestyle, I recommend you check out my Grilling Guide that was originally in my magazine that came out in 2021 and I also shared in my gift guide to help people in their grill purchases. This will pair you with the grill that best fits your lifestyle and what is most important to you.
If you simply want a charcoal grill (and all the flavor that comes from cooking on charcoal), you can get a 22” Original Kettle for as low as $139. So if price is the primary driver for your charcoal grill interest, then the PK may not be for you as this specific edition is $599..
On the same note, if you can afford to spend almost $900 on a grill, well then you are not that far off from a Kamado style Charcoal Grill like the Big Green Egg or the Kamado Joe. However, you will never be able to easily throw a Ceramic Grill that weighs 162 lbs into the back of your car. I’ve seen my dad’s Egg not make it through the transport to the garage during Hurricane Irma, so I can attest to the fact that if you plan on taking this grill with you or moving it around in your backyard a lot then the Egg is not the best for that. On the contrary, you cannot hurt a PK, they will outlast you and your heirs.
So, if you are looking for a charcoal grill that you can pass down to your great grandkids or even use as a time capsule to record your family’s history in the case of another great flood or apocalypse, then the PK grill is the grill for you.
Quite frankly, the reason people would choose a PK over other charcoal grills is the construction, and insulation you get from Cast Aluminum, while still being manageable to move around your background. Sorry, this is where Ceramic Kamado Grills can’t compete and a more cheaply made Kettle doesn’t have the same heat retention properties. And this proves why they are so popular on the steak circuit.
You could easily load your PK in the back of your car to take to a friends house for a cookout because it is easy to remove the base from the PK grill and put it into the back of your car, the same cannot be said for a Kamado Grill of comparable cooking surface, or even the 22” Weber Kettle.
What is the PK Made Of?
If looking at cost, the huge difference in construction justifies the higher price tag on a PK and as I mentioned earlier, they are built to last. They are made with Cast Aluminum which offers really great heat insulation (they quote up to 4X better insulation than stainless steel).
The Aaron Franklin PK Grills has all the features of the PK 300. PK has made some significant improvements to their PK300 grill, that make for a better cooking experience. Some of these include improvements to the how the grill capsule opens and closes, the vent system and their ash containment. All of these are included in the Aaron Franklin PK Grills too.
Here is what you get with a PK300:
All PK grills are come in a capsule style shape, which is why my joke about turning them into a time capsule for the apocalypse was not that far off. While most grills are round, PK is in the shape of a rectangle. This is very convenient if you do a lot of 2 zone cooking. Ie, direct and indirect. If you don’t know what this means then I encourage you to check out my Grill School where I give you a brief tutorial on creating direct and indirect zones for grilling versus smoking.
The capsule itself, which consists of a top and bottom, is made of cast aluminum which conducts heat extremely well. I also like that cast aluminum is RUST PROOF. As someone who lives in the humid state of Florida I find this to be a major benefit and worth the price justification over an inexpensive kettle (which do rust after a few years).
There have also been some improvements with how the top and bottom part of the capsule come together, if you haven’t used a previous model then this won’t affect you but you can tell that they have made these parts more user friendly that does affect how the grill opens and closes more smoothly.
A major improvement on the PK300 and the PK300 Aaron Franklin edition is that they have made the vents much more user friendly than the previous PK300. You can see that they have greatly improved the ease of use going from a weird slit to a radial dial that is easy to control. You can see the old school version versus new vents in this picture.
Ash Control System:
This is a new major improvement versus the older models. Previously, with the 300, there was no real ash containment. You simply just had the ash collect and you had to deal with it. Now, finally!, PK has created an ash containment system to make this easier to deal with. Essentially what is does is shields your vents from getting ash in them and dumping onto your shelves. I still think there is room for PK to improve on ash removal but maybe that will come in future models.
The grates are made from Nickel steel, most people will outfit their grills with GRILLGRATES for those epic charmarks.
The grillgrates surface area measures 22”.35 X 14.13”. PK grill grates come with a hinged slider area to make it easy to add more charcoal (they call it a hinged cooking grate).
Unlike most grills, the PK does not come with its own thermometer, you have to buy it separately. In the videos on their website they show that you have to drill into the grill to install. However, I see a small hole on the side and I believe this is where you can insert the thermometer- no drilling needed! When doing a few steak circuits, truth be told I never saw anyone with a thermometer on their grill. Most people were using infrared thermometers to see the temperature of their grill grates. This is another alternative to installing a thermometer on your grill.
What does the Aaron Franklin PK 300 give you that you don’t get in the standard PK 300?
The core differences I see are are:
- Color choice. I do love the retro teal color of the Aaron Franklin PK Grills. In a world of boring grill choices, finding teal was exciting to me. It actually matches the color of the doors at my house.
- Shelving. You get two fold down shelves on the Aaron Franklin PK 300 versus just the one on the PK 300.
- 2 Speed Racks: These are nice for holding your supplies.
- “Belly bar” this is a small rack at the front for holding things like towels and ramekins.
If you are a diehard charcoal grill that wants a grill that will GO THE DISTANCE and can be passed down to your grandkids, the PK grill is for you. There is a limited 20 year warranty on the actual aluminum capsule which is a pretty darn long time in the grill world. It’s also a bit of a standout in the world of charcoal grills and will definitely get the attention of the Grillers in your neighborhood. Kudos for Aaron Franklin for having fun with the color choice in his signature collab, and standing out in the world of black and silver grills.
If you’d like to see this grill in action, check out my “How to Grill A Tomahawk Steak” post and video for more pics of the Aaron Franklin PK Grills.