Napoleon PRO Charcoal Kettle Barbecue (PRO22K-LEG-2)
First impression was “man this thing is a weighty bit of gear”. On unpacking, it is not difficult to understand why. Not only is there a heavy gauge porcelain lid and bowl, but also, a hugely impressive cast iron hinged cooking grid that weighs 8kg on its own! Assembly is fairly straight forward, just be sure to get the legs in the right place. During assembly I was struck by a couple of things:
1) There is a huge hole in the bottom of the porcelain bowl. Surely, there is no way you are going to be able to control air flow with that.
2) The steel band that fits to the bowl is a great aesthetic feature, but its thinner than the porcelain and probably more conductive so you are going to lose a load of heat and what does it really add apart from looking pretty.
Well I couldn’t really have been more wrong! The ash catcher slots in to the bottom of the bowl and ingeniously doubles up to regulate the air flow. This design has the advantage of doing away with more fragile moving parts and also making it incredibly easy to clean out the bowl after use.
The steel band is a really nice feature on the grill. It is also integral to being able to adjust the grill to three different heights, as the bowl is then the same width over a greater range, allowing a 14cm height differential. This gives you more control when cooking and also allows you to drop the grill right above the coals when searing. As for losing heat through the band, well I can find no evidence of that.
The grill is a real design thoroughbred. It seems very efficient on charcoal consumption and in fact you need to be very careful not to light too much coal if you want to keep temperatures low. On the contrary, it is very easy to get the cooking temp up above 250c. The cast iron grid itself I really like. It is hinged so you can easily place wood on the coals for smoking, or add more coals. The hinge itself is more of a hooked over part of the grill, which means you can easily remove the sides for cleaning and you don’t get grease stuck around the hinges. I really like the look of it with the Napoleon flames in the middle and the wave pattern. Like other parts of the design it is not just for looks, the wave design helps keep smaller things top side of the grill.
Napoleon is a Canadian company that began life as a steel fabrication business in 1976. My review mentions “design” and “easy” a few times, so it comes as no surprise to me that Napoleon has lead the way with new and innovative patented technology across its ranges. The jury is out on whether the steel diffuser plate adds anything or not, I would lose that and include charcoal baskets which currently do not come as standard.