When Boy Meets Grill

Columnist John Moore now has a grill like his grandfather had.

Ever have one of those moments where something in your head says you need to do something, but you’re not sure why? Recently, a memory I have of my grandfather cooking on a charcoal grill sparked that little voice to give me a direct order.

The instructions were to find that same make and model of charcoal grill my grandfather used to have and buy one. I had no idea what I was looking for, I just remembered that the grill was oblong and all aluminum.
What sparked this was doing some holiday cooking outside on the gas grill.
Burgers on a gas grill are good, but to me, they really don’t hold a candle to the taste of burgers cooked over charcoal. Charcoal grilling was the only way we ate at family reunions back in the 60s.
That thought led me to a flashback of the best hamburger I’d ever tasted. Full disclosure, I was only seven years old at the time, but it honestly was the best hamburger I’d ever eaten.
My grandfather had a unique charcoal grill that he used. The grill stuck out in my mind, but I could not remember what had happened to it.
Remember that little voice? Related to the grill, I actually first heard it when I stopped at a yard sale a couple of years ago and they were selling a grill just like my grandfather’s. It was reasonably priced, and the voice said, “Get it.” But I didn’t listen.
Recently, I saw a photo of one of the grills on the internet.
I called my mom, my uncle, and my aunt. They also remembered the grill, that it was light and aluminum, but no one knew who made it, what it was called, or what became of it.
After I reached out to friends on social media, I was told that it was called a PK Grill.
In the South, when someone says, “PK,” they’re referring to a preacher’s kid. But in this case, PK stands for, “Portable Kitchen.”
And I wanted one of these portable kitchen grills. But first, I wanted to know more about them. Why did my grandfather have one? Why had I not seen many of them in the last 50 years? Why is this voice in my head saying to go get one?
A quick search online turned up some answers. According to PKGrills.com, the grill was the creation of a man named Hilton Meigs from Tyler, Texas. He designed it, made it out of cast aluminum, and then drove around parts of the South and sold them out of the trunk of his car.
I don’t know for certain, but my grandfather may have bought his from Mr. Meigs. My grandfather had his grill for as long as anyone could remember, and I remember it from the mid-to-late 60s.
The website goes on to say that the company was bought out in 1960 by a man in Little Rock, where the grills were made until a fire burned the factory in the mid-70s.
PK Grills then went dormant for a bit. The website continues to explain that a Little Rock attorney found a PK Grill at a yard sale in 1998, bought it, and liked it so much he revived the company.
Sounds like he heard that voice too, only his instructions were a bit different than mine.
I shared a picture of a PK Grill on social media and asked friends if they would help me find someone who had a grill they’d part with. As luck would have it, my buddy Rusty knew a couple who owned one they’d had for years and were ready to let it go.
We made a deal, and I brought it home.
Like most Southern guys, I own multiple grills and other means of outdoor cooking. My Big Green Egg smokes most of our holiday meats. The Weber gas grill has a lot of real estate that allows for things to be cooked quickly and efficiently.
But the PK Grill has rounded out the cookout corral at our place. It heats evenly and is quite versatile for cooking just about any meat or vegetable.
I’m glad I listened to that voice. I now have a small piece of my grandfather back with me whenever I’m cooking hamburgers on the PK.
And that seven-year-old me was right. It does cook the best hamburger I’ve ever tasted.
©2023 John Moore
John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.