The Napoleon NK22CK-C Charcoal Kettle Grill pays homage to the classic 22.5 inch Weber Kettle, while putting some fresh touches on the familiar and popular design. Lid, cooking grates and coal grates are the most notable differences. The NK22CK-C uses hinged, coated cast iron grates with three-level height adjustments, allowing you to move the cook surface right down above the fire for searing or up high for lower temp cooking. The lid is also hinged with a handle on the front, and spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. Charcoal sits on a steel grate with a removable stainless steel heat diffuser and stainless charcoal baskets for indirect cooking.
Coated cast iron grates provide intense conduction heat and make pronounced sear marks. We prefer the open architecture of Weber's steel rods which are more effective at creating an even brown crust on steaks and burgers. Two hinged sections of the grate lift up for easy replenishment of coal. Grates may be removed or adjusted with attached handles. They can be placed closer or further from the coal by grabbing the handles and moving them onto supports inside the kettle at three set positions. The heat diffuser is a convex, flying saucer shaped hub with holes around the edge that rests in the center of the coal grate and is meant to distribute heat evenly and moderate the center hotspot. The grill may be used with or without the diffuser. We have not tested the NK22CK-C yet, but adjustable height grates are always good and the heat diffuser may provide some useful options.
Napoleon's hinged lid gives us mixed feelings. On one hand, anyone who owns a Weber Kettle has probably wished the lid was hinged. Sometimes it just gets in the way and you end up setting it off to the side. On the other hand, it's one more moving part and how durable will that hinge prove to be over time? But since it is hinged, the 180 degree swiveling lid is an asset, particularly on a windy day when smoke likes to change direction.
The NK22CK-C sits on a small steel cart with a fold out stainless steel shelf and four casters. The kettle is 22.5 inch diameter black porcelain enamel with 365 square inches of cooking area. There is a damper at the bottom that connects to a removable ash catcher and a damper on the lid. The obligatory hood mounted heat indicator is included. For a true picture of what's going on under the hood, get a digital thermometer.
Here's a video from Napoleon.
It's hard to beat a Weber BBQ Kettle, but as usual, Napoleon holds its' own against formidable competition and provides a viable alternative. Click here to learn more about charcoal grills.
Looked Closely At It
We have seen this product up close and we have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners, and other reliable sources.
Napoleon is a Canadian company that manufactures a wide variety of grills, smokers, accessories and books. They started in 1976 as a small steel fabrication company in Ontario, Canada, then branched out into making fireplaces and grills. Although Napoleon sightings are rare south of the Canadian border, they produce quality products and are essentially Canada's answer to Weber. In fact it's hard not to draw comparisons between Napoleon and Weber, even their logo and website are similar. But Napoleon comes up with just enough distinctive ideas to make them a viable contender.