Primo Oval XL Pros and Cons
Primo Oval XL
Primo Oval XL in Teak Table
The Primo Oval XL Grill Review
I was so excited to get my hands on a Primo XL Oval grill to see how it compares with other Kamado style grills. There are three things that a great ceramic grill should offer. First, is the ability to grill at high temperatures for searing meats. Second, they must be able to sustain relatively long periods of time at a consistent low temperature for low and slow style cooking. Examples of low and slow cooking in a Kamado grill include smoking salmon or making pulled pork.
The third, and not to be an underestimated element, is Kamado style cookers should look great. These types of cookers are more than barbecues. They are works of art. Unfortunately, not all cookers in this class look great. Let's breakdown the Primo Oval XL Grill.
The Primo Oval XL Bottom Air Control Vent
While some kamado grills have more of a drawer that slides in and out to control airflow, the Primo Oval XL has a bottom vent that slides horizontally. At first inspection the slider seems a bit flimsy, but it is easy to slide to open and close the vent and it does the job.
The most important aspect of the bottom airflow vent is how well it controls the airflow. If when it's closed, the vent leaks, the barbecue will get too hot and low temperature cooking won't work.
One interesting aspect of the Primo Oval XL is the vent slides open on the left side of the grill. Inside the grill, there is a ceramic cutout that is just a little bit wider than the vent that lines up with the vent. This appears to help control the airflow really well. For really low and slow cooking, the firebox separator can be used to keep the fire on the far right of the grill (furthest away from the bottom vent) to keep the temperature easily below 200 degrees. We had no trouble maintaining a temperature of 160 degrees with half the firebox filled with charcoal.
Pros of the Air Control Vent
- The vent effectively minimizes air flow
Cons of the Air Control Vent
- Flimsy construction
- When fully open, burnt charcoal can close off air flow making it difficult to reach very high temperatures
Primo Oval XL Top Airflow Control Vent
The top airflow control vent was a little more tricky to use than the bottom vent. The top vent slides across the top of the Primo Oval XL's chimney. The grill draws smoke nicely when it's fully open and we could easily reach temperatures of over 500 degrees at grill level.
However, the metal materials get really hot when cooking for a long time. It became too hot to the touch to adjust the top air vents without a potholder. I'm a bit of a fiddly griller that will frequently adjust the airflow. So, I prefer vents that are protected from extreme heat, but the top one on this grill isn't, although it functions perfectly well.
The top air vent can be used by either sliding it open or by turning the dial on the vent while it's closed so that the five small vents can be adjusted. During my cooking sessions I found that I was more frequently sliding the top vent than turning the dial, although both methods worked well for low temperatures. I had to slide the top vent fully open for searing a flank steak in my searing test to get the grill heat to crank up.
Pros of the Top Lid
- It can slide to a fully open position and draws air well
Cons of the Top Lid
- The top lid will slide closed when the grill is open and then closed
- The top lid becomes very hot while cooking and a pot holder is needed to keep hands from getting burnt
- The top has a dial that opens as well as slides. The dial becomes very sticky with repeated use
Primo Oval XL Insides
The Primo Oval XL has four main interior parts that excludes the ceramic shell.
- Bottom ceramic plate that sits below the firebox
- Ceramic shell insert that lines the bottom half of the grill and acts as the firebox
- Grate for holding charcoal
- Firebox separator for indirect grilling or directly grilling over a small charcoal load
The ceramic shell insert lines the entire bottom portion of the grill. This helps the Primo Oval XL retain heat and use charcoal efficiently. The firebox is large. We used the firebox separator to set the grill up for indirect cooking to smoke a pork shoulder low and slow. With half the firebox filled, the charcoal burned at about 250 degrees for over eight hours without requiring additional fuel.
Pros of the Primo XL Insides
- The firebox splitter is very effective and allows for searing and indirect grilling at th same time
Cons of the Primo XL Insides
- The shoulder height of the lid could be taller to get more grill space for smoking two turkeys at a time
- It's more difficult to light than a BGE or Kamodo Kamado because the charcoal can clog the air flow more easily
Primo Oval XL Lid
Ceramic barbecue lids are heavy and the the Primo Oval XL is no exception. There are two strong metal springs that make the lid manageable. One really nice feature is that the lid fully opens and slightly leans back so that the grill is completely uncovered. This is really helpful when grilling with the lid open, plus by opening so wide it prevents some of the damage that can occur to the seals when they overhang the grill and burn.
The lid has two distinct aspects. The thermometer in the lid for measuring the grill's temperature and a subtle protrusion in the ceramic right under the thermometer that says "Primo Oval". It's so hard to read that I thought the heat had caused the the ceramic grill to bubble, but that wasn't the case.
It should be noted that we measured the grill temperature with an internal thermometer and compared to the external thermometer. It was between 25 and 50 degrees hotter at grill level. Keep this in mind when cooking on this grill.
Review of the Primo Oval XL Summary
I found this grill to function surprisingly well. It was easy to control the heat at low temperatures and when fully opened up the grill sizzled in our searing tests.
I personally found this grill to be of average attractiveness. Better looking than a Green Egg, but not nearly as pretty as a Komodo Ultimate 23.
The grill space was perfectly acceptable for grilling two good sized flank steaks and four large portebella mushrooms all at the same time. I was also able to place a large roasting pan on the grill that could hold a medium sized turkey. If there is one knock on the design, it appears the lid's oval shape doesn't offer significant clearance. For example, a beer can style chicken could be done in this grill, but the lid is too shallow to do a turkey standing up on its hind legs in this grill.
Lastly, the list price is in the $1,200 range. It's fairly priced for a high-end grill, but it also requires a table of some sorts so this will add to the price. Most combinations of the Primo Oval XL and a table designed to hold it will exceed $2,000. There are plenty of accessories available for the grill to trick it out, but there doesn't appear to be a gas starter.
I give this grill an overall rating of 3.5 start with slight detractions for the shallow lid levels and it looks a bit above average at best. However, if I was considering the Primo Oval XL vs the Big Green Egg XL ($1,100), excluding the table cost, I'd recommend the BGE XL based on a wider set of accessories, although I think the Primo XL is better looking than the BGE, but it's nowhere near as beautiful as the much more expensive Kamodo Kamado.
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