Primo XL Oval Charcoal Grill Review

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Primo XL Charcoal Grill on Counter

Angry BBQ is happy to bring Eric Campbell to the review and recipe team. Eric is an avid Kamado Cooker and will be focused on kamado related content. He hails from the city of Moose Jaw, SK and spends most of his summer grilling or smoking with his Primo XL. Eric completed an in depth review of his Primo XL Oval Ceramic grill that he has had for several years. Enjoy Eric’s review.

Primo XL Overview

The Primo Oval XL is a ceramic grill that is larger than most ceramic grills you will see in stores or in any of your friend’s backyards.  The oval shape is unique to the Primo and is one of its biggest benefits.

When purchasing a ceramic grill, it is important to consider how you plan to use it.  The Primo XL is designed for use with both direct and indirect heat, which makes roasting, smoking and/or searing your meat possible with each cook. The split moon shaped grates can be flipped to allow for closer or further distances from the heat.  This, combined with how you pile your charcoal (one side or both) creates a variety of cooking possibilities. 

Primo XL

Accessories like, the heat deflector racks, heat deflectors  and cast iron fire box divider are vital to utilizing all of the Primo cooking options.  The Primo XL has a 400 sq/in grilling space which is among the biggest on the market and by using this space you can explore grilling options like, searing, roasting and smoking.

The price point for this grill is around $1500 depending on your dealer pricing, cart options and accessories.  The versatility of this grill allows you to cook anything from burgers, to a 30lbs turkey or from a couple of steaks to a 20lb brisket. 

In this review we will go over the specs, grilling and smoking performance, materials, fit and finish, ownership experience, warranty, customer service, what we like, what makes us angry and a final verdict. Read on.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__image8.4 Rating8.4 RatingPrimo X-Large Charcoal Grill
  • Oval Design Provides Dual Zones
  • Made in the USA
  • 400-650 sq/inches
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__image8.0 Rating8.0 RatingPrimo Large Charcoal Grill
  • Round Design
  • Made in the USA
  • 300 sq/inches
CHECK PRICE

Primo Grill Company Explained

George Samaras founded Primo Ceramic Grills in 1996 and through an experimentation process realized that the oval shape offered greater efficiency and versatility than the traditional rounded kamado grill.  The introduction of the patented oval shape grill in 2002 helped establish the Primo grill as a major player in the ceramic grill industry. in 2019, Primo Ceramic Grills was purchased by Empire Comfort Systems, a heating appliance manufacturer, and continues to invest in product development and improvements.  

Primo is Made in the USA

Made in the USA logo

Primo Ceramic Grills are manufactured in Poplar Bluff, Missouri and the company headquarters are in Belleville, Illinois. Primo Ceramic grills are sold in 24 countries around the world including Canada and the United States. I believe this is the only Kamado style grill that is made in the USA.

Primo Extra Large Oval Specifications

Grill Weight230+lbs
Cooking Area400 sq/in
Optional Rack System280 sq/in
Total Cooking Area680 sq/in
Cooking Grid18.5”x25”
Temperature Range200℉-700+℉ 
Primo XL Oval Specs
Primo Cooking Specs


Primo Grilling and Smoking Performance

Smoking Performance

Smoking with the Primo Grill requires good lump charcoal and a piece or two of your favourite wood, I like to use applewood for my pork cooks, mesquite for beef cooks.

The set up for smoking requires a few accessories. You will need to split the firebox to create a direct and indirect side, Primo provides a steel barrier to split the firebox for this purpose.   Alternatively, you will need two heat deflector plates and two heat deflector racks.  I wrap my heat deflectors in tinfoil, it makes the clean up process a little quicker and easier. 

Primo Charcoal Grill Setup with Wood

This setup is best for larger cooks like turkey or brisket.  Note – Do not use lighter fluid or any other accelerants to start your Primo grill.  The porous nature of the ceramic will absorb the scent of the lighter fluid.  Use a heat gun or a natural fire starter.

Primo XL Smoking Review
Deflectors wrapped in foil

The overall smoke flavour is the best part of using this grill.  The charcoal and wood smoke circulate the interior of the grill and is best at 200℉ to 225℉.  This is best illustrated in Primo Grill Quick Guide.

Temperature control is a main factor with this type of grill. The ceramic style is known for maintaining heat and can be adjusted using the dampers to increase or decrease air flow. There is not an automated option for this, but companies like ThermoWorks makes temperature management controllers (Billows system) with fans to automate temp control.   I recommend a bluetooth meat thermometer like the Meater or ThermoWorks Signals to accurately check the temperature of your meat and the grill from your phone.

In the example below, I have the top and bottom vents open about 1/2 inch each. It can be tricky to get the right heat, but once you find the sweet spot of air intake and exhaust, the temp will remain constant for several hours.

Meater Primo Temp Overview

 In long cooks you may need to add more charcoal and the only way to do that is to open the lid, robbing your cook of that constant temperature you maintained until this point.  The benefit of the XL grill is that the firebox can hold nearly an entire bag of lump charcoal, making a refill only necessary in an extremely long/overnight cook.

Grilling Performance

The grilling performance on this grill is excellent.  The reversible cooking grates allow you to move the meat closer or further from the heat depending on the type of sear/cook you require. 

In this example the fire is on the left side and you can see that the left grill grate is closer to the fire and on direct heat, while the right side is further from the fire and on indirect heat.

Primo XL Grilling Review
Right Grill Grate Higher then Left

In the next example, the left side is direct heat for a couple chicken breasts, while the right side is a slow cook for a pulled pork that I was planning for the following day.  The versatility of this grill is on full display as I was able to cook a variety of meals with a variety of methods.

Primo XL Grilling two Zones

Overall, the option of direct and indirect heat contributes to a wider usage of the grill, without taking away from the quality of either a seared or slow cooked final product. In fact, it provides a unique way to roast, then sear, or visa versa depending on what you are cooking.

Here is a closer look at the varying height of the grills. Note – the tallest grill is a grill extension and is bought separately.

Primo XL Extension Rack
Extension Rack – Must Have Accessory

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__image8.4 Rating8.4 RatingPrimo X-Large Charcoal Grill
  • Oval Design Provides Dual Zones
  • Made in the USA
  • 400-650 sq/inches
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__image8.0 Rating8.0 RatingPrimo Large Charcoal Grill
  • Round Design
  • Made in the USA
  • 300 sq/inches
CHECK PRICE


Primo XL Fit and Finish Overview

Materials and Overall Quality

Primo XL Charcoal Grill on Counter
Recommend the Primo Stand or a Concrete Countertop

The Primo grill uses high quality materials.  The lid, firebox and overall body of this grill weighs in at over 230lbs. For those interested in a non-standard unit of measurement, the Primo weighs two full sized German Shepherds.  This weight is both a positive and negative. 

The sheer weight of this grill was a struggle for me to remove it from its stand, but now I have it sit on a concrete countertop that I built on my deck.  With a little heat resistant glue on the bottom, the Primo sits evenly on my countertop (pictured above). Further, the weight of the lid makes it difficult to open for some, but not all. Most importantly there is no need for a locking mechanism for the lid as it will stay closed and in place. (A 55mph wind was not able to move this grill).

Felt Gasket Maintenance

The felt gasket around the edge of the lid and base needs to be replaced every 12-18 months.  This process is easy to do and costs about $15 and only takes 30 mins of your time.  

Primo Grill Felt Gasket
Felt Gasket Shown


Primo Ash Collector / Vent

Next, the ash collector is at the bottom of the Primo and requires a L shaped tool to pull ash from under the firebox to the door. 

Primo Bottom Vent


I use a small shop vacuum to suck out the ash.  This is an inconvenience and is what I believe the biggest flaw with the Primo XL. This door functions as both the lower air intake vent and the ash removal area.  It is difficult to remove all the ash through this little door, I would have preferred to see a removable tray or larger access point for this process.

Kamado Ash Removal Tool


Primo Top Air Vent

Next, the top air vent uses a large metal plate to cover the exhaust vent and a smaller vent on top for finer adjustments.  I have found little use for the fine adjustments vent and simply adjust the large vent to control the temperature.  Further, the top vent lid gets quite hot, an insulated handle on this vent would benefit this design. 

You will notice that a layer of grease collects on this top vent, this is not a bad thing.  That layer acts as a lubricant and helps the two pieces of the vent slide together.

Primo Top Vent

Thoughts and Opinions

This grill feels sturdy, it looks awesome and it is massive.  When people come over and say, “Is that your BBQ?” and they are impressed.  The Primo Grill has a uniqueness that is unmatched. 

Other grill companies are trying to replicate the Primo and if you get a chance to see a Primo XL in person, you will see why. It just looks good sitting on your deck, the food comes out amazing, and it is durable enough to stand up against Saskatchewan cold weather.  Its size makes it a little more work than your typical pellet smoker or smaller ceramic grill. But, it seems worth it.

Ownership Experience

Primo Charcoal Grill Problems

The main concern for this product is the weight (typical with ceramic grills), ash removal and keeping it all clean.  Once you have this grill in place, you will like it.  But moving this grill, getting it on your deck or patio, is an event.  We needed 4 people and a ramp with straps to roll it up onto my deck.  Removing it from the rolling stand is also challenging due to its size. This was not a necessary thing, it just looks better on my deck this way.  Be aware of  the weight of this grill when you bring this grill home for the first time. You will need a buddy or two to help you, I encourage Primo to start adding a case of beer in the box of every purchase to help with the install. 

Next, ash removal is a pain and it didn’t need to be this way.  I wish Primo would have considered this in their design process.

Lastly, keeping your accessories clean is more work than on your typical BBQ.  However, the really great thing about kamado grills is that the best way to clean them is to bring the temperature up as high as you can and leave it for 30 mins.  This should be done every month or two, because it will burn off excess grease that is collecting on the ceramic and on your accessories. Doing this regularly will improve the taste of the food and help keep your grill clean. 

Primo Customer Service and Support

No concerns with service or support.  The Primo University videos on the Primo website offer a tremendously helpful guide to setting up your grill, starting your cooks and how to maintain your grill. It’s like training wheels for your BBQ.  A first time kamado grill owner will really benefit from these introductory videos.

Primo Warranty

The most likely reason for using your warranty will be a cracked firebox and Primo provides a lifetime warranty on this.  The temperature of this grill can reach over 700℉, but Primo stands by their product so that’s a great thing. The grill is built with high quality parts and the metal strapping they use works well. 

The hinges for the lid are heady duty and are strong enough to handle the weight of the lid. Each year, it is important to check all the bolts to ensure they are tight as the handle will loosen a bit over time. Primo Warranty Guide

Primo Grill Accessories

There are many accessories that can help with your cooking experience on the Primo XL. The most important things to buy from Primo are the heat deflectors, heat deflector racks and firebox divider.  These items do not come with the grill when you buy it, but are essential to smoking large pieces of meat and using either side of the grill from direct/indirect heat.

I also have the extension rack but I don’t use it much.  The grill size is massive and it’s not very often I need more space. It is best for garlic bread and keeping things warm in indirect heat. 

Other accessories that are important but you can get anywhere are rib racks and pizza stones.  I recommend having these in your repertoire, but you can shop anywhere for these items. 

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imagePrimo X-Large Heat Deflectors
  • Compatible with Several Primo Grills
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imagePrimo Heat Deflector Racks
  • Required to hold heat deflectors
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imagePrimo Firebox Divider
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imagePrimo Extension Rack
CHECK PRICE

Lastly, and possibly the best purchase I made for my grill was a heat gun.  To start your fire, you can not use an accelerant like butane or lighter fluid.  Those chemicals will absorb into the ceramic firebox and negatively impact the way your food tastes and smells.  See our review on the best charcoal starters that are safe to use.   I found this challenging on a windy day and really cold winter days, so I tried a heat gun and it lit the lump charcoal easily. 

Best Charcoal Starters 2022

Would I recommend the Primo XL Oval Charcoal Grill?

What we Like

The size and versatility of the cooking areas.  The ability to cook anything at any temperature. The overall function of the grill is superb. I like the way it looks and that it’s a unique and effective kamado grill.  The accessories are high quality and there is an accessory for every cooking option.  The size of the grill also lets you use smaller accessories from your kitchen if you are in a pinch (cast iron pan, skillet, grilling mat).

What makes Us Angry

The ash collection is more difficult than it should be.  This is a flaw that is more of a pain than I expected it to be.  I also get angry about the cleaning process.  This is more work than it would be on a pellet grill or a gas grill. But, the taste from this Primo grill surpasses that of any other grill, so I think it’s worth it.  I know this because a few months ago we used the scientific method to test food quality from a gas grill, a pellet grill and a Primo grill, but I’ll talk about that in a future post.

Final Verdict

This is a very high quality grill.  The price point reflects the size and the versatility of the grill. If you host a lot of people, have a big family or like to grill big pieces of meat, then this is the grill for you.  This grill is designed for hosting, for big dinners and for amazing food quality.  It is not designed for small areas, easy transportation or quick bbq meals. 

I believe this is an amazing grill, in spite of some of its drawbacks, this grill has better grilling options than most other ceramic grills.  I believe this is due to the oval design, something that is unique to the Primo XL. Even though it is heavy, I recommend going for the XL so you get sufficient grill space.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__image8.4 Rating8.4 RatingPrimo X-Large Charcoal Grill
  • Oval Design Provides Dual Zones
  • Made in the USA
  • 400-650 sq/inches
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__image8.0 Rating8.0 RatingPrimo Large Charcoal Grill
  • Round Design
  • Made in the USA
  • 300 sq/inches
CHECK PRICE

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