The folks over at Aura Outdoor Products reached out to me the other day and asked me to try out their Kettle Zone Cooking System. I thought it looked interesting and decided to give it a try. They sent me the gear for free but did not pay for a review (I suck at negotiating).
What Is The Kette Zone Cooking System?
The system consists of a stainless steel frame that supports ceramic heat deflectors at the base and a stainless steel grate on top. The heat deflectors and cooking grate are both come in a two piece, half moon, configuration. The design fits the Weber 22 inch kettle perfectly and results in a cooking surface that is elevated a few inches higher than usual.
What Are The Benefits Of The Kettle Zone Cooking System?
The kettle zone system brings a few tricks to the party. Because the ceramic heat deflector is composed of two pieces you have a lot of flexibility in how you set up your kettle. You can use both heat deflectors, a single one or neither depending upon how you want to grill.
I broke my Kettle Zone in with some chicken wings that were set up for high, indirect heat.
I was able to move the wings over the fire to crisp them up and then back over the heat defector when I just wanted them to get time in the smoke. It took me a little while to get used to the new setup. The higher cooking position of the grate and heat deflector combine to change the heat distribution inside the kettle as compared to cooking straight on a regular grate.
In the end the wings turned out great and I started to get the hang of my new toy.
Let’s take a look at the main benefits of this system.
Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Cooking Grate
The cooking grate that comes with the Kettle Zone system is made of stainless steel rods with a 1/4 inch diameter. Getting a stainless steel grate is a great upgrade for your kettle and is worth the investment.
Although these grates are stainless steel I found that a magnet will slightly adhere. It turns out that as you “work” a piece of stainless steel it picks up slight magnetic properties. This is the same thing I found back when I was making stainless steel grates for Weber Smokey Mountain cookers. The factory I was working with could demagnetize the grates completely but it added another buck onto the per piece manufacturing cost. So…yes, these grates are stainless even though a magnet will stick to them.
Magnet talk aside…this is a NICE grate.
Reduced Flare Ups
There are two ways that the system helps reduce flare ups. The first is that if you cook over the heat deflector then any flare ups from dripping grease will not touch your food. The second is that because the grate is about two inches higher than normal even if you are cooking directly over the charcoal the effects of flare ups are reduced (but not eliminated).
Increases Usable Cooking Area
This is where the Kettle Zone System really shines.
Low And Slow Barbecue
There are about 15 techniques and gadgets that you can use/buy to turn your kettle into a smoker and, to varying degrees, they tend to work pretty well. The downside to almost all of them is that you have to sacrifice some of the grilling surface to make it work.
For example, you can simply bank the charcoal on the left side of the grill and smoke meat on the right side. It works great but you can’t use the left side of the grill or else the fire will burn your meat.
The dual heat deflectors change the situation.
You can set up your grill with the “Snake/Fuse” method, add the deflectors, and now have the entire grate available for holding meat. I was able to fit three slabs of beef back ribs on my 22 inch kettle and slow smoke them for six hours.
I used my brisket rub on these beef ribs and could not have been happier with how they turned out.
See also: How Long to Smoke Beef Short Ribs, Where to Buy Beef Ribs
Hot And Fast Grilling
This system isn’t just for “low and slow” and can also be utilized to increase the grill capacity for high heat grilling.
I was able to spread a chimney of charcoal evenly across the bottom of my grill, add the heat deflectors and cook almost two dozen chicken drumsticks (two “Family Packs”) at once. I still got PLENTY of great smokey flavor from the chicken grease dripping onto the hot ceramic.
The heat deflectors do not eliminate hot spots or produce a completely even heat profile within the grill. You are still going to have some temperature variations depending upon how the charcoal is arranged etc. so you still need to pay attention and move the meat around as needed. That being said, it gives you a reason to open the grill and play!
Also on the High Heat side of things….It is my understanding that you can also use the heat deflectors as a pizza stone and crank out some serious pizza. I haven’t tried this yet but it is on my “to do” list.
The Kettle Zone Cooking System is a solid product and I am delighted that the folks at Aura Outdoor Products sent me one to review.
I really love the stainless steel grate and the increased utilization of grill space that is available when the heat deflectors are used.
If you are in the market for a new Weber charcoal grill accessory then take a close look at the Kettle Zone Cooking System!