Like most men, I share a dedicated relationship with my grill. We've spent a serious amount of time together. We've watched countless sunsets. We've stayed up late into the night. We've seen friends come and friends go, but there's always been us.
But just how much is that relationship worth? Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, a Michigan-based company specializing in high-end outdoor cooking hardware, thinks it's worth a whole hell of a lot. Their K750HB Fire Freestanding Grill with Side Burner costs a cold $17,695. But, really, as the saying goes, can you put a price on love?
Luckily, when Kalamazoo asked me to test their K750HB, I was ready to begin a new relationship. A few weeks prior, I had disassembled my Char-Broil charcoal grill. My Char-Broil and I had spent a good three years together, but hard Pennsylvanian winters had worn on her. Our relationship rusted. Eventually, the bottom dropped out. (Avoid these 5 Cookout Mistakes That Make You Sick, so you, your family, and friends aren't stuck hovering over the porcelain throne.)
But that was okay. I was on the rebound. From the looks of the K750HB, she was perfect -- a bombshell. She was built of welded heavy-gauge stainless steel. She cranked out a scorching 142,100 total BTUs. Next to her three H-shaped "Dragon Burners" sat two additional side burners.
Her way of accessorizing? Interchangeable grill grates, each designed to accommodate meat or vegetables, depending on what's for dinner. Peek inside and you'd find a motor-operated rotisserie spit with an infrared heating system.
At 82 1/4” x 32” x 54 5/8” the American-made K750HB wasn't overwhelming, but still voluptuous.
And here's the biggest sell: Kalamazoo grills have the ability to cook with gas, charcoal, and live fire --simulataneously. (The average guy routinely makes minor mistakes that can detract from ever reaching grilling perfection. Fix your flame-tending flubs by sidestepping the The 5 Worst Grilling Mistakes and grill a better meal.)
Yes, you can take a wedge of split wood, tuck it into the unit's “W” shaped drawer and use the electric assist to ignite the gas that fires up the wood. No longer must a man decide whether he is of the Gas or Charcoal tribe.
Though I fell in love with K750HB almost immediately, our relationship was not without our hardships--especially during those early courtship stages. The first time I fired up the grill's electric assist, there was no spark. I tried flushing the gas hose. I poked around the wiring. Nothing.
Sure, I could still jam a lighter down by the pilot and fire things up, but this was an $18,000 grill, dammit. So I called Kalamazoo's customer service line. It was a Saturday, but if any company's customer service line should be open on the weekend, it's a high-end grilling company. Their answering machine picked up. Eventually, I discovered, the electric starter must have busted during delivery. Even bombshells have their flaws, I guess.
But oh baby did she cook. During the three months I knew K750HB, we sizzled burgers, salmon, brisket, steak, pork chops, zucchini, shrimp, oysters, eggplant, mahi mahi, and even a mess of frozen pizzas (don't ask). I've never met a grill that was so good at doing so many different things.
Those burgers acquired a crust so caramelized that not even bacon could match their meaty, savory goodness. (Learn how to Grill the Ultimate Cheese Burger.) Over high heat, shrimp seared to juicy deliciousness at just 30 seconds a side. Even those crummy pizzas were crisp underneath and covered with bubbly cheese atop.
All this transmutative power of K750HB is due to three key factors.
One, the grill has the ability to crank out heat at more than 1,000 degrees F. Heat that intense sears food at an incredible rate, preventing quick-cooking foods like shrimp from drying out on the grates.
Second, the heat is also precise. For the sake of grunting, you could turn all four burners to high. (I did.) But the real impressiveness comes from the grill's ability to maintain specific temperatures over long periods of time -- a factor that's crucial for fantastic slow-smoked barbecue.
Third, the grill grates rule. They're heavy enough that you could work them into your biceps workout. The grates, made from the same steel as the rest of the machine, don't simply create grill marks -- they sear grill scars.
Humor me for just a moment longer and let me tell you of one particular K750HB memory that I'll hold with me throughout the rest of my grilling days.
One night in late July, I invited some friends over to show off spend time with K7500HB. I asked my butcher for two thick bone-in steaks cut from the rib eye roast. Each of these steaks stood a good two inches tall. Had I still owned my Char-Broil, I would have been worried about undercooking them. I threw a split oak log into K750HB's drawer, flipped on the flames, and let the smoke perfume and billow into the summer evening. (Try this one simple technique to Sear the Perfect Steak.)
Once the built-in temperature gauge read 500 degrees F, I flopped the steaks on the grates and the meat immediately began to hiss.
I flipped the rib eyes every two minutes, basting with an herb butter I had warming on the grill's side burner, until the steaks were well seared on each side, about 8 minutes total.
Those steaks -- encrusted with char, infused with wood smoke, and ruby red on the inside -- could have quite possibly been one of the best foods I've ever pulled off a grill. Without ever knowing K750HB, I might not have ever had that experience.
When Kalamazoo came to pick up the grill they had loaned me, I thought of those steaks. I wondered: "If I had to put a price on that steak-eating experience, how much is it worth?" I crunched the numbers. I factored in futures. But whatever computations I tried to rationalize, I couldn't bring myself to a price tag that was close to $17,695. Was the grill the best I had ever used? Yes. Would I be sad that it was gone? Of course. But did I feel like the price point was part of the marketing? Like a Maserati, an Audemars Piguet, or some Agent Provocateur garb, you pay, in part, for the fantasy of luxury. (For most guys, the Kalmazoo K750HB is simply out of reach. Consider these key features as you scout for the Grill of Your Dreams.)
Now that K750HB has moved on, I'm trying to recover from the breakup. There's a hole in my backyard. I look at grilling recipes and feel remorse. Was there anything I could have done differently? Maybe if I had a few thousand dollars things would be different.
But I don't.
So I'll fantasize.
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