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It's easy to spend a bundle on a grill. An Australian outfit is making gold-plated models that sell for $160,000. But if you want to get the best technology for the buck, go with the Primo Oval Jr, an $800 pod of space-age ceramics. For novices and backyard Bourdains alike, it can help produce tender, savory chops and fragrant, crisp veggies.
The Oval Jr, like other ceramic grills, has thick, insulating walls and tight-fitting gaskets to seal in juices with steak-searing heat of more than 700 degrees. Consistent, "even" heat means no hot spots; you can roast a whole chicken without a rotating spit. It also maintains precise temperatures for slow, delicate smoking, barbecuing, and baking, and it can run for 10 hours on a single stoking of charcoal.
What really sets the Primo grill apart is its elongated design, which accommodates longer cuts of meat and makes possible two-zone cooking. That means that the company had to develop special ceramic formulas that hold up to uneven thermal expansion.
The Atlanta-based outfit, an innovator in ceramic grills since 1997, has attracted a cult following on the Internet; users frequently brag and compare notes at Primo's Website, as well as on enthusiast message-boards like amazingribs.com.
The Oval Jr has a porcelain exterior, which stays cool for safety, and stainless steel and cast-iron vents that can be finely tuned. To smoke fish at a low 125 degrees, open the bottom vent slightly and the oven sips oxygen. Tweak the vents to target the built-in thermometer for grilling and roasting. With accessories, you can use one side of the grill for direct heat and the other for indirect. You can even serve up charcoal-style pizza. Your feast beckons.