We’ve tested and reviewed a few ceramic cookers in our time, but we have not tested a gas fueled ceramic cooker. The Primo Oval G420 is in a class by itself, since it’s the only cooker of its kind.
Primo introduced its first gas ceramic cooker in 2000 appropriately called the Primo 2000. The design was refreshed years later and in 2017 the Primo Oval G420 was born. A ceramic gas grill is not like any other cooker. It is neither exactly like a metal gas grill, nor is it exactly like a ceramic charcoal grill. This cooker shares the strengths, and to some extent the weaknesses, of each of the aforementioned cooker types in a unique way.
The ceramic shell of this cooker allows for increased heat retention like its charcoal counterpart, but without the hassles typically associated with charcoal. This increased insulation also means lower fuel consumption to maintain a desired temperature than a typical gas grill, and a much faster recovery time when the lid is opened
This Primo Oval G420 was released without much press surrounding it so it remains relatively unknown. The unit we tested was acquired in late 2017 allowing plenty of time to cook on it and see how it holds up to the test of time. This ceramic cooker comes in two configurations: the G420C freestanding unit in cart and the G420H for built-in outdoor kitchens. We are reviewing the stand-alone G420C unit.
- 60-1/2” W x 46” H x 29” D (folding shelves in upright position)
- Stainless Steel Smoker Box Included
- Includes Nozzle Conversion Kit for Natural Gas
- Stock Cooking Area 420 sq. in.
- With two (2) optional extension grates 651 sq. in.
- BTU 21,000 (2 x High Burners 15,200 BTU 2x Low Burners 5,600 BTU)
- Shipping Weight 365 lbs.
- Heat Range 220º – 650ºF
- Comes Fully Assembled
*Specs taken from the Primo Ceramic Grills website.
What We Loved
The four burners are configured in a left hand and right hand layout, allowing the user to divide the heat from one side of the grill to the other. This is common for gas grills, but where the Primo excels is with the addition of the optional heat deflector plates and risers that allow half, or the entire cooking surface, to be used as indirect heat for smoking or baking.
While two zone heating can be achieved on most gas grills, it requires a portion of the cooking surface to go unused for indirect heating, so this is a nice advantage of the G420. An additional benefit of the deflector plates comes in their added mass. When heated, the hot deflector plates assist in quicker heat recovery after opening the grill. Next, because this is a gas model, there’s no charcoal to clean up or ash to remove.
We found the cooking surface to be ample for cooking for around 8-10 people and were impressed by the fuel efficiency achieved which means fewer trips to the gas station for a new tank of LP.
On that subject, don’t let the low BTU rating fool you; because of the efficiency of this grill, it doesn’t require the high BTUs to maintain typical baking or smoking temperatures. That said, there is a drawback to this as well—more on that later.
Back to the good stuff, we liked that many of the Primo accessories made for their charcoal grills will work in the G420 and the two drawers in the cart are nice for storing those accessories away from the weather. Finally, should one decide to install the G420C in an outdoor kitchen, it can be removed from the cart and slid into place.
What Could Be Improved
As much of a fan of the Primo 400XL as we are, the G420 has some drawbacks. First and foremost, searing is not the forte with this cooker. It can be done, but it’s not like searing on a charcoal grill or a gas grill with a high BTU or infrared burners. It just seems a bit “under-gunned” for serious searing.
When smoking meats using the included smoke box, we found the smoke flavor to be relatively muted. Because of all the venting required for safety and cleanliness of burn on gas grills, smoke tends to escape more than bathe the food it’s intended for. This prevents the 420 from being a true smoker. This may be overcome by the use of additional smoking devises like a smoke tube to introduce a higher volume of smoke into the cooking chamber.
We were surprised to find that some of the finishing touches were missing from this cooker at this asking price. For example, the chunky knobs feel nice but hover strangely high on the burner valve stems separating them from the console by almost 3/4 of an inch. Adding bezels or beauty rings around the knobs would finish the look, but as sold it just looks like something is missing.
We were also not huge fans of the standard battery-powered igniter button on a grill of this price point. While preventing the need for AC power, we’ve seen enough of these types of ignitors fail to have little confidence in them. It should be noted, however, that our igniter has worked on the first or second press of the button about 90% of the time.
The G420C is surrounded with stainless finishes and internal parts like the burner tubes, flavor grids, handle, fire bowl, and grates. However, many of the stainless surfaces and hardware gathered surface rust over the 8-plus months of use.
The drip tray is quite shallow and while it hasn’t overflowed on a given cook, pulling it out of the track to dump it often results in spilled grease.
We found loading the propane tank can be a bit awkward to load, requiring the user to lean the tank to install it into the cabinet while trying to connect the hose once the tank inside this confined space. This unit would benefit from a longer hose for the tank to make the process easier. Luckily, because of the fuel efficiency change the tank isn’t something that’s often required.
Our biggest disappointment, however, was discovered during the first cleaning. We noticed that the right-side low and high burners were clogged and produced a tall yellow flame.
Many of the holes in the tube burners were clogged by what appeared to be grease deposits. We believe this is because the holes in the tube burners face upward, making them susceptible to drippings. In an attempt to remove and fully clean the tube burners, we noticed the two screws holding the burners in place were corroded so badly that the screw heads disintegrated. We had to drill the screws out to remove the burners for thorough cleaning. We then re-tapped the threads to install new stainless steel fasteners for burner reinstallation.
Who It’s For
This cooker will be an attractive unit for those with an expanded budget in a dry climate who either don’t like to fiddle with charcoal, or whose local codes don’t allow charcoal burning cookers. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the flavor of char-grilled foods but still want the advantages of kamado style cooking you’ll likely find the G420 an attractive option.
The food from this grill is on par with food cooked on other kamado style cookers with the convenience of gas. The insulative properties provided by a ceramic shell offer benefits that other gas grills just don’t. Despite being a bit disappointed by some of the finish issues and details that felt overlooked on a cooker in this price range, it certainly has its strong points. As much as we would love to recommend this grill like we do for the excellent 400XL and the Primo Junior, recommending this grill would be challenging until some of the above noted issues are sorted out.